Armenians in Syria
|100,000 - 150,000|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Aleppo, Al-Qamishli, Damascus, Latakia
Kesab and Yacoubiyah (two Armenian inhabited villages)
|Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Evangelical|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Armenian, Hamshenis, Cherkesogai groups|
The Armenians in Syria are Syrian citizens of either full or partial Armenian descent. Syria and the surrounding areas have often served as a refuge for Armenians who fled from wars and persecutions such as the Armenian Genocide. According to Armenian diaspora organizations, it is estimated that there are 150,000 Armenians in Syria, most of whom live in Aleppo. But in fact the number of the Armenian population in Syria has declined during the last 20 years, and there were roughly 100,000 Armenians before the Syrian civil war; some of them are leaving the country and migrating to other countries. An estimated number of 9,000 of Syria's Armenian community have arrived in Armenia since the start of the Syrian civil war. The Syrian town of Kesab located near the Turkish border, has an Armenian majority.
- 1 History
- 2 Armenians in Syria (20th century-present)
- 3 Organizations
- 4 Religion
- 5 Education
- 6 Media
- 7 Politics
- 8 Syrian-Armenian Relations
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The Armenian-speaking Mushki (founders of Armenian ethnicity) who migrated from Europe are thought to have migrated through south-east modern Turkey close to the territory of modern Syria.
Armenia under Tigranes the Great subjugated Syria, and chose Antioch as one of the four capitals of the short lived Armenian Empire. During Antiquity, there was some Armenian presence in Northern Syria, however it wasn't a considerable one.
Christianity became the official religion of Armenia in 301 through the efforts of Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Armenian merchants and travelers often frequented Antioch, one of the earliest sites of Christian teaching and practice, and had relations with the even closer Christian centers of Edessa and Nisibis, all of which are located in Greater Syria, where Christianity flourished in apostolic times.
When the Seljuk Turks conquered Armenia from its previous Byzantine rulers, waves of Armenians left their homeland in order to find a more stable place to live. Most Armenians established themselves in Cilicia where an Armenian kingdom was founded, but some chose Northern Syria. Armenian quarters were formed during the 11th century in towns or cities such as Antioch, Aleppo, Aintab, etc.
During the Crusades, the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia chose to side with the European invaders rather than the mostly Turkish rulers of Syria. Prior to the Siege of Antioch, most Armenians were expelled from Antioch by Yaghi-Siyan, the Turkish governor of the city, a move that prompted the Armenians of Antioch to show further support to the Crusaders. Thus, the new rulers of Antioch became the Europeans. Armenian engineers also helped the Crusaders during the Siege of Tyre by manipulating siege engines.
At the beginning of the 14th century, a new wave of Armenian migrants from Cilicia arrived in Aleppo with the decline of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. They have gradually developed their own schools, churches and later on the prelacy, to become a well-organized community during in Aleppo by mid-14th century.
At the first years of the Ottoman rule, there was relatively smaller Armenian presence in Northern Syria due to the previous conflicts. A larger community existed in Urfa, a city often considered part of Greater Syria. The Ottoman Empire had a large indigenous Armenian population in its Eastern Anatolia region, from where some Armenians moved to Aleppo in search of economic opportunity. Later on, many Armenian families moved from Western Armenia to Aleppo escaping the Turkish oppression. Thus, large numbers of Armenians from Arapgir, Sasun, Hromgla, Zeitun, Marash and New Julfa arrived in Aleppo during the 17th century. Another wave of migrants from Karin arrived in Aleppo in 1737. There were also families from Yerevan.
Armenian population increased in Aleppo. At the end of the 19th century, the Mazloumian family established "Ararat hotel" that became a renowned international establishment and renamed Baron Hotel. The street in front of the hotel was renamed Baron street in 1946.
Armenians in Syria (20th century-present)
Although the Armenians have had a long history in Syria, most arrived there during the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. The main killing fields of Armenians were located in the Syrian desert of Deir ez-Zor (Euphrates Valley). Half million Armenians were killed and hundreds of thousands fled historic Armenia. The native Arabs didn't hesitate to shelter and support persecuted Armenians. Arabs and Armenians have traditionally had good relations after Arabs sheltered the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. There was also a minor Arab genocide in Anatolia at the same time.
Kesab, Syrian town with majority of Armenian population
Kesab (Arabic: كسب, Armenian: Քեսապ) is a Syrian border town located in Latakia Governorate northwest of Syria at a height of 800 meters above sea level just 3 kilometers away from the Turkish border, and 9 kilometers from the Mediterranean sea.
Kasab is an ancient Armenian town, over 1000 years old. Today, The population of the town and the surrounding villages is mainly Armenian with a minority of Syrian Arab.
Kesab is a touristic summer resort and a very popular destination.
Deir ez-Zor and the Armenian Genocide
In 1915, the Syrian region of Deir ez-Zor, mainly a desert became a final destination of the Armenians during Armenian Genocide where they were killed. A memorial complex commemorating this tragedy was opened in the city. It was designed by Sarkis Balmanoukian and was officially inaugurated in 1990 with the presence of the Armenian Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. The complex contains bones and remnants recovered from the Deir ez-Zor desert of Armenian victims of the Genocide and has become a pilgrim destination for many Armenians in remembrance of their dead.
Syrian civil war
As a result of the ongoing civil war in Syria over 8,000 Syrian Armenians were living in Armenia as of December 2012.
The majority of Armenian organizations are based in the city of Aleppo, acting in the form of cultural, sport, youth or charitable associations:
Cultural associations based in Aleppo:
- Gertasirats Cultural Association (1924)
- Kermanig-Vasbouragan Cultural Association (1928)
- Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Association (1930)
- Armenian Youth Association (1932)
- Tekeyan Armenian Cultural Association (1955)
- National Cultural Association (1955)
- The Revival of Urfa Cultural Association (1957)
- Nor Serount Cultural Association (1958)
- Cilician Cultural Association (1964)
- Syrian Youth Association (1978)
Charitable associations based in Aleppo:
- Armenian General Benevolent Union (1910)
- Armenian Syrian Red Cross Association (1919)
- National Orphanage (1920)
- Armenian Old Age Home (1923)
- Howard Karageozian Commemorative Corporation (1941)
- Jinishian Memorial Foundation (1966)
- Social Service Consultation of the Diocese of Beroea (1993)
Sports associations based in Aleppo:
- Armenian Sports Union, known as Homenmen sports and scouting organization established in Aleppo in 1921.
- Ararat Sports Union, founded in 1923, represented to the Syrian General Sports Federation under the name Orouba SC Aleppo.
- Armenian General Athletic Union, known as Homentmen sports and scouting organization, established in Istanbul in 1918 and opened branches in Syria in 1925, represented to the Syrian General Sports Federation under the name Al-Yarmouk SC Aleppo.
Students associations based in Aleppo:
- Karen Jeppe College Graduates Union (1947)
- Syrian-Armenian University Students Union (S.H.M., est. 1968).
- Graduates Union of Higher Institutions of Armenia (1982).
- Syrian Universities' Armenian Graduates Union (S.H.Sh.H.M, est. 1985).
- Dkhrouny Students-Youth Association (1969) of the Hunchakian party.
- Christapor Students Union (2001) of the Dashnak party.
The Armenians of Aleppo have also formed compatriotic unions based on their roots, named after towns and villages where their ancestors have migrated from, during the Armenian Genocide. Nowadays, there are 11 compatriotic organizations operating in Aleppo: Dikranagerd, Daron-Duruperan, Marash, Urfa women's, Urfa youth, Palu, Zeitun, Kilis, Berejik, Musa Ler and Garmouj compatriotic unions.
Other community structures in Aleppo:
- Avetis Aharonian theatre hall of the National Prelacy, opened in 1959, renovated and renamed in 1989 (450 seats).
- Zavarian theatre hall of the National Prelacy opened in 1965, renovated in 2002 (350 seats).
- Kevork Nazarian theatre hall of AGBU, renovated and renamed in mid-1990s (550 seats).
- Zohrab Kaprielian theatre hall of Gertasirats Cultural Association, opened in 1973, renovated and renamed in 1999 (600 seats).
- Kevork Yesayan theatre hall of the National Prelacy, opened in 2005 (700 seats).
- Zarehian Treasury, currently occupies the building of former Surp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic church in the courtyard of the Forty Martyrs church. More than 650 valuable pieces are exhibited in the museum.
- The National Cemetery, opened in 1927 on a state-owned piece of land. It became the property of the prelacy after the independence of Syria in 1946. The chapel of Surp Hripsimé stands at the centre of the cemetery since 1970.
Armenians in Syria are mainly followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, with a minority of Armenian Catholics and Armenian Evangelicals. The Church plays a very important role in unifying Armenians in Syria.
After 301 AD, when Christianity became the official state religion of Armenia and its population, Aleppo became an important centre for the Armenian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. Yet, not considered an organized community in the city, Armenian presence was notably enlarged in Aleppo, during the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (12th century), when a considerable number of Armenian families and merchants settled in the city creating their own businesses, residencies, and gradually schools, churches and prelacy. The Armenian church of the Forty Martyrs in Aleppo was mentioned for the first time in 1476. In 1624, as a result of the growing number of Armenian residents and pilgrims, the Armenian prelacy started to build a quarter near the church which kept its original name Hokedun (Spiritual House), up to now. It was designated to serve as a settlement for the Armenian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
In difference, the Diocese of Damascus pledges allegiance to the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin.
The Armenian Orthodox population in Syria belongs to one of three prelacies:
- Diocese of Aleppo, also known as Perio Tem or Berio Tem (Diocese of Beroea), was founded in 1432, and its first Archbishop was Hovagim of Beroea between 1432–1442. The estimated population of the diocese all over Syria is about 70,000 Armenians.
- Diocese of Al-Jazira (in Al-Qamishli)
- Diocese of Damascus
The churches include:
In Aleppo (Diocese of Aleppo):
- Forty Martyrs Cathedral
- Surp Kevork Armenian Apostolic Church
- Surp Krikor Lusavorich (Saint Gregory the Illuminator) Church
- Church of the Holy Mother of God
- Surp Hagop (Saint Jacob of Nisibis) Armenian Church
in Idlib Governorate (under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Aleppo):
- Surp Hripsime Church of Yacoubiyah village
- Surp Anna Church of Yacoubiyah village
in Latakia Governorate (under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Aleppo):
- Surp Asdvadzadzin Church of Lattakia
- Surp Asdvadzadzin Church of Kesab
- Surp Asdvadzadzin Church of Karadouran village, Kesab
- Surp Stepanos Church of Karadouran village, Kesab
- Surp Kevork (Saint George) Armenian Church of Ghnemiyeh village
- Surp Stepanos (Saint Stephen) Armenian Church of Aramo village
In Ar-Raqqah Governorate (under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Aleppo):
In Deir ez-Zor (under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Aleppo):
in Al-Hasakah Governorate (under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Aleppo):
- Surp Harutyun (Holy Resurrection) Chapel of Margadeh village
in Al-Hasakah Governorate (Diocese of Al-Jazira):
- Surp Hagop Cathedral in Al-Qamishli
- Surp Hovhannu Garabed Church in Al-Hasakah
- Surp Asdvadzadzin Church in Al-Malikiyah (formerly Dayrik)
- Surp Asdvadzadzin Church in Ra's al-'Ayn
In Damascus (Diocese of Damascus):
- Surp Sarkis Cathedral
in Homs (under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Damascus):
- Surp Mesrob Mashdots Church
The Holy Cross church of Tal Abyad
Armenian Catholics are members of the Armenian Catholic Church.
The first official Armenian Catholic Prelate of in Aleppo was the Bishop Abraham Ardzivian (1710–1740). In 1740, he became the first Armenian Catholic Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia, appointed by Benedict XIV in 1742 in Lebanon. Nowadays, the number of the Catholic believers of the Eparchy of Aleppo is approximately 15,000.
The Armenian Catholic community in Damascus was established in 1763 in Damascus in the days of the Catholicos Michael Petros III Kasparian. In 1863, the ancient church was anointed. In 1959, the church and the archbishopric "Bab Touma" were bought. In 1969, the first bishop was nominated. Since 1984, the Armenian Catholic bishop carries the title of Patriarchal exarchate.
The Eparchy of Al-Qamishli (or the Eparchy of Al-Jazira) has under its jurisdiction, the eastern region of Syria (Al-Jazira, Mesopotamia) which includes the governorates of Al-Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor.
The Armenian Catholic churches include:
In Aleppo (Eparchy of Aleppo):
- Cathedral of Our Mother of Reliefs (1840)
- The Holy Saviour - Saint Barbara Church (1937)
- Church of Our Lady of Annunciation (1942)
- Holy Trinity Church (1965)
- Holy Cross Church (1993)
In Latakia Governorate (under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Aleppo):
- Saint Michael the Archangel Church of Kesab
- Church of Our Lady of Assumption, Baghjaghaz village, Kesab
In Ar-Raqqah (under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Aleppo):
- Holy Martyrs Church
- Saint Joseph Cathedral in Qamishli
- Holy Family Church in Al-Hasakah
- Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Deir ez-Zor
In Damascus (Damascus Patriarchal exarchate):
- Notre-Dame Cathedral of the Universe
Convents and Seminaries:
- The convent of the Immaculate Conception Sisters, Aleppo
- Saint Vartanants Convent of the Jesuites, Aleppo
- The convent of Mekhitarist Fathers, Aleppo
Armenian Evangelicals (also called Armenian Protestants), belong to Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East of the Armenian Evangelical Church. The Armenian Evangelical churches include:
- The Holy Trinity Church of Kesab
- Emmanuel Church of Ekizolukh village, Kesab
- The Armenian Evangelical Church of Keorkeuna village, Kesab
- The Armenian Evangelical Church of Karadouran village, Kesab
The education is an important factor in maintaining Armenian language and patriotism among the Armenian community in Syria. Aleppo as the main host of he community, is a center of Armenian long-running schools and cultural institutions. Armenian students who graduate from those community schools, can immediately enter the Syrian university system, after passing the official Thanawiya 'Amma (High School baccalaureate) exams.
A total of 9 schools operate in the northern city of Aleppo including four secondary schools:
- Karen Jeppe Armenian College, the first Armenian secondary school in Aleppo. It was opened in 1947 on a piece of land in Meydan quarter transferred to the Armenian Prelacy by the will of the Danish philanthropist Karen Jeppe. The school was founded by the initiative of then-bishop Zareh Payaslian (the future Catholicos Zareh I of the Holy See of Cilicia). The school building has been expanded gradually in 1966, 1973 and 1986. Nowadays, the college has more than 1,100 mixed students with only secondary section of six grades. The school is operating under the direct administration of the Armenian prelacy of Aleppo.
- Lazar Nadjarian-Calouste Gulbenkian Armenian Central High School, was founded as Lazar Nadjarian Central School in 1954 by the efforts of the Armenian General Benevolent Union. It was turned into a high school with a secondary section in 1959 and renamed as Lazar Nadjarian-Calouste Gulbenkian Central High School. The elementary and the secondary sections are located in two adjacent buildings, while the kindergarten has its own newly erected building. The school has more than 1,500 mixed students and is operating under the administration of the Syrian Regional Central Committee of the Armenian General Benevolent Union. The school has its own theatre hall named after its benefactor "Kevork Hagop Nazarian".
- Cilician (Giligian) Armenian High School, a 12 grade mixed high school founded in 1921. It has three sections: nursery, elementary and secondary, each of them has its own separate building located along the Sissi alley of the old Christian quarter of Jdeydeh. At the beginning, the school was founded in 1921 as Cilician Refugees School by the efforts of the Cilician Relief Association. In 1930, it was renamed Cilician School and subsequently; Cilician High School after the foundation of the secondary section in 1960. The Cilician School is operating under the administration of Cilician Cultural Association with more than 450 mixed students.
- Gertasirats High School, founded in 1924 as Aintab’s Gertasirats Mixed School by the efforts of "Aintab's Gertasirats Association". Up to 1974, the school was operating in the old Christian quarter near Jdeydeh, when it was moved to a new modern building in Suleimanyeh area. It has a kindergarten, an elementary section, and since 2004; a secondary section. The school is under the administration of Gertasirats Cultural Association, and has more than 300 mixed students. Adjacent to the school, the Armenian church of the Holy Mother of God was opened in 1983. The school has its own "Zohrab Kaprielian" theatre hall, one of the largest ones in Aleppo.
Other Elementary schools in Aleppo under the administration of the prelacy:
- Haygazian Elementary School, established in 1919. the school is considered to be the continuation of the "Tebradoun" (est. in 1876) and the Nersessian School. Located within the complex of the Forty Martyrs Cathedral in Jdeydeh quarter, the school has a six-years mixed elementary section with more than 800 students. The kindergarten is operating in the Meydan quarter. The school has a theatre hall named after Avetis Aharonian.
- Mesropian Elementary School, was a six-year elementary school closed in 2011. At the beginning, the school was opened in Suleimaniyeh's Armenian refuge camp of Ram in 1923 and was known as the Camp's Mesropian Mixed School. In 1936, it was relocated to the Armenian populated Meydan quarter as a part of the proposed Surp Kevork Church complex (eventually consecrated in 1965). The nursery section of the school was operating in a small building adjacent to the Surp Kevork church. In 2003, the total number of the students of the mixed school was 200.
- Zavarian Elementary School, originally founded as Nersessian School in 1925 with a centre adult orphans. On 15 August 1936, the two sections have been merged in one building in the Meydan quarter. The new school, along with its theatre hall were renamed after Simon Zavarian. The building was totally renovated in 1965. Nowadays, it has a six-years mixed elementary section and a kindergarten. The total number of the students is more than 450.
- Sahakian Elementary School, founded in 1927 by the donation of the Armenian diaspora of India and Brazil. It was named after Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of the Holy See of Cilicia. It is located in the Meydan quarter since 1932 within the complex of Saint Gregory Armenian church. The school was expanded in 1962 with the erection of a new building. Nowadays, the school has a six-years mixed elementary section and a kindergarten with more than 850 the student.
- Gulbenkian Elementary School, founded on 22 September 1930 as Boghos Gulbenkian school by the donation of the Armenian benefactor Nerses Gulbenkian from London. Up to 1996, the school was operating in a small building located in a narrow street in the Suleimanyeh area. On 13 June 1997, the new modern building of the school was inaugurated Suleimaniyeh area with the presence of Catholicos Aram I. Nowadays, the school has a six-years elementary section and a kindergarten with more than 500 mixed students. The school has its own "Kevork Yesayan" theatre hall.
- Yeprad (Euphrates) School, Qamishli, founded in 1932 and has 9 grades since 1962. Currently, it has more than 900 students.
- Azadutyun (Liberty) School, Al-Malikiyah (Dayrik)
- Mesrobian School, Al-Hasakah
- Nahadagats (Martyrs') School, Ra's al-'Ayn
- Khorenian School, Tal Abyad
- Noubarian School, Ar-Raqqah
- Veradzenount (Rebirth) School, Yacoubiyah
- Nahadagats (Martyrs') School, Lattakia
- Usumnasirats Miyatsyal School, Kesab
- Tarkmanchats (Holy Translators) School, Damascus
- Usumnasirats School, Damascus
- AGBU Gyullabi Gulbenkian School, Damascus
- Isahakian School, Homs
Syria has a rich tradition of media and publications in Armenian language. Armenian dailies all defunct now had a great run. The daily Hay Tsayn (1918–1919), one-every-two-days Darakir (1918–1919) and Yeprad (1919) are among the first published newspapers.
A stream of publications followed in the twenties and the thirties: Suryagan Surhantag (1919–1922), Suryagan Mamul (1922–1927), the dailies Yeprad (1927–1947), Surya (1946–1960) and Arevelk (1946–1963). The latter had also its annual yearbook. Arevelk had also published 1956 its youth supplement Vahakn (1956–1963) and its sports supplement Arevelk Marzashkharh (1957–1963).
Monthly papers included Nayiri (1941–1949) published by Antranig Dzarugian, and Purasdan youth publication (1950–1958).
Yearbooks include Suryahay Daretsuyts (1924–1926), Datev (1925–1930), Suryagan Albom (1927–1929), Daron (1949), Hay Darekirk (1956) and Keghart (since 1975).
Currently, Kantsasar weekly is the official organ of the Armenian Prelacy of Aleppo. It was first published as Oshagan in 1978 and was renamed Kantsasar in 1991.
Syrian publishers have a great contribution in translating several Armenian literature and academic studies into Arabic. It is noteworthy that the first evere Arabic language newspaper was published by the Aleppine Armenian journalist Rizqallah Hassoun in 1855 in Constantinople.
Armenians have had almost continuous representation in the Syrian Parliament from 1928 onwards. The Armenian-Syrian members of Parliament were (in chronological order) Mihran Puzantian, Fathalla Asioun, Nicolas Djandjigian, Movses Der Kalousdian (later on also MP in the Lebanese Parliament), Hratch Papazian, Henri Hendieh (Balabanian), Hrant Sulahian, Bedros Milletbashian, Ardashes Boghigian, Nazaret Yacoubian, Movses Salatian, Dikran Tcheradjian, Fred Arslanian, Abdallah Fattal, Louis Hendieh, Krikor Eblighatian, Aram Karamanougian, Roupen Dirarian, Levon Ghazal, Simon Ibrahim Librarian and Sunbul Sunbulian (until 2012).
The Armenian embassy of Damascus (since 1992), was the first Armenian embassy opened abroad after the independence of Armenia. The official visit of the newly elected Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrossian to Syria in 1992, was the first international official visit of an Armenian president after the independence. Since then, the relations between the two countries are developing especially after the creation of a joint economical committee between the two governments and the establishment of co-operation between the commercial chambers of Aleppo and Armenia since 2008. The recent visit of president Bashar al-Assad to Yerevan in June 2009, came to maintain the bilateral relations.
Armenia has also a consulate general in Aleppo since 28 May 1993. In 1997, the Syrians opened their embassy in Yerevan which is located on Baghramyan street, few meters away from the presidential palace.
The first president of the new Republic of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan was born in Aleppo, Syria.
- ARMENIAN POPULATION IN THE WORLD
- UsaToday.com: Armenia tries to help as Christian Armenians flee Syria
- Aztag Daily, 10 February 2000, article edited by Mania Ghazarian and Ashod Sdepanian
- Mannheim, Ivan (2001). Syria and Lebanon Handbook: The Travel Guide. Footprint Travel Guides. p. 299. ISBN 1-900949-90-3.
- Monument and Memorial Complex at Der Zor, Syria
- "Kuwait donates USD 100,000 to Armenia for humanitarian aid to Syria refugees". Kuwait News Agency. 26 December 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- "Diocese of Aleppo, History". Diocese of Aleppo.
- The Syrian press, the past and the present, by Hashem Osman, 1970 Damascus (الصحافة السورية ماضيها وحاضرها –هاشم عثمان– 1970 دمشق)
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