The Armenians are a nation and an ethnic group, originating in the Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. A large concentration remain there, especially in Armenia, but almost as many are scattered elsewhere throughout the world (see Armenian Diaspora).
Until modern times, the history of the Armenians is the history of Armenia. The name Armenia designated a shifting region, but the Armenians had a continuous presence as a people in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor for 5,000 years. The predecessors of the first Armenian Kingdom in the 6th century BC were the Kingdom of Urartu, Hittite Empire, and confederations such as the Hayasa-Azzi.
A competing view was suggested by Thomas Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav V. Ivanov in 1984 in the context of their Glottalic theory, placing the Proto-Indo-European urheimat (i.e. homeland) in the Armenian Highland, implying that the Armenian language, as one of the daughter languages of Proto-Indo-European, is native to the area and was spoken there for much longer.
The first Armenian state was established by the early 6th century BC. At its zenith (95–65 BC) the state extended from northern Caucasus all the way to what is now central Turkey, Lebanon, and north-western Iran. Later it briefly became part of the Roman Empire (AD 114–116). Historically the name Armenian has come to internationally designate this group of people but interestingly enough Armenians don't call themselves Armenians in the Armenian language, instead they call themselves Hay (pronounced Hye; plural: Hayer), the roots of the word may have links to the popular Armenian name Hayk.
In AD 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion (see #Religion). During its later political eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique identity. From around 1080 to 1375, the focus of Armenian nationalism was the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, which had close ties with the Crusader States.
As with virtually all other nations of this region, between the 4th and 19th centuries, Armenia was conquered and ruled by, among others, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottoman Turks. In the 1820s parts of historic Armenia under Persian control centering on Yerevan and Lake Sevan were later incorporated into Russia.
Armenia has a long history of conquering, or being conquered by a vast number of peoples. The ethnic cleansing during the final years of the Ottoman Empire is widely considered as being of genocidal nature, with one wave of persecution in the years 1894 to 1896 culminating in what is commonly referenced as the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and 1916. With World War I in progress, the Turks saw the (Christian) Armenians as liable to ally with Imperial Russia, and chose to deal with the entire Armenian population as an enemy within their empire. The exact numbers of deaths in the latter period is hard to establish. It is estimated by some sources that close to a million perished in camps. This excludes Armenians who may have died in other ways. Turkish governments since that time have consistently rejected charges of genocide, typically arguing either that those Armenians who died were simply in the way of a war or that killings of Armenians were justified by their individual or collective support for the enemies of the Ottoman Empire.
Following the breakup of the Russian empire in the aftermath of World War I for a brief period, from 1918 to 1920, Armenia was an independent republic. In late 1920, the communists came to power following an invasion of Armenia by the Red Army, and in 1922, Armenia became part of the USSR, later forming the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (1936–September 21). In 1991 Armenia declared independence from the USSR.
|“||The original Armenians must have been very adventurous. Their brothers, i.e. the other Indo-European tribes, went towards north or south, towards more fertile areas in Europe and India, while some decided to stay in Persia. But these Armenians went even further, in the heart of these impassable mountain regions and climbed as high as they could.||”|
Armenians today are scattered all over the world, constituting the Armenian Diaspora. About 3 million Armenians live in Armenia, but there are also about 2 – 2.5 million in Russia, 267,000–400,000 in Georgia, at least 400,000 (but possibly as many as 1 million) in the United States, 250,000 or more in France, 200,000 in Iran (mostly in Tehran and Isfahan jolfa), 120,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh, 100,000 in Syria, 75,000—150,000 in Lebanon, 45,000 in Turkey, and more scattered in other counties. All together there are about 8 million worldwide. About 260,000 Armenians lived in Azerbaijan (without Nagorno-Karabakh) but they fled (mainly into Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia) when the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted.
Within the Armenian community there is an unofficial classification of the different kinds of Armenians. Armenians who originate from Iran are referred to as Parska-Hye, Armenians from Lebanon are usually referred to as Lipana-Hye and Armenians who are from Armenia (that is, they or their ancestors were not forced to flee in 1915) are referred to as Hyeastansees meaning those that are from Armenia. In general, Armenians from Armenia, Iran, and Russia speak the Eastern dialect of Armenian while Armenians of the Diaspora speak the Western dialect of Armenian. The dialects vary considerably, however, Armenians of differing dialect can usually understand one another. In diverse communities (such as in Canada and the U.S.) where many different kinds of Armenians live amongst one another, there is a tendency for the different groups to cluster together.
Since the arrival of "Martin the Armenian" to the Jamestown Colony around 1619, Armenians have dispersed all throughout the United States. Watertown, Massachusetts, Fresno, California, and Glendale, California are three centers of Armenian population in the United States; there is also a significant concentration in New York City. In Canada, large numbers of Armenians can be found in Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec. In Latin America, Armenians are also present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Mexico.
Glendale, California, in particular, is famous for its high concentration of Armenians; there are approximately 78,000 Armenians, according to the 2000 U.S. census. Armenians residents of the city are active members in the municipal government and chamber of commerce.
It is estimated that there are at least 10 million Armenian speakers in the world. 6 million of the Armenian speakers live in the Caucasus and Russia, and perhaps another 1-2 million people in the Armenian diaspora are also Armenian speakers.
According to US Census figures, there are 300,000 Americans who speak Armenian at home. It is the 20th most commonly spoken language in the United States, having slightly fewer speakers than Haitian Creole, and slightly more than Navaho.
In AD 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, establishing a church that still exists independently of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, having become so in AD 451 as a result of its excommunication by the Council of Chalcedon. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox communion. During its later political eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique identity.
The Armenians have, at times, constituted a Christian "island" in a mostly Muslim region. The Armenian kingdom of Cilicia, had close ties to European Crusader States. The religiously based sympathies that some Armenians presumably held for Imperial Russia provided the pretext for the genocide of 1915–1916 by the Ottoman Turks.
While the Armenian Apostolic Church remains the most prominent church in the Armenian community throughout the world, Armenians (especially) in the diaspora subscribe to any number of other Christian denominations. These include the Armenian Catholic Church (which follows its own liturgy but recognizes the Roman Catholic Pope), the Armenian Evangelical Church, which started as a reformation in the Mother church but later broke away, and the Armenian Brotherhood Church, which was born in the Armenian Evangelical Church, but later broke apart from it. There are other numerous Armenian churches belonging to Protestant denominations of all kinds.
The nation-state of Armenia is the most prominent Armenian institution today. Other important institutions include:
- The Armenian Apostolic Church
- The Armenian Catholic Church
- The Armenian Evangelical Church The community was formally recognized in 1846 by the Ottoman Empire.
- The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) founded in 1906 and the largest Armenian non-profit organization in the world with educational, cultural and humanitarian projects on six continents.
- The Armenian Relief Society, founded in 1910.
- Hamazkayin an Armenian cultural and educational society founded in Cairo in 1928, and responsible for the founding of Armenian secondary schools and institutions of higher education in several countries.
- The Armenian Revolutionary Federation was founded in 1890. It is generally referred to as the Dashnaktsutyun, which means Federation in Armenian. The ARF is the strongest worldwide Armenian political organization and the only diasporan Armenian organization with a significant political presence in the Republic of Armenia.
Armenians are a sub branch of the Indo-European family, which migrated from the north Caucasus in multiple directions around 4500 B.C. Armenians are their own sub-group in the Indo-European family and one of the smallest by population of the family. Whereas other Indo-European ethnic groups such as the Slavs and the Germanics have their own sub-groups, the Armenians do not.
- The categorization of Armenian churches in Los Angeles used information from Sacred Transformation: Armenian Churches in Los Angeles a project of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.
- Some of the information about the history of the Armenians comes from the multi-volume History of the Armenian People, Yerevan, Armenia, 1971.
1 The Nationmaster.com page on Armenia gives 93% ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 3,326,448 (July 2003 est.), which would yield 3,093,000. It also notes that the population of Azeris in Armenia has been rapidly dropping in recent years. The National Geographic Atlas of the World, Seventh Edition (1999) puts the population of Armenia at 3,800,000. Adopting that same 93%, that would give about 3,500,000. However, Countrywatch gives a total national population of only 2,935,400 (2004). The CIA gives a simiarly low 2,982,904 (July 2005 est.). We have gone with the latter estimates as more recent and at least comparably authoritative.
2 The 2002 Russian census recorded 1,130,491 Armenians (0.78% of the population).
3 EuroAmerican.net presents official data from the 2000 U.S. Census (including state-by-state data), which states that there are 385,488 people of Armenian ancestry currently living in the United States. The 2001 Canadian Census determined that there are 40,505 persons of Armenian ancestry currently living in Canada. However, these are liable to be low numbers, since people of mixed ancestry, very common in North America tend to be under-counted: the 1990 census U.S. indicates 149,694 people who speak Armenian at home. The Armenian Embassy in Canada estimates 1 million ethnic Armenians in the U.S. and 100,000 in Canada. The Armenian Church of America makes a similar estimate. By all accounts, over half of the Armenians in the United States live in California.
4 Georgia: The State Department for Statistics of Georgia: 248,900 represents 5.7 % ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 4,371,500 (The Official data of 2002). The World Factbook: 267,000 represents 5.7 % ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 4,693,892 (July 2004 est.). Nationmaster.com: Georgia: 400,000 represents 8.1% ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 4,934,413 (The Official data of 1989).
5 Nationmaster.com:Azerbaijan: 156,000 represents 2% ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 7,830,764 (July 2003 est.) combined with the note "almost all Armenians live in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region".
6 The Education for Development Institute maintains an extensive site about Armenia that includes information about the Armenian diaspora in various countries. Their numbers generally agree with other sources when those are available; where we don't have a more authoritative source, we are following their numbers.
7 The Armenian-Greek Community website estimates 35,000.
- M. E. Elliot, Beginning again at Ararat, New York, 1924, p. 268