I just watched a documentary about Hovanes Toumanian, the well known Armenian poet, and intellectual, on Nor Horizon TV program in Toronto. It seemed to be the last part of a longer documentary that I have missed watching. The documentary reminded me of my visit to Toumanian’ small museum in his birth place, the village of Դսեղ, (Dsegh), in Lori province of Armenia. It was in early nineteen nineties.
The Museum was built probably in late nineteen eighties or early nineteen nineties and was in very good condition. It had beautifully landscaped grounds, and a beautiful view of the surrounding areas, and beyond. If my fading memory serves me well, the curator of the museum, an old lady probably in her seventies, was the daughter of Toumanian’ brother.
She guided us through the small museum that had some of the Toumanian’ personal belongings and many pictures taken with famous Armenian intellectuals and artist. At one point, I asked the curator whether Toumanian had some of his intellectual friends and artists visit him at the village, and she said պա ոնց, (of course), and added, some times, they will go to Ծովափ (beach) with հաց ու պանիր, (bread and cheese), and have good time.
Needless to say I was surprised to hear about Ծովափ, and asked her what sea and beach she was talking about?, and she said, ճիշտ է, ծով չունենք, բայց հոս մի փոքր լիճ ունենք եւ մենք նրան ծով ենք ասում. (It is true, we do not have sea, but here we have a small lake, and we call it sea).
I asked her if we could get some bread and cheese from the village, and someone to guide us to the “sea”. She said she will try. We walked in the small village and after talking with few people we managed to purchase some lavash bread cooked in the village, and locally made cheese, and a young man led us to the “sea”. It had rained and the path was “muddy”
After about thirty minute uphill walk, we got to the “sea”. A small spring fed “greenish”color pond, surrounded with trees and bushes. Someone had cut few trees and created some natural stools. We use the stools as seats and tables, enjoyed the հաց ու պանիր, and talked about Toumanian, and some of his friends who were in the picture. (Nigol Aghbalian, Levon Shant, Avedik Issahagian, and others).
We also talked about Toumanian’ house in Tbilisi known as Վերնատուն, (Vairnadoon) that was the gathering place for the Armenian intellectuals and artists in Tbilisi, Թիֆլիս, Georgia. He lived there with his wife and ten children. Needless to say, this trip to Dsegh, and the “picnic” at the Ծովափ, remains one of the most memorable time during my many visits to Armenia.
Hovaness Toumanian is recognized as the Ամենայն հայոց բանաստեղծ (All-Armenian poet). He is one of the most published and read Armenian writer of all times. Apart from poems, he wrote novels, stories, fairy, tales etc. His novel Anush, is adapted to an opera of the same name, and is one of the most, if not the most, staged, and attended opera in Armenia. Anush is also produced as a movie. (I have heard that one of his most read story of the Կաթիլ մը մեղրը (A drop of honey) was also made to a movie but I have not seen it).
I have an old tape cassette with some of the Toumanian’ stories recited and taped on it, by reciting artist (Ասմունքող), Suren Kochar of Soviet Armenia. It is one of the best recitation that I have heard and a pleasure to listen to it. Maybe it is appropriate to quote the saying “it is music to the ear”
Apart from Dsegh museum, there is a museum in Yerevan as well. His house, the Vairnadoon, in Tbilisi, Georgia, was recently purchased by Armenian writers union of Tbilisi, and they want to renovate and turn it into a museum.There are towns, streets, statues of Toumanian, in Armenia, and some in Tbilisi as well. A worthy intellectual and poet indeed.
(It was on 17 Toumanian street, in the heart of Yerevan, that Toronto’ Armentrade company (formed specifically to do business in Armenia) opened its office in 1991. The beautiful building was occupied by Armenian Encyclopedia Հակական Համայնագիտարան. The building was like a monument with distinct Armenian architecture. Unfortunately the beautiful building has been demolished and replaced with an ugly high rise building that distorts the historic character of the street. Unfortunately this has been the case for many other such beautiful historic buildings in the heart of Yerevan).
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian