Iranian Armenians

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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
Esfahan, Tehran, Khuzestan, Tabriz, New Julfa, Peria, Bourvari
Armenian, Persian
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Iranian-Armenians (Armenian: իրանահայ iranahay), sometimes called Persian Armenians (Armenian: պարսկահայ parskahay), are Iranian citizens who are ethnically Armenian. They are mostly concentrated in Tehran, Tabriz 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[edit]

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.

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.[5] 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.[6]

Although Armenians have a long history of interaction with Persia/Iran, Iran's Armenian community emerged when Shah Abbas relocated an estimated 400,000 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.[7] The following villages populated by the Armenians in Bourvari were: Dehno, Khorzend, Farajabad, Bahmanabad and Sangesfid.

20th century until 1979[edit]

Iranian Armenian women in 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, 1665.[citation needed]

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)[edit]

St. Sarkis Cathedral in Tehran. One of Iran's Armenian churches, 1970[8]

Many Armenians served in the Iranian army, and many died in action during the Iran–Iraq War.[9]

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.[10] 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 500,000 - 800,000 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.[11][2][2][12][13]



Armenians are one of the indigenous people of Azerbaijan. This is a list of previously or currently Armenian inhabited settlements:


(Salmast in Armenian) now in Salmas County in West Azerbaijan Province:


(Vormi/Urmia in Armenian) now in Urmia County in West Azerbaijan Province:


(Her in Armenian) now in Khoy County in West Azerbaijan Province:


(Shavarshan/Artaz in Armenian) now in Maku and Chalderan counties in West Azerbaijan Province:


(Tavriz/Tavrezh in Armenian) now in Tabriz County in East Azerbaijan Province:


(Juła in Armenia):

  • Upper Darashamb, Middle Darashamb and Lower Darashamb.




  • Taqiabad.

Other parts of Iran[edit]

In 1604 and following years, during Ottoman-Persian War, thousands of Armenians forced to move inside Persian territory as part of Shah Abbas I scorched earth policy. The city dwellers resettled in the newly built town of New Julfa and inside the city of Isfahan. Also some others were resettled in Hamadan, Qazvin and Shiraz. Another part of them resettled in Gilan and Mazandaran (especially in Farahabad). These communities didn’t survive at the beginning of 18th century due to tropical weather of the Caspian coast. The country Armenians were resettled in a couple of abandoned or new villages from Qazvin and Hamadan in the north to south of Isfahan in 12 rural clusters:


(Gharaghan in Armenian) now in Zarandieh County in Markazi Province:




(Kiazaz in Armenian) now in Shazand County in Markazi Province:


(Kiamara in Armenian) now in Khomeyn County in Markazi Province:


(Bourvari in Armenian) now in Aligudarz County in Lorestan Province:


(Giapla in Armenian) now in Azna County in Lorestan Province and Shazand County in Markazi Province:


(Peria in Armenian) now in Faridan, Buin & Miandasht and Fereydunshahr counties in Isfahan Province:


now in Tiran & Karvan County in Isfahan Province:

Lenjan and Alenjan[edit]

now in Lenjan, Falavarjan and Mobarakeh counties in Isfahan Province:

Charmahal or Gandoman[edit]

now in Borujen, Kiar, Lordegan and Shahr-e Kord counties in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province:

The settlements of Lenjan, Alenjan and Karvan disappeared 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[edit]

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.[14]

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[edit]


  1. ^ "Իրանի Կրոնական Փոքրամասնություններ". 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d Իրանահայ «Ալիք»- ը նշում է 80- ամյակը[dead link]
  3. ^ Հայկական Հանրագիտարան. "Հայերն Իրանում". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  4. ^ Թամարա Վարդանյան. "Իրանահայ Համայնք. Ճամպրուկային Տրամադրություններ". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Armenian Iran history". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  7. ^ M. Canard: Armīniya in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden 1993.
  8. ^ "Sarkis Cathedral, Tehran – Lonely Planet Travel Guide". 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  9. ^ "Iran's religious minorities waning despite own MPs". 2000-02-16. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  10. ^ Golnaz Esfandiari (2004-12-23). "A Look At Iran's Christian Minority". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  11. ^ "Իրանի Կրոնական Փոքրամասնություններ". 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  12. ^ Հայկական Հանրագիտարան. "Հայերն Իրանում". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  13. ^ Թամարա Վարդանյան. "Իրանահայ Համայնք. Ճամպրուկային Տրամադրություններ". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  14. ^ "Edmon Armenian history". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 

External links[edit]