Sourp Komidas Vartabed
In Response to the Book - Archeology of Madness...

This page makes use the name Komidas or Gomidas in western Armenian depending on the article.
Komitas, in eastern Armenian, is used by the under mentioned author.

On this page of 'Responses'  Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian is referred as the 'Author'


In Response to the book 'Archeology of Madness Komitas, A Portrait of an Armenian Icon'
by Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian


A book about Komidas has been published recently called "Archeology of Madness Komitas, A Portrait of an Armenian Icon" by Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian.

Concerns about this book is the childhood story of Komidas. My family has struggled hard to correct the many distortions about Komidas’ early days as a child. My mother, the author of the article ‘To My Dear Sister Marig In Remembrance from Your Brother Komidas Vartabed’, says: "I do not understand and often wonder why the biography of such a talented priest is misrepresented by such and such stories, written without the facts being verified."

What stronger evidence could there be about Komidas’ childhood than his cousin Marig's statements who was brought up with him under the same roof.

The author of this book was provided, upon request, a copy of the article 'To My Dear Sister Marig....', long before the book Archeology of Madness... was published. The author having read it, avoids various statements from Marig about Komidas’childhood life. My mother states in the chapter entitled "To My Dear Sister Marig.../ My Mother’s Response' "This way one writer taking from another, the story of Komidas underwent a complete distortion." This is exactly what has happened in this book in relation to Komidas’ childhood.

It is hardly convincing and illogical how the author comes to several conclusions negating the facts about Komidas provided by his cousin Marig.


Author: "He (Komidas) enjoyed immense professional success and, most importantly, won the love and the admiration of the people - a love that provided an invaluable substitute for the love he had lost when he became an orphan." (Page-2 Introduction)


Yes, Komidas was orphaned early, lost his mother’s love and later his father’s, but he found a second and a cherishing love by his paternal (Haroutiun) uncles family members. Soghomon was brought up among rich and cherishing hands. I do not understand and often wonder, why the biography of such a talented priest is misrepresented by such and such stories, written without the facts being verified.
Zmroukht (Karakashian) Tashjian

The author is rejecting Marig’s statements by portraying Komidas to the reader as an unloved child who filled this gap later only through people’s love and admiration,  and is trying hard to embed expressisons deep into the psyche of the reader to suit the subject of the book.


Author wonders: Has anyone researched his (Komidas') illness thoroughly? (Page-3, Introduction)

Response: Yes, there was a previous research. Komidas DID NOT suffer from serious mental illness.

The following is an article about which the author seems not to be aware of. It was published by The Armenian Reporter International on November 9, 1994 under the title: "Gomidas’s Illness Emerges in Psychiatrist’s Study, Paris – France." It reads:

‘The French Armenian psychiatrist Louise Hovannesian has published an article in a recent issue of the local periodical magazine called Hye Pzhishgner [Armenian Doctors], in which she concludes that
Gomidas did not suffer from serious mental illness. Dr. Hovannesian reached this conclusion after studying the documents pertaining to the history of Gomidas’s illness, which remained hidden from those specializing in the study of Gomidas. The fact is that the records pertaining to Gomidas’s illness had been kept in a Paris mental hospital, and it was only three years ago that they were turned over to the Armenian community through the intercession of the late Catholicos, H.H. Vazken I. Gomidas Vartabed, who experienced a mental breakdown in connection with the events of 1915, suffered from dementia paranoia."


Author: ‘Komitas might have been forced to withdraw from the school in Bursa because his cobbler uncle Harutyune was unable to pay for his education.’ (Page-16, Orphanhood and its Aftermath 1869-1881)

Response: Komidas’ paternal uncle Haroutiun was not poor. He was a well to do man and was the Treasurer of the Turkish government in Kotahia at that time; he kept his job for years. The author using a ‘perfect infinitive clause' has based the statement (might have been forced…) on possibility or probability, which means, may or may not be true.
Komidas’ return from Bursa was because of his father’s death and no other reason. This is also confirmed in the book called ‘Komidas’ by Cecilia Proudian-1965 - Yerevan.

The author creates expressions to try and embed deep in the psyche of the reader in advance, in order to enhance the book’s topic, that Komidas as a child had to be miserable, had to be abandoned and homeless.
The following sentence is another example: "Although Harutyune had adopted him officially, Komitas behaved as though he was homeless."!!  (Page-16, Orphanhood and its Aftermath 1869-1881)


Author: (Komidas) in his biography ‘makes no mention of his father’s sister-in-law (Zmroukht) in his writings’

Response: No mention is made by the author about
Hamazkayin Calender’s reference of 1939, the last paragraph, a documented proof, that a postcard was sent by Komidas from Etchmiadzin to his second mother which read: 'To my mother Zmroukht with unforgetable filial love.'

Interestingly enough the following in part is Arshag Tchobanian’s comment (a prominent poet and a close friend of Komidas) describing the mood and the little effort by which Komidas sketched his biography:

-Arshag Tchobanian’s statement:
"I do not know on which occasion or by whose request the Vartabed wrote (his biography);
a man with very little mood to compose his biography…. It is evident even from his nervous handwriting …that he made very little effort to relate details about his life and work, but later on, in order to respect his promise he hastily handed over a sketch about his diverse activities".

Arshag Tchobanian
Publisher Armenian monthly, Anahid of 1931 No.1-2


The Amazing MISQUOTE

"A terrible mistake was made by the author. Hekimian's statement was quoted in the book as if Marig has said it ! ""Marig remembers that he used to drift away… and sleep outdoors"

(Reference (Page-16 of Chapter-1 Orphanhood and its Aftermath)
(Reference on Page-17 under, Notes to Chapter One: Orphanhood and its Aftermath, and page-18 footnote-21, reference detail: S. Tashjian, Letter to author, January 17, 1995, Sydney, Australia)

1 - Part of Hekimian's article
2 - My Mother's response

1 - Part of the article written by Haroutiun Hekimian, later Mateos Kahana, published in the Nayiri Weekly Newspaper, ref: 25th year, No.19-20, 30th Sept. 1980, subtitled: "Soghomon's childhood in Kotahya and his school days."
This is a literal translation from Armenian, the part that Zmroukht (Karakashian) Tashjian does not accept as reality.

Haroutiun Hekimian wrote his article saying that Soghomon himself told him!

"First of all, he (Komidas) told me that he was 12 to 13 years old and that he did not have a mother or a father. His mother, from Bursa, dead not long after his birth; his father Kevork Soghomonian, originally from Kotahia, a shoemaker's worker, also dead from his heavy drinking. In a poor and pitiful condition he was then 7 or 8 years old deprived of his mother and father, nobody to look a neglected orphan. The only one in Kotahia who cared for him, was an aunt named Kuline` Karaoghlanian (her maiden name) who not only was a widow with a very young son, but also unfortunate enough to lose her eyesight. When eight years old, abandoned from all human eyes, from all cherishment, deprived from all care, he was left to his bad fortune. During daytime going to and from his school's flower garden, where learning from a turkish speaking teacher only to read and write, starts to sing anthems at church; and on Sundays whatever he learned by ear used to sing outdoors. Soghomon one day plays in the street until dark. Tired from playing he enters his blind aunt's house, eats whatever he finds from dry bread and lies down in a seperate place on the mattress which was always there for him on the floor. Sometimes it happened that after school, he was so tired from playing in the street forgetting even his hunger, and close to where he played, under an outdoor roof he slept till daybreak his body shrunk into a round mass. People said that the community's abandoned orphan's sponsor should be the council. If this state of abandonment continues, he could be in danger of the turkish language. In order for this not to happen it was imperative for the council to find a way of liberation towards this orphan. When people complained, the council moved and sent him to Etchmiadzin."

2 - The following is the statement of my mother from the article "To My Dear Sister Marig... / My Mother's Response" to Hekimian's article in item-1 above:
"Haroutiun Hekimian, who afterwards was ordained as Mateos Kahana, God Rest His Soul, has written in his diary without knowing the facts, perhaps by gathering from other articles, such as in the book called 'Anlreli Zankagadoun' written in poetry style about Komidas Vartabed with exaggerated incorrect descriptions and anomalies, as if Soghomon was a lonely orphan, singing door to door for his daily dry piece of bread etc. This way one writer taking from another, the story of Komidas underwent a complete distortion.

Yes, Soghomon was an orphan but it is the contrary of what has been said about him, "that after playing with the children and getting tired, he used to drift away forgetfully and sleep under outdoor roofs". Soghomon during his childhood and until his departure to St. Etchmiadzin, was never left outdoors, nor did he go from door to door for his daily dry piece of bread. Soghomon was brought up among rich and cherishing hands. I do not understand and often wonder, why the biography of such a talented priest is misrepresented by such and such stories,written without the facts being verified.’
It is very clear that the words published in the book ‘Archeology of Madness’ were taken out of context to reflect the opposite meaning. This is an unforgivable example of literary distortion, where the author is consciously manipulating the words of the original article of my grandmother Marig and is using the manipulated version to prove her own point."


This is an unexpected and a shocking misquote by the author.. On the contrary, the statement (he used to drift away… and sleep outdoors) was written by Haroutiun Hekimian (Mateos Kahana) as shown in Part-1 Hekimian's article and not by Marig.

To explain this out of context misquote a letter was sent to the author.
A reply was received in which the author said: "The structure of the sentence was long and unclear ". 
The perpetrator is blaming the victim. The author did not apologize.


The author is clearly focusing on presenting isolated statements in Komidas’ childhood life as these statements are the ones pertaining to the subject of the book. However in the process, the author has turned a blind eye to the overall effect of isolating this negative approach on Komidas’ biography of a much loved Armenian personality. While the author wrote the book to prove an argument, the outcome was an incorrect portrayal of Komidas’ childhood. I wonder whether this was an appropriate vehicle to use in the first place to prove the author’s argument.

Back to homepage
Sign Guestbook     View Guestbook

View Stats
Powered by Clanmedia CMS         1998 Designed and developed by Clan Media - Sydney NSW Australia