“Of all the traditions we have inherited from our forefathers, the most illustrious, the most vivid, is our beautiful, rich and excellent language, which we have to protect with concern, ferocity and verve.”
Who she was
The most famous female representative of the Zartonk movement, Zabel Yesayan played an exceptional role in establishing a new paradigm for Armenian society.
Born in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), Yessayan was well-educated largely due to her father’s belief in the importance of education, an uncommon stance at the time with regard to girls.
An indication of her influence as a writer and intellectual, she was the only woman on the Young Turk list of Armenians to be deported and killed on April 24, 1915. She escaped and fled to the Caucasus, eventually settlling in Paris, where she became a communist. After being invited to Soviet Armenia, she decided to settle there permanently.
Often labelled a feminist by contemporary critics, Yessayan, in her own words, rejected the label: her main concern was social injustice, including how it was experienced by women.
Although she was able to escape death during the Armenian Genocide, another evil would subdue her as she became a victim of Stalin’s Great Purge. Like many of her contemporaries, she was accused of subversion, arrested and died in unknown circumstances.
Yesayan was an avowed socialist who had great faith in Soviet Armenia. When she moved to Armenia, she was asked how she could leave the comforts of Paris for Yerevan. She replied: “These inconveniences are meaningless in my eyes because I take an active part in building the future of our country. Does that answer your question?”
Learn more about her
Zabel Yessayan: Portrait of the Writer as a Young Woman