The Gardens of Silihadar. Book Presentation by Jennifer Manoukian on Tuesday, May 6

2014-04 SilihdarThe Zohrab Center will host a book presentation by Jennifer Manoukian, whose new, English translation of the autobiography of Zabel Yessayan entitled, The Gardens of Silihdar, has just been published. The event is being co-sponsored by the Armenian Network of America Greater New York Region.

The presentation will take place on Tuesday, May 6 at 2014 at 7PM at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York.

Author, educator and social activist Zabel Yessayan (1878-1943) is today recognized as one of the greatest writers in Western Armenian literature. Her poignant 1935 autobiography displays the fierce determination of an Ottoman era Armenian intellectual who refused to accept the restrictions placed on women in Ottoman Turkey, and affords a vivid account of Armenian community life in Constantinople at the end of the nineteenth century.

Jennifer Manoukian, an authority on the writings of Zabel Yessayan, will present her newly-published English translation of Yessayan's autobiography at the ZIC
Jennifer Manoukian, an authority on the writings of Zabel Yessayan, will present her newly-published English translation of Yessayan’s autobiography at the ZIC

Jennifer Manoukian, is a graduate of Rutger’s University and a former Zohrab Center intern. She is an accomplished translator and an authority on the writings of Yessayan. She recently published a translation of an essay by the 19th-century novelist Srpouhi Dussap (née Vahanian) entitled, Women’s Inactivitywhich addresses social struggles particular to Armenian women.

At her Zohrab presentation Manoukian will present The Gardens of Silihdar, and introduce the life and work of Zabel Yessayan, a bold, one-of-a-kind figure in Western Armenian literature. The presentation is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow, during which attendees may purchase the book.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer. #ZICZabel

In her long and eventful life, Zabel Yessayan never strayed from her beliefs, despite often facing both governmental and social pressures. Continue reading “The Gardens of Silihadar. Book Presentation by Jennifer Manoukian on Tuesday, May 6”

Book of the Week: The Ghosts of Anatolia

GhostsAnatoliaby CHRISTOPHER PIRIC

The Ghosts of Anatolia is a gripping and heart-wrenching adventure novel by Dr. Steven E. Wilson that chronicles the suffering and path to forgiveness of a young boy during the Armenian Genocide. The lurid yet intriguing tale begins with disgruntled and grumpy Sirak Kazerian who leaves his house in search for coffee only to find his son Keri conversing with George Liralian, the man who he blames for concealing the truth behind the death of his other son, Ara. After beating George over the head with his cane, Sirak is chided and taken home by his son. When the two engage in an intense heart-to-heart, Keri inquires about his family’s origins, which Sirak has neglected to share for many years. After Keri persistently probes, Sirak reluctantly agrees to recount his and his family’s devastating experience.

Continue reading “Book of the Week: The Ghosts of Anatolia”

New Travel Guide to Turkey Spotlights Ancient Armenian Sites

by ANDREW KAYAIAN

InnocentsReturn
Jack Tucker, Innocents Return Abroad: Exploring Ancient Sites in Eastern Turkey (Volume 2). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. ISBN 978-1482392173. 274 pp.

The Zohrab Information Center is delighted to present a fascinating new addition to its vast and growing collection: Innocents Return Abroad, Volume II: Exploring Ancient Sites in Eastern Turkey by Jack Tucker. A  succinct work of scholarship, Innocents Return Abroad is a traveler’s guidebook to the many ancient ruins and sites in Eastern Turkey. In a welcome innovation, the author provides exact GPS coordinates for each of the sites described. This geographic information allows pilgrims, tourists and scholars to find these largely forgotten and unmarked sites. That, in turn, will foster study and conservation of these precious monuments, the author anticipates. Continue reading “New Travel Guide to Turkey Spotlights Ancient Armenian Sites”

Zohrab Center Autumn Interns Visit the Pierpont-Morgan Library

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Zohrab Center interns and the ZIC Director, Fr. Daniel Findikyan, flank Dr. Roger S. Wieck, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library.

The Zohrab Center’s three freshly-branded college interns began their term of learning and service with a visit to New York’s world-renowned Pierpont-Morgan Library to view an exhibit of medieval manuscript illuminations of the Eucharist. Entitled, Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art, the exhibit featured some of the Morgan’s finest European manuscripts dating from the 12th through the 15th centuries.

Through the kindness of New York-based journalist Florence Avakian, the interns and the director, Fr. Daniel Findikyan, met personally with Roger S. Wieck, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. Dr. Wieck led the Zohrab group through the magnificent Morgan Library and the original steel-encased vault, which houses the Morgan’s vast manuscript collection.

The Pierpont-Morgan Library holds the largest collection of Armenian manuscripts in the United States. Many were shown at a 1993 exhibit there entitled, Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts.

The Zohrab Center autumn interns are: Andrew Kayaian, a sophomore history major at Fordham University; Alek Hadadan, a junior majoring in Business at Manhattanville College, (Purchase, NY), and Christopher Piric, a sophomore linguistics major at Nassau Community College.

“The Zohrab Center internship program provides college students in the New York metropolitan area with the opportunity to serve the Center and the Armenian Diocese, while deepening their knowledge and appreciation for Armenian Studies, culture and civilization,” said Fr. Findikyan. “Our visit to the Eucharist exhibit at the Morgan allowed us to compare depictions of the central worship act of the church in the Armenian and western European traditions,” he noted.

Zohrab Center Seeking Interns for the Fall

Alex Calikyan and Chris Pirik cataloging rare Armenian books in the ZIC collection
Alex Calikyan and Chris Piric cataloging rare Armenian books in the ZIC collection

College students in the New York/New Jersey area who are interested in Armenian history, literature, arts and contemporary issues are invited to apply to become an intern at the Zohrab Center this Fall.

Diana Nikolyan, a high school junior, sorts through issues of Sion, the journal of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Diana Nikolyan, a high school junior, sorts through issues of Sion, the journal of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

ZIC interns assist in cataloging books, digitizing rare materials, assisting students and scholars with research, assisting with ZIC events, and maintaining the ZIC blog.

“This summer at the Zohrab Center I have had in my hand countless precious Armenian books, some of them 100 or 200 years old, published in places like Constantinople, Tiflis, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Paris, Aleppo, New York,” said Alex Calikyan, entering his third year at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.  “I have a new appreciation for the breadth and depth of Armenian civilization, and of the intellectual energy of our people.”

College students  in the NY/NJ metropolitan area who are able to devote up to 10 hours per week at the ZIC are welcome to apply. Hours are flexible. Reading knowledge of Armenian is preferred but not required. A modest hourly stipend will be provided. Limited internships are available. For further information contact the Director by filling in the  contact form below.

Book of the Week: A Lost Treasure of a Lost Paradise

by ALEXANDER CALIKYAN

KhodorchurOne of the newer books we have added to our collection here at the Zohrab Information Center is about an area in historic Armenia that most native Armenians have never heard of or know very little about. Khodorchur: Lost Paradise is an extensive study that details virtually every aspect of life in this forgotten region. Khodorchur (now named Sirakonaklar, “row of mansions” in Turkish) was a cluster of historic Armenian villages referred to as Little Rome in the late 18th century. These Armenian Catholics were isolated geographically in the mountainous range north of Erzurum, surrounded in a sea of ethnic Armenian convert Muslim communities known as the Hemshin—Armenians largely devoid of a Christian presence as a consequence of forced Islamicization but who retained their language and other customs.

The work was originally written by Mekhitarist-order priests both native to Khodorchur, Fr. Harutiun Hulunian and Fr. Madtéos Hajian. Dr. Vatche Ghazarian oversaw the translation of the volume into English, while Gina Ann Hablanian coordinated the project as Managing Editor. The original title of the Armenian book, published in Vienna in 1964 by the Mekhitarist Press, reads in English translation, “Memorial Album of Khodorchur.” Co-editor Aram Arkun, former director of the Zohrab Information Center, provided rich historical annotations.

Hovann H. Simonian, who has studied the Hemshin, opens the volume with a brief, yet rich foreword introducing Khodorchur and providing the cultural background and an historical overview of its people. The original preface from Vienna in 1964 by Fr. Hamazasb Vosgian credits and recounts how the pair of priests came together and authored the book. Fr. Hulunian focused on the topography, customs and history of the region when he began writing in 1908. Fr. Hulunian had been granted an opportunity to revisit his birthplace in 1913. In consequence, he was able to correct, expand, and enrich the first draft of his work, which he had brought with him. He took his work with him, continually refining it. Before Fr. Hulunian began writing his work on Khodorchur, Fr. Madtèos Hajian, who had been dispatched to his birthplace in 1899, and where he remained for a number of years, had published a number of works on the district before being deported and martyred. This compilation of material would later be utilized by Fr. Hulunian in his research.

The Katchkar Mountains in the region of Khodorchur, one of the many color plates in the volume.
The Katchkar Mountains in the region of Khodorchur. The word “Khodorchur” literally means “crooked water,” probably referring to the streams and rivers that cascade down these mountains.

The study begins with a discussion of the various topographies and customs of the area encompassing Khodorchur. The first 15 chapters present detailed facts about the various villages in the Khodorchur region. The second half of Part I describes the inhabitants’ wedding festivities, funeral traditions, pilgrimages, seasonal traditions, superstitions, popular medications, and proverbs and riddles. Part II tells the history of the people, marked by its conflicts with Turkish and Armenian convert Muslim bandits and raiders in hostile, neighboring provinces. Part III is devoted to recounting the deportations of the Armenians of Khodorchur in detail. Included are testimonies of victims of the Armenian Genocide who retell their survival stories and the fate of their unfortunate compatriots. In Part IV, Bert Vaux presents an exhaustive linguistic analysis of the unique Armenian dialect of Khodorchur. Included is a dictionary of terms compiled by Shushan Avagyan that shows just how sharply the language of Khodorchur differed from both the Eastern and Western Armenian dialects familiar to us today.\

An addendum contains an official report of the survivors in the region of Khodorchur by the Dayk Union’s Committee for the Search and Relief of Refugees following the Armenian Genocide in 1919. Documented here are statistics and records concerning the confiscation of arms, searches, imprisonments, tortures, etc., confiscation and sale of belongings, the number of Armenians in the region immediately before the war, the number of deportees, and where they were sent, the current number of Armenians, and the conditions of churches, schools, and

Alexander Calikyan reading in the Zohrab Center this summer
Alexander Calikyan reading in the Zohrab Center this summer

houses, just to name a few. In the Appendix, a narrative entitled, “Three Times in Khodorchur,” Vartan Gianighian, who has ancestral ties to Khodorchur, describes his experience while on a tour of eastern Turkey that eventually led him to his father’s homeland. There he had the opportunity to see the beauty and subsequent

devastation that his father had told him about years earlier. Aside from a lengthy and detailed index, another precious feature of this book is its rich variety of plates of priceless photographs and artwork from Khodorchur.

A real gem among lost and hidden Armenian treasures from pre-20th century times, Khodorchur: Lost Paradise has revived the legacy of Khodorchur and her people, creating a rich ethnography that snapshots a lesser known, yet enigmatic piece of Armenian society which, through the hard work and dedicated effort put in by Fathers Harutiun and Madtèos, is sure to capture the imagination of any Armenian having roots in another Armenian world. It has surely done so for this reviewer.

Khodorchur: Lost Paradise. Memories of a Land and Its People. Fr. Harution Hulunjian and Fr. Madtéos Hajian. Vache Ghazarian, trans. Edited by Aram Arkun and Victoria Rowe with a Foreword by Hovann H. Simonian. New material by Vartan Gianighian, Hagop Hachikian and Bert Vaux. Monterey, CA: Mayreni Publishing, 2012. ISBN 9781931834384. 652 pp.

Copies of Khodorchur are available for sale from the Bookstore of the Eastern Diocese. Phone (212) 686-0710.

Alexander Calikyan is a third-year student at the Catholic University of America majoring in philosophy and theology. He is completing a summer internship at the Zohrab Information Center, where he has assisted in cataloguing rare books. 

A Reflection on Vahan Tekeyan

By Arthur Ipek

As a sixth-grader at Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School, I learned the poem Yegeghetsin Haygagan by Vahan Tekeyan. When I first read one of Tekeyan’s poems, I was amazed at all the metaphors, similes, and personification he used to describe his subjects. Vahan Tekeyan, known to some as the “Prince of Armenian Poetry,” has captured the Armenian lifestyle through his vivid and picturesque poems, some of which are The Armenian Church (Yegeghetsin Haygagan), The Armenian Language (Dagh Hayeren Lezvin), and The Lamp of the Illuminator (Loosavorchi Ganteghu). When you dip into his animate phrases full of deep contrast, it feels like you are in your personal realm. The words fly off the page as if each one is a dove soaring through the halcyon skies.  But while his writing may be flawless, his life is anything but.

His birth on January 21, 1878, was never welcomed.  Rather it was humiliating to his family, and neither his mother nor his father showed him affection or care. His grandmother was the only one who showed delight and joy in all things he did. Tekeyan never finished his secondary education and was self-taught.

During the 1915 Armenian Genocide, he was one of the few writers who escaped the deportation and execution. He settled in Cairo, Egypt, where he continued his writing and later in his life started an Armenian publication called Arev.

Not long after that, he took the responsibility of caring for Armenian refugee and orphans. He said in one of his letters, “We have to ensure the higher education of our orphans. They [orphanage caretakers] are hesitating here a bit because the money for educating ten to twenty boys could be used to feed one hundred people, saving their lives.” This commitment to education is reflected in his poems, such as To the Armenian Nation. After all his efforts in places like Constantinople, Cairo, Syria, and Beirut, he died in Cairo on April 4, 1945.

His work is not just a description, but an inscription of fruitful writing that has so much life in its words. I will continue his legacy and share his poems with my friends, family and the generation yet to come.

Here is one of my favorite poems.

THE ARMENIAN CHURCH

By Vahan Tekeyan

The Armenian Church is the birthplace of my soul.
Like a vast grotto it is simple and profound, dark and light –
With its hospitable court, ample tribune, and hushed altar
Standing in the distance as though it were a ship afloat.

The Armenian Church I see with my eyes closed.
I breathe and hear it through the clouds of incense
Which rise towards the feet of the Infant Jesus,
And through the fervent prayers vibrating its walls.

The Armenian Church is the mighty fortress of my forefather’s faith.
Raised by them from the earth stone by stone,
And descended from heaven, a dewdrop and a cloud at a time.
In it they unfolded themselves peacefully and humbly.

The Armenian Church is a great embroidered tapestry
Behind which the Lord descends into the chalice, and
Before which all my people stand with bowed heads
To commune with the past through life-giving bread and wine.

The Armenian Church is a peaceful haven across turbulent seas.
It is fire and light in the cold of night;
It is shady forest in the scorching midday sun
Where lilies bloom by the River of Hymns.

The Armenian Church, beneath every stone in its floor.
Holds a secret passage leading up to Heaven.

The Armenian Church is the shining armor of Armenia’s soul and body.
Her crosses rise to protect her;

Her bells ring forth and her song is always Victory.

Arthur Ipek is a graduate of Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School and is currently a student at the Diocese’s Khrimian Lyceum. He is volunteering this month in the Zohrab Center. Arthur will start high school in the fall.

A portrait of Vahan Tekeyan, by Mary Zakarian, hangs in the Zohrab Center among those of other prolific Armenian writers

Summer Interns Begin New Projects in Zohrab Center

The Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) has been a hub of activity in the summer weeks, as the library’s doors have opened to its summer interns.

The dedicated and diligent interns, including Armen Bandikian, Jennifer Manoukian, and Nicole Saglamer, have been working hands-on to help further the vision of the Zohrab Center and to make its resources more accessible to individuals interested in Armenian studies around the world.

The interns have been tackling a wide-range of responsibilities this summer, including cataloging books and digitizing the center’s holdings to make them available for the general public.

Last summer, with the help of the interns, the center’s online catalog was launched. Over 15,000 books in the library’s collection can now be accessed around the world by visiting http://www.zohrabcentercatalog.com.

While the interns’ contributions have indeed been valued in the center, they too come away with a newfound appreciation for Armenian literary traditions and culture.

“For me, working at the Zohrab Center has been more than a job, but rather an experience that allows me to leave work each day having learned something new,” said Nicole Saglamer, a sophomore studying chemistry at NYU, who is interning in the center for the second consecutive summer.

In fact, it was the center’s materials on Zabel Yesayan that created Manoukian’s ties to the Zohrab Center. While working on her thesis paper on the author, she found useful one-of-a-kind resources for her research.

“I relied heavily on the Zohrab Center’s periodical collection for my project,” said Manoukian who studied Middle Eastern studies and French at Rutgers University. “While doing my research, I realized how valuable and unique it is to have such a vast collection of Armenian-language resources open to everyone.”

Echoing Manoukian’s sentiments, Bandikian, a senior studying information systems at Stony Brook University, said he felt “compelled” to intern in the center for another summer.

“After working here for two years I am still amazed to see the types of books I come across while doing my work,” he said.

The Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center was founded in 1987 by Dolores Zohrab Liebmann, in honor of her parents, Krikor and Clara. Her father, Krikor Zohrab, was a prominent lawyer, author and Parliamentarian in the Ottoman Empire, who was arrested and killed during the Armenian Genocide.

The Zohrab Center serves as a research library and has a rich and diverse collection ripe with books relating to Armenian history, literature, and religion. It also serves as a cultural center, hosting conferences, lectures, film screenings, and book presentations among many other events tailored to the local Armenian community.

Notes Saglamer, “Interning at the center has given me the opportunity to meet other Armenian youth, and most importantly, it has allowed me to stay connected with my Armenian identity.”

-Taleen Babayan

Armen Bandikian organizing the Zohrab Center’s 18th and 19th century Armenian book collection

Jennifer Manoukian and Nicole Saglamer assisting at a Zohrab Center-sponsored event

Zohrab Center Summer Interns Hard at Work!

The Zohrab Center has welcomed four interns this summer who have already started working on a variety of projects.

See below for pictures of our dedicated interns contributing their time and efforts to the Zohrab Center!

Armen Bandikian perusing a 19th century Armenian text

Jennifer Manoukian and Nicole Saglamer cataloguing Armenian language books

Armen and Haig Monokian organizing the book stacks

Armen and Nicole taking inventory of the "duplicates" room in the center