(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)



Closure of the Kevorkian Lyceum
(December 21, 1917)


In the nineteenth century, the Armenian Church did not have an institution that provided superior religious education and prepared its future members. At the beginning of his tenure, Catholicos Kevork IV (1866-1882) met Russian czar Alexander II (1855-1881) and asked for permission to found such an institution. The construction of the lyceum (jemaran) started on May 25, 1869 and the grand opening was held five years later, on September 28, 1875. The bylaws approved by the Ministry of Education of the Russian Empire in the same year established that the lyceum would have two sections: a six-year school and a three-year auditory, and would provide higher religious education. After the death of the Catholicos, the lyceum was named in his honor.

Despite many efforts, Kevork IV did not see any graduate becoming a celibate priest during his tenure. A secularist spirit predominated in the lyceum. His successor Magar I (1885-1891) played an important role to redirect the institution into its actual purpose. He invited a qualified faculty, which included Bishop Maghakia Ormanian, future Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The latter became the teacher of theological subjects, and thanks to his efforts, four graduates were consecrated celibate priests in 1888.

The level education at the lyceum was quite high. At the school level, the following subjects were taught: Armenian history and geography, general history and geography, ancient Armenian literature, Armenian and foreign (Russian, French, German) languages, natural sciences, astronomy, mathematics, the Bible, religious music, logics, etc. The auditory section included Armenian language (Classical and Modern), Armenian history, religious literature, Armenian literature, European literature, philosophy, psychology, pedagogy, political economy, history of the Armenian Church, Armenian religious law, ritual studies, ancient Greek, etcetera.

The graduates presented final essays, which were defended before an examining committee and then they became clerics or continued their higher studies in Russian and European universities.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the lyceum had 20 paying students and 230 others with scholarships. It was maintained through the incomes of the monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin, as well as fundraisers and donations. The Catholicos was the principal, who followed the activities of the lyceum through the Educational Council and the dean. The deans included Bishop Gabriel Ayvazovsky (brother of the famous painter), Rev. Garegin Hovsepiants (future Catholicos of Cilicia), Rev. Mesrop Ter-Movsisyan, and other names, generally but not exclusively ecclesiastics. Among the teachers of the Kevorkian lyceum were such luminaries of Armenian culture as Manuk Abeghian, Hrachia Ajarian, Leo, Stepan Lisitsian, Gomidas, Hakob Manandian, and many others. Those teachers were partly graduates of the same lyceum.

Within the frame of the lyceum there was an intensive intellectual activity: preparation of Armenian schools programs, writing of textbooks and handbooks, as well as many historiographic, philological, pedagogical, and theological works. The faculties of the Armenian schools of the Caucasus were filled by graduates of the Kevorkian lyceum for more than half a century.

Due to the political and military unfavorable conditions at the end of 1917, Catholicos Kevork V (1911-1930) decided to cease temporarily the activities of the lyceum on December 21, 1917. Attempts to reopen the Kevorkian Lyceum during the first independent Republic did not succeed. The unique and rich collection of its library (45,000 volumes) became one of the starting points of the collections of the National Library of Armenia and the Matenadaran.

The Etchmiadzin lyceum was finally reopened in 1945 and continues its activities until today.

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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee[ANEC])


Birth of Barouyr Sevag
 (January 26, 1924)

Barouyr Sevag was the successor of Yeghishe Charents in Soviet Armenian poetry, and was widely admired during his lifetime. Both had a short life, tragically cut off, although under different circumstances.

Barouyr Ghazarian was born in the small village of Chanakhchi (now Zankagadoun), in the district of Ararat, in Armenia. His parents were humble villagers. He attended the local school and graduated with honors in 1940, moving to Yerevan to study at the philological faculty of Yerevan State University. He had written his first poetry at the age of thirteen, and three of his poems appeared for the first time in the monthly Sovetakan Grakanutiun in 1942, with the signature Barouyr Sevag. The editor of the monthly, Ruben Zarian, was a literary scholar fond of Roupen Sevag, a fine poet who had been killed together with Taniel Varoujan in the Armenian genocide, and thought of perpetuating his memory by using his name as a pseudonym for the 18-year-old beginner.BarouyrSevag

Sevag graduated in 1945 and started postgraduate studies of Armenian literature at the Manuk Abeghian Institute of Literature of the Armenian Academy of Sciences. However, he had to cut his studies short in 1948. In the same year, he published his first book, The Immortals Command. He married linguist Maya Avakian and had a son, Hrachia.

In 1951 he moved to Moscow to study at the Maxim Gorky Institute of World Literature. There he met his future second wife, Nelly Menagharishvili, who would give him two more sons, Armen and Koriun. He graduated in 1955 and worked there from 1957-1959 as an instructor at the chair of Literary Translation.

Meanwhile, during the eight years of ostracism, he had managed to publish poetry, translations, and literary criticism in the Soviet Armenian press. His three books of poetry, however (Uncomprising Intimacy, 1953; Love Road, 1954; and With You Again, 1957), failed to unleash his entire potential. His long poem of 1959, The Unsilenced Belfry, dedicated to the life of Gomidas Vartabed, made his name instantly known by Armenian readers throughout the world. The book earned him the National Prize of Armenia in 1966.

Sevag went back to Yerevan in late 1959, and returned to the Manuk Abeghian Institute of Literature as a scholarly researcher from 1963-1971. He served as secretary of the Board of the Writers Union of Armenia from 1966-1971. In 1968 he was elected a representative at the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR.

During the sixties, Sevag became the most powerful voice of Armenian poetry, and his articles on literary and public issues were widely read. In 1963 he published a groundbreaking collection of poetry, The Man in the Palm, which marked the return to the path of modernism that had been closed since the death of Charents a quarter of a century before.

In 1966 the poet and scholar defended a doctoral dissertation on the life and work of Sayat-Nova, the popular troubadour of the eighteenth century. After a defense of his dissertation that lasted four hours, his work was so highly esteemed that he was conferred with a second doctorate degree when the dissertation was approved and published in 1969.

Barouyr Sevag was not a dissident, but, as many intellectuals under the Soviet regime, some of his work clashed with censorship. This was particularly notorious when his last collection of poetry, Let There Be Light, was printed in 1969, but because of censorship issues, the entire edition of 25,000 copies remained undistributed until his death on June 17, 1971, in a car crash, while driving back to Yerevan. His wife also died in the crash, and only his two children survived. The circumstances of the accident were suspicious, and they have given fodder to lingering doubts about foul play by the Soviet regime.

The 47-year-old poet and his wife were buried in the backyard of his home, in Chanakhchi, which later became a museum. The village was renamed Zankagadoun after the independence of Armenia in honor of his poem The Unsilenced Belfry (Անլռելի զանգակատուն, Anlreli Zankagadoun).

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Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)


Death of Manuk Abeghian

(September 25, 1944)

Manuk Abeghian was one of the most important scholars of Armenian Studies in the first half of the twentieth century. At the conclusion of his remarkable career, he became one of the founding members of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia in 1943.

Abeghian was born on March 17, apeghian 1865 in the village of Astapat, in the historical Armenian province of Nakhichevan (today in territory of Azerbaijan). He was the son of an agriculturist. After his initial studies in the school of the monastery of Karmir Vank, in 1876 he entered the Kevorkian Seminary of Etchmiadzin and graduated in 1885. He taught for many years in schools of Shushi (Karabagh) and Tiflis. In 1893 he went to Europe and became an auditor at the German universities of Jena, Leipzig, and Berlin, as well as in the University of Paris. In 1898 he was awarded his doctorate at the University of Jena, where he defended a dissertation on the ancient Armenian beliefs.

He returned to the Caucasus and was a teacher in his alma mater, the Kevorkian Seminary, until 1914. Then, he moved to Tiflis, where he taught at the Nersisian Lyceum until 1918.

He moved to Armenia in 1921 and became a professor at Yerevan State University; he also was the dean of the Faculty of History and Literature from 1923-1925. In 1935 he earned a second doctorate, this time in Armenian philology.

Abeghian was a foremost scholar in a variety of disciplines of Armenian Studies. He was a pioneering figure in the study of Armenian mythology. Besides recording several variants of the Armenian national epics David of Sassoun, he was the author of its first specialized study (1889). Together with his colleague Garo Melik-Ohanjanian, they both prepared a three-volume edition of all available variants of the epics (published between 1936 and 1951). Abeghian was also one of the authors of an integral version of the epics, which condensed all the variants into one single text (1939). He also published critical editions of Armenian popular songs and medieval poetry.

Among his major works was the two-volume History of Ancient Armenian Literature (1944-1945), which was left unfinished because of his death. Many of his studies were published in a collection of eight volumes between 1966 and 1985.

Abeghian’s name was linked to the reform of Armenian orthography in 1922. After the sovietization of Armenia, the new regime started a policy aimed at the simplification of Armenian orthography, whose ultimate purpose was to eliminate the Armenian alphabet and replace it with Latin script. In 1921, Abeghian presented his personal views as a report in a conference organized by the Commissariat (Ministry) of Education. The same report was used a year later by the Commissariat, without consulting with Abeghian, to decree, on March 4, 1922, the reform of the orthography. For this reason, it is common to call the reformed orthography with the name of “Abeghian spelling.” The excesses in this reform motivated a new change in the Soviet Armenian orthography—used today in Armenia, the former Soviet Union, and among the “new diaspora” formed after the migration of the past 25 years—in 1940, which made it closer to classical orthography (used today by the Diaspora, both speakers of Western Armenian and of Eastern Armenian, in the case of Iran).

Manuk Abeghian passed away in 1944. The Institute of Literature of the Armenian National of Academy carries his name.

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