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Iranian Armenians

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Iranian Armenians

Iranian-Armenians (Armenian: իրանահայեր iranahayer or Armenian: պարսկահայեր parskahayer, "Persian Armenians"), are ethnic Armenian citizens of Iran. They are mostly concentrated in Tehran and Isfahan's Jolfa (Nor Jugha) quarter, and an estimated 150,000 - 300,000 currently reside in Iran.[1]

The Armenians have a many millennia old history within the modern-day borders of Iran. They are amongst the native inhabitants of Iran's northwestern regions, with the territory having made up part of historical Armenia numerous times in history. Many of the oldest Armenian churches, monasteries, and chapels, are located within modern-day Iran. All of Eastern Armenia, which includes the modern-day Armenian Republic was part of Iran up to 1828,[2] which makes Iran having had one of the largest Armenian communities in the world alongside neighbouring Ottoman Turkey until the course of the 19th century.

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. It is commonly noted that, due to their migration to the Persian Empire many centuries ago and being native to northwestern Iran, Armenians of Iran have culturally assimilated with their Persian compatriots in a very noticeable way and have adopted a number of their traditions while simultaneously keeping their Christian faith and Armenian identity.

Early history

The Armenian St. Thaddeus Monastery, or "Kara Kelissa", West Azarbaijan province. Believed by some to have been first built in 66 AD by Saint Jude.

Since Antiquity there has always been much interaction between Ancient Armenia and Persia (Iran). The Armenian people are amongst the native ethnic groups of northwestern Iran (known as Iranian Azerbaijan), having millennia long recorded history there while the region (or parts of it) have had made up part of historical Armenia numerous times in history. These historical Armenian regions that nowadays include Iranian Azerbaijan are Nor Shirakan, Vaspurakan, and Paytakaran. Many of the oldest Armenian chapels, monasteries and churches in the world are located within this region of 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.

The cultural links between the Armenians and the Persians can be traced back to Zoroastrian times. 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. For twelve more centuries, Armenia was under the direct or indirect rule of the Persians.[3] While much influenced by Persian culture and religion, Armenia also retained its unique characteristics as a nation. Later, Armenian Christianity retained some Zoroastrian vocabulary and ritual.

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.[4]

Early modern to late modern era

Although Armenians have a long history of interaction and settlement with Persia/Iran and within the modern-day borders of the nation, Iran's Armenian community emerged under the Safavids. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Iran divided Armenia. From the early 16th century, both Western Armenia and Eastern Armenia fell under Iranian Safavid rule.[5][6] Owing to the century long Turco-Iranian geo-political rivalry that would last in Western Asia, significant parts of the region were frequently fought over between the two rivalling empires. From the mid 16th century with the Peace of Amasya, and decisively from the first half of the 17th century with the Treaty of Zuhab until the first half of the 19th century,[7] Eastern Armenia was ruled by the successive Iranian Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar empires, while Western Armenia remained under Ottoman rule. From 1604 Abbas I of Iran implemented a "scorched earth" policy in the region to protect his north-western frontier against any invading Ottoman forces, a policy which involved a forced resettlement of masses of Armenians outside of their homelands.[8]

Shah Abbas relocated an estimated 500,000 Armenians from his Armenian lands, during the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1603-1618,[8] to an area of Isfahan called New Julfa and the villages surrounding Isfahan 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.[9]

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 same as part of Abbas's massive scorched earth resettlement policies within the empire.[10] The following villages populated by the Armenians in Bourvari were: Dehno, Khorzend, Farajabad, Bahmanabad and Sangesfid.

Irrevocable loss of Eastern Armenia in 1828

With increasing encroachments of the expanding neighbouring Russian empire towards the south at the expense of Persia and Ottoman Turkey, in the course of the 19th century Qajar Persia would lose all its territories in the Caucasus region through the Russo-Persian Wars to Russia. This included the irrevocable loss of Eastern Armenia (roughly equivalent with modern-day Armenia) in 1828 per the Treaty of Turkmenchay.

From 1795 to 1804 during the earliest clashes leading up to the Dagestan, and most of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Russo-Persian War (1826-1828) that followed afterwards forced Qajar Iran to irrevocably the complete remainder of its Caucasian territories, comprising modern-day Armenia and the remainder of the Azerbaijan Republic.[2] All abovementioned territories, which had made part of the concept of Iran for three centuries,[13] were ceded to Imperial Russia as confirmed by the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan and 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, respectively. The ceding of what is modern-day Armenia (Eastern Armenia in general) in 1828 resulted in a very large amount of Armenians falling now under the rule of the Russians.

The Treaty of Turkmenchay further stipulated that the [16]

After the incorporation of the Erivan Khanate into the Russian Empire, Muslim majority of the area gradually changed, at first the Armenians who were left captive were accouraged to return.[11] As a result of which an estimated 57,000 Armenian refugees from Persia returned to the territory of the Erivan khanates after 1828, while about 35,000 Muslims (Persians, Turkic groups, Kurds, Lezgis, etc.) out total population of over 100,000 left the region,[17] many going to the newly established borders of Qajar Iran.

With these events of the first half of the 19th century, and the end of over three centuries of Iranian rule over Eastern Armenia, a new era had started for the Armenians within the new borders of Iran.

Twentieth century up to 1979

Iranian Armenian women in the Qajar era
Shogaghat Church in Tabriz
Vank Cathedral in the New Julfa district of Isfahan. one of the oldest Iran's Armenian churches that build during Safavid Persian Empire, 1655 - 1664.[18]

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. Yeprem Khan, an ethnic Armenian, was an important figure of the Persian Constitutional Revolution.[19]

In 1914 there were 230,000 Armenians in Iran. During the Armenian genocide about 50,000 Armenians fled the Ottoman Empire and took refuge in Persia. As a result of the Persian Campaign in northern Iran during World War I the Ottomans massacred 80,000 Armenians and 30,000 fled to the Russian Empire. 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 numbering nearly 30,000 continued to increase the Armenian community until 1933. Thus by 1930 there were approximately 200,000 Armenians in Iran.[20][21]

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. From 1946-1949 about 20,000 Armenians left Iran for the Soviet Union and from 1962-1982 another 25,000 Armenians followed them to Soviet Armenia.[22]

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".

By the 1979 the number of Armenians reached 500,000, but due to the Iranian Revolution the number of Armenians decreased to about 250,000.[23]

Armenians after the Islamic Revolution (1979–present)

St. Sarkis Cathedral in Tehran. One of Iran's Armenian churches, 1970[24]

Many Armenians served in the Iranian army, and many died in action during the Iran–Iraq War.[25] Due to the Iran-Iraq War the number of Iran's 250,000 Armenians further decreased to its current 150,000.

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, far ahead of Assyrians.[26]

The Armenians remain the most powerful religious minority in Iran. They are appointed five seats in the 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 120,000 - 150,000 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.[27][28][28][29][30]



Armenians are one of the indigenous people of Azarbaijan. Historically, the western and northern areas of Azarbaijan were part of Armenia. In 387 AD when the Sasanian Empire and the Byzantine Empire split Armenia, the Armenians ceded the areas of Nor Shirakan, Paytakaran, and the eastern half of Vaspurakan to the Persians, these territories comprise the western and northern regions of Azerbaijan. Following the Russo-Persian War (1826–28) about 40,000 Armenians left Azerbaijan and resettled in Russian Armenia.

The area retained a large Armenian population until 1914 when World War I began the Azerbaijan was invaded by the Ottomans who slaughtered much of the local Armenian population. Prior to the Ottoman invasion there were about 150,000 Armenians in Azerbaijan, 30,000 of them were in Tabriz. About 80,000 were massacred, 30,000 fled to Russian Armenia, and the other 10,000 fled the area of the modern West Azerbaijan Province and took refuge among the Armenians of Tabriz. After the war ended in 1918 the 10,000 refugees in Tabriz returned to their villages, but many resettles in Soviet Armenia in the later decades, currently about 4,000 Armenians remain in the countryside and about 2,000 remain in Tabriz.

This is a list of previously or currently Armenian inhabited settlements:

  • Julfa (Jugha in Armenian):
  • Upper Darashamb, Middle Darashamb and Lower Darashamb.

Central Iran

In 1604 and following years, during Ottoman-Persian War, about 500,000 Armenians forced to move from Nakhichevan, Vayots Dzor, Artashat, Yerevan, Armavir, Kotayk, Gegharkunik, Aragatsotn, Shirak, Lori, Tsolakert, Daroynk, and Kars to Central Iran as part of Shah Abbas I scorched earth policy. Many died crossing the Arax River, and those that survived the river crossing most likely perished while spending the winter in the mountains of Azarbaijan. About 200,000 Armenians were alive the following spring. 160,000 of them would resettle in central Iran and 40,000 of them would resettle in Farahabad in Mazandaran. The climate in the summer in Farahabad was unhealthy and large numbers of the inhabitants died of epidemics, particularly malaria. The surviving Armenians returned to their homes north of the Arax River. The Armenians that resettled in central Iran built hundreds of new villages. The Armenians of Julfa resettled along the Zayanderud and built the New Julfa quarter in Isfahan. Some also resettled in Hamadan, Qazvin and Shiraz. The non-Julfa Armenians that resettled in central Iran were resettled in the area that stretched from Qazvin and Hamadan in the north to Isfahan in the south. They built hundreds of villages in 12 rural clusters. Between 1722-1729 the Afghans invaded Iran and the Armenians of central Iran were subjugated, harassed, and heavily taxed. The Armenians were forced to provide the Afghan invaders with rations. From 1747-1762 Persia experienced a civil war following the assassination of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747. During the 18th century many Armenians were executed and abducted. As a result of these horrific years many 80% of the Armenian was lost, many fled for Russia, British India (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Burma), British Malaya (Malaysia & Singapore), and for the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). In 1870 a famine ravaged Iran and 2 million people lost their lives. By 1914 there were only 80,000 Armenians in central Iran.

List of Armenian villages in central Iran:

The settlements of Lenjan, Alenjan and Karvan were abandoned in the 18th century.

The other settlements depopulated in the middle of 20th century due to emigration to New Julfa, Teheran or Soviet Armenia (in 1945 and later in 1967). Currently only 1 village (Zarneh) in Peria is totally, and 4 other villages (Upper Khoygan, Gharghan, Nemagerd and Sangbaran) in Peria and 1 village (Upper Chanakhchi) in Gharaghan are partially settled by Armenians.

Other than these settlements there is an Armenian village near Gorgan (Qoroq) which is settled by Armenians recently moved from Soviet territory.

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.[31]

The Armenian language used in Iran holds a unique position in the usage of Armenian in the world. Usually, the traditional 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


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Timothy C. Dowling Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond pp 729 ABC-CLIO, 2 dec. 2014 ISBN 1598849484
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Donald Rayfield. Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia Reaktion Books, 2013 ISBN 1780230702 p 165
  6. ^ Steven R. Ward. Immortal, Updated Edition: A Military History of Iran and Its Armed Forces Georgetown University Press, 8 jan. 2014 ISBN 1626160325 p 43
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b H. Nahavandi, Y. Bomati, Shah Abbas, empereur de Perse (1587–1629) (Perrin, Paris, 1998)
  9. ^
  10. ^ M. Canard: Armīniya in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden 1993.
  11. ^ a b The Cambridge History of Iran by William Bayne Fisher, Peter Avery, Ilya Gershevitch, Gavin Hambly, Charles Melville, Cambridge University Press, 1991 p. 339
  12. ^ Akty sobrannye, docs. 559, 564, 568, 570, 573, 582, 586, 614; and S. Glinka, Sobranie aktov otnosiashchikhsia k obozrenii istorii Armianskogo naroda, II (Moscow, 1838), pp. 163-166.
  13. ^ Fisher et al. 1991, p. 329.
  14. ^ "Griboedov not only extended protection to those Caucasian captives who sought to go home but actively promoted the return of even those who did not volunteer. Large numbers of Georgian and Armenian captives had lived in Iran since 1804 or as far back as 1795." Fisher, William Bayne;Avery, Peter; Gershevitch, Ilya; Hambly, Gavin; Melville, Charles. The Cambridge History of Iran Cambridge University Press, 1991. p. 339.
  15. ^ (Russian) A. S. Griboyedov. "Записка о переселеніи армянъ изъ Персіи въ наши области", Фундаментальная Электронная Библиотека
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b Իրանահայ «Ալիք»- ը նշում է 80- ամյակը
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^


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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