Compiled by Jirair Tutunjian
Posted by Nayiri Abrahamian
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Marieta Shahinian

Moscow-born Marieta Shahinian (1888-1982) wrote numerous novels and essays in Russian. Early in her career she adopted the pseudonym Jim Dollar and published an anthology of adventure novels (‘Yankees in Petrograd’, ‘Lorie Lan the Metalist’ and ‘Road to Baghdad’). In 1937 she published ‘The Ulianov Family’, where she wrote about the Kalmyk origins of Lenin’s father. As a result, she suffered purges and her books were banned. She also was the originator of the hypothesis of Goethe’s Armenian origins. Shahinian died in 1982. Long before her death she was honored with the most prestigious Soviet literary awards.

Arthur Adamov

Arthur Adamov was born (1908) in Russia but after the Bolshevik Revolution moved (1924) to France. Writing in French, he became of the most famous playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. He also edited the surrealist ‘Discontinuite’  journal. His plays are described as dream-like, infused with a slight political element. He died in 1970.

Levon Asian Torosian

Henri Troyat or Levon Asian Torosian was born in Moscow in 1911. He moved to Paris in 1920 following the Bolshevik Revolution. When he was 24, he received his first literary award—Le prix du roman populaire. Three years later he won another award (Prix Goncourt). Among the 100 books he wrote are biographies of Anton Chekov, Catherin the Great, Rasputin, Ivan the Terrible, and Leo Tolstoy. He was the longest serving member of the French Academy. He died in 2007.

Serge Dovlatov

Serge Dovlatov, who many assume to be a Russian-Jewish writer, had one Armenian parent. He was born in the Republic of Bashkiria in 1941 and died in New York in 1990. He moved to the US in 1979 because the KGB had ordered the burning of his books. In New York he edited a Russian-language emigrant publication. He also wrote for ‘The New Yorker’ magazine.

Michael Arlen

Novelist Michael Arlen (Dikran Kouyoumdjian) was born in Rousse, Bulgaria in 1895 into the family of an  Armenian merchant. His father (Sarkis) had settled in Bulgaria to flee Turkish persecution.  In 1901 the family moved again but this time to England.  Young Kouyoumdjian attended the University of Edinburgh where he studied medicine. After convincing his parents that he would be more successful as a writer, he moved to London in 1913. At first he wrote entirely for an Armenian publication in London.  But after the publication of his ‘The London Venture’ (1920), he decided to write exclusively in English under the pen name Michael Arlen. His first English book was a collection of essays titled ‘The Romantic Lady’. He then wrote ‘Piracy’ (1922). Although he wrote several other books in the ‘20s, he hit the big time with the publication of ‘The Green Hat’ in the mid-‘20s. 

Passage of Ararat

Following the popularity of “The Green Hat” Armenian Michael Arlen (Dikran Kouyoumdjian) was invited to Hollywood where he wrote screenplays for silent movies. In 1927 he made the May issue of ‘Time’ magazine. Greta Garbo and John Gilbert appeared in ‘A Woman of Affairs’ which was based on ‘The Green Hat’. In 1936 Bette Davis starred in ‘The Golden Heiress’ which was based on an Arlen novel. For years the Arlen masterpiece was described by the press as the ‘Anna Karenina’ of the 20th century. His fame began to fade in the ‘40s. He died in 1956 in New York. His son, Michael Arlen Jr., who was a famous essayist and TV reviewer, wrote ‘Passage of Ararat’ (1976) about his roots and his journey to Armenia. It won the National Book Award.

Napoleon's Expedition from Egypt to Palestine

When Napoleon lead his army from Egypt to Palestine, an Armenian deputation from Jerusalem met him in his tent, soon after the Battle of Tabor. Eager to win their support, Napoleon offered them a wide autonomy in Palestine. The Armenians immediately began preparing to fight, along with the French for the Ottoman-occupied “key to the gates of the East”—Damascus. However, the outbreak of bubonic plague disrupted Napoleon’s plans forcing him to return to Egypt.  While Napoleon was in Egypt, a number of Armenian secret agents provided him information about the Middle East.

The Napoleonic Era

Many Armenians enlisted in Napoleon’s army when the French general was in Egypt. Subsequently, no major battle of the Napoleonic era occurred without Napoleon throwing his brave Armenians (Anania, Big Azaria, Small Azaria, Petros, Hakop, Shaken, and Baghdasar) in the very midst of the action. Napoleon treated them very kindly by bestowing decorations, pensions, fine uniforms and comfortable barracks in Melun, 60 km west of Paris. One of the Armenians (Roustam) became Napoleon’s personal bodyguard.  Knowing that Napoleon was well disposed towards Armenians, the latter repeatedly appealed to him to support the independence of Armenia. 

Lazarev Family

When Napoleon was in Venice (1808) he did not permit the requisition of the properties of the Mekhitarist Order on St. Lazzaro Island. Well disposed towards the Armenians, he issued decrees for the Mekhistarists which were charters of immunity. In 1812 Napoleon also made contacts with representatives of the famous Lazarev (Lazarian) family in Russia. During conversations in Kremlin, Napoleon gave high marks to Armenians and called on them to follow him to create “great history” together. He even offered to help the Lazarevs rule Armenia. The Lazarevs, who didn’t want to hurt relations between Russia and France, remained loyal Russian citizens.

Howard Kazanjian

Howard Kazanjian was producer of the first Indiana Jones “Raiders of the Ark” movie. He also produced the sequel to “American Graffiti”. He also supervised the production of “Star Wars II: The Empire Strikes Back” and produced “Star Wars III: Return of the Jedi”. He was worked with great Hollywood directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Wise, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan, Joshua Logan…

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