An Armenian-American is an American whose ancestors hail, either wholly or partly, from Armenia. During the United States 2000 Census, 385,488 Americans indicated either full or partial Armenian ancestry.
The first Armenian
known to have moved to America was Martin the Armenian
. He arrived in Jamestown, Virginia
, in 1618, when the colony was only eleven years old. A few other Armenians are recorded as having come to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries, but they mostly came as individuals and did not form a community.
First Wave of Immigration
The first Armenians to come to the US in the 19th century were students from Turkish Armenia
coming in search of a higher education. The pioneer of this movement is noted to be one Khachadour Vosganian, who stayed in the U.S. and later became president of the New York Press Club. Armenians began to arrive in the United States in higher numbers in the late 19th century. This first wave of immigration lasted until the mid-1920s, when the new immigration quotas decreased the amount of Armenians who were allowed to immigrate into the U.S. This wave of immigrants established Armenian communities and organizations in the United States, most notably the Armenian Apostolic Church
Split in the Armenian Community
As the first wave of immigrants was arriving in America, the dust was settling from World War I. By the 1920s, Turkish Armenia
, the homeland of most Armenian-Americans, was depleted almost entirely of its Armenian population, and Russian Armenia
, which had enjoyed a shortlived period of independence as the First Republic of Armenia
, was incorporated into the Soviet Union
as Soviet Armenia
. Armenians in the United States had many different viewpoints on their future. Some wished to stay in America, some wished to return to Soviet Armenia, some wished to liberate their lost homeland from the new Turkish Republic
, and some wished to liberate Soviet Armenia from the Soviet Union. The strongest Armenian political organization in the Diaspora
, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
, was active in the United States and was pushing for the liberation of Soviet Armenia as an independent state. Most other Armenian political or social organizations opposed this viewpoint and generally supported the status quo of the Armenian political situation. The people themselves were split down the middle. Unfortunately, this political divide spilled over into the Armenian Apostolic Church as Armenians who viewed the church as the mouthpiece of the Armenian people tried to force church leaders to promote their political agendas. Events in 1933 lead to the separation of the Armenian Church of America into two rival factions, the "Diocese of the Armenian Church of America" and the "Prelacy of the Armenian Church of America." The Diocese pledged loyalty to the Armenian Catholicos of Echmiadzin while the Prelacy renounced Echmiadzin's leadership as being controlled by the Soviets. This unfortunate split meant that since 1933 the Armenian community in the U.S. has on many levels developed as two parallel communities, since bitter rivalries meant that many Armenians refused to associate with those from the "other side."
Second Wave of Immigration
There was some Armenian immigration to America in the 40s and 50s, notably the Soviet Armenian prisoners of war who immigrated to the west after being freed from Nazi camps (known as D.P.'s or Displaced Persons). However the true second wave of immigration did not begin until the immigration reforms of the 1960s allowed for it. Armenians once again began immigrating to America from various parts of the Old World Diaspora or from now-Soviet Armenia. Especially due to the Lebanese Civil War of 1975, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and various other political upheavals in countries of the Middle East where Armenians were then living, Armenian immigration to America boomed into a Second Wave in the 1970s and 1980s. Starting around the same time and continuing after the breakup of the Soviet Union, waves of Armenians from the former Soviet Union
arrived for ideological freedom and economic opportunities and settled in older established Armenian communities across the country. Most of the early Armenian immigrants who came from Soviet Armenia actually lived pretty comfortably in their former country but sought freedom from Communist
repression. However, later, in the early 1990s, many Armenians arrived in the U.S. as refugees of the Armenian-Azeri War and pogroms against Armenians in Baku and Sumgait. Armenia became an independent republic in 1991.
The Armenian-American community consists largely of descendants of the survivors of the Armenian massacres in the 1890s and the subsequent genocide.
Armenian-American Major Concentrations
The Armenians are distributed into two main blocks: Armenians living in Western United States, basically the state of California, and the much older communities in Eastern United States. Some Armenian Americans have family connections with the Armenian communities of Canada and Mexico.
California and Western United States
California hosts the largest Armenian-American population. The first Armenian to arrive in California was called Normart, which means new man in Armenian. He settled in Fresno in 1874. In the 1920s, Armenians began to move from rural regions to cities, such as Los Angeles. By 1930, the Armenian population of Los Angeles was the largest in California. The largest concentration of Armenian-Americans is located in Glendale, California, where 26.2% of residents identified themselves as Armenian on the 2000 US Census. Many cities and counties located in the state of California have sizable Armenian communities, including:
In recent years, Armenian communities developed in
Armenian-Americans gather in multiple towns and cities every year on April 24 to take part in a protest for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The largest of such protests occurs in the Los Angeles area.
Eastern United States
Other important Armenian-American communities include: