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Vassily  Aksyonov

Vassily Aksyonov: Wars For Survival

European Influences on Armenian Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire


Lara  Bastajian

The years from 1925 through 1953 in the Soviet Union were characterized by individual and national wars for survival. These wars against the intractable enemies of Stalinist political repression on the one hand, and Hitlerís invading soldiers on the other hand, tore families and lives apart. In his two novels, Generations of Winter and The Winterís Hero, Vassily Aksyonov demonstrates this disintegration of the Russian family. One reliable estimate is that no Russian family escaped World War II without losing at least one member. Despite the magnitude of all this loss, it is, perhaps, the loss of family which was the worst casualty of the Stalinist regime and the war. Family is the fabric which holds a nation together, and as the family is threatened and destroyed so is the nation. Indeed, the families in these two novels stand in place of the family, which is Russia. Like the families in these novels, Russia was torn apart by war and politics, but, like the best and strongest of these families, notably the Gradovs, Russia remained strong, straight, and unbowed. These external pressures exacerbated the normal hardships which all families and relationships must sometime endure, causing the families, which were trapped in this maelstrom, to be destroyed both by internal forces and by the world in which they lived.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the increased exposure to European thought, particularly, Russian, British, and French reform movements, and the growing independence of the Balkan states, aroused a cultural, political and national awakening among Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. As the empireís governmental, economic and military structure crumbled under the weight of internal corruption and external challenges, repression and intolerance increased. Many minorities struggled to obtain independence from the harsh rule of the Turkish Empire by rebelling, demonstrating, and creating organized underground political parties. All of these factors contributed to a new dream of independence and cultural integrity among Armenians. The Armenian drive for political fairness and autonomy was strengthened by periods of disaster when the Ottoman Turks committed atrocities against them in an effort to maintain the Empire. All of these circumstances were to lead to a rebirth of the Armenian nation in the hearts and minds of Armenians. The Revolution of 1908 was the culmination of all the Armenian dreams of a national identity within a fair and modern Turkish Republic. But in reality, the future would prove to be a terrible and deadly end to all those dreams. In 1908, however, all seemed possible. The Armenian culture had been revived, Armenian religion was safe and assured, and hope for the future seemed bright. The Armenians had developed western thought and philosophy and made it their own. They imagined that the people with whom they had allied themselves shared similar western views and values. They were tragically wrong.

Major Works Consulted:

Aksyonov,Vassily. Generations of Winter. New York: Random, 1994.
---. The Winterís Hero. New York: Random, 1996.
Bournoutian, George. A History of the Armenian People, Volume II 1500 A.D. to the Present. Costa Mesa: Mazda, 1994.
Walker, Christopher. Armenia, The Survival of a Nation. New York: St. Martinís, 1980.
Photo Credit: Aksyonov,Vassily. Generations of Winter. New York: Random, 1994.

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