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Professor Dora Sakayan
June 28, 2001

Dora Sakayan was born in Salonica, Greece. There she attended the elementary and high school, subsequently continuing her secondary education in Vienna, Austria. In 1952 she graduated from the Yerevan State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages in Armenia and started her pedagogical career in the same institute. In 1957 she was invited to teach at the Yerevan State University (YSU). In 1965 she received her Ph.D. degree in Applied linguistics and Germanic philology at the Moscow Lomonosov State University. Returning to Yerevan, she became Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at YSU, a position that she held for ten years. Since 1975, Sakayan has been living in Canada where she worked until 2000 as a Professor of German Studies at McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). As a retired professor, Sakayan has become even more productive in scholarly research and writing.

Trained in various areas of applied linguistics, Sakayan has carried out research in both Germanic philology and Armenology. She is the author and co-author of several monographs and scholarly articles, as well as textbooks and pedagogical guides. She has made many translations, contributing to various cross-linguistic and cross-cultural research projects. Sakayan is also the editor of conference proceedings and a number of volumes of linguistic, literary and historic interest. Dora Sakayan is a regular participant in conferences and congresses around the world. Sakayan writes in German, Armenian, Russian, Modern Greek, and English.

In the last decades, Dora Sakayan has dedicated herself predominantly to Armenology and has been highly productive in the field. She pioneered Armenian Studies in Canada, starting in 1981 with an Armenian-language program of credit-earning classes at the School of Continuing Studies at McGill University. Consequently, she founded the series “Armenian Studies for the English-speaking World,” enhancing them with numerous scholarly articles and monographs, starting with a major volume dedicated to Armenian Proverbs (1994/1995). Her special fascination with paremiology, the study of proverbs, resulted in a number of monographs presenting 2,500 Armenian Proverbs in a variety of European languages. Thus, in 2001 a proverb book was published in German, 2009 in English, and 2019 in French. A Russian version is now also under way. The proverb books with their bilingual anthologies of 2,500 Armenian Proverbs introduce the English-speaking, German-speaking and French-speaking readers not only to the linguo-structural features of the Armenian proverbs, but open also a window to the rich world of the Armenian people’s centuries-old mentality, life experience, beliefs and traditions. Sakayan’s twin manuals on Western Armenian (2000/2012) and Eastern Armenian (2007/2008) are particularly well received and largely employed around the world.

Sakayan has also contributed to the history of the Armenian Genocide. In 1993, she was handed her grandfather, Dr. Garabed Hatcherian's hand-written journal Զմիւռնիական արկածներս 1922-ին (My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922). Recognizing the historic significance of this eyewitness account, Sakayan undertook its translation, annotation, publication and worldwide dissemination. So far, it has appeared in nine editions (Western Armenian, Eastern Armenian, English, French, Spanish, Modern Greek, Russian, Turkish, German).

Later, Sakayan became even more involved in genocide studies. Collaborating with the Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu, in 2010 Sakayan became the editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish edition of Teodik's Armenian original «Memorial to April 11». In alliance with her former student Evelina Makaryan in Armenia, Sakayan has translated several books related to the Armenian Genocide from German into Armenian. Two of them are the well-known works by the Swiss monk Jakob Künzler (1871-1949): “Thirty Years of Service in the Orient” and “In the Land of Blood and Tears". Another important translation is that of Wilhelm Baum’s "Turkey and its Christian Minorities". Her latest book pertinent to the history of the Armenian Genocide is based on manuscripts (diaries, letters, memoirs) of the witnesses Clara and Fritz Sigrist-Hilty that Sakayan found in Swiss archives. She first authored a book in German entitled “Man treibt sie in die Wüste” [They drive them into the desert] (2016) then its Armenian translation “Նրանց քշում են անապատները” (2017). Sakayan has now completed the English translation of the same book, which will be published in due time.

On June 28, 2001, Dora Sakayan received the Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) of the Federal Republic of Germany for 50 years of excellence in teaching German language and literature at university level. This is the highest civil award granted to German and foreign citizens for services rendered to the Federal Republic of Germany in various areas of cultural, political, economic and intellectual life.

Professor Dora Sakayan
October 9, 2005

On October 9, 2005, Dora Sakayan was awarded the St. Sahak and St. Mesrop medal in recognition of her lifelong dedication and invaluable services to education and scholarship at the Yerevan State University in Armenia and at McGill University of Montreal in Canada.

Recent Updates

Book review 2016 (3)
Review of "They drive them into the desert": Clara and Fritz Sigrist-Hilty, eyewitnesses of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1918, by Paul Starzmann, Vorwaerts, 21 November 2016.

Book review 2016 (2)
Review of "They drive them into the desert": Clara and Fritz Sigrist-Hilty, eyewitnesses of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1918, by Brigitte Schmid-Gugler, St. Galler Tageblatt, October 28, 2016.

Book review 2016 (1)
Review of "They drive them into the desert": Clara and Fritz Sigrist-Hilty, eyewitnesses of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1918, by Reto Neurauter, Werdenberger & Obertoggenburger, 27 October 2016