ARMENIAN DIASPORA :
SHORT HISTORY & LINKS
hard to define the beginning of the exodus of Armenians from their historical
home. Reportedly, it was Roman Emperor Augustus who settled Vindelica (mod. S. Bavaria/Germany) with retired legionnaires
from the regiments recruited in Armenian lands.
the first documented wave of mass emigration from Armenia started as early as
the 6th Century AD when large
Armenian colonies were established in the Byzantine cities of
Constantinople (now Istanbul/Turkey) and Philippopolis
centuries later, new migrants from Armenia brought Paulician heresy with them to Philippopolis.
Between the 11th and 12th Paulicianism
spread it all over Thrace
North-Western Greece and
in the form of Bohumil movement. Subsequently, the
Armenian-born heresy was brought to Bosnia
and further on, to Southern France where its
followers were defined as Cathars and Waldensians.
immigrants became famous Byzantine statesmen and generals. One could mention,
amongst many others, Nerses – the conqueror of Italy
and Johan Curquas – the defeater of Arab invaders.
Byzantine Armenians were also heavily involved in commerce and construction.
Guard, ca 880)
the decline of Bizantine Empire, many Armenians
moved to Bulgaria.
Beginning with the Middle Ages, significant Armenian migrations to this
country continued until 1913. Since then, almost all the major cities of Bulgaria, among them Plovdiv,
Tyrnovo, Ruse, Sofia, Varna
have old and noticeable Armenian communities.
first really massive exodus of Armenians from their historic homeland occurred after the collapse of the Bagratid
at the end of 11th century. Tens thousands of Armenians from Vaspurakan and other southern provinces of the embattled
kingdom moved to Cilicia where they established a new Armenian state and
further to Syria, Egypt and Abyssinia
(Ethiopia). On the other hand, Ani, Dvin and other northern cities and provinces of Armenia became the source of Armenian
emigration to the Crimea and further to Lithuania,
Ruthenia and Poland, as
well as to the lower Volga and further to
the new-formed Tatar States in the heartland of Eurasian plains.
Armenian archer in
Ruthenia King Leo of Galicia
and Lodomeria greatly favored Armenian immigration in the
second half of the 13th century. Since its birth in 1270, the city
of Lwow became the
major Armenian centre of Eastern Europe and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
community survived until the end of the 19th century when it
became largely polonized.
the major spheres of Armenian activity in eastern Europe was commerce. Polish
Kings from Kazimier the Great (1333 – 1370) to Jan Sobieski (1676 - 1696) used to grant the Armenians
commercial and other privileges. However, Armenian life in Polish-Lithuanian
commonwealth was not restricted to the commerce only. Since the 14th century, many Armenians fought in
Polish-Lithuanian ranks against the Teutonic knights, Tatars, Turks and Moscovites taking part in many historical battles.
Middle Volga area the main centre of Armenian Diaspora was Kazan,
the capital of the Khanate of Kazan.
In 1552 Kazan
was taken by the Moscovites under Czar Ivan the
Terrible largely due to the fact that Armenian gunners refused to shoot at
their fellow-Christians. For some unclear reasons after the capture of Kazan, Ivan the
Terrible ordered all the Armenians to be impaled in spite of their defection.
decline of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the 17th and 18th
centuries, was marked by the Armenian influx from the commonwealth to Romania and further to Western
In Romania (at that time the principalties
and Muntenia), strong Armenian communities formed
in the cities of Bukharest, Yassy,
Suceava and Botoshani.
Western Europe Armenian immigrants from central-Eastern Europe
settled predominantly in the cities that had had strong Armenian presence
since the 13th century. Those cities included Venice,
Genoa, Naples, Marseilles,
Lyon, Paris, Bruges,
Frankfurt, Seville, Cadiz,
Lisbon and London. Most of Armenians living in Western Europe were known as traders and craftsmen. In Italy and France Armenians were famous as
Architects and masons.
aftermath of the Safavid conquest of Armenia in 1500, tens thousands Armenians were
deported to inner Persia
from Naxcivan and other Eastern areas of the
country. Mass deportations continued until the late 17th century.
As a result, Armenians formed strong colonies in Isphahan
and Nor-Julfa. The 20th century was
marked by significant decline of the above Armenian communities due to heavy
emigration (especially after the Islamic revolution of 1979). However, in the
17th and 18th centuries Armenian colonies in Persia played an important role in building up
commercial connections between the Far and Middle East and between both of
them and Europe.
early 18th century Armenians of Isphahan
and Nor-Julfa established new colony in the port of Bandar-Abbas in Persian Gulf from where they
developed a chain of c smaller colonies in India
(Surat, Bombay, Calicut and
consequently Madras and Calcutta). Indian- Armenian colonies became
soon quite prosperous and numerous their trade connections stretching further
to Indonesia, Tibet, China, Burma
and the Philippines.
At the same period, Armenian merchants were also establishing connections
and china via the Silk Route.
In Burma Armenians managed to build an impressive commercial fleet based in
the port of Rangoon that for a while was dominant both in the Indian Ocean
and South China Sea. Burmese Armenians managed to monopolize the precious
stones’ trade in South-East Asia and some of
them became statesmen especially during the reign of King Alangpaya
who untied the country in 1752.
a prosperous Armenian Colony was found in the 13th century by the
immigrants from Cilicia in Alexandria.
Since the 14th century Egyptian Armenians stared to expand their
trade network futher into Africa establishing new
colonies in Abyssinia (mod. Ethiopia).
By the end of the 18th century, Armenian commercial net in
Northern Africa stretched as far as Mombasa
and Zanzibar (modern Kenya and Tanzania).
The last two decades of the 19th century were
marked by the beginning of direct Armenian influence over the decision-making
of Egyptian government of Mohammad Ali. At that period in Egypt, there were quite a few
statesmen with Armenian roots among them
Boghos Bey and Nubar Pasha.
The second half of the 20th century witnessed
almost total disappearance of Armenian community in Alexandria. Most of the Egyptian Armenians
were forced to leave Egypt
as a result of the nationalist and xenophobic policy of Nasser.
The second half of the 20th century also
witnessed practical disappearance of Armenian colonies of Kenya and Ethiopia
due to the policies of the autocratic regimes of Arap
Moi in Kenya (1978-2002) and the red terror under Mengistu Hayle Mariam in Ethiopia
Armenian magnate from Alexandria
One of the first
Armenian “national” flags used in the 1th – 18th centuries
would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the 17th and the 18th
centuries were the golden age for the Armenian Diaspora around the world.
more than 200 years Armenian network covered most of Europe, Asia and
Northern Africa and started penetrating the Americas. That allowed Armenians
to accumulate considerable financial power and greatly expand their political
influence in many countries.
world Armenian network started declining at the beginning of the 19th
century due to the policy of British colonialism. In contrast to their
Portuguese, Dutch and French predecessors, new British dominators of Asia and
Africa considered Armenian merchants to be
their competitors and launched the policy of ousting them from the market. As
a result, Armenian network in Asia and partially Africa
was severely damaged although never totally dismantled. Meanwhile, Armenians
succeeded in building up new successful communities in both North and South America.
beginning of the 20th century the major centres
of Armenian business and cultural life outside the Armenian core lands,
included but were not limited to Istanbul and Trebizond in Turkey, Tbilisi
and Baku in Russian Empire, Tehran, Isphahan and Busher in Iran, Alexandria in Egypt, Madras in Asia,
Batavia (today’s Jakarta) in Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), Boston, New York,
Philadelphia and San-Francisco in the USA.
policy of extermination and
deportation of Armenians, Greeks and Aysors in Turkey (1915-1922) resulted in the destruction
of Armenian communal life in Trebizond and Istanbul
and at the same time enforced the remaining Armenian centres
in the USA, France, Georgia
As of today there are
approximately 2 million Armenians living in Diasporas outside Armenia
and Karabakh. That includes:
600 000 in the USA
250 000 in France
50 000 in Argentina
350 000 in Georgia
800 000 in Russia
100 000 in former Soviet Central
Asia (the –stans”)
40 000 in the Ukraine…