Friday, October 25, 2019

Birth of Fr. Hagopos Dashian (October 25, 1866)

The Viennese branch of the Mekhitarist Congregation, founded in 1811, has been remarkable for its erudition, as reflected in its publications and particularly its journal Handes Amsorya, which has been continuously published for over one hundred and thirty years since 1887. One of the main names of that “golden age” of the Vienna Mekhitarists was Fr. Hagopos Dashian, who enriched Armenian Studies with his important publications over a span of forty-five years.

Born Franciscus Tashjian in the village of Ardzati, in the province of Karin (Erzerum), on October 5, 1866, he learned the first letters in the parochial school of Erzerum. In 1880 his parents sent him to the seminary of the Mekhitarist monastery in Vienna. Three years later, he took the vows as a novice and adopted the name Hagopos, and in 1885 became a member of the congregation. In 1889 he finished his studies and was consecrated priest. In the same year, he became a teacher of philosophy and Armenian language at the monastery. After signing his first works as “Tashjian,” in 1890 he adopted the Armenian surname Dashian.

An iron will of learning endowed Fr. Hagopos Dashian with comprehensive knowledge of the Armenian language, as well as history, geography, and literature. This included a well-rounded command of almost a dozen ancient and modern languages. As his younger colleague, Fr. Nerses Akinian wrote, “he did not go to schools of higher education, but his knowledge bewitched university lecturers and professors.”

From 1893-1909 he visited Venice, Berlin, Constantinople, Smyrna, and Erzerum. From 1909-1912 he was the abbot of the Mekhitarist convent of Constantinople. Returning to Vienna in 1912, he was a member of the Administrative Council of the congregation.

At the age of twenty-five, in 1891, he published the catalog of manuscript of the Royal Library of Vienna, followed by the catalog of manuscripts of the Mekhitarist Congregation of Vienna (1895), which he compiled in two years, including 571 manuscripts with detailed information of encyclopedic character about each unit. The mode of cataloging received the name of “Dashian style” in Armenian philology.

Two years later, in 1897, he completed and prepared for publication the study on the Armenian Divine Liturgy, compared with the Greek, Syrian, and Latin liturgies, which his predecessor Fr. Hovsep Katerjian had left unpublished.

After that, he took over the publication of another unpublished work written three decades before, Fr. Kerovpe Spenian’s Study of the Armenian Classical Language. To this end, he submerged himself into a study of the origins of the Armenian people and many historical and linguistic issues related to it. This resulted into the publication of the 700-page book in 1920, with a posthumously published continuation, Hittites and Urartians (1934).

Dashian was an indefatigable researcher, publishing studies on Agatangeghos (1891), the Life of Alexander by Pseudo-Callistenes (1892), Armenian paleography (1898), authors of the early centuries of Armenian literature (1898 and 1901), and many other issues. He translated into Armenian books by eminent foreign scholars of Armenian Studies, such as Heinrich Hübschmann, Heinrich Petermann, Paul Vetter, Friedrich Müller (from German), Frederick Conybeare (from English), Nikolai Marr (from Russian), and others. He was the point person for any Armenian or non-Armenian scholar who had a query about issues related to the discipline.

The shock that he suffered after learning the fate of his people in 1915 brought him to deal with contemporary subjects too. In 1921 Dashian published a collection of German documents on the genocide in Armenian translation ( The Deportation of the Armenian Nation according to German Documents ) and a demographic study, The Armenian Population from the Black Sea to Karin . The latter was published in French in 1922.

This fecund Armenologist passed away on February 3, 1933, at the age of sixty-six. Fifteen years later, his study The Western Frontier of Ancient Armenia (1948), came out of the presses of the Mekhitarist Congregation.