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Hovhannes Toumanian


The Family Lineage
The Children
The journeys and travels
The Society
Civil Activity
Toumanian and the orphanage


Hovhannes Toumanian did not receive any regular education. He learned the alphabet from his father and when he turned eight, along with other villagers, he began to attend his uncle Grishka’s ‘school’ where pencils were made of lead, and the ink was made of poppy flower by pupils themselves. After having studied there for a few months, in 1877, he entered the school of Teacher Sahak in their village. Toumanian depicted this school very vividly in his “Autobiography”: The educational method that was used at the school included severe punishments and offence against minimum of knowledge. Ter-Sahak disciplined children with the help of his ‘iron club’. Toumanian escaped brutal treatment because ‘the teacher respected my Father, and particularly was afraid of my Mother’.
In 1879, Ter Tadevos takes his son to Echmiadzin, to the Gevorgian Seminary, but seeing the pale looks of the students, brings Hovahnnes back to the village. In the autumn of the same year, Ter-Tadevos heard that a new school was opened in Jalalogli (current Stepanavan) and he sent Hovhannes and his younger brother to continue study there.

The inspector of the school, Tigran Ter-Davtian, one of the well educated persons of the time, was a friend of Toumanian’s father. At the beginning, Toumanian settled in the teacher’s house and enjoyed reading books from his rich library. Here the future poet falls in love with the teacher’s daughter, Vergineh. She remarked once: ‘won’t you forget about your lessons as you are keen on me?’ to which Toumanian answered with his first romantic poem “Piece of my Soul” (1881).
In the summer of 1883, the tsar government ordered to close all Armenian schools, and Toumanian returned to Dsegh. In September of the same year his father took him to Tiflis which was an important cultural center and was famous for its Armenian schools and cultural institutions.
At first, Ter-Tadevos enrolled him to a Cadet school as he wanted very much that his son became a prominent military like his grandfather. However, quite soon Toumanian quit the school as he disliked the oppressive atmosphere of the boarding school.
Then, Toumanian was admitted to the second form of the Nersisian School. During three years of his study there he received good education in humanities. Among his teachers were prominent intellectuals of the time – novelist Tserents /H. Shmavonian/, G. Barkhudarian /Schiller’s translator/, philologist K. Kostanian, well-known translator and educator P. Vardanian and many others. The young Poet’s world outlook was greatly influenced by Khachatur Abovian’s ‘Wounds of Armenia’, Raffi’s ‘Samvel’, and creations and articles of M. Nalbandian.