Raffi (novelist)

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Payajouk, Qajar Persia
Died25 April 1888 (aged 53)
Tiflis, Russian Empire (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia)
Occupation writer, poet, novelist, essayist, Statesman
Nationality Persian-Armenian
SpouseAnna Hormouz

Hakob Melik Hakobian (Armenian : Յակոբ Մելիք-Յակոբեան(classical); Հակոբ Մելիք-Հակոբյան(reformed); 1835 – 1888), better known by his pen name Raffi (Armenian : Րաֆֆի; Persian : رافی), was an Armenian author and leading figure in 19th-century Armenian literature. [1]

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken primarily by Armenians. It is the official language of Armenia. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.

Classical Armenian orthography, traditional orthography or Mashtotsian orthography, is the orthography that was developed by Mesrop Mashtots in the 5th century for writing Armenian and reformed during the early 19th century. Today, it is used primarily by the Armenian diaspora, including all Western Armenian speakers and Eastern Armenian speakers in Iran, which has rejected the Armenian orthography reform of Soviet Armenia during the 1920s. In the Armenian diaspora, some linguists and politicians allege political motives behind the reform of the Armenian alphabet.

The Armenian orthography reform occurred between 1922 and 1924 in Soviet Armenia. It was rejected by the Armenian diaspora, most of which speak Western Armenian, including the Armenian communities in Iran, which also speak Eastern Armenian and still use the classical orthography of the Armenian alphabet.



Monument to Raffi in Yerevan Raffi monument Yerevan.jpg
Monument to Raffi in Yerevan

Raffi was the eldest son in a family of hereditary Persian-Armenian gentry and was born in 1835 in Payajuk, a village of northwestern Iran. His father was a wealthy farmer, merchant and the highest civil authority of the village. Thus, Raffi’s economic background and special status within the family eventually made it possible for him to acquire a privileged education, one in which he was exposed to the full spectrum of classical, Russian and Western European masterpieces of literature.

Iranian Armenians Ethnic group

Iranian-Armenians also known as Persian-Armenians, are Iranians of Armenian ethnicity who may speak Armenian as their first language. Estimates of their number in Iran range from 70,000 to 200,000. Areas with a high concentration of them include Tabriz, Tehran, Salmas and Isfahan's Jolfa quarter.

His education began in the home of the village priest, Father Mser. There, in a small room adjacent to the barn, boys of all ages and levels of learning were taught under pressure of corporal punishment for failing in their lessons. In his novel called Kaytser ("Sparks"), Raffi gives a vivid description of these punishments and denounces them. At the age of 12 his father sent him to Tiflis [Tbilisi], at that time a major center of Armenian intellectual life, to continue his secondary education at a boarding school run by a distinguished Armenian teacher.

Raffi was on the verge of beginning his studies at a Russian university when he had to return home to help his ailing father with the family business. This was the end of his formal education. He subsequently took teaching posts in Armenian language and history at the Armenian schools in Tabriz, Akoulis and Tiflis.

Tabriz City in Iran

Tabriz is the most populated city in northwestern Iran, one of the historical capitals of Iran and the present capital of East Azerbaijan province. It is the sixth most populous city in Iran. Located in the Quru River valley, in Iran's historic Azerbaijan region, between long ridges of volcanic cones in the Sahand and Eynali mountains, Tabriz's elevation ranges between 1,350 and 1,600 metres above sea level. The valley opens up into a plain that gently slopes down to the eastern shores of Lake Urmia, 60 kilometres to the west. With cold winters and temperate summers, Tabriz is considered a summer resort. It was named World Carpet Weaving City by the World Crafts Council in October 2015 and Exemplary Tourist City of 2018 by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Yuxarı Əylis Municipality in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan

Yuxarı Əylis is a village and municipality in the Ordubad Rayon of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan. It is located in the left and right sides of the Ordubad-Aylis highway, 12 km in the north-east from the district center. Its population is busy with gardening, farming, animal husbandry. There are secondary school, club, library, communication branch and a medical center in the village. It has a population of 1,916. The village was an important settlement of the Vaspurakan province of the Kingdom of Armenia or the Vaspurakan Kingdom, and many world-known Armenian merchants instrumental in Silk Road were of Agulis origin, which demonstrates the importance that the city has had in Armenian History.

Throughout his life, Raffi made many trips to the villages and provinces of Eastern and Western Armenia. Wherever he visited, he became aware of the daily misery experienced by the unarmed Armenian population, who lived in constant terror of the Turks and Kurds. Raffi, like other Armenian intellectuals, was convinced that it was not viable to continue living thus. He would thereafter seek to deeply transform Armenian society. In order to do so, it was necessary for him to make the people themselves aware of the tragic reality in which they lived.[ citation needed ]

Raffi was a prolific writer. His works were published in the newspapers Mshak and Ardzakank. "The Fool", his most popular work, appeared first in serialized form in the pages of Mshak [Tiflis] between 26 February and 4 June 1880. It first appeared as a book the following year. "Mshak" ("The Tiller") was founded as a weekly in 1872 by Grigor Artsruni. It played an important role in awakening the Armenian people from the lethargy that had overcome the majority of them since the loss of Armenian independence at the end of the 14th century. Raffi’s patriotic writings were read by virtually all Armenian youth of the time and of subsequent generations. In his novels, Raffi depicted characters of national heroes and Armenian revolutionaries. In fact, there is a well-known Armenian phrase that goes: "there are no Armenian freedom fighters (Feddayines) that have not read Raffi".

Tombstone of Raffi at the Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi Monument to Raffi, Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi.JPG
Tombstone of Raffi at the Armenian Pantheon of Tbilisi

Raffi considered that teaching the population the Armenian language was a fundamental and vital measure, but he felt they were bereft of a secular literature attractive enough to help realize that goal. [2] It was to fill that void that he set out from 1874 to 1888 to create a complete and varied body of fiction. It was through these works that generations of Armenians learned to read Armenian, became acquainted with their history, and acquired the critical standards by which they could assess their lives and society. From 1880–1888, Raffi lived at present day Chonkhadze Str. 3, in the Sololaki area of Tbilisi, Georgia. Raffi died in 1888 in Tiflis, and his funeral attracted an unprecedented crowd. He was buried in the Pantheon of Armenians at the Khodjivank cemetery in Tbilisi, where Hovhannes Tumanyan, Gabriel Sundukian, Ghazaros Aghayan and Grigor Artsruni were also buried.

Presently, there is a school as well as a street named after Raffi in Yerevan, Armenia. His works have been translated into several languages.


A selection of his most renowned works:

See also

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<i>Sparks</i> (Raffi novel) book by Raffi

Sparks is an 1884 Armenian language novel by the novelist Raffi. The novel was translated into Russian as «Искры» (1949).

<i>David Bek</i> (novel) book by Raffi

David Bek is an 1882 novel by Armenian writer Raffi based on the life of Davit Bek an Armenian nobleman and revolutionary. The novel was the base for the opera David Bek composed by Armen Tigranian, and David Bek, a 1944 Armenian film.

<i>Harem</i> (Raffi novel) book by Raffi

Harem is an 1874 Armenian language novel by the novelist Raffi. The reaction of Persian conservatives to the novel caused Raffi to withdraw from teaching in Agulis and return to Tiflis.

<i>The Diary of a Cross-Stealer</i> book by Raffi

The Diary of a Cross-Stealer is an 1890 novel by the Armenian novelist Raffi. It was translated into Russian as Дневник крестокрада.

<i>Jalaleddin</i> (novella) book by Raffi

Jalaleddin was the first of Raffi's famous works of historical fiction and a milestone in modern Armenian literature. The novella was first published in serialized form across eight issues of Mshak, a Tiflis-based Armenian newspaper, in 1878. Its title is based on the name of Sheikh Jalaleddin, a Kurdish chief who led his forces on a violent campaign against Armenian and Assyrian villages in the eastern part of Van province at the beginning of the last Russo-Turkish War (1877–78). While the story is fictional, Raffi based the historical details on eyewitness accounts. Much of the key historical information provided by Raffi corresponds with British correspondents who were in the Eastern Ottoman Empire at the time.


  1. Deirdre Holding Armenia: with Nagorno Karabagh 2014 1841625558 Page 51 "Further impetus to the quest for Armenian identity was given in the novels of the other great 19th-century Armenian novelist, Raffi (pen name of Hakop Melik-Hakopian) (1835–88). "
  2. Tajkahayk (The Armenian Question) by Raffi, p. 4, Taderon Press (Gomidas Institute), London