Cash for Culture: Tumanyan’s Georgia home on the blocks; Armenian delegation to negotiate

Cash for Culture: Tumanyan’s Georgia home on the blocks; Armenian delegation to negotiate

The Government of Armenia sent a delegation headed by the Writers’ Union to Tbilisi, Georgia, to negotiate with the Georgian owner of Armenian renowned writer, poet and public figure Hovhannes Tumanyan’s house in Tbilisi in order to buy it back.

Tumanyan (1869-1923) lived in the house with his family 1909-1923.

In the 1990s the Government of Georgia gave part of the house – 120 square meters (which became the Tumanyan Library) to the Lezhava family of Georgia. The rest of the house – 198 square meters was left for Tumanyan’s great granddaughter, Alyona Tumanyan, who lives there till now.

In 2008, owner of one part of the house, Archil Lezhava wanted to sell the library for $25,000, which held 900 books consisting of pieces of Armenian, Georgian and Russian literature.

“They needed that money for Archil Lezhava’s father’s surgery, who suffered a car accident. I have personally met him then,” says the poet's great-daughter Irna Safrastbekyan, who lives in Yerevan. “If we could pay $25,000 in 2008, it [part of Tumanyan’s house] would be maintained now.”

Safrastbekyan says that in 2008 she turned to both the Government of Armenia and the Writers’ Union, as well as to some Armenian tycoons, asking to buy the library back, and return the library of the great Armenian cultural figure to Armenians. Her attempts were unsuccessful.

“In 2008, the territory [of the library] was not sold, however, the library was liquidated. Part of the Armenian books were removed to Petros Adamyan Armenian Drama Theatre in Tbilisi, and the books of Georgian and Russian literature went to other libraries in Tbilisi,” says Narine Tukhikyan, director of the Tumanyan museum in Yerevan.

Now Lezhava tries to sell the 120 square meters belonging to him to “Gio Turan” Company at $70,000. According to some Armenian mass media, this is a Georgian-Turkish company.

“There are speculations that the deal with that company has not been made yet. And it is not clear yet whether it is a Turkish company or it is not. If the Armenian side holds negotiations and Lezhava sells it as a cultural center and it [part of Tumanyan’s house] is returned to the Armenian community then we agree,” Safrastbekyan says.

Tumanyan who was the chairman of the Armenian Writers’ Caucasian Union, founder of “Vernatun” (literary club), wrote many tales, poems, and novels, most of them were filmed and staged – ‘Anush’, ‘Sasuntsi Davit’, ‘Gikor’, ‘A Drop of Honey’, ‘Nazar the Brave’, etc.

Tumanyan’s museum is in Yerevan, and his house-museum – in his birthplace Dsegh village, Lori province. Yerevan State Puppet Theatre, as well as one of the central streets in Yerevan, is named after Tumanyan; and in 1951 Dzaghidzor village in Lori was renamed Tumanyan.