Armenian American

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Armenian Americans
Armenian Americans collage.png
Total population
483,366 (2011 ACS)
800,000 — 1,500,000 (estimates)
0.15%-0.5% of the US population
Regions with significant populations
Greater Los Angeles Area · Northeastern urban areas
Languages
Armenian · American English
Religion
predominantly Armenian Apostolic
Catholic and Evangelical minorities

Armenian Americans (Armenian: ամերիկահայեր)[1] are citizens or residents of the United States who have total or partial Armenian ancestry. They form the second largest community in the Armenian diaspora after Armenians in Russia.[2] The first major wave of Armenian immigration to the US took place in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as Armenians fled the Hamidian massacres in the mid-1890s and Armenian Genocide of 1915 that were taking place in the Ottoman Empire. Since the 1950s, Armenians from the Middle Eastern nations of Turkey, Iran and Lebanon have migrated to America as a result of instability in those countries, and since the late 1980s, immigrants from Soviet Armenia could be found as well. Since the independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the following economic crisis, additional Armenians fled to the US.

The Armenian American community is the most politically influential community of the Armenian diaspora.[3] Organizations such as Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and Armenian Assembly of America advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US government and support stronger Armenia–United States relations. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is known for its financial support and promotion of Armenian cultural and Armenian language schools. The Armenian language (both the Eastern and mainly the Western dialects) is spoken in the US, especially in California, where most recent Armenian immigrants and established Armenian communities have settled. The majority of Armenians are followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the oldest national church in the world, and Armenian Americans are no exception.

The 2011 American Community Survey estimated that 483,366 Americans held full or partial Armenian ancestry.[4] Various organizations and media criticize these numbers as an underestimate, proposing 800,000 to 1,500,000 Armenian Americans instead. The highest concentration of Americans of Armenian descent is in the Greater Los Angeles area, where 166,498 people have identified themselves as Armenian to the 2000 Census, comprising over 40% of the 385,488 people who identified Armenian origins in the US at the time. Glendale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, is widely thought to be the center of Armenian American life.[5]

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

The first Armenians came to North America in the early 17th century. The first recorded Armenian in North America was Martin the Armenian, an Iranian tobacco grower who settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1618.[6][7] In 1653 and 1654, two Armenians from Constantinople were invited to Virginia to raise silk worms.[6][7] A few other Armenians are recorded as having come to the US in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but most came as individuals and did not establish communities. By the 1770s over 70 Armenians had settled in the colonies.[6] The persecution of Christian minorities under the Ottoman Empire and American missionary activities resulted in a small wave of Armenian migration to the US in the 1830s from Cilicia and Western Armenia. Khachig Oskanian, a Constantinople American missionary school student, arrived in America in 1834 to pursue higher education.[6] He later worked for the New York Herald Tribune and became the New York Press Club president.[8] Many Armenians followed him and came to the US for education.[9]

An Armenian family in Boston, 1908

A number of Armenians were known to have served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Three Armenian doctors—Simeon Minasian, Garabed Galstian, and Baronig Matevosian—worked at military hospitals in Philadelphia.[10] The only Armenian known to have participated in hostilities was Khachadour Paul Garabedian, who enlisted in the Union Navy. A naturalized citizen from Rodosto, Garabedian served aboard the blockade ships USS Geranium and USS Grand Gulf as a Third Assistant Engineer (and was later made an officer) from 1864 until his honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1865.[11]

In 1854, there were 20 Armenians in the United States, and by the 1870s their number reached 70.[12] In the late 1870s, small Armenian communities existed in New York City; Providence, Rhode Island; and Worcester, Massachusetts. By the late 1880s, the number of Armenians in the US reached 1,500. Many of them were young male students of the American Evangelical Missions spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. About 40% came from the Province of Kharpert.[6] Before 1899, immigrants were not classified by ethnicity, but rather by country of birth, obscuring the ethnic origins of many Armenians.[13] After 1869, however, Armenians from the eastern regions of the Ottoman Empire were registered as "Armenian" in American records. The number of Armenians that migrated to the US from 1820 to 1898 is estimated to be around 4,000.[14]

First wave of immigration and the Interwar period[edit]

Armenians began to arrive in the US in higher numbers than before in the late nineteenth century, most notably after the Hamidian Massacres of 1894–1896, and before, during and after the Armenian Genocide.[15] Before this mass migration to the US, the number of Armenians in the country was from 1,500 to 3,000, and mostly consisted of laborers.[16][17][18]

Over 12,000 Armenians from the Ottoman Empire came to the US throughout the 1890s.[19] With the exception of Fresno, California, which had land suitable for farming, the earliest Armenian immigrants mostly settled in the northeastern industrial centers: New York City, Providence, Worcester, and Boston.[17] Armenian emigrants from the Russian Empire were only a minority in emigration from Armenian lands across the Atlantic (about 2,500 came in 1898–1914), because Armenians were treated relatively better in Russia than in the Ottoman Empire.[20] Once in America, some Armenians organized political parties to serve various causes in America and in the homeland.[9] Turkish Armenian migration rose gradually in the first decade of the 20th century, as a result of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, the Adana Massacre of 1909, and the Balkan Wars in 1912–1913.[21] Before the start of the World War I, there were already 60,000 Armenians in the US.[20] As more Armenians fell victim to the genocide and more Armenians were deported, the Armenian American community grew gradually.

Built in 1891, the Church of Our Savior in Worcester, Massachusetts was the first Armenian church in the US.[22]

According to the American Bureau of Immigration, 54,057 Armenians entered the US between 1899 and 1917. The top listed countries of origin were Turkey (46,474), Russia (3,034), Canada (1,577), Great Britain (914) and Egypt (894). During this era, immigrants were asked to indicate which state that they were going to settle in; for Armenians, the most popular answers were New York (17,391), Massachusetts (14,192), Rhode Island (4,923), Illinois (3,313), California (2,564), New Jersey (2,115), Pennsylvania (2,002), Michigan (1,371).[23] The largest Armenian American communities at that time were located in New York City, Fresno, Worcester, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Jersey City, Detroit, Los Angeles, Troy, and Cleveland.[24]

According to estimates, about 77,980 Armenians lived in the US in 1919.[23] An unprecedented number of Armenians entered the country in 1920,[20] but the Immigration Act of 1924 that restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe barred many other Armenians from emigrating to the US.[7] Most of the post-World War I immigrants were women and children, in contrast to the prewar immigration, which was predominantly young and male.[20] Like Italians, for whom this practice was known as campanilismo, Armenian communities were often formed by people from the same village or town in the Ottoman Empire. It almost disappeared after World War II.[25]

Anti-Armenianism discrimination was widespread, and many Armenians struggled against overt discrimination and housing restrictions. The Armenians living in central California were often referred to by natives as "Fresno Indians" and "lower class Jews."[26] This first wave of immigration lasted until the mid-1920s, when the new immigration quotas were passed. This wave of immigrants established Armenian communities and organizations in the US, most notably the Armenian Apostolic Church. In the 1920s, Armenians began to move from rural regions to cities.

Second wave of immigration[edit]

Armenian American dancers in New York City in July 1976 during the United States Bicentennial

A new wave of Armenian immigrants came in the late 1940s, including Soviet Armenian prisoners of war who were able to make their way westward after being freed from Nazi camps. The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 allowed people displaced during the World War II to immigrate to the US.[27] From 1944 to 1952, 4,739 Armenians migrated to the US,[14] many with the help of George Mardikian's American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians (ANCHA).[28]

However, the true second wave of immigration did not begin until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished national origins quotas. After the passage of that act, Armenians from the Soviet Union, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries began migrating en masse to the US in the 1970s and 1980s, fleeing political instability in their host countries.[28] In the 1950s, most Armenian immigrants in the US were from Soviet Armenia and Turkey. The Istanbul riots in 1955 frightened the local Turkish Armenian population, which looked to the West for a safe and more prosperous life.

The Armenians of USSR, on the other hand, were mostly survivors of the Armenian Genocide that never fully integrated into Soviet life after their repatriation in the 1940s. The large-scale emigration of Soviet Armenians, mainly to Western countries, began in 1956. About 30,000 Soviet Armenians entered the country from 1960 to 1984, and another 60,000 came throughout the late 1980s, during the Perestroika era.[27] The total number of Soviet Armenian emigrants from 1956 to 1989, over 80% of them to the US, is estimated at 77,000.[29]

The 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War that started in 1975 and the Iranian revolution of 1979 greatly contributed to the influx of Middle Eastern Armenians to the US.[30] The Armenian communities in these Middle Eastern countries were well established and integrated, but not assimilated, into local populations. Armenians in Lebanon and Iran are represented in the parliaments as ethnic minorities. Many lived in luxury in their former countries, and more easily handled multilingualism, while retaining aspects of traditional Armenian culture.[7] This wave of newcomers revitalized the Armenian American community, especially in the Los Angeles area,[31] where most second-wave Armenian immigrants settled.[32] In 1970 about 65,000 Armenians resided in Southern California, and two decades later, in 1989, the number of Armenian Americans was estimated at 200,000.[33] Although the 1980 US Census put the number of Armenians living in Los Angeles at 52,400, of which 71.9% were foreign born: 14.7% in Iran, 14.3% in the USSR, 11.5% in Lebanon, 9.7% in Turkey, 11.7% in other Middle Eastern countries (Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, etc.), and the rest in other parts of the world.[34]

The number of Armenian Americans by years
Year Number
1980[35]
212,621
1990[36]
308,096
2000[37]
385,488
2010[38]
474,559

Contemporary period[edit]

Immediately before and continuing into the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, waves of Armenians from the Republic of Armenia and other former Soviet republics arrived for political reasons and economic opportunities, settling in older established Armenian communities across the country.[7] The 1988 Armenian earthquake and the energy crisis in Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh War caused an estimated number of 700,000 Armenians to leave the country, most of whom ended up in Russia, still others in the US, and some in Europe.[39] Annually, on average 2,000 people from Armenia migrated to the US since 1994, not including ethnic Armenians from Middle Eastern countries.[27] According to the 2000 US Census, there were 65,280 Armenian-born people in the US: 57,482 in California, 1,981 in New York and 1,155 in Massachusetts.[40][41] According to the 2011 American Community Survey, there were 85,150 Armenian-born people in the US, about 20,000 more than in 2000.[42] According to the US embassy in Yerevan, about 21,000 citizens of the Republic of Armenia have moved to the US for permanent residency in the period from 1995 to 2012.[43] Meanwhile, Armenian immigration from the Middle East continues, contributing to California's distinction of having by far the highest Armenian American population of any state.[44]

According to Dr. Anny Bakalian, Associate Director of the Middle East Center at the City University of New York, "country of birth and childhood socialization, generation, and even cohort effect are important variables in understanding the behavior and attitudes of people of Armenian descent".[45] The main subgroups of foreign-born Armenian Americans are Hayastantsis (Armenians from Armenia), Barskayes (Armenians from Iran) and Beirutsis (Armenians from Lebanon, mostly Beirut).[46][47] A 1990 University of California, Los Angeles study showed that by education and occupation, native-born and Iranian-born Armenians "tend to have the highest socioeconomic status... while those from Turkey have the lowest", although Turkish Armenians boast the highest rate of self-employment.[48] In 1988, The New York Times article claimed that Middle Eastern Armenians prefer to settle in Glendale, California, while Armenian immigrants from the Soviet Union were attracted to Hollywood, Los Angeles.[49]

Armenians from Lebanon, where they had effectively established an active community, are more politicized,[50] while the Armenians from Turkey are mostly connected with the Armenian Apostolic Church.[51] About 1/3 of all Turkish Armenians in America are self-employed.[52] A group of Armenian Americans from Istanbul founded the Organization of Istanbul Armenians (OIA) in 1976,[53] which claimed over 1,000 members in Southern California as of 2011.[54] Iranian Armenians are known for fast integration into American society;[55] for example, only 31% of Armenian Americans born in Iran claim not to speak English well.[52]

Armenian American criminal organizations have received widespread media attention, such as during the 2010 Medicaid fraud.[56][57][58] However, in the city of Glendale, California, where Armenians compose 27% of city's total population, only 17% of the crime in the city were committed by Armenians in 2006.[44] A gang named Armenian Power, composed of some 200 Armenian Americans, has operated in Los Angeles County since the late 1980s.[59]

According to the 2000 US Census, there were 385,488 Americans of Armenian ancestry at that time.[37] The 2011 American Community Survey estimate found 483,366 Americans with full or partial Armenian ancestry.[4] Higher estimates of 800,000 to 1,500,000 are offered by many Armenian and non-Armenian organizations, media and scholars. The German ethnographer Caroline Thon puts their number at 800,000,[60] a number also offered by the Journal of Turkish Weekly[61] and Dr. Harold Takooshian of Fordham University.[62] Prof. Dennis R. Papazian of University of Michigan–Dearborn claimed that there were 1,000,000 people of Armenian ancestry living in the US.[7] Armenian Mirror-Spectator[63] the German news website Spiegel Online and The New York Review of Books reported the estimate of 1,200,000,[64][65] while the World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, U.S. News & World Report,[66] and Los Angeles Times[67] put the number at 1,400,000.[68] The Armenian National Committee of America,[69] The Armenian Weekly,[70] The Armenian Reporter,[71] and Reuters offer the highest number, at around 1,500,000 Armenian Americans.[72]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Distribution of Armenians in the Los Angeles County, 2000.

Most Armenian Americans are concentrated in major urban areas, especially in California and the Northeast, and to a lesser extent in the Midwest. The highest concentrations of Americans of Armenian ancestry are in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. According to the 2000 Census, the states with largest Armenian populations were California (204,631), Massachusetts (28,595), New York (24,460), New Jersey (17,094), Michigan (15,746), Florida (9,226), Pennsylvania (8,220), Illinois (7,958), Rhode Island (6,677) and Texas (4,941).[37]

California[edit]

The first Armenian arrived in California in 1874 and settled in Fresno.[73] Fresno and the Central Valley in general were the center of California Armenian community, but in the later decades, especially since the 1960s, when significant number of Middle Eastern Armenians arrived in the US, Southern California attracted more and more Armenians.[74]

Los Angeles and the surrounding area is, by far, the most crowded Armenian community in the US. It holds a little less than half of all Armenians living in the US, making it one of the most populous Armenian communities outside of Armenia. The estimated numbers of Armenians of Southern California vary greatly: 250,000,[75] 350,000,[74] 400,000,[60] 450,000,[76] 500,000,[7] although the 2000 census reported 152,910 Armenians in Los Angeles County.[77] Just eleven years later, the 2011 American Community Survey one-year estimates put the number of Armenians in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area 214,618, about 29% growth from 2000.[78] The city of Los Angeles itself had an Armenian population of 64,997 in 2000.[79] Several districts of Los Angeles have high concentrations of Armenians, particularly in San Fernando Valley: North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Encino.[80] On October 6, 2000, a small community in East Hollywood was named Little Armenia by the Los Angeles City Council. The city council file on the adoption states that "the area contains a high concentration of Armenian businesses and residents and social and cultural institutions including schools, churches, social and athletic organizations."[81]

Glendale, California has the highest concentration of Armenians in the nation and the highest outside of Armenia.[82]

Glendale, just a few miles away from downtown Los Angeles, has a population of about 200,000, of which, according to some estimates, 40% is Armenian.[83][84][85] According to the 2000 Census 53,840 people or 27% of the population identified themselves Armenian in Glendale.[79][86] Glendale also home to the highest percentage of people born in Armenia.[87] Other than Glendale and Los Angeles proper, significant Armenian populations reside in Burbank (8,312), Pasadena (4,400), Montebello (2,736), Altadena (2,134), La Crescenta-Montrose (1,382).[79] The Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument, the oldest and largest Armenian Genocide memorial in the US, is located in Montebello.

Dr. Seta Kazandjian described the community in her 2006 book as follows:

Waves of immigration into the Los Angeles area have resulted in the formation of strong communities in neighborhoods and citites such as Hollywood, Glendale. and North Hollywood. In these neighborhoods, an Armenian can live a very active social and occupational life and receive many services without speaking a word of English and interacting only with Armenians. Armenian-speaking food vendors, pharmacists, physicians, dentists, lawyers, tailors, hair stylists, shop owners and mechanics are all available. Up to three different 24-hour Armenian language television and radio channels are available. There are various social activities to attend for the Armenian community every day. Therefore, individuals exist who are not acculturated at all to the dominant American culture, as well as those who have chosen to separate from the Armenian community and acculturate completely, and many who are in the middle of acculturation spectrum.[88]

Fresno, California was the first major Armenian community in the Western US. It was a major destination for early Armenian immigrants from the Ottoman Armenia, many of whom were engaged in agriculture. Armenians were the largest minority group in Fresno County. The city is also widely known as the birthplace of William Saroyan, many of whose stories are set there.[89] Today, an estimated number of about 40,000 Armenian live in Fresno.[49] According to the 2000 Census 9,884 Armenians lived in Fresno County at the time.[90] The area around the Holy Trinity Church is called Old Armenian Town.[91]

The Northern Californian Armenian population isn't as populous as the Southern portion of the state. Armenians are mostly concentrated in and around the cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. The 2000 Census reported only 2,528 Armenians in the San Francisco, but it probably underestimated the actual number.[92][93][94]

Northeast[edit]

Since the 19th century the first Armenians appeared to New York. The states of New York and Massachusetts were top destinations for Armenian immigrants in early twentieth century. The area between the East 20th St., Lexington Avenue and the Third Avenue, where a compact Armenian population lived and Armenian shops existed, was called "Little Armenia until the 1960s.[95] The area was mentioned in 1914 book Our Mr. Wren: The Romantic Adventures of a Gentle Man by Sinclair Lewis (the 1930 Noble Prize Winner).[96] Today, according to estimates there are 150,000 Armenians in the Tri-State area. Queens is home to some 50,000 Armenian Americans, Manhattan has 10,000 Armenian population.[97]

Stepan Zadori, an Hungarian Armenian, is the first known Armenian to came to Boston, The Armenian community in Boston wasn't founded until 1880s.[98] Today, estimates say that Armenians number from 50,000 to 70,000 in the Greater Boston area.[98][99] The Armenian Heritage Park, dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, was opened in downtown Boston on May 22, 2012.[100] Watertown, Massachusetts is the center of Boston Armenians, where according to estimates about 7,000 to 8,000 people of Armenian origin reside,[101][102] though the 2000 Census put the number only at 2,708.[103] The Armenian Library and Museum of America is located in Watertown. Other towns in the area with significant Armenian populations are Worcester (1,306), Belmont (1,165), Waltham (1,091) and the city of Boston (1,080).[103]

Other major northeastern cities with significant Armenian populations include Providence and Philadelphia. Like other Armenian communities in America, Armenian communities in these cities have it roots in late 19th century and early 20th century. Currently, Philadelphia holds about 15,000 Armenian American population[104] and over 7,000 live in Providence.[105][104]

Other communities[edit]

Other sizable Armenian American communities exist in the Midwest and in the South, but in much smaller numbers than the Northeastern states and California.

The early Armenian immigrants in Detroit were mostly laborers. In later decades, particularly since the 1960s Middle Eastern Armenians immigrated to Michigan. The Armenian community has been described as "highly educated, professional and prospering."[106] Today, they number about 22,000.[98] Chicago's Armenians also first settled in the city in late 19th century in small numbers, but it increased through the 20th century,[107] reaching about 25,000 by today.[93] As of 2003 more than 8,000 Armenian Americans lived in Washington, DC.[108] The Armenian Genocide Museum of America is to be located in the capital. In the turn of the century, there is a tend of gradual increase in number of Armenians living outside of traditional settlement areas. For instance, the number of Armenians in skyrocketed in the states of Nevada (from 2,880 in 2000 to 5,845 in 2010), Florida (9,226 to 15,856) and Texas (4,941 to 14,459).[109]

Culture[edit]

A road sign in Glendale, California in Spanish, English and Armenian

Language[edit]

Armenian Americans are one of the least assimilated White ethnic groups in the US. Today, more than half of the Armenians living in the US speak the Armenian language. For comparison, only about 6% of Italian Americans, 32% of Greek Americans and 70% of Albanian Americans speak their ancestral language.[37][110] The main reason for this is the fact that a significant part of Armenian Americans are foreign-born or are first-generation Americans and there are tens of Armenian-language schools in America.

The Armenian language has two distinct standardized forms: Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian, both widely spoken among the Armenian American community. The main differences between them are mostly in pronunciation and in the formation of verbs.[111] Armenians from Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and few other countries speak the Western dialect, which was spoken in Western Armenia, the eastern regions of Turkey with historical Armenian presence. In early 20th century the Turkish Armenian population was targeted a mass killing by the Turkish government, known as the Armenian Genocide. The population was deported to the Syrian desert, where many died, others fled to foreign countries and established communities. Lebanon and Syria had the largest Armenian communities prior to the Second World War, after which many left for Soviet Armenia or migrated to Europe and Americas. Eastern Armenian is primarily spoken in the Republic of Armenia and Iran, though the Iranian Armenians have their dialect.[112] Also, Western and Eastern Armenian use two different spellings. The Armenians in Armenia use the reformed orthography, while Armenians of the most diaspora countries (including Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iran) use the classical orthography.[113]

Between 1910 and 1970, the language of only foreign-born population in the United States was taken into account. In 1910, the number of Armenian speakers in the US was 23,938. It grew up to 37,647 in 1920, 51,741 in 1930, 40,000 in 1940, 37,270 in 1960 and 38,323 in 1970.[114] According to the 1980 US Census 100,634 people in the nation spoke Armenian, 69,995 of them were foreign-born.[115][116] The 1990 US Census revealed 308,096 people of Armenian ancestry at the time and 149,694 people who indicated Armenian as their native language. Majority of Armenian-speakers (115,017) were foreign-born.[116][117]

According to the 2000 US Census there were 385,488 ethnic Armenians living in the US, and 202,708 people identified Armenian as 'Language Spoken at Home'. The overwhelming majority of Armenian-speakers lived in California (155,237). Other states with significant number of Armenian-speakers were New York (8,575) and Massachusetts (8,091).[37][110] About 2/3 of Armenians speakers call Los Angeles County home.[44] The 2011 American Community Survey 3-year estimates put the number of Armenian-speakers at 240,095. According to the same source 130,735 of them knew English "very well" and 109,360 knew English less than "very well".[118]

A 2007 study showed that 16% of Armenians born in Lebanon, 29% in Armenia (including Soviet Armenia), 31% in Iran and 36% in Turkey are not proficient in English.[52] Many foreign-born Armenians are multilingual, speaking at least one language other than Armenian and English. For instance, Armenians from Armenia might know Russian, Armenians from Lebanon, Syria may know Arabic and French, almost all Iranian Armenians speak Persian and Istanbul Armenians speak Turkish.[7][54][119]

Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Little Armenia neighborhood of East Hollywood is the largest Armenian school in the US with more than 1,000 students.

Education[edit]

Early Armenian immigrants were one of the most literate ethnic groups to enter the US with 76% literacy. In comparison, only 46% of southern Italians, 74% of Eastern European Jews and 99% of Finns were literate.[111] Today, 41% of American-born Armenians have at least a 4 year college degree. The rate is lower for foreign-born Armenians.[52]

The first Armenian Sunday school in the US was founded in late 1880s in New York by Barsegh Vardukyan.[120] Since the 1960s many Armenian bilingual schools have been established in communities throughout the country. Ferrahian Armenian School, founded in 1964, is the oldest Armenian daily school in America.[120] Besides this, there are over one hundred Armenian schools that operate on weekends only.[7] Mashdots College in Glendale, California, founded in 1992, is the only Armenian higher education institution in the country.[121]

Religion[edit]

Most Armenian Americans are adherents of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the largest Oriental Orthodox church in the US.[122] It possess over 90 churches throughout the nation.[123] It was reported that 80% of Armenian Americans are Armenian Apostolic, 10% are Protestant (mostly Armenian Evangelical) and 3% are Armenian Catholic.[8]

The Armenian Apostolic Church is the oldest national church in the world, had major role in protecting the Armenian identity through the centuries of foreign domination.[124] Many Armenian communities in the country are concentrated around churches that serve as community centers. The first Armenian Apostolic church in America named Church of Our Savior was built in 1891 in Worcester.[122] The American Diocese of the Church was established in 1898 by Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian.[22] In 1916 there were 34 Armenian parishes with 27,450 members with predominantly male population. Top states with Armenian church followers lived in Massachusetts, Michigan, California and New York.[125] The Western Diocese was established in 1927.[126]

St. Vartan Cathedral in midtown Manhattan

After the Soviets took over the power in Armenia in 1920, the Armenian American community was divided into two camps: one supporting Soviet Armenia (mostly members of the Hunchak and Ramgavar parties), another one against it (mostly made up of ARF members). During the 1933 World's Fair, Leon Tourian, the primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, refused to give a speech, because the Armenian tricolor of the 1918-1920 Republic was hang behind him, while Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Catholicos of All Armenians, was in Armenia that was then part of the Soviet Union and used a different flag. This upset the Dashnak members present in the ceremony. The conflict reached a crisis on December 24, 1933, when several members of ARF assassinated Archbishop Tourian during the Christmas Eve service in New York's Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church.[122][127][128]

On October 12, 1957, during the peak of the Cold War, a number of parishes of the Armenian Apostolic Church in America, which were unaffiliated since 1933, came together under the Holy See of Cilicia with the headquarters in Lebanon, close to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.[122][126][129] After the World War II, Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan led the church through a second founding, which saw the framing of by-laws to govern the diocese; the creation of a nation-wide youth organization; the initiation of a project to build an Armenian cathedral in Manhattan; and the entry of the Armenian Church into the ecumenical movement.[130] The middle 1950s saw an uptick in immigration and a building boom of Armenian churches, with new communities proliferating across the US. A generation of leaders born in America also began to exert itself. The first American-born Armenian priest was ordained in 1956. In 1961, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary was established in Illinois (later, it would move to New York). A spirit of renewed vigor was embodied by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, who governed the diocese as primate from 1966 to 1990.[131] The period saw a large influx of Armenian immigrants. These developments refocused the priorities of the Armenian Church in America. The need for humanitarian relief to the Armenian homeland, as well as outreach to refugees settling throughout the US (concentrated in New York and Los Angeles), led to the creation of the Fund for Armenian Relief—through which the church delivers material and medical aid to Armenia.[124]

Today, more than 120 Armenian parish communities exist on the continent, with two-thirds operating as fully organized churches with sanctuaries. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian is primate of the Eastern Diocese (since 1990); Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese (since 2003). The dioceses maintain strong connections to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and the current Supreme Patriarch, His Holiness Karekin II, the 132nd Catholicos of All Armenians.

Armenian Evangelical form the second largest denomination among Armenian Americans, with 1 out of 10 being a follower.[8] As of 1993 there were 28 Armenian Protestant Churches.[132] A small number of Armenian Americans are followers of the Armenian Catholic Church. Their number is estimated to be around 25,000.[133] In 1990 there were 6 Armenian Catholic Churches in the United States.[132]

Media[edit]

The first Armenian-language newspaper in the US, named Aregak (Արեգակ, "Sun"), was published in Jersey City in 1888. Over 300 newspapers have been published since then.[9][134] Today, numerous Armenian newspapers (both in Armenian and English) are published throughout the country. Asbarez (Ասպարէզ, "Arena") is the only daily, published in Los Angeles since 1908. Hairenik (Հայրենիք, "Fatherland") is published since 1899 in Boston.[9] Both are affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. Other notable weeklies include The Armenian Weekly, Armenian Mirror-Spectator, Nor Hayastan (Նոր Հայաստան, "New Armenia"), The Armenian Reporter.

Four Armenian television stations are located in the Southern California, which has high concentration of Armenian speakers: AMGA (Armenian Media Group of America), Armenian Best TV, ARTN (Armenian-Russian Television Network), USArmenia TV. Also, two TV stations are available only online: Horizon TV and Hairenik TV.

There are bilingual radio stations that go on air either on Saturdays or Sundays for couple hours in Boston, New Jersey, Providence, Fresno Detroit. Also, few online 24-hour radio stations operate nationwide: YerevanNights and Armenian Pulse in Los Angeles, Bashde and Hairenik Radio in the Boston area.

Traditions[edit]

Armenian cuisine, and the Middle Eastern cuisine in general, is popular among Armenian Americans. A number of restaurants function in the Los Angeles area and other locations with high concentration of Armenian-Americans. Zankou Chicken, a family-owned chain of Armenian and Middle-Eastern fast casual restaurants within the Los Angeles area, is among the most famous Armenian restaurants.

Tens of amateur Armenian folk dance ensembles have been founded in the United States in the last decades.[135]

Homenetmen, an Armenian Revolutionary Federation-affiliated sports organization, is very active in the United States, also engaged in scouting. The Western US branch of Homenetmen holds the Navasartian Games in the Los Angeles area every summer since 1975. Today, it brings together more than 6,000 athletes from 300 teams, 2,000 scouts. More than 35,000 people come to watch the event.[136]

Politics[edit]

Armenian National Committee of America headquarters in Washington

Early period[edit]

The three major Armenian political parties of late 19th century and early 20th century — Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), Social Democrat Hunchakian Party (Hunchak), Armenakan Party (later Ramgavar), were present in America not too long after their foundation.[137] They established their own newspapers: Hairenik and Asbarez by Dashnaks and Baikar by Ramgavar's. After the Bolsheviks took over Armenia in 1920, Rmagavars and Hunchaks formed a coalition supporting Soviet Armenia, while the ARF, the ruling party of the Republic of Armenia from 1918 to 1920, remained anti-Soviet in diaspora.[129] The 1988 Spitak earthquake and the Karabakh movement brought the separate groups of the Armenian community together.[49]

Armenian lobby[edit]

The Armenian American community has been described as the "most influential" Armenian community in the world, though smaller in size than the one in Russia.[3] The Armenian American lobby is one of the most powerful ethnic lobbies in the US,[138] It is today considered to be the second most powerful ethnic lobby in America after the Jewish lobby.[7] The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) have as their main lobbying agenda the pressing of Congress and the US President for an increase of economic aid to Armenia (already the second largest per capita after Israel) and the reduction of economic and military assistance to Turkey. The efforts also include reaffirmation of a genocide by Ottoman Turkey in 1915.[139]

According to Shawn Dorman, the author of Inside a U.S. embassy, the main goal of Armenian lobby is the "persuasion of US Congress to favor Armenian interests, especially to recognize the Armenian Genocide." He then claims that "it had significant role in the United States providing financial support to Armenia. From 1992 to 2010 the US provided nearly $2 billion, the highest per capita amount for a post-Soviet state."[140] Fund for Armenian Relief is a humanitarian organization providing long-term programs focusing on human development. Armenia Fund raises millions of dollars every year for infrastructural development in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In 1992, Dr. Dickran Kouymjian of the California State University, Fresno stated:

All have refocused their efforts toward Armenia, providing financial and professional skill. The identification of Armenians with those in Erevan and Karabagh has been greatly facilitated by Armenia's membership in the United Nations and the regular reporting of its problems in the American press.. Diasporan history has been transformed by the Republic: nowhere is this more strongly felt than in America. The unifying force of the Genocide has been superseded by that of the Republic, while religious freedom in Armenia has revitalized the church in America and given it a mission. As the largest and most prosperous community in the world, as inheritors of a Protestant American work ethic, coupled with American self-righteousness, Armenian Americans feel they have a special role in the survival and success of the new state. They take pride in their support of Etchmiadzin, in the massive humanitarian aid given since the 1988 earthquake, in Armenians in high government positions, and particularly in the establishment of the American University of Armenia, the first major experiment in American higher education in the former Soviet Union. As English quickly becomes the second language of the new republic, Armenians in America feel closer to the homeland, suffering Armenia's tragedies and rejoicing in its successes. The Karabagh crisis, economic chaos, lack of basic amenities, and the threat of war fill all diasporan Armenians with an anxiety unknown before, because they know that their efforts may determine Armenia's fate.[129]

Armenian Genocide[edit]

The official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the US federal government is seen one of the most vital steps in international and full recognition of the 1915–1923 events. Many Armenians think that the US has the ability to force Turkey to recognize the past and pay Armenians and Armenia their reparations, that includes (for some) the return of the so-called Wilsonian Armenia to the Republic of Armenia.

Several official US documents describe the events as "genocide" (1975,[141][142] 1984,[143] 1996);[144] President Ronald Reagan also described the events as "genocide" in his speech on April 22, 1981.[145] On March 4, 2010, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs recognized the massacres of 1915 as "genocide."[146] Also, 43 of the 50 US states have made individual proclamations recognizing the events of 1915 to 1923 as genocide.[147]

Armenian Americans gather in multiple towns and cities every year on April 24 for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The largest of such gatherings occurs in the Los Angeles area. The Armenian National Institute lists 30 Armenian Genocide memorials in the US.[148] The oldest one is Montebello Genocide Memorial, which was completed in 1965. Khachkars across America were erected in honor of the 1.5 million victims of the Genocide. Recently, the Armenian Heritage Park was opened in Boston, MA.

Notable Armenian Americans[edit]

Armenians in the US have attained success and prominence in diverse areas, including business, entertainment, sciences, sports and literature.

Arts and entertainment[edit]

System of a Down is composed of four Armenians

Entertainment has been, perhaps, the most successful area for Armenian Americans. One of the most discussed American singers, Cher (born Cherilyn Sarkisian), is Armenian from paternal side.[149] The metal band System of a Down is composed of four Armenian members.[150] Composer Alan Hovhaness, born to an Armenian father and a Scottish-American mother, "wrote more than 400 pieces, among them 67 symphonies of varying quality."[151]

Numerous Armenian musicians have been successful in American pop culture. Los Angeles is considered one of the main centers of Armenian music production of the last decades. Armenian-born singers that have lived or live in the US include rock singer Arthur Meschian,[152] folk singers Harout Pamboukjian[153] and Flora Martirosian,[154] and pop singer Armenchik.[155] Arto Tunçboyacıyan, an avant-garde singer from Istanbul, also lived in America for many years.

Reality TV show star Kim Kardashian, who has been described as "the most famous Armenian",[156] is a controversial figure among Armenians.[157][158] Her father, Robert Kardashian, was an attorney at the O. J. Simpson murder case.

William Saroyan was "one of the most prominent literary figures of the mid-20th century."[159]
Literature

Armenian American literature constitutes a diverse body of literature that incorporates American writers of Armenian ancestry. Encompassing a cross section of literary genres and forms, Armenian American writers often incorporate some common themes (e.g., the Armenian Genocide) while maintaining very personal literary styles. The New York-based Ararat Quarterly, published since 1959, has been a major venue for Armenian American writing. Ararat is published in English by the AGBU and also includes works by Armenian writers around the world in translation. First-generation Armenian American writers include William Saroyan, Leon Surmelian, A. I. Bezzerides, Michael Arlen, Marjorie Housepian Dobkin and others. Second generation Armenian American writers include Peter Balakian, Nancy Kricorian, Carol Edgarian, Michael J. Arlen, Arthur Nersesian, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Hrag Vartanian, Chris Bohjalian and others.[160]

Visual arts

Sculptor Haig Patigian, painters Hovsep Pushman and, most notably, Arshile Gorky are the most famous American artists of Armenian origin.[161] Rouben Mamoulian, a film and theater director also known as co-producer of the first feature film (Becky Sharp, 1935) to use the three-strip Technicolor process.[162] Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., William Saroyan's cousin, created Alvin and the Chipmunks.[163]

Politicians[edit]

George Deukmejian was the Governor of California from 1983 to 1991

A number of Armenians have entered into politics. The first Armenian to hold a high position office was Republican Steven Derounian, a Bulgarian-born Armenian, represented New York from 1953 to 1965 in the House of Representatives.[164] George Deukmejian became the Republican governor of California in 1983 and left the office in 1991. Previously he had served as State Assemblyman (1963–1967), State Senator (1967–1979) and California Attorney General (1979–1983).[165] A number of Armenian American had been elected to state legislatures, especially in California. In Massachusetts, George Keverian wasn't only elected to the State House, but also became its speaker from 1985 to 1991.[164]

Paul Robert Ignatius served as the US Secretary of the Navy from 1967 to 1969 in the Lyndon Johnson's administration.[166] Ken Khachigian was the chief speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. He is also known for Reagan's characterization of 1915 events as "genocide" in 1981.[167] Diplomat Edward Djerejian was the US ambassador in Syria then Israel in the 1990s.[166] Harry Tutunjian was the Republican mayor of Troy, New York from 2003 to 2012. Joe Simitian had been a California State Senator since 2004,[164] while Paul Krekorian was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2010 from District 2, where the Armenian population of Los Angeles is concentrated. Currently, two congresswoman of Armenian ancestry, Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, are in the office, both Democrats from California.[164]

A small number of Armenian Americans moved to Armenia in early 1990s, some becoming notable in their ancestral homeland. Raffi Hovannisian, a Fresno-born third-generation Armenian American lawyer, moved to Armenia in 1991 and soon was appointed the first Foreign Minister of Armenia, where he remained until 1992. Today, Hovannisian is major opposition figure in Armenia and the leader of Heritage party. Sebouh (Steve) Tashjian, a California Armenian originally from Jerusalem, served as Minister of Energy, while Lebanese-born Gerard Libaridian, a Boston-based historian, was President Levon Ter-Petrosyan's advisor.[168][169]

Military[edit]

Sgt. Victor Maghakian in July 1944 with Japanese soldier's family found hiding in a cave in Saipan.

Monte Melkonian, a native of California, was a prominent leader of Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. He was posthumously awarded with National Hero of Armenia title.[170]

During World War II, about 18,500 Armenians served in the armed forces of the United States.[171] A number of them were decorated for their service, including Col. Ernest Dervishian, a native of Virginia, who was awarded the Medal of Honor.[172] US Marine Harry Kizirian is considered the most decorated soldier of the state of Rhode Island.[173] Another Marine Captain, Victor Maghakian is considered one of the most decorated American soldiers of the war.[174][175]

Several major figures of the Armenian national liberation movement of early 20th century lived and/or died in the US. Among them were Andranik Ozanian, a military commander who is considered an national hero among Armenians, lived in Fresno, California since 1922 and died in California in 1927.[176] Another notable military commander, Garegin Nzhdeh, lived in Boston, Massachusetts from 1933 to 1937, where he founded the Armenian Youth Federation. Drastamat Kanayan (Dro), the Defense Minister of Armenia from 1918 to 1919, lived in America after World War II and was shortly arrested for collaborating with the Nazis. His funeral ceremony was held in Trinity Church in the City of Boston in 1956. Shahan Natalie, a Dashnak activist, organized the Operation Nemesis in early 1920s, during which numerous Armenian Genocide perpetrators were murdered. From 1910 to 1912 he studied at the Boston University and died in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1983.[177]

Sports[edit]

Famous figures in national sports include tennis player, former no. 1 Andre Agassi,[178] chess players Tatev Abrahamyan and Varuzhan Akobian. Hal Haig Prieste, who won a bronze medal diving in 1920 Antwerp Games,[179] soccer player Alecko Eskandarian, wrestler Frankie Kazarian, and MLB pitcher Steve Bedrosian. Adam Krikorian is the current US women's national water polo team head coach. The team won 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympics under his coaching. Zach Bogosian is the first NHL player of Armenian descent. Current MLB Network and FOX Sports broadcaster Matt Vasgersian is also of Armenian heritage.

The Avedis Zildjian Company is the largest cymbal manufacturer in the world.[180]

Miscellaneous[edit]

Other notable Armenian Americans include Jack Kevorkian,[181] a pathologist and euthanasia activist who was commonly known as "Dr. Death",[182] and astronaut James P. Bagian, who became the first Armenian to travel into space in 1989.[183][184] It is claimed that he took the Armenian tricolor to space with him.[185]

Some notable Armenian Americans in business include Turkish-born founder of Masco Alex Manoogian,[186] the Mugar family (owner of Star Market chain of supermarkets in New England),[187] Kevork Hovnanian, founder of Hovnanian Enterprises, Avedis Zildjian, the founder of Zildjian Company (world's largest cymbal manufacturer) and Gerard Cafesjian. 96-year-old Armenian American businessman Kirk Kerkorian, known as "the father of the megaresort",[188] is claimed to be the richest man in Los Angeles.[189] Born to Armenian parents in Fresno, Kerkorian had provided over $1 billion for charity in Armenia through his Lincy Foundation.[188] It was established in 1989 and was particularly focused on helping to rebuilt northern Armenia after the 1988 Spitak earthquake.[190] The foundation was dissolved in 2011, after 22-year activities.[191]

Vartan Gregorian, born in Iran, serves as the president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. He was previously the President of Brown University. Aram Chobanian served as President of Boston University from 2003 to 2005. Dr. Richard Hovannisian, father of Armenian-based politician Raffi Hovannisian, is a renowned historian at the University of California, Los Angeles.

See also[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-7450-3. 
  • Avakian, Arra S. (1977). The Armenians in America. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications. ISBN 0-8225-0228-3. 
  • Peroomian, Rubina; Avakian, Knarik (2003). "Ամերիկայի Միացյալ Նահանգներ (ԱՄՆ) [United States of America (USA)]". In Ayvazyan, Hovhannes. Հայ Սփյուռք հանրագիտարան [Encyclopedia of Armenian Diaspora] (in Armenian) 1 (Yerevan: Armenian Encyclopedia). pp. 33–85. ISBN 5-89700-020-4. 
  • Bakalian, Anny (1993). Armenian Americans: From Being to Feeling Armenian. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 1-56000-025-2. 
  • Malcom, M. Vartan (1919). The Armenians in America. Boston: Pilgrim Press. ISBN 1-112-12699-6. 
  • Sabagh, Georges; Bozorgmehr, Mehdi; Der-Martirosian, Claudia (1990). Subethnicity: Armenians in Los Angeles. Institute for Social Science Research, University of California Los Angeles. 
  • Samkian, Artineh (2007). Constructing Identities, Perceiving Lives: Armenian High School Students' Perceptions of Identity and Education. ProQuest. ISBN 978-0-549-48257-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Armenians in America: celebrating the first century. Boston: Armenian Assembly of America. 1987. ISBN 978-0-925428-02-8. 
  • Atamian, Sarkis (1955). Armenian Community. Philosophical Library. ISBN 978-0-8022-0043-3. 
  • Jendian, Matthew A. (2008). Becoming American, Remaining Ethnic: The Case of Armenian-Americans in Central California. New York: LFB Scholarly Pub. ISBN 9781593322618. 
  • Jordan, Robert Paul and Harry Naltchayan. The Proud Armenians, National Geographic 153, no. 6 (June 1978), pp. 846–873.
  • Kernaklian, Paul (1967). The Armenian-American Personality Structure and Its Relationship to Various States of Ethnicity. Syracuse University. OCLC 5419847. 
  • Kulhanjian, Gary A. (1975). The historical and sociological aspects of Armenian immigration to the United States 1890–1930. San Francisco: R and E Research Associates. ISBN 978-0-88247-309-3. 
  • LaPiere, Richard (1930). Armenian settlement in Fresno County. Stanford University. OCLC 20332780. 
  • Mirak, Robert (1976). Armenian Immigrants: Alive and Well in the New World. Boston: Armenian Bicentennial Committee of Massachusetts. OCLC 733944190. 
  • Mirak, Robert (1983). Torn between two lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-89540-9. 
  • O'Grady, Ingrid Poschmann (1979). Ararat, Etchmiadzin, and Haig (nation, church and kin): a study of the symbol system of American Armenians. The Catholic University of America. OCLC 23314470. 
  • Phillips, Jenny (1989). Symbol, myth, and rhetoric: the politics of culture in an Armenian American population. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 978-0-404-19433-8. 
  • Waldstreicher, David (1989). The Armenian Americans. New York: Chelsea House. ISBN 978-0-87754-862-1. 
  • Wertsman, Vladimir (1978). The Armenians in America, 1618–1976. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications. ISBN 978-0-379-00529-5.