Forwarded from Eurolang: Armenians in Transylvania

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Aug 9 16:27:51 UTC 2004

Armenian dedication festival held in Szamosjvr/Gherla, Transylvania
Kolozsvr / Cluj 7/27/2004 , by Aron Ballo

[Note: (hs)  my email system doesn't copy accented vowels or consonants,
so many of the names in the following have been truncated. See original
for full accentuation at:]

The Armenian language, which faces severe endangerment in Transylvania,
was used at a dedication festival in Szamosjvr/Gherla. The ethnic
Armenians celebrated the Feast of St. Gregory in Szamosjvr at the end of
June. Participants included believers of the Armenian Catholic Church, but
also personalities from the ethnic Armenian and the Hungarian Armenian

There are two different ethnic Armenian communities in Romania. The
so-called Hungarian Armenians were settled by Prince Mihly Apafi I in
Translyvania in 1672, seeking refuge from the Tartars. Their other
community, the ethnic Armenians in eastern and southern Romania, came
either as merchants or as refugees from the Turkish pogroms in 1915. They
are believers of the Armenian Church and many of them speak Armenian.

The protestant Prince intended that the Hungarian Armenians who followed
an eastern rite of Christianity be converted to Protestantism. The
Armenians refused this. Instead the compromise was to become subjects to
the Pope by creating the special Armenian Catholic Church for them. These
Armenians settled down in some smaller towns and villages in Transylvania,
concentrating in Szamosjvr, called by them Armenopolis.

Gradually their language has fell out of usage and most of them speak
Hungarian today. They stick to their Armenian roots, but they have an
ethnic Hungarian identity as well.

On 25 June, in the splendid baroque Armenian Catholic cathedral which
hosts one of Rubens paintings, in the centre of Szamosjvr, the
representatives of both communities prayed both in Armenian and Hungarian
at Mass. It was led by Attila Pusks, Roman Catholic Vicar of Transylvania
(Gyulafehrvr / Alba Iulia), Parson of the Armenian Catholics in
Gyergyszentmikls/Gheorgheni, and the last clergyman left who still speaks
Armenian in Transylvania.

We understood his liturgy in Hungarian, but we felt it in Armenian, head
of the Armenian Self-Government in Budapest , Sarolta Issekutz, said in a
letter to the local press.

President Varujan Vosganian of the Armenian Union of Romania, a member of
the more recent ethnic Armenian community, and a well known liberal
politician, was also present at the festival.

He is known for his being critical of the Hungarian-speaking Armenians, as
he would encourage the members of his community to speak Armenian or
Romanian. His attitude illustrates the linguistic, religious and cultural
difference between the two Armenian communities that has led to a certain
tension between them.

However, the festival was an opportunity to find their common roots and
mutual values. Archbishop of Transylvania Gyrgy Jakubinyi stressed that
the festival was an important opportunity at a time when local Armenians
came home to meet.

The choir of the local church, as well as Jlia Kirksa, an opera singer of
an Armenian descent from the nearby Kolozsvr, sang traditional Armenian
songs. The Transylvanian Armenian Roots Cultural Association also opened
an exhibition of 13th to 14th century codices written in the special
Armenian alphabet which the Armenians brought with them to Transylvania.

For more about Armenians in Transylvania see:

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