American Immigration: Armenians


Figure 1.--This snap shot of two unidentified boys came from an Armenian family in Fresno California. It is undated, but the clothes, avove the knee knickers worn with knee socks suggest the late-1910s or very early-20s. They look to be second generation children who parents probably immigrated during the 1890s.

At the turn of the 21st century, an estumated 0.7 million Americans trace their roots to Armenian immigrants. Armenians were very commercially oriented and thus like Greeks and Jews spread throughout the Mediterranean world, especially within the Ottoman Empire. Eventually Armeniam traders established trading firms in Christian Europe as well. One repprt identified 60 Armenian trading firms in the city of Amsterdam (1660). Others describe Armenian colonies in virtually every corner of the globe, including Addis Ababa, Calcutta, Lisbon, and Singapore. One country in which Armenins did not settle in large numbers was the United States. Before the Civil War there were a handful of Armenians in America. This probably reflects the fact that Armenians livedin the Ottoman Empire. Most came to America ti study and return to thevOttoman Empire. A few made substantial contributions. This began to change after the Civil War when lrge numbers of Europeans, including non-Protestant southern Europeans, began to emigrate to America (1870s). Sunstantial numbers of Armenians began to arrive two decades later (1890s).

Armenian Disapora

Armenians were very commercially oriented and thus like Greeks and Jews spread throughout the Mediterranean world, especially within the Ottoman Empire. Eventually Armeniam traders established trading firms in Christian Europe as well. One repprt identified 60 Armenian trading firms in the city of Amsterdam (1660). Others describe Armenian colonies in virtually every corner of the globe, including Addis Ababa, Calcutta, Lisbon, and Singapore. One country in which Armenins did not settle in large numbers was the United States. Before the Civil War there were a handful of Armenians in America. This probably reflects the fact that Armenians livedin the Ottoman Empire. Most came to America ti study and return to thevOttoman Empire. A few made substantial contributions. This began to change after the Civil War when large numbers of Europeans, including non-Protestant southern Europeans, began to emigrate to America (1870s). Sunstantial numbers of Armenians began to arrive two decades later (1890s).

First Individuals

One country in which Armenins did not settle in large numbers was the United States. Before the Civil War there were a handful of Armenians in America. This probably reflects the fact that Armenians livedin the Ottoman Empire. Most came to America ti study and return to the Ottoman Empire. A few made substantial contributions.

Large-scale Migration

Except for the Irish, large-scale European emigration to America did not begin until after the Civil War. Europrans emigration began o increase (1870s) and reached unprecedented numbers (1880s). This include Italians and other nationalities from Catholic areas of southern Europe. Armenians joined the emigrant wave (1890s). This conindided with Ottoman policies that became incteasungly hostile to Armenians. Armenians describe three waves of emmigration.

First wave (1890-1914)

For three centuries, gthe Armenians were a respected and hinored Christian minority within the Ottoman Empire. This began o change after the Napoleonic Wars when the hrady breath of nationalism began to reach the Christian peoples of the Balkans under Ottoman rule. The Ottoman Empire was seen in the 19th century as the "sick man of Europe" The Empire was desintegrating, but was held together in part because the Europeans could not agree on how to carveut up. This was the cause of the Crimean Wat (1850s). The Balkan Christians slowly won their independence in the 19th century. Tirkish nationalists this rose in power. Seeing that they were losing their hold on the Balkans, they became increasingly determined to maintain their hold on Anatolia. The Armenians wwere a substantial minority in eastern Turkey, thus separating the cTurks in western Anatolis from the Trukic people Central Asia. This Ottoman policies toward Vhiristiand in the Empire, especially Armenians, began to harden. During the difficult final years of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish nationalists began to target thec Armenians and other Christians with violent attacks. They were increasinglyvseen as treated as non-Moslem infidels (giavors). Turks massacred an estimated 0.3 Armenians (1894-95). The result was largenumbers of Armenians fleeing areas of the Ottoman Empire where their ancestors had lived for millenia. The flow of Armenians ended with the outbreak of Wotld war I when travel was no longer possible (1914). An estimated 64,000 Turkish Armenians are believed to hace reached America before the War.

Second wave (1920-24)

The Ottoman entry into World war I on the siude of the Central Powers proved to be a disaster for the Armenian people. Ottoman attacks on Christians had been limited to a degree by thevinterbention of the Great Powers. As a result of the fog of war and the failure of the Germans to intervene with their ally, Ottoman officials and Turkish nationalists carried out a horendous genocide in which an estimated 1.0 million Armenians were murdered (1915-20). Because if the War, few Armenians could escape to America. Most of the Armenians who survived were Armenians who managed to reach Russian occupied eastern Turkey or the Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire (Mesopotamia, Syriam Lebanon, and Palestine). After the War, an estimated 31,000 Armenians reached America. Many came from colonies like Syria and Lebanon rather than directly from Turkey. This flow was cut off when Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act which drastically curtailed immigration (1924). The Armenian quota was only 150 people annually..

Third wave (1950s- )

The third wave of emigration followed World war II when the United states began loosening its immigration restrictions. The Armenians faced another crisis. In the aftermath of the war, Arab governments in the Middle East achieved indepenence. This and the Arab-Isreali War (1948-49) resulted in an unpsurge of nationalism and anti-Western feeling which bwas generalized into anti-Christian sentiment. Anout 0.7 ,illion Armenians who had surviced the Turkish Genocide now faced another spasm of ultra-nationlist explosions combined with sovialist dictatorshios and Muslim fundamentalism. The Armenians fled the Niddle East in large numbers. Waves of emigraion flew from different countries, often being driven out of the country: Egypt (1952), then Turkey again (1955), Iraq (1958), Syria (1961), Lebanon (1975), and Iran (1978). Many of these refugees were stripped of their property, but were relatively well educated. They emigrated to the Soviet Union, Western Europe, and the United States. There are no precise estimates on the number that reached America at this time.







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Created: 7:20 AM 11/30/2009
Last updated: 7:21 AM 11/30/2009