Posted 28 June 2002 - 11:50 PM
Below, as yet the most extensive and inclusive report on the
people and subject.
HAIGAZIAN UNIVERSITY HOSTS A FEATURE FILM PRESENTATION AND LECTURE ON
THE HEMSHIN IN TURKEY
BEIRUT, Monday, 24 June 2002 - The newly inaugurated Media Center at
Haigazian University was packed on Thursday, 16 May 2002, with an
audience attending an event dedicated to the Armenian-speaking, Muslim
community of the Hemshin in northeastern Turkey.
The event began with the presentation of 'Momi' (Grandmother), a
22-minute feature film in Homshetsma, the language of the Hemshin,
depicting the lifestyle of the Hopa Hemshin in their summer pastures.
Directed by Ozcan Alper, 'Momi' (2000) is believed to be one of the very
rare films, if not the only one to date, made in Homshetsma.
The film presentation was followed by a lecture by Hovann Simonian, who
is currently a Ph.D. candidate researching theories of secession in the
Department of Political Science at the University of Southern
California. Simonian was born in Beirut and spent his early years in
Lebanon and later in Switzerland. He holds an MA in International
Relations from the Department of Political Science at the University of
Southern California (1996) and another MA in Central Asian Studies from
the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental
and African Studies, the University of London (1997). He is the
co-author, with Prof. R. Hrair Dekmejian, of 'Troubled Waters: The
Geopolitics of the Caspian Region' (London: I.B. Tauris and New York:
St. Martin/Palgrave, 2001) and the editor of the forthcoming 'The
Hemshin', which will be published by Curzon Press in London as part of
its Peoples of the Caucasus Series.
Simonian described the Hemshin as one of the numerous, distinct, small
communal groups which have survived in the Caucasus and Pontus regions
due to the protection and isolation provided by the formidable mountains
in the area. The hemshin have preserved, centuries after their
conversion to Islam, a sense of identity distinct from their neighbors.
The Hemshin, explained Simonian, are now divided into two communities,
living separately in the modern Turkish provinces of Rize and Artvin.
These two communities, however, are almost oblivious of one another's
existence. Moreover, both of them are also unaware of the existence of a
yet third related community, speaking a close, if not identical dialect,
the Christian Hamshen Armenians of Abkhazia and Krasnodar (Russia).
Simonian said that among the western group of Bash-Hemshin, who live in
the Hemshin and Djamlihemshin districts of the Rize province, the
Armenian language had disappeared sometime in mid-nineteenth century. It
was replaced by a local Turkish dialect, which includes a large number
of Armenian loan words. The Armenian language continues to survive to
this day, however, among the eastern group of the Hopa-Hemshin, who live
in the Hopa and Borchka districts of the Artvin province. 'Given the
growing decline of the use of the Armenian language in the Diaspora, the
ironic possibility that these Muslims villagers may well be the last
speakers of Western Armenian must not be excluded,' added the speaker.
According to Simonian, the Bash-Hemshin number between 15,000 and 23,000
in the Rize province, while the Hopa Hemshin are estimated at around
25,000. There are also a dozen or so villages in Bolu and Sakarya, which
were settled by the Hemshin at the end of the nineteenth century.
Furthermore, large numbers of Hemshin can be found in cities like
Trabzon, Erzerum, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Some of these
city-dwellers return to their home villages and pastures in the summer
months. A total figure of 100,000 Hemshins living in the whole of Turkey
appears to be a realistic estimate, Simonian concluded.
Referring to the early history of this group, Simonian stated that
Armenians had immigrated to the Black Sea coast region in 791 to escape
the oppressive fiscal policy of the Arab Caliphate. The Byzantine
emperor, Constantine VI, settled them, and one of their leaders, Prince
Hamam Amatuni, established the town of Hamamshen, the exact location of
which has not been discovered to date. Simonian explained that the name
'Hamamshen' gradually turned into 'Hamshen' and, eventually, to the
present day 'Hemshin'.
Simonian indicated that almost nothing is known about Hamshen in the
following six centuries. The extraordinary isolation of the region
protected the principality of Hamshen from invasions, and it probably
survived as a vassal of, first, the Byzantine Empire, then, its
successor, the Empire of Trebizond (Trabzon), and, finally, the Turkish
tribal confederation of the Akkoyunlus. This Armenian principality fell
under Ottoman control in the late 1480s.
Most historians, reported Simonian, believe that conversion into Islam
among the Armenians of Hamshen began in the 1640s. Islamization
simultaneously affected other non-Muslim groups in the region and was
probably motivated by an Ottoman desire to control this strategically
important area, which was close to Christian Georgia and, then, Russia.
The unbearable tax burden imposed on non-Muslim subjects and coercive
tactics exercised by mullahs in the region are usually given as reasons
behind this conversion.
Another bout of Islamization occurred in the early eighteenth century,
this time among the Hemshin living in the region of Karadere (Sev-Ked).
In the meantime, a large number of Christians in the area, who refused
Islamization, drifted westwards towards Trabzon, Ordu, Charshamba,
Giresun and even as far as Izmit.
The new converts to Islam were called, for a long time, 'ges-ges' or
crypto-Christians. Some of them made a failed attempt to return to
Christianity during the Tanzimat period in the third quarter of the
nineteenth century. Even some of the small number of Turkish-speaking
Muslim migrants who moved to the region inhabited by the newly Islamized
Hemshin, became 'Hemshinized' themselves.
>From the 1860s onwards, many Christian Hamshen Armenians moved to the
Black Sea shores of the Russian Empire, added Simonian. They are the
ancestors of most Armenians in Abkhazia and Krasnodar who lived there
before the break up of the Soviet Union.
Simonian underlined, however, that most Hemshin today claim that they
are of pure Turkish stock. They totally reject having Armenian
bloodlines and only accept having cultural links with Armenians
(including the use of Armenian by the Hopa Hemshin), due to long
coexistence with the latter. This interpretation is supported by the
Kemalist ideologues of modern Turkey.
After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, 12 Hemshin villages near the
Black Sea Coast found themselves within the newly acquired Russian
territories. Despite at least one public suggestion made by the famous
editor, Grigor Artsruni, the Armenian Church made no attempt to return
the Hemshin villagers to its fold. Simonian continued that six of these
villages were returned to Turkey in 1921; the rest became part of the
Adjar autonomous republic within Soviet Georgia. In 1944, the Soviet
leader, Joseph Stalin, deported the Hemshin (and the Meskhetian Turks)
in Transcaucasia to Central Asia. The Hemshin exiles established
contacts with intellectuals in Armenia in the 1980s, but political and
economic upheavals in Armenia starting in 1988 put an end to discussions
to bring them to the republic. Most Hemshin returnees from Central Asia
settled, therefore, in the region of Krasnodar in 1989. As a consequence
of recent rising ethnic tensions in the Krasnodar region, it appears
that the Hemshin like to distance themselves from the Meskhetians; they
have appealed to the Armenian community in Krasnodar, expressing
readiness to be registered as Armenians and take up Armenian surnames
provided they can keep their Muslim faith.
Simonian's lecture was enriched by a series of slides that he showed. He
had taken these pictures of the landscape and people in
Hemshin-populated regions in Turkey during his research trip to the
In the question-and-answer period that followed the lecture, Simonian
elaborated that the Hemshin are not very religious. They have very few
mosques and very few people attend them. They also consume a lot of
alcohol. They are educated in Turkish. They annually celebrate
traditional Armenian feasts like 'Vartevar' (Transfiguartion) and
'Verapokhum' (Assumption), without actually being aware of the original
meanings of these feasts. Simonian also pointed out that, since the
nineteenth century, the Western Hemshin have emphasized the importance
of education. To date, many Bash Hemshin travel to Istanbul and other
Turkish cities to further their studies. Most of these students do not
return to their villages, however.
Haigazian University is a liberal arts institution of higher learning,
established in Beirut in 1955. For more information about its activities
you are welcome to visit its web-site at <http://www.haigazian.edu.lb>.
For additional information on the activities of its Department of
Armenian Studies, contact Ara Sanjian at <email@example.com>
Posted 29 June 2002 - 09:17 PM
i have been loking for somthing like this for ling time. Thanks
Posted 07 July 2002 - 04:08 AM
we have been woring on Hamshna-Zurna for 2 years - shat aveli mets yev zill dzayn uni qan mer sovorakan zurnnan - sakayn qich aveli info - kariq unem - yeraj@shtutyan yev yergeri tesaketits.
[ July 07, 2002, 05:10 AM: Message edited by: MosJan ]
Posted 07 July 2002 - 10:32 AM
There were Hemshinlis vıllages around Adapazar (modern Sarikaya) before the end of the 19th century, and probably long before that date. The local Armenians there called them Laz, but still aknowledged them to be Armenian.
Posted 10 September 2003 - 09:11 AM
Look what I found!
I was reading some old posts about the Hamshenites and decided to look what others may have said, and look. This is one of many that responder to a simple search keyword of HEMSIN(the S in Turkish can be read as SH, the site does not support the Turkish script where the S to become a SH should have diacritical marks). Those who can read Turkish will be amazed to see that the Hamshenites are alive and KICKING. Some of the correspondents have clearly Armenian surnames, others are arguing how much Armenian there is in the Turkish language. Iwish Ali were here to translate some of the posts, maybe Caucasian will be so kind. In the meantime, take a look, and browse the site. I will try and translate some of them to my best.
From what I gather there seems to be an awakening of the Hamshenites.
Take a look;
Posted 10 September 2003 - 10:01 AM
I have not yet determined who these people are, some seem to have Armenian surnames, others may be Greek. In the meantime I am working on the translation of the previous.
It would be interesting to know who these forumers are and what their aim.
Posted 10 September 2003 - 11:17 AM
Posted 10 September 2003 - 11:32 AM
That is the way.
Yet, you may have noticed that some of us have trouble with Protestant and Catholic Armenians.
A Moslem Hamshenite???
As my mother used to say: "Bernit karmir pipar"!!!
Posted 10 September 2003 - 11:39 AM
On a similar note - I was recently told this joke concerning Hamshen - lets see if I can reproduce it here -
This Hamshen goes up to another Hamshe and asks (in Armenian) - Are you Armenian? The other Hamshen replies (in Armenian) - no I am not.
Thats it really (but I think it does very well make the point...)
Posted 10 September 2003 - 02:40 PM
As for me, I'm not sure if I'll go. I'll see.
Note: Prof. Jos Weitenberg is an Armenologist and the only one we currently have in Holland. However, he has established an important name in the world of Armenology (whatever that may be ).
Date: 20-Oct-2003 - 22-Oct-2003
Location: Leiden, NL, Netherlands
Contact: Uwe Blaesing
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Linguistic Sub-field: Language Description, Anthropological Linguistics
Subject Language: Armenian
Subject Language Family: Indo-European
On october 20-21-23, 2003 there will be held a workshop on Hamshen
Armenians at Leiden University, organized by Dr. Uwe Bläsing and
Prof. Jos Weitenberg. Among the participants are Prof. I. Kuznetsov
(Krasnodar University) and Erhan Ersoy (Ankara University).
The Workshop will discuss the current linguistic and anthropological
situation of Hamshen Armenians, inside and outside of the area. At the
workshop patterns of future cooperation will be proposed and
Whoever has an interest in this subject is cordially invited to
participate in this workshop. Please contact Dr. Uwe Bläsing, Leiden
University, Fac. of Humanities, Dpt. of Comparative Linguistics, POB
9515, NL 2300 RA Leiden. email@example.com
Posted 10 September 2003 - 03:15 PM
The Hemshinli do not wish to retain an Armenian identity because they can see no possible advantage in having it. They felt the same about the Armenian Church several hundred years ago. And who can blame them. They are satisfying their own interests, rather than the curiosity of ugly American tourists. They are happy merely that they are not Laz (their neighbours to the north), or Kurds (their neighbours to the south), or Georgians (their neighbours to the east), or one-time Greeks (their neighbours to the west). And once again, who can blame them. Its hard not to feel superior when that lot are your neighbours!
...but then when I told them that they were Armenian to they answered - Ya think? We discussed it for a bit - and they seemed familiar with the concept that they might be Armenians - but didn't seem to have an opinion (or information or belief) one way or another.
Posted 10 September 2003 - 05:30 PM
Here is the translation of that post above.
The writer seems to one be known as Hemsin Baskoylu, Hamsjenite Villager.
Ermenilerin Dili, Language of the Armenians.
(Ermenice) Armenian is of the IndoEuropean family, with its 38 character alphabet seems to be an unrelated branch. It seems to be of the last of the eastern IE languages (the native know it by Hayeren). Armenians may have borrowed much from the Khalti language, most often from the Uraruan as in names of localities. .... Relationship of Armenian and Phrygian is obvious. Geographers like Bostoniius have found many similarities between Armenian, Arabic and Asyrian. Etienne De Byzance (VI c.)found many similarities between Armenian and Phrygian, yet later it has been noticed that this observation may have been defective.
Linguistic scientists: In modern times, Lacrase (1661-17390, has identified Ermenice with the Median, and further others have placed it in the Iranian family. (Bopp 1791-1867, Petermann 1811-1861) Have placed Armenian among the IE family. Even later, F.R> Muller (1823-1900), and Dela Zarte (1827-1894) and other lihguists , sharing their findings , agreed . THese liguits placed the Armenian in the Iranian family, since the Iranian was viewed as the cradle of the IE family of languages. Hubsschmann agrees and he attests that Armenian s a distinct barnch of the IndoIranian family. German linguists placed Armenian in the IndoAryan family. Hubschmnn’s position has been accepted by most linguists.
After this era Armenian became the mother tongue and it was imposed on the Khaltis.....During the 5th c. Armenian was equally spoken by the clergy and the public, at which time there was a great new movement. Armenian was greatly affected by Greek, Latin and Assyrian, and further down by Arabic, Turkish and French. Armenian is divided into three branches, Klasik (the natives call it Krapar), as it is ancient it is also the first wriiten form, which since the 8th c. has manly remained the language of the church and the clergy. Middle Armenian (natives know it as Michin Hayeren) was mainly used in the Kililikian Armenia. New (modern) Armenian (also known as askharabar) is divided into two main groups, Eastern and western, the latter is used in Turkey, Middle East, Europe, Africa, America and Australia, the former is used in Ermenistan, Iran, India and the Far East. Eastern Armenian is the official language of the RA. The basic grammar is almost indistinguishable between one and the other. Pronunciation is no more different than in any other language.
Armenian writing: In the year 412 the Armenian “papaz” Mesrop Mashtots created the Armenian alphabet comprised of 36 letters. During the Kilikian Kingdom the letters O and F were added
Armenians have borrowed about 1500 root words from the Persian. Words such as jakat, paterazm, ashkharh, das (lesson), dpir, ashakert, vardapet, varzhapet, dastiarak, dahlij, ambar, aprank. Similarly from the Greek they have borrowed words such as bem, tatron, meghedi, palat, episkopos, katholikos, patriarch, egeghetsi, canon etc. About 200 from the Assyrian like, kahana, abegha, katsa, karoz, shuga, khanut etc. . This has enriched the Armenian language tremendously.
(here it talks about the Armenian book printed in Europe)
Turkish Armenian relations and linguistic exchange: There may be many Turkish words borrowed into the Armenian since the Ottoman days, as always, people sharing the same land do borrow. MOst of the words common to Turkish and Armenian are usually originally from the Arabic or Persian, esxamples like; zhamanak/zaman, mom/mum, takhtak/tahta , kuyr/kor(blind), satana/sheytan. On the other hand the following are borrowed from native Armenian: ayr,erik, aru /er/ekek, esh/eshek, yugh/yegh/yagh, sokh/sughan, khot/ot, jur/su, durs/dishari (out) etc.
Posted 10 September 2003 - 06:39 PM
Click the icon at the bottom left "Harput" and get a surprise.
I may post one ,ore wher this guy Sebo, must definitely be an Armenian weites about this "Beautiful Armenian city, Kars"
Posted 10 September 2003 - 06:44 PM
Posted 10 September 2003 - 07:43 PM
BTW. their forum is called [ Karadeniz Halklari Tartisma Forumu ], Black Sea Peoples' Exchange Forum.
By now, knowing that some of them are sophisticated and aware of their native culture, would it not be interesting to have some of them travel to Yerevan and see where their language and some of their customs come from? Besides they live a mere few hundred miles away from Yerevan. Do you think some people in Yerevan could invite them? Do you think the Church would welcome them as harazat children and show them how much better it is to be Armenian? In fact in one of the posts the writer does actually say that, speaking Turkish of course he says something like; "It is so much better to be Armnenain than Turkish" . I'll see if I can find that post.
Posted 10 September 2003 - 09:23 PM
> To answer yr mail, yes some forumers are Armenians, others Pontos, and some other are Turkish who are trying to throw some trouble over the site and forum. As far as the heritage is concerned a lot of us (as I Pontos and a quarter Armenian) have long been aware of it; the only difference between today and yesterday lies in the fact that today we are able to open our mouth, particularly when living in a free-speech country. Unlike the Turkish trouble-maker our goal is a get a cultural recognition. We are neither terrorists not separatists. We want and demand mutual respect. Our claims are not for territory, but for our language, vehicle of culture. We also want that the genocide perpetuated against the Pontos and Armenians is recognised by the Turkish government. I look forward to reading your further comments in the forum. Best regards.
Posted 11 September 2003 - 01:20 AM
Posted 11 September 2003 - 11:55 AM
Open their mouths maybe, as long as they don't speak very loudly. There was a Turkish-Laz dictionary published about 2 years ago, I saw it on sale openly in several bookshops in Ankara last year. Then, this spring, I saw a news report saying that it had now been banned.
...today we are able to open our mouth, particularly when living in a free-speech country. Best regards.
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