Armenians, a non-Muslim minority that traditionally has lived in northwestern Iran adjacent to the historic Armenian homeland located in what today are eastern Turkey and Soviet Armenia, speak an Indo- European language that is distantly related to Persian. There were an estimated 300,000 Armenians in the country at the time of the Revolution in 1979. There has been considerable emigration of Armenians from Iran since, although in 1986 the Armenian population was still estimated to be 250,000. In the past there were many Armenian villages, especially in the Esfahan area, where several thousand Armenian families had been forcibly resettled in the early seventeenth century during the reign of the Safavid ruler, Shah Abbas. By the 1970s, the Armenians were predominantly urban. Approximately half lived in Tehran, and there were sizable communities in Esfahan, Tabriz, and other cities. The Armenians tend to be relatively well educated and maintain their own schools and Armenian-language newspapers.
Most Armenians are Gregorian Christians, although there are some Roman Catholic and Protestant Armenians as a result of European and American missionary work in Iran during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Armenian Orthodox Church is divided between those who give their allegiance to the patriarch based at Echmiadzin, near Yerevan in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, and those who support his rival, the patriarch of Cicile at Antilyas, near Beirut in Lebanon. Since 1949 a majority of Armenian Gregorians have followed the patriarch of Cicile. Clergy from Soviet Armenia were at one time active among the Iranian Armenians and had some success in exploiting their sense of community with their coreligionists in the Soviet Union. Several thousand Armenians emigrated from Iran to Soviet Armenia during World War II, and, except for occasional interruptions by one government or another, such emigration has continued. There has also been steady emigration of Iranian Armenians from Iran to the United States.
|Country Studies main page | Iran Country Studies main page|