Hamshen

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"Hamshen Armenians" call themselves Hamshentsi (Turkish Hemşinli(ler)) - they are a distinct ethnic group (of Armenian origin) in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

Leontius the Priest wrote that in the 8th century, the Armenian princes Hamam and Shapuh Amatuni, who lost their domains in Artaz to Arabs, moved to the Byzantine Empire with 12,000 of their people. They were given the town of Tambut in the mountains (S of Rhizaion). The town was immediately renamed Hamamashen, which evolved to Hamshen (the Armenian and local name for it) or Hemşin (the official and Turkish name today). This pocket of Armenian people prospered in the Pontic Mountains, and, virtually cut of from other Armenian populations, developed it's unique dialect of Armenian.

In the 18th century, these Armenians who formed the diocese of Khachkar, began to convert to Islam. They retained their dialect however, and speak it to this day. These people also retained independence until the 19th century, ruled by their own derebeys (valley lords), all under the voivode (general chief).

The biggest population is still centered in Hemşin, most live in the Futuna (Greek: Pordanis) River valley between Pazar (was Atina) on the coast, and the peak of Kajkar (origin of name is the Armenian Khachkar) Mountain, in the villages of Hemşin, Torasil, Pertewan, Ayren, Tredzor (Dzimla), Yeghiovit (near where St. Khachig Monastery was) and Artashen at their easternmost settlement.

Hamshen Armenians also settled in other areas, some Muslim and some Christian. To the west they reached as far as Samsun, where they live in the village of Khurchunli (near the mouth of the Iris or Yeshil River) among others. To the east and the north they settled in places as far as Sukhumi in Abkhazia (mostly Christian Hamshen), as well as in two villages near the town of Artvin, in Eastern Turkey. In the area of Ardala town there are speakers of a Hamshen subdialect as well. In the district of Hopa, Hamshen form the majority of the population in and around the town of Kemalpaşa.

Some Muslim Hamshen who settled in Georgia were exiled to Kazakhstan in Stalin's time. There are still problems regarding their return.

Hamshen are known for their folklore - tales, proverbs, jokes, riddles.

A motion picture, Momi (Grandma) was filmed in the Hamshen dialect in 2000. Many (especially younger) Hamshen identify themselves as Armenians.

Many of the easternmost Hemshinli villages in Turkey preserve their original Armenian dialects, commonly referred to as Homshetsma or Homshetsnak by their speakers.


The following is an article that should be stripped for it's facts and used either in this, or a seperate entry:

Window on Eurasia: Russian Region Persecutes Armenian Muslims

Paul Goble Paul.Goble @ ecs.ec.ut.ee

Tartu, May 11 - Officials in Krasnodar kray, a Russian region in the north Caucasus, have refused for the fourth time to register the cultural organization of the Khemshils, a small group of Armenian speakers who practice Sunni Islam and who were among those deported by Stalin to Central Asia at the end of World War II.

That has prompted an organization of their co-ethnics and co-religionists in Armenia itself to appeal to the Russian ambassador in Yerevan to get Moscow to intervene in this case and overrule the regional officials who seem intent on preventing the Khemshils from gaining official registration and thus being able to live a normal life.

As a result, this case, involving an ethnic community that numbers no more than 1600 according to the 2002 Russian Federation census, threatens to spill over into an international one involving not only Moscow and Yerevan but quite possibly the leaders of traditionally Muslim countries among the post-Soviet states.

The current situation has been described by the Regnum news agency whose report was expanded upon by the Islam.Ru website last week (http://islam.ru/press/rus/2005-05-06/). The facts of the case appear to be the following:

  • Since 2000, the Khemshils of Krasnodar have tried four times to

register with the authorities. Each time they have been refused with officials explaining that they have made mistakes in their application. In the most recent case where the authorities gave this excuse, their refusal was handed back to the Khemshils on May 3rd but dated May 4th.

  • The Hamshen organization in Armenia, which unites the Khemshils

there, decided to appeal to the Russian ambassador there to have Moscow to help out. But neither they nor the Khemshils in Krasnodar appear to be very optimistic about their chances for success via this channel.

Indeed, they suspect, according to the words of the appeal published by Regnum, that „by such actions, the representatives of the Main Administration of the Federal Registration Service for Krasnodar kray are creating a precedent for the appearance of yet another people who left Russia as political refugees' and thus lack rights that other residents have.

And one indication of the level of their despair is the fact that the Khemshils of Krasnodar kray are even now working with the International Migration Organization to organize their resettlement to the United States just as the IMO is currently working toward for Meskhetian Turks and Kurmandzh-Kurds living in the Kuban region.

Should the Armenian Muslims of Krasnodar in fact emgrate to the United States, that would be only the latest twist in their complicated history. For more background on this group and its problems, see the report on the status of ethnic minorities in Krasnodar at http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/print/analytics/id/592494.html.

Armenians who converted to Islam called themselves „Hamshinli' („Hamshentsi'), and those of them living in Central Asia and the Russian Federation, identify themselves as „Emshil' - which according to the rules of Russian phonetics becomes „Khemshil.'

According to the Kars peace treaty of 1921, several villages in Khopsk kray where the Khamshils lived were joined to Adzharia in what is now Georgia. Then in 1944, Stalin deported them along with other groups in the region to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan from which they returned only in the late 1950s.

Since that time, some 1500 Armenian-speaking Sunni Muslims have been living in the Apsheron and Belorechensk districts of Krasnoyarsk kray, perhaps their last stop on the territory of what was once the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union before they move on to the United States.


Turkish tourism

How green is their valley
Aug 25th 2005 | CAMLIHEMSIN, TURKEY
From The Economist print edition

A remote hideaway could thrive on, or be wrecked by, eco-tourism

THEY used to be one of Turkey's best-kept tourist secrets: the scented plateaus of the Pontic mountains, with their wild flowers and exuberant dancers. For the handful of travellers who came this far east, few landscapes were as enticing as the Hemsin valleys in the province of Rize, a place where many locals speak a dialect close to Armenian, practise moderate Islam and are agnostic about their origins.

More recently, news of this area's beauty has been spreading. A new breed of eco-tourist, many of them from Israel, has begun to head for the yaylas, or meadows, with their roaring rivers and stone bridges. But the very attractions that draw in these green wanderers could be destroyed if clumsy developers and opportunistic local politicians get their way.

To see the aesthetic hazards of unregulated tourism, go no further than Ayder, a yayla overlooking one of the Hemsin valleys that was once renowned for its tranquillity and hot springs. Thanks to a stream of Turkish and foreign visitors, the air is thick with smoke rising from barbecues. Mournful Arabesque music blares from tour buses and cars. Garish motels and handicraft stands obscure the view.

Many Hemsinlis are furious. Ayder's degeneration began after it was linked by road to the nearby town of Camlihemsin, says Selcuk Guney, a local activist. One of his aims is to ensure his birthplace, the neighbouring Firtina valley, avoids a similar fate. So far it is virtually untouched; that is partly because access is by dirt track.

Mr Guney insists that if the region's unique way of life is to be preserved, and well-managed eco-tourism is to flourish, the footpaths leading to yaylas must not be replaced with paved roads; and tour buses "that leave nothing but trash behind" must be restricted. Mustafa Orhan, a crusty old bee-keeper who led a successful campaign against a planned hydro-electric dam on the Firtina river, suspects that the government's unspoken aim in building roads is to help commercial logging. Locals have long used electric pulley-carts, running along steel cables, to bring food and other supplies to their yayla homes. So, instead of roads, Mr Orhan asks: "Why not build electric cable-cars to carry people?"

Locals of his persuasion have found an ally in Rize's governor, Enver Salihoglu; he too opposes further road construction in the valleys. Smart development could avoid ruining this Shangri-la, he believes. In Camlihemsin, for example, there could be more emphasis on bees, trout farming and organic tea. Of course, not every Hemsinli is so conservation-minded. "I want cable television and a fridge," says Muazzez Yildiz, an elderly lady whose cottage has a gorgeous view of the Firtina valley. The question is how to help her without wrecking the place for those who will pay a premium for its virgin enchantments.


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HAMSHEN AND HAMSHEN ARMENIANS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE TO BE HELD IN SOCHI

Pan Armenian 04.10.2005 10:19

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Hamshen and Hamshen Armenians international scientific conference will be held in Sochi October 13-15, reported the Yerkramas, the newspaper of Armenians of Russia. The conference will be organized under the auspices of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia with active support being provided by Sevan Armenian Cultural Society of Sochi. The conference comprises scholars from Armenia, Russia, the US, Germany, Iran. Hamshen: a historical and geographic outline, Hamshen Armenians, Pont and Armenia in 1914-1921, Genocide of Hamshen Armenians in 1915-1923, Abkhazian Armenians on the threshold of 21st century, Pont legacy in culture of Hamshen Armenians and Hemshils, Armenian ethnic and religious element in Anatolia (1991-2005), Important evidence of 1786 about Armenian Muslims of Hamshen and other reports will be presented at the event. At the end of the conference ethnic groups of Hamshen Armenians of the Black Sea coast of Kuban will give a performance.


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'Hamshen and Hamshen Armenians' conference concludes in Sochi

YEREVAN (Yerkir)--A three-day conference about Hamshen and Hamshen Armenians ended on October 15 in the southern Russian city of Sochi, home to over 100,000 Hamshen Armenians.

Currently a part of Turkey, Hamshen was a historic Armenian region that was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1491. Some Hamshen Armenians adopted Islam, while others emigrated to the Russian Empire.

The conference was organized by the History Institute of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's (ARF) Moscow Armenian Affairs office, with the support of Hamshen Union of the Krasnodar region, and Yerkramas Armenian news center located in southern Russia.

Scholars from Armenia, Russia, Iran, and the United States, including UCLA Professor Richard Hovannisian, participated in the conference.

ARF Bureau representative Hrant Margarian, ARF Bureau member and National Assembly Vice-speaker Vahan Hovhannisian, ARF's Moscow Armenian Affairs Office Director Yura Navoyan, European Armenian Federation Chairwoman Hilda Tchoboyan, and ARF Bureau's Armenian and Political Affairs Office Director Giro Manoyan, also participated.

The reports of the conference will be published in Armenian, Turkish, Russian and English.

Organizers and participants noted that the event holds not only scientific significance but that it also served as a bridge between Hamshen Armenians, Armenia, and diaspora Armenians.

There are currently 400,000 Hamshen Armenians, half of which are Muslims. Most Christian Hamshen Armenians reside in Abkhazia and the Krasnodar region of Russia.


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Reference Material

Much of this information comes from Armenia: A Historical Atlas by Robert H. Hewsen (ISBN 0226332284)

External links