A Book Can Save a Whole Nation – Raffi

Armenian author Hakob Melik Hakobian published his first poem in the Moscow “Hyusisapayl” in 1860. Along with engaging in writing, Melik Hakobian fought poverty, taught at school, was a steward at a small shop. In the 1870s, Melik Hakobian became increasingly known as the first Armenian novelist by profession. He was commonly known under the pseudonym Raffi.

Raffi has created such masterpieces as “The Diary of a Cross-Stealer”, “The Fool”, “Samuel”, “Sparks”, “Davit Bek”, and many others. “Bless the writers who inspire our spirits, who help us retrieve our past powers, who acquaint us with the demands of the actual life!” These words spoken by the character Kidab-Dalisa in the novel “Jalaleddin” first of all apply to Raffi himself who has greatly contributed to the national journalism. His finest article “Krdakan miutyun” (“Kurdish Unity”) written in 1880 was only published after the novelist’s death, even though it uncovered the external and internal forces hostile to Armenia.

In his novels, Raffi portrayed national heroes and Armenian revolutionaries. Raffi’s works published in prominent contemporary newspapers “Mshak” and “Ardzakank” played a significant role in the awakening of the Armenian people from a century-old lethargy that has chained the Armenians since their country had lost its independence in the 14th century. Raffi’s patriotic pieces have been read by virtually the whole contemporary Armenian youth, as well as subsequent generations. There is a famous Armenian phrase that goes: “there are no Armenian freedom fighters (Armenian fedayis) that have not read Raffi.”

Raffi strongly believed that preserving the knowledge of the Armenian language among Armenians has been a key factor in preserving the Armenian identity. However, he felt that there was not enough literature that was attractive enough to fulfill that task. Because of this, between 1874 and 1888, Raffi created a variety of fictional works, through which generations of Armenians learned the Armenian language, became acquainted with the Armenian history, and adopted critical standards to help then evaluate their lives in the society.

Saying “look for an Armenian ax where the Armenian blood flows”, Raffi unwittingly predicted his fate. An Armenian merchant would hire a Kurdish bandit to kill this great man.

Today, students in schools and colleges all over Armenia get acquainted with the pieces of the Armenian novelist along with other prominent Armenian authors. Raffi’s works helped the Armenians preserve their identity in the past. Let’s hope that his glorious influence will aid the Armenians today in their task of survival and development. Raffi once wrote: “A book can save a whole nation…”

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