Armenian Literature Essay, Research Paper
Before the introduction of Christianity into Armenia in the 3rd century AD, Armenian literature was Assyrian or Medo-Persian in character. After that date, however, the language, literature, and finally the alphabet of Greece appeared in Armenian writing, although eastern Armenia retained the Syriac alphabet. The translation of the Bible into Classical Armenian, traditionally ascribed to the monk and scholar St. Mesrob, and his systematization of the Armenian alphabet in 410 opened a period of literary activity in the 5th century known as the Golden Age of Armenian literature. The principal Armenian writers of this age were translators. Other authors were the philosopher Eznik Koghbatsi, who wrote Refutation of the Sects, especially valuable for its account of the Zoroastrian and Manichaean religions; Movses Khorenats, reputed author of a geography and of a history of Armenia; and the preacher Eliseus, author of History of Vardan and of the Battles of the Armenians.
Arab rule over Armenia, lasting through most of the 6th to the 10th century, caused a decline in the production of literature in Armenian. In the 10th century Thomas of Ardsruni, an important historian, appeared, as did the poet and bishop Grigor Narekatsi. In the 12th century the patriarch Nerses the Gracious, poet, theologian, and historian, wrote prayers and hymns still in use. New literary forms began to appear in the 13th century, but for the next four centuries Classical Armenian literature was confined to the monasteries. A body of literature in the contemporary or vernacular language, however, was produced by such poet-minstrels as Sayat-Novain the 18th century.
During the 18th century Armenian congregations were established in many cities in Europe, as well as in Asia. A special impetus toward the preservation of Armenian literature was given by the establishment in 1717 of a college and convent on the island of San Lazzaro near Venice by the Armenian prelate Mechitar de Petro. In Venice, and at another congregation established later in Vienna, Mechitarist monks are still producing literature in Armenian.
Beginning about 1850 a modern school of Armenian writers came into existence, especially in the Russian and Turkish parts of the country; the members of this school wrote exclusively in the dialects of Modern Armenian. This movement produced works in every literary form, though none of its writers won an international reputation; the movement is also responsible for important collections of Armenian folklore. After the founding of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, literature in Armenian was encouraged and carefully monitored by the Soviet government. The most successful field for the Armenian writer in the 20th century was journalism, with many periodicals written in Armenian being published in various parts of the world.