Archive for the ‘Armenian’ Category

Armenian Holidays Calendar for iCal or Google

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Every Armenian grandma I know has an Armenian calendar up in their kitchen with all the important dates on it. You could always ask them, “When is Vardavar?” so you could know what day you could wake up your brother/sister in bed by splashing water on them and not get in trouble. But that is such a hassle. What if you forget and miss it by a couple of days? Better to get an electronic version that we can all subscribe to in our iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook, or whatever other calendar and get reminders like we do for everything else. So I grabbed one of those wall calendars and got to typing…

There are some things to keep in mind when putting together a calendar of Armenian holidays. Since there are three times as many of us living in the Diaspora than in our own country, should it include the official state holidays of the Republic of Armenia? What language should it be in? What about including religious holidays? Every religious “day” or just the big important ones? And what of the other non-religious but perhaps pagan in origin traditions some groups of Armenians mark or remember on their calendars?

Although I’m aware of all these questions, I haven’t spent an enormous amount of time coming up with great answers for each of them. Generally I’ve included most, if not all, official state holidays from the Republic, as I feel that even as Diasporans we should know what the state holidays are in our own country. I’ve also included the “big” religious or traditional days that our family observed or I know about in general. Each occasion is named in Armenian and in English, in some cases just Armenian names spelled phoneticall in English. The final list looks like this:

  • January 1, Ամանոր / New Year Day
  • January 6, Սուրբ Ծնունդ / Christmas
  • February 14, Տռնդեզ (Տեառնընդառաչ) / Trndez (Purification)
  • February 19, Վարդանանք / Vartanank
  • March 18, Միջինք / Mijink
  • April 5, Ծաղկազարդ / Palm Sunday (Tsakhkazard)
  • April 24, Եղեռնի զոհերի հիշատակի օր / Genocide Remembrance Day
  • May 21, Համբարցում / Hambartsum
  • May 28, Հանրապետութայան օր / Republic Day
  • July 5, Սահմանադրության օր / Constitution Day
  • July 19, Վարդավառ / The Transfiguration
  • September 13, Խաչվերած / Khachverats
  • September 21, Անկախության օր / Independence Day
  • October 13, Սուրբ Թարգմամչոց / Holy Translators Day
  • December 7, Երկրաշարժի զոհերի հիշատակի օր / Spitak Remembrance Day

If you think I’ve missed something that should be on here, post a comment below with the date, what the occasion is, and, if you think I’ve not heard of it, why it should be included. I will definitely consider your feedback and update the calendar as needed to reflect additions.

Lastly, most of the Church-related dates change yearly so they are missing for next year. This calendar is good for 2009 only right now. I will update it for 2010 shortly before we get to it. Enjoy.

Subscribe to Armenian Holidays Calendar in iCal

Download Armenian Holidays Calendar file

All About Armenian Last Names

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

I like Armenian last names because quite often they are easily identifiable. That combined with the fact that there are so few of us around the world makes for a fun game of “Spot the Armenians” in almost any list of names; whether they be movie credits, class attendance sheets, or whatever else.

The following is a brief overview on the composition and history of Armenian last names. It is reprinted from a recent edition of the Gibrahayer (Cypriot-Armenian) Newsletter. The one thing that is a bit odd is that they don’t talk about the Indo-European roots of the “ian” suffix.


Most Armenian names end in “ian” or “yan,” meaning the “son of,” but some Diaspora Armenians have changed these endings to blend in their host societies. Today in Turkey “oglu” often replaces “ian,” while Russian Armenians may change the endings to “ov”; e.g., Gary Kasparov, Serge Parajanov. A name ending in “ian” is not always exclusively Armenian, since the ending can also be occasionally found in names in Irish, Persian, English, Philippine and some other cultures. Armenian last names generally fall into five specific categories: Aristocracy, Parent, Geography, Occupation or Trait.

The ancient Armenian aristocracy (“Nakharar” class) was derived from Parthian-Persian stock and many of their names ended in “uni” or “ooni.” Most of these families were destroyed over the centuries but some still survive today; e.g., Sasuni, Rshtuni.

Many Armenian names are derived from the first names of an ancestor; e.g. Davidian, “son of David,” Stepanian, “son of Stepan,” or Krikorian, “son of Krikor/Grigor.” Until the 19th century, virtually all first names had a religious origin, so most of those last names are also religious.

Some last names are based on geographic origin and end in “lian” (Turkish) or “tsian” (Armenian). Typical examples are Sivaslian “from Sivas,” Urfalian “from Urfa” and Vanetzian “from Van.” These names were typically given to an immigrant who migrated from a different region of Armenia. Obviously everyone living in Marash would not call himself or herself “Marashlian”.

Most last names were taken from the professions of an ancestor. These names frequently originated with the tax collectors who needed to identify all individuals for tax purposes. Typical examples are Najarian “son of a carpenter,” Arabian “son of a wagon/ teamster,” and Vosgarichian “son of a goldsmith.” Many of these occupations are not Armenian, since the tax man (typically a Moslem Turk, Persian, Arab, etc.) would use his own native word for the occupation; e.g., the name Boyajian is based on the Arab/Turkish term “boyaji” “one who dyes.”

The most confusing and curious names are those based on some trait of an ancestor. Typical examples are Topalian “son of the cripple,” Dilsizian “son of the tongueless one,” or Sinanian “son of the spearpoint.” Many of the origins of these names are unclear unless one understands the original context. As an example, Dilsizian indicates that an ancestor had his tongue cut out by the Turks for using the Armenian language, while the term “Sinan” was a slang term applied to somebody either with a very erect military-like carriage or who was “hung like a horse.” Some of these traits are not physical, but rather reflect personality or social status; e.g., Melikian “son of the king” or Harutunian “son of the resurrection.” The name Harutunian could be based on an ancestor named Harutune (so-named because he was born around Eastertime), or adopted by a convert to Protestantism to show his status as a “born-again Christian.”

Many last names today have been shortened or modified to aid pronunciations by non Armenians; e.g., the name Mugerditchian/ Mkrtichian” becomes “Mugar,” “Husseniglian,” become s “Hewsen,” and Samourkashian” becomes “Samour.” These abbreviated names often drop the ian” ending, and are not immediately identifiable as being Armenian to an outsider. The name categories of Occupation and Trait can differ significantly between Eastern Armenians and Western Armenians, since the eastern names often have Persian, Georgian or Russian roots, while the western names may have Turkish, Arab, or Greek roots. Names with the prefix “Der” or “Ter” show that one of the ancestors was a “Der Hayr” a married parish priest), a position of great social status among Armenians; e.g., DerBedrosian, Ter Petrosian.

The study of Armenian Names is a fascinating exercise, since virtually every aspect of the culture is reflected in names. There have been extensive studies of Armenian names in the Armenian language, but little has appeared in English and many Armenians (born outside of Armenia) do not understand the significance of their own names.

History of the Middle East in 90 Seconds

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Middle East Map

Animation demonstrating the empires that wielded influence over the Middle East throughout history.

The title is sort of a joke since watching a 90 second flash animation (well, at the very least this specific flashimation!) will not teach you about the actual history of the Middle East. What it does do pretty well though is give you a rough idea of how many different groups of people have controlled or had lots of influence on the area and its people. Then, while keeping in mind the kind of complex cultural situation this kind of history would give rise to, take a moment to examine the ridiculously simplistic and “black or white” approach many people in politics and the media use to try to characterize this area and its people with.

Although the topic of the Middle East is, well, very topical (when has it not been in the last umpteenth years?), another cool thing you can see in this animation is what’s happening to Armenia throughout this same time period: about 2500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.

You’ll notice that Armenia and the Armenian people, who primarily lived in the area marked in the animation as the Hittite Empire (some argue this was an Armenian society, different story) are pretty much on the edges of most of the empires that came to rule over it. What this meant for us was that we had the wonderful opportunity to be the battlegrounds for superpowers at war at the outskirts of their empires, trying to extend the reaches of their influence. I don’t think I need to explain how being the area where eastern (Persian mostly), western, and Arabic powers fought for influence might have left the people there a bit weary.

On the other hand, what is pretty cool and interesting is that throughout this time, and to a lesser degree after the takeover of the Ottoman Turks, the Armenians did two things which most others who fell under these powers didn’t:

  1. Armenians remained Christian. This despite being ruled by lots of people who were *not* Christian. This wasn’t easy and the trouble started when the Armenian king Trdat declared Christianity to be the “state” religion of Armenians before any other, in 301 or 314 A.D. depending on who you ask.
  2. Armenians typically retained high levels of autonomy even though throughout much of this time period they were “under” the hand of another king or ruler. Ultimately most “emperors” found that it was much easier and more beneficial to them to sort of leave the Armenians to themselves and not try to interfere too much. It should be noted however that Armenians had their independence from these empires, and dynasties of their own, for hundreds of years at a time. With the exception of about a hundred years however under Tigran the Great, Armenian power never really extended beyond their own people; which is why you never see the Armenian Empire anywhere in the flash animation.

Well, now that I turned a simple animation about the Middle East into a lesson on Armenian history, I think my crazy rambling is done. And thanks to Professor Astourian at Berkeley for making sure that none of this stuff was really new to me.

Axe-Murderer of Armenian Officer Gets Life in Prison

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

I wanted to update people on the conclusion to a horrendous incident which happened a couple of years ago. I made a post about the murder and trial when I found out about it a year ago. I’ve also had a link to a site with news and background on the incident in the sidebar of my site since that time.

Well, the trial for the merciless Azeri murderer of an innocent Armenian officer, who was learning English in a university in Hungary through a NATO-sponsored program, is over.

An Azeri who confessed to murdering an Armenian officer 26-year-old Gurgen Margarian while at NATO Partnership for Peace English-language training in Hungary was last week sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 30 years, a maximum sentence under Hungarian law. The Azeri lieutenant Ramil Safarov killed Margarian with an axe as he slept in his dorm room on the grounds of the Hungarian Defense Academy during the night of February 19, 2004. Safarov then tried but failed to kill a second Armenian officer, Hayk Makuchian, sleeping in a room nearby.

Thank you Hungarian courts for at the very least bringing this animal to justice, and giving what little peace we can offer to the family of the young man who was slain.

Introducing ArmEngine

Monday, March 21st, 2005

I wanted to make a post regarding the seminar presentation thing I’m doing this Thursday evening but I though it might be appropriate to first introduce the group I’m part of and doing it for. I should have done this sooner. I suppose I haven’t done such a great job publicizing.

First I’ll give you my summary of the group then I’ll give you the group’s “charter” message. Richard Ohanian founded ArmEngine to attract Armenian engineers of all kinds, particularly in EE, CS, and IT. The purpose of the group, originally started as a Yahoo Group, is to discuss technical issues, news, or developments, as well as network and post job openings. The group started just last August but already has over 100 members and is growing quickly. The membership is geographically and educationa diversity. If you’re Armenian and are an engineer or in the fields mentioned above, please consider joining the group. And now for the semi-official group intro blurb.

The group of Armenian scientists, engineers and professionals of Electronics, Computer Science and/or related fields.
We are Armenians who are highly educated/experienced in EE, ECE, CS, IT… Many of us are PhDs, Masters, Engineers and professionals of the above disciplines.
We know that every career needs professional connections.
We want to be successful socially, financially and professionally and we hope to have a bright future.
We think that a globally connected network of Armenian experts of EE and CS will have its positive effects in Armenia.
We enjoy communicating with each other.
We also want to do all of the above together!
So, we are in ArmEngine.
Armengine is a forum for exchanging information and ideas as well as solving technical issues relevant to Electronics and Computer Engineering/Science.
ArmEngine is a business network, so members can use the group as a communication tool for their own personal interests and success. A member’s success is everyone

Atrocities Overlooked

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

The callous and heartless nature of some people, particularly those who are in politics and/or in power is just mind boggling to me. Let’s begin with this example…

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY February 19, 2004. Armenian citizen Gurgen Margaryan, 26 years old, was hacked to death while asleep by Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army. Both were participants of an English language training course within the framework of the NATO-sponsored

Turkish Human Rights?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004

The Economist

November 11, 2004
Human rights in Turkey

Haunted by the past
A human-rights commission embarrasses the government

ANKARA – “HAPPY is he who calls himself a Turk!” That breezy slogan, emblazoned on mountainsides and offices from the Aegean to the Euphrates, was devised by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, as he set about forging a fresh identity for his people. The idea was that former subjects of the Ottoman empire ” whose native language might be Arabic, Albanian or Kurdish”would find a new togetherness as citizens of a unitary republic. And in case people hesitated to embrace the joys of Turkishness, there were harsh penalties for those who asserted any other sort of identity.

For most of the past 80 years, these principles have been sacrosanct. But if Turkey is to have any hope of joining the European Union, some taboo topics of history, identity and language must be discussed openly, without fear of prosecution. In a burst of zeal three years ago, the government”led by former Islamists”set up a panel to take a broad look at questions of human rights and identity, and to suggest how things could be improved. But Turkey’s masters got more than they expected. The board’s report, released this month, said things that were almost unsayable, triggering a sharp backlash.

For example, the report implies that if the Lausanne treaty of 1923″the basis of the Turkish state and its foreign relations”had been fully implemented, bloodshed between Turks and Kurds might have been avoided. To justify this argument, which is explosive in Turkey, however mild it might seem elsewhere, the report cites article 39 of the treaty, which allows Turkish nationals to use “any language they wish in commerce, in public and private meetings and all types of press and publication.”

It also says that articles which supposedly protect non-Muslim minorities have been read too narrowly: as well as covering Jews, Armenians and Greeks, these articles should have been applied, for example, to Syrian Orthodox Christians. More controversially still, it suggests replacing the term “Turk” with a more inclusive word to cover all ethnicities and faiths, such as “Turkiyeli”””of Turkey”.

It was more than some Turks could bear. Even as Ibrahim Kaboglu, the jurist who heads the board, was reading the report at a press conference, a fellow member snatched it and tore it into shreds. Both Mr Kaboglu and Baskin Oran, a political scientist who wrote the report, have been bombarded with threatening phone calls and mail. “Fraternal blood will be spilled,” warned one. Another called for a military coup. Prosecutors in Ankara are investigating claims that both academics may have committed treason. Ilker Basbug, a top general, has joined the fray, saying Turkey’s unity should not be tampered with. The government, frightened by the reaction, has washed its hands of the report and denied commissioning it.

It is possible, though unlikely, says Husnu Ondul, a human-rights lawyer, that the two authors may be prosecuted under an article of the new penal code approved in September, which provides for up to ten years’ jail for those who engage in unspecified “activities” against the “national interest”. What might such activities be? In a footnote, the law deems “anti-national” anyone who advocates withdrawing Turkish troops from Cyprus, or terming “genocide” the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1915. If the aim was to stifle discussion of this second issue, it failed: at a conference in Venice last month, historians from all countries involved took a broader, more cool-headed look at the 1915 tragedy than would be possible in Turkey”now or, it seems, any time soon. And what about the 100,000 Turkish-Cypriots who voted (vainly) in April for a UN plan that would have removed most Turkish troops from Cyprus: was that a crime?

Jerusalem’s Disgrace

Saturday, October 30th, 2004

Tue., October 12, 2004
Ha’aretz [Israeli Daily]

Editorial: Jerusalem’s disgrace

The police interrogation of Armenian Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, who allegedly slapped yeshiva student Zvi Rosenthal after Rosenthal spat at Manougian and at a crucifix during the Exaltation of the Holy Cross procession in the Old City this week, reveals a little bit of the increasingly wild Jewish-nationalist-religious atmosphere in Jerusalem.

It is the bad luck of the Armenians, a peaceful and modest community in the city, that its churches and other institutions, including their ancient cemetery, is on the way to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. As a result, the priests of the community suffer from the unrestrained behavior of yeshiva students who pass through the Armenian Quarter, sometimes deliberately, to do harm and cause strife.

This is not the first time the Armenians have fallen victim to such bullying. The police does not make an effort to prevent the disgraceful phenomenon of spitting at priests – Armenians and others – and at the crosses they carry.

The Interior Ministry has done nothing in response to appeals by the heads of the church regarding their plight. Thus the state is neglecting its duty to protect the legitimate representatives of a peace-loving community.

That negligence, just like the bullying, is a disgrace to the state of the Jewish people, which was persecuted through the generations because of its religion and customs.

Moreover, it is a disgrace for Jerusalem. Ever since the city was “reunited,” the city burghers and ministers in charge of it have claimed the capital of Israel would protect the dignity and stature of the three monotheistic religions and that their rights would be honored, including the right to freedom of movement.

And now, while the police and Shin Bet focus on preparations for the threat of impassioned assaults on Muslims on the Temple Mount, it turns out that for some time the Christians in Jerusalem have been suffering from various and sundry provocations by wild young people. The provocations – from spitting near or at crosses to throwing trash on the doorsteps of Christian edifices on Mt. Zion – have become an ugly routine in recent years, fitting right in with the increasingly extremist political atmosphere.

Jerusalem is a city holy to the three monotheistic religions. The state of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality are responsible for all the institutions and personages representing those three religions. The churches, monasteries, schools and gardens in within the municipal jurisdiction not only have the right to protection or police escorts during their holidays, but also the sense of belonging and full freedom of activity.

It is intolerable that Christian citizens of Jerusalem suffer from the shameful spitting at or near a crucifix. Similar behavior toward Jews anywhere in the world would immediately prompt vehement responses.

The mayor, the government and the security services must therefore make clear to the heads of all the religious communities that the protection of their safety is the top-ranking priority for them. At the same time, they must take firm action against those enflamed youths looking for opportunities to sabotage the complex fabric of life in Jerusalem.

Expedition to find Noah’s Ark

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Expedition to find Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat []

Anybody want to take any bets on what they’ll find?

By the way, does this new Blogger interface suck or what? The one before had nice shortcut buttons to make links and embed images. All this one does is spell check. What are we now, illiterate and publishing to the web? Guess so…

The Dark World of the Armenians

Friday, September 19th, 2003

“The Dark World of the Armenians”

The Jerusalem Report, 9/22/2003

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz

Bearing vigilant and constant witness and fighting Holocaust denial are part of the Jewish responsibility to history. Yet today, we are accomplices in the denial of an earlier genocidal chapter – the Armenian Genocide.

Between 1915 and 1916, some 1 million Armenians were systematically massacred by Ottoman Turkey; between 200,000 and 500,000 more would be exterminated between 1917 and 1922 by the revolutionary Young Turks. Dehumanization, death marches, and massacres targeted this Christian population. Vivid testimony was recorded by an American Jew – HenryMorgenthau, who was U.S. ambassador to Turkey: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.” Morgenthau writes of a death march to Aleppo. Of some 18,000 who set out, 150 women and children arrived. “All the rest,” he writes, “were dead.”

Deborah Lipstadt argues that “denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide; it is what Elie Wiesel has called ‘a double killing.'” Yet the government of Turkey has been waging a campaign of denial involving threats, political bullying, coercion, and an unabashed assault on truth. The campaign has been effective. Successive administrations of the United States have succumbed to pressure preventing the passage of legislation referring explicitly to the Armenian Genocide and calling on Turkey to take responsibility for this blemish on humanity.

Tragically, the organized Jewish community continues to remain silent, and even to appease the Turkish government. The Turkish Daily News has reported with evident satisfaction that “the American Jewish Committee, member of the influential Jewish lobby in the U.S., has sent a letter to the Senate calling on the senators to exclude references to the alleged genocide out of the [2004] budget bill.” The reference is to the State Department Authorization Bill, to which a rider referring explicitly to the Armenian Genocide has been attached by some 33 senators, reaffirming support of the Genocide Convention. They will seek a vote in September.

Adolf Hitler relied on the silence of history to wage a genocidal campaign. On August 22, 1939, only days after the Nazi conquest of Poland, he asked, “Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Today, we are commanded by history just as we are by words of Torah, v’dibarta bam – that you shall speak of them – not only of the destruction that befell us, but the annihilation that befell them.

Fortunately, some have refused to be silent. On June 9, 2000, 126 Holocaust scholars published a petition in The New York Times affirming “the incontestable fact of the Armenian Genocide” and urging “Western democracies to officially recognize it.” In March this year, Dr Yair Auron, an Israeli scholar of genocide, wrote in a newspaper article, “Israel has systematically avoided the Armenian issue.” The Israeli and larger Jewish response ” desecrates the memory of the Holocaust and its significance,” Auron comments, and concludes poignantly: “As an Israeli Jew, I can only ask the forgiveness of every member of the Armenian people and assure them that there are people in Israel who will not give up until their state changes its immoral and anti-historical attitude toward the genocide suffered by another people.” Some 15 Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish World Service, the JCRCs of Greater Boston and Palm Beach, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis have also breached the wall of silence. The rest of us must also begin to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and give whole-hearted support toward the passage of the Genocide Resolution.

In 1992, on a tour of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, I noticed shards of glass jutting out of the upper walls on either side of us. Our guide reminded us that Palestine had been under the rule of the Ottoman Turks and the Armenians lived in constant fear here too. The glass was to prevent the Turks from scaling the walls. “Notice too the size of the windows,” continued the guide, “almost miniature, to prevent outsiders from breaking in. Imagine how dark their world must have been.”Those words have become a part of my Jewish soul. Let us imagine how dark the world must still be for the Armenians when people refuse to acknowledge their past.

To remain silent or indifferent is to display, in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s moving words, a tragic lack of “moral grandeur.” Worse yet, to remain silent is to admit that genocide can and will happen again.

Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz is senior rabbinic fellow for the Jewish

Theological Seminary’s KOLLOT: Voices of Learning Program.