Armenians in America

The pioneers of Armenian immigration to the United States were young high school graduates who, beginning in 1834, arrived in small numbers in search of higher education at American universities.

Larger groups began arriving in the 1880s and 1890s to escape Ottoman Turkish oppression, especially the massacres of 1895-96. The influx of Armenian immigrants to the New World reached its peak in the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, when large numbers of Armenians living in Turkey were systematically persecuted, deported, and exterminated by the Ottoman regime.

Beginning in the 1950s, another wave of Armenian immigrants from Egypt came to America. In the 1970s, following civil war in Lebanon and revolution in Iran, as well as political unrest in other parts of the Middle East, Armenians from Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq began to immigrate to the United States. Immigration from Armenia itself was rare during that country's period under Soviet domination, but this has reversed in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of a free and independent Republic of Armenia.

The first Armenian Church was built in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1891. The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was established in 1898 by Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian, and the first Armenian cathedral in America, St. Vartan Cathedral, was consecrated in New York City in 1968.

There are about 1.5 million Armenians in the United States and Canada today. Major centers of Armenian population include New York City, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, and Glendale, CA. New Armenian immigrants from the former Soviet Union are causing growth in communities such as Kansas City and St. Louis, MO; Hartford, CT; Fargo, ND; Erie, PA; Chicago, IL; Jacksonville, FL; Brooklyn and Queens, NY; and Nashville, TN.

Where is the Armenian Church of America headquartered?
The Armenian Church in North America is divided into three dioceses. The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) is headed by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and oversees parishes from the Atlantic Coast to Texas. It is headquartered at St. Vartan Cathedral, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016; (212) 686-0710.

The Western Diocese, led by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, is at 3325 N. Glen Oaks Blvd., Burbank, CA 91504; (818) 558-7474. The Canadian Diocese, led by Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan, is headquartered at 615 Stuart Ave., Outremont, Quebec, H2V 3H2; (514) 276-9479.

Who is the Primate and what is his role?
The Primate is the head bishop of a diocese, who serves as the spiritual head and administrative head of the church. In the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), the Primate is Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.

Who chooses the Primate?
The diocesan Primate is chosen by a vote of Diocesan delegates (priests and lay community leaders elected by their parishes) during the Diocesan Assembly. The Primate serves a four-year term. The current primate, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, was first elected on Mary 5, 1990.