Armenian Kayseri, 1872

The 1872 defter, or taxation schedule, from Kayseri in Turkey (Gesaria or Kesaria in Armenian) is arranged by mahalle and, within that, by street. The taxpaying householders in each street are then listed. There were 8,119 taxpaying households in total in Kayseri in 1872.

At that date, Kayseri had a total of 108 recognised mahalleler or neighbourhoods, comprising between 16 and 352 households each, with the mean being 75 homes. 67 neighbourhoods were exclusively Turkish, 25 were Armenian, two were Kurdish and one was Greek. However, Greeks and Armenians lived together in some Christian quarters and there were seven neighbourhoods with a mixed Armenian/Turkish population.

The original archival material is in Osmanlı Turkish, written using a modified Arabic alphabet, and has been transliterated and transcribed into modern Turkish, which of course uses the Latin alphabet. One needs to understand the pronunciation of certain Turkish letters to be able to match them with the approximately corresponding letters used in English to spell Armenian names in transliteration. For example, the Turkish letter c may be the equivalent of j or dj, and ç and ş represent the sounds ch (or tch) and sh respectively.

Armenian and Greek personal names are rendered in Turkish style, using the suffix -oğlu to indicate “son of”, rather than an Armenian or Greek surname ending. The entries are terse and it is not always clear whether a surname has already been assumed by a family or, contrarily, a simple system of patronymics is still in use – for example, in the case of entries in the format “Manük oğlu Serkis”, it is not certain whether the individual in question is Sarkis Manoukian, or simply a Sarkis son of Manouk with no settled surname (or with a surname not recorded). Contrarily, when the entry is in the format “Demiroğlu Karabet”, it seems clear that the man’s name is Karabet (or Garabed) Demirian.

It is worth noting that the Armenians of Kayseri were native Turkish speakers.

I began by looking for surnames I knew from previous research to be associated with the town and/or sanjak of Kayseri. I was able to find only about one quarter of these. Either the other names were not from Kayseri itself but an outlying town or village, or they had not been taken by 1872 (which seems less likely).

Some of the names in the defter are simple to match to modern Armenian names, for example:

  • Arzuman oğlu Parsıh = Parsegh Arzumanian or Arzoumanian
  • Beyleroğlu Mardiros = Mardiros Beylerian
  • Erkiletlioğlu Karabet = Karabet Erkiletlian
  • Gürünlüoğlu Kesbar ve Avidis = (brothers) Kasbar and Avedis Gurunlian (or Gourounlian)
  • Kalaycıoğlu Mardiros = Mardiros Kalaydjian
  • Keşişoğlu Kalus = Kaloust Keshishian
  • Minasoğlu Hacı Agop = Agop Minasian
  • Odabaşıoğlu Agop = Agop Odabashian
  • Şahinoğlu Karabet = Karabet Shahinian
  • Seferoğlu Parsıh ve Artin = (brothers) Parsegh and Artin Seferian
  • Taşçıoğlu Ohanes = Ohanes Tashjian

Other names are less confident matches:

  • Acemoğlu Karabet = Karabet Ajemian
  • Dökmecioğlu Agop = Agop Deukmejian

The records mainly involve heads of household, as the taxpayers, and these are usually men – however, there are some women, perhaps mostly widows or women who had inherited property or had established a charitable trust (vakif).

Below are details of the Fırıncı mahallesi. Its name means simply “bakers’ neighbourhood” and it was a small, entirely Armenian quarter of the town, comprising just five streets with 23 taxpaying households, of which 21 are named in the defter. These households are shown in the table below.

street householder interpretation
Hamame Sokağı Kırnıkoğlu Hacı Karabet Karabet Kirnikian
Hamame Sokağı Mardinoğlu Karabet Karabet Mardinian
Hamame Sokağı Kazancıoğlu Hacı Agop Agop Kazandjian
Hamame Sokağı Acıroğlu Artın Artin Adjirian
Kazancı Sokağı Kazancıoğlu Murat Murat Kazandjian
Muytab Sokağı Ağlağanoğlu Hacı Agop Agop Aghlaghanian
Muytab Sokağı Keşişin oğlu kızı Meryem Miss Mariam Keshishian
Muytab Sokağı Köseoğlu kuyumcu Hacı Parsıh goldsmith Parsegh Keseian
Muytab Sokağı Külhancıoğlu Bedirus Bedros Kulhandjian
Muytab Sokağı Acıroğlu Keyfuruk Kevork Adjirian
Muytab Sokağı Çoduloğlu Agop Agop Tchodulian
Muytab Sokağı Ohanes oğlu Parsıh Parsegh Ohanesian, or Parsegh son of Ohanes
Muytab Sokağı Sade Agop oğlu Artin simple Artin Agopian, or Artin son of Agop
Gümüşoğlu Sokağı Berber Ohanes Ohanes Berber, or Ohanes the barber
Güllük Sokağı Abacıoğlu zevcesi Ehsabet Mrs Yeghsabet Abadjian
Güllük Sokağı Güllükoğlu Bedirus Bedros Kullukian or Koulloukian
Güllük Sokağı Üskü oğlu Karabet Karabet Ouskouian
Güllük Sokağı Güllükoğlu kızı Meryem Miss Maryam Kullukian or Koulloukian
Güllük Sokağı Çulha Muratoğlu Mığırdıç weaver Mgrdich Muratian
Güllük Sokağı Ağacanoğlu şekerci Artin confectioner Artin Aghadjanian
Güllük Sokağı Hızarcı Manikoğlu Karabet sawyer Karabet Manikian

 

Some thoughts on these householders:

  • Two of the streets appear to be named after the principal family in residence – the Kazandjian household in Kazancı Sokağı and the Kullukian or Koulloukian household in Güllük Sokağı (“roses street”).
  • The occupations of four of the householders are given – goldsmith, weaver, confectioner, sawyer. A fifth man – Ohanes, the sole taxpaying resident in Gümüşoğlu Sokağı – is either a barber or bears the surname Berber or Berberian – the original record does not make it clear. Given the name of this mahalle, one would assume that at least one of the men without a given occupation was a baker.
  • Three out of the 21 are women – two described as daughters (kızı in Turkish) and one as a wife (zevcesi), and presumably are respectively spinsters and a widow.
  • Four of the male householders have their forename prefixed with Hacı (Hadji), which would normally indicate that they had performed the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

 

The Google Map shows the Armenian settlements in the Kayseri province of the Ottoman Empire before the 1915 Genocide.

 

 

This article and map are versions of originals which were published by bluebirdresearch.com in 2013/2014.

Armenian communities in Syria

This Google Map shows the Armenian communities and places of worship in Syria prior to the Syrian conflict.

Armenians were especially concentrated in Aleppo (Haleb). Each of the city’s nine Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic churches is shown on the map. There were also significant communities in Damascus, in a cluster of villages in the Kesab (Kasab) area adjacent to the Turkish border, and in a number of desert towns in the NE at which Armenians arrived during and after the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

There was a post-Genocide Armenian refugee camp on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, which operated from 1922, had its own churches (Surp Khach, or Holy Cross, and Surp Krikor Lusavorich) and gradually developed into a normal residential suburb.

Aleppo was also the location of an Armenian Orphanage. The United Nations Office at Geneva in Switzerland has a vast archive and library, including holdings generated and collected by its predecessor the League of Nations. Among these are 15 registers under references C1601/497, C1602/498 and C1603/499 which pertain to the children admitted to the Armenian Orphanage in Aleppo during the period 1922 to 1930. Each volume contains short biographies and black and white photographs of up to 100 orphans and others admitted to the Orphanage. The registers do not form a complete unbroken series covering all inmates – four original volumes, known to have existed because of the sequential numbering of individuals admitted to the orphanage, have been lost or destroyed at some date. However, this still leaves illustrated biographical sketches of approximately 1,500 Armenians, victims but survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Each orphan had been deported from the Armenian-inhabited regions of the Ottoman Empire, and presumably most if not all had lost both parents and all other close family members. Many had escaped or been released from captivity in the homes of Turks, Kurds or Arabs, many had been forced to convert, and many of the girls had been treated as domestic servants or unwilling concubines.

Today the descendants of the original refugees in Aleppo are likely to have been displaced by the fighting in Syria and to have fled from a city in ruins to, ironically, the relative safety of neighbouring Turkey.

 

Versions of this blog and map were originally published by bluebirdresearch.com in 2012.

Turkish names of Armenian villages in Kars province

The place name concordance below shows the Armenian settlements of Kars oblast (province) of the period 1900s/1910s, taken from late Imperial Russian gazetteers. It is designed to help Armenian family historians to locate their ancestral villages, and should be read in conjunction with the Google Map showing the same Armenian settlements under their current Turkish names.

The table gives a) the names as transliterated from the Russian Cyrillic in Imperial Russian official publications, b) their Armenian names in standard transliteration and c) their modern Turkish names.

All errors are the blogger’s own. Additions and corrections are welcomed.

 

Russian name Armenian name Modern Turkish name
Kars Kars Kars
Zaim Zayim Harmanlı
Matsra Mazra Mezra
Dahskovo Dashkov Yalinkaya
Norashen    
Bulanikh Bulangh Bulanık
Kani-Key Ghani Gelirli
Karakala Karakala Merkezkarakale (Karakale)
Chermali Chermali Çerme
Berna Berna Koyunyurdu
Khas-Chiftlik Khas-Chiftlik Hasçiftlik
Gyarmali Gyarmali Kaynarlı
Giudali Gyodali Güdeli
Karakhach Garaghach Başkaya
Sogiutli-Abad Abat-Sogyutli Atayurdu
Chigirgyan Chghrdan Çığırgan
Khapanli Ghapanli Hapanlı
Bozgala Bozgala Bozkale
Begli-Akhmed Beghli-Ahmed Benliahmet
Orta-Kilisa Ortakilisa Ortalar
Kizil-Chakhchakh Kzil-Chaghchagh Akyaka (Garmirçağatsk)
Uzunkilisa Uzunkilisa Esenyayla
Aguzum Aghuzum Küçükaküzüm
Pirvali Pirvali Büyükpirveli (Eski Pirveli)
Odzhakh-Kuli Ojakh-Ghuli n/a (in Armenia)
Kiuruk-Dara Ghyurakdara, Gyurakdara Kürekdere
Paldirvan Paldrvan Duraklı
Parget (Bolshoy) Metz Parkit Büyükçatma
Bash-Shuragel Bash-Shoragyal Şetindurak
Tikhnis-Stariy Hin Tegniz Kalkankale
Tikhnis-Noviy Nor Tegniz Kalkankale
Ashaga-Kadiklyar Nerkin Gyadiklar Ayakgedikler
Bayrakhtar Bayraktar Bayraktar
Gamzakyarak Ghamzakyarak Hamzagerek
Gerkhana Gorghana Eşmeyazı
Araz-Ogli Arazi Arazoğlu
Dzhala Jala Esenkent
Adzham-Mavrak Acham Mavrak, Ajam-Mavrag Bekler
Karmirk-Vank Karmir Vank Yağıkesen
Koshevank Khoshavank n/a (in Armenia)
Kuyudzhuk Ghuyujugh Kuyucuk
Tazakent Tazakend Tazekent
Bash-Kadiklyar Bash Gyadiklar Başgedikler
Oguzli   Oğuzlu
Orta-Kadiklyar Orta Gyadiklar Ortagedikler
Agdzhakala Aghjaghala Akçakale
Kyadik-Satilmish Gyadik-Satlmish Gediksatilmiş
Parget (Maliy) Pokr Parkit Küçükçatma
Dolbant Dolbandlu Dölbentli
Baykara Bayghara Baykara
Bayburt Bayburt, Paypert Bayburt
Ortakala Ortaghala Ortakale
Sogiutli-Prut Brut-Sogyutlu Söğötlü
Yeski-Kazi, Eski-Kazi Aksi-Ghazi Eskigazi
Karamamed Gharamahmed n/a (in Armenia)
Bezirgyan Beyirgan Eskigeçit
Ardagan Ardahan Ardahan
Okam   Çayirbaşi
Urut Urut Bellitepe
Kagizman Kaghzvan Kağızman
Karabakh Gharabagh Karabağ
Kers Gers Günindi
Khar Khar Çallı
Yenidzha, Enidzha   Yenice
Karavank Gharavank Taşburun
Changli Chankli Çengilli
poselok Todan   Esenkır
Zirchi Zrchi Yağlıca
Pivik-Armyanskiy Bvik Karaboncuk
Laloy-Mavrak Laloy-Mavra Dolaylı
Pakran Bagaran Kilittaşi
Akryak Agarak Derinöz
Dzhalal Jalal Celal (Celalköy)
Zibni Tzpni Varlı
Digor Tikor Digor
Yelisavetinskoe,

Elisavetinskoe

Elisaveta  
Nakhichevan Nakhichevan Kocaköy
Kosha-Kilisa Ghoshakilisa Şehithalit
Khoperan Goberan Gecikmez
Shadevan Shatevan Belencik
Bashkey with poselok

Cholakhli and Kara-Pungar

Cholaghli and

Gharapunghar

Başköy, Çolaklı, Karapınar
Giulyantapa Gyulantara Beşyol
Sitagan Stahan Eşmeçayır
Akh-Kilisa Aghkilisa  
Armutli Armutlu Armutlu
Churuk Churuk Çardakçatı
Olti Olti Oltu
Dzhudzhurus Jurjuris Subatuk
Zardanes Zardanes Sarisaz
Tamrut Temrut Şendurak
Kubad-Yeriuk Yoruk Derebaşi
Akryak Agarak Sindiran
Pertus Bardus Zömrüt
Olor   Olur

 

 

This blog, concordance and map were first published on the bluebirdresearch website in 2011/12.

 

Armenian Karakala, Kars

Among the Californian Armenian community is a disproportionate number of descendants of immigrants from the small village of Karakala, or Kara-Kala, near Kars. On incoming American passenger lists and in naturalisation records, the place of origin of these immigrants will usually be shown as Russian Armenia, because the region around the city of Kars became the Russian Karsskaya oblast from 1878 to 1917. Before that period, the region was part of the Ottoman Empire and therefore a minority of US immigration records, especially for those Armenians born in Karakala before 1878, may state Turkey or Ottoman Empire, rather than Russia, as place of birth.

There is little to be found on the internet – at least, in the English language and of value to genealogists – about Karakala. There is confusion as to its exact whereabouts. The primary reason for this confusion is that the place name is not unique: there are multiple candidates. Furthermore, place names changed under modern Turkey and some Armenian villages were completely razed and have disappeared from the map. However, the true location of Armenian Karakala can be determined with confidence.

Imperial Russia, like other late 19th century empires, took a lively interest in demographics and ethnography (not least because nationalism needed to be monitored as the single biggest challenge to empire). Russian gazetteers of the period show the administrative geography (the hierarchy of local government from regional capital down to village), the population breakdown and usually something of the ethnicity (natsionalnost or nationality in Russian) of the inhabitants. The colossal 1897 Russian Census was a monument to just such a preoccupation with the population of empire.

Gazetteers for Kars oblast record the entire population down to the smallest villages of no more than 50 inhabitants. The Russian gazetteers for the 1900s and 1910s show consistently that there were nine places called Karakala in Kars oblast. However, Armenian Karakala – the source of the Californian immigrant population – is readily identified. Each of the various entries for the settlements named Karakala gives the nationality of its population. In this respect, while cities and towns in eastern Anatolia were usually of mixed population, the villages in the hinterland tended to be occupied by a single people. Only one of the nine places named Karakala had an Armenian population: of the remaining eight, seven were Muslim villages, identified carefully as Kurdish, Turcoman/Turkish and even Karapapak, and one a Yezidi village.

Under Russian rule, Armenian Karakala seems originally to have been classed as an obshestvo (community) in its own right, with the nearby Turkmen selo or village of Hadzhi-Halil subordinate to it, within the okrug (or district) of Magaradzhik (a Greek Orthodox village). However, later Karakala lost its obshestvo status and became simply a selo like Hadzhi-Halil in Magaradzhik obshestvo inMagaradzhik okrug. The other two villages in the immediate grouping were Azat (which was Greek Orthodox) and Kany-Kei (another Armenian settlement).

Across Kars oblast, the majority of Armenian settlements were growing rapidly during the years leading up to WW1, due to natural growth (families were large) and in-migration. Karakala was an exception to this trend. In 1902, the village comprised 464 souls (as they are described in the gazetteers) residing in 43 households; in 1908, 400 and in 1910 408; by 1914, it had 489 souls living in 79 homes. All were Armenian. The explanation for the mid-1900s dip and the otherwise relatively slow growth in population size and reduction in household size in Karakala is the significant emigration from the village to North America.

So where is Karakala? It is situated 17.5km SSE of Kars and is today called Merkezkarakale. The prefix Merkez (“central”) simply signifies its location in Kars Merkezi, or the central district of the Kars province of modern Turkey; this name was not used during either the Ottoman or Imperial Russian eras. 8km to the NNW is Azat; about 5km to the N is Magaradzhik, now called either Mağaracık  or Ataköy in Turkish; 5km to the NW is Kany-Kei, now known as Gelirli; and 2km to the S is Hadzhi-Halil, now spelt Hacıhalil in modern Turkish.

The first Google Map shows Armenian Karakala, marked with a yellow pin, in the context of the other Armenian settlements in Kars.

 

The second Google Map shows Armenian Karakala, marked with a yellow star instead of a pin, along with the non-Armenian villages named Karakala.

 

A third Google Map shows Armenian Karakala in the context of the surrounding villages of different ethnicity or nationality. The Armenian villages are marked with blue pins, and Karakala is the one marked with a blue star instead of a pin at the centre of the map.

 

There is an old photograph of the village of Armenian Karakala online:

Karakala old photo

Armenian Karakala – photo © molokane.org

If one studies Merkezkarakale in satellite view at high magnification on the  Google Map, one thing that is noticeable and common to both photograph and satellite image is the village’s linear structure – essentially it is a single street with plots to the left and right set back at different short distances from the road. Although 100 or more years may have passed, and the village will have been rebuilt and extended, and perhaps shifted its centre of gravity, its basic plan seems remarkably similar today. The axis of the village is NW to SE. The road in the satellite view, extending off to the right half way down the village street (heading roughly N), looks like a more organic recent development. The old photograph seems to have been shot from an elevation and may have been taken on the rising ground SE of the village.

Merkezkarakale

Merkezkarakale today, orientated to match old village photograph 

This is the only village named Karakala with a linear settlement plan in the former Kars oblast.If one looks at each of them in turn at high magnification on the Google Map, it will be seen that all of the others are organic, sometimes seemingly random, clusters of low buildings. Merkezkarakale is the only one with the planned look and feel of a linear village. It has been suggested that Armenian Karakala was built shortly after the Russian administration arrived in 1878; if so, then this would be consonant with the appearance of a “modern” rectilinear and planned layout.

It is not clear whether there are any surviving genealogical records for Karakala; and, if so, where they are held; and whether they cover both the Armenian Apostolic and the village’s burgeoning Armenian Protestant or Evangelical sect known as the “Jumpers” which generated many of the emigrants to California. The 1908 Kars oblast gazetteer explicitly describes the village as Armenian Protestant, so we know that the correct place has been identified.

Among the surnames of the original immigrant Armenian families with roots in Karakala are Katanian, Keosababian, Mooshagian, Nalian, Perumian, Shaharian and Stepanian.

This blog and the accompanying maps first appeared on the bluebirdresearch website in 2010 and 2011.

Yezidis in Kars Oblast

The Armenians, the Assyrians and the Greeks were not the only nationalities to be largely removed from Asia Minor as Turkey aggressively redefined itself as a single-nation state in the post-Ottoman era. The Yezidis (Yazidis) – Kurds with their own distinctive non-Islamic religion – have also disappeared, either being killed or converted to Islam, assimilating into the Kurdish population, or crossing the border into the Republic of Armenia (in more recent times, many have emigrated to continental Europe, particularly to Germany).

The Google Map shows the location of the former Yezidi villages of the Kars oblast or province of the Russian Empire circa 1910 before it was re-taken by the Turks after the end of WW1. During the Russian era (1878-1918), the distinctiveness of the Yezidi was recognised and these villages constituted their own administrative district or okrug. Many had arrived in the region during the 1880s, having been displaced from further west in Anatolia. The Yezidi population of Kars oblast was approximately 2,386 in 1892.

 

A version of this blog post and its accompanying map were first published by bluebirdresearch in 2011.

The Armenian community in Iran

There has been an Armenian community in what is today Iran and what was formerly Persia for many centuries, and some extremely ancient Armenian Apostolic churches are to be found in the north of the country – for example, the so-called “black church” of Surp Tade Vank south of the town of Maku and the Surp Stepanos Maghartavank monastery in a gorge near Julfa which form part of a UNESCO-recognised world heritage ensemble of exceptional interest.

Armenians of the Ottoman Empire sought refuge in Persia at the time of the 1915 Genocide, while other immigrants arrived after the Russian Revolution, and the Armenian population of Iran may have risen to a million or more at its peak. Today, however, the community is dwindling due to emigration, although not due to political or religious factors, as one might assume. While there is some inevitable discrimination given that modern Iran is by definition an Islamic state, a majority of those local Armenians leaving Iran are doing so for economic reasons and emigrating particularly to USA (rather than to the Republic of Armenia or Western Europe). Some of the traditionally strong Armenian communities, such as those in the New Julfa (or Nor Jugha) quarter on the south side of Isfahan and in the city of Tabriz and the vicinity of Urmia, have seen significant drops in population. Although the actual figures seem to be unknown and the process of emigration is continuing, it is thought that the total Armenian population of Iran may have fallen to as low as 75,000 in the years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the liberal, westward-leaning Shah.

The Armenians in Persia also had strong links with India and especially with the British in India, operating alongside (and often on behalf of) the Honourable East India Company along the overland trade routes to the subcontinent. This is why there are Armenian churches in various cities in India, even though the actual Armenian community is now greatly reduced in number. Armenian cemeteries are also important for those British family historians with East India Company connections, as the burials of the British usually took place in Armenian cemeteries where there was not a Church of England or other Protestant church. In Iran this practice remained prevalent until the end of the 19th century. A very good example of this is at the port of Bushire (Bushehr) in Iran.

The Google Map shows the Armenian communities and places of worship (not all extant today) in Persia / Iran in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Many of these are in the far NW of the country around Lake Urmia, where Armenians have lived among Assyrians, Azeris, Kurds and other peoples for centuries. Some churches have been damaged by earthquakes and war but generally the Iranian state has been sympathetic to the Armenian heritage (compared to the neglect and destruction it has suffered in Azerbaijan and Turkey). Spellings of place names on the map have not been standardised.

 

This blog and map were first published by bluebirdresearch in 2012.

Russian settlements in Kars Oblast

The Google Map shows the location of various Russian settlements established in the former Kars oblast, which was part of the pre-WW1 Russian Empire from 1878-1918.

The main pattern of distribution clearly shows the settlers crossing into Kars from Aleksandrapol (modern Gyumri in Armenia) and choosing appropriate locations for agriculture.

Many of the Russian settlers were dissenters (sectarians) such as the Dukhobor and Molokan, although there were also Orthodox Russians and some Russian-German Lutherans.

The great majority of the Dukhobors emigrated to Canada in 1899. Those Russians still resident in Kars oblastmostly withdrew with the Russian military during the 1918-1921 conflicts with the Turks, who reoccupied the territory after the Russian Revolution in 1917 – some Russian sectarians resettled in the Rostov region of Russia, where there are many villages named after the original colonies in the vicinity of Kars.

Russian settlements created in and after 1878 are shown with dark blue pins. The main urban centres with mixed populations including Russians are shown with pale blue pins.

 

This blog and map were first published on the bluebirdresearch website in 2012.

The Hemshin

Official Turkish historiography claims that the Hemshin or Hemşin are Turks who, through an unfortunate proximity, took on elements of Armenian language and culture. The truth, universally accepted elsewhere, is that the Hemshin are ethnic Armenians who either voluntarily or forcibly converted to Islam. For the most part they inhabit mountain valleys inland from Trabzon east to Rize and beyond Çayeli and Pazar to Hopa up by the border with Georgia.

Some of the valleys, such as those of the rivers Karadere and Fırtına, are predominantly Hemshin in character. Their villages are loose clusters of homes, often scattered along a ridge or a winding access road, rather than focused nuclear settlements. Many villages have separate quarters (mahalle) with different names, which have been gathered into a single settlement for administrative purposes. The majority of settlements have been re-named, or have alternative names. In certain parts, villages are associated with traditional highland pastures called yaylas, to which entire communities decamp for the summer grazing season. The yaylas are summertime highland grazing camps rather than permanent year-round settlements.

The Hemshin have also dispersed within Turkey, and there are communities, generally thriving and successful, in big cities such as Ankara and Istanbul (where the Hemshin are famous as pastry cooks). As a result, the Hemshin villages are becoming depopulated, as part of a rural to urban movement pattern common to most developing states in the modern world. This threatens the very existence of the Hemshin as a distinctive people, especially within their context of the homogenising chauvinistic culture of Turkey. However, it is possible that their culture may be preserved through a mixture of urban Hemshin nostalgia and the development of tourism.

Most of the Hemshin are Sunni Muslim and nowadays speak Turkish; however, those in the Hopa district still speak Homshetsma, an Armenian dialect. The same Homshetsma language is spoken by Hemshin in Georgia and Russia where part of the Hemshin (or, rather, their Armenian forebears) migrated to escape conversion to Islam and remain Christian.

The Hemshin are also known variously as Hamshen, Hemşin, Hemşinli, Hemshinli, Homshentsi and Homshetsi.

The Google Map shows current settlements in Turkey and beyond which are known to be Hemshin today. Villages outside Turkey are under-represented on the map. Communities in the big Turkish cities are not shown.

The villages of the Turkish-speaking Hemshin in the western region of habitation are shown with dark blue pins. The villages speaking the Hemshinli language called Homshetsma in the eastern region are shown with the pale blue pins (note that these spill over into Georgia). Purple pins show villages established by displaced Hemshin in western Turkey (see page 2 of the map).

The villages of the Homshetsma-speaking Hemşin in Georgia and Russia who fled the Ottoman Empire and remain Christian are also shown.

 

A version of this article and map was originally posted on the bluebirdresearch site in 2012.

Armenians in Javakhk 

This  Google Map shows the distribution of current and former Armenian settlements in Javakhk, Georgia, the region that adjoins the Republic of Armenia and has a majority Armenian population.

Although Armenian settlement in this region historically dates back many hundreds of years, the current population of the small towns and villages in Javakhk generally descends from Armenians displaced from Ottoman Turkey circa 1829/30. Many came from Erzurum province, with a minority from other districts such as Ardahan, Kars and Van.

As Erzurum was also the source of many emigrants to America around the turn of the 19th/20th century, this means that many Armenians both in the Republic and in the diaspora may well have kin residing in Georgia.

Note that the map shows the settlements in the Javakhk region of Georgia which have or had an Armenian population. The villages are shown under their Armenian not their Georgian names (transliterated from the Armenian alphabet of course) and are listed in Latin alphabet order.

Villages are Armenian Apostolic unless otherwise described as Armenian Catholic (red pins).

Ethnic Georgian villages in the region are not marked with pins.

 

This is a version of a blog post and map first published by bluebirdresearch in 2012.

Yezidi villages in Armenia

The Yezidi in the Republic of Armenia, in common with many Armenians outside the capital Yerevan and the larger towns, lead a life of subsistence. The full employment of the Soviet era is long gone; the old collective farms lie abandoned, or now serve only as temporary or semi-permanent accommodation for a passing cowherd or shepherd and his livestock. There are few jobs in the mountain areas – and Armenia is nothing if not mountainous – and therefore subsistence is forced upon much of the rural population. Perhaps for the majority of Yezidi at least this might still be a preferred way of life. In summer the women grow vegetables in garden plots around their low dwellings in the villages; they also gather edible herbs such as shushan from the meadows and sell them by the roadside in Jamshlu, Alagyaz and other villages through which the main M3 road passes between Spitak and Yerevan.

One extremely popular large dark green leaf called aveluk, a mountain sorrel with a strong flavour, is cleverly plaited into ropes up to a metre long, with the protruding stalks trimmed off with a sharp knife; this braid is then hung up to dry for use in winter, when it has to be prepared by rehydrating and washing before cooking.

Meanwhile, the Yezidi men are up in the highland pastures of Aragats, their traditional Kurdish-style tents supplemented by plastic tarpaulin covered trucks; the milk, yoghurt and cheese of their sheep and cattle which graze the flower-rich meadows are said to be particularly flavoursome and healthy.

The Yezidi villagers, like many Armenians, may be poor when judged by Western material standards but they live well enough off the land and perhaps it is inappropriate to apply Western measures of standard of life. There are some satellite dishes and of course the ubiquitous mobile phones and coca cola in the villages. It is true that the educated among them may leave for urban life, and of course there are some disaffected youth, but the community is largely adjusted and inured to remote village life in highland Armenia. The Yezidi of Aragatsotn are respected by the Armenians for their role in fighting the Turks in the years following WW1 and their religion is accepted as non-threatening, if as a little peculiar. As well as Kurmanji Kurdish, the Yezidi speak fluent Armenian with the local accent learnt in the Armenian school system and an Armenian would be hard-pushed to distinguish a Yezidi from an Armenian on voice alone.

The older cemeteries, such as that in Rya Taza, where striking ancient and probably undatable animal-shaped grave-markers survive, speak of the Yezidis’ centuries of residence in Aragatsotn. Although the resident Yezidi population was supplemented by Yezidis displaced from post-Ottoman Turkey from the 1915 Armenian Genocide onwards (a period during which the Yezidi too were persecuted and deported by the Turks), the graveyards indicate that the Yezidi have lived on this land for hundreds of years.

The location of the Yezidi villages of the Republic of Armenia is shown on our Google Map. As mentioned, some of the ancient Yezidi places of habitation NE of Mounts Aragats are perhaps centuries old, while others are of more recent origin, having been settled during or after the second decade of the 20th century, as Yezidis fled oppression in Turkish lands in eastern Anatolia.

Unless otherwise stated, the map shows villages the population of which is entirely or overwhelmingly Yezidi.

The cluster of villages around Alagyaz is the historical heartland of Yezidi settlement within the borders of modern Armenia. All except Alagyaz itself and Sadunts are identified as Yezidi villages in an old gazetteer of the Yerevan gubernia or province of Tsarist Russia in 1869 – at that date, there was a total of 260 households in these eight villages.

In 1869 there were also 16 Yezidi households in an isolated settlement called Soukh-Bulakh, the precise location of which has not been established (its approximate site is shown on the map with a question mark).

 

Sources:

Birgül Açıkyıldız, “The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion”, pub. I B Taurus, 2010

Eszter Spät, “The Yezidis”, pub Saqi Books, 2005

Эриванская Губернія: Списокъ Населенныхъ Мѣстъ Губернія, Военно-учёный комитет, c1870/71

This is a revised version of text and map which were first published on the bluebirdresearch website in 2011.