BY DAVID ARAKELYAN
Dedicated to my friend, Allen Yekikian
It is difficult to imagine modern Armenian literature or our people’s liberation struggle without the man whose works have laid the foundation of the Armenian novel and provided the ideological underpinnings for the national revolutionary movement. That man was Hakob Mirzayan Melik-Hakobian, better known to the public by his nom de plume, Raffi. During the difficult period of Ottoman and Persian yoke, the prolific writer sought to instill pride and self-respect in the Armenian people through his powerful pen that described the nation’s noble past and inspired hope for its bright future. Raffi also saw the path towards that future, which lay through long and difficult but ultimately necessary educational, ideological, and military preparations, which were to awaken the dormant spirit of the Armenians and help them achieve freedom from both internal and external oppressors. Through his memorable and vivid characters, the nation’s novelist penetrated the hearts of Armenians all over the world and directed their minds toward the cause of liberation of their country, giving birth to the revolutionary movement that brought about the independence of Armenia, a generation after Raffi’s death.
Hakob Mirzayan Melik-Hakobian (Raffi) was born in 1835 in the Payajuk village of the Salmast province of Persia (historic Armenian region of Zarehavan) in the home of a local nobleman, Melik Mirzabek, a successful merchant and the hereditary village head, and his wife, Jeyran, a daughter of a gunsmith from the nearby rural town of Kohna Shahar. Surrounded by nine sisters and four brothers, Hakob enjoyed a happy childhood, spending hours riding horses, painting, and exploring the nearby villages. At the age of seven, his parents enrolled him at the local school, run by the kahana (priest) Ter Mser, where Hakob spent the next five years of his life (1842 – 1847). Ter Mser believed that a good learning experience should consist of memorizing the psalms on an empty stomach in the morning and receiving a healthy dose of physical punishment in the afternoon., Having exhausted the educational opportunities offered at the village school, Hakob, who had developed affection for his neighbor’s daughter, Sara, quit that “fine” institution of learning and wrote his first poem dedicated to and named after his childhood love. Instead of suffering through Ter Mser’s boring lectures, the young Hakob preferred to listen to the tales and legends told by his grandmother, Sona, whose stories inspired many of the characters and motives that the readers were going to find in Raffi’s future works.
Despite the fact that he had never attended school himself, Melik Mirzabek had great admiration for learning. The melik had decided that his son should continue his education, so he sent the young Hakob to Tiflis in order to enroll him in the Nersisyan Academy (Summer 1847). By the time Hakob arrived in the Caucasus (Fall 1847), however, the academy had been shut down due to an epidemic of cholera. Since his original plan did not work out, Melik Mirzabek registered Hakob at a boarding school run by one of the best known and well-respected teachers in Tiflis, Karapet Belakhian. Hakob quickly developed both respect and deep affection for his teacher, and the two maintained a friendship that lasted until Belakhian’s death. Under his teacher’s guidance and supervision, Raffi mastered grabar and learned Russian, voraciously read books on Greek and Roman mythology, and studied classical Armenian works of Byuzand and Yeghishe. By the time Hakob entered the Russian gymnasium (1852), he had not only perfected his language skills, but had also adopted the nationalistic views of his beloved teacher. Belakhian was dreaming of a career of a diplomat for his favorite student, and even requested a letter from Melik Mirzabek to prove Raffi’s aristocratic birth, a condition required for admission into Russian universities. But since his father’s health was declining, Hakob was called back to Payajuk to assist in running the family’s business. He had to leave Tiflis and return to his native village without completing his education in the summer of 1856.
During his studies at the gymnasium, Raffi authored his first novel, Khlvlik (“Sprite, “1855), which “depicted the wretched, ignorant, and lethargic lives of the Armenians in Persia” and expressed dismay at the lack of concern of the Caucasus Armenians for the situation of their brethren across the border. This dismay would lead the young author to explore the conditions of both Persian and Turkish Armenians through his travels and convey his findings to the readers in his books and articles written with the aim of inspiring the divided segments of the Armenian nation to form a unified front in addressing their existential issues. His return trip to Salmast (1856) was the first one of those travels, where Raffi faced the cruel realities of the life of the Armenians under foreign rule as he investigated the social and economic conditions of the population. The encounter with a group of plundered pilgrims headed to the St. Stepanos Monastery and the indifference toward both the believers and their own mission displayed by the clergymen at the monastery angered the young writer. The abysmal state of the Armenian Church, the apathy of the illiterate population toward social and political injustice, and the exploitation of the working people and the peasantry by both Kurdish aghas and Armenian amiras would become dominant themes in Raffi’s works throughout his literary career.
Upon arrival in Payajuk, Raffi is struck by devastating news that would leave a lasting mark on both his personal life and his career as a writer: his beloved Sara had committed suicide in order to avoid marrying a man whom she did not love. Engulfed in sorrow, Raffi buries himself in reading, hunting and work. At the end of the year, he travels on business to Urmia and Tabriz, where he also visits the school established by the head of the Atraptakan Prelacy, Bishop Sahak Satunyan (d. 1857). When Raffi returns home (1857), he partners with Isahak Ter-Abrahamyan, a student from Calcutta who was studying in Salmast at the time, to open a school for the village kids. This endeavor is met with fierce opposition from the local clergy and the merchant class, and after a brief struggle, the school is shut down by the authorities at the urging of the new Prelate, Hakob Shahbazian (1857 – 1859) in April of 1858. This is the first time Raffi’s educational efforts are thwarted by conservative elements in the Armenian community. Unfortunately, that pattern would continue for the rest of his life.
Staying true to his motto that “whoever does not know his Homeland cannot truly love it” and using the grape blessing festival at St. Karapet Monastery as an excuse to leave Persia without raising suspicion, Raffi embarks on a trip to Western Armenia (Summer 1857) in order to explore the country and learn about the living conditions of the population. This trip was the beginning of a life-long tradition of using travels to explore the economic, cultural, and political circumstances of the Armenians in order reflect those findings in his works. As Raffi travels through Baghesh (Bitlis), Taron and Vaspurakan, the writer encounters the abandoned graves of Yeghishe and St. Grigor of Narek, visits the birthplace of Mesrop Mashtots (Hatsik village), and spends time with the monks at the islands of Akhtamar and Ktutz. Here, Raffi sees the neglected manuscripts of Khorenatsi, Parpetsi, and Davit Anhaght and encounters the same indifference among the clergy that he had observed in Persia. The writer arrives at a conclusion that despite having played a certain role in the lives of the Armenians in the past, the Church had also deprived the people of its spirit, killed in them the desire to struggle, and helped strengthen the chains of foreign oppression. As he speaks with the workers in Van, Raffi realizes that they live in a permanent state of fear and terrible poverty, and that a large segment of the population (pandukhts) has left its ancestral Homeland in search of work in Constantinople. The country is being emptied of its native inhabitants due to the policies of the oppressive Ottoman Turkish state, the exploitation of the populace by the church, and the prevalent atmosphere of lawlessness and religious discrimination.
One of the few positive aspects of the trip was Raffi’s meeting with Khrimian Hayrik, the man who served as a source of inspiration for the writer for the rest of his life. At the Varag Monastery, Raffi visited the school established by Khirmian and learned about the new periodical, Artziv Vaspurakani (The Eagle of Vaspurakan), which Hayrik intends to publish using the askharabar language understandable to common people. Raffi arrived at the conclusion that Abovyan had drawn decades earlier: only secular education can change the conditions of the Armenian people and alter the trajectory of their history. While visiting the island of Ktutz, Raffi urged the local clergy to leave the monasteries, disperse among the people, and take on the sacred task of lifting them out of ignorance. As his calls fell on deaf ears, Raffi realized that the social and economic conditions in Vaspurakan were not ripe for spreading education among the people.  Despite this, the emotional encounters and the information gathered during this trip were extremely useful for the writer, and they formed the basis for a number of Raff’s future works, including Khachagoghi Hishatakarane (“The Memoir of a Cross Stealer,” 1869) and Kaitzer (“Sparklets,” 1879). Raffi returned to Payajuk at the end of summer, and after a business trip to Urmia (October, 1857), the writer settled in his native village, where he lived until his move to Tiflis in 1868.
The year 1858 was a turning point in the lives of Eastern Armenians. The launching of several new publications (Hyusisapayl (Aurora Borealis) in Moscow and Meghoo Hayastani (The Bee of Armenia) in Tiflis) and the printing of Khachatur Abovyan’s Verk Hayastani (Wounds of Armenia, Tiflis) signified the victory of ashkarabar over grabar and brought about a certain democratization in the Armenian literary and cultural life. These events had a profound impact on Raffi as well. As he traveled to Tiflis on business (May, 1858), he came across the copy of the Verk, which instilled in him admiration for Abovyan and shaped his literary career along the lines of populism, democracy, patriotism and sacrifice for one’s country so passionately advocated by the author of the “Wounds of Armenia.” Raffi also immersed himself in reading the issues of Hyusiaspayl and embraced the national liberation and enlightenment ideas preached by Mikayel Nalbandyan, who became a role model for the writer. Under the influence of Abovyan and Nalbandyan, Raffi became a staunch advocate of ashkarabar and began to see the enlightenment of the Armenian people as the only means of obtaining freedom and a dignified life. In fact, he went even further than Abovyan since he understood that the purpose of an Armenian novelist was to “depict the life of the nation with all of its sad sides and to create new national ideals” in order to remedy the situation.
The inspirational developments of this period lead Raffi to cooperate with Hyusisapayl and Artziv Vaspurakani. His first two articles, including one very critical of the clergy, are published in the Artziv (July 1858) and his travel memoir, Akhtamari Vank (“The Monastery of Akhtamar”) is printed in Hyusisapayl (November 1860), bringing recognition to the young writer. Another big break in Raffi’s literary career occurs in 1861, when his exposé on Western missionaries of Atrapatakan and the poem Hayrenasiri Voghbe (“The Lament of a Patriot”), inspired by his trip to Western Armenia, are published in Hyusisapayl and the Artziv, respectively. During the same time, he revises the novel, Khlvlik, re-writing it in ashkharabar and incorporating new themes related to education and schooling. Though little information has reached us about Raffi’s activities during these years, we know that he spent a lot of time reading, learning Farsi, traveling around Atrapatakan, and working in the fields. In 1863, Raffi marries Anna Hormuz, a daughter of a Protestant Assyrian preacher from the village of Gog Tapa (Urmia), and his daughter, Yester, is born the next year (1864).
Raffi’s father’s death in 1865 results in the collapse of the family business and drastic changes in the author’s life. Melik Mirzabek’s competitors and lenders use every dishonest tool in their arsenal to profit from the situation and force Raffi into bankruptcy. By 1868, all of his assets are either lost or confiscated through court proceedings, and the young writer has no choice but to turn to Tiflis merchants (Nasibov, Hakhnazarov) to find employment. His financial situation is so desperate that Raffi pawns the novel Khlvlik in order to feed himself. Ironically, the business misfortunes inspire a new flare of literary activity, since Raffi can finally concentrate on his writing. The author himself acknowledges that he feels “lucky that the sad circumstances have given [him] an opportunity to work to enrich the poor literature of [his] people.” The greed of the merchant class encountered on the job inspires his novel Zahrumar (“Poison,” 1871), which is a scathing critique of the money-worshipping ideology prevalent among the Armenian traders in Tiflis. His dealings with the courts provide Raffi with the prototypes for the characters of merchant Masisyan and lawyer Simon Yagorich, keenly described by the author in one of the best works of Armenian realism, Voski Akaghagh (The Golden Rooster, 1879). In this and other related works (the article Kovkasi Hay Vacharakanutyune (The Armenian Merchants of the Caucasus, 1866), and an unfinished novel, Minn Ayspes, Myusn Aynpes (“One This Way, the Other That Way,” 1890)), Raffi further develops his ideas on the changes that must be adopted by the merchants in order to transition from an Asiatic model of business to the more humane European one. As a part of that strategy, he calls on the merchant community to invest in the local Armenian economy and adopt socially responsible business practices.,
These literary works are indicative of Raffi’s overall approach to writing. The “nation’s novelist” believed that literature had to serve the society by reflecting the concerns of the public and educating and enlightening the populace. As Hamastegh correctly pointed out, “the national literature [at the time] was developing without truly understanding the people, who were missing from the works” of Armenian writers. Raffi’s appeal was based on the fact that he used ordinary and recognizable characters from various walks of life that were close to the working people and conveyed messages palatable to them. With his strong imagination and ability to skillfully portray the prevalent mood in the society, Raffi was able to capture the attention of the reader and instill in him love for learning. His goal was to shape the “new person,” who was to fight against social injustice, immorality, and political oppression. Raffi’s critics noted that he did not sufficiently develop his characters and that his story lines were both simplistic and unrealistic. The novelist responded to the detractors by saying, “I must do my best to give our new generation interesting, historical novels. Let others with higher education write novels that are more sophisticated.” Despite these criticisms, the author obtained phenomenal success and enjoyed widespread popularity even during his lifetime, which he himself explained as follows: “My strength is in understanding the demands of the times more than other writers. Under the existing social conditions, to be occupied with fairy tales is unforgivable.”
Raffi’s career as a writer and his reputation as the “pioneering theorist of the Armenian revolutionary movement” developed further during his twelve-year long cooperation with the Tiflis-based liberal periodical Mshak (The Toiler), founded by Grigor Artsruni in 1872. Mshak was an altogether new publication in the Armenian reality, which offered a fresh perspective on social and political issues aimed to “instill ideas of solidarity among the Armenians of Russia, Turkey, and Persia,” and “facilitate the advancement of the society and the betterment of the lives of the people.” These goals were fully in line with Raffi’s own ideology, and the writer began to actively participate in the efforts to “criticize the stagnation, ignorance, and religious intolerance” of the Tiflis community. The first issue of Mshak (January 1, 1872) was a resounding success, and all printed copies were sold within a few hours.  It was even more gratifying for Raffi that Artsruni gave him the freedom to express his ideas in his works and provided him with the opportunity to further develop the national liberation ideology championed by Nalbandyan and Abovyan.
The publication of Melik-Hakobian’s short stories and travel notes about Persia under the pseudonyms of Raffiand Melikzade during the course of 1872 to 1873 brought wide recognition to the writer. He became a permanent member of the staff at Mshak and was put in charge of the Philological department of the publication. In 1874, the first volume of Punj (Bouquet), a collection of his poems dedicated to the Armenian youth, was released, becoming an unexpected literary sensation in Tiflis and drastically increasing the readership of Mshak. At the same time, Raffi’s poetry was subjected to heavy criticism by the competing conservative periodical, Meghoo Hayastani, whose editor called it a “bouquet of colorless and odorless flowers.” The second volume of Punj was published later that year (July 1874), but despite its thematic expansion, the writer, his editor (Artsruni), and the public all agreed that Raffi’s calling was to write prose and that he should focus on providing the readers with guidance and inspiration on national issues. His colleagues agreed. Upon receiving a copy of both volumes of Punj (August 1874), the renowned poet Raphael Patkanian wrote to Raffi from Nor Nakhichevan, advising him to “not diverge from the selected path of elevating the self-consciousness of the Armenian people” and accomplish through his novels “what your ancestors tried to do with the help of drums, trumpets, and tears.”
In June of 1875, Raffi moved to Tabriz and assumed a teaching position at the Aramian academy. The main reason why he took that job was that it provided him with an opportunity to implement innovative teaching methods based on Abovyan’s theories among the local Armenians. Raffi was strongly opposed to the system of corporal punishment that was rampant in Armenian schools and saw the ability to spark the curiosity of the students and to instill in them the ideas of freedom and fatherland as the main responsibility of a good teacher. Once again, he embarked on a plethora of activities aimed at enlightening the local population. Having established a book club, Raffi continued to work on his novel, Khachagoghi Hishatakarane, and organized a community effort to launch a printing press in the city. Raffi also expressed a revolutionary idea that girls should receive formal education and tried to convince the locals to open a female seminary. During a party at the house of one of the school trustees, Raffi told those gathered that “if you want to have educated children, you have to prepare educated mothers, and that can be done only at a female seminary, which is necessary in Tabriz as well as other cities.” As was the case in Payajuk, these ideas were met with fierce resistance by the clergy and local merchants. The latter broke into the school while Raffi was lecturing and harassed him in front of his students and his thirteen-year old daughter, Yester (May 1877). Yester was so frightened by these events that she fell ill and died a few days later. Even that did not stop Raffi’s opponents, who provided the translated copies of his novel Harem (1874), highly critical of the Persian government, to the authorities, and achieved Raffi’s extradition from the country (Summer 1877). The broken hearted-writer left for Tiflis (August 1877) and then moved to Verin Agulis (October 1877) to work at the local Haykanushian school, where he remained until the middle of 1879. At that time, he abandoned his teaching career, sent his family back to Payajuk, and moved to Tiflis to dedicate himself to writing.
Raffi’s concern for the woman’s place in society and the education of girls was well known and was reflected in his writings. According to Avetis Aharonian, the novelist “understood the woman’s role in public and political life. After Yeghishe, he was the only writer who was able to retrieve from the darkness of ages the bright picture of the Armenian woman.” Raffi was indeed an early champion of female education and had planned to open a seminary for girls back in 1857, when he was running a village school in Payajuk. In his travel memoirs from Persia, he had written extensively about the difficult conditions of Armenian women in the Asiatic society and their inferior social position. Similar issues were brought up in one of his earlier novels, Harem, where the author delineated the cruelty suffered by the captive girls at the hands of their powerful oppressors. In Khente, Raffi described the inability of the Armenians living under Turkish yoke to protect their women from the encroachments of Kurdish and Turkish chiefs, who could force Armenian families to surrender their daughters as wives and concubines for the local begs and aghas. Later on, the writer went on to pen an article in Mshak called Hay Kine (“The Armenian Woman,” January 1879), where he discussed the necessity of engaging Armenian women in public and family life and expanding their role in those spheres in order to restructure the society, improve its mores, and raise a new generation of forward-thinking Armenians. Raffi’s progressive ideas on the subject of women’s rights and education, derived from Nalbandyan’s philosophy and expanded with time, remain relevant even today.
The author considered education as “the most important factor for the advancement and political emancipation of the Armenian people.” Like Abovyan before him, Raffi also believed that the detachment of schools from the church and their secularization were essential for attaining national goals, and of course, that led to a lifelong conflict with the Armenian clergy. He accused the priests of “corrupting both themselves and their sacred duty” and criticized them for turning the monasteries and convents into “houses for zealous, lecherous, and lazy individuals,” who were “preoccupied with finding easy ways of plundering the population” instead of focusing on its edification and moral revival. Despite his fierce opposition to the activities of the Protestant and Catholic missionaries, whose “educational efforts” were mainly aimed at converting the Armenians and sowing disunity among them, Raffi saw that the main reason for their success was “the ignorance and the spinelessness” of the Armenian clergy.
While criticizing the Church, Raffi also viewed it as a means of fostering unity and connections between the dispersed masses of the Armenian people. He encouraged individual clergymen whose activities served the vital interests of the nation. The author maintained that it would be desirable “to use the influence that the clergy has on the people in order to achieve [the] goals [of educating the masses]” and promote unity between the Eastern and Western segments of the Armenian nation. Raffi held the European missionaries as examples for Armenian religious figures and called on them to “multiply [the number] of educational institutions” and help “advance [the establishment] of printing presses” around the country. He also criticized the improper way of teaching the religion which had resulted in the servility of the Armenian people and emphasized the need to abandon the “turn the other cheek” approach in the face of Turkish and Kurdish oppression. Raffi believed that the clergy should instead follow the example of Khrimian Hayrik and contribute to the cause of national liberation by getting out of the churches and directing the populace toward “education, crafts, and science.” The notion that enlightening the population is the only means of achieving its liberation is continuously invoked throughout Raffi’s life, and it is reflected in his writings and his activities. Unfortunately, the great writer was not successful in his attempts to change the status quo in the Armenian Church and was persecuted by the clergy everywhere he went.
The final formulation of Raffi’s national liberation ideology took place in the context of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 to 1878, which led to the internationalization of the Armenian Question and ensued a new period of literary activism by the writer. A series of anti-Turkish rebellions had taken place in the Balkans during 1875 to 1876, which inspired many Armenian intellectuals, including Grigor Artsruni, to advocate seizing the opportunity to achieve the liberation of Western Armenia through a popular revolt. The most important component of this strategy was the involvement of Russia, which was seen as “the only European country that could help the Turkish Armenians alter their desperate condition.” The Russians took advantage of the situation in the Balkans and declared war on the Ottoman Empire on April 12 (24), 1877. The excitement among the Armenian population reached its apex. The Mshak published an editorial authored by Artsruni, saying: “The time for the liberation of Armenians has arrived. It is necessary to take up arms and shake off the hated Turkish yoke.”
Raffi did not share the enthusiasm that prevailed among the intellectual and literary circles in Eastern Armenia. He was critical of those who felt that the liberation of a few Armenian cities by the Russians (Kars, Ardahan, Karin) was sufficient to resolve the Armenian Question and maintained that “freedom is given only to those people who defend it with their sword.” He also saw that many amiras in Constantinople had close ties with the Turkish government, and that their interests compelled them to strive for the preservation of the status quo. Unfortunately, his pessimism was vindicated when the Treaty of San Stefano (March 2, 1878), viewed as favorable to Armenian interests, was abrogated and replaced by the Treaty of Berlin (July 13, 1878), which forced the Russians to pull their troops out of most liberated areas and abandon the Armenians. This was a huge blow to the aspirations of the Armenian people and it resulted in a mass exodus of the population from Western Armenia, which was threatening to empty the region of its native inhabitants while Eastern Armenian provinces were flooded by desperate refugees.
The stories of one group of these refugees, namely, the Armenians who had escaped the region of Haghbak (Albak) in Vaspurakan after Kurdish hordes under the command of sheikh Jalaleddin attacked and destroyed their villages, were collected by Raffi during his interviews with them in Jugha (Nakhichevan) throughout 1877. These stories served as the basis for his first truly historical novel named after the brutal sheikh, Jalaleddin (1878). The novel was published in Mshak on the anniversary of Haghbak massacres on May 16, 1878. Its main character, Sarhad, epitomizes the “new” Armenian, who has reached a high level of national consciousness and has embraced the concept of self-defense through armed struggle as the only means of protecting the nation’s honor and dignity. He is the student of Abovyan’s hero, Aghasi, and he, too, believes that if it is not possible to defeat the enemy completely, it is better to die fighting for justice than to tolerate his insults and attacks. Neither Aghasi nor Sarhad have a clear program of action, but they express the anger and the discontent deeply seated in the hearts of the Armenians living under the Turkish yoke. The novel is also a denunciation of the empty promises given by the Great Powers to the Armenians and contains an eloquent call on the Armenian population to reject Christian subservience, uttered by one of its characters, Dali Baba:
“O forefathers! O forefathers! I drink from this cup, but not to you. If instead of all these monasteries that you filled our homeland with you had built fortresses; if instead of exhausting our wealth on the purchase of holy crosses and sacred vessels you had bought weapons; if instead of filling our churches with clouds of sweet smelling incense you had burned gunpowder, our homeland would already be free and the Kurds wouldn’t be here raiding our villages, killing our children, ravaging our women…”
Historian Ghevond Alishan (Leo) said of this work: “Jalaleddin was the start of our novel’s majestic triumph.” A triumph it was, and not just because it elevated the Armenian novel to a new level, but also because of the unprecedented response from the public, especially the youth, which read the book in huge numbers and sent countless letters thanking the author for his effort. 
After the disappointment of the Congress of Berlin (June 13 – July 13, 1878), Raffi decided to visit Tiflis in order to find qualified teachers for the Agulis school. He was passing through Echmiadzin on the way back to Nakhichevan when he met and interviewed the hero of Bayazet, Samson Ter-Poghosyan., His story became the basis of Raffi’s next and probably best-known novel, Khente (“The Fool,” 1880). The novel not only expresses the Armenian people’s yearning for freedom, but also explores the weaknesses and the mistakes made in the struggle to achieve that goal. The author maintains that the promises of reform, extracted from the sultan by the Europeans, are empty words that cannot resolve the problems of Western Armenians. Through their interactions with the peasants, Raffi’s main characters, Dudukjian and Vartan, demonstrate that the conditions in Armenia are not yet ripe for waging a struggle similar to that of the Balkan people and that a long period of preparation is necessary to arrive at that point. The liberation of the country is viewed as the task of the next generation while the duty of the current one is to prepare the ground for the revolutionary movement that will make that liberation a possibility. As Veselovsky points out, Raffi does not think it is necessary or possible to hide the fact that “centuries of Muslim yoke have resulted in the loss of many admirable national traits among the Armenians, and have led to the emergence of elements of subservience, indifference, and apathy.” In order to illustrate his point, the writer describes the atrocities in Bayazet, where the plunder, rape, and destruction instigated by the Turks and the Kurds on the Armenians throws the latter into a state of “dumb submissiveness” and forces them to accept the inevitability of death instead of encouraging them to pick up arms and defend their lives.
In Khente, Raffi continues to masterfully elucidate the mood of the Armenian public, which continued to feel the pain of betrayal in Berlin. His message of self-reliance resonates with large cross-sections of the population. Ghevond Alishan attests to the immense popularity of this novel as well: “No other Armenian book had ever had such widespread magical influence on the minds of Armenians.” After the publication of Khente, Raffi becomes “the youth’s idol,” and many young Armenians from all over the Russian Empire venture into Western Armenia to assist their less fortunate brethren. The final goal that these young men were pursuing is most vividly described at the end of the book, in Vartan’s dream, which depicts the image of a free and independent Armenia two hundred years later. Through Vartan’s eyes, the reader sees Armenia of the future, where women enjoy equal rights, villagers are peacefully tilling their fields, the cities have regained their Armenian names, the population is governed through a democratically-elected Parliament, and Armenian is the predominant language in the country. It is not an accident that the timeframe given for the realization of that dream is so far in the future. Raffi was convinced that if the Armenian people were to be freed from the chains of oppression, it was going to take place after decades of preparation, education, and armed struggle.
The period following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 to 1878 was marked by increased revolutionary activism that led to the emergence of the first Armenian political parties. These developments were not only a reaction to the conditions of Western Armenians living under the Turkish yoke, but also a response to the increasingly reactionary policies of the Russian tsar Alexander III (1881 – 1894), who launched a new wave of persecutions against the empire’s minorities, particularly the Poles, the Jews, and the Armenians. At the same time, the Turkish government, allied with Great Britain, initiated a project called the “Kurdish Union,” which was aimed at killing the national aspirations of the Armenians and sowing enmity between them and the Kurds. The Armenian people, divided between two empires and persecuted by both, found themselves alone in their struggle to preserve their physical existence. These developments, combined with the continuous discrimination, plunder, and massacres of Turkish Armenians, led to the formation of a number of revolutionary organizations in both Eastern and Western Armenia, and ultimately brought about the emergence of traditional Armenian political parties (Armenakan (1885), Hnchak (1887), and the ARF (1890)). 
Raffi, who had settled in Tiflis in 1879 and had become “the first Armenian writer to earn a living solely from his writing,” seems to have not only been aware of the existence of these revolutionary organizations, but may have even established ties with a few of their members during his trips to Taron and Vaspurakan. In mid-1880, the writer participated in the works of a secret committee headed by Grigor Artrsuni, which aimed to explore the possibilities of defending the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire by “forming haytoug groups and striking the Kurds.” It was in this environment that Raffi completed his novel, Kaitzer (“Sparklets,” 1879), which he had been writing since the late 1860’s, in order to “describe the present condition of Western Armenians… and shed light on the solution of the Armenian Question.” Due to financial difficulties, the work was not fully published until mid-1880’s, but it received universal acclaim and played a significant role in the development of the Armenian revolutionary movement. An ARF activist, Vardges Aharonian, mentioned that the “liberation movement on many occasions followed verbatim Raffi’s suggested direction [in Kaitzer],” and Shirvanzade revealed that future ARF founders, Kristapor Mikayelian and Simon Zavarian, were frequent guests at Raffi’s Tiflis home during this time.
Kaitzer’s characters (Karo, Aslan, Farhat) had built on the experience of Raffi’s earlier heroes (Sarhad, Vartan) and had become revolutionary propagandists, whose aim was to unite the Armenian people and engage in the long-term work of preparing for the events of the future.These “new Armenians” are better equipped to assume the leadership of the national liberation movement and have specific ideas on how to achieve their goals. Aslan and his friends understand the need to forge alliances with various tribes inhabiting the region, the importance of learning about the country and its population, and the necessity of organizing a network of agents to assist them in their effort. It is important to note that in the aftermath of the Congress of Berlin (1878), Raffi revised the novel and discarded all sections of the book that dealt with resolving the Armenian Question through diplomatic means. In addition, he further developed his approach to the national liberation movement described in Khente. Raffi proclaimed that the treatments assigned by him would not immediately remedy the conditions of the Armenians; in fact, they could be quite ineffective initially. The Armenian youth, epitomized by Farhat, was delegated a key role in the struggle for national liberation. Having discarded religious prejudices and quit the school of Ter Todik (fashioned after Ter Mser’s school that Raffi had left as a young man), Farhat aimed to “awaken the sleeping lion” in the hearts of the Armenian youth by lifting their spirits and teaching them to rely on their own efforts rather than the grace of God in their quest for liberty. Like Raffi, Farhat thought that the only way to attain freedom was through the long-term ideological and educational preparation, which was to turn the sparklets of the liberation movement into a conflagration that would sweep away the oppressors of his people and provide the latter with an opportunity to live freely and peacefully on their land.
Raffi’s next novel, Davit Bek (1882), begins where Kaitzer ends. Having realized the futility of relying on foreign assistance to liberate Armenia and understanding that his people by themselves would be unable to shake off the Turkish yoke, Raffi suggests that Armenians wait until a convenient opportunity when the Turks are weakened to strike against them.  In that struggle, the people must be led by leaders who understand and share their aspirations. Davit Bek is that kind of a leader. He is a new Vartan Mamikonian, who is able to capture the mood of the nation, form a unified front against the enemy, and neutralize both his opponents and foreign invaders. “I have placed my faith in my long-suffering, oppressed, and exploited people,” exclaims Davit Bek in a speech to his forces at the Tatev Monastery. Through his main character, Raffi continues to effectively communicate the message of self-defense and self-reliance. As Nikoghayos Adonts noted, despite the fact that “Davit Bek is not one of Raffi’s best historical novels, … it is the most important one” since “the subject is from the recent past,” which makes it more impactful. “The language of the novel is simple and ordinary;” continues Adonts, “the style is clear and devoid of literary embellishments; the emphasis is effective and sincere; the ideas are high and noble.”
The writing of Davit Bek signifies a change in Raffi’s literary focus and marks a new emphasis on the history of the Armenian people in his works. Interrupting the publication of Davit Bek in Mshak (June 1881), Raffi, whose work was encumbered by the insufficiency of the studies regarding the “public, family, political, and social lives of the Armenians” in the 18th century, leaves Tiflis (June 25, 1881) and departs for Artsakh and Syunik to gather more information for his novel. For the next two months, the author travels throughout Artsakh, visiting all five historic gavars and collecting stories and memoirs about the history of Artsakh. This trip helps germinate the idea for his next novel, Khamsayi Melikutyunnere (“Melikdoms of Khamsa,” 1882). That work reflects the writer’s multitalented nature, revealing his significant capabilities in the fields of historiography, archaeology, and ethnography. By relating the history of the Armenian melikdoms from 1600 to 1828, Raffi once again cautions against tying hopes of liberation to Russia and aims “to reveal the mistakes and damaging efforts that had adversely affected Eastern Armenians,” who were “crushed under the Russian iron heel.” Raffi considered Khamsayi Melikutyunnere to be his best work, and wrote the following about it: “Through this novel, I resurrected the lost and forgotten history, and proved that the Armenian statehood continued to exist until the current century.” In this novel, Raffi also cogently described the mistakes of Karabakh Armenians and the treachery and selfishness of some of the meliks, which caused the collapse of these independent principalities and led to the establishment of the Turkic tribes on ancient Armenian lands in Artsakh.
The year 1882 was a productive one in Raffi’s literary career. He managed to finish publishing Davit Bek (February 26, 1882), which had resumed printing in Mshak (December 9, 1881) after Raffi’s return to Tiflis. The first volume of Kaitzer was finalized (to be issued in 1883) and, despite the brutal revisions attempted by the censors, Khamsayi Melikutyunnere was also printed in 1882 in Mshak. In many cases, Raffi was unable to properly edit his novels due to lack of time and the pressure by both the readers and the publisher to produce additional pages. At the end of the year (December 25, 1882), Raffi also launched the publication of Khachagoghi Hishatakarane, where the writer focused on the issues of physical and moral decline of a segment of the Persian Armenian population, who had become swindlers because “the society did not teach them anything else.” Raffi dedicated the novel to those Armenians, who were “disappearing in foreign lands, without the opportunity to return to their families.” He firmly believed that the Armenian people can have a future only on their own land, which had been preserved by the blood shed by their ancestors. Through his depiction and development of Murad, a “grotesque product of the corrupt society,” Raffi showed that honest work, patriotism, and dedication to the cause of national liberation can save a lost soul, who has otherwise been written off by the public.
During his travels through Syunik and Artsakh, Raffi also visited his native village, Payajuk (September – October, 1881), where he received a warm welcome from the locals, who were proud of the success and the fame of their native son. His wife, and the two surviving children, Aram and Arshak, had been living in Salmast since mid-1879, when Raffi quit teaching at the Haykanushian School in Verin Agulis and moved to Tiflis, sending his family back to Payajuk (as mentioned earlier, his first child, the daughter Yester (1864 – 1877), had died in Tabriz). When he was leaving Salmast (October 1881), Raffi also took along his wife and the children, but due to financial difficulties and inability to take care of their basic needs, the writer was soon forced to send them back to Payajuk. It was only six years later (1887) that Raffi was able to rent an apartment in Tiflis and move his family there on a permanent basis. Throughout Raffi’s life, his family lived in poverty, and his children did not see their father for months (and even years) on end, as the writer was either working in Tiflis or traveling around the region in search of new material for his books.
Raffi’s wife, Anna Hormuz, a daughter of a Protestant Assyrian preacher, was a highly educated woman who spoke six languages. She was a graduate of an American missionary school located in Urmia. In fact, Raffi had met Anna while attending her graduation ceremony (1863), and they were married a few months later. After Raffi’s death (1888), she worked diligently to print many of his works, and one of her greatest desires was to publish her husband’s biography, a task that she worked on for many years while taking care of her two children.Among the works that became available to the public thanks to Anna’s efforts were the highly important series of articles on socio-economic and political conditions of Western Armenians called Tajkahayk (“Turkish Armenians,” 1877 – 1880). These articles were published in the aftermath of the Hamidian massacres (1895, and again in 1913), and had “enormous consequences” since “they fed into the political consciousness and radicalized opinion among Armenians… as a result of the Ottoman authorities continued failure to respond to… depredations and injustice faced by Armenians.” In these works too, Raffi provided insights on Armenian-Kurdish relations, advocated self-defense, and cautioned against tying hopes for a better future with potential changes in the Ottoman Empire:
“During the present crisis in Turkey, many people have been interested as to whether this state has progressed or not in the last 20 years… People who have been hiding Turkish barbarities and have trumpeted Turkey’s imaginary progress… have declared that Turkey has significantly reformed… All these statements are nothing but empty words. Turkey has only advanced in one thing: presenting itself externally as a European country, while in its heart, soul, and activities it has always remained Mongolian, with the same nature as it had in the deserts of Turan.”
In the late 1890’s, Anna Hormuz and her two sons moved to London. Aram majored in literature at University College while Arshak went to St. Petersburg (Russia) to study medicine. Both brothers went on to become instructors of Russian language at King’s College. Aram was very active in the Armenian community, and along with his brother, founded the Armenian United Society to spread awareness about his people and their culture in Great Britain, where prejudice against Armenians was widespread. At the start of World War I, Aram became the director of the Armenian Information Bureau, established to promote the Armenian Cause, and wrote extensively in the local press and to British politicians, advocating a just resolution for the Armenian Question. His tireless efforts resulted in deterioration of his health, and Aram soon passed away. Anna Hormuz died eight months later. Arshak was appointed the Ambassador of the First Republic of Armenia in Great Britain in 1919, and in that capacity, spent a lot of time taking care of the needs of the Armenian refugees arriving to the United Kingdom. He married Alexandra, a daughter of an English doctor and his Armenian wife, but they had no children. Arshak passed away on August 12, 1946. His body was embalmed and placed next to the remains of his mother and brother at the Kensal Green Cemetery in London, in hopes of being buried in Armenia when his father’s dream came true and the country became independent.
The release of the first volume of Kaitzer in February of 1883 led to the intensification of the conflict between Mshak and its rival, the conservative publication Meghoo Hayastani. A scathing critique was published in the latter by a contributor named Haykuni, renouncing Kaitzer as “a mockery of the centuries-old sanctities of an entire nation,” condemning its criticisms of the Armenian Church, and comparing its heroes to the assassins of the Russian tsar Alexander II., Haykuni’s and his editor’s goal was to direct the attention of the Russian government at Raffi’s activities, and they succeeded in doing so. The tsarist police searched the Mshak offices and Artsruni’s home (May 1, 1883) and paid a visit to Raffi’s house (May 13, 1883), which resulted in the confiscation of both his published works and unpublished manuscripts. But it was the incriminating letter found in the residence of attorney Ruben Hassan-Jalalian, linking Raffi to the activities of Armenian revolutionaries, particularly the Yerevan-based Hayaser Azgaser secret organization, that led the authorities to place the writer under house arrest (June 26, 1883). The Persian government paid three thousand rubles to end the confinement of its citizen, and after weeks of investigation, the Russians relented and returned Raffi’s papers (July 19, 1883). 
Unfortunately, the writer’s problems did not end there. Meghoo’s virulent campaign against Raffi continued, and the author was forced to write a rebuttal under the pseudonym Pavstos, where he rejected accusations of plagiarizing, “being a proponent of mob democracy” and writing “a fairy tale” detached from reality. The confrontation between Raffi and his opponents was reaching its climax, but the writer chose not to respond to future attacks out of concern that such actions may lead to the shutdown of Mshak. As the community prepared to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Raffi’s literary career and a committee was formed (October – December 1883) to organize the jubilee in the spring of 1884, an attempt was made on Raffi’s life (December 11, 1883). This sent shockwaves across Tiflis’ Armenian community. Despite the suspicions against both the government and Raffi’s political opponents (Meghoo, etc.), it turned out that the assassination attempt was organized by a few common hooligans. The Armenian laborers of Tiflis were so moved by these events that one of them volunteered to protect the beloved writer and slept at Raffi’s apartment for the next few months. Taking advantage of the confusion, the Russian government prohibited the jubilee celebration.
As Raffi’s recognition and fame grew, so did the disagreements between him and Mshak’s owner and editor, Grigor Artsruni. Toward the end of 1883, the writer had suggested making adjustments to the organizational structure of the paper, hiring new staff with fresh ideas, and giving greater voice to the editorial board in order to improve the final product., Despite an initial agreement to the proposed course of action, Artsruni ultimately refused to make any changes, which resulted in Raffi’s departure from Mshak (early 1884). This had a negative impact on both the writer and the publication. Raffi’s financial condition, which had always been precarious, worsened since his income “dropped to half of what he was earning” while working for Artsruni. Given the fact that in addition to supporting his wife and two sons, Raffi also had to help his extended family (including two impoverished brothers, aged mother and nine sisters), the author found himself in a state of near destitution. Having lost his most prolific writer, Artsruni, in turn, faced a decline in the readership and was forced to publish the periodical only twice a week (February, 1884). By mid-summer, Artsruni, who was experiencing financial difficulties of his own, shut down Mshak (July 11, 1884) and moved to Switzerland. Though he returned to Tiflis a year later and resumed the publication of the periodical (June, 1885), Raffi did not join the writing staff.
Having left Mshak, Raffi continued working on historical novels and dreamed about writing the history of the Armenian people in ashkharabar. In communications with his friend and fellow writer Shirvanzade, Raffi mentioned that he “does not write historical novels for the sake of history, but for the contemporary movements that interest [him].” The event that triggered his next novel, Samvel (1886) took place a little before this exchange, when tsar Alexander III issued an edict, shutting down all Armenian schools (March 1885). Raffi, who was highly critical of tsarist policies toward Armenia, saw this measure as an attack against Armenian identity and an attempt to assimilate the Armenian people. He was equally infuriated by the fact that the policy was carried out by the tsar’s Armenian collaborators, namely Catholicos Makar of Teghut (1885 – 1891), who was nicknamed a Russian chinovnik by the Armenian clergy for his overly sympathetic attitude toward the Romanov dynasty. , As always, Raffi found the proper historical setting to express his own views on the situation, choosing the Armenian resistance against the Parthians during the 5th century as a backdrop for describing the conditions that had emerged in Eastern Armenia after the Edict of 1885.
Based on a few fragmentary pieces of information found in his research, Raffi constructed a monumental work describing the existential struggle of the Armenian people against the attempts of shah Shapur II (309 – 379AD) to solve his own “Armenian problem” by assimilating or physically destroying the Armenians. Just like Alexander III, Shapur II also had Armenian allies, namely, Meruzhan Arstruni, and his brother-in-law, Vahan Mamikonian, who had sworn allegiance to the Parthian shah, adopted Zoroastrianism, and invaded the country with the aim of converting the Armenians. The main hero of the book is the young Samvel, Vahan Mamikonian’s son, who rises against his own father (as well as the apostate mother) to defend Armenia. Samvel epitomizes the kind of patriotism advocated by Raffi: he places his nation above his person and his family. Samvel kills his own parents in order to save his country and preserve the language and the religion of his people. Raffi’s book is a call upon the Armenians to unite in the face of anti-national elements and defend their culture and language against foreign infringement. The liberation of the Armenian people is presented as a sacred task that must be achieved irrespective of the sacrifices that are required for it. Raffi’s eloquent, clear, and beautiful language and his ability to powerfully depict the contemporary psychology, beliefs, and traditions of the nation have left a lasting mark on the readers of the novel and inspired Shirvanzade to call him the “founder of literary ashkharhabar.”
Shirvanzade also provided us with valuable insights into Raffi’s personality traits and physical characteristics. According to him, Raffi had a “large head, high and wide forehead, and ailing small eyes,” and his face was covered with a “thick, short beard,” which, combined with his glasses, gave the writer an unpleasantly gloomy appearance. The nation’s novelist was rather short, and he walked with a “measured and tranquil gait.” Despite his fascination with literature, “Raffi read very little. He had no spare time to read.” He was familiar with the works of Russian authors (Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky) and had read some translated writings of the Mkhitarian priests, but his favorite writer was Victor Hugo, whose style and manner influenced Raffi’s own writing. Raffi cared little for theater and did not know much about music, but he loved Armenian history; he was particularly fond of Pavstos Byuzand. Shirvanzade describes Raffi as “an introvert,” who “did not share his private thoughts” or “talk about his children; it seemed that he did not even think about them.” Throughout his life, the writer “shied away from public life and did not attend community events.” If he did go to a reception or a private party, he usually stood in a corner and watched the rest of the guests in silence. Raffi was also known for being “restrained, balanced, and shy.” Arpiar Arpiarian, a Western Armenian writer who met him in 1884, was highly impressed by Raffi’s profound modesty. Shirvanzade attests to that trait as well: “I have not seen an Armenian writer who was as modest as Raffi; meanwhile, I have not seen a literary man who deserved to be as proud as Raffi.” He also describes the compassion, with which Raffi received the pandukht laborers from the yergir, whom he described in his novels, and the hospitality and attention that he showed them. Raffi was not only a caring human being, but “a zealous patriot,” who would always defend his people’s honor.
By the time Samvel was printed as a separate book (February, 1888), Raffi had become a famous writer, admired by Armenians throughout the Caucasus. Putting aside his misgivings about being employed by Mshak’s rival, Raffi joined the staff at the literary journal Ardzagank (Echo, beginning of 1886), where he worked until his death. Shirvanzade, who was the assistant editor of the publication, played a key role in convincing Raffi to take this step. Frustrated by the length of Samvel, which took two years to print (January 1886 – December 1887), Ardzagank’s editor, Abgar Hovhanissian asked Raffi to write shorter works that could be published in one or two issues.  Yielding to his editor’s demands, Raffi wrote the short story Khaz-Push (1886), where he described the conditions of the poorest segments of the population of Persia and their struggles. During the course of 1886, he also published his novelette Gharib Mshetsi (“Wanderer from Mush,” 1879), calling for action to remedy the conditions of Western Armenian pandukhts, who were forced to leave the yergir in search of work and lived in desperate circumstances in big cities, being exploited by their employers and unable to return to their homes. Through these works, the writer continued to focus on the socio-economic conditions of both Armenians and non-Armenians in the region and emphasized the need to change the situation. 
While Raffi’s literary career had reached its zenith, his health was declining rapidly. The 16-hour work days, lack of sleep and rest, poor living conditions, constant financial difficulties, and the psychological sufferings associated with the inability to take care of his family’s basic needs deteriorated the writer’s physical condition. Raffi’s vision, which was weak since childhood, had worsened to the point where he could not spend the time necessary to proofread his works. Years of heavy smoking and malnutrition only exacerbated his condition. Already in 1882, Raffi was complaining about chest pains, but despite various ailments and health concerns, he continued to work. By the time a theatrical presentation of Samvel was staged (April 10, 1888), Raffi was too sick to get out of the house and could not attend the event. On April 7, the writer’s family doctor (Dr. Ter Grigorian) and his colleague (Dr. Gaspariants) had diagnosed Raffi with a serious infection in the right lung. Though he felt better for a few days and even gathered enough strength to engage in one of his favorite activities – taking care of his flower garden – the writer suffered a stroke on Easter eve. Despite the efforts of the doctors, Raffi passed away a few minutes past midnight on April 25, 1888 at the age of 53. 
Raffi’s burial was “the first pan-national funeral” for an Armenian public figure. The committee formed to arrange the funeral was unable to raise enough money to cover the writer’s interment expenses, and some of the income from the sale of Samvel had to be used for that purpose. Raffi’s wife refused to take donations from wealthy merchants, believing that Tiflis Armenians should pay for the burial of the nation’s novelist. Raffi had died in “such extreme poverty that …[there was not] even a clean shirt in the house to dress his body,” much less money for a funeral. The editor of Aghbiur (Source), Tigran Nazarian, noted that “while the Armenian community could not find the necessary funds to provide Raffi with the proper medical help, they were able…to find a large amount of rubles to place funeral wreaths on his coffin and shed crocodile tears.” The odars, who witnessed the ceremony, were quoted as saying: “the Armenians know how to bury their leaders well, but not to help them live well.” On the tenth anniversary of Raffi’s death, a large gravestone was erected at the Khojivank Cemetery in Tiflis, commemorating the great writer (September 27, 1898). A tall white marble monument was added nine years later (1907), with the following lines from Raffi’s poem Vana Tsovak (“Lake Van”) used as an epitaph:
Your heart is stone and your conscience is dead. You saw so much blood and so many massacres, And you kept silent; yet still so bright Over Armenian lands you have placed an arch.
As Raffi’s coffin was carried to his final resting place, the Khojivank Cemetery, there was an unprecedented outpouring of grief among the Armenians. Armenian businesses and institutions shut their doors, and all of Tiflis wore black in memory of the great writer. Haykuni, one of Raffi’s avid critics, was among those present at the funeral, and he described it as follows: “The crowd was so large and dense that Raffi’s open casket was carried shoulder high all the way to the cemetery. Following the coffin were two carriages loaded with flower wreaths… Despite the rain, the crowd grew larger as the procession advanced toward the cemetery.”
At the cemetery, eulogies were read by various community leaders, including Raphael Patkanian, who included a funeral dirge composed in Raffi’s honor in his speech. As Raffi’s body was lowered into the grave, the priest recited a bidding prayer while the attendees spontaneously began chanting prophetic words that continue to ring true until today, “He lives! He lives!”
The greatest Armenian novelist still lives indeed. He lives in the dozens of characters that have become emblematic of the dedication and patriotism of those who fought throughout centuries for the right of the Armenian people to live freely on their lands. He lives in the hearts of thousands of sons and daughters of the Armenian nation, who have been inspired by his writings to commit themselves to the cause of national liberation. He lives in the minds of those who share the vision of Armenia that Raffi depicted with his powerful pen, a vision of a democratic and prosperous country that guarantees security and dignity to its citizens. He lives in the conscience of those who continue to believe, as Raffi did, that unity and self-reliance will help our nation overcome the challenges we are facing today and enable us to reach our shared dream of a free, independent, and united Armenia.
 Until today, there are still debates about Raffi’s exact birth year. Some sources (Mshak newspaper, Raffiologist Khachik Samvelyan) have claimed that the writer was born in 1832 while others (Raffi’s biographer and close friend, Avak Khan Aftandilian as well as researcher Murad Meneshian) have cited 1835 as his birthday. This article takes the date that is more widely used in academic sources (1835) (Author’s Note).
 Meneshian, Murad A. Raffi: the Prophet from Payajuk. Mayreni Publishing, Monterey, CA, 2010, pp. 15 – 16
 Samvelyan, Khachik Y. Raffi: Kyanki Steghtsagortzakan Ughin [Raffi: the Creative Path of His Life]. Arevik Publishing, Yerevan, 1987, pp. 17 – 18
 Ibid, pp. 18 – 19
 Meneshian, p. 20
 Samvelyan, p. 19
 Meneshian, p. 20
 Samvelyan, p. 19
 Ibid, p. 22
 Meneshian, pp. 24, 26. Raffi entered the 4th grade of the gymnasium (same source).
 Ibid, p. 25. Khlvlik is the name of a mischievous young female spirit. The novel would later be revised and renamed as Salpi. Author’s Note: The dates provided in this work indicate the year when the novels were composed, though their publication could have taken place later, after years of delay and editing.
 The St. Stepanos Armenian Monastery is located near Jolfa city in East Azarbaijan Province of Iran (historic Armenian region of Atrapatakan). It was built in the 9th century on the site where St. Bartholomew had first founded a church in 62A.D. Along with the Tsor Tsor and St. Thaddeus monasteries, it is included in the UNSECO World Heritage List and is a pilgrimage site for Iranian Armenians (wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Stepanos_Monastery).
 Samvelyan, pp. 37 – 39
 Ibid, pp. 44 – 45, 48
 Meneshian, pp. 55, 64
 St. Karapet (Holy Precursor) was a monastery in Western Armenia. Historically, the monastery was a prominent pilgrimage site and the religious center of Taron. It was burned and robbed during the Genocide, and its stones were used by local Kurds for building purposes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surb_Karapet_Monastery).
 Samvelyan, p. 56. Raffi was accompanied by I. Ter-Abrahamyan and two of his relatives (same source).
 Veselovsky, Yuri and Minas Berberian, Armyanskie Belletriste [Armenian Belletrists]. Published by Kushnerev & Co, Moscow, Russia, 1893, p. 90. Google Book Search. Accessed: February 20, 2016
 Samvelyan, pp. 59, 69, 71
 Ibid, p. 60, 73
 Mkrtich Khrimian (1820 – 1907) was an important religious and political leader. He served as the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople (1869–1873), the Prelate of Van (Vaspurakan) (1879–1885) and Catholicos of All Armenians (1892–1907). Khrimian was affectionately called Hayrik (Father) by the people, something that stresses the key role he played in the lives of the Armenians during the difficult period of their history. Khrimian was famous for the ‘iron ladle’ speech given in the aftermath of the Treaty of Berlin (1878) and provided support to secret organizations that aimed to liberate the Armenian people from the Turkish yoke. For his activities, Mkrtich Khrimian was recalled to Constantinople (1885) and then exiled to Jerusalem (1890), where he remained until his election as Catholicos (https://hy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Մկրտիչ_Ա_Վանեցի).
 Samvelyan, pp. 62 – 63
 Ibid, pp. 75 – 77
 Meneshian, p. 51. Raffi’s travels are limited to trips between Payajuk, Tabriz and Tiflis (same source).
 Khachatur Abovyan (1809 – 1848) was an Armenian writer, pedagogue, the founder of the modern Armenian literature (ashkharabar language). A graduate of the Nersisyan seminary (1826) and the University of Tartu (1835), Abovian advocated the liberation of the Armenian people from the Turkish and Persian yoke and a union with the Russian Empire as a means of national preservation (https://hy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Խաչատուր_Աբովյան).
 Samvelyan, p. 83
 Mikayel Nalbandian (1829 – 1866) was an Armenian writer and poet, the author of the words to the Armenian national anthem, Mer Hayrenik. A graduate of the Moscow State University, Nalbandian launched the publication of Hyusisapayl (1858) along with Stepanos Nazaryan. He was arrested in 1862 for revolutionary activism and died in a Russian prison on March 31, 1866 (https://hy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Միքայել_Նալբանդյան).
 Veselovsky and Berberian, p. 103
 Samvelyan, pp. 94, 107, 110
 Ibid, p. 120 – 121. The poem is published in October and the article in November (same source).
 Ibid, p. 100
 Ibid, pp. 102 – 104
 Ibid, pp. 125 – 126
 Ibid, pp. 128 – 129, 133, 135 – 136, 142
 Ibid, p. 143, 145
 Ibid, p. 141, 201, 291
 Meneshian, p.187
 Samvelyan, p. 163
 Meneshian, p.317. Hamastegh (Hambarzum Gelenian (1895 – 1966), an Armenian-American writer from Kharberd, who wrote many articles for Hairenik Daily and Hairenik Amsagir, depicting the village life during his childhood. He authored several books, including Giughe (the Village) (same source).
 Samvelyan, pp. 162, 193, 247
 Ibid, p. 131
 Meneshian, p. 146, 311, 314. The quote is from Raffi’s biography written by Aftandilian (same source).
 Ibid, p. 304. The quote is related by Petros Zakarian, a journalist who worked for Mshak (same source).
 Grigor Artsruni (1845 – 1892) was an Armenian journalist, critic, writer and public activist. A graduate of Heidelberg University (1869), he founded Mshak, the best-known liberal periodical in the Armenian world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigor_Artsruni). The periodical was published between 1872 and 1921 (with a brief interruption in 1884/85) in Tiflis (http://oldpress.ysu.am/?p=319).
 Meneshian, p. 289
 Ibid, p. 146
 Samvelyan, p. 148
 Though Raffi did not leave records regarding his choice of a pseudonym, Minas Veratsin speculated that Raffi was an Assyrian word, with a meaning similar to that of a Rabbi (Jewish). The writer’s biographer, Vardges Aharonian, proposed a theory, according to which the name Raffi is derived from the Persian word Raf, an honorific title given to officials for loyal service. One such title Raf-i-Dovla means ‘one who elevates the nation,’ which may have been chosen by the writer who dedicated his whole life to that cause (Meneshian, Raffi, pp. 110 – 111).
 Samvelyan, pp. 154 – 156
 Ibid, pp. 162 – 163
 Ibid, pp. 169 – 170
 Ibid, p. 175. Raphael Patkanian (1830 – 1892), known by his pen name Gamar Katiba, was an author, teacher, and one of the key Armenian poets of the 19th century. A graduate of the Universities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, he dedicated his life to writing about the liberation of Armenia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael_Patkanian). Patkanian had met and befriended Raffi in 1872, after the latter settled in Tiflis (Meneshian, p. 309).
 Samvelyan, pp. 187 – 191, 194
 Meneshian, p.151. Yester Melik-Hakobian (1864 – 1877) was Raffi’s only daughter (same source).
 Ibid, pp.153, 160, 175
 Avetis Aharonian (1866 – 1948) was an Armenian author, teacher, diplomat, journalist and poet. He was a member of the ARF and headed the delegation of the Armenian Republic at the Paris Peace Conference. Aharonian was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Severs (1920) (Meneshian, p. 283).
 Meneshian, p.285
 Samvelyan, p. 81
 Ibid, p. 153
 Ibid, p. 173
 Veselovsky and Berberian, p. 108
 Samvelyan, pp. 267, 231
 Meneshian, p.134
 Samvelyan, p. 75
 Ibid, p. 88
 Ibid, p. 197
 Yevrikyan, Vardan. Taghandi Kakhardakan Uzhov [Through the Magic Power of Talent]. Arevik Publishing, Yerevan, Armenia 1989. Armeniahouse.org. Accessed: February 21, 2016
 Samvelyan, pp. 183, 260
 Ibid, p. 95
 Meneshian, p.263
 Samvelyan, p. 183
 Ibid, pp. 205 – 206
 Ibid, p. 233
 Ibid, p. 238
 Ibid, p. 256
 Ibid, p. 231
 Ibid, pp. 244 – 245
 Veselovsky and Berberian, p. 108
 Ibid, p. 111
 Raffi, Jalaleddin. Translated by Donald Abcarian. Tederon Press, 2006, p. 44
 Meneshian, pp.168 – 169. Ghevond Alishan (1820 – 1901) was a historian, a poet and an Armenian Catholic priest, member of the Mkhitarian Order (since1838) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghevont_Alishan).
 Samson Ter-Poghosyan (1846 – 1911) was a volunteer in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. During the Turkish siege of Bayazet (June 1877), Ter-Poghosyan, disguised in a Kurdish costume, left the fortress and informed General Ter-Ghukasov about the Turkish attack. This allowed for the arrival of Armeno-Russian forces, which drove away the Turks and saved the Bayazet garrison. Ter-Poghosyan was promoted to a rank of an officer, awarded a Georgievky gold cross and given a lifelong pension. He is buried in the yard of St. Gayane Church in Echmiadzin (https://hy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Սամսոն_Տեր-Պողոսյան).
 Samvelyan, p. 255
 Ibid, pp. 282 – 283
 Ibid, p. 284
 Ibid, pp. 286 – 287
 Veselovsky and Berberian, p. 108
 Ibid, p. 109
 Meneshian, Raffi, pp. 190 – 191
 Samvelyan, Raffi, p. 285
 Veselovsky and Berberian pp. 124 – 127
 Alexander III (1881 – 1894) was a reactionary, conservative Russian tsar, known for his policies targeting the minorities, including the Jews, Poles, and Armenians (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_III_of_Russia).
 Meneshian, p.197
 Samvelyan, pp. 288, 294. Another manifestation of this policy was the active participation of the Kurdish bands, such as the ones described in Jalaleddin, in the massacres of the peaceful Armenian population (Author’s Note).
 Meneshian, p.176. Among the mentioned organizations were Sev Khach Society (Van, 1878), Pashtpan Hayrenyats and Gaghtni Enkerutiun Bardzr Hayots (Erzrum, 1882), Hayrenaserneri Miutyun (Moscow, 1882), Uzh (Shushi, 1882), and a number of others based in Yerevan, Baku, etc. (same source).
 Ibid, p. 177
 Samvelyan, p. 289. Members of this committee included Captain Hakob Bek Lazarov, Dr. Bagrat Navasardian and a few other well-known individuals (same source).
 Meneshian, pp.187 – 188, 215. The quotes are from Raffi’s Yerku Khosk Mer Entertsogh Hasarakutiane (Two Words to Our Reading Public), published in Mshak in December of 1879 (same source).
 The first volume was published in 1883 and the second one followed in 1886 (Meneshian, Raffi, p. 188).
 Alexander Shirvazade (1858 – 1935) was the pen name of a playwright and a novelist, Alexander Movsesyan. He was a preeminent Armenian writer in the genre of social realism, sharing his experiences of working for Baku oil companies through protest literature (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Shirvanzade). Shirvanzade had met Raffi in 1883 and they maintained a friendship that lasted until Raffi’s death in 1888. His publications and letters about Raffi provide the readers with ample information regarding the writer’s personal life and individual characteristics (Meneshian, p. 289).
 Meneshian, pp. 177 – 178, 183
 Samvelyan, pp. 292 – 293, 295
 Veselovsky and Berberian, pp. 117 – 120
 Samvelyan, p. 263 – 264
 Ibid, p. 341
 Ibid, p. 344
 Ibid, pp. 305 – 306
 Meneshian, p.316. Nikoghayos Adonts (1871 – 1942) was an Armenian linguist, editor, and publisher (same source). He was also a historian, specializing in Byzantine and Armenian studies, who authored Armenia in the Period of Justinian (1908), a landmark work in the study on the social and political structures of early Medieval Armenia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Adontz).
 Samvelyan, p. 345
 Raffi had begun publishing Davit Bek in Mshak on December 16, 1880 (Samvelyan, p. 296)
 Ibid, p. 299
 Ibid, pp. 301 – 302
 Meneshian, p.250. In his extensive work, Raffi: About Eastern Armenians’ Russian Orientation, published in Hayrenik, Arshak Jamalian qualified the attempts of Artsakh meliks to obtain Russian protection as erroneous, pointing out that, despite isolated instances of fanaticism (primarily by the Turkish khan Panah and his son, Ibrahim), the Persian rulers did not persecute the Armenians in the 17th – 18th centuries and even gave full authority to the meliks over their realms. The false hopes of Russian assistance caused the meliks to turn against Persia and resulted in their eventual destruction (Meneshian, pp. 250 – 253).
 Samvelyan, pp. 309 – 310.
 Ibid, pp. 303 – 304, 306 – 307. The book was released at the end of March, 1882. The fourth volume of Davit Bek was never finished, and an epilogue was not printed until 1890, when a piece from the novel was discovered in the writer’s archives and published by his wife, Anna Hormuz (same source).
 Ibid, pp. 307 – 308
 Ibid, pp. 311, 326 – 327
 Yevrikyan, Vardan. Taghandi Kakhardakan Uzhov [Through the Magic Power of Talent]. Arevik Publishing, Yerevan, Armenia 1989. Armeniahouse.org. Accessed: February 21, 2016
 Samvelyan, pp. 326, 328
 Ibid, p. 302
 Ibid, pp. 345 – 346
 Ibid, p. 126
 Meneshian, p.312. Some of the biographical data provided here is taken from the works of Zabel Boyajian (1872 – 1957), a philologist and the editor of the Armenian Legends and Poems, who is cited in Maneshian’s book (Author’s Note).
 Raffi, Tajkahayk. Translated by Ara Stepan Melkonian. Tederon Press, 2008, p. v – vi. Printed in India.
 Ibid, pp. 27 – 28
 Meneshian, pp. 312 – 313
 Grigoryan, Vardan R. Raffii Knoj yev Vordineri Masin [About Raffi’s Wife and Sons]. Droshak Blog. Based on Minas Veratsin’s (1882 – 1945) article published in Hayrenik (“Thoughts and Reflections on Raffi and His Family”) https://droshak.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/րաֆֆիի-կնոջ-և-որդիների-մասին
 Samvelyan, pp. 312, 316. Alexander II (1855 – 1881) was assassinated by the members of a radical revolutionary organization Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) in St. Petersburg on March 1 (13), 1881 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_II_of_Russia).
 Meneshian, p.217
 Ibid, pp. 219 – 220, 222 – 223
 Samvelyan, pp. 312 – 313
 Ibid, p. 317
 Meneshian, pp. 228 – 230, 232
 Ibid, pp. 240, 243
 Samvelyan, p. 322
 Meneshian, p. 232
 Samvelyan, pp. 326 – 328
 Ibid, p. 329
 Ibid, p. 336
 Meneshian, p. 255
 Samvelyan, p. 330
 Ibid, p. 349. A chinovnik was a minor official in tsarist Russia (Author’s note).
 Khanzadian, Khoren (avag kahana), Memories and Impressions. Vanadzor, Armenia, 1919.
 Ibid, pp. 331 – 332
 Ibid, pp. 347 – 348
 Ibid, pp. 350 – 351
 Meneshian, p. 232
 Samvelyan, p. 337
 Meneshian, pp. 234 – 235. Arpiar Arpiarian (1851 – 1908) was an Armenian writer, the pioneer of realism in Armenian literature and a political activist. He was also a contributor to Mshak (pen name Haygag). In 1889, Arpiarian joined the Hnchak Party. In 1891, he founded and became the editor of the daily Hayrenik. During the Hamidian Massacres (1894 – 1896), Arpiarian fled to London before finally settling in Cairo and becoming the editor of Shirag. He was assassinated in 1908 by political enemies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpiar_Arpiarian).
 Ibid, p. 288
 Ibid, p. 333
 Samvelyan, pp. 334 – 335
 Ibid, pp. 310, 318
 Meneshian, pp. 269 – 270
 Samvelyan, pp. 334 – 335
 Meneshian, p. 280
 Ibid, p. 271
 Ibid, pp. 307 – 308
 Ibid, p. 277
 Ibid, pp. 280 – 281
 Ibid, pp. 273 – 274