How many Armenians are there in the world?
I have often heard or seen mentioned that there are 10 million Armenians worldwide. Recently, a few social media posts got me thinking about this figure and realistically who we can consider to be Armenian. To do so, I think it is easier to first state unequivocally those who cannot be practically considered Armenian.
The most obvious are those claiming to be Armenian but not Christian. Our nation has been defined as Christian almost from the beginning, and everyone knows Armenia was the first nation to declare Christianity as its national religion. Over the last 1,000 years of subjugation, if an Armenian converted from the Christian faith, then they were no longer considered Armenian. So, those who are Muslim, Jewish or do not believe in a God cannot possible be considered Armenian. We cannot be sure how many of these so-called non-Christian Armenians there are, but most likely they number in the millions.
But really this is not specific enough. The core of our nation has always been the Armenian Apostolic church. So, those who are Catholic, Protestant, Mormon or members of any of the many other Christian sects cannot be considered Armenian. Again, I am not sure how many such people there are, but I would guess over one million worldwide.
I think we must also consider those who were not born to two fully Armenian parents. While someone who has full Armenian parentage is clearly Armenian (assuming they meet the other criteria we have or will lay out), their non-Armenian spouse, no matter how sympathetic he or she might be to the Armenian people, clearly cannot be Armenian. After all, we are not in the business of assimilating others into our nation. Neither can the children from a mixed marriage be considered Armenian.
So now we have gotten to a core of those who can reasonably be considered Armenian – the full-blooded Armenian Apostolic. But is that enough? Isn’t more required than simply birth and religion? For example, if one does not speak pure Armenian (not corrupted by foreign words from Russian, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, etc.), can they really be considered Armenian? Even if they speak Armenian, what is the extent of their engagement in the Armenian community? Shouldn’t we expect an Armenian to participate in Armenian community life, and if they don’t, can they reasonably be considered Armenian? To be considered Armenian, you must fully embrace the language, food, culture and also contribute to the betterment of the Armenian people through the various community organizations. Again, those failing on any of these points must number in the millions.
Sometimes I sense Armenians treat their Armenianness as some sort of membership in an exclusive country club.
It seems to me that those who know nothing of our rich history or geography really cannot be considered Armenian. After all, aren’t these equally as important as language and culture?
The last criteria I would use to consider someone Armenian is that they should be living in Armenia. The so-called hyphenated Armenian is a fictitious construct to which we should not succumb.
At this point, I think we can acknowledge that really there are not even one million Armenians in the world. Based on the criteria above, I am not one of them, and I am sure by now you have gotten my point.
Sometimes I sense Armenians treat their Armenianness as some sort of membership in an exclusive country club. Such pride itself is not bad, but when this pride in Armenianness leads to exclusivity, then it becomes destructive.
This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the 50th anniversary of the AYF Junior Seminar where over 300 of our ARMENIAN youth from all backgrounds were embracing their Armenianness. No one in this world has a right to tell them they do not measure up!