Armenians in Ukraine

Armenians first appeared in Ukraine during the times of Kievan Rus’. During the 10th century individual Armenian merchants, mercenaries and craftsmen served at the courts of various Ruthenian rulers. A larger wave of Armenians settled in southeastern Ukraine after the fall of the Armenian capital of Ani to Seljuks in the 11th century. They arrived mainly at the Crimean peninsula and established colonies in Kaffa (Feodosiya), Sudak and Solcati (Staryi Krym). Their numbers were further strengthened throughout the 12th-15th century by Armenians fleeing from a Mongol invasion. This gave the peninsula the name Armenia Maritima in medieval chronicles. Smaller Armenian communities were established in central Ukraine, including Kiev, and the western regions of Podolia and Halychyna, concentrating around Lviv which in 1267 became the center of an Armenian eparchy.

At the end of the thirteenth century, when members of the Armenian diaspora moved from the Crimean peninsula to the Polish-Ukrainian borderland, they brought Armeno-Kipchak, a Turkic language with them. Armeno-Kipchak of the Kipchak people was still current in the 16th and 17th centuries among the Armenian communities settling in the Lviv and Kamianets-Podilskyi area of what is now Ukraine.

After Crimea fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1475 many Crimean Armenians moved further to the north west to the already flourishing Armenian communities which gradually integrated into the local Polish population while maintaining their distinct identity through the Armenian Catholic Church. In the 18th century Crimea fell under influence of the Russian Empire, which encouraged Crimean Armenians to settle in Russia and a large group of them came to the town of Rostov on Don in 1778, twenty years later Russia having conquered the peninsula called to colonize it and many Armenians arrived from Turkey, establishing new Armenian colonies. During World War II in 1944 Armenians were deported en masse along with Greeks, Bulgarians and Tatars as a “antisoviet element” and allowed to return only in the 1960s. During Soviet rule Armenians came together with people from other Soviet ruled nations to Ukraine to work in the heavy industry located in the eastern parts of the country.

Today, the Donetsk Oblast holds the greatest number of Armenians in Ukraine (~16 000, 0.33% of the population). Armenian communities can also be found in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kiev,Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhia, and Odessa where the late Ukrainian-Armenian artist Sarkis Ordyan spent most of his life.

The Armenians continue to have a historic presence in Crimea, which is today an autonomous republic of Ukraine. The 9 000 Armenians make up 0.43% of the population in the area and are numerous in major urban centers such as Sevastopol where they comprise 0.3% of the city’s population. Hovhannes Aivazovsky, the world-renowned Armenian painter lived and worked his entire life in the Crimean city of Feodosiya.

Many Armenians living in Ukraine have been Russified with about half speaking Armenian as their mother tongue but over 43% speaking Russian and only 6% Ukrainian.

 

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