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Iran: Armenians
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > People and Languages > Armenians


Armenians, a non-Muslim minority that traditionally has lived in northwestern Iran adjacent to the historic Armenian homeland located in what today are eastern Turkey and Soviet Armenia, speak an Indo- European language that is distantly related to Persian. There were an estimated 300,000 Armenians in the country at the time of the Revolution in 1979. There has been considerable emigration of Armenians from Iran since, although in 1986 the Armenian population was still estimated to be 250,000. In the past there were many Armenian villages, especially in the Esfahan area, where several thousand Armenian families had been forcibly resettled in the early seventeenth century during the reign of the Safavid ruler, Shah Abbas. By the 1970s, the Armenians were predominantly urban. Approximately half lived in Tehran, and there were sizable communities in Esfahan, Tabriz, and other cities. The Armenians tend to be relatively well educated and maintain their own schools and Armenian-language newspapers.

Most Armenians are Gregorian Christians, although there are some Roman Catholic and Protestant Armenians as a result of European and American missionary work in Iran during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Armenian Orthodox Church is divided between those who give their allegiance to the patriarch based at Echmiadzin, near Yerevan in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, and those who support his rival, the patriarch of Cicile at Antilyas, near Beirut in Lebanon. Since 1949 a majority of Armenian Gregorians have followed the patriarch of Cicile. Clergy from Soviet Armenia were at one time active among the Iranian Armenians and had some success in exploiting their sense of community with their coreligionists in the Soviet Union. Several thousand Armenians emigrated from Iran to Soviet Armenia during World War II, and, except for occasional interruptions by one government or another, such emigration has continued. There has also been steady emigration of Iranian Armenians from Iran to the United States.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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