The history of the Armenian diaspora is rich with tales of cultural preservation and the spread of knowledge. A significant chapter in this history is the birth of “Yergrakound”, the first Armenian periodical in England, founded in 1863. Though its life was brief and its literary impact modest, its existence marks an important moment in the Armenian community’s efforts to establish a voice in the diaspora.
The Inception of “Yergrakound”
“Yergrakound” emerged in a time when the Armenian community in England, though small, was fervently seeking ways to maintain its cultural identity. This community primarily consisted of Armenian merchants who had settled in England. Recognizing the need for a unifying medium that could cater to the interests and needs of Armenians in the country, they invited Garabed Shahnazarian, a priest from Constantinople, to undertake this ambitious project.
Garabed Shahnazarian, a figure revered for his dedication to the Armenian community, arrived in England with a vision. His goal was to create a platform that not only united Armenians in England but also connected them with their heritage and the broader Armenian diaspora.
Content and Focus of “Yergrakound”
Unlike many periodicals of its time, “Yergrakound” did not aim to be a literary heavyweight. Instead, its primary focus was on disseminating news and keeping its readership informed about events and developments that were of interest to the Armenian community, both within and outside England. This included updates from the Ottoman Empire, where many Armenians still resided, and news about the activities of the Armenian community in England and elsewhere.
The Impact and Untimely Closure
The impact of “Yergrakound” on the Armenian community in England was significant, albeit short-lived. It served as a crucial link between the Armenians in England and their homeland, providing them with a sense of connection and continuity with their roots.
Unfortunately, Garabed Shahnazarian’s health deteriorated shortly after the founding of “Yergrakound”. His illness compelled him to return to Constantinople, where he passed away in 1865. With his departure, “Yergrakound” lost its guiding force and, subsequently, ceased publication.
Reflecting on “Yergrakound”
Though “Yergrakound” was in circulation for a brief period, its existence is a testament to the resilience and dedication of the Armenian diaspora to preserve their culture and stay connected despite geographical distances. It paved the way for future Armenian publications in the diaspora and demonstrated the community’s ability to adapt and thrive in a foreign land.
The story of “Yergrakound” and Garabed Shahnazarian is not just a footnote in the annals of the Armenian diaspora but a beacon of the enduring spirit of a community that, despite challenges and setbacks, continued to strive for cultural preservation and unity.
In retrospect, “Yergrakound” stands as a symbol of the Armenian community’s aspirations and the important role of media in keeping a diaspora connected. It reminds us of the power of the written word in uniting communities, preserving culture, and sharing knowledge across borders and generations.