Educator, cultural activist
Born in Tiflis (Tbilisi), in a traditional aristocratic family, she lost her father at a young age and spent her childhood under the care of her grandfather, who was an eloquent speaker and a great story-teller. Later Sofya frequently recalled her grandfather’s tales and shared them with her students.
In 1880 Sofya graduated from the Transcaucasian Women’s Institute – a boarding school where she spent 15 years. In 1881 she opened the first children’s library in Tiflis. From 1882 to 1886 she studied at the St. Petersburg pedagogical institute. Returning to Tiflis in 1886, she opened a school and a kindergarten. In 1902 she enlarged this educational institution by adding a crafts center, a garden, and a bee hive, in order to teach her pupils crafts and farming at a young age.
She donated her family property in the village of Sanahin to the local inhabitants. In 1905 with her personal funding she opened a school there, which was in operation until 1921.
In 1907 in Tiflis she organized for the first time in the Transcaucasus “Fröbelian” courses for pre-school teachers, the graduates of which successfully served in various regions of Transcaucasia. In 1915 her school received the status of a gymnasium, and in 1921 it was renamed into a Working School. Sofya continued her pedagogical activities in other schools as well. Later she lectured at the Pedagogical Institute in Tbilisi, and also in Yerevan.
In her pedagogical activities Sofya Arghutsyan-Yerkaynabazuk followed the motto: “The road is the children’s, theirs is the future.” She paid a great deal of attention to the independence of children, to their correct and balanced intellectual and mental development, through games, theatrical performances and role‑playing. She emphasized the importance of work, and tried to develop among her students love for creative activity and nature.
Sofya implemented her programs not only through practical activities, but also by writing textbooks and manuals: “The Armenian National School and the Teacher’s Role in It,” “Discipline and Punishment in Schools,” “A Children’s Garden” (1905), “Literacy in a Kindergarten” (1916), etc. Sofya Arghutsyan-Yerkaynabazuk played an active role in the cultural and public life of her society. She was a founding member and president of the Armenian “Teachers’ Society.” She initiated the opening of the “Mankakan Ashkharh” (Children’s World) Club, in 1908.
Her educational institution, the “Mankakan Ashkharh” Club, the children’s library hosted prominent thinkers, writers, artists (Gh. Aghayan, H. Tumanyan, P. Proshyan, A. Araskhanyan, etc.). She published both in the pre‑Soviet and post‑Soviet press (including publications in Armenian, Aghbyur, Mshak, Sovetakan Mankavarj; and in Russian, Novoye Obozreniye, Shkola i Zhizn, Shkolnoye Vospitaniye, etc.). During her long and fruitful life she was constantly in touch with her students, their parents, and colleagues, who loved and respected her greatly (Aram Khachatryan, Haykanush Danielyan, the Saryans, Mushegh Aghayan, and many others).
Prepared by the Central State Archives, Republic of Armenia
Encyclopedia of the Republic of Armenia, v. 1, Yerevan, 1990.
Central State Archives of the Republic of Armenia, fond 466.