By Mher HARUTYUNYAN
Head of “Kachar” Scientific Center, PhD, Associate Professor
The emergence and development of the periodical press in Artsakh is inseparably linked with the town of Shushi, which by the 19th century became one of the largest trade, crafts and cultural centers of the Caucasus and played a key role in the socio-political, spiritual and cultural life of Armenians.
Virtually the entire 18th century Shushi was a theater of war and in these difficult military and political conditions of cultural life it was hard to find an arena for development. The situation changed dramatically when in 1822 the regressive in all senses Khanate was abolished. The Khanate existed not long, but managed to become an obstacle to the progress of Karabakh. This was followed by a rapid rise of educational and cultural life of the stronghold town of Shushi, turning it into a major regional cultural center. Unprecedented cultural revival, which lasted nearly a century, was interrupted by March 23, 1920 horrific events, when Turkish-Tatar (Azerbaijani) regular army gave to fire the Shushi Armenian quarter, along with its spiritual and cultural sites and values of universal significance; and thosepeople who created them with their labor and thought were thrown under the yataghan…
The Golden Age of Shushi is truly a culmination of the spiritual and cultural development of Artsakh, the logical continuation and concentration of the traditions formed for centuries, a new word of the Artsakh School of the ancient Armenian culture in both spiritual and material spheres. Trends in the cultural awakening, among other areas, were also observed in the emergence and development of the periodical press.
It is impossible to imagine the existence of press without printing and publishing houses that marked a cultural revival of Shushi. Shushi, as an important center of printing, became the second in Armenia (after the Echmiadzin- 1771) and third in the South Caucasus (Tbilisi – 1823). The first book in Armenian “The Scripture History” was published in Shushi in 1828 in the print shop, opened a year before by the Swiss missionaries. At the outset mainly religious and clerical books and moralistic translationswere printed. In 1829-30s thescientific and didactic books were also published. In 1830s, the spiritual leader of Karabakh Metropolitan Baghdasar reacquired the publishing house and turned it into a “Printing House of Armenian Spiritual Inspection”. In 1830-1850s the valuable historical and philological bookswere published there.
In 1881,”MirzadjanMahtesiHagopianPrinting House” in Shushi was opened, which in 25 years of its existence managed to publish a huge amount of artistic and historiographical literature, manuals and textbooks, newspapers and magazines. For the first time, Raffi, Leo and A. Bagaturyan writings were published in separate volumes.
A notable fact was the opening of the T. Nazarian publishing house in 1879. He published “Knar khosnak” by N. Ter-Avedikianand Sienkiewicz’s story “From the Diary of the Poznan teacher” in his own translation, which, incidentally, was the first brochure of the eminent Polish writer in Armenian.
In 1905-1920 in Shushi there were Bagrat Ter-Sahakyan and Melkon Babajanian printing houses. Thus, in 1828-1920 there were five publishers functioning in Shushi. During this period, more than 170 book titles were published. And since 1874 and up to March 1920,28 newspapers and magazineswere publishedthere, (25 in Armenian and 3 in Russian).
In 1860s, as in other parts of the Russian Empire, Artsakh observed awakening in socio-political life and ideological recovery. The political movements, the growth of revolutionary sentiments, activity of figures inspired by the progressive ideas had a fruitful influence on the development of literature, art, school, media and journalism.
138 years ago in the spring, the “Armenian world” magazine was published in Shushi, which was, in fact, the firstborn of the periodical press of Artsakh. The author of this important initiative was Khoren Stepaneh, then well-known social activist, editor and publisher. Although many researchers consider this magazine a continuation of the publication “The Crane of Armenian world”, the fact is that media were aware in advance that a new magazine “Armenian World” would be released. For example, in the “Mshak” issue on March 14, 1874,one could read: “According to the new project,approved by the government, a new magazine”Armenian world” will start in April 1874″…
The eminent historian and armenologist Leo stated: “Stepaneh continued the edition of the “Armenian world” in Shushi. And this is the first issue of a periodical in Shushi.”
The goal of the magazine “Armenian world” was facilitation of education and upbringing process of the younger generation and promotion of love for knowledge and learning.
The followers of these useful initiatives were the following periodicals: “Knar khosnak” (1881), “Gorts” (“Work”, 1882-1884), “Cocoon” (1895-1896), “Azgagrakan Handes” (“Ethnographic magazine”, 1896-1916), “Ashakertakan Tert “(“The Student Newspaper”, 1896-1897),” Kroonk”(“Crane, 1898-1900), “Karabakh” (1911-1912), “Mirage” (1913-1917), “Ashakert” (“Student”, 1913) “Miutyun” (“Union, 1913),” Paykar “(“Struggle”, 1914-1917),”Pailak “(“Torch”, 1915-1917),” Tsiatsan”(“Rainbow”, 1916), “Tsitsagh” (“Laughter”, 1916) “Ashkhatank” (“Work”, 1917), “Aparazh” (Rock, 1917), “Asparez” (Arena, 1917), “Erand” (“Power”, 1917), “Netsuk” (“Stronghold”, 1917), “Sring” (“Flute”, 1917), “Karabakh surhandak” (“Karabakh Herald”, 1918), “Artsakh” (1919), “Nor Kyank” (“New Life”, 1919), and others. There were three Russian newspapers published in Shushi “Shushi Leaflet” (1911),” Shushi Life” (1913-1914) and “The Voice of the People”(1919), which were published by the Armenian intelligentsia.
Publishing of the periodical press and the establishment of the T. Nazarian publishing house indicate that in the second half of the 19thcentury, the printed word, the press, and literature wereessential for the people of Artsakh. The publication of periodicals testifies formation of progressive ideas, growth of social movements and national identity at the periphery of Tsarist Russia.
In the history of the periodical press of Artsakh the significant event in 1896 was publication of the first volume of the “Ethnographic Journal.” It is no mere chance such a unique magazine was published in Shushi. Its editor and publisher, philologist Yervand Lalayan, who was one of the most educated intellectuals of his time, teaching in Shushi, tried to share scientific knowledge about the specialties, like ethnography, archeology and folklore.
The authority of the “Ethnographic Magazine” grew more after it began cooperating with the eminent scientists Hr. Acharyan, A. Manandyan, M. Abegyan, T.Toramanian and others.
We are not aware of periodicals, which would circulate in Artsakh from 1896 to 1911. According to the researcherof the Armenian press Karekin Levonian, 1890-1905s all were a “sad period” for the Armenian press.
Only at the cost of overcoming serious obstacles the progressive young people succeeded to publish a newspaper in 1911, “Karabakh”, which was issued two-three times a week.Its goal was “first, to explore the educational, cultural and economic condition of the native land and people, to understand its concerns and aspirations, and then become anadherent and guide to the lifeimprovement.”
It is necessary to note that during the last quarter of the 19thcentury and the first 20 years of the 20thcentury periodicals intended to consolidate the progressive circles of intellectuals and to providea platform for fruitful discussions on important national issues. Periodicals were mainly published by a private initiative and wereaimed at bringing the printed word to the reader in the conditions of asevere censorship. Due to the lack of funds and change of places of printing, e only one or some more issues of the given periodical could be published.At the same time, there was an unusual activity in releasing poster papers among students, rapidand active reaction to the socio-political movement in the Russian empire not only by relevant publications, but alsoby issuing new newspapers, etc.
In the Soviet timesit is necessary to single out the following newspapers: “Gehchuk Karabakh” (“Karabakh Peasant”), which became the major newspaper of Artsakh, issued under various names of “Sovetakan Karabakh”, “Khorhurdain Karabakh” (both – “The Soviet Karabakh”), “Artsakh”, “NK Republic” and now “Azat Artsakh” (“Free Artsakh”). Like other periodicals of the Soviet period, the newspaper, even under the ideological pressure of the totalitarian system, succeeded in preserving the national identity and historical memory among Artsakh people.
According to our data, in 1874-1988 more than six dozen newspapers and magazines were published in Artsakh. In 1988-2012 this figure has been tripled, reaching 180.
Coming back to the history of the press of Shushi and Artsakh, as a whole, let us present editions in other languages for comparison. The Artsakh periodicals were published not only in Russian, but also in Turkish (Azerbaijani),though in small quantities. The first newspaper was published in Shushi in 1923 just in two issues and a small circulation. Prior to 1990 their number in Artsakh did not exceed three. The “Socialist cattle-breeding” newspaper was established in 1932, it was renamed as “Shusha”in 1960s and published until 1992 with variousfrequency. Some years later it was published in Baku. Despite the efforts of Prof. Nariman Zeynalov, trying in his “History of Press in Azerbaijan” (1973-1974) to inflate the number of periodicals, issued in Azerbaijan SSR, it could exceed 16. Meanwhile, the ever-memorable history faker Zia Bunyatov, trying to conceal the well-known facts, arbitrarily and totally unreasonably inflated the number of periodicals published by Azerbaijanten times.
The modern researchers of the Armenian periodicals,linking the birth of a free and democratic media to the “Perestroika”policy, are right. The recent history of the Armenian press dates back to the national awakening of 1988.
At the political stage of the Karabakh movement, when ideological and propaganda work was actively carried out, the demand for the printed word and periodicals significantly grew up. The periodical press in Artsakh experienced revival and rapid growth due to the proclamation of independence. Over more than two decades,numerous periodicals (social, political, scientific, literary, artistic, spiritual, satirical, educational, military, etc.)have been published and are still published here. In the years of Soviet totalitarianism, of course, writing the truth in the “Soviet Karabakh” was very dangerous. But as early as in 1990’s materials were printed and published close to reality. Intending to fill this gap, Samizdat editions, such as “Veratsnund” (“Revival”), “Avetyats Law” (“Promised Country”) were distributed clandestinely. Then came “Amaras” (1989), the “Artsakh” magazine (1989), “Miatsum” (“Unification”, 1989), “Paykar” (“Struggle”, 1989), “Artsakhyan Shabat” (“Artsakh Week”, 1990), “The NKR Supreme Council Press-service Bulletin”(1992),” Martik “(“Fighter”, 1993), “Nagorno Karabakh” in Russian (1994) and others. The restored main newspaper “Artsakh” became the chronicler of state building in the NKR, the history of the national liberation struggle, and then, along with the “Martik” newspaper, inspired and called to the fight the Artsakh soldiers on the battlefield, and those firmly standing behind them in the rear.
In the past decade there are numerous newspapers and magazines published in Artsakh – a public newspaper “Azat Artsakh”, municipal ones “Khachen” (then “Berd”), “Amaras”, “Jraberd”, “Shushi”, “Dizak”, “Stepanakert”, departmental “Martik”, ”Lusarar” (“The Illuminator”), “Agrarian Newspaper”, “Civil Service”, university and research editions “University of Artsakh”, “University of Saint Mesrob”, “Harutyun” (“Resurrection”) and then “Narek”, “Scientific Bulletin of Artsakh”, ”Lratu” (“Herald”), “Gandzasar”, “Education and Science in Artsakh”, “Cachar“ (“Torch”), political party-affiliated and public “Aparazh”(“Rock”), “Akunk”(“Origins”), “ArtsakhiCommunist”, “Hayrenik” (“Motherland”), “Hayrenyats Pashtpan” (“Defender of the Motherland”), “HaikiSerund” (“Hayk’s Generation”), ”GortsararAshkhar” (“Business World”), ”Eghitsi Luys” (“Let there be light”), “Pyl-Pugi”, “Arhmiutyunner” (“Trade Unions”), “GeghArm”, “Havat” (“Faith”),“Mshakuyt“ (“Culture”), “Artsakhikanayk” (“Artsakh women”), “Huysichanapar” (“The path of hope”), children’s “Khacmeruk” (“Crossroads”), “Arevik” (“Sun”), and “Lusayg”, the first signs of an independent press –“Taserordnahang” (“The Tenth Province”),“Demo”, “What to do” (in Russian and Armenian), “The Analyticon” and others periodicals, which not only follow the glorious traditions born in Shushi, but also enrich them with new colors and contents.