Sayat-Nova, born as Harutyun Sayatyan on 14 June 1712 in Tiflis, was an Armenian poet, musician and ashugh who composed in a number of languages, including Armenian, Georgian, Persian and Turkish. His adopted name Sayat Nova meant “Master of Songs” in Persian. This year marks the 300th anniversary of his birth.
Sayat-Nova’s mother, Sara, was born in Tbilisi, and his father, Karapet, either in Aleppo or Adana. He himself was born in Tbilisi. Sayat Nova was skilled in writing poetry, singing, and playing the kamanchah, Chonguri, Tambur. He performed in the court of Erekle II of Georgia, where he also worked as a diplomat and, apparently, helped forge an alliance between Georgia, Armenia and Shirvan against the Persian Empire. He lost his position at the royal court when he fell in love with the king’s sister, and spent the rest of his life as an itinerant bard.
In 1759 he was ordained as a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church. His wife Marmar died in 1768, leaving behind four children. He served in various locations including Tbilisi and Haghpat Monastery. On November 22, 1795, at the age of 83, he was killed in the monastery by the invading army of Mohammad Khan Qajar, the Shah of Iran, for refusing to denounce Christianity and convert to Islam. He is buried at the Cathedral of Saint George, Tbilisi.
In Armenia, Sayat Nova is considered a great poet who made a considerable contribution to the Armenian poetry and music of his century. Although he lived his entire life in a deeply religious society, his works are mostly secular and full of romantic expressionism. About 220 songs have been attributed to Sayat-Nova, although he may have written thousands more.
Sayat-Nova is considered by many to be the greatest ashugh (folk singer-songwriter) that ever lived in the Caucasus. Composer Alexander Arutiunian wrote an opera called “Sayat Nova”. There is a street and a music school named after him in Yerevan, Armenia, as well as an Armenian-American dance ensemble in the United States, and a pond located in Mont Orford, Quebec, Canada. In Armenia, Sayat Nova is considered a poet who made a considerable contribution to the Armenian poetry of his century. Although he lived his entire life in a deeply religious society, his poems are mostly secular and full of Romantic expressionism. A book on his life and work by Charles Dowsett was published in 1997 titled Sayat’-nova: An 18th-century Troubadour: a Biographical and Literary Study. After the 18th c., the Armenian odes were first translated in France by Elisabeth Mouradian and the french poet Serge Venturini in 2006 ; the book was dedicated to Sergei Parajanov.
One of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century, Sergei Parajanov’s “Color of the Pomegranate”, a biography of the Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova (King of Song) reveals the poet’s life more through his poetry than a conventional narration of important events inSayat Nova’s life. We see the poet grow up, fall in love, enter a monastery and die, but these incidents are depicted in the context of what are images from Sergei Parajanov’s imagination and Sayat Nova’s poems, poems that are seen and rarely heard.
There are 2 variations as to the meaning of Aznavur, one where Azn is the root and means a giant man, or where it’s azniv as the root, meaning an honourable man. The name with a slight variant is also used by Georgians. For the most part, the name is found in Armenian surnames today. The word has existed in Turkish since 14th century but it does not date back further. This proves that it is a loanword borrowed from Anatolian languages. The word is regarded as Armenian by some scholars (Robert Dankoff, Tietze, Eren) and as Georgian by Sevan Nishanian (that current Turkish dictionary [TDK Türkçe Sözlük] defines it as Georgian loanword). Nishanian, moreover, indicates the middle-persian variant azna:var (< azn ‘ancestry’ + a:var ‘bring’) and he adds that Armenian aznvavor ’noble’ is borrowed from Persian. Even though the donor languages have it in the meaning “noble”, Turkish has had it in the negative meaning such as “strong, enormous; mad, rude”.
Famous Armenians with the surname include:
Charles Aznavour (Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian) is an Armenian-French singer, songwriter, actor, public activist and diplomat. Besides being one of France’s most popular and enduring singers, he is also one of the best-known singers in the world. Charles Aznavour (pronounced in French as Sharl Aznavoor) is known for his unique tenor voice: clear and ringing in its upper reaches, with gravelly and profound low notes. He has appeared in more than sixty movies, composed about a thousand songs (including 150 at least in English, 100 in Italian, 70 in Spanish, and 50 in German), and sold well over 100 million records. In 1998, Charles Aznavour was named Entertainer of the Century by CNN and users of Time Online from around the globe. He was recognized as the century’s outstanding performer, with nearly 18% of the total vote, edging out Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. He has sung for presidents, popes, and royalty, as well as at humanitarian events, and is the founder of the charitable organization Aznavour for Armenia along with his long-time friend impresario Levon Sayan. In 2009 he was appointed ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland, as well as Armenia’s permanent delegate to the United Nations at Geneva. He started his new Aznavour en Toute Intimité tour in 2011.
Hovsep Aznavur was an Ottoman Armenian architect. He is noted for his construction plans for the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church of Istanbul,Turkey. Born in London in 1854, Aznavur’s family moved to Constantinople in 1867. Aznavur completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. He was active in Armenian community life. In 1921, he became a founding member of the Ramgavar Party, one of the three major historic Armenian political parties. He escaped from Constantinople after the Armenian Genocide and died at the end of June 1935 in Cairo, Egypt.