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Acharian in c. 1925
8 March 1876|
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
16 April 1953 (aged 77)|
Yerevan, Armenian SSR, USSR
University of Paris|
University of Strasbourg
|Fields||Linguistics, Etymology and Philology|
Hrachia Adjarian (Armenian: Հրաչեայ Աճառեան (classical) Hračʿeay Ačaṙean; Հրաչյա Աճառյան (reformed) Hračʿya Ačaṙyan; 8 March 1876 – 16 April 1953) was an Armenian linguist, lexicographer, etymologist, philologist, polyglot and academic professor at the Armenian Academy of Sciences. He was a member of the French Linguistic Association and the Czechoslovakian Institute of Oriental Studies.
Adjarian studied at the Sorbonne with Antoine Meillet and at the University of Strasbourg. He worked as a teacher at the Ejmiatsin Gevorkian seminary in Shusha and Tehran. A survivor of the Armenian Genocide, he came to Yerevan in 1923. There, he taught foreign languages, comparative grammar, and the history of the Armenian language at Yerevan State University.
The Armenian State Institute of Linguistics is named after him.
When Adjarian was less than a year old, he was involved in an accident which resulted in the complete loss of sight in his left eye. His mother allegedly took him to a park on a particularly sunny day and he suddenly burst into tears while staring into the sun. His mother took him home immediately, however he was in tears for the rest of the night. The next morning he could not open his eyes. Doctors made great efforts to cure him, but he never recovered the eyesight in his left eye.
However, that did not prevent him from becoming a renowned scholar and the author of dozens of multi-volume studies.
Adjarian was just under seven years old when his father took him to the Armenian School, where he revealed his linguistic ability. While there, he studied Armenian, French, and Turkish and completed his studies in only two years. Then, at nine years old, he attended the Sahakian School and after four years, he graduated with honours. After the Sahakian School, he attended the Getronagan School, followed by years of study at the Sorbonne and the University of Strasbourg, where he studied modern languages and also became known for his exceptional research in the field of Armenian studies.
After many years of education, Adjarian worked as a teacher in Ejmiatsin and later in Shusha, where he met his future wife, a woman named Arusyak. In 1923, as an outstanding educator and scientist, Adjarian received an invitation from the authorities of Soviet Armenia to move with his wife to reside in Yerevan, where he would teach at the State University. For the next 30 years, the university was his home.
Hrachia met his love and future wife while he was working as a teacher in Shusha. World War I, the Armenian Genocide and the years of wandering were unable to separate them. Together with 600 Armenians, they miraculously survived the Massacre of Shemakha, and Arusyak moved to Tabriz.
In one of his surviving letters, written in 1924 to one of his wife's Persian relatives, Adjarian wrote that he was happy with his life. In 1925, in a letter to that relative, Adjarian reports the death of his first wife. After Arusyak's death, his friends felt that he changed dramatically and advised him to remarry. At first, the 60-year-old Adjarian did not want to even hear about it. However, after some time, he married one of his students, Sophiko. They did not have any children but adopted a daughter, Knarik. Together, the Adjarians endured many hardships.
According to his daughter, her father was a deeply religious man. It is known that he prayed four times a day, knotting a handkerchief during prayers, following Armenian tradition.
Adjaryan was a polyglot fluent in at least 12 languages of which at least 4 languages at a level of academic tutorship. He was one of the pioneers of oriental studies in Soviet Armenia and lectured Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit at Yerevan State University. Along with those he was fluent in French, Modern Greek, Italian, Biblical Hebrew, Ottoman Turkish, German, English, his native Armenian, and was able to read Latin texts as well.
Arrest and imprisonment
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. (August 2017)
In 1937, during the Great Purge, many prominent intellectuals across the Soviet Union were declared "nationalists," "enemies of the people" and "spies". They were arrested, shot or exiled. Adjarian was arrested, the decision made by a junior lieutenant of the NKVD, the secret police, on 18 September 1937.
On 29 September 1937, he was arrested and accused of being an English resident in Soviet Azerbaijan and a spy operating at the university in a counter-revolutionary group of professors. Three times, he was taken for interrogation and was beaten. The police assured him that if he admitted his "guilt" and signed a trumped-up confession, in a few days, he would be released.
Driven to despair, and broken by torture, the scientist, under the dictation of the investigator, wrote a statement addressed to the head of NKVD admitting to all charges against him. His typewriter and manuscripts were confiscated, and the doors of the rooms in his apartment were sealed. Adjarian, Sophiko and their housekeeper, Palina, were allowed to live in the kitchen. Adjarian's manuscript, which would be seized if found, remained in the living room.
Sophiko and Palina considered the works of Adjarian priceless and wished to save the manuscript. They decided to take it out a tiny window from the kitchen into the living room. Sophiko managed to squeeze through the window and rescue part of the materials. However, they had to be hidden in a safe place. Sophiko's brother put the precious manuscripts into an iron box and buried them under a tree in the garden in Nor Butaniya. For two years (1937–39), he did not water the tree for fear of ruining the papers.
Later, one of Adjarian's cellmates, Rooks, explained how the investigator, Kirakosov, elicited Adjarian's false testimony. When one of the interrogators accused Adjarian of being a German, French, English, Japanese, and Turkish spy, Adjarian replied:
If there are such stupid people who would believe that a scientist, an Armenian linguist, is a spy, and if such a lie can help your career, go ahead and write whatever you want – I'll sign it. But that I, an Armenian scholar Adjarian – is a Turkish spy – this is complete nonsense, unprecedented outrageous insult, and even if I were cut to pieces, I still would not recognize that libel and I are sure that any Armenian who had not lost his dignity will tell you the same thing!
The investigator struck the weak and helpless old man in the face. Adjarian looked him back in the face and disdainfully added: "Yes, this is great heroism for a young, strong guy to hit the sick old man!" During the subsequent interrogation, the investigator, having failed to wrest a confession from Adjarian, put out a burning cigarette on his forehead. Then, he brutally beat the old man so that he could not walk and had to be pulled by guards. It was then that the totally broken and depressed scholar incriminated himself, "confessing" that in August and September 1915, he had served as a counter-revolutionary agent of the Intelligence Service and during interviews at the university he had expressed nationalist and Anglophile sentiments. However, despite the promises, even after his "voluntary recognition" of the charges, Adjarian's case was not reviewed for several months. The court sentenced him to six years' imprisonment. Deceived and disappointed, Acharyan asked the question, "Is this your justice?"
Due to a combination of circumstances, he was held in prison for the whole two years, and on 19 December 1939, he was released "for lack of corpus delicti". He regained his position and rights and returned to the university.
Until his death on 16 April 1953, Adjarian taught at the university. On 16 April, as usual, Adjarian lectured, held a training session for the Persian language, went home, shaved, ate dinner and told his wife, "Sophiko, I'm happy. Thank God, my wife is healthy, my daughter is well, today I also was able to go to university, and classes were a success. The main thing is, I have completed my work, lived 77 years – two magic numbers in a row, I have seen all, seen the days we dreamt about. And now for me it's all over."
These were the last moments of life for the great scientist. That day, he bought his wife and daughter tickets to the opera Almast. Seeing them in the theatre, he kissed them and pressed them to his chest. Returning home, they found him sprawled in his chair. His eyes were closed, his left hand under his head and a handkerchief tied with three knots in his right hand.
- Թուրքերէնէ փոխառեալ բառերը Պօլսի հայ ժողովրդական լեզուին մէջ համեմատութեամբ Վանի, Ղարաբաղի եւ Նոր-Նախիջեւանի բարբառներուն (The Loan Words from Turkish in the Colloquial Armenian Language of Constantinople as Compared to the Dialects of Van, Gharabagh, and Nor-Nakhichevan), Moscow-Vagharshapat, 1902.
- Homshetsi Dialect, 1907
- Classification des dialectes arméniens (Classification of Armenian Dialects). 1909, H. Champion, Paris
- Հայ Բարբառագիտութիւն (Armenian Dialectology), Moscow & New Nakhichevan, 1911.
- Հայերէն Գաւառական Բառարան (Armenian Dialectal Dictionary), Tiflis, 1913.
- Տաճկահայոց հարցի պատմությունը, The History of Turkish Armenians (From the Beginning to 1915), 1915, Nor Nakhichevan
- Nor-Nakhijevan Dialect, 1925
- Maragha Dialect, 1926
- Հայերէն Արմատական Բառարան (Dictionary of Armenian Roots) (5,062 word roots). (second publishing: Yerevan, 1971) The definitive study of the history and origins of word roots in Armenian. Also includes explanations of each word root as it is used today.
- First publication in 7 volumes: 1926-1935
- Agulis Dialect, 1936
- Dialect of Constantinople, 1940
- Armenian Lexicology, 1941
- Հայոց անձնանունների բառարան (Hayots andznanunneri baṛaran / Dictionary of Armenian First Names), Yerevan, Vol. 1-5, 1942-1962.
- Complete Grammar of Armenian Language in Comparison to 562 languages. Vol. 1-6, 1952-1971.
- Եւրոպական փոխառեալ բառեր հայերէնի մէջ (European Loan words in the Armenian language), Vienna, 1951.
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- Concise Armenian Encyclopedia, Ed. by acad. K. Khudaverdyan, Yerevan, 1990, Vol. 1, pp. 145-46.