11 August 2009

2929) The Prince and 12,000 Armenian

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Hamshen Համշէևահայեր

From the beginnings of Armenian history, the mountains of Armenia formed natural borders between the different regions of the country and as a result, the Princes and Lords of historical Armenia had significant influence over the regions or provinces in which they were based. In the 8th Century A.D., during one of the many stormy days of Armenian history, Prince Shabuh Amadouni and his son Hamam migrated north to the Kachkar Mountains (Hachkar in Armenian) in the Black Sea region, at the northern natural border of historical Armenia. . .

North Vaspurakan was the original homeland of the Amadouni Princedom, but under pressure from newly migrated tribes who followed Islam, and finally an Arab invasion forced the Prince to take his people away from their homeland in order to survive. Leontius the Priest wrote that in the 8th century, the Armenian Princes Hamam and Shabuh Amatuni moved to the Byzantine Empire with 12,000 of their people. They settled in the town of Tambour in the mountains (south of Trabizon).

When the Prince and his 12,000 followers reached the destroyed city of Tambour in the far reaches of the Kachkar Mountains, Prince Shabuh Amadoumi’s son Prince Hamam took control of rebuilding the city. When it was completed he called it Hamamshen (meaning Hamam’s City in Armenian). Later the city’s name became Hamshen.

This pocket of Armenian people prospered in the Pontiac Mountains, and virtually cut of from other Armenian populations, developed its unique dialect of Armenian. Between the 8th-14th centuries, the Hamshen Princedom survived and prospered. Thousands of years of farmers became beekeepers, tea and pistachio growers. They learned how to fish from the Greeks and also became ship merchants. They lived in peace with their northern neighbours, the Christian Pontiac Greeks, and exchanged cultures. The Pontiac bagpipe became the traditional musical instrument of the Hamshen.

Until the beginning of the 15th Century, the Hamshens spread out over the western Black Sea region. At the start of Prince Arakel’s reign, the region came under pressure from the Ottoman government. This constant pressure continued during the reigns of Prince Tavit (1400-1425), Prince Vart (1425-1440) and Prince Veke (1440-1460). In 1489, Sultan Selim I and his mighty army destroyed the city of Hamamshen completely, the exact location of the city is still not known. The Princedom was destroyed and Prince Tavit II was exiled.

The 15th Century Ottoman conquest of Hamshen resulted in major migration of the Hamshen people both within and out of the Hamshen region.

In the 17th century, the people of the western Hamshen region were forcefully converted into Islam. As a result, a new ethno-religious group speaking the Armenian Hamshen dialect came into being. During this time the majority of Hamshens escaped to preserve their Christian faith. The Hamshen resistance continued during the 19th Century. The Hamshens were renowned for their expertise in the production of crafted handguns. The legendary hero Hamshentsi Ter-Karabed, from Toroslu Village and his followers fought back together with the Armenian Fedais. The Hamshens retained their independence until the end of the 19th Century, ruled by their own derebeys (valley lords), all under the voivode (general chief).

During the Hamiden Masacre in 1895, the Hamshens of Trabizon as well as Pontiac Greeks were massacred, or were forced to convert to Islam. In the summer of 1915 the civilian Hamshen populations of Ordu Samsoon and Trabizon briefly united with fellow Armenian brothers and sisters in central Anatolia only to later die in the Syrian Desert.

Today the Hamshens are one of the distinct ethnic minorities in the Republic of Turkey. Due to Turkey's aggressive policy towards ethnic minorities, the field-study of hidden Armenians of Hamshen is almost impossible. In order to avoid accusations of "separatism" the Hemshens are discreet and unprovocative about their own identity, taking a full but unobtrusive part in Turkish society.

A motion picture, ‘Momi’ (Grandma) was filmed in the Hamshen dialect in 2000. It’s a chilling story of a ‘Muslim’ Grandmother secretly teaching her grandson the Armenian language.

Thanks to Hrant Dink’s tireless efforts on the Armenian issue, more and more of the Hamshen people, particularly those with strong leftist leaning, tend to identify themselves as Armenians. Many who had been converted to Islam by force have renounced their alleged nationality and opted to be Armenian, telling the world their own story. Many of the far Eastern Hamshen villages in Turkey preserve their original Armenian dialects, commonly referred to as Homshetsma or Homshetsnak by their speakers.

A sad but great story, story of a great people, who constantly fought for their Armenian identity.


Extra info
Mesut Yılmaz, a former Prime Minister of Turkey, was born in Istanbul to a family with Hemshin (Western group) origins

Hamshen villages in Turkey

Turkish speaker Hamshen villages
Ortaklar (Hemsinbasköy),Ortanköy (Ortanli), Ortayayla (Hemsinortaköy), Siraköy (Hemsinasagiköy) Senköy (Omokta), Senyuva (Cinciva), Ülkü (Mollaveyis), Yaylaköy (Elevit), Yazlik (Varos), Yolkiyi (Kusiva), Yukarisimsirli (Kismenmelivor), Zilkale (koluna), Cat, Kale, Meydan.Rize Cayeli: Asiklar (Arsifos), Kestanelik (Miloz), Cilingir, Sefali, Cataklihoca mah,Cayeli Senöz river : Soguksu, Babik, Ormancik, Basköy,Seslidere,Yesiltepe, Kaptanpasa, Parahol, Misohor Rize Cayeli Venekriver: Zugopo,Veicer,Erenler, Sinor, Miloz,Dereciler, Kackar,Suminet Rize Findikli Center: Arslandere (Cukulit/Abuhemsin), Beydere (Süpe), Ihlamurlu (Yukarizugu) Meyveli (Canpet) +Laz, Sulak (Asagizugu) +Laz, Yaylacilar, Yeniköy Rize Pazar Center Akbucak (Melmanat) +Laz, Basköy +laz, Bucak (Acaba), Elmalik (Kuzika) + Laz Subasi (Hacapit), Sucati(Apso) +Laz, Sendere (Bogina), Ugrak (Cingit) Rize Pazar Ortaköy: Ortayayla (Zugaortaköy/Hemsin), Akyamac (Tecina), Bilen (Tepan), Nurluca (seniva) Yaltkaya (Gomno), Sarmeli, Bagenli, Bodollu, Coco, Badara, Ortaköy , Sakarya Karasu Center: Parali, Sakarya Karasu Kocaeli: Kestanepazari (Mixed), Kogukpelit,Sakarya Karasu, Ortaköy, Aktas.

Armenian speaker Hamshen villages in Turkey
Artvin Hopa, Köprücü +Laz, Osmaniye, Sarp, Ückardes, Bolu Akcakoca: Karatavuk, Yenice, Bolu Düzce Center: Düzce City Aziziye mah., Bolu Düzce Gümüsova, Karadere, Sakarya Karasu Kocaeli: Acmabas, Karapelit, Kestanepinari, Kogutpelit, Sakarya Karasu Ortaköy, Lahana (Ortaköy/Yenidag), Aktas, Artvin Borcka center: Cifteköprü +Laz, Artvin Borcka Muratli(Maradit), Güresen (Beylevan), Artvin Hopa Merkez, Hopa Town +Laz, Balikköy, Basoba (Higoba/Büyükbasi), Cavuslu, Chimenli, Esmekaya (Ardala) +Ku, Günesli, Hendek (Garci) +Laz Koyuncular (Zalona), Pinarli, Yoldere (Zürbici) Artvin Hopa Kemalpasa: Kemalpasa Town +Laz , Camurlu, Karaosmaniye, Kaya (Sana), Kazimiye.

There are other Armenian speaking villages in the following areas: Pazar, Eski Pazar, Kale, Meydan, Rize: Achoroz vadi and Hodecur.

Vahan Altıparmak

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