- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Hovhannes Tumanyan


One is sometimes overcome by very bitter thoughts but you are condemned to them and cannot get rid of them. They are like a heavy ailment when you know you have cancer, tuberculosis or cholera and can’t help thinking about the illness and either the illness will vanquish you or you will rise against it with all your being and will recover from it – of course, if courage and intellect suffice you.

Those who have long and seriously taken an interest in our people have always come to the sad conclusion that it has a lot of wickedness in its heart.

That is what they say and they say that with a deep anguish as though it turned out that tubercular bacilli had built their nest in the sick’s chest.

But such sincere and honest men are met infrequently. Establishing the existence of an illness people usually consider themselves healthy and declare others ill. Everyone thinks of himself to be not malicious, not flattering, not mendacious, not intrigant – all these traits do exist but not in oneself!

However, one shouldn’t believe this. And there is one truth with respect to us – we all suffer a deep mental ailment.

You judge.

Ordinary villagers, neighbours who have shared bread on more than one occasion are ready to burst with malice, or as they say, “turn black with malice”, if the land of one of them bears well.

Even those merchants who don’t compete with each other lose their sleep and peace when hearing of someone else’s success and already don’t think about their own business but only about the success of their fellow countryman and given the opportunity they will spare nothing to harm him.

An ecclesiastic however much be he paid, however much be he respected is not contented all the same, protests, complains of injustice. And what do you think is that injustice? That his fellow countryman is paid the same and that he lives well, too.

Suppose townsmen and peasants are in a legal dispute. No court can solve their dispute and it lasts for years and it is not unusual that they dedicate their whole life and all their property to that judicial process until one of them stifles the other, razes him to the ground or until both sides suffer.

We have our own press. Defamation, libel, lie, gloating delight, flattery have been in common use in it for dozens of years. It may happen that in no village has narrow clannishness acquired such a mean aspect as in our press. A famous publicist related that once he had heard someone from an editorial staff say without any constraint – the books of this writer whatever he writes must be invariably and severely criticised or ignored persistently – in a nutshell, destroy him in every possible way only because he is not with us, not “one of us.”

You will find the same morals and manners amidst national, public and literary figures. No one of them can bear the success of the other.

Let us consider teachers now. They are occupied more with dirty tricks against their neighbours than with lessons, and they always aspire to fan a trifling occurrence that can be easily settled within a friendly circle, invariably appeal to the authorities, disgrace each other both in court and in the press, persecute, become the cause of somebody’s resignation, kill morally… No mollification, no leniency, no limits for the spite!

What is the reason for all this?

To comprehend that let us look at the question from the point of view of the laws of nature and history by the serene and broad look that nature and history may give us. Along with other circumstances history has been a wicked stepmother for us. For many centuries has it cast us under the feet of barbarian tribes. And if being trampled every living thing not dies, it is mutilated, demoralised and embittered. That is the law of nature.

What is an ordinary cucumber field? It is known that a trampled plant bears bitter fruits which one cannot eat, that’s why they won’t let you trample a cucumber field. So bitter and grieved becomes a man also – his soul, heart, reason. And this bitterness accumulated in man manifests itself in his actions, look, face, words – in everything and everywhere, in all spheres of life, and the whole life becomes bitter and cruel. It, that life, can contain many beautiful things – “progress,” “culture,” “press,” “literature,” “school,” “charity” – but all this will be like a wormy fruit. All these spheres of life will suffer similar shortcomings, a common illness that can’t be cured from without. Such a society even can produce talents, but they, too, will be unkind and in grief. Such a society cannot beget noble men, kind hearts, and lofty souls, i.e. all that makes life beautiful and the people – likable and kind.

So, if we have national wisdom, spiritual courage and sound intuition, we must not connive at all this and must not fail to see that our people is spiritually seriously spoiled. The first condition for fighting the ailment, the principal condition for recovery is that we confess our misfortune to our own soul and to the whole world. And then the awakening of the salutary self-consciousness will be followed by the lofty aspiration to self-perfection and noble deeds.

There is no other way. True salvation must come from within for we are sick from within.



Provided by: Ara Hakopyan
Translated by: Ara Hakopyan

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