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Armenians in France

Armenians in France
Total population
250,000 — 750,000 (estimates)
Regions with significant populations
Paris, Lyon, Marseille
French, Armenian
Predominantly Armenian Apostolic
Catholic and Protestant minorities

Armenians in France (Armenian: ֆրանսահայեր fransahayer; French: Arméniens de France) are French citizens of Armenian ancestry. The French Armenian community is, by far, the largest in the European Union[1][2] and the third largest in the world.[3][4]

Although the first Armenians settled in France in the Middle Ages, like most of the Armenian diaspora, the Armenian community in France was established by survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Others came through the second half of the 20th century, fleeing political and economic instability in the Middle Eastern countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iran) and, more recently, from the Republic of Armenia.


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • World War I and the Armenian Genocide 1.2
    • World War II and the Fourth Republic 1.3
    • Migration of Armenians from the Middle East 1.4
    • Contemporary period 1.5
  • Culture 2
    • Language and education 2.1
    • Religion 2.2
    • Institutions 2.3
    • Media 2.4
  • France and the Armenian Genocide 3
  • Notable French Armenians 4
    • Music 4.1
    • Entertainment 4.2
    • Painters 4.3
    • Politics 4.4
    • Sports 4.5
    • Miscellaneous 4.6
  • References 5
    • Bibliography 5.1
  • External links 6


The tomb of Leon V, the last Armenian king, at the Basilica of St Denis.

Early history

Armenians have a long history of settlement in France.[5] The first Armenians appeared in Francia in the Early Middle Ages. In 591, an Armenian bishop named Simon is recorded to have met Gregory of Tours in the city of Tours.[6][7] Among other churches, the 9th century church of Germigny-des-Prés—built by Odo of Metz (possibly an Armenian)—is said by architecture historians to have an Armenian influence.[8][9] The thirty-six letters of the Armenian alphabet found in a Latin inscription at the St. Martha Church (fr) in Tarascon show that Armenians lived there before the 13th century, when the last three characters of the Armenian alphabet were added.[10][11]

The statue of Jean Althen in Avignon.

The contacts between Armenians and the French became frequent during the Crusades.[10] The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, located on the north-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, became of strategic importance to the crusaders en route to Palestine. Armenian kings Oshin and Leo IV are known to have given special trading privileges for the French.[12] In the 14th century, the Hethumids were unable to retain power in Cilician Armenia and following the assassination of Leo IV in 1341, his Lusignan cousin became King of Armenia as Constantine II. The Lusignan kings were of French origin and ruled the country until 1375 when the last king, Leo V, was captured by the Mamluks and taken to Egypt. He was later released and transferred to France where he died in 1393 and was buried at the Basilica of St Denis, the burial place of the French monarchs.[5]

Since the 15th century, Armenians began migrating to France in small numbers.[12] An Armenian inscription from this period survives on the Bourges Cathedral.[13] In 1672, an Armenian named Pascal (Harut'iwn) opened the first coffee house in Paris.[14][15][16][17][18] From 1672 to 1686, Voskan Yerevantsi operated a publishing house in Marseille.[12] With the liberalization of the economy, the number of Armenians in France increased and reach 300–400 by 1680.[12] Jean Althen (Hovhannès Althounian), a Persian-Armenian agronomist from Nakhichevan, is known to have introduced madder to southern France in the 1750s.[19][20][21][22] A statue of him was erected in Avignon expressing the city's gratefulness to him.[23] During his campaign in Egypt, Napoleon was presented an Armenian Mamluk named Roustam Raza. He became Napoleon's bodyguard and served him until 1814.[24][25]

Booklet of Papier d'Armenie

In the 19th century, many young Armenian males (among them poet and political activist Nahapet Rusinian and architect Nigoğayos Balyan) moved to France for education.[12] Papier d'Arménie ("Armenian Paper"), a popular deodorizing paper,[26] was created in the late 1880s by Auguste Ponsot. He visited Turkish Armenia and found out that the Armenians use benzoin resin and plant sap to disinfect their homes and churches.[27]

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, thousands of Armenians escaped persecution in their ancestral homeland that was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. Events like the Hamidian massacres and the Adana massacre gave rise to greater Armenian emigration. By the eve of the First World War, around 4,000 Armenians lived in France.[12]

World War I and the Armenian Genocide

By the 1916 French–Armenian Agreement, the French Armenian Legion was formed out of Armenians from around the world, including many French Armenians. It took part in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Franco-Turkish War.

As a result of the Allied victory in the First World War, tens of thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, including orphans, found themselves living in the French-occupied part of the Ottoman Empire: Cilicia and the French Mandate territories of Syria and Lebanon. In 1920, the French army under General Henri Gouraud ordered the French Armenian Legion should lay down their weapons and the Armenian refugees should leave at once. He had formed a "peaceful, reconstructive policy" with the Turkish nationalists to pull French troops out of Cilicia, and attacks against Armenian civilians resumed.[28] Most Cilician Armenian fled alongside the French and were resettled in refugee camps in Alexandretta, Aleppo, the Beqaa Valley (e.g. Anjar) and Beirut. From there, entire families took the opportunity to flee to France. The influx of the Armenian Genocide survivors brought tens of thousands of Armenians to France. By the early 1920s, approximately 50,000 to 60,000 Armenians lived in France.[29] According to another source 90,000 genocide survivors settled in France, more than half of whom were villagers.[30]

Most Armenians initially arrived in Marseille, thereafter many of them spread across France and settled in large cities, especially in Paris and the urban areas across the Paris–Marseille railway, notably Lyon. In the Interwar period, the majority of Armenians in France were unskilled villagers that mostly worked in factories for low wages.[29] Between 1922 and 1929 80% of Armenians in France were laborers. They earned 10-15% less than Frenchmen.[30]

In this period, a number of Turkish Armenian intellectuals moved to France, including Arshag Chobanian (1895),[31] Komitas (1919, transferred to a hospital in Paris where he remained until his death),[32] Levon Pashalian (1920),[33] Shahan Shahnour (1923).[34]

World War II and the Fourth Republic

Mural of Manouchian in a street in Paris

The Armenian community of France played an active role in the Anti-Fascist Underground Patriotic Organization was commanded by Armenian officers.

Resisters Alexander Kazarian and Bardukh Petrosian were awarded by the highest military orders of France by General Charles de Gaulle.[35]

Henri Karayan (1921–2011), a member of the Manouchian Group, participated in illegal distribution of Humanité in Paris and was engaged in armed struggle until the Libération.[36]

In 2012, 95-year-old Arsène Tchakarian (fr), the last survivor of the Manouchian resistance group who fought against occupying Nazi German forces during World War II, was decorated as Officer of the Legion of Honor by President Nicolas Sarkozy.[37]

Immediately after the Second World War, about 7,000 Armenians repatriated to Soviet Armenia.[38]

Migration of Armenians from the Middle East

Thousands of new immigrants arrived in France from the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Iran since the 1950s. These new immigrants mobilized the French Armenian community. By the 1980s around 300,000 Armenians lived in France.[38]

In 1983, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia launched the an attack at the Paris Orly airport, as part of its campaign for the recognition of and reparations for the Armenian Genocide. The explosion killed eight people and injured fifty-five.[39] The campaign to pass the resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide at the European Council unleashed on June 19, 1987 at a Strasbourg demonstration.

Contemporary period

The devastating earthquake in Armenia on 7 December 1988 led to huge mobilization of the French Armenian community. Among others, Charles Aznavour established a charitable foundation in to help the victims of the earthquake.[40]

As the

  • Co-ordination Council of Armenian Organisations of France (CCAF)
  • FRA Dachnaksoutioun - France
  • Nor Seround - Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) - France
  • Armenian Youth in France (JAF)
  • Armenian House of the Youth and the Culture - Marseille
  • Armenian National Committee of France (ANC)
  • The Armenian Heritage Center - Valence
  • Research Association of the Armenian Memory - Marseille

External links

  • Barlezizian, A. K. (1991). "Հայ-ֆրանսիական լեզվամշակութային կապերի սկզբնավորման ու զարգացման հարցի շուրջը (XI—XIX դարեր) [To the Question of the Commencement and Development of Armenian-French Lingua-Cultural Links (the 1—1-9th centuries)]".  
  • Mouradian, Claire; Ter Minassian, Anahide (2003). "Ֆրանսիա [France]". In Ayvazyan, Hovhannes. Հայ Սփյուռք հանրագիտարան [Encyclopedia of Armenian Diaspora] (in Armenian) 1. Yerevan:  
  • Dédéyan, Gérard (2007). Histoire du peuple arménien [History of the Armenian People] (in Français). Toulouse: Privat. p. 907.  
  • Ghasabian, Z. M. (2001). "Ֆրանսահայ համայնքի սոցիալ-տնտեսական կյանքի զարգացման փուլերը (1922-1980թթ.) [Stages of social-economic development of Armenian community in France (1922 - 1980)]".  


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  2. ^ Zenian, David (1 March 1995). "The Armenians of France".  
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  4. ^ Ararat ( 
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  6. ^ Greenwood, Tim (2012). "Armenia". In Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald. The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity. Oxford University Press.  
  7. ^ Heinzelmann, Martin (2001). Gregory of Tours: History and Society in the Sixth Century (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 82.  
  8. ^ Buxton, David Roden (1975). Russian Mediaeval Architecture with an Account of the Transcaucasian Styles and Their Influence in the West. New York: Hacker Art Books. p. 100 Reprint of the 1934 ed. published by the  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ a b Mouradian & Ter Minassian 2003, p. 622.
  11. ^ Dédéyan 2007, p. 907: "C'est du même siècle que remonte l'alphabet mesrobien de trente-six lettres, gravé sur une niche de l'église Sainte-Marthe de Tarascon, sans doute par un pèlerin arménien qui se dirigeait vers Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle."
  12. ^ a b c d e f Mouradian & Ter Minassian 2003, p. 623.
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Wallis, Wilson D. (2003). Culture and progress. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 102.  
  15. ^ Aslanian, Sebouh David (2010). From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 76.  
  16. ^ Spary, E.C. (2013). Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris, 1670–1760. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 53.  
  17. ^ McCabe, Ina Baghdiantz (2008). Orientalism in Early Modern France: Eurasian Trade, Exoticism and the Ancient Regime. Oxford: Berg. p. 188.  
  18. ^ Wild, Antony (2005). Coffee: a dark history (1st American ed. ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. p. 59.  
  19. ^ Dédéyan 2007, p. 919.
  20. ^ Henri, Michel (2000). "Հայազգի ժան Ալթենը՝ Ֆրանսիայում բամբակի և տորոնի մշակության առաջնեկ [Armenian J. Althen - a Pioneer of Adoption of the Cultivation of Cotton and Rubia tinctorum in France]".  
  21. ^  
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  23. ^ Sayyāḥ, Muḥammad ʻAlī (1999). An Iranian in Nineteenth Century Europe: The Travel Diaries of Haj Sayyah, 1859–1877. Bethesda, Maryland: Ibex Publishers. p. 115.  
  24. ^ Strathern, Paul (2009). Napoleon in Egypt. New York:  
  25. ^ McGregor, Andrew James (2006). A Military History of Modern Egypt: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War. Westport, Connecticut:  
  26. ^  
  27. ^ Jean-Paul Labourdette, Dominique Auzias, Dominique Auzias (2010). Petit Futé Paris, Ile de France (in Français). Paris:  
  28. ^ Seventh Year of the War - 1920
  29. ^ a b Mouradian & Ter Minassian 2003, p. 624.
  30. ^ a b Ghasabian 2001, p. 168.
  31. ^ Hacikyan 2005, p. 681.
  32. ^  
  33. ^ Hacikyan 2005, p. 612.
  34. ^ Norashkharian, Shant. "Shahan Shahnour".  
  35. ^ Seven songs about Armenia, Gevorg Emin, Progress, 1981 - p. 37
  36. ^ Henri Karayan, un engagement pour la liberté et l'universalisme, 2011
  37. ^ "Tchakarian officier de la légion d'honneur".  
  38. ^ a b c Mouradian & Ter Minassian 2003, p. 625.
  39. ^ "AROUND THE WORLD; French Hold Armenians In Orly Airport Bombing". The New York Times. 9 October 1983. 
  40. ^ a b Adalian 2010, p. 201.
  41. ^ Thon, Caroline (2012). Armenians in Hamburg: an ethnographic exploration into the relationship between diaspora and success. Berlin: LIT Verlag Münster. p. 25.  
  42. ^ "French Parliament Adopts Genocide Bill".  
  43. ^  
  44. ^ "France passes Armenia genocide law".  
  45. ^ "French Senate Eyes Genocide Bill; Turkey Bristles".  
  46. ^ Totoricaguena, Gloria (2005). Basque diaspora : migration and transnational identity. Reno:  
  47. ^ Taylor, Tony (2008). Denial: history betrayed. Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Publishing. p. 4.  
  48. ^ "Population by sex, age group and country of birth".  
  49. ^ "France". Ethnologue. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  50. ^ Bardakjian, Kevork B., ed. (2000). A Reference Guide to Modern Armenian Literature, 1500–1920: With an Introductory History. Detroit:  
  51. ^ "General Assembly & Centennial Gala in Paris, France".  
  52. ^ Liste des associations arméniennes de France, Netarménie
  53. ^ Diaspora en France - Les Associations, site de l'Association Culturelle Arménienne de Marne-la-Vallée
  54. ^ Statuts du Conseil de coordination des organisations arméniennes de France, liste des organisations membres du Conseil de coordination des organisations arméniennes de France
  55. ^ French Senate passes bill outlawing genocide denial, France 24, 23 January 2012.
  56. ^ French genocide law 'unconstitutional' rules court, France 24, 28 February 2012
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  58. ^ "Jacques Hélian".  
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  60. ^ "Michel Legrand is in Yerevan".  
  61. ^ "Danyel Gerard".  
  62. ^ "Sylvie Vartan Speaks of Her Armenian Origin".  
  63. ^ "André Manoukian". Universal Music France (in Français). Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  64. ^ "French Star Patrick Fiori Sings with Armenia's 'Belle' Nune".  
  65. ^ "Hélène Ségara to spend two days in Armenia".  
  66. ^ Setian, Madlen E.; Capan, Levon M. (2 July 2009). "French-Armenian conductor Alain Altinoglu to debut at the Met next winter".  
  67. ^ "Alice Sapritch Resume" (in Français).  
  68. ^ "Festival of Lyon in commemoration to Henri Verneuil".  
  69. ^ "Francis Veber règle ses comptes".  
  70. ^ """Francis Veber : " Je ne me prends pas au sérieux . (in Français). 3 October 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2014. De père juif et de mère arménienne, Francis Veber ... 
  71. ^ "François Berléand".  
  72. ^ "François Berléand Resume" (in Français).  
  73. ^ "Serge Avedikian's "The Last Round in Istanbul" to reflect on Armenian Genocide".  
  74. ^ Hovhannisyan, Irina (14 November 2013). Վարդան Պետրոսյանի փաստաբանը դիմել է նրան ազատ արձակելու հարցով (in Հայերեն).  
  75. ^ "Pascal Légitimus coincé entre les Antilles et l'Arménie dans "OMG ! La Minute people" ! Agrandir la vidéo Eteindre la lumière" (in Français). WAT TV. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  76. ^ "Simon Abkarian : c'est l'histoire d'un (beau) mec".  
  77. ^ "Zorayan museum, Stephanie's art gallery to host Jean Carzou exhibit".  
  78. ^ von Voss, Huberta, ed. (2007). Portraits of Hope: Armenians in the Contemporary World (1st English ed. ed.). New York: Berghahn Books. p. 101.  
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  81. ^ von Voss, Huberta, ed. (2007). Portraits of Hope: Armenians in the Contemporary World (1st English ed. ed.). New York: Berghahn Books. p. 205.  
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  83. ^ "Aujourd'hui, la F 1 ne contente personne".  
  84. ^ "Soccer: Former French-Armenian player wants to coach Armenia".  
  85. ^ "Arthur Adamov". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  86. ^ Clément, Murielle Lucie (2008). Écrivains franco-russes. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 131.  
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  88. ^ "Armenian capital’s mayor meets with architect Michel Mossessian". Armenian News. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
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Other fields







Persons are arranged in chronological order

Notable French Armenians

On 24 April 1965, 10,000 Armenians marched on Champs-Elysées to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the genocide.[57]

The French Senate passed a bill in 2011 that criminalizes denial of acknowledged genocides, which includes both the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. The bill was submitted by the parliament in 2012.[55] However, the bill was considered unconstitutional on 28 February 2012 by the French Constitutional Court: "The council rules that by punishing anyone contesting the existence of ... crimes that lawmakers themselves recognised or qualified as such, lawmakers committed an unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression,".[56]

France is one of the countries that has recognized the Armenian Genocide.

France and the Armenian Genocide

  • AYP FM, radio station operating in Paris and Île-de-France
  • Radio Arménie, radio station operating in Lyon and surrounding area
  • Radio Gayané, radio station
  • Haratch (Յառաջ) was an Armenian daily newspaper based in France. Founded in 1925 by Schavarch Missakian, it stopped publication in May 2009
  • Nor Haratch, a new independent publication started publishing on October 27, 2009 on the basis of 2 issues per week
  • MagazineNouvelles d'Arménie
  • MagazineFrance-Arménie


There are also umbrella organizations, the Forum des associations arméniennes de France, created in 1991,[53] and the Conseil de coordination des organisations arméniennes de France, new name since 2001 of the « Comité du 24 avril ».[54]

In the municipalities with a high concentration of Armenians, there are a lot of associations in a vast array of fields ranging from the cultural (e.g. Maison de la culture arménienne de Décines in Décines, near Lyon or Radio AYP FM, in Paris), social (e.g. Maison des étudiants arméniens in Paris), sports (e.g. Union de la jeunesse arménienne d'Alfortville and Union Sportive de la Jeunesse d'Origine Arménienne de Valence (football clubs), or more specific like the Association nationale des anciens combattants et résistants arméniens or the Association des gays et lesbiennes arméniens de France.[52]

The Armenian Social Aid Association, operating Armenian retirement homes, was founded before this period and is unique to France. National institutions, and first and foremost the Armenian Church of Paris founded in 1905, were very soon to co-exist in Paris, playing a fundamental role in defending and protecting the refugees.

[51] The


Each of the three Armenian Churches has its own organization in France, three bishoprics (Lyon, Marseille, Paris) depending from the Catholicos of All Armenians, the Eparchy of Sainte-Croix-de-Paris depending from the Armenian Catholic Church, and the Armenian Evangelical Churches Union of France, part of the Armenian Evangelical Church.

The majority of the Armenian French population is of the Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox) faith and belong to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church. A minority of Armenians belongs to the Catholic faith and are adherents of the Armenian Catholic Church. Fewer numbers are Armenian Evangelicals.

St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Paris


Today, Armenian classes are organized in many localities with full bilingual kindergartens and primary schools near Paris and Marseilles attended by several thousand children and youths. Armenian is currently a valid option counting toward the Baccalaureate, the French High School certificate.

Ethnologue estimates that Armenian is spoken by around 70,000 people in France.[49] Most French Armenians speak Western Armenian, while a minority (recent Armenian immigrants from Armenia and Armenians from Iran) speak Eastern Armenian.[50]

Language and education


[48] As of 2005, there were 12,355 Armenian-born people residing in France.[47] 750,000.[46] 500,000-700,000,[45][44] 500,000,[38] 450,000,[43] 400,000,[42][3] 300,000,[41]

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