Komitas (1869-1935) Victim of the Great Crime
Komitas (1869-1935) Victim of the Great Crime –
A new book has been published in New York: Komitas (1869-1935) Victim of the Great Crime. The Autor is Meliné Karakashian PhD. The book is the researched story of Komitas Vartabed’s development, his immense contribution to the preservation of Armenian church and folk music, and his psychiatric hospitalizations following the Great Crime of 1915. This small volume encapsulates the story of the Great Crime (100th anniversary soon to be commemorated) and its psychological consequences, Komitas Vartabed being a prime example of a victim-survivor-sufferer.
This is the third publication, the earlier ones being in Western and Eastern Armenian. The book is divided into two parts. Part I covers Komitas Vartabed’s life story, education, religious life, & prolific music career up to 1915 & Part II covers his state of mind & psychiatric hospitalizations after 1915. There is a popular belief that Komitas went “mad” after the Great Crime of 1915. The book challenges this belief. Komitas being a very sensitive & bright artist, understood the impact of the tragedy on the Armenian people & exhibited symptoms we now refer to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is considered a natural reaction to his experiences & which was not recognized as such in 1916. He was wrongfully committed to a Turkish military psychiatric hospital, then sent to psychiatric hospital in Paris, & later to an asylum for hopeless mental patients. The diagnoses varied according to circumstances. It is significant that the psychiatrist who knew him for 13 years wrote, “I was forgetting the diagnosis; I think they said … bit since thus patient never says a word, it is hard to know him.” Komitas’s expressed anger & silence were interpreted as symptoms of his “madness” at the time (while Armenians are still coping with the trauma of this tragedy).
Since Komitas’s story is prone to controversies, special effort was made to find primary sources, such as reports of his contemporaries. The interpretations of psychiatrists cover psychiatric records in Paris, which the author has obtained. The author presents nunerous references & allows the reader to reach a conclusion on the mental health of the greatest champion & savior of Armenian music before the Great Crime.