Founders of Hamazkayin
Hamo Ohanjanian (1873-1947)
Hamo Ohanjanian was born in Akhalkalak (Javakhk) in 1873. He received his education in Tbilisi, and then studied medicine in Switzerland and Moscow. Ohanjanian was a dedicated and genuine social and revolutionary activist with unimpeachable conduct.
In 1912, he was exiled to Siberia and set free in 1915. During the years of Armenia’s First Republic, he was appointed prime minister.
After Armenia became part of the Soviet Union, Ohanjanian moved to Iran and then to Cairo, where he lived until his death.
Aware of the threat hanging upon Armenians in the diaspora, Ohanjanian, together with his friends and colleagues, dedicated himself to the task of safeguarding Armenian identity through the Armenian culture. He became a constant and devoted supporter of the Hamazkayin Cultural Association, of which he was a founding member and president for 18 years. While in Paris, he established a chapter of Hamazkayin there. He also provided important input for the establishment of the Hamazkayin Armenian Lyceum (Djemaran) in Beirut in 1930.
Hamo Ohanjanian died in 1947. Following his death, the headquarters of Hamazkayin Central Committee moved to Beirut, under the presidency of Levon Shant.
Nigol Aghpalian (1875-1947)
Nigol Aghpalian was born in Tbilisi in 1875. He was educated at the Nersissian School in Tbilisi and the Kevorkian Seminary (Djemaran) in Echmiadzin. At a very young age, he devoted himself to teaching. At the same time, he contributed with literary criticism to the “Mourj” (“Hammer”) monthly based in Tbilisi. He also took courses in universities in Moscow, Paris, and Lausanne. From 1909-1912 he was the principal of the Armenian national school in Tehran. As a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), he participated in the ARF General Assemblies. He was a member of the National Council and a member of the organizing committee of the Armenian volunteer troops during World War I. In 1918, after the independence of Armenia, he became a member of parliament. In 1919, he was appointed minister of education. It is due to his efforts that on Jan. 31, 1920 the State University of Armenia was established in Gyumri.
From 1923 to 1928, he was the principal of the Armenian School in Alexandria. In 1928, he became one of the founders of Hamazkayin Association and subsequently founded the Hamazkayin Djemaran (Lyceum) in Beirut together with Levon Shant.
For the rest of his life, Nigol Aghpalian remained a close colleague of Levon Shant. He taught history of Armenian literature and classical Armenian at Djemaran. At the same time, he contributed to the Armenian press with scholarly articles and literary criticism.
Nigol Aghpalian died in Beirut, on Aug. 15, 1947.
Levon Shant (1869-1951)
Levon Shant’s actual name is Levon Seghpossian (Nahashbedian). He was born in Constantinople, in 1869. He received his education at the Kevorkian Seminary in Echmiadzin, and continued his higher education at universities in Germany and Switzerland. For years, he was a teacher and educator, as well as a public and political figure and political activist in Armenia and the Armenian communities in the Diaspora. He was the vice president of the parliament of the First Republic of Armenia, one of the founders of Hamazkayin, and the primary founder of the Hamazkayin Djemaran in Beirut, where he was the school principal for 20 years, at the same time teaching pedagogy and psychology. Levon Shant created a unique pedagogical atmosphere in Djemaran—a reflection of his personality and talent. When he was the principal of Djemaran, he was an inclusive pedagogue. He was capable of inspiring the young generation about the importance of education in preserving the national identity.
Since the first years of the Djemaran, Levon Shant assigned himself the task of preparing school textbooks. He subsequently published a series of textbooks on Armenian language for elementary schools, including: “Kravor taser” (“Written Lessons”), “Lousaper” (“Light Bearer”), “Mangagan ashkharhner” (“Children’s Worlds”), and “Aippenaran” (“ABC Book”). For Djemaran’s middle school students, he authored the first four books of “Hayreni Ashkharh” (“Fatherland”).
Although he was fully engaged in education and school management, the writer in him was very much active. Levon Shant found time for his creative writing and for the development of Armenian theater. During the period in which he was the principal of Djemaran, Levon Shant completed the play “Oshin Bail.” He also wrote a new novel, “Hokinere dzaravi” (“Thirsty Souls”) and “The History of Armenian Literature,” which is a large volume of theories on the history of Armenian literature.
In the first decade of his literary life, Levon Shant wrote romantic novels, such as “Leran aghchige” (“The Mountain Girl,” 1892), “Yeraz orer” (“Dreamlike Days,” 1894), “Trsetsinere” (“The Outsiders” 1894), “Vergine” (1896), “Tartse” (“The Return,” 1897), and “Terasanouhin” (“The Actress,” 1898). In the second and third decades of his literary years, Levon Shant proved himself as a playwright. His first play, “Yesi marte” (“The Ego Man”) was published in 1901, followed by “Ourishi hamar” (“For Others”) in 1903, “Jampou vra” (“On the Road”) in 1904, and “Hin asdvadzner” (“Ancient Gods”) in 1912. That same year, Levon Shant’s shortest, but most literary play, “Gine” (“The Woman”) was published. In 1916, the play “Gaisre” (“The Caesar,”) in 1918 “Shghtaivadze” (“The Enchained”), and in 1922 “Ingadz perti ishkhanouhin” (“Princess of the Fallen Fortress”) were published.
Levon Shant passed away on Aug. 15, 1951.
Kasbar Ipegian (1883-1952)
After completing his higher education, Kasbar Ipegian settled in Cairo, where he earned his living as a tradesman. One of the founders of Hamazkayin, Ipegian was an absolute authority in the Armenian theater as a gifted actor, dramaturge, and director. For nearly three decades, with great dedication, he advocated the art of theater in the Armenian communities in Tbilisi, Constantinople, Tehran, Baghdad, and Egypt.
Although Ipegian was a lawyer who graduated from Sorbonne, he never used his diploma. Life took him on a different path. Mastering various languages and literatures, he was an artist interested in theater and stage.
A year after Hamazkayin Djemaran was established in Beirut, he founded the new Armenian theater and directed “Oshin Bail” by Levon Shant.
He wrote the play “Ara and Shamiram.” For several years in a row, he issued the “Calendar-yearbook” of Hamazkayin.
As Chairman of the Beirut Committee of Hamazkayin, in 1941 he created the Hamazkayin Theater Association. The association’s first performance was “Ingadz perti ishkhanouhin” (“Princess of the Fallen Fortress”) in 1942, followed by “Bebeks” (“My baby”) in 1943 and assisted by Papken Papazian, in 1944 “Hin asdvadznere” (“Anciant gods”) by Levon Shant, in 1945 “Gaisre” (“The Caesar”) by Levon Shant, as well as others.
Ipegian died in 1952. In his memory, the Hamazkayin Theater Association renamed itself as Hamazkayin Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company and is named as such until now.