Armenian cultural life

From the 70s of the 19th century the Armenians had a special role in the cultural life of Baku. At that time the theatre had a great importance in Baku due to Armenians. 

In Baku the Armenian theatrical life began in the 1870s when at the opulent N.Krasilnikyans’ house a group of actors formed by the students from the technical college started to work under Avag Grigoryan’s leadership. It brought a special activity in the theatrical life of Baku (up to that time mainly the Russian theatre used to work). For the first performance the vaudevilles of N. Pughinyan (Young Daghon) and G. Sundukyan (“Sneeze at night is good”) were selected (director P. Aslanyan, painter German Kipe). The group was directed by Gevorg Amirghanyan since 1871. During its activity the group performed the dramas of M. Vanandatsi (The Great Nerses), N. Aladatyan (Oh, my lost fifty gold), G. Sundukyan (Destroyed home, Another Victim) and Schiller (The Robbers). 

The leading Armenian actors worked in the Armenian theatre of Baku – Siranuysh, G. Petrosyan, H. Abelyan, G. Avetyan, O. Maysuryan, P. Araksyan, A. Vruyr, A. Harutunyan, Varduhi, I. Alikhanyan, A. Khitaryan, S. Adamyan. They had an indelible impression on the public mentality of Baku. The Armenians staged the most famous Armenian classical and modern, as well as Russian and European plays – Alexandre Dumas (The Lady of the Camellias), A. Ostrovsky (Profitable Post, Guilty Without Fault), Paronyan (Respected Beggars, Paghtasar Aghpar), Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew), Sundukyan (Pepo), Gogol (The Government Inspector) and etc. On the initiative and by the support of the Humanitarian Organization in 1884 the Armenian Theatrical Association was established, which made the theatrical life more active. 

In 1906 with an effort of a public – political figure K Khatisyan, the Armenian Cultural Association of Baku was founded with the purpose of enlarging the network of  general and specialized schools, promoting publication of independent and translated literature, developing the Armenian language, music, histrionic art, fine arts and architecture. The association organized concerts, performances, created choruses, theatrical groups, assisted the activity of the Armenian theatre of Baku. The association’s art committee for the first time in the South Caucasus in 1912 initiated the performance of Chukhajyan’s “Leblebiji hor hor agha” light opera at the Mayiljans’ big theatre. The Armenian Cultural Association stopped its activity in September 1918 in consequence of the Armenian pogroms in Baku.
In 1910-20s Amirago’s (Amiraghyan) operatic and Y.Voskanyan’s drama-operatic groups were acting in Baku. Arus Voskanyan, Garagashyan, Ohanyan and others were working in those groups. The performances were chiefly produced in Mailyans’ theatre, which with all its comfort and convenience contributed to their success. Aylamazyan’s “Troubadour Wanderer”, G. Yeritsyan’s “Let It Be Late but Sweet”, H. Tumanyan’s “Others” and other musical comedies were performed to the public of Baku by these groups. From the tragedies “Hamlet”, The Maid of Orleans”, “Medea”, “Old Gods”, “Madman” were presented.
From 1910 to 1917 “Theatre and Music” journal, initiated and edited by Anton Mayilyan, was published in Baku, which presented all the events of the Armenian cultural life in Baku. In 1920 Mayilyan was the director of the Eastern Theatrical – Musical Studio, which had Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian departments. Later this studio was renamed after Buniatzade and was changed into theatrical collage. Simultaneously he took up the post of the head of the Eastern Conservatoire of Baku and directed the musical – dramatic studio of Azerbaijanis. Mailyan authored numerous musical comedies and nursery rhymes, composed music for Armenian and Azerbaijani theaters, compiled ballet “The Indian Beauty” and opera “Safa”.

Ashughs (troubadours) played a vital role in the musical life of the Armenians in Baku. They traveled from place to place, participated in music competitions. Ashugh Doni was especially outstanding; he was the master of the region’s troubadours. In the 19th century there used to live another famous ashugh - Seyad (Petros Madatyan). In 1885 Kara – Murza had a concert with his chorus in Baku. In 1886 Makar Ekmalyan held his famous Liturgy in the Armenian Church.  In 1908 Komitas organized concerts with his chorus and had a series of public lectures in Baku, which greatly influenced the city’s cultural life. 

Armenians had a profound impact on the development of fine arts in Baku as well. Bashinjaghyan’s (1885), V Surenyants’ (1901) exhibitions held in Baku were great events in the cultural life of Baku. Painting as a separate subject was taught at the local Armenian schools. In 1923 “Hayarta” painting branch office was opened in Baku, which organized exhibitions, discussions. Many renowned painters – Vardan Ter-Poghosyan, Eachi Proshyan, Mushegh Saghyan, S. Mangasarov-were guests at the events organized by “Hayastan” branch office. The author of the National Emblem of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic was painter-designer R. Shkhkyan. For almost fifty years A. Hovhannisyan, who had a good reputation, was teaching painting at Art collage in Baku.