Raffi

Raffi

Hakob Melik Hakobian (Armenian: Յակոբ Մելիք-Յակոբեան), better known by his pen name Raffi (Armenian: Րաֆֆի), is a renowned Armenian author born in 1835 in Payajouk, an Armenian village situated in the Salmas province (presently in the north of Iran, near Lake Ourmia) in Persia. He died in 1888 in Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi). Raffi is a prominent figure of Armenian literature.His father, a wealthy merchant and farmer, belonged to the local bourgeoisie. Thus, Raffi’s financial situation, along with his being the eldest of a large family of 13 children, allowed him to benefit from a high quality education.

His education began at Ter Todik, his village's school, which was known for its strictness and punishment methods. Raffi described and denounced these methods in one of his novels, Kaytzer. At the age of 12, Raffi was sent by his father to continue his secondary education at a boarding school in Tiflis, away from his native land.


Tombstone of Raffi at the Armenian Pantheon of TbilisiTiflis, today known as Tbilisi, was at the time one of the largest Armenian intellectual centers. Alas, due to the degradation of his father’s financial affairs, Raffi was forced to return to his native country. It was at this point that he began teaching Armenian language and history in the Aramian school in Tabriz, the Augoulis school in the Nakhitchevan region and, later on, in Tiflis.

Throughout his life, Raffi took many trips to the villages and provinces of Eastern and Western Armenia. Wherever he visited, he became aware of the daily misery experienced by the unarmed Armenian population, who lived in constant terror of the Turks and Kurds. Raffi, like other Armenian intellectuals, was convinced that it was not viable to continue living thus. He would thereafter seek to deeply transform Armenian society. In order to do so, it was necessary for him to make the people themselves aware of the tragic reality in which they lived.

Raffi was a prolific writer. His works were published in the magazines Mshak and Ardzakank. His main work, The Fool, first appeared in series in the magazine Mshak, (an Armenian journal founded by Grigor Artsruni in 1872) and was a great success. Mshak played an important role in awakening the Armenian people from the lethargy that had overcome the majority of them since the loss of Armenian independence at the end of the 14th century. Raffi’s patriotic text was read by virtually all Armenian youth of the time. In his novels, Raffi depicted characters of national heroes and Armenian revolutionaries. In fact, there is a well-known Armenian phrase that goes: "there are no Armenian freedom fighters (Feddayines) that have not read Raffi."

Raffi considered that teaching the population the Armenian language was a fundamental and vital measure. He used various methods (the press, novels, teaching) to improve the education of the Armenian commoners.

Raffi died in 1888 in Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi), and his funeral attracted a huge crowd. He is buried in the Pantheon of Armenians at the Khodjivank cemetery in Tbilisi, where Hovhannes Tumanian, Gabriel Sundukian, Ghazaros Aghayan and Grigor Artsruni are also buried.

Presently, there is a school as well as a street named after Raffi in Yerevan, Armenia. His works were translated in several languages.

Books by Raffi