Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Birth of Siamanto - August 15, 1878

In the constellation of intellectuals that were victims of the Armenian genocide, Siamanto occupied a place at the top. He was one of the shining stars of Armenian modern poetry together with Taniel Varoujan. 

Siamanto’s birthplace, Akn, was a city on the shores of the Euphrates River, in the vilayet of Kharpert. It was remarkable for its troubadours, inspired by the natural beauty of its surroundings. It was also noted for the frequent migration of its Armenian inhabitants. Many contemporaries of Siamanto were born there or had their family roots in the city, such as writers Arpiar Arpiarian, Arshag Tchobanian, Minas Tcheraz, Misak Medzarentz and Krikor Zohrab. 

Born Adom Yarjanian, the future poet lived in Akn until 1891. He attended the Nersessian School. Its principal, Bishop Karekin Servantzdiantz, a folklorist and writer, encouraged him to develop his poetic talent. He gave him the pen name Siamanto, from the hero of one of his tales. 

Siamanto came from a middle-upper-class family. They moved to Constantinople, where he graduated from the Berberian School in 1896. The massacres ordered by Sultan Abdul Hamid II were in full fledge. When the bloody wave reached Constantinople, Siamanto, like many other Armenians, fled the city and the country. He ended up in Egypt.

He moved to Paris in 1897 and enrolled in the Sorbonne to pursue studies in literature for the next three years. He did menial jobs to sustain himself. He developed close ties with well-known Armenian personalities in and outside Paris. In 1898, his first published poem, “Vision of Death,” made an impact among literary circles. In Geneva (Switzerland), he developed close ties with the newspaper of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Droshak. He became a member of the party and his poetry nurtured from news of the massacres and revolutionary actions. 

He published his first slim volume of poetry, Heroically, in 1902. Struggle for liberation was one of the main themes of his writing, which he developed in a collection of poems, Sons of Armenia, published in three cycles (1905, 1906, and 1908). Here he made a transition from mystical symbolism to a realistic depiction of the Armenian plight. His collection Torches of Agony and Hope (1907) showed him in a more lyrical and evocative vein. 

In 1904, Siamanto fell ill with pneumonia, but he was able to fully recover, although his health was always delicate. He lived in Paris, Zurich, and Geneva for the next four years, until he returned to Constantinople after the Ottoman Revolution of 1908, which promised freedom and equality to all. The Adana massacres of 1909, however, showed that the cycle of violence had not ended. The bloodshed deeply affected Siamanto, who published his new book, Bloody News from My Friend (1909), as a reaction to the massacre. 

In 1909-1910, he lived in Boston, where he was an editor at the Hairenik newspaper. He published a book of twelve poems, called Invitation to the Homeland, to launch a campaign for the return of the thousands of Armenians who migrated to America during the years of tyranny. He also published the first volume of his Complete Works in 1910. He returned to Constantinople and in 1912 he wrote the poem Saint Mesrob, dedicated to the 1500th anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet (at the time, the date of the creation of the alphabet was thought to be 412), which was celebrated with great enthusiasm by Armenians all over the world. A few months later, he traveled to Eastern Armenia and the Caucasus accompanying the coffin of Simon Zavarian, one of the founders of the A.R.F. (1866-1913). 

In the ill-fated night of April 23-24, he was rounded up by the Turkish authorities, sent to exile in Ayash with many other intellectuals, and from there, months later, to death and to immortality.