Posts Tagged ‘Mikael Nalbandian’

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


Birth of Mikael Nalbandian

(November 14, 1829)


Francis Scott Key is just remembered as the author of the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem. It is not the same in the case of Mikael Nalbandian, who was an influential intellectual of the nineteenth century and is an important name in the history of Armenian culture, besides being the author of the lyrics of the Armenian anthem.Nalbandian

Nalbandian was born on November 14, 1829, in Nor Nakhichevan, the town close to Rostov-on-Don founded in the late eighteenth century by Armenian emigrants from Crimea, in the family of a craftsman. He studied in his hometown at the school of Gabriel Patkanian, and for a while he was classmate of his son, the future poet Rafael Patkanian (Kamar Katipa). He worked as a secretary in the Armenian diocese of Nor Nakhichevan and Besarabia from 1848-1853. Then he left his post and went to Moscow, where he taught Armenian language at the Lazarian College for a short while, and took classes at the Medicine School of Moscow University as an auditor (1854-1858).

Similar to Khachatur Abovian, Nalbandian championed the introduction of Modern Armenian (ashkharhapar) instead of Classical Armenian (krapar), and confronted the opposition of ecclesiastics and conservatives. He translated poems of Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Heinrich Heine, and others. Among his own poetry, three poems became favorites of the public: “The Song of the Italian Girl” (Idalatsi aghchga yerke), “Freedom” (Azadutiun), and “Days of Childhood” (Mangootian orer). The first, better known as Mer Hairenik (“Our Fatherland”), would become the anthem of the first Republic of Armenia in 1918, and was adopted again after the new independence of 1991.


A statue of Nalbandian located on the street named after the author in central Yerevan.

Nalbandian published the journal Hiusisapayl (Aurora Borealis) with another influential intellectual, Stepanos Nazarian (1812-1879), in Moscow. During its five years of existence (1859-1864), the journal became a leading name in the cultural awakening of Eastern Armenians. Nalbandian had already made a name for himself since the 1850s due to his progressive and liberal views, as well as his outspoken and ironic style. Reform and renewal were his main ideas, as he espoused them in his writings on different issues. He published various political tracts, of which the most important was Agriculture as the Right Way (1862), where he criticized the peasant reform of 1861 in Russia.

The writer made two trips to Europe (1859 and 1860-1862), and he also visited India. In London he became friends with various famous Russian revolutionaries, such as Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin. After his return in 1862, he was arrested by the Russian secret police and spent three years in prison in St. Petersburg. He was accused of inciting anti-government sentiments and exiled to the fortress of Kamyshin, in the province of Saratov. He passed away at the age of 37, victim of tuberculosis, on April 12, 1866. He was buried in the Armenian monastery of Holy Cross, in Nakhichevan-on-Don. An important street in central Yerevan and a statue remember him.



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Prepared by

the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)


This year is the 160th anniversary of the birth of composer Kristapor Kara-Murza, introducer of choral music in Armenian culture. He was born on March 2, 1853 (February 18, according to the old Julian calendar) in the town of Gharasu-Bazar, currently Bielogorsk, in the Crimea (Ukraine). He started to play piano and flute at age 8 and also took private lessonsKaraKurza from music teachers in the town. He developed his abilities to read and write music. He was just a teenager when he started to organize and offer concerts.

He moved to Tiflis, the capital of the viceroyalty of the Caucasus, in 1882, and then to Baku from 1885-1892. He was the editor of musical criticism for the daily Mshak, edited by Grigor Artzruni. Kara-Murza offered the first concert of choral music in Armenian history, with a program of patriotic songs, at the theater founded by Artzruni in Tiflis. This was a novelty, as Armenian music was fundamentally written on a one-voice basis, as opposed to European four voices (polyphony). During the next seventeen years, until his premature death at the age of 49, the composer organized some 90 choral groups in fifty cities of Armenia and outside the country, including Tiflis, Baku, Etchmiadzin, Nakhichevan-on-the-Don, Odessa, Batum, Moscow, Kars, Shushi, Constantinople, and others, and gave more than 250 concerts with the participation of 6,000 people.

        Kara-Murza’s most important achievement was the collection of Armenian religious and popular songs, and their musical arrangement and conversion into polyphonic music. In 1887 he premiered his arrangement of the Divine Liturgy in a concert in Baku. He taught music at the Kevorkian Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1892-1893, and later settled back in Tiflis, where he gave special courses to musical conductors.

        He also composed songs with lyrics by Armenian poets, as well as music a cappella, and also arranged operatic melodies. He presented in Baku fragments of Faust, the famous opera of French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893), in Armenian translation. Kara-Murza arranged 300 choral and popular songs, among them such classics as “Dzidzernag,” “Zinch oo zinch,” “Kezi mernim,” “Khorodig,” “Lepho lele.”  He also composed and transcribed popular dances, and became the precursor to the modern song and dance ensembles.

        In recent years, Kara-Murza has been credited with the composition of the music of the song “Mer Hairenik,” with lyrics by Mikael Nalbandian (1829-1866), which he premiered in Tiflis, in 1885. His music was the basis for the arrangement by Parsegh Ganachian (1885-1967), one of Gomidas’ disciples, which is performed today as the Armenian national anthem.

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