PhD in philosophy with training from the State Universities of Moscow (1980) and Leipzig (1986).
Yeghishe Charents—Hagop Oshagan: On a Case of Ontological Incompatibility
In his most pessimistic work, Patmutyan karughinerov (At the Crossroads of History), Yeghishe Charents describes Armenian history as being dependent and unhistorical (without a past), and talks about the paralysis and atomization of the Armenian people’s collective genius.
The same question haunted Hagop Oshagan who, in 1914, nineteen years prior to the publication of Patmutyan karughinerov, describes the Armenians in the literary journal Mehyan as a confused and torn-up mass without a name or a body that has been banished from the center.
Both have searched for ways to resolve the fragmented existence of the nation, yet they have been unable to not only dialog with one another, but even to establish contact. Charents, it seems, was not familiar with Oshagan’s inquiries, while Oshagan, who despite his lengthy analysis of Charents’s poetry in 1924, concluded in the 1940s that Charents’s artificial fame had added nothing to the Eastern Armenian letters.
The paper attempts to show that the mutual estrangement of these genius authors was due to ontological factors. Charents perceived the world through social, while Oshagan through national categories. However, this radical difference can’t be explained solely by individual preference or the choice of cognitive strategy. Of importance is the fact that in the reality of Western Armenia, framed within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, the only form of social manifestation was indeed the national one. Oshagan’s later works reflect this underlying reality in multiperspectival ways a prime example of which is Mnatsordats (The Remnants).
The replacement of essentially social relations with national structures of coexistence brought forth the deep cross-seepage of Armenian and Turkish elements, which nevertheless lacked a flexible potential for cooperation and evolved in acquiring mutated forms. Oshagan’s greatest achievement has been to expose and describe this phenomenon. But it was impossible to untangle the knot of Armenian-Turkish interdependence within the framework of the writer’s adopted substantialist paradigm, where any contradiction that appears in society is explained through an essential Turkishness of the Turk and Armenianness of the Armenian. Perhaps the reason why the writer who had survived the Genocide couldn’t finish his novel Mnatsordats was due to the realization of this unbearable reality.
Charents, of course, did not have such a deep understanding of the Western Armenian reality. And yet, not having the Western Armenian complex of having lost a world, he tried to view the nation’s traditional form of existence from the outside. His proposed solutions are condensed in the synthetic structure of The Book of the Road.