05 May 2007

1653) Armenian Diaspora

By Khachig Tololyan

Definitional Issues
The term diaspora, whether applied to Armenians or other social formations that do not live in their homeland, has had many definitions and applications throughout its his­tory. At its simplest and least precise, it has referred to all dispersed people, whatever the cause, size, organization, or duration of dispersion. By this definition, even the small, ever-renewed contingents of young Armenian scholars who studied Greek art and science in Athens, Alexandria, Antioch, and Caesarea from the fourth to the sixth centuries c.E. were a diaspora. At various times, the term has been used to refer to groups or colonies of expatriates, exiles, migrant populations of elite emigres, prosperous merchant diasporas and impoverished labor diasporas, border-crossing transnational nomads, clusters of refugees, and communities of guest-workers, as well as all sorts of ethnics, not to mention oppressed minorities (e.g., "the queer diaspora"; Patton and Sanchez-Eppler, 1999). At its most complex, diaspora has been defined by a constellation of features (Safran, 1991; Tololyan, 1996a): . .

1. The originating dispersion from the homeland occurs due to coercion by military force or bureaucratic oppression that makes continued life in the homeland intolerable for a large number of people. Alternatively, what pushes people out of the homeland may be economic or agricultural catastrophe (the Irish in the 1840s), or forms of underdevelopment and poverty that result in a large, persistent gap between the local economy and wealthier economies elsewhere that exert a pull.
2. Diasporic dispersion is truly that: not a move by some emigrants to just one other country, but a scattering to several.
3. The dispersed settle in host countries where they live either in hierarchically encapsulated enclaves ("the ghetto," "Chinatown," "the Armenian Quarter") or as subjects and citizens of states—and as members of societies—that do not wish to accept them as fully equal. The situation is complicated by the fact that the dispersed, especially in their first several generations in the hostland, usually do not desire full assimilation, but prefer to sustain their collective identity by maintaining some cultural differences, while overcom­ing various barriers to economic, social, and political integration (Tololyan, 1996b).
4. As the dispersed struggle to preserve the collective cultural iden­tity brought out of the homeland, they inevitably discover over time that this is impossible; successful diasporas then fashion a new one that has some real or imagined continuity with the earlier identity and that creates boundaries, however porous, between themselves and the host society. Both the diaspora and the host society often patrol these boundaries, through practices of endogamy and exclusion on any number of grounds (racial, religious, linguistic-cultural, culinary, etc.).
5. The dispersed maintain relationships with their kin in the home­land and in other scattered communities, at first through familial ties that sustain transnational social fields, later through organized, institutionalized means. These intradiasporic links have played a crucial role in certain phases of Armenian history.
6. In most diasporas, a discourse of "return" develops, which sometimes results in actual return or repatriation to the homeland by individuals or organized groups (Jews to Israel, Armenians to Armenia, freed former African-American slaves to Liberia), and more often enables a rhetoric and practice of re-turn, of various ways of "turning" toward the homeland by contributing to it— investing in it and intervening in its politics and culture—and drawing from it (anything from new songs to spouses to cheap labor) (Tololyan, 1996a). 7. Duration matters. A dispersion becomes a diaspora only when it has endured as a distinct entity for a certain, undetermined, number of generations.

At some point or another in its long history, the Armenian diaspora, the second oldest in history, has displayed every one of this constellation of features.

The Homeland
Armenia's territory—the land inhabited primarily by Armenians, ruled intermittently by indigenous rulers and often by foreign conquerors—has been as large as 180,000 km2 and—currently—as small as 30,000 km2, about the size of Maryland. The ancestral territory of the Armenians was bounded to the north by the Pontus Mountains that line the southern shore of the Black Sea and by the territory of what is now the Republic of Georgia. It extended about 100 km west of the Euphrates River Valley. To the south, it included the upper reaches of the Tigris River and bordered on northern Mesopotamia, currently the Kurdish-inhabited territory of Iraq and parts of Syria. To the east, Armenia included what is now the extreme northwest of Iran and the west­ern third of what is now Azerbaijan, between the Araz and Kur Rivers. Currently, only one-sixth of that land is inhabited by Armenians, due first to variously coerced emigrations and finally to the genocide of the Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1915.

The Armenians are a blend of several peoples who inhabited these territories, the earliest of which appeared in the records of the Assyrian empire as dwelling to the north of Mesopotamia, in what is now southern Turkey, around 2000 B.c.E.; the second oldest group is recorded in Hittite inscriptions from the eastern Euphrates River Valley ca. 1350 b.c.e.; other components appear in adja­cent regions, and also in what is now the southwestern Transcaucasus, in subsequent centuries. By around 530 b.c.e., a people known as Armenian to its neighbors and as Hai, Hye, or Khai to its members, emerged from the amalgamation of these peoples. Their cultural identity evolved slowly at first, through the syncretic amalgama­tion of indigenous beliefs and practices with those of Zoroastrian neighbors and Hellenistic conquerors. In 301 c.E., a massive shift of cultural identity began when Armenia became the first state to convert to Christianity,

11 years before Rome. The hold of Christianity was definitively consolidated in the years 406 to 428 c.e., when an Armenian alphabet based on remarkably innova­tive phonetic principles was adopted and the Bible trans­lated. From then on, the Armenian Apostolic branch of Christianity became perhaps the single most persistent feature of Armenian identity, and, though much reduced in its influence, it endures in that role to this day, especially in the diaspora.

History of the Diaspora
Starting in the late fourth century c.e., Armenians left Armenia for three reasons: to study in the centers of Greek culture; to fight in long-service military contingents guard­ing the eastern boundary of the Persian empire and later the eastern and northern frontiers of the Byzantine Greek empire; and as a permanently deported population of men, women, and children who were forcibly relocated to depop­ulated regions of the Byzantine empire (Adalian, 1989). Until the mid-eleventh century, the Byzantine Empire recruited large military units both from Armenia proper and from their kin among the relocated population. High offi­cials, generals, and eventually emperors of Byzantium were drawn from their ranks. Such individuals ceased to adhere to the Armenian Apostolic version of Christianity or to speak Armenian, but for a very long time retained kinship ties to familial networks in both homeland and hostland.

Between the seventh and tenth centuries, Arab Muslims fought with the Byzantines over large frontier territories, causing the depopulation of parts of Cilicia (now southern Turkey). Some Armenians were either coercively relocated to or chose to settle in these territo­ries. The pace of such population movements was accel­erated between 1033, when the Seljuk Turks, who had originated in Central Asia and ruled Persia, began to invade Armenia, and 1071, when they shattered the Byzantine army and conquered most of the Armenian homeland. At this point, waves of emigration led to the establishment of three very different kinds of diasporas.

The first, to Cilicia, was a territorialized diaspora, which created a state (as much later Chinese immigrants did in Singapore). Armenian nobles and their knights, clergy, serfs, and supporting artisans moved to and settled this sparsely populated territory, in which they cohabited with the earlier wave of Armenian settlers, Greeks and "Syriac" peoples. There are no reliable data on whether the Armenians formed a majority or a plurality. Their leaders addressed the question of diaspora in practical terms, keep­ing up religious and cultural relations with the old centers of the homeland while setting up new centers of worship and scriptoria that could sustain the manuscript tradition and innovate further. However, they also began to articulate a textual sense of diaspora. In 1165, Nerses Shnorhali, the newly elected Catholicos, or supreme leader of the Church, addressed his first encyclical to "all the faithful of the Armenian nation, those in the east who inhabit our home­land Armenia, those who have emigrated to the regions of the west, and those in the middle lands who were taken among foreign peoples, and who for our sins are scattered in cities, castles, villages and farms in every corner of the earth" (Shnorhali, 2002, p. 13). The word he uses for this scattering, tz'rvyalk, has a modern cognate, tz'ronk, which is now a seldom-used term for diaspora. For much of their history, Armenians used the word gaghout (from Hebrew galut, exile) to signify a diasporic community. Currently, the dominant word is spyurk, an ancient term whose conso­nantal components, spr, are common to many related words in Armenian and most Indo-European languages, for example, sperm, spread, disperse, and diaspora. Armenian also uses several other words for those who live outside the homeland. This rich vocabulary began to emerge in the period under discussion.

The diasporic Cilician state endured until 1375 c.e. After its fall, AS many as 150,000 fled the region, con­tributing to the formation of new diasporas in Cyprus, the Balkans, and Italy (Ajarian, 2003, p. 388), but many more continued to live in the region until the genocide of 1915.

The second, smaller diaspora was founded by an Armenian nobleman who had converted to Islam and had taken on the name Badr al-Jamali. He retained his vassals and recruited other Armenian soldiers to his military con­tingent. He entered the service of the Fatimid rulers of Egypt and restored order for them, first in Syria and then in Egypt. Appointed vizier, he and later his son ruled the region (1073 to 1120), with the result that Armenian arti­sans, merchants, clergymen, and their families settled in Cairo. This diaspora of some 30,000 people endured for several generations, then dispersed to other destinations (Abrahamian, 1964, Vol. 2, esp. pp. 126-145; Dadoyan, 1997; Kurdian, 1949; Mikayelian, 1980).

The third diaspora was founded by refugees who fled the invasion of the Seljuk Turks by going north along trade routes with which they were already familiar. Consisting primarily of merchants and skilled artisans (workers in textiles, leather, and precious metals), these refugees crossed the Black Sea and settled in the Crimean peninsula, especially in the trading community of Caffa-Theodosia. Dominated by Genoese merchants, this nomi­nally Byzantine city connected the trade of the Mediterranean to that of easternmost Europe. So many Armenian refugees and, later, economic migrants came in waves after 1060 c.E. that by the late fourteenth century it was mentioned in some travelers' accounts as Armenia Maritima (Adalian, 1989; Mikayelian, 1964).

The Crimean diaspora was the departure point for many Armenians who went further into eastern Europe. Around 1350, Casimirfhe Great, King of Poland (1333 to 1370) extended to non-Polish immigrant craftsmen and merchants willing to settle in the city of Lvov (German Lemberg; now Lviv in the Ukrainian Republic) the privi­lege of living by their own communal and religious laws. Armenians from the Crimea (and Jews from central Europe), resourceful and already diasporic peoples, came in large numbers and helped to make the city the trading crossroads of eastern Europe. The process illustrates a more general principle of diaspora formation in the premodern period: Politically powerless to impose them­selves, most diasporas develop when a niche opens up in a host society that its rulers choose or are obliged to fill by encouraging diasporic migration.

Between 1356 and 1604, Poland's was the largest and richest Armenian diaspora community. At the end of the 1400s, there was a community of around 200,000 Armenians in the kingdom (Ajaryan, 2002, p. 118). (Both intrinsically and as a proportion of total population, this was large. Scale matters, and in the Middle Ages, most European populations, especially after the great plagues, were at 1/10 of their current size.) The merchant elite of this community financed some of the religious and quasipolitical activities of the Armenian Church in the homeland and elsewhere. Armenian clerical nota­bles repeatedly traveled to Poland to raise funds, and Polish Armenians toured other diasporic communities. In the 1380s, the Armenian bishop of Jerusalem was Polishborn. The mobility of diasporic elites long pre­ceded contemporary globalization. "Lvov Armenians were the first to be exposed to the modernizing currents of Europe" in large numbers (Adalian, 1989, p. 91). A printing press operated after 1616. Throughout the period, the diasporic elites of this highly literate society used the Armenian alphabet, rich in phonetic resources, to produce works in Kipchak, the Turkic language that was the lingua franca of the Ukrainian and south Russian steppes (Schiitz, 1987). Even after the Armenian lan­guage began to retreat from quotidian life, replaced by Polish and Turkic languages, and some of the special privileges granted by King Casimir were revoked, Catholic missionaries striving to convert the Armenians still felt it might be efficacious to use Armenian. This effort resulted in 1668 in the first performance of a play in Armenian, "The Martyrdom of St. Hripsime." Written by the missionary Louis-Marie Pidou de Saint-Ollon in Classical Armenian, the language of sacred texts, never spoken in the diaspora after the eleventh century, it was performed in Lvov. Remarkably, at a time when women lived largely sequestered lives, the women's parts were performed by women (Cowe, 2002).

Migration from Lvov to southern Poland (later Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and elsewhere created secondary diaspora communities that developed along trade routes; many ruined and some standing Armenian churches and monasteries dot the landscape of the nearby regions of Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, attesting to that Armenian presence. Elsewhere in Europe, much smaller and more evanescent diasporic communities of merchants, clergymen, and craftsmen emerged. The first Armenian book was published in Venice in 1512, and the first printed Armenian Bible appeared in Amsterdam in 1666, probably commissioned by the homeland's leading clergy, who as yet had no access to a printing press. The small, modernized European diasporas functioned as "pipelines" of innova­tions that slowly penetrated the Armenian homeland (Hovannisian and Meyers, 1999). It is estimated that between 1512 and 1750, the diaspora's presses published around 570 books, some in energetic but ephemeral com­munities, others in enduring diasporic enclaves. It is impossible to offer here a full overview of all of them. In general, at any one time there are three types of com­munities in the Armenian diaspora: residual or declining; dominant, as at Lvov; and emergent, such as the ones to be discussed next (Tololyan, 2000, pp. 112-113).

New Armenian diasporas appeared in response to the emergence of new states. When the Ottoman Turks conquered the Byzantine capital, renaming it Istanbul (1453), they encouraged the immigration of Armenians and (after 1492) Jews to the city and region. Armenian settlement in Istanbul appears to have begun in earnest in 1461 (Bardakjian, 1982) and grew slowly at first, thanks to migration from the older diasporas of the Crimea and what is now Romania, due to the Ottoman conquest of these regions, then more steadily due to a series of grim events in the homeland. Between 1514 and 1639, the Sunni Turkish and Shiite Persian empires fought a series of wars of exceptional destructiveness on the Armenian-inhabited territories straddling their frontier. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died. A significant number of refugees fled west into the Ottoman Empire, where they settled in diasporic communities of villages, towns like Bursa and Kotahya, and major ports like Smyrna and Istanbul. In the latter, a community led by an elite of financiers, skilled artisans, and clergy, gathered around the Patriarchate, was to become one of the centers of the diaspora after 1715.

Meanwhile, starting in 1603 to 1604 and throughout his reign, which ended in 1629, Persia's Shah Abbas, eager to populate his new capital, Isfahan, depopulated the region of Julfa in the Armenian homeland (Herzig, 1996). Before the Turkish massacres of 1895 and the genocide of 1915, this was the single largest demographic disaster to befall the Armenian people. While the total number of Armenians deported is unknown, figures rang­ing from 100,000 up are cited; one contemporary source mentions 60,000 families (McCabe, 1999, p. 54). Since families routinely numbered between 6 and 10 individu­als, this may well be an exaggeration, but there can be no doubting the scale of the deportation, which denuded part of Armenia's heartland of its indigenous inhabitants (this region is now in Azerbaijan). It is estimated that over half of the deportees died during the long trek to Isfahan; the rest settled in New Julfa, a suburb of the capital, which became—thanks to their skill and to official encourage­ment and concessions by the Shah—in remarkably short order, a center of much more than regional trade. The merchants, especially when politically favored by the Persian court, proved exceptionally successful at organiz­ing the silk trade to Europe, and then at penetrating the markets of the Indian subcontinent (McCabe, 1999). Ambitious youth from this diaspora, trained in innovative accounting methods developed locally, borrowed capital from the great magnates, and went on trading expeditions to all of India and Burma, impenetrable Tibet, and even­tually east through the areas now known as Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to the Philippines and south China, even as their kin and colleagues traded in Russia, the Ottoman empire, Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, and Britain. They managed a remarkable "intelligence net­work" of couriers that may have accounted for their commercial advantage (Aslanian, n.d.). For the first 50 years following 1604, New Julfa flourished not only economically, but culturally: a press began to operate in 1638. Later, as it began to stagnate, its secondary dias­pora in India flourished not just in terms of wealth, but also in philanthropy and cultural activity. This diaspora encountered the British in India, and the encounter led to many economic, political, and cultural innovations. For example, the first Armenian gazette-newspaper was pub­lished in Madras in 1794; none appeared on the home­land's territory until the mid-nineteenth century. This community was responsible for a steady remittance of funds to the homeland as well as the diaspora's religious and educational associations, for the flourishing of "print culture" and the literary imagining of national community in that medium (Anderson, 1983), and finally for the emergence of Armenian nationalism (Tololyan, 1999).

The Armenian diaspora of the later eighteenth century saw itself (as did the religious leaders operating out of Echmiadzin, the sacred center of Armenian Christianity in the homeland) as the result of some willed and much coerced dispersion from the homeland, as poly-centric, and as threatened by its encounter with European modernity, both in the West and in increasingly British-dominated India. Responses to this perception included (1) a project to create a textual canon that would give the Armenians a unifying national culture, (2) attempts by the first secular Armenian intellectuals to theorize a return to the homeland, and (3) attempts to reempha-size the role of Echmiadzin as both a sacred and an administrative center (Aslanian, 2002). Often stateless, Armenians in the occupied homeland as well as the dias­pora had come to think of their robed religious leaders as the uniformed bureaucrats of the Armenian Apostolic faithful (the protonational entity that began to become a modern nation in this period).

Paradoxically, the leaders of the first and most imme­diately consequential of these three projects were not the traditional Armenian Apostolic clergy, but rather Catholic Armenian monks of the Mechitarist Order or Brotherhood. They emerged as a late and entirely unintended result of efforts by the Vatican's missionaries, who had endeavored for centuries first to persuade the Armenian Apostolic Church to agree to a self-subordinating union with Rome and, failing that, to convert ordinary Armenians to Catholicism. Diaspora Armenians in the papal dominions of Italy, numbering several thousand, were sometimes coerced to convert, and elsewhere were approached with a variety of religious and secular inducements. It is all the more remarkable, then, that Catholics of Armenian origin eventually became instrumental in the nurturing of an Armenian national culture with distinct Enlightenment overtones and secular aspirations. In 1701, the Catholic priest Mechitar secretly founded in the Ottoman Empire the Brotherhood that bears his name. In 1717, this small band settled in Venice, where the city granted the uninhab­ited island of San Lazzaro to them. The Order grew by attracting Armenians from the Ottoman Empire who were Catholic in faith but retained their ethnonational identity; later, Catholic Armenians from the diasporas of Hungary, Romania, and Georgia joined them. With astonishing fore­sight and energy, the scholar-monks of this diasporic enclave set out to accomplish what one scholar has described as a totalizing project (Nichanian, 1999), a cul­tural program of research and publication that imagined Armenian life and culture as lamentably fragmented, and launched an effort to equip both the deprived homeland population and the artisans and merchants of the diaspora with the wherewithal of a national culture on the European model. They published the first dictionary of Armenian (in two volumes, 1749,1769); a remarkably influential history of the Armenian people (in three volumes, 1784 to 1786), in which Father Mikayel Chamchian, the author, selected elements from the many manuscript chronicles written by earlier clergymen who had documented periods of that history and synthesized them in a spirit of eighteenth-century nationalism; the first manual of vernacular and then classical Armenian grammar (1727, 1730); editions of classics; translations from Italian, French, German, Greek, and Latin; and textbooks on every topic. After 1772, a split developed among the Mechitarist ranks, and the dissenters moved to Trieste, then Vienna. In the latter, they founded a monastery where, influenced by German schol­arship and nationalism, they became in the nineteenth cen­tury a rival of Venice, and also made decisive contributions to the study of religion, literature, and the grammar and philology of modern Armenian. This Mechitarist cultural project was realized entirely in a tiny diaspora, with vital contributions from the human, intellectual, and financial resources of three other diasporas—in Istanbul, Isfahan, and India.

The later eighteenth century also witnessed the for­mation of an Armenian diasporic community in the multi­ethnic and multinational lands ruled by the Russian Empire of the Romanov czars. From the mid sixteenth century on, Russia expanded, slowly, intermittently, but steadily, west to the Baltic, south to the Black Sea, east to the Caspian Sea, then to Siberia, Central Asia, and the Pacific Ocean. Persian Armenian merchant elites had traded with Russia in the seventeenth century and a few had settled there. Between 1711 and 1723, Armenian refugees from the Persian-occupied parts of the homeland joined the Russian army and fought in the Caucasus, hoping that the Russians, as Christians, would lift the burdens and restrictions imposed by the capricious rulers of the increasingly chaotic Muslim state of Persia. Long before diasporic lob­bies emerged to argue for intervention and assistance from the great powers (e.g., the Jewish, Cuban, and Armenian lobbies in Washington, D.C., today) Armenian exiles and refugees in the diaspora were lobbying Christian rulers and organizing squadrons ready to fight in the armies of such powers if they were willing to intercede for "regime change" in the homeland. There is much evidence and con­siderable scholarly debate about the role of clergymen in these efforts. Of necessity, they traveled back and forth between the homeland's sacred site, Echmiadzin, and the diaspora communities to which they ministered, and to a considerable extent they acted as pan-Armenian figures who contributed to these movements (Aivazian, 2003; Barkhoodaryan et al., 1989, pp. 158-159).

By the late eighteenth century, Russia had conquered what are now its southernmost regions. Its policy was to attract Armenian migrants from the homeland, from the Kingdom of Georgia, and even from primary diasporas such as the one in the Crimea, to settle them in these newly conquered territories along its southern border. Due to a combination of real incentives and unsavory policies, abetted by some leaders of the Crimean Armenian dias­pora and resisted by others, a significant fraction of that diaspora's people migrated to the steppes of the Don. Some 7,000 settled in 1778 in Nor Nakhichevan, now known as Rostov na-Donu. During the next century, its population tripled even as that of the Crimea declined. Other small but wealthy communities of Armenian mer­chants formed in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Astrakhan (on the Caspian Sea), while communities of peasants and artisans also settled, between 1715 and 1735, in the most southerly Russian steppes (in the northern foothills of the Caucasus mountains), especially in Gh'zlar. For almost two centuries, this nucleus of the eighteenth-century Russian Armenian diaspora functioned as a magnet for more refugees and small groups of emigrants from the Persian and Ottoman Turkish Empires, who came inter­mittently. As Russia expanded further south, took the Caucasus Range and conquered the Transcaucasus, a new Armenian society emerged on both sides of the mountain range. Its elites consisted of the higher clergy and the wealthy merchants (as had been the case since the begin­ning of the Armenian diaspora), but by the mid-nineteenth century a new group of secular intellectuals, pedagogues, and artists also joined this leadership, infusing it with new energy and creating tensions, as a significant fraction of the intellectuals joined populist and socialist movements.
Between 1801 and 1828, Russian expansion into the Transcaucasus led to the takeover of what is now the terri­tory of the Republic of Armenia, with its capital at Yerevan; of Georgia and its capital, Tbilisi; and the lands of the Tatar Khans of Persia that lay east of Armenia and to the north of the river Araz or Arax (after 1918, this latter region became Azerbaijan, with Baku as its capital). Both of the latter had Armenian populations. Georgia's Armenian diaspora was concentrated in its cities, while the lands of the Turkic and so-called Tatar lords that would eventually become Azerbaijan had indigenous Armenian populations in the conquered lands of Shamakh, Gantzak, and Gharabagh. The latter two were parts of Armenian kingdoms that had been defeated by the Mongols. In the first two, the Armenians were a minority by the time of the Russian conquest; in the third, named Nagorny-Karabagh by the Russians, they were and remain the absolute major­ity. It is necessary but difficult to obtain an overview of the Armenian diaspora in these two countries, whose histories are tumultuous and whose populations constitute a con­stantly shifting mosaic.

The Georgian Armenian diaspora dates back to the twelfth century, when the borders of Armenian and Georgian lands were ill established and many Armenian lords served in the Georgian armies as commanders. As late as 1821, of the 730 noble families of Georgia, 119 were of Armenian origin (Ajaryan, 2002, p. 28). The population of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, was three-fourths Armenian in 1801. Like the Poles, the Georgians remained for a long time a people of agricultural serfs led by a military aristocracy. In Lvov, business and crafts had been primarily in the hands of Armenians and Jews; in Tbilisi, Armenians predominated. This phenomenon of the "middleman diaspora" (Zenner, 1991) is also found in Thailand and Indonesia, where the Chinese diaspora provided both the petty businessmen and the financial magnates in societies whose indigenous majority remained peasants until the mid-twentieth century. After the Russian conquest, the development of oil fields in Baku in Azerbaijan after the 1860s, and the transport links provided by railway and telegraph, patterns changed rapidly. At the start of World War I, around 240,000 Armenians lived in Georgia, more than 10% of that coun­try's population; some 25% of the population of Tbilisi was still Armenian, and nearly 20% of Baku's. These Armenians were now an "intrastate diaspora" (Tololyan, 1991). That is, like those living in that portion of the homeland that was incorporated into the Russian Empire, those living in the diasporas of Georgia, Baku, the Crimea, Rostov na-Donu, or Moscow were all subjects of the same state. They did not cross frontiers when they traveled, but zones of social and linguistic difference. Russian was always the shared second language—and often the first language—of the diasporic elite, who rightly considered the largest town in Armenia proper, Yerevan, a dusty provincial backwater compared to Tbilisi, a city of considerable culture, let alone when compared to Moscow and St. Petersburg. All but one of the major Armenian novelists and poets of the nineteenth century in this empire lived in Tbilisi, and its Armenian theatre was exceptionally lively. (Significantly, both the Hollywood director Rouben Mamoulian and the great Soviet film maker Sergei Paradjanov were Tbilisi Armenians, and possessed a proudly hybrid culture.) Tbilisi and Baku were the financial capitals of Armenian philanthropists in the Russian Empire, one of whom financed the building of the main Armenian Church for the Paris Armenian Diaspora in 1904, an example of the extent to which the Armenian elite's commitments within the diaspora were multicommunal because Armenians in many countries viewed themselves as one religionational entity.

In the nineteenth century, small numbers of Armenians formed emergent diasporas in the United States, Britain, France, Bulgaria, and especially Egypt, where a prosperous small community existed, with an elite of financiers who played a significant role in the country's administration. Nevertheless, the polycentric Armenian diaspora was organized around Istanbul and Tbilisi.

In Istanbul, the amira who had emerged in the eigh­teenth century as wealthy taxfarmers, money lenders, and leaders of emerging industry were supreme until the 1830s. Members of this elite had been competing fiercely during the previous century for control of the Patriarchate, whose leading cleric, the patriarch, was recognized by the Ottoman state as the nominal leader of the Armenian millet. This consisted primarily of all the adherents to the Armenian Apostolic Church (some non-Armenian eastern Christians were lumped into this group as well). In other words, the leadership of the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman state, who numbered some 2 million, half of them in the conquered homeland and the others in the intrastate diaspora, were largely led and administered from Istanbul. During a transitional period, the leadership of the amira was challenged after 1848, with some suc­cess, primarily by a coalition of bourgeois professionals and businessmen who were encouraged by the attempts of the Ottoman sultans to reform their state. In the period of the Ottoman reforms {ca. 1852 to 1871) change happened rapidly within the Istanbul diaspora. In politics, attempts were made to democratize the administration of the com­munity's internal affairs, from the level of parishes and local schools all the way up to the election of a representa­tive assembly. In 1863, an azgayin sahmanatrootyun, liter­ally a "national constitution," was signed into law, though all its provisions were never put into practice. The well-designed communal administrative infrastructure that this diasporic millet, or community, financed through self-taxation was effective and elaborate: a hospital, a semi­nary, orphanages, countless churches, a theatre, and press media in both Armenian and Turkish emerged. As the Apostolic Armenians' leadership competed with American and Armenian Protestant missionaries for the communal loyalty and religious adherence of their constituency, phil­anthropic and pedagogic institutions became stakes in the struggle; they multiplied and improved. In the cultural realm, standard western Armenian was formalized as the language of newspapers, schools, literature, and public discourse, though the vigorous forms of the Istanbul ver­nacular and the regional dialects of recent emigrants from the homeland persisted in spoken speech. At virtually the same time, a standard written form of the eastern Armenian dialect emerged in Tbilisi. In other words, mod­ern standard Armenian was created by cultural producers in the diaspora. This testifies to the vigor and ingenuity of the diaspora, which accomplished in short order a linguis­tic standardization that is normally performed by the bureaucracies of the larger nation-states.

The prosperous and educated elites of these two intrastate diasporas were not in steady contact with each other, since the Russian and Ottoman Empires fought sev­eral wars in the nineteenth century and were not kindly inclined to cross-border contact among their minority sub­jects. With sad irony, what this meant was that only a few clerics and, by the 1880s, students and secular intellectuals were in contact. These created the Armenian Hnchak Party (Switzerland, 1887) and the Hye Heghapokhaganneri Dashnaktzootyun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, ARF) in Tbilisi in 1890. Both, along with others created before and after them, played an important role in the decades that followed, but the Dashnak Party, nationalist and socialist in orientation, loomed largest. Its activities, though drawing on ideas, funds, and people in diaspora (after 1896 funds also came from the U.S. Armenian dias­pora), were focused by the slogan "depi yerkir" [to the homeland]. The ARF rallied oppressed Armenians in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire, infiltrating militants (armed with the help of the Persian Armenian diaspora) into those regions. Despite many successes, it could not substantially challenge the Ottoman Empire, to which change came for a while due to the internal, briefly democratizing coup of 1908. A very brief honeymoon period followed. Between 1908 and 1914, an extraordi­narily promising group of young Armenian writers and thinkers emerged in the Istanbul diaspora community, which surpassed the one in Tbilisi.

Certain features of the pregenocide diaspora should be emphasized. Its upper echelons displayed, as current diaspora theory likes to emphasize, a great deal of mobility. They communicated and they traveled. But the mass of each diasporic community—be they prosperous craftsmen, small shopowners, poor laborers, and, in Persia, peasants—was rooted in the Armenian quarters of cities and surrounding market villages. In Aleppo and Jerusalem and especially in Tbilisi and Istanbul, Armenian quarters for those of modest means endured for some centuries and were inhabited by a sedentary popula­tion which thought of itself as natives of the locality. They saw themselves as distinct from the gharib and ban-toukhd element, the desperately poor rural Armenians who kept on coming from the homeland to look for work as day laborers. While the clerical, merchant, and later intellectual-artistic elites displayed the diasporic feature of mobility and developed a rhetoric of the "unity" of the religionational entity—hye azg, as they called it— dispersed across homeland and diaspora, most ordinary people did not know themselves as diasporics; they were locals and often proudly so. Being settled, away from the tormented homeland, in the great and prosperous cities of foreign empires, was desirable to them: they built to stay, and the sources reflect their pride in what they built in "their" cities. The diaspora was indeed a network and a web—favored tropes of contemporary analysis—along whose routes some Armenians moved. But the network also had nodes, as networks must, and these network-anchoring nodes had deep roots in host-country soil. The currents of funds, thought, goods, and travelers that flowed across diasporic Armenian circuits were gener­ated from the great cities where the reality and the logic of the sedentary held sway in demography and cultural patterns.

This diasporic world came to an end in the Ottoman Empire when, during World War I, from April 1915 on, that state carried out the genocide of its Armenian citi­zens. Of 2 million Armenian citizens, 1.5 million were murdered. In Istanbul, 1,500 leaders of the community were killed but the population was left untouched—the Ottoman capital could not have run without them. The survivors fled to the Middle East, to the West, and to Armenia. Around 250,000 took refuge in the Russian Empire's Armenian provinces and in the communities of its intrastate diaspora. In 1918, these provinces became the territory of a tiny and shaky Republic of Armenia that emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman and Russian Empires. It is significant that the declaration of the inde­pendence of this state was made in Tbilisi, in diaspora, before the representatives of the Armenians of the Transcaucasus moved to Yerevan, the small town that became the capital of a new republic. Two years later, Lenin's armies, reclaiming what the Romanov czars had lost, ended this republic's existence. It became a Soviet Socialist Republic, a component of the USSR, which became independent again in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. Another 240,000 survivors found refuge in Greece and especially the Arab Middle East. From among these survivors of the genocide, the new Armenian diaspora emerged.

The Armenian Diaspora after the genocide
In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne marked the rise of modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, a casualty of World War I; it also officially marked the end of Armenian dreams of a return to the 65% of homeland territory that the international treaty recognized as part of Turkey. Some 60,000 Armenians remain in Turkey, almost all in Istanbul (Anon, 2004). Though reduced, the stamp of centuries-old local Armenian identity remains powerful, and secondary diasporas of Istanbul Armenians in France, Germany, Canada, and the United States remain linked to this great city in a powerful transnational social field.

The rest of the Armenian diaspora has undergone almost unimaginably rapid and various change in the years that have passed since Lausanne. Of the 240,000 genocide survivors in the Middle East, half entered some form of bondage, were converted to Islam, and disap­peared. The other half at first lived in shanty towns outside major cities such as Beirut (Lebanon), Aleppo (Syria), and Mosul (Iraq). Rallied by the surviving clergy and sec­ular leaders who had been active in the infrastructure of the Armenian millet system of the Ottoman Empire, and helped by some assistance from the U.S. Armenian dias­pora, the refugees constructed new communities where refugee shacks had stood. "Compatriotic" unions of emi­grants from specific regions of the homeland who had settled in the United States but stayed in touch con­tributed funds to help family and kin who survived to construct these communities, often named after their homeland towns. This work of survival and development was also a labor of memory more complex than the authoring of literary texts and nostalgic memoirs alone.

Together, they created a complex of words and buildings, narratives, and habitation patterns that require untangling in other contexts.

The development trajectories of the new diasporic communities in the Middle East were unsteady, given to rapid change. Jerusalem, for example, where at least some Armenians have lived continuously since the fourth-century conversion to Christianity and where there has been an officially recognized Patriarchate with authority over some holy sites since 1311, had a popula­tion of 1,300 Armenians in 1914 (Sanjian, 2001), a num­ber quadrupled by refugees a decade later, and fewer than 2,000 now. On different scales, similar changes happened elsewhere. The region that eventually became Lebanon had some 5,000 Armenians in 1914,210,000 in 1974, and probably no more than 70,000 today, after the cata­strophic Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990. In Syria, the new refugee and old diaspora popula­tion combined went from around 110,000 in the 1920s to 70,000 now, with the rest emigrating to Lebanon, Western Europe, North America, Argentina, and Australia. Similarly, the Armenian population of Persia/Iran swelled in 1945 to around 225,000, counting the survivors who settled there after the 1915 genocide and those who fled communism. Today, after some return migration to Armenia and especially after the Khomeini revolution, around 70,000 are left. Egypt, which had become an exceptionally prosperous and influential diasporic site, had some 40,000 Armenians in an unusually activist com­munity that deteriorated rapidly after Gamal Abdel Nasser's regime began to nationalize minority properties in the mid-1950s. Today, fewer than 7,000 Armenians are left in the residual diaspora of Egypt.

It is necessary to make some generalizations (accom­panied by the usual caveats about them) concerning the postgenocide trajectories of these communities. They were led by religious leaders, but the church had lost most of its religious conviction and authority after the genocide of 1915, and functioned as a marker of identity and as an arena for communal focus, made possible by the fact that the Arab states followed the Ottoman millet pattern and recognized the non-Arab peoples among them as defined by their religious character. The struggle over who would organize and lead the survivors was rhetorically fierce. It involved secular intellectuals (teachers, writers, members of the Dashnak, Hnchak, and newer Ramgavar political parties) and businessmen who organized the financial affairs of communal institutions. The reclaiming of old loyalties and the implantation of new ones was conducted in lively, if poorly funded, media and in all the sites of a vigorous diasporic civil society and public sphere (Tololyan, 2000; Werbner, 1998). Socialists, Communists, and nationalists who adhered to the leadership exercised by the Communists in Soviet Armenia clashed with oppo­nents, primarily in the Dashnak Party, both over local issues such as control of parish councils and ecclesiastical institutions, and geopolitical matters, such as the proper orientation of the diaspora to the sovietized homeland. On at least one occasion, in 1958, the usual polemic turned violent in Lebanon, and 30 Armenians died at each other's hands.

The pressure to fully integrate, let alone assimilate, into the host societies was minimal until the 1960s, and has steadily accelerated since then, leading both to increased emigration to the West and to accelerated integration of those who have stayed. In the past two decades, full social and political integration of Armenians into Arab societies has become imaginable, and is beginning to occur.

Despite the tumult of internal struggle, the post-genocide Armenian communities were extraordinarily successful at constructing thriving economic and social lives and at instilling a form of "exilic nationalism" (hoping for return to the homeland) that endured until the 1970s. Between 1946 and 1948, an astonishing "repatri­ation" took place, in which 105,000 aging survivors and their families "returned" to the "homeland": not the actual sites from which they came, now in Turkey, but the homeland now redefined as Soviet Armenia. The fact that they were willing to sustain the illusion of a new life in Stalin's state is a testimony to the extent of patriotic and exilic yearning. Between 1923 and 1962, a total of at least 200,000 Armenians went to settle in Soviet Armenia from all diaspora communities. Since the 1970s, however, around 1,200,000 have left the home­land, enlarging old diasporic communities. In the West, the exilic nationalism of the survivors has been replaced by a genuinely diasporic transmationalism (Tololyan, 2000, p. 107) that is constructing new links with post-Soviet Armenia. In post-Soviet Russia, there are now at least 1.5 million Armenians, over half of whom are post-1991 migrants from Armenia. Their links to the home­land are strong but evolving. New organizations are emerging to claim leadership and to advertise their role as mediators of links between the governments of Russia and Armenia and the struggling new migrants. It is diffi­cult to characterize, as yet, the nature and extent of their integration into the host society; currently, tensions are high.

This narrative must turn to what it cannot adequately represent in this space: the steady rise of the "Western" diasporic Armenian communities of the United States, France, and elsewhere. There were 50,000 Armenians in the United States in 1914 (Mirak, 1980, 1983). After the genocide of 1915 and some slow migration that acceler­ated when Middle Eastern and then homeland Armenians joined the post-1965 immigration, there are now around 800,000 Armenians in the United States. Los Angeles may be the second largest "Armenian" city in the world, after Yerevan, Armenia's capital. There are some 40,000 Armenians in Canada, 30,000 in Australia, 60,000 in Argentina and 15,000 in the rest of Latin America (Matiossian, in press), around 300,000 in France, and another 100,000 in the rest of Europe. The U.S. commu­nity has the population, finances, organization, and some access through lobbies to the U.S. government that make it matter most both among the diasporic communities and to the homeland's new government. It also has the attrac­tion that comes from being part of American society— wealthy, consumerist, offering real and imagined opportunities—and so remains the magnet for new sec­ondary and even tertiary migrations. It is common to find Armenians who have held refugee status and two or even three citizenships in a lifetime whose final destination becomes the United States.

In the production of ideas and culture, and in the nurturing of important links with the homeland, the Armenian community of France is very important. The others all conduct similar efforts on smaller scales. The local differences and heterogeneity of these commu­nities are very real. However, so are the shared features nurtured by kinship ties and community organizations that make the diaspora part of the Armenian transnation, composed of the homeland state, the struggling enclave of Nagorny-Karabagh that is formally in Azerbaijan, and the worldwide diaspora.

Today, Armenian diaspora populations, especially in the USA, must be thought of as composites. Some bear Armenian names but are in effect assimilated. The majority are Armenian-Americans, hyphenated ethnics who are comfortable with a symbolic Armenian identity, which they sometimes declare and enact spontaneously, and at other times when pressed by kin; they manifest a mini­mum of commitment to some communal institutions and practices (such as the church, dances, and communal functions, and sending checks to lobbying organizations) but are not fully engaged in diasporic life. Those who are so engaged have transnational commitments that they manifest toward kin elsewhere, to institutions dedicated to fostering connections between diaspora communities and above all with the homeland; they travel to both, and are active in cultural production—the diaspora's media and public sphere remain vigorous. A few diasporic Armenians have been political militants, as in Lebanon from 1975 to 1983, when short-lived but very significant Armenian terrorist movements emerged in the chaos of the civil war.

The current agenda of the diaspora, both formally managed by organizations and informally animating indi­viduals' commitments, involves several efforts. The most pressing is that of sustaining a distinct identity in the face of strong inducements to assimilation in receptive and pluralist societies in the West, where pervasive individu­alism, exogamy, erosion of language, and even of religion (through the efforts of evangelical Protestantism) are all potent factors. The creation of appropriate links to the post-Soviet republic of the homeland at every level has also been a pressing concern, made complex by the painful recognition that kinship alone cannot bridge dif­ferences bred by centuries-old, divergent trajectories in the development of social attitudes in the homeland and various diasporas. The creation of links also involves both struggle and cooperation at every level of life, as in the intellectual and political task of defining a transnational consensus as to what "Armenian" interests are, as opposed to what Armenia's interest is. The development of philanthropic and investment strategies that the dias­pora might enact in Armenia is a pressing concern, as is the formulation of practices that might assist the recovery of the Armenian population of Karabagh, which, along with Azerbaijan, was devastated by the war of 1992 to 1994, which killed at least 30,000 people and left hundreds of thousands on both sides homeless. Finally, there is the effort, slowly reanimated since 1965, the 50th anniversary its launching, to get Turkey and the international community to recognize officially the still-denied genocide of the Armenians.

As Jivan Tabibian, a diaspora-born scholar who is now a diplomat for the Republic of Armenia said, Armenians "are not place bound, but... are intensely place- conscious" (Viviano, 2004, p. 40). Today, the Armenian diaspora con­sists of both strong localized, sedentary centers and a mobile population, and its renewed, post-Soviet attachment to the homeland remains a major factor in its collective life.

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Source: Encyclopedia of Diasporas 2005


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