Roots in Turkey: Misconceptions About Being ‘Bolsahye’ in the Armenian-American Community

Special for the Armenian Weekly

I am Bolsahye—my Armenian parents were born in Istanbul, or Bolis. Sometimes when I tell other Armenians this, I am met with a terse “oh,” and the conversation quickly dissipates.

Sometimes people are genuinely confused and do not understand why my last name is Cinar and does not end in “–ian”. I still remember an instance in elementary school when my cousin and all the other Bolsahye students in his Armenian school class were withheld an invite to their Aleppo-Armenian classmate’s birthday party. Worst of all, I have been told straightforwardly and in all seriousness that people like me are not “real Armenians”.

Hagop Yassi (the author’s grandfather) and his mother, Zaruhi, in Samatya, Istanbul, circa 1948 (Photo courtesy of Lori Cinar)

Yes, people really do say those things.

They say them because of the misconception that anything that has to do with Turkey is inherently bad. You might be thinking “there’s no way that people are so closed minded that they would tell you you’re not a ‘real Armenian’. That sounds like a taunt from a first grader!” Well, the answer is yes. The people who say things like this are among us. They are well educated and well liked. They sit next to us in church and send their children to camp with ours. They are Armenians who choose to isolate their own kind on the basis of where they are from. It may sound ridiculous, but it is very real and I want to explain why I believe it needs to stop.

I would like to give the aforementioned individuals the benefit of the doubt. Most people who are not Bolsahye do not necessarily understand or think about what it was like to be an Armenian who stayed in Turkey after the Armenian Genocide. Most Armenians fled their homelands—by choice or by force—to other nations that welcomed them, for the most part, with open arms. These Armenians were free to worship, speak, teach, and generally continue living their lives free to be Armenian. They opened schools, carried on our culture, created literature and art, all in Armenian. They were able to bear their name—one of the most basic human experiences—with pride and without fear.

My family could not do any of these things. Mine and countless other families in Istanbul did not have the luxury of being able to speak and worship in their own language as often or as openly as they pleased, something other diasporan Armenians may take for granted. Bolsahyes were forced to veil their Armenian identities and incorporate the Turkish language and culture into their lives as a means of survival.

The misconception that we are more sympathetic to Turkish culture should be replaced with giving credit for building a large and active Armenian community in a country where we are clearly an unwanted minority.

Perhaps this circumstance might be better explained with an example. My grandfather was born in Istanbul and was given the name Hagop at birth. When his parents filed for a birth certificate, his name was conveniently misspelled as ‘Agop Yassi’ (this was an all too common practice by the Turkish government as an effort to thwart the retention of Armenian-ness. My father’s given name is Avedis but was reported as Avadiz on his birth certificate). And so, Agop Yassi went through his life as an Armenian in Istanbul. He carried around the title of “less-than” with him everywhere he went, imposed on him by the nation he was living in. He endured instances of personal and communal persecution and segregation. If he was spotted wearing a cross around his neck or speaking Armenian in public, he was called gyavur (a derogatory Turkish slur which means infidel, akin to calling a black individual the n-word).

Luckily, he had the opportunity to attend an Armenian church where he served in the choir and received an education at the Sahakyan School in Samatya. He kept his head down, married my grandmother, and moved to New Jersey in 1971 after having their daughters Arpine (my mother) and Ani. When he arrived in the U.S., he took full advantage of his newfound freedom and officially changed his name to Hagop Yassian, as it was always meant to be.

Can you imagine being a proud Armenian and living amongst the people who committed those malicious, violent acts against your family? What must he (and the thousands of other Armenians in Turkey) have felt about the continued attempts to dismantle our culture, including forcing him to go by a name that was not Armenian?

The author’s grandparents, Hagop and Tushguhi Yassi, on their wedding day in Istanbul, 1964 (Photo courtesy of Lori Cinar)

I sometimes wonder if the people who condemn Bolsahyes think that any of them felt good or safe or at home in Turkey. Do they think they liked knowing that they lived amongst others who were never taught of the injustices perpetrated against them and instead were taught to hate them? My grandfather says he finally left Turkey because he was tired of being treated like a second-class citizen. And still, even now in America, his own granddaughter and countless other descendants of Bolsahyes have to defend their “Armenian-hood” to our own community.

Armenians born in other parts of the world rarely struggled with issues like this, yet so many of them do not consider that this may be the reason many of us do not bear a “–ian” at the end of our last names.

Other Bolsahyes were not as lucky as my grandfather. Many Armenians in Turkey did not have access to local churches, could not afford to send their children to private Armenian schools, or felt generally unsafe making any public indication that they were Armenian. In fact, many of my more senior family members cannot communicate with me in Armenian at all because they never had the opportunity to learn or speak it. Yet that does not change the fact that these individuals staunchly remained close to their roots, living only within the Armenian community, marrying fellow Armenians, and sending their own children to Armenian school when they could. So what makes these Armenians any less than the rest? They still held onto their identity even when they were not allowed to express it which, to me, translates to doing the best they could under the circumstances.

Many Armenians I know can speak Arabic, Russian, or a variety of other languages because of the spread of our people. As the saying goes, “Kani lezoo kides, aytkan mart es” (“The more languages you know, the better person you are”), and I wholeheartedly agree. But why is it acceptable for other diasporans to celebrate the languages, cultures, and foods of the places they and their parents grew up while they would prefer that my family just forget everything about where we came from? Of course, most Bolsahyes do not have the intention of promoting the Turkish culture. We clearly recognize it as the culture of our oppressors and we have felt that oppression even more recently than others have. We simply want to be able to enjoy being Armenian the same way everyone else does.

The single issue about Bolsahyes that really causes me the most strife is this: if my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had the bravery to maintain their faith and their identity within a state that continues to deny the Armenian Genocide, while still producing hayaser families who continue to promote their Armenian heritage, what exactly have they done wrong? What makes us any less than Armenians who are from Egypt or France or Iran?

Yes, my grandfather might still watch the news on Turkish television, and yes my father still speaks Turkish amongst his friends and family, but these are not sins. Do those actions negate the fact that they learned the Armenian language in a country that basically forbade it? Does it render my grandfather’s six grandchildren – who all actively participate in their Armenian community, churches, and schools – unworthy of calling themselves Armenians? Does the occasional purchase from a local Turkish supermarket make my grandmother a traitor even though she uses those groceries to prepare Armenian meals for her family?

In saying all of this, I am by no means promoting Turkish goods, tangible or intangible. What I am trying to argue for, though, is that some Bolsahyes consume these Turkish products—like movies or language—for their familiarity. It’s part of how they grew up and what they’re used to. We can’t expect them to not have assimilated to Istanbul culture at all. Even decades before the Armenian Genocide a great many Armenians who were living throughout the Ottoman Empire spoke and read Ottoman Turkish simply because they lived there. Haven’t you ever heard a song from when you were younger and been suddenly filled with fond memories? Telling Bolsahyes that they are less Armenian for having these basic human feelings is almost like telling a black man in America that he should be ashamed for enjoying the songs of his childhood because they are the songs of the white man. Shouldn’t he be allowed to participate in the culture in which he lives and at the same time maintain his own personal roots? When my father says he remembers a certain song from his teenage years in Turkey, I see no reason to be upset by it.

The author’s grandparents, Hagop and Tushguhi Yassi, and mother Arpine in Istanbul, 1970, Istanbul (Photo courtesy of Lori Cinar)

The reason that I chose to express all of these thoughts is because of a Facebook post that sparked a decisive conversation within my friend group. A fellow Armenian posted a status condemning those who supported Turkish food products in grocery stores and went so far as to say that those individuals “made [him] sick”. He placed blame on Armenians who still live in Turkey for assimilating in a country whose government destroyed our people and culture. I wished there were a way that I could scream through my laptop screen. How could he possibly place blame on Armenians for assimilating to the culture of the place where they live? Are they not brave for remaining Armenian in a country where the odds continue to remain stacked against them?

The heroic efforts of Istanbul-Armenian individuals like Hrant Dink and Garo Paylan, who risk their lives working hard to maintain our rights and heritage in Turkey, garner a great deal of attention from the greater Armenian community. While a great many Diapsoran Armenians think of them as heroes, they forget to acknowledge that these men are the products of the same Istanbul-Armenian community that I am from. Hrant Dink wore Turkish clothing and Garo Paylan probably dances to Turkish music. It does not make either of them any less Armenian.

That is why I would like to pose a question to the Armenians, wherever they maybe—why are we being so unfair to one another? To think of any Bolsahye (or any hye, for that matter) behavior as shameful is only perpetuating the hateful view that the Ottomans had of us all 102 years ago.

Just because your family fled and mine had the misfortune of having to stay does not make us different. When Armenians segregate and ostracize one another, that is when the plan for our people’s destruction succeeds.

When our community becomes more understanding of all of our different backgrounds and the different struggles that all of our people have gone through, only then will we be able grow and prosper.

As a first generation American, my parents never raised me as anything but Armenian, and that is how I live my life. I am only ever an Armenian.

Lori Cinar

Lori Cinar

Lori Cinar holds a B.A. in English from Rutgers University (2013) and is currently earning her master's degree in Speech Pathology from Columbia University. She remains active in the New Jersey Armenian community, and you may recognize her as the "Medz Mayrig" from the popular theatrical comedy "Pesad Oor Eh? Where Is Your Groom."


  1. Thank you for a well written article. As a Bolsahye raised in LA, I can vouch for all the incidents you have listed. I also would like to add that Istanbul Armenian community in Istanbul is the beneficiary of prime real estate. If it were not for the ones left behind to occupy the churches, schools & hospitals we would have lost them. As the founder of Opportunity Shop the worlds first nonprofit thrift store with 100% proceeds benefiting children in Armenia I usually find myself in situations where I need to defend myself. Unfortunately I usually end up saying things like “you can criticize me only if you do more then me”. Regretfully this is not my choice of an answer cause it sounds more like a show off but as a Bolsahye all we are trying to say is “Who are you to judge me?”
    Thank you for taking the time to write about our issues.

  2. Lori jan, this is an excellent article and thank you for reminding us that Armenians can also be small minded. I have many Bolsahaye friends and they are not any less Armenian than I am. On the contrary, their dedication to the Armenian Church and history is admirable. Any community that produces Hrant Dinks and many other scholars and intellectuals is heroic to me. Bolsahayes continue to do the tougher job in Turkey and we should be grateful for them for keeping our great real estates – churches and schools. Ps forgive our sins……


  3. As a Beyrutahay, I commend you and hope that you build your strength from those weaknesses. BTW, sites like Facebook are full of “pure-breed Armenians for a day”… Knowledgeable people know the plight of Armenians better. BTW, whereas I’m a diasporan, bolsahays managed to continue living in Western Armenia. And who am I, to shame any Armenian of being Eastern or Western; of Baku, Yerevan, Moscow, Beirut, Paris, Los Angeles, Timbaktu….or Istanbul. Today’s bolsahay is a survivor of Armenian Bolis, Malatya, Dikranagerd, Moosh yev Sassoon, Erzurum, Sepasdya, Yerznga, Kharpert yev Agn, Vasbooragan yev Van, Izmir yev Konya, Skudar yev Edirneh… and they survived the Empire and the Republic!!! YOU ARE ARMENIAN: Who am I to welcome you to Armenianness? Who am I to deliver you a litmus-test of Armenianness? You are as “Assli” as any: Stand tall, ’cause they don’t know what they are saying!!!!

  4. Very proud of your family, don’t listen to those Armenians. If you did want to quantify “Armenianness” like they do, yours would be double there’s. Many Armenians lose their identity in the diaspora over time and that’s without any suppression of identity, it is incredible to me that Armenians in Turkey maintain their identity.

  5. I live in the United States.

    I therefore live in a country where 70 per cent of my neighbors do not hate me because I am Armenian, where my government does not teach students that I am a liar, a murderer, and a traitor because I am Armenian. The man who engineered the destruction of my Armenian culture and the murder of my people has no boulevards named after him here. Calling someone an Armenian is not an insult here. When my grandparents spoke Armenian outside their home in Fresno, busybodies did not come up to them and say: “Citizen, speak Turkish!” I was not required to sing songs in school that say “Happy is he who can call himself a Turk.” These are everyday indignities and crimes Bolsa Hyes endured with patience and dignity.

    We owe a debt to Bolsa Hyes who maintained their identity, and we can not condemn those who lost their grip to assimilation. Assimilation occurs here too. Turkey and Azerbaijan are the two hardest places on Earth to be Armenian.

    Many of the strongest members of my community come from Bolis.

  6. Dear Lori,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful article! I am a Bolsahaye, from Samatya and a proud graduate of Sahakyan Nunyan High School. I hope, we Armenians stop being so negative towards each other.

  7. Thank you for bringing awareness to this very important issue. Personally, I have utmost respect and understanding for all Bolsahais, however, I cannot comprehend why the Bolis Patriarchate publicly condemns Genocide recognition by other countries when at the same time Turkish Kurds have the courage to publicly support Armenian Genocide recognition.

  8. Dear Lori,
    I don’t want to spoil your great article, but one thing I do disagree on is buying Turkish products. I would like to think that in the US at least, there is always an alternative. Armenians have always made their own homemade ingredients in the past but unfortunately because Turkey has a lot of investments, stolen Armenian land and business environment they are producing those ingredients on a commercial scale which entices Armenians to take the easy route and just buy a product from Turkey instead of going through the hassle of making it themselves like they did traditionally.

    I blame the community itself for this mostly, because Armenian business owners are failing to make products which Armenian cooking requires and which Turks also use, because Turkish cuisine is basically a knockoff of Armenian cuisine. In other words, our businesses are not helping by making sure that for Armenians there really is no need to buy Turkish Products.

    And by the way, people should not be buying Turkish products in the first place, regardless if they are Armenian or not. How does one know exactly what is in those foods coming from Turkey? You don’t. And I would not believe what the label says either. A country which blatantly lies about its past crimes and history will also blatantly lie about everything else. Buy Turkish products at your own risk!

  9. Nobody dislikes Bolsahye for being born in Turkey.

    What they actually look down on, as the author squeezed into the end, is promoting speaking Turkish and buying Turkish products if they don’t live in Turkey. This is, like it or not, very shameful. Obviously one can’t be expected to forget a language they knew for most of their life, but it shouldn’t be promoted. And the Turks brag that they poison food sent to Armenia, you’re giving them money to kill Armenians.

  10. I am not Bolsahaye but I visited Turkey and I believe that the Armenians who live there now are heroes. There are close to 40 Armenian churches in Istanbul. Who maintains them? It’s the Armenians of Turkey.

    • And how many times have you visited Armenia? They are not considered heroes because they live on their enemy’s land.

  11. Thank you for addressing such an important issue.You know, most of our people like to criticize everything without thinking and knowing that subject. They judge whatever they want. The problem is not only about Bolsahays, you are mentioning one of our nation’s worst defect.We like to hate more than like anything. It is very sad to see on FB tons of negativism and hate towards our own people, as well as our enemies. The language is so bad and inappropriate. I think we need to change our attitude, try to have more understanding and love to each other.Hate does not solve any problem, instead compassion and love can change everything.Besides,without good information ,our judgement is not going to be perfect. Bolsahays are unique and have a deep cultural root. I am proud to be one of them.

  12. Abris Lori. Also, I wouldn’t call it “promoting the Turkish culture”. The culture belongs to all Anatolians including the Armenians.

  13. I found it more difficult, because my maternal ancestry is Armenian, while my surname is Germanic. The work of cultural genocide has been made easier for Turkey, because of details like that. My soul is a monument for my genocided maternal relatives in Mush.

  14. Dear Lori, your article touches a sensitive nerve. I commend your grandparents who changed their names into Armenian as soon as they set foot in America while so many of those criticizing the Bolsahays they still carry ugly and often derogatory family names that are Turkish. Your parents were brave to endure the oppression and the injustices of the Turkish nationalist government which continues to this day. I know the fear your grand parents lived day in day out. I know many Bolsahays and I enjoy their company. I wish Armenians would embrace each other without regard to their place of birth. Unfortunately this narrow minded regionalism is in our genes. Armenians love to relate to people of the place of their birth. I would have loved to embrace 2.5 million Hamshen Armenians and integrate them into our Armenian society but that’s not going to happen. There is no enthusiasm for it. No wonder our numbers have dwindled throughout centuries although we are one of the oldest nation on this planet.

  15. I lived this in Toronto
    My parents came from Bolis
    I am Armenian
    I’m so proud that you logically spelt this out for everyone
    Even sometimes Greek people also cringe when I mention my parents are from Istanbul
    I am what I am
    My great great grandfather was killed in his own home for facing any Turk admitting he woukd not give up his Armenian roots.
    I’m proud of my roots and the strength I tap into through my DNA and blood….
    Made me a fierce independent Armenian woman and who i am today.
    GOD BLESS all Armenians
    Especially those who died at the hands of the Turks for just trying to live in country where our families lived there for many generations …

  16. Lori, what a thoughtful, compelling article. You are right–we must build each other up as Armenians, not tear each other down. I remain in awe of the Armenians who maintain their culture and heritage in the face of oppression–anywhere. You are a credit to all of us.

  17. Ապրիս հայօրդի հպարտ եմ քեզմով և քու սիրելի հայրդ Ավետիսը որ կարողացերէ այդ հոգին քու սրտիդ մէջ տեղավորվել ամէն ոք պէտքէ գիտնայ և ընդունի թէ Պոլիսը և Անատոլուիի հայկական արուարցանները Հայ մշակույթի զարգացման օրրանէ եղած և ուրկէ գաղդած է Հայ ժողովուրդը աշխարհի զանազան երկրների և հոն աճած ու բազմացած մնալով միշտ տեր ու տիրական իր անցեալին հաւատարիմ. Աշխարի ոչ մի երկիր չունի այդ ազգային հարստութիւնը պապենական ժարանքները որ Պոլսահայը միշտ պայքարում է տերն ու տիրական դարձել է հակարակ բոլոր դժվարություններին ընդդիմադիր պայմաններուն և ամենակարևոր կէտը այն է որ Պոլսահայու համար ՀԱՅ ԲԱՐԸ ՄԻԱՅԿ ԱԶԳՈՒԹԻՒՆՆԷ ՈՐ ԿՈՒՍԱԿՑՈՒԹԻՒՆ և ԲԱԺԱՄՈՒՆՔ ՉԻ ԳԻՏԵՐ ՄԻԱՅՆ ԳԻՏԷ ՈՐ ՀԱՅ Է ✔✔✔✔

  18. Before I begin, much congratulations on a well written piece!

    As a Bolsahye that has moved back and forth to Istanbul and LA twice…. I could say that I’m a veteran of the exact same situations you so very much wrote about. I hope everyone reads this very carefully.

    To whom and from whom I buy my products is no one’s business! What language I speak where and when is also no one’s business… As Lori mentioned in detail, us Bolsahye’s were the ones that got the short end of the stick. In times we had to call our Mama’s ” Anne “, we had to call our Horakur’s ” Hala “. If you think for one day that doing so even as a child didn’t burn our hearts at the ripe age of 6 or 7 or even 10, think again! All of the Bolsahye’s living in Istanbul today are the custodians and guardians of our heritage that has shaped Constantinople. Think of it as the soldier that stands behind to save his fellow soldiers. I myself can not speak Armenian that well. I was only able to go to 2 years of Armenian school in Istanbul. I understand most of the conversations but have difficulty speaking. However!!! I might add…. I produced a beautiful family and have 2 boys that attended Armenian school and currently read and write fluent Armenian. Married a Bolsahye Armenian girl that attended Armenian school for 16 years. My wife was the PTO Co-Chair for that very school for 10 years, I was the School Board Chair for that very school for 4 years. So you see people, speaking Turkish or buying Turkish products really doesn’t change who we are does it?? I know a lot of you closet Hayastantzi Turkish music lovers, you may frown upon Bolsahye’s when they speak Turkish but I know you watch Turkish TV in your home and listed to Ibrahim Tatlises when you get in your car…. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s art and it should be appreciated.

    If you look at history, our Jewish brothers and sisters shared the same faith, should we now ban all German Armenian’s from speaking German?? Wait!! Assad is murdering a bunch of Armenian’s as we speak, should we now ban all Armenian’s from speaking Syrian or Arabic?

    To all the Tashnak Armenian’s… Please stop seeing yourselves and higher human beings just because you march once a year on Apr 24th or go around telling Bolsahye’s to stop speaking Turkish. We are all Armenian’s we are all brothers regardless of where we came from.

    • I read your post “very carefully” – and came away not sympathizing with you and your problem. Your post I would describe as while trying to make some good points you throw in some garbage in it, which spoils your entire post… and “opinion”. I think it is people like you who are responsible for our divisions a lot more than those “Tashnaks and Hayastantzis”.

      And contrary to what you claim, it is very much the Armenian culture’s business what you buy and from whom if you want to take part in the cultural process and help in the justice for our race and nation. This wrongful mindset is not just based on you and other Bolsahyes but all Armenians, even in Armenia. Of course the community living in Turkey has no choice, but everyone else outside of TUrkey definitely does have a choice.

      And regarding your claim of “Assad is murdering a bunch of Armenian’s as we speak” – perhaps you should put down ‘Erdogan Weekly’ and join the real world, you should fully understand that your ignorant comment is an insult to our culture, and every Armenian who is struggling in Syria at the moment and has been affected by terrorism ENABLED BY TURKEY THE SUPPORTER OF TERRORISTS!

      BY the way, while those “Tashnaks” are marching on April 24, has it ever crossed your mind to join them, or does your Turkish education prevent you from committing such “heinous acts”?

  19. The Armenian nation & people have experienced too many years of prejudice. Yet now it’s people do the same to other Armenians. These people struggled and do struggle to keep some remnant of Armenian culture alive in Western Armenia. Yet, they’re looked down upon! Disgusting.
    The author and her family should be seen as a hero and acknowledged as such. Walk a mile in my shoes before you criticize and abuse. Pull together as Armenians with a tortured past. Don’t perpetuate pain.

  20. Thank you for this article Lori, I too was born in Bolis, they really screwed up my name by putting down Annik instead of Onnik plus my middle name being Hagop they put Agop and my last name ends in oglu due to the reasons in your article. I do have lots of memories of gyavoor as well. Thank God I am now in the United States of America.




  23. As a fellow Bolsahye I could not relate more to every single word written in this article. The sheer ignorance of some Armenians to see it from this perspective is simply disheartening (and I mean waaaaaay past 1st grade). Thank you for this article, hopefully it will open their eyes.

  24. Great story, Well written and a story to which sadly, I can relate to being Bolsahay. I remember when we were we had Armenian friends who were from various middle eastern countries refer to themselves as Armenian and tell me and my sister that we were Turks because we were from Bolis! Go figure the logic ! They were not Arabs ? Or Lebanese, Syrians etc but we were Turks ..? Very hurtful since our parents as said in the article we maintained our Armenianness, faith, language and culture.

  25. Sorry,we should avoide of such debates, it is very dangerous for our Armenian comunity in all around the world.
    I am living in France, I neve feeled such reflections towards “Bolcahay” (as you say), on the contrary all important Armenian organizations are managing by the same ‘Bolsahay” and they are very respected like all other Armenians from other origines.
    If there are some people who has some mistake reflection, we should not to generalise it.
    We all are Armenian,just it.

  26. Thank you Lori, well said but we have so many uncivilized Armenians that they don’t listen what they say and to whom they say. I’m born in central Turkey than moved Istanbul for school, because there were no school in our village. We heard more about Armenian Genocide from Turks than our grandparents. They wouldn’t tell too many things because they didn’t us live in fear. I remember Hrant Dink, when his grandfather brought him and his brothers to our boarding school. 1966 I left Turkey to Lebanon and went school there eight years, it is shame some Armenians called me “TURK” because I didn’t have “IAN” at the end of my last name. I wonder if these Armenians that called me Turk are any better people than Turks that called me “GAVOOR” in Turkey???? My Armenian is fluent (second language), around Syrian or Lebanese Armenians I’m not noticeable (I speak and write better Armenian than them) that I’m from Turkey and they make lots of comments about Turkish Armenians, as the same token they tell me what Turkish programs to watch!!!!! than they find out I’m from Turkey, their color changes, tone of their voice changes ect. Just in every nation, we have good Armenians they understand and respect the others and we have some uncultured idiots most of them from Middle East, they speak Turkish in their homes and they will tell others not to speak Turkish.
    While in Lebanon, I made great life time friends, met great helpful people that made difference in my life and most of all, educated Lebanese people have high respect to Turkish Armenians that kept their nationality and culture.

  27. My grandparents were both born in Turkey around the time of genocide and eventually ended up in Armenia in the 50s. My parents and I were born in Armenia. I grew up learning Turkish from my grandparents in Armenia. When I migrated to US and my friends and acquaintances realized I speak/understand Turkish, they were puzzled. I too was questioned whether I was truly Armenian. Growing up in Armenia, there were always conversations of my family about the “Akhpars” and the “teghatsis” and many stories of discrimination from the teghatsi (native) Armenians. Believe it or not, this discriminatory talk still exists today, not just in the diaspora but in Armenia. Unbelievably, Armenians march every April 24 but still don’t know who really were the 1.5 million massacred. Let’s all stop this nonsense and embrace our culture and people whether you’re from Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Uzbekistan, or wherever. After all, this is what the Turks want: Divide and dissolve!

  28. I disagree with the author on a number of things that she mentions in the article. For example, she mentions that most Armenian seniors cannot communicate in Armenian because they do not know the language, also Armenians in Turkey were not fortunate enough to have Armenian churches and schools to attend. Then my question is how do you still consider them Armenians? If like her grandfather, they change their last names, are not able to speak Armenian, and pretty much have to assimilate with the turkish citizens, how do they remain Armenian? How are they still considered Armenian? How can they live on their enemie’s land and wonder why other Armenians question this? I myself condemn everything turkish, I do not watch turkish shows, listen to turkish music, and I do not purchase turkish merchandise; and I do raise an eyebrow to people who do these things. The genocide has been a very big scar on our history by the hands of the turks, therefore Armenians as a whole do have to denounce everything turkish until amends have been met. I also have never understood why all those Armenians remained in Turkey after the genocide. Author explains how awful it was for the Armenians living in Turkey during those time, and all the struggles they had to face as second class citizens. This is the reason why other Armenians, like myself, are surprised when we see that many stayed, and still live in Turkey till this day. She also mentions that they did not promote the culture of their oppressors, however also mentions that her grandfather still speaks turkish with friends, listen to turkish music and they visit turkish markets. It is all very contradictory.
    I commend her grandfather for changing his last name to an Armenian last name. However she does not finish her explanation on why her last name does not end in “ian”.
    So to answer her questions I do not shame any Bolsahye, or any hye, for where they come from or the kind of Armenia they speak. But I do question the turkish Armenians that remained in Turkey after the genocide, and even more the ones that still choose to remain in Turkey till this day. I always thought why not live in your homeland rather then on the land where the mass is trying to whipe out your ethnicity.
    With that said, I have the utmost respect for all Armenians that fight everyday to keep their “Armenian-ness”. And I personally thank every Armenian for the work and effort they put in the Armenian community.

    • AV, it is VERY easy to assume and reach conclusions when you’re not involved in the situation. It is Armenians with your mentality that look down upon Bolsahyes. It is Armenians with your mentality that have this pent up hostility towards the Turks and anything Turkish which is understandable, but serves you ZERO purpose and does nothing other than fan the flames of your hatred and anger.

      Allow me to educate you. Not speaking Armenian and not attending Armenian schools and churches doesn’t make someone less of an Armenian as you claim. Being Armenian is in your blood, in your heart, and in your soul.

      Those Armenians that stayed after the genocide did not have the luxury to leave. They didn’t risk hitting the road with children in tow to possibly die en route to unknown destinations, nor did they have the money to hop on a boat. Make sense? When faced with limited options, the Armenians did what they had to in order to survive amongst the Turks and that was to conceal their Armenian-ness, which involved dropping the IAN or YAN from their last names, or adding OGLU. Next came not speaking Armenian in public and speaking very little at home or none at all. It was only in the 1950s that Armenians living in Istanbul were able to attend Armenian schools and churches without fear, but they still did not dare speak Armenian when they were out in public.

      Turkey is OUR homeland being OCCUPIED by the Turks. Since you have no knowledge nor experience with this, you wouldn’t know what it feels like when you have stepped foot on your ancestral lands. You feel a sense of home deep in your soul. My ancestors going back many many generations lived on what is today Turkey. They did not live on the lands of present day Armenia.

      Also, you seem to forget that Armenians that moved to other countries assimilated and speak the language of the country they live in, as well as listen to the music and eat their local products. Are you saying Armenians from Iran do not speak Farsi? Do they not listen to Iranian music or eat Iranian food? They sure do. Are you saying Lebanese Armenians don’t speak Arabic? They don’t listen to Arabic music? Come on now! Of course Armenians from Turkey will speak Turksih, especially if the elders are involved because they did not have the luxury of being able to continue speaking Armenian. Turkish music? Love it! I love Arabic music, too. Turkish markets? I love those, too. Why? Because there aren’t any Armenian markets and I need to eat the food that I was raised on because that’s what I love. None of these things make me less of an Armenian. I’ve shopped at Iranian markets, too. It’s all the same.

      Would I ever marry a Turk? Nope. Would I ever have a child with a Turk? Nope. Would I befriend a Turk? Sure, I’ve done so many times. Would I ever help a Turk in need? Yes, I would. Because that is what being an Armenian Christian from Turkey is about. We don’t hold onto the hatred for it serves no purpose other than hurting ourselves.

      If you have any questions since you state so many times “I don’t understand how”, please feel free to reach out to me and I would be more than happy to answer.

  29. As a Bolsahay, I congratulate you for conveying your sentiments that I myself have faced. At a demonstration in NYC, I spoke to some of the protesting American Armenians in front of the UN HQ, not to mention that my questions were in Armenian. Sadly, they were unable to reply since they did not speak or understand our language.

  30. Սիրելի Լորի,
    նախ կը շնորհաւորեմ գեղեցիկ գրութիւնդ եւ շատ հրաշալի հոգեբանական վերլուծումդ ծննդավայրերու կապակցութեամբ մեր ինքնութիւնը քննադատողներուն: Ասիկա երեւոյթ մըն է որ միմիայն Պոլսահայերուն հանդէպ չէ .. ես այցով Երեւան էի եւ ընտանիքի մը նուէր տարած էի հեռաձայնին պատասխանողը աղջնակ մըն էր հազիւ ինը տարեկան .. երբ ըսի թէ «ճանիկ մաման տունն է՞՞« հա ըսաւ եւ առանց լսափողը փակելու ականջիս կարծես պոռալով ըսաւ «Մա՜՜, արի՜՝, մի «ախպար» քեզ ա ուզում…. .. Խեղճ մեծ մայրիկս միայն Թրքերէն գիտէր եւ ես առանց թրքերէն լեզուի համար դպրոց երթալու լեզուն սորվեցայ … Կը սիրէի երբ մեծ հայրիկս տխուր տխուր թրքերէն երգեր կ՛երգէր… իր կորսուած մանկութան հետ աճող կեանքն էր .. ինչպէս կարելի է անջատել այդ ապրումները… Մարդկային սնապարծութիւն է … ախտ մը որ բոլոր ազգերուն մէջ ալ կայ: Նիւ Եորք Քաղաք Մէնհէթթընի Արեւելեան կողմը ապրողը արեւմտեան կողմ ապրողին համար տարբեր կեցուածք ունի: Կրկին շնորհակալութիւն այս «ախտ»ը բացայատելուդ համար: կը մաղթեմ որ բոլոր միւս երկիրներէն գաղթած հայերն ալ ներառեալ Հայաստանէն եկողները Պոլսահայերուն չափ կառչած մնան իրենց հայութեան, ՀԱՅ դպրոցին եւ մեր հրաշալի աւանդութիւններուն: ԿՐԿԻՆ ԱՊՐԻՍ… Բարի երթ երազներուդ հրաշալի Հայուհի.. Պոլսահայ պիտի ըսէի…. :-)

  31. Funny, I never thought of myself as not being Armenian even though I don’t speak a word of Armenian, I don’t go to church – ever, and I have just a few friends of Armenian decent. Not all names that end in “ian” are Armenian and not all Armenian names end in “ian”.

    Note that your pain is self inflicted. Don’t let ideas of others define who you are and who you are not.

  32. This is not solely a Bolsahye problem. This is a typical Armenian problem. The Armenian motto and mentality is to DIVIDE. Armenians are very envious people in general and cannot stand the thought of their fellow Armenian being better than them in any way. A good majority of them spend their lives trying to be better than and outdo their fellow Armenian. Just attend any Sunday mass at an Armenian church and you will see it for the fashion show it is.

    Viewing a Bolsahye as less of an Armenian is merely an excuse to look down at a fellow Armenian. That is what Armenians are infamous for. There is no togetherness. Who cares what other Armenians think or say, especially an Armenian who has chosen to make the country you are from an issue. Of course Bolsahyes come from Turkey, are born in Turkey, speak Turkish, eat Turkish……those are ancestral Armenian lands that the Turks today sit on. It took more courage to stay in Turkey after the genocide than to flee.

    But the issue is far bigger than a Bolsahye being looked upon as less of an Armenian. Just ask your grandfather Hagop why he doesn’t speak to his sisters nor his brother. Ask your grandfather how he treated his parents who lived only a few blocks away from him during the last years of their lives. Ask your grandfather Hagop why he spent the last 40+ years of his life fighting to keep his family apart instead of united. Have you, Lori, met all of your 2nd or 3rd cousins? No, you have not. Do you ask your family why? Do you even care? Have you heard a one sided story as an excuse? The issue is not being a Bolsahye. The issue is being an Armenian in general. If you can break free from being a typical Armenian who comes naturally equipped with a victim mentality, who feels inferior in general and spends their life knocking others to make themselves feel better, who blames everyone else and the world for every single misfortune, who cuts out family from their lives for no sensible reasons, then being looked at as less of an Armenian for being a Bolsahye wouldn’t bother a single hair on your body.

  33. Also, what should we say about Bolsahyes who have an opinion about other Armenians who come from other countries? We are guilty of the same thing. Don’t we have an opinion about Armenians from Armenia and the dialect they speak? We sure do. We look down at Armenians from Syria as being inferior. In fact, Bolsahyes are infamous for looking down at most Armenians from other countries as being inferior Armenians. We can break this down even further with the Bolsahyes, too. If your parents or grandparents were not born in Istanbul, but rather any other part of Turkey, then you are considered “kyooghatszee” according to a Bolsahye. Even the city you are from in Istanbul can be broken down and criticized. If you are from Samatya, you’re considered lower in class than let’s say if you were from Yesilkoy. I have Lebanese Armenian friends who say that if you are from Hamra then you are of high class as opposed to being from Bourdjamood which is considered low class.

    All Armenians do this to one another no matter where you come from. It is sad and unfortunate and there’s only a few who refrain from this practice, and that is usually the Armenian who has become more Americanized or more Europeanized, or become anything more than being Armenian.

  34. The Patriarchate in Turkey is not free to do anything they need or they want to do, they are under pressure, and always being watched over. so many time they were been attacked and injured, So please do not blame anyone that lives in Turkey doing nothing , we do need them , and one day will come{i prayer that will be soon}we will be free to do what we want to do . Let not forget about us when our grandparents came to Fresno California , They were called Fresno Indians , they could not go public schools{it was not allowed for them. they were not allowed to buy a house in the city. But look after all we are proud Armenians, with government reps, and one time stat Governor Doukmejian. Do not forget our writer William Saroyan{did you notice it is yan and not ian, do you know why , ask me and i will tell you , or you can ask a Armenian from Bolis.

  35. It is quite shocking when we’re in the fith generation of Armenians post genocide that there’s still among us this ignorantime population.

  36. First off, I believe our differences are assets and not liabilities. We need to quit the bickering amongst ourselves and stop taking the moral high ground as to who is and is not “real” Armenian. There is no such thing. If you are born into an Armenian family then you are one, period. How “good” an Armenian you are I think depends primarily on the steps you take in your life and how conscious you are of your ethnic identity regardless of where you were born. There may be Armenians in the Diaspora who are totally disconnected from their people but then there are those who are or become exemplary Armenians for the rest of us to look up to. Even the Armenians in the homeland are not exempt from this.

    Just as the Armenian Genocide was pre-meditated and state-sponsored, so are the deliberate Turkification of Armenian names. This is a racist Turkish method of trying to erase any remnants of Armenian identity they did not get to physically eliminate in 1915. By Turkifying Armenian names they hope to wipe out any trace of Armenian lineage much like referring to the Kurds as “Mountain Turks” so as to refuse to identify and accept them as a separate ethnic entity in order to deny them their rights to practice their language and so on. We need to educate our people about these things which will help alleviate some of the many misconceptions as described by Lori. Furthermore, this is not limited to Bolsahays alone, even though I believe they are treated the harshest by our racial enemy, and many Armenian communities in the Diaspora, Russia included, are subjected to similar treatments but perhaps to much lesser extent.

    P.S. I look forward to the day when we get to eliminate and do away with the prefixes, by our birthplace, next to our identity and become one and the same regardless of where we come from.

  37. What a great article. I have many Bolsahye friends I regularly find myself defending from my non-bolsahye friends.

  38. Dear Lori, Bolsahyes including the Balyans brothers, Hrant Dink, Ara Guler (best photographer in Turkey), Sabiha Gokcen (First woman to fly in Turkey), Matild Manukyan, Avedis Zildjian, Sevan Nisanyan and Garo Paylan to name a few have done more for the world and Armenians than any other Armenians have. Bolsahyes also constantly fight in Turkey with Turks, get their churches tagged on and are always wearing their crosses. Any Armenian that opposes this idea is simply uneducated. Bolsahyes are arguably the most important Armenians. Proud Bolsahye – Mike U

  39. I am a Turkish American , living in NY. Growing up in Istanbul I had great armenian friends, they used to come to my house I visited theirs. I never felt that they were any different than any of us but after reading your article and responses ; now I feel that they felt different.

  40. Wonderfully written article ! As a Bolsahay, I identified a lot with what you have written. We are in a strange situation as Bolsahays. We are ethnically Armenian but have strong attachments to the general Turkish culture from which we come from . Don’t forget , the Turks conquered us and therefore almost all Armenians today have grandparents who spoke Turkish , ate the regional cuisine and even read their bible written in Turkish (albeit with Armenian letters). Adopting your oppressors culture was a Defense mechanism for all of our ancestors. I understand the diasporas reaction to us when they see us revel in our Turkish songs and TV shows and foods . But they have to realize that their grandparents did the same . It’s very difficult to divorce hundreds of years of Turkish influence on Armenian culture . Anyways ; I wanted to commend you once again on writing about this very real social phenomenon unique to Bolsahays .

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