|Born||4 February 1878
Üsküdar, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Siberia, Soviet Union
|Occupation||Novelist, poet, writer, and teacher.|
Zabel Yesayan was born on the night of February 4, 1878 as Zabel Hovhannessian, daughter of Mkrtich Hovhannessian in the Silihdar neighborhood of Üsküdar during the height of the Russo-Turkish war. That night the Russian army reached San Stefano, now known as Yeşilköy. The house she was born into was a reddish, two-story wooden structure. She attended the local Surp Haç Tbrevank school (a school which is still in operation today). She managed to study literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. After getting inspired by the French Romantic movement and the Armenian literary scene, she began her prolific writing career. Her first prose poem ("Night Song") appeared in Arshak Chobanian periodical Tsaghik (Flower) in 1895. She went on the publish short stories, literary essays, articles, and translations (in both French and Armenian) in such periodicals as Mercure de France, Massis, Anahit, and Arevelian Mamoul (Eastern Press).
After the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, Zabel Yesayan returned to Constantinople. In 1909 she went to Cilicia and published a series of articles in connection with the Adana massacres. The tragic fate of the Armenians in Cilicia is also the subject of her book Averagneru Mech (Among Ruins; Constantinople 1911), the novella The Curse (1911), and the short stories "Safieh" (1911), and "The New Bride" (1911).
In 1918 she worked in the Middle East organizing the relocation of refugees and orphans. To this period belong the novellas Verchin Pajagi (The Last Cup), and Hokis Aksoryal (My Soul Exiled; 1919), where she exposes the many injustices she witnessed. Her support of Soviet Armenia was wholehearted, and in the novel Retreating Forces (1923) she describes the social and political conditions of her time. She visited Soviet Armenia in 1926 and shortly thereafter published her impression in Prometheus Unchained (Marseilles, 1928). In 1933 she established herself in Soviet Armenia and in 1934 she took part in the first Soviet Writers' Union congress in Moscow. To this period belong the novella Shirt of Fire (Yerevan, 1934; translated into Russian in 1936), and her first autobiographical book Silihdari Bardeznere (The Gardens of Silihdar; Yerevan, 1935). She began to teach French and Armenian literature at Yerevan State University and continued to write new works.
During the Great Purge she was abruptly accused of nationalism. She was arrested in 1937 and died of unknown circumstances in Siberia - it is said, but not entirely confirmed, that she was drowned and died in exile sometime in 1943.
Lara Aharonian, founder of the Women's Resource Center of Armenia, and Talin Suciyan, Yerevan correspondent for the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos directed an independent documentary film about her titled Finding Zabel Yesayan. It was released in collaboration with Utopiana with debut on March 7, 2009.
- Ara Baliozian. The Gardens of Silihdar and Other Writings (1st ed.). New York, New York: Ashot Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-935102-07-8.
- Ara Baliozian. The Gardens of Silihdar and Other Writings (1st ed.). New York, New York: Ashot Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-935102-07-8.
- Kevork Bardakjian (2000). A reference guide to modern Armenian literature, 1500-1920: with an introductory history. Wayne State University Press. p. 714.
- Ruth Bedevian. "WRITING - HER LIFE’S MISSION". An electronic library featuring a huge collection of documents on Armenian literature, history, religion and anything Armenia-related. Armenianhouse. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- Armenian Reporter: Finding Zabel Yesayan, a film