Many national cultural centers — centers of social thought, education, science, art, and printing — have been formed far outside the borders of the historical homeland of the Armenian people. So has been its fate.
Nor Jugha, Istanbul, Calcutta, Madras, Venice, Vienna, Marseille, Paris, Lviv, Astrakhan, Grigoriopol, and Nakhichevan-on-Don – this is not a complete list, but it already includes locations from two continents, Europe and Asia.
Each of the centers was unique, and each played a positive role in the development of Armenian culture, although it is undoubted that their contributions to this development are unequal.
The history of the Armenian community of India is highlighted by the publication of the first Armenian monthly magazine “Azdarar” (“Herald”). It has been issued in Madras in 1794-1796. The activities of Movses Baghramyan and Shahamir Shahamirian are also noteworthy. In 1770–1790, Shahamirian has headed the Armenian patriotic circle in Madras, of which Baghramyan has been a member, as well as headed the printing house founded by him in 1771.
Venice is associated with the Mekhitarist Order. This order is known for its collection of manuscripts, the works of its scholars, and the name of Lord Byron who has shown great interest in the order’s activities.
Oleg Shestinsky in the article “To Know Armenia” wrote: “How many examples can be given of the active participation of Armenians in the life of other nations – good, useful participation!
Even in Singapore, I stood, stunned, in the center of the city near the Armenian church, near the graves of Armenians dated to the beginning of the 19th century – and they, these Armenians, have built up Singapore.”
Recall Agnes Joaquim (Ashkhen Hovakimyan, 1854–1899), an English and Singaporean gardener of Armenian descent. She cultivated the famous Vanda “Miss Agnes Joaquim” orchid variety, which now is a symbol of Singapore, as well as is the world’s first cultivated orchid hybrid variety.
A large Armenian community has formed in Lviv as well. “Today, it is difficult to unambiguously answer the question of when and where the first Armenian settlement appeared in the territory of Lviv… But famous Armenian craftsmen were most likely summoned here by Prince Daniel Romanovich after the founding of the city of Lviv in 1256” (R.N. Lipka, “The Armenian Street Ensemble”).
“Armenian merchants played a leading role in the very profitable trade of the city of Lviv with the countries of the East. Their caravans went to Istanbul, Cairo, Alexandria, Baghdad, and other distant cities.
Products from eastern and southern countries – carpets, silks, cloth, artfully decorated weapons, fruits, peppers, wines – were called Armenian in the Lviv market and were highly valued. Armenian craftsmen were famous for their diligence and excellence.
The colony was a significant cultural center. Here lived and worked eminent philosopher Stepanos of Lviv and historian and writer Simeon Dpir Lehatsi… On Armenian Street in 1668–1669, the first theatrical performances were carried out by students of the Armenian Collegium…” (R.N. Lipka, “The Armenian Street Ensemble”).
The role of the diaspora in the creation of printing houses, collecting manuscripts, and distributing books should also be noted. The first printed book in Armenian was published by Hakob Meghapart in 1512 in Venice.
In 1717, here, on the San Lazzaro degli Armeni island, Armenian Catholic monks established the aforementioned Mekhitarist Order. The monks collected manuscripts, studied them, and glorified their abode with scholarly treatises.
The topic of Armenian communities is endless and can never be exhausted because the people of Armenia are scattered without exaggeration throughout the world.
“Above the Lazarev Archives (Essays)”, A. Baziyants, the Editorial Office of Oriental literature of the publishing house “Science”, 1982.
“Obelisk”, A. Baziyants, R. Martirosyan, “Armenian Open University” publishing house, Yerevan, 1993.