Barouyr Aghbashian: “Armenia is my whole world”

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The books devoted to Armenian history and literature, as well as any field of culture and the arts are the wealth of the Armenian nation and are the sources that will be intransient values for the future generations. I had an interview with the author of one of those books entitled “Yerevan State University (95th Anniversary-Remarkable Professors, The Faces)”, alumnus of the Department of Armenian Philology at Yerevan State University, longstanding correspondent for several newspapers in Beirut, editor, publicist, literary critic, member of the International Society of Journalists and the Union of Journalists of Armenia, national and public figure, member of the press sentica in Lebanon, the Arab Association, the Karpis L. Nazaryan Publishing House and the Council for Armenian Terminology of Armenia and Professor of Haigazian University Barouyr Aghbashian, and the interview was devoted to his memories of his years at the University and his impressions which I gladly present to the readers of Hayern Aysor.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Aghbashian, Yerevan State University recently hosted the presentation of your book, which I think was published in 2016. How was the idea conceived?

Barouyr Aghbashian: I had wanted to publish this book for many years. Why? The reason is very clear. The Department of Armenian Language and Literature of the Faculty of Armenian Philology at Yerevan State University was a major milestone in my life, and the people who gave meaning to my studies were my lecturers, starting from the most reputable and the most merited and ending with the highly merited and the merited. They instilled in me and enhanced the wealth and traditions of the world of philology. The book features the images based on my views and observations. Taking into consideration the fact that the year also marked the 95th anniversary of Yerevan State University and the Department of Armenian Language and Literature, I briefly presented their careers with several facts and let Diaspora Armenian students know about the opportunity of studying in Armenia.

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Aghbashian, you studied at Yerevan State University, which was the only university in Armenia at the time. You came from Beirut and received your education. What did you do after that?

Barouyr Aghbashian: After graduation, I returned to Beirut. There were no jobs because those with merit were still holding their jobs. A couple of months after returning to Beirut, I was hired to work at the central headquarters of the AGBU as an ordinary secretary. Later, I became the head of the divan and then the managing secretary of the educational committee. I inadvertently left philology behind, but the AGBU had the Yervand Hyusisyan Armenian Research Institution, the director of which was remarkable poet, pedagogue and literary critic Vahe Vahyan. I started teaching grabar (classic Armenian) and the history of pedagogy, meaning I was working by my profession. Later, I had an opportunity to teach these subjects at Haigazian University. In 1990, when there were signs telling me that Armenia was going to declare its independence and that the former USSR was going to collapse, the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (Ramgavar) had its official Zartonk Daily, which Hakob Avetikyan would publish. He was compelled to come here since Lebanon was in a war. Avetikyan and I agreed that I would replace him. It so happened that he stayed here, and I stayed at Zartonk and was the editor of the newspaper until 2007. Until then, I had been the editor of Khosnag Monthly for 17 consecutive years and was part of the editorial staff of Shirak literary magazine…I have been a correspondent for many newspapers. In 2007, I stopped working as a correspondent and began to teach Armenian language, literature and history at the AGBU Darouhi Hovakimian School. I didn’t manage to defend my dissertation because being a journalist and working as a correspondent are time-consuming.

Karine Avagyan: Let’s talk about the books you have published and the topics.

Barouyr Aghbashian: Since 2007, I have published 12 books devoted to different topics, including “The Unbreakable Will of the Invaded Lebanon”, “The Linguistic Thinking and Stratifications of Vocabulary of Western Armenian Writers”, “Publicism That Has Been Experienced: Taking a Retrospective Glance” (3 volumes), “Pieces from the Greats”, “Variety of Articles”, “Publicism, Rhetoric and Critiques”, “Collection of Articles”, “The National Ideological Credo of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (Ramgavar)”, “The Features of the Language and Vocabulary of Hakob Paronyan” and my latest book…

Karine Avagyan: Mr. Aghbashian, I am certain that you will still be writing and publishing more books. What will your next book be about?

Barouyr Aghbashian: Yes, I must continue. I still have a lot of work to do. Besides, I have also published a book of articles and am currently gathering all the materials of my father, editor and writer Hovhannes Aghbashian. My father was a patriot and a good Arabologist. He had learned Arabic during his years in prison. My father was also a talented satirist, and his signature under his work was “Khikar”. In 1970, he published Otyan’s “Comrade Panjuni” in Arabic. Arab readers were amazed because they didn’t know that the Armenians had such a political satirist. My next book is devoted to Hrachya Setrakian, uncle of President of the AGBU Berge Setrakian and a great national figure. I have gathered materials from his archive, including speeches, letters, lectures and writings. Hrachya Setrakian was also a member of the Immigration Committee and a parliamentary candidate in Lebanon.

Karine Avagyan: Which of the Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian authors has enriched your inner world the most?

Barouyr Aghbashian: Out of the Eastern Armenian writers, Charents, Vahan Teryan, Paruyr Sevak, Hovhannes Shiraz have enriched my inner world the most. As for Western Armenian writers, I would say Duryan, Daniel Varoujan, Metsarents and Siamanto. Out of all Armenian writers composing in foreign languages, I am very impressed with the works of William Saroyan, especially his book “My Heart is in the Highlands”. Renowned actress Varduhi Varderesyan performed wonderfully in the play based on the book.

Karine Avagyan: You are a friend of the Ministry of Diaspora. So, I would like to ask you to describe the programs and activities of the Ministry from your perspective.

Barouyr Aghbashian: In the past, whenever I came to Armenia, I would visit the State Committee on Cultural Relations with the Diaspora, which played a major role in the Soviet era. It was like a bridge between Armenia and the Diaspora. Today, the Ministry of Diaspora is playing that role. Mrs. Hakobyan has great potential, accepts observations as a friend and is broad-minded.

Karine Avagyan: What does Armenia, the Homeland mean to you?

Barouyr Aghbashian: People very often tell me to go and live in Armenia since I am such a big patriot, but I tell them that Armenia is within me. Wherever Armenians may be, they create a small Armenia. The Armenians settled in Lebanon a long time ago. They have created great spiritual values, and the Armenian community of Lebanon is rich from that perspective. Armenia is my whole world.

Karine Avagyan: Thank you, compatriot! I wish you success in all your future endeavors!

Interview by Karine Avagyan