Posts Tagged ‘Silva Gaboudigian’

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)



Death of Silva Kaputikian
(August 25, 2006)


Silva Kaputikian was one of the most popular Armenian women writers of the twentieth century, as well as a long-time political activist.


She was born Sirvard Kaputikian in Yerevan on January 20, 1919. Her parents were survivors from Van. Her father Barunak (1888-1919), a teacher and member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, died of cholera three months before her birth. She was raised by her mother and grandmother. She published her first poem in 1933, when she had adopted the first name Silva, and she attended the Faculty of Armenian Philology at Yerevan State University from 1936 until her graduation in 1941. In the same year, she became a member of the Writers Union of Armenia. By that time, she had already married another poet who would become well-known, Hovhannes Shiraz (1915-1985). They would have a son, the prominent sculptor Ara Shiraz (1941-2014), and divorce later.


Kaputikian joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1945. In the same year, she published her first collection of poetry, With the Days. It included a poem, “Words to My Son,” that would make her famous as one of the most recognizable poems dedicated to the Armenian language and an assertion of national identity. From that very first book until the end of her life, her writing would focus around two subjects, national identity and lyric poetry, where she also reflected traces of her personal life.


She studied at the Gorky Institute of World Literature in Moscow (1949-1950). She established herself as a significant literary figure in Soviet Armenia by the 1950s. She was awarded the USSR State Prize in 1952. During sixty years of publishing activity, she authored over sixty books in Armenian, including poetry, travelogues, and essays, and several in Russian. Her works were translated into Russian by well known poets like Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, Bulat Okudjava, and others. She earned the title of Honored Cultural Worker of Soviet Armenia (1970) and Soviet Georgia (1982).


In the 1960s-1980s Silva Kaputikian traveled widely throughout Diaspora communities in the Middle East, North America, and South America. She published travel books about those visits, where she focused on Armenian history—with some one-sided views—and an optimistic picture of the future. Since the 1960s, she was an advocate of national causes. She was an active participant in the April 24, 1965, demonstrations on the fiftieth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and later criticized the Communist Party for its failure to properly address the anniversary. For decades, she went on a tightrope between Armenian nationalism and Soviet internationalism, but was one of the most outspoken intellectuals on issues of public concern, from the genocide to Soviet language and nationalities policies to environmentalism. In early 1988 she was a member of the first Karabagh Committee, together with fellow writer Zori Balayan and activist Igor Muradyan, among others. In the same year she won the Armenian SSR State Prize.


She continued her literary and public activities in post-Soviet times. She was elected a full member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences in 1994. She became critical of the first two governments of independent Armenia, especially of President Robert Kocharian. She was awarded the Mesrop Mashdots Medal (1999) by the latter, but she returned it in 2004 after the violent crackdown on the opposition on April of that year.


Silva Kaputikian passed away in Yerevan on August 25, 2006, and was laid to rest in the Komitas Pantheon. In 2007 a school of Yerevan was named after her, and in 2009 a house-museum dedicated to her was opened. The street on which the museum is located (formerly known as Baghramian Lane 1) was renamed Kaputikian Street.

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Prepared by

the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

       Poet Hovhannes Shiraz, one of the most popular names in Armenia and the Diaspora during Soviet times, was born in Alexandropol (later Leninakan, now Gumri), in 1915. His birth name was Onnig Garabedian. At the age of five, he lost his father, who was killed in the Turkish invasion of Armenia that followed the Armenian-Turkish war of 1920. He grew in poverty. He went to work at the textile factory of Leninakan in 1932. He published his first poems in the factory newspapers. Apparently, he first signed them with the pseudonym Hovhannes Shirag (Gumri is located in the plain of Shirag).HovhannesShiraz

A behind the scenes shot of the making of the film, Shiraz, in Gyumri, in 1983. Hovhannes Shiraz is second from left, sitting in the carriage.

        One year later, he was hired as teacher in the village of Haji Nazar (now Kamo), in the district of Akhurian. He published his first book of poetry, “Spring Initiation,” in 1935, with the pseudonym Hovhannes Shiraz. According to his testimony, writer Atrpet (1860-1937) gave him the pseudonym of Shiraz (a city in Iran, well known for its flowers), saying: “The poems of this young man have the perfume of the fresh and dew-covered roses of Shiraz.” In the same year, Shiraz became a member of the Writers Union of Armenia.

        He attended the Faculty of Philology of the Yerevan State University between 1941 and 1947, where he studied Armenian language and literature. Afterwards, he lived from his pen. He also followed the courses of the Institute of Literature Maxim Gorky of Moscow from 1952-1954.

        Shiraz’s most important collection of poetry was “Lyre of Armenia” (three volumes, 1958, 1965, and 1974). He won the State Prize of Soviet Armenia in 1975 and the Hovhannes Tumanian prize in 1982.

       Although the press run of his books was over half a million copies and his poems were translated into 58 languages, Shiraz ran into many problems with censorship. His patriotic poetry, particularly his evocation of the historical injustice suffered by Armenians and the lost territories of Western Armenia and, at the time, Gharapagh, was forbidden several times. In 1974, when the well-known literary critic Suren Aghababian told Shiraz about receiving the Lenin Medal, the response was: “And what do they want from me in exchange? To buy my silence?”

        He was never allowed to travel outside the Soviet Union, but many of his unpublished poems were smuggled outside the country and published in the Diaspora press. For instance, the first draft of his poem “The Armenian Dante,” about the Armenian Genocide, was written in 1941. Only a few excerpts were published in Armenia during his lifetime and a few chapters in Beirut and Tehran. The entire poem was posthumously published in 1990. His poem “Ani,” about the medieval capital of Armenia, written in 1950, was also published in excerpts in the Diaspora, and the final edition only appeared in 2012.

        Shiraz first married poet Silva [Gaboudigian] Kaputikian (1919-2006). They had a son, the future sculptor Ara Shiraz. Shiraz and his second wife, Shushan, had seven children, including poet Sipan Shiraz (1967-1997).

        Shiraz, who had become a living legend, passed away in Yerevan on March 14, 1984. He was buried in the pantheon of Gomidas Park, where many famous Armenians are buried.

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