Yenovk Shahen was one of the victims of the Armenian Genocide

Today, 3 February, is Yenovk Shahen’s birthday. Many might ask who Yenovk Shahen is and why “Hayern Aysor” is remembering him. Unfortunately, many people are forgotten over time, and we don’t know anything about the people who have been the spirit of our nation in certain periods of history…

Yenovk Shahen is mentioned in Armenian plays, particularly Garnik Stepanyan’s monumental play “Outlining the History of Western-Armenian Theater” in which there are a few lines devoted to Yenovk. The few lines are not due to the playwright’s carelessness, but the short-lived life and career of this truly talented individual…

The great Vahram Papazyan wrote about Yenovk Shahen in his memoirs, referring to him as a close friend and the person who could have had an impact on the history of Armenian theater. But he didn’t. Papazyan wrote about his close friend with sorrow. Everyone knew Yenovk as a progressive individual, who hated the Turks and their anti-Armenian policies.

Like many Armenians, Yenovk Shahen also died during the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which is a great tragedy and a big break. Yenovk Shahen could have lived longer, if…

Actor, artist Yenovk Shahen was born on February 3, 1881 in Partizak village of Western Armenia. Partizak represents a whole world in the history of Armenian spiritual culture since this is where many notable Armenians were born. Shahen received his primary education in Partizak, after which he moved to Constantinople with his mother and brother. Constantinople attracted many people since it was the center for culture, literature and crafts. It was here where Yenovk Shahen started liking theater, attended the plays presented by Armenian theater companies and joined them. He mainly showed his talent in Martiros Mnakyan’s theater company where he performed as an actor and a director. Shahen captured the hearts of the audience right from the start and charmed them with his passion for theater. Armenian intellectuals saw a great patriot who gave ardent speeches during meetings as he talked about preservation of the Armenian identity and the salvation of the Armenians.

After performing on stage for the first time under the direction of Martiros Mnakyan and achieving success, Yenovk Shahen went on to play at the theater of the newly created Armenian society of actors where he met Vahram Papazyan. They were together almost everywhere and were separated in 1915 when Yenovk ignored Papazyan’s advice and stayed in Constantinople when he could have traveled to Armenia, which was under the dominance of the Russians and continued working there.

In 1915, Yenovk Shahen joined Armenian intellectuals Komitas, Grigor Zohrab and others who weren’t gathered to discuss issues of national concern, but were tricked and forcefully deported from Constantinople and led to Bursa. Yenovk Shahen and many others were deported with handcuffs and lashes of a whip. The destination was the Mediterranean…For days Yenovk Shahen and the others walked under the scorching sun and barely moved their wounded feet…The Armenian intellectual couldn’t stand the humiliation and attacked the group of people in front of the dock, throwing punches at them and ripping their clothes…The crowd encircled him, and in just two minutes, Yenovk Shahen’s head and lacerated body was thrown to the hungry dogs in the city…

Levon Mutafyan

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