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Title: Hagop Baronian's political and social satire
Author: Bardakjian, Kevork B.
ISNI:       0000 0000 8362 6009
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1979
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Hagop Baronian (1843-1891) was an outstanding Armenian literary figure, whose satire reflected the political and social realities of Western Armenian life in the 1870s and the 1880s. This thesis is the first systematic attempt to study his social and political views. No such studies exist in the West, and the attempts of Armenian writers are on the whole hasty, incomplete, and restricted in scope. For this thesis, extensive research has been made into the political and social realities of Armenian life in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century in order to analyse and evaluate Barcnian's political and social ideas in their proper context. Chapter I sketches Baronian's biography. Chapters II, III, IV and V form the first part of this thesis and deal, in chronological order, with Baronian's political views which, hitherto, have been given little attention. Chapter II is devoted to the study of Baronian's view of the Armenian Constitution which he initially supported for having introduced a large degree of secularisation and democracy to the government of the community. However, Baronian soon came to realise that the Constitution was an inadequate tool. This led him to join forces with some Armenian leaders to propose substantial amendments for the document, which was however never in fact revised. The Polozhenie (Statute) which regulated the affairs of the Armenian Church in Russia is also discussed in Chapter II. Baronian was bitterly critical of the document as restricting the rights of the Armenian community and of the Armenian Church, and bringing the latter under strict control of the Russian government. Chapter III analyses Baronian's criticism of Ottoman internal policy which he held responsible for misgovernment in Armenia. It emerges from Baronian's criticism that oppression in the Armenian provinces was due to two cardinal reasons: the legal status of the Armenians as second-class citizens, and the failure of the Ottoman authorities to preserve law and order. Baronian held that the only way of rectifying the situation was by way of peaceful reform. However, he contended that the Ottoman government was at once unwilling to introduce reform in Armenia and incapable of it. Baronian also maintained that the empire lacked the expertise and financial resources to initiate an extensive programme of reorganisation. All this led Baronian to believe that only external pressure would compel the Porte to review its internal policy (Chapter IV). Baronian expected such pressure from Europe, which, as he saw it, should also provide the Empire with the technical expertise and subsidies to modernise itself. The outbreak of hostilities in the Balkans and the subsequent reform plans for the area were regarded by Baronian as a precious opportunity to force an overall programme of reform on the Porte. However, in Baronian's view, the conflicting interests of the Powers and their self-centred ambitions prevented them from exerting effective pressure on the intransigent Ottoman administration. Baronian dissected the activities of the Armenian leadership in his Armenian Big-Wigs, which is analysed in Chapter V. Baronian criticised most of the Armenian leaders for their lack of what he considered as the basic qualities of public leaders, namely competence, dedication, audacity and integrity. Baronian also censured the Armenian priesthood. While some prelates harrassed their flock by an excess of incompetent activities, many other priests declined to assume any office in the provinces and, residing idly in Constantinople, pursued ecclesiastical preferment or other vain ambitions. Some of the leaders of the so-called anti-Hasunist movement within the Catholic Armenian Community were also depicted by Baronian. Since they claimed a voice for lay elements in governing the Catholic community, Baronian sympathised with their cause but found that the movement was doomed to failure, most of these leaders being motivated by personal ambitions or impractical ideas. Part II (Chapters VI, VII and VIII) of this thesis is devoted to the study of Baronian's social views. In Chapter VI Baronian's comic characters are analysed and the social problems he raised in his comedies and his satirical novel are discussed. In his novel (The Most Honourable Beggars) Baronian dismissed many of the Armenian intelligentsia as parasites and poured contempt on the wealthy for their apathy towards culture. In his comedies Baronian illustrated the old adage concerning the limits to men's capabilities (A Servant of Two Masters) and castigated the vice of sycophancy (The Flatterer). He demonstrated that marriage uniting couples of incompatible ages resulted in immorality and the destruction of the family (The Oriental Dentist). Baronian held that the incompetence of the Armenian Judicial Council, which handled questions of marriage, was a contributory factor to the decrease in the number of marriages among Armenians. He also criticised the rigid approach of the Judicial Council (and therefore the Armenian Church) to divorce, which, Baronian contended, should be granted on valid grounds (Uncle Balthazar). Baronian, who almost exclusively reflected the social realities of the Armenian community of Constantinople, found that this society was in rapid decline (Chapter VII). He was concerned with the institution of marriage because the family, together with morality, religion and education constituted the main pillars of a prosperous society. Despite advocating equality in marriage, Baronian manifested strong patriarchal tendencies, and held that a woman's primary role, designed by nature, was motherhood. In Baronian's view money profoundly affected human relations and the moral cast of men who abandoned human virtues in pursuit of material gain and vain ambition. Baronian noted that men's religious zeal was also in decline due to their materialistic approach. However, the Armenian priesthood was equally to blame. The failure of many priests in their pastoral duties and their often impious conduct greatly affected the religious feelings of the congregation. Finally, Baronian maintained that the Armenians were still backward in the field of education. The national authorities failed to allocate sufficient funds and the community was reluctant to support the educational network financially. For Baronian theatre and literature played a vital role in transforming a society in that they combined the aesthetically beautiful with the socially useful (Chapter VII). Advocating socially conscious literature he emphasised the need for a local and up to date repertoire, and criticised the romantic authors of the time, whose works failed to satisfy his aesthetic and social principles. The conclusion to the thesis sums up Baronian's social and political ideas. Baronian believed that the well-adjusted individual was the basis for social progress, also envisaging a principal role for the family, religion and education. He recognised man as the source of legislative and political power and advocated parliamentary democracy. He illustrated the consequences of the inequal Ottoman political system with the plight of the Armenians and maintained that substantial and peaceful reform was the only way of redressing the situation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Humor ; Political and social views ; Armenian literature ; History and criticism ; Satire, Armenian ; 19th century