Armenians in Khazakhstan

According to old historical records, Armenian warriors and traders once moved freely in many parts of Central Asia, often fighting alongside local warlords in return of trading privileges. (Zenian, David. “Armenians in Central Asia”)

The first Armenians arrived in Kazakhstan in the 1860s when the Russian Empire, which already controlled Armenian-populated areas in the North Caucasus, moved to conquer the Kazakh Steppe. Immigrants from throughout the empire moved to the frontier, Armenians being among the first, acting as interpreters for the Russians (as many already spoke Turkic languages), consuls and businessmen for the emerging oil industry.

“Attracted by new possibilities Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, and people of other nationalities crossed the Caspian Sea. Armenians moved there from the Kypchak-speaking areas—their linguistic skills helped them find a common language with the local Turkic-speaking population. In 1891 head of the Trans-Caspian Region General Kuropatkin reported to the czar: “Persians, Caucasian Tartars, Georgians and others all followed the Armenians and came here from the Caucasus.” The Trans-Caspian Region became the outpost of Armenian movement to Turkestan.

According to czarist administrators and other sources, Armenians did a lot to strengthen Russia’s positions in the area. Their growing role on the domestic market, in foreign trade and industry caused certain anti-Armenian sentiments among the top administrators who were frequently reporting to St. Petersburg about an increased domination of what they called the “Armenian element.” General Kuropatkin reported to the Ministry of War: “In ten years the Trans-Caspian area developed, to a great extent, into an Armenian corner…” And then, on 5 December, 1894, he noted: “I do not allow a thought about moving here even a small amount of Armenian settlers: the Armenian element here looks like an extremely dangerous rival for the Russian element. In 1890 there were 2,893 Armenians and 4,815 Russians here. By 1 January, 1894, there were 3,438 Armenians and 9,082 Russians with the total population of 387 thousand.” By the early 1880s Armenians entrenched themselves in all Russian trade outposts on the Caspian eastern shore.” (http://www.ca-c.org/journal/eng-03-2001/21.khuprimen.shtml)

The first mass movement of Armenians into the country, however, occurred in 1937, in which almost 1,121 Armenian and Kurdish families were transplanted from the Azerbaijan SSR to the Kazakh SSR. During the reign of Joseph Stalin, in which forced migration was widely used as a political tool in order to keep vassal nations under control and avoid ethnic conflict, Armenians and many other groups were sent to Kazakhstan when it was found convenient. In 1948, roughly 5800 Armenians and Pontic Greeks from the Black Sea region were deported to southern Kazakhstan, for being suspected sympathizers of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an anti-Soviet political party. Earlier, in 1944, a number of the Armenian-derived Hamsheni were deported to Kazakhstan from parts of Georgia and other central Asian republics, among other groups. They would later petition the Soviet Government under Mikhail Gorbachev to move them to the Armenian SSR, but were turned down for fears they would spark conflicts with their Christian relatives.

Diplomatic relations were established between both countries on August 27, 1992. Since 1992, Armenia has an embassy in Almaty. Kazakhstan has an embassy in Yerevan.

There are about 25,000 Armenians living in Khazakhstan today. 94% are Christian but surprisingly they are one of the least persecuted minorities in the region, generally living comfortable lives.

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