Call to Relocate Hemshils from Kyrgyzstan to Artsakh

George Mkhitaryan, 23 December 2011

George Mkhitaryan is project manager in charge of an urgent plan to relocate Hemshil families from Kyrgyzstan to Artsakh. The following is a call to all Armenians to help realize the vital mission.. The document is published unedited to preserve its originality in form and content. Editor

We, the Association of Hamshen Armenians, want to offer you this joint project, probably the most prominent in the entire history of our nation. The project of Repatriation of the Hemshils (Islamized Hamshen Armenians) in Nagorno-Karabakh.
 

George Mkhitaryan, 23 December 2011

George Mkhitaryan is project manager in charge of an urgent plan to relocate Hemshil families from Kyrgyzstan to Artsakh. The following is a call to all Armenians to help realize the vital mission.. The document is published unedited to preserve its originality in form and content. Editor

We, the Association of Hamshen Armenians, want to offer you this joint project, probably the most prominent in the entire history of our nation. The project of Repatriation of the Hemshils (Islamized Hamshen Armenians) in Nagorno-Karabakh.
 

This project has already been discussed by the Armenian public. We need to mention that it immediately caused a disturbing resonance in Azerbaijan and Turkey, which points the project strength and importance.

I would like to tell you the history and status of the project.

The story began in 2010 after acquaintance with the members of Hemshil community in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Within our Association, the idea of repatriation of the Hemshils settled in Central Asia appeared. The idea, as it often happens, was based only on enthusiasm.

Summary: the Hemshils were found on the territory of former Soviet Union, by accident, during the border separation with Turkey. Some Hemshil villages in Adjaria region near the Black Sea became the part of the USSR. In 1944, Stalin deported them, like many other nations in Central Asia (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan). People had only 24 hours, and under the guise of "enemies», they were put into carriages and sent off. Along the way, many people died from starvation and disease. After several years people tried to return to their homeland, which at that time was already inhabited by Georgians, but the Georgian authorities declined. In the late ’70s, members of the community went to Armenia to ask for repatriation. Armenian government approved the idea, but for some reasons Moscow rejected it for the second time. Since then the active part of our people, willing to come back, has remained in Central Asia until the present day.

After the dissolution of the USSR, some of the Hemshils moved to Russia, gradually helping those who remained in Asia. The Hemshils are proud people and after many misfortunes, are accustomed to rely on themselves only. We became the first Armenian organization, who established a strong relationship with them.

While our relationship became stronger and more trusting, Kyrgyzstan started to get violent clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the region of the Hemshil residence. The situation became extremely dangerous both physically and ethically. At any time, people could be subject to collisions and massacres. The worst thing is that no one paid any attention at their fates. All our requests addressed to Armenian authorities were left unanswered. Only a miracle prevented extermination, and after these events, the community finally decided to leave Kyrgyzstan.

At this point, we got the idea of a special program of the Hemshil repatriation. We understand that under the current circumstances Russia will be the final destination for community. For us, it became strategically important that we, Armenians, once gained independence, liberating the land of Karabakh. We should make these people move to their historic homeland, which they have been separated with for several hundred years.

After the Armenian authorities refused to provide assistance to their fellow citizens from Kyrgyzstan, who were less than a thousand people – we have realized that the main difficulty in implementing this project will be Armenia itself and not the Hemshils. A number of officials including the Ministry of Diaspora made several loud promises. When the time to act started, all promises left to be only promises.

Cooperating at that time with the Hemshils we built a strong relationship with community leader, Ruslan Karabadzhakov. I note that he is a very brave and resolute man, who did much to convince people that Armenia should be a place where they should relocate. The more we turned out to establish sincere and trusting relationship with the Hemshils, the more antagonists appeared in Armenia, who were afraid of relocation of a few Armenian families because they were Muslim. We felt that unreasonable fear was born in self-doubt and resistance to change anything. The fear was because dozens or hundreds of Muslim Armenians would be able to Islamize the rest of Armenia, which wasn’t true. We have realized how confident the Georgian people are now, and among them there are 400 000 Georgian Muslims (Ajarians) who have their own autonomy, and the whole republic. However, they are patriots of Georgia and its worthy citizens. Many of them voluntarily accepted Christianity and this process continues, we find that similar situation in Armenia is possible.

It was surprising and sad for us to watch the process, when people leave Armenia, particularly rural areas, not to mention Karabakh. At this time, there are people who had been willing not just to go to Yerevan and Stepanakert, but to Karabakh, the most important area.

I would like to write about the reasons why this project can be called unique, and why we must implement it.

1.The Hemshils (the homshets) is a unique ethnic group of Western Armenians who are informants of the oldest forms of the Armenian language, of the oldest dialect "homshetsma."

2.The Hemshils are ready to relocate to the countryside, which is so important for Armenia and Karabakh. They have high fertility, so necessary for our people in this region.

3.For Turkey and Azerbaijan this would become a big blow in political terms, because all their plans to present Armenia in the Arab world as an enemy of the Muslims will be defeated. Moreover, they are discussing and taking actions. For example, while visiting Kyrgyzstan, Erdogan proposed the Hemshils to relocate to Turkey. Only thanks to Ruslan Karabadzhakov the Hemshils so far refused. Now it is the Armenians’ turn.

4.It will be the most important period in history of Armenia. The Hemshils connect Western and Eastern Armenia. Historical justice will prevail, as this part of our nation experienced one of the hardest blows over the past 400 years: two massacres, Islamization, two relocations, and contemporary instability in Kyrgyzstan.

5.The Hemshils have high birth rates, they observe Armenian traditions while Armenians in Armenia or the Diaspora unfortunately do not observe any. They have strong traditional families and the Hemshils always try to live together.

6. If we are able to assist 10 families in the resettlement at the initial stage, and then surely we can say that over time, other people would join their communities and would be ready to move to Karabagh, even from Russia.

What we have now?

Now we are supported by the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh, who are ready to give lands in Mardakert district and assist in development of agriculture and animal husbandry.

Community leader Ruslan Karabadzhakov visited Nagorno-Karabakh, mentioned in the Armenian media. During the visit, Ruslan approved the project, personally evaluated all the pros and cons. The trip was organized by Levon Hayrapetyan, who fully prepared to take control over the project and finance it, even on a larger scale than we plan now. Unfortunately, at this time due to personal circumstances, Levon Hayrapetyan temporarily paused his participation in the Armenian projects, which is extremely unfavorable, because time is against us. The Hemshils in connection with the deteriorating financial situation move to Russia.

Levon Hayrapetyan worked out a project of livestock development in Karabakh, which is now booming. Levon Hayrapetyan was willing to allocate huge funds for it and had great hopes in the Hemshils’ participation. He understands that it is long-term financial outlook. In addition, it is an extremely important segment of the economy in the future of Nagorno-Karabakh. We should take into account the fact that the Hemshils will have an opportunity to fulfill themselves. It is widely known that the population of Karabakh has extensive experience in the development of livestock, while during the Soviet reign the Hemshils in Southern Kyrgyzstan were the best experts in this field, and now successfully continue their work in Russia.

Having evaluated all of the above, including a financial part, we understand that at this point an important goal of the project is the relocation of 10 families (40 people). After the successful relocation, the rest of community would follow them very fast.
After a visit to Kyrgyzstan and discussions with the community, as well as proceeding from a dialogue with the Karabakh side, we have developed the plan.

Our Association consists of mostly young people. Financially we can not support this strategically important for the Armenians project. It is important that such Armenian organization with experience of fulfilling major projects would engage in it. If you are interested, we will be happy to cooperate with you in this important project.

Sincerely, the project manager George Mkhitaryan

Related Video

  Hamshens – Hamo Moskofian – Interview (Video 4:25)

 

14 comments
  1. Time to Act

    The call is more than self-explanatory.

    Let all who have so far claimed to be the defenders of the Armenian people, let all who claim to be the preservers of heritage and culture, let all who claim that Armenians must work togther to achieve self-preservation, let them all come forward now.

    Inaction would be equal to treason. No more and no less.

    All Armenian organizations around the world must immediately establish a resettlement fund and start this project.

    Tomorrow will be too late.

    Paregamoren,

    Viken L. Attarian

  2. Call to Action

    The Hemshils in Central Asia and their compatriots Hamshens in Turkey need all the help they can get: financial, cultural, political and whatever else. They are scattered all over. They are in Turkey, Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, Moscow and other cities of the Russian Federation. Despite the vast differences of the local cultures that they mingle with they have essentially kept Armenian traditions, except being mostly Muslims.

    They should and will stay on their lands in Turkey. The future is ripe with several scenarios as Kurds and Dersimis of various ethnic backgrounds are agitated. Rumor has it that foreigners are buying some Hamshen prime properties taking advantage of local poverty and those who are "lucky" are leaving the land for good pastures.

    Among those who are threatened, in one way or another, in central Asia and Abkhazia, and willing to relocate on Armenian lands should meet the support of the Armenians at all levels in the motherland and in the Diaspora.

    It’s true that people in Artsakh and Armenia are divided in their receptiveness for reasons that are mentioned in George Mkhitaryan’s "Call to Relocate Hemshils from Kyrgyzstan to Artsakh". However, let’s be cognizant of the unfortunate fact that people are leaving Armenia in droves. I am not hopeful that the exodus will be halted in near future and those of us in the Diaspora, for a number of valid and some unfounded reasons will not move.

    Armenia and Artsakh need fresh blood.

    I second Viken L. Attarian’s call to action and propose that the newly formed Congress of Western Armenians initiate the creation of "resettlement fund" as suggested by Attarian, in cooperation with other organizations. After all, the legal battles for which the Congress readies itself is for the preservation of our culture, retribution and eventual settlement of Armenians on their lands. This may be the litmus paper by which people will judge whether the Congress will walk the talk. A bird in hand is better than two in the bush as the much repeated idiom would state.
     

  3. Returning Home

    Please tell me where to send my contribution to help Hemshils settle in Armenia/Artsakh. This project should be a sacred mission for all Armenians. At a time when so many Armenians are emigrating from Armenia and Artsakh, we should do our best to help Hemshils settle in the homeland.

  4. The Hemshils

    Properly handled, the acceptance of the Hemshils to Artsakh (and, even, to Armenia) can be nothing but beneficial. We should be mindful of how Israel has benefited from the Russian Jews and the Ethiopian Jews–not to mention the American Jews–who have made the "return."

    It will take intelligence and much tolerance to accept that the newcomers have different ways and that their integration will take time and effort.

    If they think they are Armenian, they are Armenian.

     

  5. Hamshil Armenians

    I was born of Armenian parents in the Middle East, father from Ashod and mother from Marash, both orphans. I need someone to tell me who is Armenian, what are the qulifications to be an Armenian and the hardest of all where do I decide where is my Armenia, the current one or Gharapagh or the historic Armenia.

    After I get my question answered I have to answer my conscience. Now I live in Canada, could not be attached to any country and call it this is my country Armenia. I am born and raised as christian Armenian and member of a few Armenian organisations. I wonder how and why Hamshil Armenian would feel and adabt and for how long would stay there.

    If my vote counts I vote to accept them; my brother in law does not. He is an old fashioned person, born and raised In Iran from pure non-orphan parents.

    Regards,     
                                                                      
    Noupar

     

    1. Reply to Noupar

      Since we have a very long history, including invasions and occupations by various empires from the east and the west, I doubt there’s a person who can claim to be "100% racially-pure Armenian." I know there’s preponderance of certain DNA and blood types among Armenians but those don’t mean there’s such an entity as "pure Armenian." As well, current Diaspora Armenians have a high rate of intermarriage. Are their offspring 50% Armenian?

      In my non-academic opinion, the answer can be found elsewhere: in culture and even more importantly, in commitment to the Armenian nation in the Diaspora or in the Republic of Armenia. If you say you are Armenian, are interested in Armenian affairs and you contribute (not necessarily with money) to the survival and prosperity of our nation, then you are Armenian.

      Years ago Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, was asked "who is an Arab?" He replied, "Whoever speaks Arabic." I don’t think this can apply to Armenians.

      One can be Armenian and Lebanese citizen; Armenian and French citizen; Armenian and Canadian citizen. As long as you are loyal to the country where you live, abide by its laws and pay your taxes, then there’s no clash in dual identity. However, as Armenians we expect more from our brethren and sisters because we are few, are frequently threatened by extinction, have a small homeland… An Italian, for example, can afford to become "100% Canadian" because he has no worries that the 60 million Italians would vanish tomorrow from Italy. We don’t have that freedom and luxury.

      Where is Armenia? There’s historic Armenia–a maximalist Armenia which stretches from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea. Dreams of recovering that land are unrealistic. However, most Armenians strongly believe Kars and Ardahan (some would say also the Six Villayets) should again become part of Armenia. When the Communists took over Armenia, our homeland included the current Armenia, Nakhichevan and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karapagh). Stalin gave Nakhichevan and Artsakh to Azerbaijan. During Soviet rule, Azeris, through persecution, emptied Nakhichevan of Armenians. Twenty years ago we recovered Artsakh by war. Right now our homeland has two political and contiguous entities–Republic of Armenia and the Artsakh Republic.

      Although they are mostly Muslim, some Hemshils are obviously unhappy in Muslim Kyrgyzstan. Returning to the motherland is a natural aspiration. They know Armenia/Artsakh are economically in bad shape and are threatened by Azerbaijan. They would be settling with their eyes open. That fact increases the chances that they would adapt and settle.

      You are right. We should welcome Hemshils. It’s not their "fault" that they have been away culturally, intellectually and geographically from their brother Armenians. Besides, when there’s the horrible exodus from Armenia, we need every Armenian returning home.

      1. Revisiting History

        Thanks for your time and effort for revisiting the Armenian history. We learned them without a textbook in high school. Everything was done with trusting the teacher that was the truth and yet a bit of history here and a bit there and if the student did not have the eagerness to learn then…..           

        regards,

        Noupar

    2. I don’t think anybody can tell

      I don’t think anybody can tell you who is Armenian, the answer is in you Mr. Noupar. If you say you are Armenian then you are an Armenian. One of course hopes and expects to see a proud Armenian, a model with universal standards.    

      Another way of defining who is an Armenian has to do with the history as a race. You may find tons of information on the internet as you already know! 

      In my view being an Armenian outside Armenia requires more responsibility to protect what we have.   

      Regarding Hemhins, your brother-in-law’s attitude doesn’t necessarily make him old-fashioned. We have to think of consequences, what good will it bring to Armenia. We should encourage whatever helps Armenia, that is the question we need to think about. Our research will help us decide, with free conscious, what we need to say about Hemshins. 

      My Regards,  

      Nigohos Beranian

       

       

  6. Homecoming

    It seems that only Canadian Armenians are interested in Hemshin  Armenians’ return to homeland. I have neither seen nor read anything in this regard in the USA.

    Why is that and how sad is it?

  7. Hamshen Armenians

    I have been fascinated by the Hamshens ever since I was informed of their plight. I believe we should be cautious in how we proceed. I would want to bring back into the fold all Armenians to live together but I have concerns about the religion aspect and the Hamshens themselves must understand the suspicion one may bear taking into consideration the memory of the genocide of 1915.

    It is time for our local communities to spearhead public meetings to have discussions on this matter, but to not drag their feet. What an interesting turn of events that could possibly be of benefit to Armenia and Karabagh.

    I reside in the USA.

  8. Quoting Raffi (1835-1888)

    I quote from our eminent novelist Hakob Melik Hakobian (Յակոբ ՄելիքՅակոբեան), better known by his pen name Raffi (Րաֆֆի), (1835-1888). Raffi is said to have valued our pagan gods because he thought they did not inhibit their adherents to resort to arm to protect the nation.
     
    I would like also to note that to our Hemsheli Armenians that I used the word Mohammedism instead of Islam knowing that Muslims may find the description offensive, because Raffi used that word.
     

    "We will unceasingly whip all those, whether Catholic, Apostolic, Protestant or Mohammedan who spread discord in our nation in the name of religion. We embrace our brethren, without alluding to their religion, who toll and strive to protect the rights of the Armenian nation. We are the children of one nation, the sons and daughters of one family. Religion that divided us once, now the love of our nation and the fatherland should unite us. Catholicism, Protestantism, even Mohammedism do not deprive an Armenian being an Armenian; neither does our Apostolic faith give us the right to call ourselves Armenians. We were Armenians when we were heathens, we remain Armenian even if we change our religion a thousand time.” 

  9. Time to Act (+n)

    I wholeheartedly believe in Viken L. Attarian’s call to action and let the Congress of Western Armenians initiate the creation of "resettlement fund" and let us enroll contributing individuals who believe in re-population of Artsakh / Armenia. If organizations believe in walking the talk let them come forward. I am from Iran and Western/Eastern Armenian cause is my cause.

  10. I would love to see all Armenians unified with their homeland

    I would love to see all Armenians unified with their homeland, and it’s important that any Armenian who has been forced to make a choice between life and death and become Muslim has to get her/his identity back.

    Hemshins ought to willingly agree to restore their faith as Christians I believe. There is no excuse that can make me accept the fact that any nation could be torched, slaughtered and prosecuted because of religion and forcing people to become Muslim. It’s very understandable Hemshins couldn’t chose their faith freely because they were converted to Islam under the threat of swords. We know they need time to comprehend the past and the present, but their goal ought to be getting back their identity as Christians. Hemshins remaining Muslim means rewarding barbarians who converted them to Islam.

    This present event is very fortunate. It’s an opportunity for all of us, especially for Hemshin Armenians. Times have changed and achieving justice is in Hemshins’ hands. They can judge these barbarians, think why and what happened to them as Hemshins, they were Christians and why they are Muslim now.

    May I add that I support peoples’ free will to chose to be Christian or Muslim or any other religion, but as indicated I am strongly against forcible conversion under threat of death.

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