Brusov and The Poetry of Armenia

Brusov Museum

Brusov unveiled for Russian readers the ample poetry of Armenia, which for them formerly had been, according to Brusov, a "terra incognita". 

Brusov as a guide to the Armenian poetry  
The Anthology edited by Brusov presented to Russian readers the best examples of Armenian poetry since ancient time – a task that had never been formerly pursued by other devotees of Armenian literature. 

In October 1914, some notable representatives of Armenian intellectual community in Moscow, namely Karen Mikaelyan, Poghos Makintsyan and Alexander Tsaturyan, founded The Moscow Armenian Committee which aim was to allure the attention of Russian and world communities to the destiny of the nation on а verge of a physical extermination.

To achieve cultural survival goal, the Committee initiated a publication of a periodical The Armenian Bulletin in Russian and an anthology of translations from Armenian literature.

Valery Brusov was acknowledged as an experienced and multi-skilled translator. Maxim Gorky, whose advice the Committee requested, recommended Brusov as an editor of the planned publication. In a short period of time he felt that this undertaking had turned to be for him, in his own words, "a cherished and ardently beloved occupation".

Valery Brusov lived in this house in the period 1910-1924. Currently the house is a literary museum open to visitors.

Moscow, Russia

Within a restricted period of time Makintsyan helped Brusov to learn the main rules of Armenian language, in particular, spelling, grammar and pronunciation.
Brusov did not master Armenian to the extent that would enable him to translate it without line glosses. But the acquired knowledge was sufficient for reproducing and listening to it.

Russian silver age poets and Armenian poetry heralds 
Brusov engaged into the translation activities such notable Russian poets of that period as Alexander Blok, Konstantin Balmont, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Ivan Bunin, Vladislav Khodasevich, et al.

The involvement of prominent Russian poets in the work over the anthology, as well as lectures on Armenian poetry Brusov delivered in Baku, Tiflis, Erivan and Echmiadzin enlightens the extent of a tremendous labor implemented by Brusov for the creation of The Poetry of Armenia.

Brusov and his colleagues accomplished a titanic task: they unveiled for Russian readers the ample poetry of Armenia, which for them formerly had been, according to Brusov, a "terra incognita".

Being adherent to his basic translation principle – to remain in compliance with the original source to the maximum possible extent, preserving their entire national identity.

Former compilers of Armenian literature anthologies for Russian readers remained within the boundaries of XIX and early XX centuries. Occasional translations of the poets of the past and medieval lyricists were implemented on a very low artistic level

The Armenian folk, medieval and bard poetry found their decent place in Brusov's anthology – a real revelation for Russian readers.

Armenia is the European avant-garde in Asia
In his opening statement Brusov dwelt upon the creations of numerous Armenian poets, emphasizing the uniqueness and significance of each of them. "Armenian poetry reveals the generosity of Armenian nation", he said. 

He compared the Armenian poetry with "fiery rays" breaking through "the threatening and stuffy haze" dimming the Armenians’ life during centuries.

According to Brusov, Armenia is a reconciler of the West and East, "the Europe’s avant-garde in Asia", a fact that predetermines "the dual unity of the Armenian national character." This mission found its reflection in Armenian poetry.

In particular, to pursue the traditions of Armenian poetry, to search for the ways of combining the Eastern and Western culture, and to reveal the Armenian national spirit in their works.

Brusov's gigantic labor was highly evaluated by Russian and Armenian intellectuals. Numerous readers’ responses and press estimates, The Anthology became a bright feast of two nations’ cultures.

Hovhannes Toumanyan said, "I cannot stop in expressing my whirlwind and sincere gratitude to our friends for their professional work and love they invested into this brilliant project".

Valery Brusov's Armenian Poetry and Its Unity throughout Centuries was highly appreciated by Armenians and was translated into Armenian by Hovsep Margaryan. The translation was published in Venice in 1923.

Postmark devoted to 90th anniversary of anthology Poetry of Armenia Dec 1, 1998

Co-production of Russia and Armenia. A Postmark with image of Valery Brusov

Shortly after the publication of the anthology Brusov decided to realize a new project – to compile and publish a collection of the Armenian prose. However, this project failed.
Historical Armenian Prose and Poetry (V – XVIII centuries) was published in 2009 and followed Brusov’s draft project.

While working upon the anthology of Armenian poetry and after its publication, Brusov wrote a series of papers and essays on the issues of Armenian literature, culture and history (Emile Verhaeren about Armenia, The Sphinxes and the Vishaps, A Chronicle of Historical Destinies of the Armenian Nation).

The Chronicle of the Historical Destinies of the Armenian People was translated into Italian by Aldo Ferrari and published in Milan in 1993.

Kamancha at Brusov's feet: Armenian bard competition tradition 
In December 1923 Brusov was honored in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in respect to his 50th anniversary. The delegation of Soviet Armenia was present at the solemn ceremony celebrating Brusov’s 50th anniversary. An Armenian gusan performed a song by Sayat-Nova, who was Brusov’s beloved poet, and placed a national musical instrument «kemancha» to the poet’s feet as a sign of Armenian people’s gratitude to their friend. At the same time the government of the newly founded Republic rendered to Brusov the honorary title of a People’s Poet of Armenia for his contribution in promoting the Armenian poetry among the Russian readers and learning Armenia’s centuries-old culture.

Valery Brusov is considered to the best translator of Sayat-Nova's poems from Armenian into Russian.

In 1967 Ara Sargsyan - a prominent Armenian sculptor, People's Artist of USSR, academic of Russian Academy of Arts - sculptured Valery Brusov's bust, which is in front of the university.

Credits: Story

The government of the newly founded Republic rendered to Brusov the honorary title of a People’s Poet of Armenia for his contribution in promoting the Armenian poetry among the Russian readers and learning Armenia’s centuries-old culture.

Credits: All media
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