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Armenian Diaspora in Russia: Formation and Activities

Armenian Studies, Issue 3, September-October-November 2001

 .Eç 0="justify">Although there are researches on the Armenian Diaspora in Europe and America, there is lack of writings about Armenians in Russia where they have a long history. Some Armenian researchers argued that the Armenian Diaspora started to emerge with the immigration of the Armenians to the neighboring countries with the partitioning of Armenia between Russian and Persian empires in 387 B.C and the Selçuks’ entrance to the region in the 11th century. On the other hand, others argued that particularly after the Arab invasion of the Caucasus, Armenians were forced to migrate due to their national and religious differences. In this process, the Armenians tried to protect their cultural identity, but they were not influential in the social and political life of the countries they immigrated.

Some researchers claimed that the relocation of the Armenians in 1915 was the main reason for their immigration to America and Europe. However, others argued that sect rows in Christianity and the Armenians’ earnest for trade were the main reasons for the immigrations of the Armenians. The Armenian immigration to Europe and America accelerated at the beginning of the 20th century. The Armenians managed to protect their national and religious identity and set up social and political organizations in the countries they settled.

The Armenian researchers stated that the Armenians immigrated to Kiev in the 10th -11th centuries and to Moscow in the 14th century. The Armenian merchants played an important role in the establishment of trade relations between Russia and southern states. The Armenians settled in the southern regions of Russia, particularly in the city of Lvov. They were settled in the north of the city by Kinez Daniel Oalinski. They were also allowed to build a church in Lvov. The Roman Catholics in Russia did not have such an opportunity, which was given to the Armenians. Lvov located on the south-north trade road was an important city for commerce. The Armenians were exempted from military service and they mainly engaged with trade and became economically successful. Russia developed economically and Moscow’s trade with the southern states increased at the beginning of the 14th century. The Armenian merchants traveled through the River Volga to Moscow. The Armenians from Crimea, Poviljye and the Caucasus settled in Moscow. Starting from the 16th century the Armenian merchants participated in the trade fairs of Moscow. At the beginning of the 18th century the Armenians went to Petersburg for trade. Until the 20th century the Armenian Diaspora in Russia mainly had engaged to protect their general political and social interests without a specific aim. With the establishment of the Soviet Union, Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora in Russia vigorously campaigned for putting Karabakh under the rule of Armenia. This campaign had been continued until the 1960s without success. On 24th of April 1965, the 50th Anniversary of the so-called genocide, Moscow allowed the Armenians to carry out demonstrations. After this marking date Erivan introduced open propaganda based on enmity of the Turks. Until the 1990s the Armenian Diaspora in Russia published books and articles about the so-called genocide and they put their rhetoric in the school books.

In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia became independent. The Armenians in Russia had a great opportunity to set up organizations. The Armenian Diaspora organizations spread with the inception of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1988. The Armenian Diaspora affected Russia’s policy on the conflict and they were able to present the Karbakh Armenians as victims while the Armenians in Karabakh were in fact aggressors and invaded the Azerbaijani territory. Moscow is the center of the Armenian Diaspora organizations.

Armenian Diaspora is also active in Leningrad (Petersburg). The Diaspora organizations began to be set up in the 1970s in Leningrad and Armenian Diaspora raised their voice in the political and cultural life of the city at the end of the 1 980s. The Armenian Diaspora organizations were set up in southern Russia particularly in Krasnodar and Stavrapol in the middle of the 1990s. The Armenians in Krasnodar carry out more activities than those in other parts of Russia. They have a newspaper called “Erkramas”, which publishes articles against Turkey and Azerbaijan on daily basis and it also supports the PKK terrorist organization.

Although the Armenian Diaspora in Russia has become more active and to some extent, they have managed to influence the Russian public opinion since the 1990s, they do not have large financial resources, unlike the Armenians in America and Europe.

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- Armenian Studies, Issue 3, September-October-November 2001
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