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28 June 2011

Jews of Armenia

The history of the Jewish community of Armenia dates back over 2,000 years. The first Jews to settle in Armenia were a large community that arrived in the 1st Century B.C.E., most of whom settled in the city of Vartkesaven. Later King Tigranes II the Great brought with him 10,000 Jewish captives to Armenia, when he retreated from Palenstine. By the middle of the 4th century there was a large amount of Jews who had moved into Armenia, enough so that many towns were predominantly Jewish. It was also during this time that many Jews were deported to Iran by the Persian Shapur II.
While there are some remnants of an ancient burial ground in the city of Eghegis dating back into the 1200's, the Jews didn't begin returning to Armenia until the 1800's. Jewish settlers arrived from Poland and Persia, bringing both Ashkenasic and Sephardic Jews to Armenia. In some cities, such as Yerevan both communities were established.
During World War II many displaced Jews arrived in Armenia, bringing the Jewish population over 5,000. Later the Jewish community doubled in size again as Jews arrived from Russia and the Ukraine in the 1960's.
At this time a family of Jews who trace their ancestry into Armenia have donated their records to the Knowles Collection and will soon be added to the database.

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