Shavarsh Misakian

Born in the village of Zonar, in Sepasdia (Sivas), Missakian studied at the Ketronakan Armenian School of Constantinople. He started working as a journalist at 16, first as editor of Sourhandak (messenger), and later, during the Hamidian regime, as a publisher and distributor of revolutionary literature.

In 1908, after the proclamation of the Ottoman Constitution, he published a literary paper, Azdak (Factor), in collaboration with noted literary figures Zabel Yesayan, Kegham Parseghian, and Vahram Tatoul.

In 1911, he moved to Garin (Erzurum), where he stayed for a year as editor of Harach in place of the assassinated Yeghishe Topjian, and toured the Moush and Sasoun regions with an armed squad headed by Rostom.

Upon returning to Constantinople, he joined the editorial staff of Azatamart. During the deportations and massacres of April 1915, Missakian managed to escape the mass arrests and lived in hiding in the precinct of Pera for one year. During that period he collected important documents on the Turkish deportations and smuggled them abroad. Unable to find Missakian, the government arrested his father and exiled him to Konya (he later escaped).

In 1916, Missakian tried to move to Bulgaria from Istanbul but was betrayed by a Bulgarian who served as a spy for Turkey. Arrested in March, Missakian was imprisoned, interrogated, and tortured for several months, after which he attempted to commit suicide. His death sentence was later commuted to five years’ imprisonment. He was eventually freed upon the Allied occupation of Constantinople in November 1918.

After the armistice, Missakian became editor-in-chief of Chakatamart (Battle) in Constantinople. In 1919, he took part in the Ninth ARF World Congress in Yerevan. He was elected to the Armenian Parliament. He went to Sofia in 1922, and then to Paris, where he founded the Haratch newspaper, first as a tri-weekly and eventually as a daily.

He was elected to the ARF Bureau at the Tenth World Congress in Paris, in 1925 and served on that body until 1933. During those eight years, he also published Droshak with Simon Vratsian and Arshak Jamalian.

During his tenure at Haratch, Missakian became respected for his wide-ranging knowledge and clarity of vision, perhaps becoming best known for his daily column “Mer Khoske” (Our Word). His output was vast and beneficial, in France especially, for the ARF and for the Armenian community in general.

He was also active in Armenian literary circles as a poet, critic, and translator. During the Nazi occupation of France, forced to discontinue the publication of his paper, he devoted his time to the publication of several literary anthologies under the titles Haygashen and Aradzani. Upon the restoration of normal conditions following World War II, he resumed the publication of Haratch as a daily newspaper.

Missakian died in Paris, in 1957.