Did You Know? (15)

Saints Cyril and Methodius – Spiritual Fathers of Slavic Civilization

By Jirair Tutunjian, Toronto, 25 May 2022

Although Greeks argue its accuracy, some Armenian scholars say St. Cyril and his brother St. Methodius of Byzantium were Armenian. The two saints converted the Slavs to Christianity and invented their alphabet. The brothers were born in Thesaloniki to a Greek family of Armenian descent. Their baptismal names were Leon and Moria. Methodius was born in 826 and Cyril a year later. In 860 the brothers tried to convert the pagan Khazars to Christianity. Many Eastern European countries use the alphabet that the brothers invented. The alphabet is called Cyrillic—after its co-inventor St. Cyril.

During WWI, the Russians occupied part of Turkish Armenia with the help of Armenian volunteer units. In 1916, the Russian government disbanded the Armenian volunteer units. Gen. Nikolai Yudenich, who led the Russian army into the Armenian-populated areas of historic Armenia during the Caucasian campaign, proposed a plan to deport the Armenians from their homeland. The Russians considered repopulating the Armenian lands with Russian peasants and Cossacks.

In 2009 Russia launched a migration program called “Compatriots” which encouraged Armenians to settle in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians have since moved Russia. Some Russian sources say there are more Armenians in Russian than in Armenia.

In 1919-1920 Russia gave Turkey 20,000 gas masks, 63 million bullets, 39,000 rifles, 327 cannons, fuel, food, and 200 k of gold. Soon after, when Turkey attacked Armenia, the Red Army entered the fray to “rescue” Armenia.

Film and theatre impresario par excellence John Housman wrote in “Unfinished Business”: “The main responsibility for designing our physical productions fell upon a discovery of Lincoln Kirstein’s—a slender, elegant young man with the resonant Armenian name of Rouben Ter-Arutunian. He was born in Russia and reared in Germany; with his shaven head and the dark, liquid eyes of a doe, he resembled a figure in Persian miniature….he came up with a model that was startling in its simplicity and beauty and formed the basis of what came to be known as the ‘Festival Stage.’” Ter-Arutunian eventually became America’s leading theatrical and ballet set designer.

Al Bezzerides was a leading screen writer in the Forties and the Fifties. He was Greek-Armenian. A film book said: “Al Bezzerides was a powerfully built Armenian from Fresno, a friend of Saroyan, who had written two good, tough California novels…(He) combined an elaborate sensitivity with a strong macho streak.”

Famous Arabized Muslim Armenians who served Arab leaders and governments: Wardan, Anbasa Ibn Bahr Al Armany, Barmak Ibn Abdallah Al Dabily (from Tvin), Muhammad Ibn al Makheesy Al Makheesy al Khelaty (from Khelat), Muhammad Ibn Bashir Al Qaly (from Karin), Muhammad Ibn Wazr Al Qaly, Emir Ali Ibn Yahyah al Armany, Emir al Hossein Ibn Ali Ibn Yahyah Al Armany, Emir Muhammad Ibn Yahyah Al Armany, Yahyah Ibn Mahmood Ibn abi Al Hassan, Emir Badr Al Gamaly Al Armany, al Afdal Ibn Badr al Gamaly, Talaee IbnRazeek, Maamun Ahmad Ibn al Afdal Ibn Badr al Gamaly, Yanes, Badr al Deen Lulu. Several Armenians remained Christian (Bahram, abu Saleh al Armany). There were also prominent Armenian Muslim women. They were the mothers and daughters of the eminent Armenian Arab Muslim men.

Jesuits were the advance guard of Roman Catholic Church’s strategy to convert to Christianity the people of the Far East. A Jesuit priest named Murillo Velarde noted there were Armenians in Manila (Philippines) as early as in 1618.

In “The First Frangis” (“Business World,6/4/2015) author Jonathan Gil Harris wrote: “…but the most successful firangi (foreigner) business community in the 16th century [India] were probably the Armenians, who were invited to Mughal Hindustan by Akbar in large part because of their powerful connections from Central Asia to the Levant.”

Raoul Aslan (Tigran Aslanyan), born in Salonica (1881), moved to Vienna when he was 16. He soon became a well-known actor and leading figure in the city’s theatre scene. He was particularly celebrated for his roles as Hamlet and Mephistopheles. He eventually became director of the Vienna Burgtheatre. He died in Vienna in 1958.

Actor Gregoire Aslan (Krikor Calouste Aslanian) was born in Constantinople in 1908. He appeared in scores of American and French movies (Cleopatra, King of Kings, The Return of Pink Panther, The Devil at 4 O’Clock, Paris When it Sizzles, Our Man in Havana, Mr. Arkadin, Under Ten Flags, etc.) and starred with Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, Brigitte Bardot, Alec Guinness, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Peter Sellers, and many others. Aslan died in 1982.
Gauhar Jaan, the greatest female singer of Thumri and Khayal in India, was Armenian. Her baptismal name was Angelina Yeoward [Yedvart?]. As court singer, she sang for King George when the British king toured India.
  1. Do you have any evidence or citation regarding the possible Armenian heritage of these saints? I have not come across anything independent. Thank you

  2. I read it years ago that they descended from Armenian settlers. One evidence (that I remember) the writer offered was the profession of their father: it was a profession which Armenians dominated. I can’t recall where I read it. Sorry. Although many Armenians rose to the top of the empire, they were subjected to discrimination. Thus, Armenians often changed their names and joined the Greek Church. Even Armenian soldiers [Armenikon] who defended Byzantium’s eastern borders had to convert.

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