The first Armenian periodical published in the provinces of historical Armenia was Արծուի Վասպուրական/Artsvi Vaspurakan, “The Eagle of Vaspurakan.” Khrimian Hayrig, who would go on to become one of the most beloved Patriarchs of Istanbul and then Catholicos of All Armenians in the years preceding the Genocide, first published the journal from Constantinople. When he was appointed Prelate of Van (the region that is also known as “Vaspurakan,” named after the largest city in the area), he continued publishing from Monastery of Varakavank. Situated on a mountainside just outside the city of Van, Varakavank was an important and storied Armenian monastery. According to the tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Church, St. Hripsime and her companions brought a relic of the Holy Cross to the mountain of Varak, where it was hidden until the monk Totig and his student Hovel discovered it through an apparition of the cross in the sky. This relic remained at Varakavank, the Monastery of the Holy Sign on Varak, for many years. This unique Armenian celebration of the Holy Cross is celebrated this coming Sunday.
Given the connection of the Monastery of Varak and the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak to the history of Armenian periodicals and newspapers, this is an appropriate week to introduce the extensive and important collection of Armenian periodicals in the collection of Zohrab Information Center. We have mentioned several of these periodicals before, including Sion, the monthly publication of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the early newspaper Arshaluys Araratian, published in Smyrna (Izmir). In the future, we will explore the history and contribution of specific publications. Today, we take the opportunity to give a broader overview of the history of the Armenian press and the periodicals in the collection of Zohrab Information Center.
Armenians, as we all know, have long held literacy, learning, and books in high esteem. Since the invention of the Armenian alphabet by the monk Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD, Armenian literary activity has proceeded continuously. For Armenian Christians, this literacy is indelibly linked with Christianity, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and preaching the Good News of the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first thing translated into Armenian was the Bible, and much of Armenian manuscript production involved Bibles, Gospels, liturgical books, and commentaries on these Christian genres. As we discussed last week, with the invention of the printing press and the advent of printed books, Armenian publishers worked to publish these Biblical and liturgical books: the Psalms and the Sharagnots, the book of hymns, were some of the first printed books in the Armenian language. Eventually, the Oskan Bible, the first complete printing of the Bible in Armenian, was published in Amsterdam in 1666.
Periodicals, regularly and repeatedly appearing serial publications have antecedents in bulletins and circulars promulgated by Imperial Rome, the Han dynasty in China, and ecclesial documents like encyclicals. These are also precursors specifically to newspapers, periodicals with a special, informative function. Yet newspapers and periodicals as we know them today are distinct products of the printing revolution. With the change in technology came the possibility of regular, periodic publication at a greatly reduced cost. It is generally accepted that the first newspaper was printed in Strasbourg in German beginning in 1605.
As we discussed last week, printing came a little more slowly to Armenians, and most of the early printing in the Armenian language took place outside of historic Armenia, in the various early Diaspora communities. The work of Sebouh Aslanian has linked the printing revolution in Armenian to merchants in port cities, especially the merchants connected to a network that originally stemmed from New Julfa. Newspaper and periodical printing, like printing in the Armenian language in general, began with these far-flung merchant communities. Ազդարար/Azdarar (“Intelligencer”), was the first periodical and newspaper in the Armenian language. It was first published on October 16, 1794 in Madras, India, by an Armenian Apostolic priest Harutyun Shmavonian. A monthly publication, it was printed for about two years.
Other periodicals, at first monthly but then with increasing frequency, were printed in other Diasporan centers: Venice, home to the Mkhitarist Catholic Armenian community, produced several such journals. Some were annual and some were monthly publications, beginning with Daregrutyun, published from 1799-1803. Aravelyan Dzanutzmantz was published in the Russian city of Astrakhan in 1815. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, Armenian periodicals were printed within the Ottoman Empire, in particular Luro Gir and Azdarar Buzantian in Istanbul and Arshaluys Araratian, published beginning 1840 in Smyrna (Izmir). The first years of this landmark publication can be found, collected and bound, in the collection of Zohrab Information Center.
With Artsvi Vaspurakan, mentioned at the beginning of this article, the first periodical in historic Armenia appeared. Decades earlier, Catholic Simeon Erevantsi had established the first printing press in historic Armenia, in 1771. Khrimian’s newspaper, with the move to Varakavank in 1858, became the first newspaper in historic Armenia. From that point on, the number of Armenian periodicals worldwide increased for decades. Important newspapers such as Mshak, pictured at the top, were printed in places like Tiflis (Tbilisi), Constantinople, the major cities in the Ottoman Empire like Gesaria (Kayseri) and Mush, and in the burgeoning centers of a newer Armenian Diaspora, such as Boston and Fresno in America. In addition to newspapers, academic journals such as Bazmavep or Հանդէս Ամսօրեայ/Handes Amsorya began to be published in the late nineteenth century. The Zohrab Information has many of these periodicals: journals like Handes Amsorya and newspapers like the Armenian-American English language newspaper The Mirror-Spectator in its collection.
|Armenian Journalism: A History and Interpretation||Karlen Mooradian’s PhD dissertation on the history of Armenian journalism is still the most complete account of the Armenian press in English. Mooradian traces a long view of Armenian journalism, including the establishment of newspapers in the Diaspora and in historic Armenia. With the donation of many his books, the Karlen Mooradian collection makes up one of the more sizable individual collections in the library of Zohrab Information Center.|
|Hay mamuli tsʿutsʿak||This “List of the Armenian Press” aspires to a comprehensive list of all Armenian periodical publications. Though it has holes, most notably regarding the publications of historic Western Armenia, this is a great source for anyone interested in the Armenian press. In Armenian.|
|Türkiyeʾde yabancı dilde basın||A short book on the “foreign language” (i.e. non-Turkish) press in Turkey. It provides useful information about Armenian periodicals printed in Turkey. In Turkish.|
Periodicals, both monthly or semi-regular academic journals and newspapers, as well as a variety of magazines and yearbooks, are a sizeable percentage of the material in the collection of the Zohrab Information Center. Many of these periodicals are hard to find elsewhere, especially those that are not digitized. For instance, the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, one of the first English-language Armenian newspapers and one of the longest-running Armenian periodicals in the United States, does not have a full digital archive. The Zohrab Information Center has collected and bound copies of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator—including a few early years of publication of The Armenian Mirror, before the merger of the two papers. Newspapers are an invaluable source of historical knowledge, and so this collection at the Zohrab Information Center is incredibly important. Especially when it comes to difficult to find, non-digitized periodicals like the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, the Zohrab Information Center strives to disseminate them to interested researchers and individuals, working as a good steward of our collection. With the recent acquisition of a document scanner, the work to digitize some of these periodicals is currently underway.
Arshaluys Araratian, the important newspaper from Smyrna/Izmir mentioned above, is the oldest periodical in the Zohrab Center’s collection. The Center has issues of some other early and important newspapers and periodicals: Mshak, a literary and cultural newspaper published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Tbilisi/Tiflis; Hayasdan, published in Istanbul beginning in 1846; and Nor Dar published in Tiflis in the late nineteenth century. In addition to these early newspapers from major Armenian intellectual centers, the Zohrab Information Center has a sizeable collection of monthly or semi-annual academic publications, magazines, and periodicals of specific organizations. These include famous and long-standing Armenian academic publications like Handes Amsorya and Bazmavep; newer academic journals like the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies; and the long-standing publication of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, Hayastanyats Yegeghetsi. Newspapers currently in publication are collected by year and month, though are not yet bound. These include Armenian-American papers in English like The Mirror-Spectator and the French-Armenian publication (Nor) Haratch, and also the Turkish-Armenian language biweekly Agos. Many of these publications are also represented in our sizeable microfilm collection. The wealth of information in these periodical sources of the Zohrab Information Center is vast! We encourage you to come use these sources, for historical or genealogical research, or simply for your own interest and edification.
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