Sayat Nova (Harutyun Sayatyan), The Bard of the Caucasus

Sayat Nova (Harutyun Sayatyan), The Bard of the Caucasus

“If one obeys the will of the soul, then the body is offended. How shall I escape this sorrow?”

Who he was

Sayat Nova was an Armenian troubadour who composed music in several languages including Armenian, Georgian, Turkish and Azeri. He is renowned throughout the Caucasus and the greater region for the timeless music he created, widely played and adapted to this day. 

Born in Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi) to Armenian parents, he learned how to play several traditional Armenian and Caucasian instruments. 

Songs, ballads and sonnets about love and life comprised the repertoire of the great composer. He would write in a mixed Armenian and Georgian script, even as he composed songs in Turkish and Azeri. 

He was the minstrel of Georgia’s royal court but was rumored to be in love with the king’s sister, Anna; his romantic overtures may have led to his expulsion. He eventually got married to another woman, an Armenian, but after her death, Sayat Nova became a monk and spent his last years at the Haghpat Monastery in Armenia. 

His name and renditions of his face and figure have become iconic not only among Armenians, but also Georgians, Turks and Azerbaijanis. They are used in musical, cultural and otherwise entirely unrelated endeavors as markers of culture. 

Whether you call him a troubadour, poet, bard, minstrel, kusan or ashugh, he was the greatest composer of folk music the Caucasus have ever produced. 

Interesting fact

Sayat Nova met his end when Agha Mohammed Khan Qajar, a Persian ruler, stopped at the monastery en route to Tiflis and commanded that everyone present renounce their faith and accept Islam. Sayat Nova refused and was immediately executed.

Learn more about him

The Bard of the Caucasus: Ajam Media Collective

Love Song by Sayat Nova