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Armenians in Iran

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Armenians in Iran

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Total population
50,000,[1] 70,000-80,000,[2] 80,000,[2][3] 120,000[4]
Regions with significant populations
Tehran, Tabriz, New Julfa, Peria, Bourvari
Armenian, Persian
Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant Christians
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Iranian-Armenians (Armenian: Իրանահայ Iranahye), sometimes called Persian-Armenians (Պարսկահայ Parskahye), are Iranian citizens who are ethnically Armenian. They are mostly concentrated in Tehran and Jolfa district, Isfahan, and an estimated 80,000 currently reside in Iran. The Iranian-Armenians were very influential and active in the modernization of Iran during the 19th and 20th centuries. After the Iranian Revolution, many Armenians emigrated to Armenian diasporic communities in North America and Western Europe. Today the Armenians are Iran's largest Christian religious minority. Despite their cultural Armenian identity in Iran, no sizeable numbers of Iranian-Armenians hold Armenian citizenship.

Early history

Since Antiquity there has always been much interaction between Ancient Armenia and Persia (Iran).

On the Behistun inscription of 515 BC, Darius the Great indirectly confirmed that Urartu and Armenia are synonymous when describing his conquests. Armenia became a satrap of the Persian Empire for a long period of time. Regardless, relations between Armenians and Persians were cordial.

Prior to the 3rd century AD, no other neighbor had as much influence on Armenian life and culture as Parthia. They shared many religious and cultural characteristics, and intermarriage among Parthian and Armenian nobility was common. Armenia's conversion to Christianity in 301 alienated them from the Persians, who were mostly Zoroastrian, and the Persian conversion to Islam in the 7th century deepened this alienation.

In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks drove thousands of Armenians to Iranian Azerbaijan, where some were sold as slaves and others worked as artisans and merchants. After the Mongol conquest of Iran in the 13th century many Armenian merchants and artists settled in Iran, in cities that were once part of historic Armenia such as Khoy, Maku, Maragheh, Urmia, and especially Tabriz.[5]

Although Armenians have a long history of interaction with Persia/Iran, Iran's Armenian community emerged when Shah Abbas relocated tens of thousands of Armenians from Nakhichevan to an area of Isfahan called New Julfa in the early 17th century, which was created to become an Armenian quarter. Iran quickly recognized the Armenians' dexterity in commerce. The community became active in the cultural and economic development of Iran.

Bourvari (Armenian: Բուրւարի) is a collection of villages in Iran, between the city of Khomein (Markazi Province) and Aligoodarz (Lorestān Province). It was mainly populated by Armenians who were forcibly deported to the region by Shah Abbas of the Safavid Persian Empire during the Ottoman-Persian War.[6] The following villages populated by the Armenians in Bourvari were: Dehno, Khorzend, Farajabad, Bahmanabad and Sangesfid

20th century until 1979

The Revolution of 1905 in Russia had a major effect on northern Iran and, in 1906, Iranian liberals and revolutionaries, demanded a constitution in Iran. In 1909 the revolutionaries forced the crown to give up some of its powers.

Thousands of Armenians had escaped to Iran during the Armenian genocide. The community experienced a political rejuvenation with the arrival of the exiled Dashnak leadership from Armenia in 1921. Further immigrants and refugees from the Soviet Union continued to increase the Armenian community until 1933. The modernization efforts of Reza Shah (1924–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah (1941–1979) gave the Armenians ample opportunities for advancement and Armenians gained important positions in the arts and sciences, economy and services sectors, mainly in Tehran, Tabriz, and Isfahan that became major centers for Armenians.

Armenian churches, schools, cultural centers, sports clubs and associations flourished and Armenians had their own senator and member of parliament, 300 churches and 500 schools and libraries served the needs of the community.

Armenian presses published numerous books, journals, periodicals, and newspapers, the prominent one being the daily "Alik".

Armenians after the Islamic Revolution (1979–present)

Many Armenians served in the Iranian army, and many died in action during the Iran–Iraq War.[8]

Later Iranian governments have been much more accommodating and the Armenians continue to maintain their own schools, clubs, and churches. The fall of the Soviet Union, the common border with Armenia, and the Armeno-Iranian diplomatic and economic agreements have opened a new era for the Iranian Armenians. Iran remains one of Armenia's major trade partners, and the Iranian government has helped ease the hardships of Armenia caused by the blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey. This includes important consumer products, access to air travel, and energy sources (like petroleum and electricity). The remaining Armenian minority in the Islamic Republic of Iran is still the largest Christian community in the country, ahead of Assyrians.[9] The Armenians remain the most powerful religious minority in Iran. They are appointed two seats in Iranian Parliament (the most within the Religious minority branch) and are the only minority with official Observing Status in the Guardian and Expediency Discernment Councils. Today in Iran there are about 50,000 - 80,000 Armenians left. Half of which live in the Tehran area. A quarter live in Isfahan, and the other quarter is concentrated in Northwestern Iran or Iranian Azerbaijan. The majority of Armenians live in the suburbs of Tehran, most notably Narmak, Majidiyeh, Nadershah, etc.

Culture and language

In addition to having their own churches and clubs, Armenians of Iran are one of the few linguistic minorities in Iran with their own schools.[10]

The Armenian language used in Iran holds a unique position in the usage of Armenian in the world. Usually, the traditional Armenian diaspora worldwide that emanated from the Ottoman Empire and emigrated to the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, uses Western Armenian. However the Armenians of Iran, owing to their proximity to the Armenian Republic, actually speak an Eastern Armenian dialect that is very close to that used in Armenia, Georgia and Russia.

However in stark departure from their other Eastern Armenian brethren, the Iranian-Armenians have stuck to the Traditional Armenian orthography known as "Mashdotsian orthography" and spelling, whereas almost all other Eastern Armenian users have adopted the Reformed Armenian Orthography known as "Abeghian orthography" applied in Soviet Armenia and continued in the present Republic of Armenia.

This makes the Armenian language used in Iran and in the Armenian-Iranian media and publications unique, applying elements of both major Armenian language branches (pronunciation, grammar and language structure of Eastern Armenian and the spelling system of Western Armenian).

See also


External links

  • Armenian Iranians news portal
  • Hamaynk: Iranian Armenian News Network
  • "Iranian Armenians" BBC Persian
  • Alik, Armenian daily in Iran
  • Arax Armenian weekly in Iran
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