Literature

Literature

The early Christian period gave rise to the Armenian alphabet (405 AD), following which the Bible and much of the Greco-Roman classical literature were translated to Armenian. Many works in Classical Greek, Latin and other languages exist today only in their Armenian translations. Golden age of the Armenian literature was to follow with creation of rich literature in different genres. Notwithstanding the fact that the Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Mongols and Tamerlane invading Armenia burned all the Armenian manuscripts that they came across, over 30000 Armenian manuscripts, some of them beautifully illuminated with miniatures, have survived in Armenia (Matenadaran, Ejmiadzin depositories), as well as in libraries of Isfahan, Jerusalem, St. Lazzaro (Venice), Berlin, Paris, London, the USA and elsewhere. The first printed book in Armenian appeared in 1512, 500th anniversary of which was celebrated in 2012, when Yerevan was announced by UNESCO as the world book capital. Armenian epic poems and mythological literature were orally transmitted and gradually written down, leading to the establishment of literature in the vernacular Armenia. The oldest form of poetry, the hymn of religious inspiration, is a combination of poetry and chant designed for use in religious services. Religious lyricism reached its pinnacle in the 10th century with the works of Grigor of Narek. His masterpiece, the Narek, is one of the most widely read works in Armenia. Centuries witnessed the rise of lyricism by Nerses Shnorhali (the Gracious), Constantine of Erznka, Nahapet Kutchak,  Sayat Nova and others, including poems on spring, love, light, beauty, fatherland, freedom, philosophy etc. Later new genres such as the novel, the ballad were born affected by the currents of rationalism, symbolism and decadence encompassing Europe, but the themes remained traditionally Armenian. The nineteenth century beheld a great literary movement giving rise to modern Armenian literature, which was carried out by such writers and poets as Khatchatour Abovian, Raffi, Hovhaness Toumanian, Yeghisheh Charentz, Paruir Sevak, Gevork Emin, Hovhanness Shiraz etc. Some of them worked and suffered under the Communist system, much restricting the freedom of expression of the writers. Today literature thrives in the Republic of Armenia as well as in the Diaspora. Writers use one of two standardized vernacular dialects, Westerns Armenian and Eastern Armenian, whose names reflect their geographic origins.

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