- Sent to Van in 1915, Charents was witness to the destruction that
the Turkish garrison had laid upon the Armenian population, leaving
indelible memories that would later be read in his poems. He left the
front one year later, attending school
at the Shanyavski People's University in Moscow. The horrors of the war
and genocide had scarred Charents and he became a fervent supporter of
the Bolsheviks, seeing them as the one true hope to saving Armenia.
Charents joined the Red Army
and fought during the Russian Civil War as a rank and file soldier in
Russia (Tsaritsin) and the Caucasus. In 1919, he returned to Armenia and
took part in revolutionary activities there. A year later, he began
work at the Ministry of Education
as the director of the Art Department. Charents would also once again
take up arms, this time against his fellow Armenians, as a rebellion
took place against Soviet rule in February 1921. One of his most famous
poems, I love the sun-sweet taste of the word Armenia, a lyric ode to
his homeland, was composed in 1920-1921.
Charents returned to
Moscow in 1921 to study at the Institute of literature and Arts founded
by Valeri Bryusov. In a manifesto issued in June 1922, known as the "Declaration of the Three," signed by Charents, Gevorg Abov, and Azad
Veshtuni, the young authors expressed their favour of "proletarian
internationalism". In 1921-22 he wrote "Amenapoem" (Everyone's poem),
and "Charents-name'", an autobiographical poem. Then, Charents published
his satirical novel, Land of Nairi (Yerkir Nairi), which became a great success and repeatedly published in Russian in Moscow during the life of poet.
In 1924-1925 Charents went on a seven-month trip abroad, visiting
Turkey, Italy (where he met Avetik Isahakyan), France, and Germany. When
Charents returned, he founded a union of writers, November, and worked
for the state publishing house from 1928 to 1935.
In 1930 Charents's book, "Epic Dawn", which consisted of poems he wrote
in 1927-30, was published in Yerevan. It was dedicated to his first wife Arpenik.
His last collection of poems, "The Book of The Way", was printed in
1933, but its distribution was delayed by the Soviet government until
1934, when it was reissued with some revisions. In this book the authors
lays out the panorama of Armenian history and reviews it part-by-part.
William Saroyan met him in 1934 in Moscow and thereafter described him
as a courtly, brilliant man who was desperately sad.
few poems in journals, Charents could publish nothing after 1934 (at the
same time, in December 1935 Stalin asked an Armenian delegation how
In July 1936, when Soviet Armenian leader Aghasi
Khanjian was killed, Charents wrote a series of seven sonnets. After
Komitas's death he wrote one of his last great works, "Requiem ?†ternam
in Memory of Komitas" (1936).
Actress Arus Voskanyan told about
her last visit to Charents: "He looked fragile but noble. He took some
morphine and then read some Komitas. When I reached over to kiss his
hand he was startled". He became a morphine addict under the pressure of
the campaign against him and because he was suffering from colic,
caused by a kidney stone. The hypodermic needle Charents used for his
habit is on exhibit in his museum in Yerevan.
A victim of
Stalinism, he was charged for "counterrevolutionary and nationalist
activity" and imprisoned during the 1937 Great Purge. He died in prison
hospital. All his books were also banned. Charent's younger friend,
Regina Ghazaryan buried and saved many manuscripts of the Armenian poet.
Charents was rehabilitated in 1954 after Stalin's death.
Charent's works were translated by Valeri Bryusov, Anna Akhmatova, Boris
Pasternak, Arseny Tarkovsky, Louis Aragon, Marzbed Margossian, Diana
Der Hovanessian, and others. His home at 17 Mashtots Avenue in Yerevan
was turned into a museum in 1975. The Armenian city Charentsavan was
named after him.
A commemorative stamp of 40 kopecks was issued
by the Soviet Union in 1958 honoring Charents after his rehabilitation.
Another commemorative stamp of 150 Armenian drams as well as a
commemorative coin of 100 Armenian drams were issued by the Republic of
Armenia in 1997. The new Republic of Armenia currency denomination for
1000 drams carried on one of its two sides the photo of Charents and a
famous quotation in Armenian of one of his poems.