History of the Armenian Diaspora

September 11, 2020  - by 
An armenian family in Boston

There are an impressive number of Armenian communities throughout the world, including in Canada, Russia, the United States, France, Romania, and Australia. According to some estimates, anywhere from two million to nine million more Armenians live outside of Armenia than inside it. Not surprisingly, the Armenian diaspora is one of the most noted aspects of the country’s culture.

What Is the Armenian Diaspora?

The term “Armenian diaspora” refers to the spread of Armenian people to different countries.  Many of the largest communities of Armenians outside Armenia have populations ranging well into the hundreds of thousands. Armenian communities are prevalent in Russia, in the Krasnodar and Stravpol regions as well as in Moscow. You can also find these communities in cities all around Europe and the United States, including Los Angeles, Paris, and New York. Los Angeles even has a neighborhood named “Little Armenia.” These Armenian communities come in different shapes and sizes, but many work to maintain unique Armenian traditions and culture.

the Armenian prelacy in New York

How Did the Armenian Diaspora Start?

road signs in armenian

Throughout history, political and social climates have accelerated the spread of Armenian people throughout the world, making the movement more apparent. The most pronounced Armenian diaspora took place between 1914 and 1923, when discord within the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) caused mass deaths and migration.

However, the Armenian Diaspora began in ancient times. Armenia is one of the oldest known countries in the world, and it has been expanding its influence all the way back to the centuries before the birth of Christ. This expansion eventually resulted in the establishment of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, in modern-day Turkey, and additional communities in areas such as Persia.

The Middle Ages marked some of the first organized forms of the Armenian diaspora. Many empires controlled Armenia throughout history. Armenia itself was in decline during this time, which naturally led to communities forming outside of the country. These Armenian communities could be found in areas as far away as India, Poland, and Italy. However, not all migration happened because of political upheaval. Many Armenians throughout history travelled outside of Armenia because of an interest in trade and selling wares. Armenia merchants played a vital role in the economies of other countries such as China, Persia, and India.

Where Are Armenians Today?

The immigration of Armenian people has continued up to the present day. According to EVN Report, an Armenian weekly magazine, Armenia currently has one of the highest rates of a country’s population living outside the country. It ranks fourth, with nearly one-quarter of its entire population born in the last quarter century living outside of Armenia’s borders. These Armenians live in countries such as Russia, Syria, and the United States.

This spread of Armenians has not weakened Armenian culture; it has defined it. For example, the Institute of Armenian Studies at the University of Southern California has begun hosting a special event called “Innovate Armenia.” At this event, many displaced Armenians connect with their roots and each other. They enjoy Armenian food, games, and music. Participants also discuss the future of their shared heritage.

an armenian-american family in the 1950s

Many Armenians today feel inspired to establish their culture through their professions and interests, such as offering medical expertise or protecting the environment. One particular Armenian artist, Eduard Manukyan, has a studio in Los Angeles. While he has chosen a very American name for his business—Magic Brush Art Studio—he has been able to share his unique talent and perspective. This is because, according to Eduard, being Armenian has always meant being a contributor.

The diaspora has enhanced Armenian heritage throughout the ages because Armenian people tend to hold close to their identity and to each other. Often, their connections to each other have helped them to succeed in areas such as entrepreneurship and to contribute to the countries where they live.

A woman who has armenian heritage due to the armenian diaspora.

Your Armenian Ancestors

Did you know a lot of well-known celebrities have Armenian heritage? Pop-singer Cher, celebrity Kim Kardashian, and world chess champion Garry Kimovich Kasparov are a few. All three are four generations or less away from their Armenian ancestors. Other well-known names include the romantic painter Ivan Aivazovksy, actor Ross Bagdasarian, and master music composer Aram Khatchadourian.

Do you have Armenian ancestry? If so, you have generations of rich heritage. The country of Armenia dates back thousands of years, making it one of the oldest known civilizations. Your heritage is key to what we know about the human family. Begin discovering your own family’s journey today by adding what you already know about your ancestors to the FamilySearch Family Tree. You might be surprised at the connections you find. Visit FamilySearch.org to learn how.

If you want to learn more about Armenian culture, check out TOTA’s Armenian Culture page. TOTA is a website “dedicated to sharing cultural knowledge and engaging experiences to create a more connected and respectful world.” The website has dozens of articles about Armenian history, heritage, and culture.

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Comments

  1. I believe your article did not cover the Armanian diaspora iving or born and raised outside Armenia fairly. Armenian play major roll in their adopted countries. Prior to the Iranian revolution of 1979 millions lived and well were integrated in Persian culture, had business and worked in the government. Artists like Andy and Martik are two of the famous Persian Pop singers, very much loved inside and outside Iran. You can also find large Armenian communities in Lebanon, Syria, west Africa, Greece, most European countries, the US, Canada and Australia. I am not Armenian but had many Armenian friends from different countries. Only 25% of Armenian population live in Armenia but 75% live outside Armenia.

  2. It seems to me that the Armenian Genocide that took place in the early 20th century would be considered to have a significant effect on the overall diaspora. Why wasn’t that mentioned?

    1. Hi David! Thank you for your feedback. I have shared your comments with the editor for further consideration. Thank you for your insight and continued support.

  3. Really, not one word about the Turkish government murdering Armenians in the early 1900s? You do a disservice to Armenians everywhere. I am not Armenian but know about their persecution. I wonder what your take on the Holocaust is?

    1. Hi Barbara! Thank you for your feedback. I have shared your comments with the editor for further consideration. Thank you for your insight and continued support.

  4. Your article is missing the main reasons of forming qnd expanding the Armenian diaspora. No mention of the Armenian genocide, the main culprit of forming the Armenian diaspora. And also the massacres of Baku and Sumgait much later.

    1. Hi Victoria! Thank you for your feedback. I have shared your comments with the editor for further consideration. Thank you for your insight and continued support.

  5. The article missed the most important factor about the diaspora “ the Armenian Genocide”which spread Armenians around the world more than any other time in history

    1. Hi Garbis! Thank you for your feedback. I have shared your comments with the editor for further consideration. Thank you for your insight and continued support.