Armenian people

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This article is about the Armenians as an ethnic group. For information on residents or nationals of Armenia, see demographics of Armenia.

The Armenians are a nation or ethnic group, originating in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor. A large concentration remain there, especially in Armenia, but almost as many are scattered elsewhere throughout the world.

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Until modern times, the history of the Armenians is the history of Armenia, a name which designated a shifting region, but a reasonably continuous people in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor. Armenia first emerged into history around 800 BC as part of the Kingdom of Urartu or Van; the first Armenian state was founded in 190 BC. At its zenith (9565 BC), that state extended from Caucasus all the way to what is now eastern Turkey and Lebanon. It became part of the Roman Empire in 64 BC.

In AD 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion (see #Religion. During its later political eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique identity. From around 1100 to 1350, the focus of Armenian nationalism was the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, which had close ties to the Crusader States.

As with virtually all other nations of this region, between the 4th and 19th centuries, Armenia was conquered and ruled by, among others, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottoman Turks. This last was to prove particularly disastrous, with two genocidal campaigns against the Armenians in 18941896 and 19151916.

In the 1820s parts of historic Armenia under Persian control centering on Yerevan and Lake Sevan were incorporated into Russia. Following the breakup of Russian empire in the aftermath of World War I for a brief period from 1918 to 1920, it was an independent republic. In late 1920, the communists came to power following an invasion of Armenia by the Red Army, and in 1922, Armenia became part of the Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic, later the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (1936September 21, 1991), now the independent state of Armenia.

Persecution in the Ottoman Empire

See Armenian Genocide.

Armenia has a long history of conquering, or being conquered by a vast number of peoples. The worst persecution of Armenians took place in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire. The years 1894 to 1896 witnessed persecution on a scale that bordered on genocide. This was followed in 1915 and 1916 by one of the worst cases of ethnic cleansing in modern history. With World War I in progress, the Turks saw the (Christian) Armenians as liable to ally with Imperial Russia, and chose to deal with the entire Armenian population as an enemy within their empire. Between one and two million were massacred.

The exact numbers of deaths in the latter period is a very controversial matter; see Armenian Genocide#Statistics of the Second Massacre for discussion.

Geographic distribution

Armenians today are scattered all over the world as a result of the Armenian Diaspora.

About 3 – 3.5 million Armenians live in Armenia, but there are also about 2 – 2.5 million in Russia, 267,000–400,000 in Georgia, at least 400,000 (but possibly as many as 1 million) in the United States, 250,000 or more in France, 200,000 in Iran, 156,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh, 100,000 in Syria, 75,000 to 150,000 in Lebanon, 50,000 to 70,000 in Turkey, and more scattered in other counties, all together there are about 8 million worldwide.

Approx. 260,000 Armenians lived in Azerbaijan (without Nagorno-Karabakh) but they fled (mainly into Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia) when the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict errupted.

Watertown, Massachusetts, Fresno, California, and Glendale, California are three centers of Armenian population in the United States. In Latin America; Armenians are also present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica,Nicaragua, and Venezuela.


Main article: Culture of Armenia, Music of Armenia, List of Armenians.


Main article: Armenian language.

It is estimated that there are at least 10 million Armenian speakers in the world. 6 million of the Armenian speakers live in the Caucasus and Russia, and perhaps another million people in the Armenian diaspora are also Armenian speakers.

According to US Census figures, there are 300,000 Americans who speak Armenian at home. It is the 20th most commonly spoken language in the United States, having slightly fewer speakers than French Creole, and slightly more than Navaho.


In AD 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, establishing a church that still exists independently of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, having become so in AD 451 as a result of its excommunication by the Council of Chalcedon. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox communion. During its later political eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique identity.

The Armenians have, at times, constituted a Christian "island" in a mostly Muslim region. The Armenian kingdom of Cilicia, had close ties to European Crusader States. The religiously based sympathies that some Armenians presumably held for Imperial Russia provided the pretext for the genocide of 1915–1916 by the Ottoman Turks.

While the Armenian Apostolic Church remains the most prominent church in the Armenian community throughout the world, Armenians (especially) in the diaspora subscribe to any number of other Christian denominations. These include the Armenian Catholic Church (which follows its own liturgy but recognizes the Roman Catholic Pope), and the Armenian Brotherhood, which considers itself part of the Armenian Apostolic Church but has been much influenced by Protestantism. There are numerous Armenian churches belonging to Protestant denominations of all kinds.


The nation-state of Armenia is the most prominent Armenian institution today. Other important institutions include:


Armenians are a sub branch of the Indo-European family, which migrated from the north Caucasus in multiple directions around 4500 B.C. Armenians are their own sub-group in the Indo-European family and one of the smallest by population of the family. Whereas other Into-European ethnic groups such as the Slavs and the Germanics have their own sub-groups, the Armenians do not.

The Armenians have long been viewed as a nation; however, in diaspora, especially since the era of World War I, they have typically been viewed as an ethnic group.

See also


  • Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.
  • The categorization of Armenian churches in Los Angeles used information from Sacred Transformation: Armenian Churches in Los Angeles ( a project of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Population data

1 The page on Armenia ( gives 93% ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 3,326,448 (July 2003 est.), which would yield 3,093,000. It also notes that the population of Azeris in Armenia has been rapidly dropping in recent years. The National Geographic Atlas of the World, Seventh Edition (1999) puts the population of Armenia at 3,800,000. Adopting that same 93%, that would give about 3,500,000. However, Countrywatch ( gives a total national population of only 2,935,400 (2004). It is unlikely that the population of Armenia dropped by 900,000 in five years, and any drop in population is liable not mainly to be ethnic Armenians. In the absence of official census data, there is no reason to consider one of these estimates more reliable than another.

2 AGBU News ( says, "according to the most conservative estimates ... more than 2 million". The linked article provides some regional breakdown.Orran Daily ( quotes the Russian Novosti Agency by saying, "There are 2.5 million Armenians living in Russia".

3 ( presents official data from the 2000 U.S. Census (including state-by-state data), which states that there are 385,488 people of Armenian ancestry currently living in the United States. The 2001 Canadian Census ( determined that there are 40,505 persons of Armenian ancestry currently living in Canada. However, these are liable to be low numbers, since people of mixed ancestry, very common in North America tend to be under-counted: the 1990 census U.S. indicates ( 149,694 people who speak Armenian at home. The Armenian Embassy in Canada ( estimates 1 million ethnic Armenians in the U.S. and 100,000 in Canada. The Armenian Church of America makes a similar estimate ( By all accounts, over half of the Armenians in the United States live in California.

4 Georgia: The State Department for Statistics of Georgia ( 248,900 represents 5.7 % ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 4,371,500 (The Official data of 2002). The World Factbook: 267,000 represents 5.7 % ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 4,693,892 (July 2004 est.). Georgia ( 400,000 represents 8.1% ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 4,934,413 (The Official data of 1989).

5 ( 156,000 represents 2% ethnic Armenians in an estimated national population of 7,830,764 (July 2003 est.) combined with the note "almost all Armenians live in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region".

6 The Education for Development Institute ( maintains an extensive site about Armenia ( that includes information about the Armenian diaspora in various countries ( Their numbers generally agree with other sources when those are available; where we don't have a more authoritative source, we are following their in Europa eo:Armena Popolo fr:Diaspora armnienne ka:სომხები pl:Ormianie ru:Армяне sl:Armenci sr:Јермени


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