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Iranian Armenians

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Total population
110,000,[1] - 120,000,[2] - 150,000,[1][2] - 200,000,[3][4][5] - 250,000,[6][7] 300,000,[1]- 500,000 (high estimation)[8]
Regions with significant populations
Tehran, Esfahan, Khuzestan, Tabriz, New Julfa, Peria, Bourvari
Armenian, Persian
Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant Christians
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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 150,000 - 300,000 currently reside in Iran.[9] 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. It is commonly noted that, due to their migration to the Persian Empire many centuries ago and being native to northwestern Iran, Armenians of Iran have culturally assimilated with their Persian compatriots in a very noticeable way and have adopted a number of their traditions while simultaneously keeping their distinct Christian and Armenian faith/traditions.

Early history

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.[10] 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.[11]

Although Armenians have a long history of interaction with Persia/Iran, Iran's Armenian community emerged when Shah Abbas relocated an estimated 500,000 Armenians from northeastern historic Armenia to an area of Isfahan called New Julfa and the villages surrounding Isfahan 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.[12]

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.[13] The following villages populated by the Armenians in Bourvari were: Dehno, Khorzend, Farajabad, Bahmanabad and Sangesfid.

Twentieth century up to 1979

File:Qajar Armenian Women.jpg
Iranian Armenian women in Qajar era
File:Shogaghat Church 002 - Tabriz.jpg
Shogaghat Church in Tabriz
File:Vank Cathedral, Armenian Quarter, Esfahan, Iran.jpg
Vank Cathedral in the New Julfa district of Isfahan. one of the oldest Iran's Armenian churches that build during Safavid Persian Empire, 1655 - 1664.[14]

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. Yeprem Khan, an ethnic Armenian, was an important figure of the Persian Constitutional Revolution.[15]

In 1914 there were 230,000 Armenians in Iran. During the Armenian genocide about 50,000 Armenians fled the Ottoman Empire and took refuge in Persia. As a result of the Persian Campaign in northern Iran during World War I the Ottomans massacred 80,000 Armenians and 30,000 fled to the Russian Empire. 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 numbering nearly 30,000 continued to increase the Armenian community until 1933. Thus by 1930 there were approximately 200,000 Armenians in Iran.[16][17]

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. From 1946-1949 about 20,000 Armenians left Iran for the Soviet Union and from 1962-1982 another 25,000 Armenians followed them to Soviet Armenia.[18]

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".

By the 1979 the number of Armenians reached 500,000, but due to the Iranian Revolution the number of Armenians decreased to about 250,000.[19]

Armenians after the Islamic Revolution (1979–present)

File:Holly Serkis (tehran).jpg
St. Sarkis Cathedral in Tehran. One of Iran's Armenian churches, 1970[20]

Many Armenians served in the Iranian army, and many died in action during the Iran–Iraq War.[21] Due to the Iran-Iraq War the number of Iran's 250,000 Armenians further decreased to its current 150,000.[citation needed]

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.[22]

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 120,000 - 150,000 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.[23][24][24][25][26]



Armenians are one of the indigenous people of Azarbaijan. The western and northern areas of Azarbaijan historically were part of the Kingdom of Armenia. In 387 AD when the Sasanian Empire and the Byzantine Empire split Armenia, the Armenians ceded the areas of Nor Shirakan, Paytakaran, and the eastern half of Vaspurakan to the Persians, these territories comprise the western and northern regions of Azerbaijan. Following the Russo-Persian War (1826–28) about 40,000 Armenians left Azerbaijan and resettled in Russian Armenia. The area retained a large Armenian population until 1914 when World War One began the Azerbaijan was invaded by the Ottomans who slaughtered much of the local Armenian population. Prior to the Ottoman invasion there were about 150,000 Armenians in Azerbaijan, 30,000 of them were in Tabriz. About 80,000 were massacred, 30,000 fled to Russian Armenia, and the other 10,000 fled the area of the modern West Azerbaijan Province and took refuge among the Armenians of Tabriz. After the war ended in 1918 the 10,000 refugees in Tabriz returned to their villages, but many would resettle in Soviet Armenia in the coming decades, currently about 4,000 Armenians remain in the countryside and about 2,000 remain in Tabriz. 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 and Chaypareh (Avarayr Plain) counties in West Azerbaijan Province:


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


(Paytakaran in Armenian) now in Kaleybar and Khoda Afarin counties in East 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

In 1604 and following years, during Ottoman-Persian War, about 500,000 Armenians forced to move from Nakhichevan, Vayots Dzor, Artashat, Yerevan, Armavir, Kotayk, Gegharkunik, Aragatsotn, Shirak, Lori, Tsolakert, Daroynk, and Kars to Central Iran as part of Shah Abbas I scorched earth policy. Many died crossing the Arax River, and those that survived the river crossing most likely perished while spending the winter in the mountains of Azarbaijan. About 200,000 Armenians were alive the following spring. 160,000 of them would resettle in central Iran and 40,000 of them would resettle in Farahabad in Mazandaran. The climate in the summer in Farahabad was unhealthy and large numbers of the inhabitants died of epidemics, particularly malaria. The surviving Armenians returned to their homes north of the Arax River. The Armenians that resettled in central Iran built hundreds of new villages. The Armenians of Julfa resettled along the Zayanderud and built the New Julfa quarter in Isfahan. Some also resettled in Hamadan, Qazvin and Shiraz. The non-Julfa Armenians that resettled in central Iran were resettled in the area that stretched from Qazvin and Hamadan in the north to Isfahan in the south. They built hundreds of villages in 12 rural clusters. Between 1722-1729 the Afghans invaded Iran and the Armenians of central Iran were subjugated, harassed, and heavily taxed. The Armenians were forced to provide the Afghan invaders with rations. From 1747-1762 Persia experienced a civil war following the assassination of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747. During the 18th century many Armenians were executed and abducted. As a result of these horrific years many 80% of the Armenian was lost, many fled for British India (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Burma), British Malaya (Malaysia & Singapore), for the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and Russia. In 1870 a famine ravaged Iran and 2 million people lost their lives. By 1914 there were only 80,000 Armenians in central Iran. List of Armenian villages in central Iran:


(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

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

Charmahal or Gandoman

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

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.[27]

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


  1. ^ a b "In Iran, 'crackdown' on Christians worsens". Christian Examiner (Washington D.C.: Christian Examiner). April 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications ...". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Armenia, the Regional Powers, and the West: Between History and Geopolitics". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Iran-Turkey Relations, 1979-2011: Conceptualising the Dynamics of Politics ...". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Conflict and Peace in Central Eurasia: Towards Explanations and Understandings". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Ethnic Groups in West Asia". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "The Routledge Atlas of Central Eurasian Affairs". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Armenian Iran history". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ M. Canard: Armīniya in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden 1993.
  14. ^ Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson, Paul Schellinger. Middle East and Africa: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Routledge. p. 268. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ McCarthy, Justin (1983). Muslims and minorities: the population of Ottoman Anatolia and the end of the empire. New York: New York University press,. ISBN 0-87150-963-6. OCLC 9780871509635 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Sarkis Cathedral, Tehran – Lonely Planet Travel Guide". 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  21. ^ "Iran's religious minorities waning despite own MPs". 2000-02-16. Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  22. ^ Golnaz Esfandiari (2004-12-23). "A Look At Iran's Christian Minority". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 
  23. ^ "Իրանի Կրոնական Փոքրամասնություններ". 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  24. ^ a b Իրանահայ «Ալիք»- ը նշում է 80- ամյակը[dead link]
  25. ^ Թամարա Վարդանյան. "Իրանահայ Համայնք. Ճամպրուկային Տրամադրություններ". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  26. ^ Հայկական Հանրագիտարան. "Հայերն Իրանում". Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  27. ^ "Edmon Armenian history". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 

External links