By Shant Norashkharian
Yeghishe Charents was one of the greatest Armenian poets of this century.This month is the 100th anniversary of his birthday, and the following is a celebration of his poetry.
Like many great Armenian poets he is unfortunately known very little in the West, because of lack of translations and publicity. Charents was also a great martyr (at the age of 40) who was full of love for his nation. Knowing fully that any national call to unite his people to resist Stalin's regime would surely end in giving up his life in one of Stalin's jails, he courageously stood up against tyranny. Along with many Armenian intellectuals like Agsel Pagounts, Zabel Yesayan and Kourken Mahari, he fell victim to Stalin's 1937 purge of intellectuals. Even though in the 1920's he believed like most intellectuals of the time that Communism was the answer to mankind's problems, in the 1930's he was a totally disillusioned and bitter man, and as is evident in his last book, the love of his nation matured as he completely abandoned internationalism.
Yeghishe Charents was born in 1897 in Iran, but from early age he moved with his parents to Kars, where he received his primary and secondary education. In 1914 he joined the Armenian volunteer troops and went to the front with them
until they reached Van.
In 1915 he moved to Moscow to continue his education at the university. He became witness to the Communist revolution and was influenced deeply by its ideology. In 1918 he joined the Red Army. In 1919 he returned to Yerevan and for a while worked as a teacher. When Nigol Aghpalian, the Minister of Culture, praised him as a talented poet with a great future, Charents started becoming known in Armenia.
After the Communists took over in Armenia, in 1922 Charents left for Moscow again to continue his education, but then returned and became involved in literary and cultural work. In 1924 he traveled abroad to visit Turkey, France, Italy and Germany.
Charents continued to write prolifically until his death. He published six volumes of poetry and a novel: LYRICAL POEMS, DANTEAN LEGEND (1916), THE FRENZIED MOBS (1918), POEMS (1923), LAND OF NAYIRI (1923)-- a novel, EPIC DAYBREAK (1930), BOOK FOR THE ROAD (1933). Charents also has many translations and unpublished poems.