HENRI VERNEUIL

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

Henri_Verneuil

Death of Henri Verneuil
(January 11, 2002)

Prolific filmmaker Henri Verneuil was one of the well-known names in French cinema for forty years, and closed his cinematographic career with two autobiographic films that narrated the Armenian experience.

 

He was born Ashod Malakian on October 15, 1920, in Rodosto, Turkey. The Malakians emigrated from their hometown in 1924 as a result of Turkish anti-Armenian persecution in the years after the genocide and settled in Marseilles (France).

 

Young Ashod graduated from the French lyceum in Aix-en-Haute and entered the École Nationale d’Arts et Metiers in Aix-en-Provence (1942). Upon graduation in 1944, he put aside his technical diploma and started working as a journalist. In 1945 he wrote an article about the Armenian genocide and the editor suggested he adopt a French name to make it look more objective. Thus, Henri Verneuil was born.

 

In the postwar, Verneuil entered the world of cinema. He directed his first short film in 1946 and moved to Paris in 1949, where he became an assistant director. In 1951 he directed his first feature, the black comedy The Hunting Ground. His second film, the drama Forbidden Fruit (1952), won him international acclaim. Both films featured the great French comic actor Fernandel in the main role. The same actor played the six main roles (a father and his five sons) in The Sheep Has Five Legs (1954), which earned the first prize at the Locarno International Film Festival and an Oscar nomination for best script to Verneuil in 1955. Verneuil’s biggest hit, before the New Wave of the 1960s, was The Cow and I (1959), once again with Fernandel.

 

Later he also directed other movie stars including Jean Gabin, Alain Delon, Lino Ventura, Jean Paul Belmondo, Yves Montand, and Michele Morgan. In the 1970s he directed a few films in English with Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner, and Henry Fonda. His last commercial film was in 1984.

 

Afterwards, the veteran filmmaker would focus on his Armenian heritage. In 1985 he published an autobiographical work, Mayrig, which recounted his childhood and the Armenian experience in Marseilles. It would become the basis for his two last films, Mayrig (1991) and 588, rue Paradis (1992), featuring Omar Sharif and Claudia Cardinale. In 1988 he had directed the video clip of “Pour toi, Arménie” (For You, Armenia), the song composed by Charles Aznavour to the benefit of the victims of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia.

 

In 1996 Verneuil, who had earned the French Legion of Honor in 1955, was awarded an honorary César, France’s equivalent of the Oscar, for lifetime achievement in film. He was elected a member of the Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. He died in Bagnolet, a suburb of Paris, on January 11, 2002. Two of his children, Patrick Malakian (a TV director) and Gaya Verneuil (an actress), followed in his steps. Several streets and squares in France and Armenia bear his name.

 

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STEPAN LISITSIAN

 

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

Stepan Lisitsian

September 22, 1865-January 4, 1947

Stepan Lisitsian Cover of an edition of Lusaber _1923_

Stepan Lisitsian was a pioneering name in several fields at the turn of the twentieth century. He is particularly remembered for his work as an educator and ethnographer.

 

He was born on September 22, 1865, in Tiflis, in a doctor’s family. After graduating from the Russian gymnasium (high school) in 1884 with highest grades, he entered the school of History and Philology of Odessa University (Crimea) the following year. After a year, he moved to the University of Warsaw and graduated in 1889. From 1889-1891 he taught Russian literature at the Gevorgian Lyceum of Holy Etchmiadzin, but he was fired by an order from Catholicos Makar I for leading student agitations against the administration.

 

Lisitsian moved back to Tiflis. He contributed to the journal Taraz, and was its de facto editor in 1892-1893, when editor in chief Tigran Nazarian was abroad. In 1894 he was hired as teacher at the Nersessian School, where he taught Armenian history, general history, and Russian geography at different times until 1915.

 

Meanwhile, in 1904 his request to the authorities to publish a magazine for children was refused due to his questionable background. In the end, a year later Hasker appeared, formally under the editorship of Lisitsian’s wife Ekaterina. The magazine gathered the best Armenian writers, illustrators, and scientists, including names like Hovhannes Toumanian, Avetik Isahakian, or Atabek Khenkoyan, and actually the first true magazine for children in the Armenian press. Stepan Lisitsian became the editor in 1913 and continued the magazine until 1917 (it had a short revival in 1922).

 

Lisitsian worked in the pedagogical field for almost 60 years. Besides the publication of Hasker, he wrote textbooks, curricula, and specialized studies. The textbook Lusabats (“Daybreak”), which he authored with Toumanian and Levon Shant, was particularly popular. He also traveled to Russia, Switzerland, France, and Germany to study new teaching methods. In 1911 he turned his wife’s elementary school into a middle school and then a high school, of which he became its principal in 1924, when the school was dissolved. He moved to Yerevan in 1924 and became a university professor, and from 1938 he also taught at the Pedagogical Institute.

 

Lisitsian, who knew several Western languages, was also an accomplished and prolific translator, literary scholar, and polemicist. Among his many works, he translated Henrik Sienkiewicz famous novel Quo Vadis? from the Polish original. He is also particularly remembered for his extensive work in the field of ethnography, especially since the 1920s, and geography. He gathered much material during fieldwork and wrote pioneering studies on different ethnographic areas of Armenia. In 1928 he became the head of the section of Ethnography in the State Museum of History. He wrote an important textbook on physical geography of Armenia in 1940 and was the author of an “ethnographic questionnaire,” published in 1946, that became a guide for scholars in the field for many decades. In 1945 he was honored with the title of Emeritus Worker of Science of Soviet Armenia and decorated with the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

Lisitsian passed away on January 4, 1947. A school in Yerevan carries his name, as well as the ethnographic section of the Museum of History of Armenia.

 

TANIEL BEK-PRIUMIAN

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]


TanielBek-Tirumian

Birth of Taniel Bek-Pirumian
(November 22, 1861)

 

The decisive battles that led to the creation of the Republic of Armenia in 1918 had several professional officers among their leaders.

 

Taniel Bek-Pirumian came from a region that gave many military leaders throughout history: Artsakh (Gharabagh). He was born on November 21, 1861, in the village of Nakhichevanik, in the district of Khachen. He graduated from the city lyceum of Shushi, then capital of Artsakh, and started his military service at the age of twenty. He studied at the infantry lyceum of Tiflis from 1881-1883. Three decades later, in 1913, he graduated from the courses of the school of artillery of Oranienbaum (nowadays Lomonosov, in the region of St. Petersburg, Russia).

 

Meanwhile, he ascended in the ranks of the Russian army: sergeant in 1883, lieutenant in 1888, captain in 1890, and deputy colonel in 1913. He held positions as commander of squad, platoon, and battalion.

Pirumian fought at the Caucasian front in the Russian army during World War I. He was ascended to the rank of colonel in 1915 and decorated with several medals for his bravery. Like many of his colleagues, Pirumian remained in the region after the evacuation of Russian troops following the October Revolution of 1917, helping organize the nascent Armenian army.

 

In the decisive days of May 1918, Taniel Bek-Pirumian was entrusted with the general command of the front of Sardarabad, which was dangerously close to Etchmiadzin. On May 21, the Ottoman forces occupied the village and the railway station of Sardarabad, and advanced towards Ghamishlu. The next day, the battalion of the “Condemned to Death” (մահապարտների գունդ) of Gharabagh, headed by Poghos Bek-Pirumian (first cousin to Taniel), counterattacked and chased away the Ottoman troops up to Sardarabad, which was liberated in the late afternoon. The Ottomans fortified themselves in the surrounding heights and led a counteroffensive on May 24-26. The three-day battle was fiercely contested and ended in an Armenian victory. In those delicate moments, Taniel Bek-Pirumian’s military experience and his iron will played a fundamental role. He entered the fraught of the battle, leaving the command to Lieutenant Alexandre Chnéour, a Russian officer in the Armenian army. Personally heading a column of soldiers, he disrupted and repelled the Turkish advance in the central area of the battlefront.

 

Bek-Pirumian continued his career in the Republic of Armenia and was ascended to the rank of major-general in late 1919. He was appointed military commander of Kars. However, he broke his leg in a car accident, and was taken prisoner by the Turks in October 1920 after the fall of Kars. In January 1921 he was transported to Alexandropol and delivered to the representatives of the 11th Red Army.

 

The Bolshevik terror was rampant in newly sovietized Armenia. In 1921, soon after being liberated from Turkish prison, Bek-Pirumian and other high-ranking Armenian officers were shot on the road of Gharakilise (nowadays Vanadzor) to Dilijan. The corpse of the unfortunate general was secretly moved to Etchmiadzin and buried in the cemetery of the church of St. Gayane. Another hero of Sardarabad, his cousin Poghos Bek-Pirumian, overwhelmed by the Bolshevik terror, took his own life.

 

KHRIMIAN HAIRIG

 

 

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]


Khrimian_by_Tadevosian__1900_

Death of Khrimian Hayrig
(October 29, 1907)

 

Khrimian Hayrig remains one of the most popular names in the history of the Armenian Church, as shown by the use of the endearing name hayrig (“papa”) along his name.

 

Mgrdich Khrimian was born in the Aikestan quarter of Van on April 4, 1820. He lost his father at an early age and was brought up by his uncle, a merchant. He was educated at the parochial schools of the islands of Lim and Gduts in Lake Van and the monastery of Varak, where he studied Classical Armenian. In 1842, after returning to Van, he embarked on a journey across the region and made a pilgrimage to Holy Etchmiadzin.

 

From 1844 to 1846, Khrimian lived in Constantinople, where he made connections with Armenian intellectuals. In 1846 he returned to Van and married Mariam Sevikian. In 1847 he visited Persia and the Russian Caucasus, and sojourned in Alexandropol (today Gyumri) for six months. He moved again to Constantinople and lived there until 1853, teaching at an all-girl school in the quarter of Hasköy. He published his first books in 1850 and 1851.

 

Khrimian returned to Van in 1853, but finding that his mother, wife, and daughter had all died, he decided to enter the Armenian Church. He was ordained vartabed at the Cathedral of Aghtamar in 1854 and appointed dean of a church in Scutari, near Constantinople, a year later. He started publishing the periodical Artsiv Vaspurakan.

 

He returned to Van in 1857 and established a seminary at the monastery of Varak. He founded a publishing house there and resumed the publication of Artsiv Vaspurakan (1859-1864). In 1862 he was appointed abbot of the famous monastery of Surp Garabed near Mush. He was instrumental in the foundation of a school and a journal there, called Artsvik Tarono, and transformed the monastery into a flourishing center. In those years, he earned the name of Hayrig.

 

Ordained as a bishop in Etchmiadzin (1868), Khrimian was elected Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople in September 1869. He cleared the patriarchate’s debt and sought to increase the provincial representation in the Armenian National Assembly. He presented a detailed report to the Ottoman government documenting instances of oppression, persecution, and miscarriage of justice in the Armenian provinces. He used the position to advance the interests and conditions of Armenians in the provinces.

 

His outspokenness annoyed not only the Ottoman authorities, but some of the Armenian wealthy elite as well. The government compelled him to resign in 1873. Afterwards, Khrimian dedicated his time to literary pursuits until 1878 (he published four books from 1876-1878), when he led the Armenian delegation at the Congress of Berlin. The delegation’s memorandum to the great powers concerning the implementation of reforms in the Armenian provinces was dismissed, and the Treaty of Berlin, signed in July 1878, failed to force the Ottoman government to implement real reforms.

 

After returning to Constantinople, Khrimian delivered a well-known sermon in which he called Armenians to use arms to win over their rights. He told his flock that Armenians, unlike the Christians in the Balkans, had not won autonomy because “no Armenian blood had been shed in the cause of freedom.” Famous for its allegories, such as the analogy of a ladle and cauldron with the sword and freedom, the sermon is considered one of the forerunners of the Armenian revolutionary movement.

 

After his return from Europe, Khrimian was appointed Prelate of Van in 1879. He opened new schools, including the first agricultural school in Armenian lands. In the 1880s he supported the Armenian secret societies devoted to the cause of national liberation. The Ottoman government, which looked unfavorably on his activities, suspended him in 1885 and had him sent back to Constantinople. Following the Kum Kapu demonstration of July 15, 1890, four representatives of the Armenian National Assembly, including Khrimian, issued a report criticizing the government for the treatment of the Armenian peasantry. Khrimian was exiled to Jerusalem in December 1890 and lived in the St. James monastery of the city’s Armenian Quarter.

 

On May 5, 1892, Khrimian was unanimously elected Catholicos of All Armenians. Sultan Abdul Hamid II initially did not allow him to travel to Etchmiadzin. He was granted permission to travel, only if he did not set foot in Turkey, after Russian emperor Alexander III’s request. He was finally enthroned as Catholicos Mgrdich I in September 1893. He had his Ottoman citizenship revoked and became a Russian subject. During the Hamidian massacres of 1894–96, Khrimian provided material assistance to the Armenian refugees. He also implemented the renovation of many ancient monasteries and churches. He collaborated with the Armenian Revolution Federation to organize mass demonstrations against the June 1903 edict of the Russian government that closed down Armenian schools and confiscated the properties of the Armenian Church. Popular resistance led to the revocation of the edict in August 1905.

 

Catholicos Khrimian remained active until the end of his life, on October 29, 1907. He was buried in the courtyard of Holy Etchmiadzin. He was revered for his progressive and nationalist views. A school in Yerevan founded by him in 1906 and renamed for the 26 Baku Commissars during the Soviet period was renamed after Khrimian in 1989. A school in Buenos Aires (Argentina) has carried his name since 1930.

 

KHACHATOUR LAZARIAN

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

Death of Khachatour Lazarian
(October 10, 1871)

 

The Lazarian family had an important role in the history of the Armenian liberation movement from the eighteenth century. Hovhannes Lazarian (1735-1801) worked to that end through his connections to the Russian court. He bequeathed a big sum of money to the foundation of a high school in Moscow for Armenian children, designating his brother Hovakim as executor of the will. The Lazarian College, founded in 1815, would become an education beacon for the Armenians in the Russian Empire.

 

Hovakim Lazarian’s younger son, Khachatour, continued the family work. He was born on June 1, 1789. The details about his early life are sketchy. In 1819 he married the daughter of Manuk bey Mirzayan (1769-1817), a well-known trading partner of his father in Moldavia (Moldova), who had been very active during the Turkish-Russian war of 1806-1812.

 

The obstacles put by Russian high-level bureaucracy, particularly the Ministry of Education, to the activities of the Lazarian College led the Lazarian family to take an unprecedented step. In 1824 Hovakim Lazarian addressed the Council of Ministers to ask that the College be taken out of the ministry’s orbit and put under the direct supervision of the council. Brothers Hovhannes and Khachatour Lazarian, together with two members of the Committee of Educational Institutions, prepared the bylaws of the College, which were approved. The Lazarian College was renamed Lazarian Institute of Oriental Languages in 1828. 

 

Meanwhile, Khachatour Lazarian had been actively involved in the last phase of the Russo-Persian war of 1826-1828. Along with Prince Konstantin Arghoutian and scholar Alexander Khoudabashian, Lazarian prepared a project of autonomy for the Eastern Armenian territories that would be annexed to Russia after the war. The project, entitled, “A Series of Proposals for Georgia and Adjacent Territories,” called for an ample autonomy of Armenia within the Russian Empire and the restoration of the Armenian kingdom with Czar Nicholas I adding “King of the Armenians” to his titles. The project also anticipated the immigration of Armenian population from Persia to Eastern Armenia. Lazarian also lobbied the Russian authorities to incorporate the province of Maku, beyond the border of the Arax River. The idea of Archbishop Nerses Ashtaraketsi (future Catholicos of All Armenians) was to turn its mountains and valleys into a natural protection for the country. However, Lazarian failed in his purpose due to the obstinate refusal of General Ivan Paskevitch, who had fought and won the war. The autonomy project was also rejected, but it contributed to the initial creation of the Armenian Province (1829-1840). He was also a member of the committee that prepared the reforms in the administration of Eastern Armenia. The project, known as Polozhenye, was approved by Nicholas I on March 11, 1836.

 

To confront the matter of insufficient income for the Lazarian Institute –the family covered the deficits from their own pocket—Lazarian presented a project in 1837 that proposed to unify the five Armenian churches of Moscow and St. Petersburg with the Institute and establish a synergia between them, with the units mutually covering their deficits. He also suggested the creation of a religious section in the Institute for the education of the clergy. The project was approved by Catholicos Hovhannes Karbetsi and the Synod of Etchmiadzin in 1840, and then approved by the czar in 1841. Another project approved in 1848 by Nicholas I turned the Institute into an eight-year educational institution, instead of the previous six-year period.

 

Khachatour Lazarian’s only son, Hovhannes, passed away at an early age in 1850. His parents and uncle donated 60,000 silver rubles in his memory to establish a preparatory section for the children of Armenian poor families that lacked knowledge of the Russian language to enter the Institute. As an exception, the czar agreed to this donation.

 

In 1860 Lazarian, a man of progressive ideas in education and always ready to have the best possible level, made a huge donation of 200,000 rubles from his own fortune to improve the educational level of the Institute—now divided into two sections, gymnasium and Oriental languages—and allow the graduates to pursue higher education without additional exams. Czar Alexander II (1855-1881) decorated him with the order of the White Lion. The intervention of the Minister of Education, Count Dmitri Tolstoy, another man of progressive ideas, established a new reform, which reunited both sections while keeping their high educational level. The new curriculum remained unchanged from 1872 to 1918, when the newly established Soviet government closed the Lazarian Institute.

 

Besides his support for education, Khachatour Lazarian continuously sought to support Armenian Studies among Russian scholars and convince wealthy Armenians of throwing their support “in favor of the Church and the Armenian people, which demand and are thirsty for education and science.”

 

Lazarian passed away in Moscow on October 10, 1871. A marble bust was installed in the hall of the Lazarian Institute in the same year thanks to the fundraising of Russian Armenians.

 

HENRIK MALIAN

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

[ANEC]

 

 

Birth of Henrik Malian

(September 30, 1925)

 Henrik Malian

Henrik Malian, one of the most popular filmmakers in Soviet Armenia from the 1960s, was born in Telavi (Georgia) on September 30, 1925. After working during his teens as a draftsman at the aviation factory of Tbilisi (1942-1945), he moved to Yerevan. Here he studied at the Institute of Art and Theatre of Yerevan, in the section of direction, from 1945 to 1951. He continued his graduate studies in Moscow, where he finished courses of film and theater direction at the State Institute of Theatrical Art “Anatoli Lunacharsky” in 1953.

 

Malian’s career started in 1951 as a director in theaters of various towns of Armenia (Artashat, Kirovakan, Ghapan) and on television. In 1954 he entered Armenfilm, the cinema studios, where he was first an assistant director and, since the 1960s, a director. In 1961-1962 he spent a year at the Mosfilm studios, where he studied with two noted Soviet directors, Mikhail Kalatozov (Kalatozishvili) and Sergei Bondarchuk.

 

Malian’s first films were of a genre that mixed lyricism and comedy, such as The Guys of the Orchestra (1960), Road to the Circus (1963), and Monsieur Jacques and Others (1964). His breakthrough came with The Triangle (1967), one of his best films, which was crucial for the creation of a poetic style in Armenian cinema. The film was endowed with immediacy and a delicate taste for direction, with a powerful artistic discourse. He won the State Award of Armenia in 1975 for this film.

 

Malian characterized his films by the election of apparently minimal subjects, which he later turned into meaningful, psychologically deep generalizations. The fate of his heroes, their thoughts and experiences were linked to the events of their time. Such was the case of his next works: We Are Our Mountains (1969), Father (1972), and especially Nahapet (1977), which was released in the United States as Life Triumphs. The latter, for which he wrote the screenplay on a short novel by Hrachia Kochar, touched for the first time in Armenia the relatively taboo subject of the Armenian Genocide through the lenses of a survivor and his attempt to rebuild life after the catastrophe.

 

Malian became People’s Artist of Armenia in 1977 and People’s Artist of the Soviet Union in 1982. He also wrote and directed A Piece of Sky (1980), a reconstruction of life in pre-genocide Kharpert, based on a fragment of Vahan Totoventz’s memoir Life on the Ancient Roman Road. He would still write several films in the 1980s, such as Gikor (1982, based on Hovhannes Tumanian’s short story) and White Dreams (1985, also based on another episode of Totoventz’s memoir), and direct and write A Drop of Honey (1984, also based on a short story by Tumanian). Yearning (1990), the first film to address Stalin’s repression, was posthumously filmed, on a screenplay written by Malian and Ruben Hovsepian (based on another short novel by Hrachia Kochar).

 

Henrik Malian was not only a director, but also a long-time teacher. He taught at the Khachatur Abovian Pedagogical Institute (now University) from 1971-1988, and was chair of Direction and Master Acting from 1975 on. He was a professor at his alma mater, the Institute of Art and Theater, from 1982 to 1988. In 1980 he founded and directed the Theater-Studio for Film Actors, which was renamed after him in 1988.

 

He passed away prematurely, at the age of 62, on March 14, 1988, in Yerevan. The Henrik Malian Theater Studio is now directed by his daughter, the actress Narine Malian.

Dawn Anahid MacKeen on ‘The Hundred-Year Walk’ at Milwaukee-Armenian Cultural Event


By David Luhrssen

 

(Greenfield, Wis.) Dawn Anahid MacKeen grew up hearing her mother’s stories about her grandfather, Stepan Miskjian, a Genocide survivor who immigrated to America. “As a child, I was repulsed by some of those stories,” she said, speaking at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church at a Sept. 17 event ahead of Armenian Cultural Month in October.

 IMG_0124

If sometimes repulsed, she was always curious. “’It’s all in here!’ my mother said, pointing to a pair of small booklets, in Armenian, published by my grandfather in the 1960s.” This led to the discovery of a cache of his notebooks, meticulously penned in grandfather’s careful handwriting, setting down his life from before and through the Genocide.

 

Grandfather’s writings became the basis for MacKeen’s book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey. Called a “must read” by the New York Post, The Hundred-Year Walk reframes his memoirs and recounts her own journey to Turkey and Syria in 2007. She retraced his steps from his hometown in Adabazar (now Adapazari), east of Istanbul, to the Syrian city of Raqqua on the Euphrates River. Having escaped his death march through the Syrian desert, he was given sanctuary by a Bedouin leader, Sheik Hammud al-Aekleh, who sympathized with the plight of the Armenians.

 

Like her grandfather, MacKeen has a gift for reporting. An award-winning investigative journalist, her work appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and Smart Money. She put her career on hold to write The Hundred-Year Walk, expecting to devote two years to the undertaking. In the end, the project required 10 years to complete. She devoured published and unpublished accounts of the Genocide and traveled to Armenian libraries in Paris and Vienna. Her journey to the Near East occurred at a time, not so long ago, when Turkey sometimes seemed on the verge of opening up to the world and Syria was a stable nation. Many of the places she visited, including the Genocide Memorial at Deir Zor, have since been destroyed.

 

MacKeen’s greatest joy was in locating the descendants of the sheikh who protected her grandfather. “Raqqa later became the capital for ISIS, but then, it was a harmonious place of many religions and ethnicities,” she said. “I received great hospitality and couldn’t help but think of the ripple effect of one kind act—because of the sheikh, my family survived.” According to MacKeen, many of the sheikh’s descendants have fled the Syrian civil war and become refugees in Europe.

 

“My grandfather’s account is an important testimony to a crime against humanity,” she concluded. “His words are my family’s heirloom. I inherited his story along with the responsibility of telling it.”

 

MacKeen’s talk and the lively questions and answers that followed capped a busy day at St. John. The Exaltation of the Cross, a feast day on the Armenian liturgical calendar, was celebrated by the traditional Blessing of the Four Corners of the World service and the distribution of basil. St. John added a new member to its community with the baptism of Ava Torosian, daughter of Jeff and Jennifer Torosian. A luncheon hosted by family members followed the baptism and gave the visiting speaker a sense for the genuine fellowship found at St. John.

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