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   CELEBRATING ETHNICITY: ARMENIAN AMERICANS

Armenian Americans


Armenians constitute an important part of America's ethnic mosaic. Although their ancestral homeland is located in eastern Anatolia and the southern Caucasus and dates back to the eighth century BCE, today a sizable number call the United States home. The pioneers who came to America in the early part of the 20th century sought refuge from events that culminated in the 1915 genocide and deportations. Survivors who first found shelter in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq eventually moved to the U.S., driven by political and economic crises in the Middle East, Romania and Bulgaria. In the 1980s, a large number of Armenians arrived in southern California during the civil war in Lebanon and the Iranian revolution, and in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Armenians can be differentiated along national origins and identify themselves as Iranian Armenians, Beiruti Armenians, Istanbul Armenians, Romanian Armenians, and Hayastantzi (i.e., from the Armenian Republic). In general, the immigrants today, like their predecessors a century ago, are more likely to speak Armenian at home and advocate Armenian schooling.

For centuries, the Armenian Apostolic Church (the “mother church”) was the undisputed religious institution of the Armenian people. The proselytizing efforts of European Catholic missionaries in the eighteenth century created the Eastern Rite Armenian Catholic Church, and the activities of American Protestant missionaries in the nineteenth century resulted in the establishment of the Armenian Evangelical Church. The political parties that the immigrants brought with them to the New World played a pivotal role in forging the character of the Armenian community in America. The independence of the Republic of Armenia in 1991 from the Soviet Union was a joyous milestone. While the size of the Republic is a fraction of its historic territory, all Armenians have been very supportive of Hyastan (Armenia). Like other groups, the Armenian American community has grown in size and complexity, and many of its members have prospered and made significant contributions to American society. Unlike others, however, the Turkish denial of the Genocide and transformations within the diaspora and historical Armenia have defined Armenian issues and shaped social and political relations among Armenian Americans at large.

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