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Hovhannes Toumanian


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

Toumanian’s problem with developing himself has always been a top priority and necessary. He left the Nersisyan School without even having finished fourth grade, and later on he was unable to continue his interrupted education. While in Nersisyan he dreamed about studying at the Mourad Rapayelian College in Venice. During the mid-1890s, the intellectual friends of the poet offered him a plan. “If we secure you financially, would you go abroad to study? Would you agree?”- they asked him. “I do not just agree- answers the poet- I also express my profound gratitude to you, for you want to make my most precious dream be realized. That is my essence, that is my life’s main purpose.” Aghayan, living in exile, in a letter addressed to Toumanian writes that when financial means are secured, it’s better to Europe instead of Artsakh, where Toumanian had an desire to go: “…As soon as you are secured, run immediately towards Europe… Escape! Escape and reach Europe. Artsakh is not going anywhere… in order to get newer impressions and thoughts you need a young body, which you currently have, and you must hurry. Don’t tell me that you do not speak any language- it is not the language that matters, but the eyes…”
“The Europe Question” is once again stated in 1900, by one of the members of the “pentacle”, Ars. Ghltchyan. On that occasion, On the 19th of February of the same year, Toumanian writes with bitter irony: “Isahakyan has narrated me, that you think in making my going abroad a reality. I would like to thank you once again, for making me laugh on such sad days. Abroa~d… illusions are suitable for poets, while the priest must be pragmatic, just as how he has always been. I can barely live within these borders, you want to send me abroad, across broders. Or probably do you forget that there is bigger family on my shoulder than the diocese of Etchmiadzin. No, my dear, leave that, it’s an utopia. I have a more humble illusion, to go to St. Petersburg or Moscow for a year or two.” On November 1895 Toumanian executes a long journey` Borjom-Akhaltskha-Akhalkalak-Alexandropol-Kars-Alexandropol-Gharakilisa-Dilijan-Yerevan-Etchmiadzin. His intention was to organize in the noted places branches of “contributory and executive committee” or “local commitees”. They would be organizations that would organize Armenian refugees coming for Western Armenia to the Caucasus. It’s worthy to note that in 1895 the Hamidian massacres had started in the Ottoman Empire, which resulted in 250 000 Armenian casualties and many refugees coming to Eastern Armenia, which was under the Russian rule.
During the journey to Kars, Akhaltska, Akhalkalak, Alexandropol and Yerevan, Toumanian had the chance of to meet with the locals intellectuals, the society and their representatives, the majority of whom upon meeting the poet face-to-face express their love and respect towards him. Being caught by the surprise behavior towards himself, Toumanian writes in one of his letters: “Among the punishments of travelling I have also received honors… truthfully speaking, I did not know that I would be worthy of attention. Poor people, who also rejoice by their own mediocrity (referencing to himself)”. While in Alexandropol Toumanian is guest of Avetik Isahakyan for a week. “At the beginning of winter of 1895, Ohannes arrived in Alexandropol – recites Isahakyan in his memoirs – He was at a hotel, I immediately moved him to our house. He stayed for a week in Alexandropol. He was coming from Tiflis, Akhaltskha and Akhalkalak, going to Yerevan, Etchmiadzin. He had a mission in visiting these places. The Armenian world was agitated by the massacres of the terrifying news and the refugees who witnessed the massacres of the Western Armenians. Every conscious Armenian was heavily worried with the fate of the Western Armenians and of the Armenian Question. Of course, Ohannes’ journey was to be related to this problem… He was in endless meetings with the city’s intellectuals and representatives of the society, he was interested with the situation of the refugees and was filling notebooks with their stories. From those days I have only a piece of paper as a memory, the poem “two black clouds” written by Ohannes’ himself. During the winter colds, we sent Toumanian away to Yerevan”.-
Avetik Isahakyan
In 1896, in a letter addressed to Arsen Ghltchyan, Toumanian expresses his wish to do another journey, to see the refugees. “I have a growing desire to go to the region region, in the province of Yerevan, and see the refugees. Even though it is a harsh winter, however my desire is so big, that no winter can be an obstacle to me. There are only financial problems. Let’s see how it will be, for if not, I will be deeply pained.” Most probably, it was the financial problem that became obstacle, for the poet could not execute his plan. Aram Inchikyan (Toumanian’s life and the history of his creations. 1869-1899)
“In September of 1901, Ohannes comes to Alexandropol from Istanbul, where he was being healed. On his way he stopped at Akhalkalak, had visited Lake Parvana, which’s legend intrigued him. He had also heard of the legend of Tmkaberd. He could not go visit the fortress, however he had watched it from the slopes of Mount Abul, from where its towers were vaguely visible.

He would enthusiastically talk about the legends of Tmkaberd and Parvana, slowly those beautiful poems were being formed in his mind. After greeting one another in Alexandropol, Ohannes said.
- I haven’t been to Ani yet, but I desperately want to see it, unconditionally realise this project, I implore you.
- No problem, it’s easy.
2 days later, accompanied by poet Hovhannes Kostanyan, who was my cousin, we took the road to Ani. On our way we stopped at our house in the village of Ghazarapat, to relax and to see my mother. Ohannes asked to the villagers and the owner of the watermill, who all knew his fairy tales well, about the “Hazaran Blbul”, did they know about it and other folklores? He would talk with them for hours and would make notes. We only stayed at our house for only two nights, for Ohannes was impatient, and he wanted to see Ani as soon as possible. It was only 25 kilometers from our village to Ani. We visited the prominent monastery of Horomos, which had a magnificent nave.
Hovhannes Kostanyan took a picture of us on the sides of the tomb of Ashot the merciful. We approach Ani’s superb walls and towers. Ohannes is emotional, he doesn’t utter a word, he only accelerates his steps while looking at the walls.
- Why are you hurrying, I ask him. King Smbat is still unaware of your arrival.
Ohannes turns around, frowns at me and accelerates his steps even more.”
Av. Isahakyan

After establishment of Soviet order, Toumanian continued to have great contribution in the life of the society. In 1921, invited by Alexander Miasnikyan, the President of Soviet Armenia, the Poet, together with other prominent Armenians came to Yerevan to establish the Relief Committee of Armenia. Toumanian was offered the post of the Chairman of the Committee. “He declined the offer saying that he wished to have free time for creative work” – Leo recalled later, - but the next day, after having walked around the streets and seeing the deplorable situation of people, he stated during the meeting – “When the people is starving in the streets we must leave everything, forget everything and rush to rescue them”. This is how Toumanian became the Chairman of the RCA. This was the last thing that Toumanian managed to do for his people in his lifetime.
The great poet of the Armenian nation has had many opportunities to travel abroad, but he only did so once, and that during the year preceding his death, when it was necessary for him to be taken to Constantinople, which at the time was the center of the Western Armenian world. That journey took place in 1921, at the end of October and ended on December 22. The two-month long voyage, with all of its plans and problems, was the most significant fact of the great poet’s political and social activities during the Soviet era, which shows him being attached to the destiny of his people through being a writer and civic activist. This short itinerary has had a crucial significance to the newly established organization’s` the Armenian Relief Committee’s upcoming activities, especially in regards to attaching the Armenian Diaspora to the Homeland, establish areas of cooperation between the two in order to contribute the development of the semi-ruined country and to save the people from the dangers of starvation.
Toumanian’s journey becomes significant also to the life of the literary-artistic life of the Armenian Community of Constantinople with an important initiative` the organizing of the house of Armenian Art, Hayartun. Constantinople was the center of Western Armenian literature and art, but there still was not a general body, an organization, that would unite all writers and artists under one roof with the goal of developing the Armenian culture. The Constantinople Hayartun was to become the center to do just that in December of 1921, with the initiation of Toumanian. His activity as president of the Armenian Relief Committee lasted shorter than a year, but his service to the Homeland is unquestionable. Indeed, his two-month long journey was one of the brilliant pages of his lives: “I’ve just begun, my illness disturbed me to continue…” the great poet said, which was already unable to continue what he had started. Toumanian returned from Constantinople with an irremediable illness.