All About Turkey

Armenians and their Kingdom

There are various opinions and myths about the origins of the Armenians. According to the tradition, they beleive to be descendants of Japeth, son of Noah. When the Ark landed on Mt. Ararat, Noah's family first settled around the mountain and in Armenia and later moved south to the land of Babylon, but then returned to the land of the Ark because of the tyranny in Babylon.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Armenians originally lived in Thrace and then moved into Asia Minor crossing Phrygia and all the way to the lands around Euphrates river which later became Armenia. Herodotus also states that Armenians came from two separate directions; one group from Thrace and Phrygia in the West, and the other group from Mesopotamia in the Southeast.

Other historians say Armenians came from Urartu Kingdom who reigned in Eastern Anatolia between 9th-6th centuries B.C. When the Urartu's disappeared from the history after continuous raids by the Assyrians, Medes and Scythians in the 6th century B.C, their neighbors called the Armenians as "Armen" and their country as "Armenia".

The Armenian is a Indo-European language with a unique alphabet which was invented in the beginning of 5th century AD. Most Armenians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, and they are the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as a State religion in the early 4th century.

During their rule in Eastern Anatolia, Armenians built many palaces and churches in many sites such as in Ani or on Akdamar island. They contributed a lot to the local culture and continued to be skilled architects during the late Ottoman period when the sultans had their palaces built by the Armenian chief architects especially around the mid 19th century. They were active in business and trade, like the Jews and the Greeks living in the Ottoman lands, and paid their taxes like any other citizen. After World War I, in 1922 they became a republic of the Soviet Union. Armenia declared independence in 1990, which was officially recognized after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Meanwhile the population of Armenia today is a little over 3 million, it is estimated around 5 million people of Armenian origins live all around the world outside of Armenia, mainly in Russia, USA, France, Georgia, Lebanon, Iran and Syria. Many of them immigrated in the beginning of 1900's.

Armenians in Turkey

Today there are about 40-50 thousand Armenians living in Turkey (majority in Istanbul) who have full Turkish citizenship, and probabily around 100 thousand Armenian visitors or those who live and work as illegal aliens in search of better job opportunities. The Turkish-Armenian citizens enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Turkish citizens. Most of the Turkish Armenians are Gregorian and are led by a Patriarch in Istanbul, but there are also few Catholic and Protestant Armenians. Armenians in Turkey practice their religion freely in their own churches and teach in their own language in their own schools, they publish newspapers, books and magazines in Armenian, they have their own social and cultural institutions in addition to participating fully in those open to all Turks. Only a small percentage of Turkish Armenians speak Armenian, they usually speak Turkish in daily life.

Turkish - Armenian dispute

During World War I, when Ottomans were fighting against the Russians in the Caucasus frontier, the Ottoman government in 1915 decided to move all Armenians on the Russian border towards Syria in the south in order to avoid potential security risks because the Russian army recruited Armenian volunteers as a local resistance in the region to fight against the Ottoman Empire. But this "relocation" or "deportation" costed the lives of many civilians during this hard journey. The Armenian diaspora today calls this unfortunate event as a "genocide" claiming that about 1-1,5 million (some say 600 thousand) people were killed, meanwhile Turkey denies these Armenian allegations expressing that the death toll is deliberately exagerated and this was the result of a civil war, disease and famine, with casualties from both sides. Today, there is still lots of dispute going on around the world on this issue and for sure it will take much more time to meet on a common ground by two governments and the historians. The resolution should be based on the historic facts and the truth rather than accusations and allegations.

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