Not every country can boast of having its national anthem written by a world renowned composer whose music is loved even by people who couldn’t place his ethnic homeland on the map. This is especially true of small nations, but in the case of Armenia, its anthem between 1944 and 1991, when it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, was composed by the great Aram Khachaturian.
Khachaturian was born into the then vibrant Armenian community of Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia) before moving to Moscow in 1921. Despite having no formal music training as a child, by his late teens Khachaturian was training with some of Moscow’s most important professors of music and took to composition incredibly quickly.
Khachaturian’s orchestral music fused the folk songs of Armenia with the grand post-romantic Soviet style that retained the grandeur of late 19th and early 20th century Russian romanticism while also embracing modern trends, notably the use of the octotonic scale. This gave Khachaturian’s compositions a feeling of tension, modernity and mystique, while even his most cerebral pieces were incredibly accessible and larger than life in terms of dynamics and thematic scope.
In 1944, Khachaturian was invited to write an anthem for the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. The result was one of the most powerful national anthems in world history.
Sadly, Aram Khachaturian’s epic anthem was replaced in 1991 by an older piece by Barsegh Kanachyan that had been an Armenian national anthem in 1918. Musically, Kanachyan’s anthem is simply not nearly as good as Khachaturian’s and nor is Kanachyan a composer of international note, while Khachaturian remains a deeply beloved composer throughout the world.
While Armenia currently faces political turmoil, one good way to turn the situation into something positive is be re-adopting Khachaturian’s anthem with updated lyrics to reflect the 21st century realities of the Republic of Armenia.
As the comments under the Youtube clip of the old anthem show, many Armenians of all political view points favour bringing back Khachaturian’s powerful national song. While Armenian is small Khachaturian was and remains huge. There’s no excuse for Armenia to turn its back on one of its most famous sons and reject a musically excellent anthem.