A Vanishing Nation : A Minority in Turkey: The Case of Turkish Armenians

by Karin Soovali

Institution: University of Oslo
Year: 1000
Keywords: VDP::000
Record ID: 1281366
Full text PDF: https://www.duo.uio.no/handle/10852/35194


The Armenian people have been living in Asia Minor for around two millennia, long before the Turkic tribes found their way there. Although being ruled by stronger powers throughout most of their history, they also had their glorious moments and great kingdoms. Adopting Christianity at the beginning of the 4 th century and creating their own alphabet soon after, they managed to preserve their identity and culture. While originally inhabiting east Anatolia, talented and prosperous Armenians were invited to the west of Anatolia, especially Constantinople, today's Istanbul. They were appreciated as talented artists, craftsmen, architects, traders, interpreters and even advisors to sultans in the Ottoman Empire. Up until the 19 th century they were regarded as a "loyal minority". Starting with the last decade of the 19 th century (1894-96) and culminating in 1915-16 with the the deportation and massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in WWI, the Armenian community has dwindled to a tiny minority often facing discrimination and second rate citizenship. Today, the Armenians constitute the biggest non-Muslim minority group in Turkey numbering around 40 000-60 000, most of them residing in Istanbul and in its environs, where they have their churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages etc. They also have three community newspapers and active civil societies. Armenians are one of the three recognized minorities in the country according to the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which also grants them special rights. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the Armenian identity in today's Turkey. I'm seeking to find answers to what the Armenian identity is based on, concentrating on four main themes that grew out of the gathered information during my five weeks of fieldwork in Istanbul, Turkey. The topics covered here are: the religion (Christianity as an identity marker), the language (the significance of the Armenian language), the history (the massacres of WW1), and the thnicity (the Turkish Armenians in contrast to the people of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora). Using qualitative research method and theories of ethnicity and identity, I show what role these four bigger topics play in my informants' lives.