For those who have been reading my blog, you already know that I’m deeply proud of my Armenian heritage. But if you’re new to Book Club Babe, today is the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a horrific tragedy in which over 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks during World War I.
I won’t go into too much detail of the historical event, since I’ve already done so in last year’s post, but I encourage you to educate yourself on the genocide, given that Turkey, the United States, and many other countries still fail to recognize it as such.
But this year, I didn’t want to dwell on my ongoing frustration with the American government valuing military alliances over human rights. Instead, I wanted to share some fun facts on Armenians and their culture. It’s a shame that most of the world has never even heard of this country, met any of its amazing people, or eaten any of its delicious food!
So let’s jump right into the trivia!
10 Fun Facts about Armenia
1. Armenia is a tiny country, only about 11,500 square miles. That’s smaller than the state of Maryland!
2. Written records of the Armenian language date back to the 5th century CE. It has since evolved to have 38 letters, much to the dismay of Armenian-language learners.
3. And despite its tiny geographical size, two Armenian dialects exist: Eastern and Western. Some differences are seen in a swapping of letters, from b to p and k to g (For example, you say “hello” as “barev” in Eastern and “parev” in Western).
4. Armenians call their country “Hayastan,” which has led to the modern members of the diaspora to refer to themselves as “Hyes.” So if you see a bumper sticker declaring “Hye Pride”–no, it’s not a misspelled proclamation of drug abuse!
5. On the flip side, anyone who is not a “Hye” is called an “odar,” an outsider.
6. The national currency is the Armenian Dram. The rate as of today is $1 USD = $416 AMD.
7. Armenia officially achieved independence in 1991, after thousands of years of being controlled by “Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks, and Russians.”
8. The Armenian Genocide is a reminder of how different the country is compared to its neighbors. Labeled as everything from Eastern European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern, it’s difficult to explain its geograpical uniqueness. But to this day, it remains predominantly Christian, despite horrendous efforts to change that through ethnic cleansing.
9. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world’s oldest national church and observes Christmas on January 6th to coincide with the Epiphany. The Roman Catholic Church also observed this date until the 4th century CE when it allegedly changed the date to December 25th to undermine pagan winter solstice celebrations like Saturnalia.
10. There are some fabulous famous people of Armenian descent. The easiest way to tell is to spot surnames that end in “-ian” or “-yan,” which means “issued from-” So “Petrosian” is the Armenian version of “Peterson.”
Here’s a list of celebrities of Armenian heritage:
- Andre Agassi, tennis player
- Ross Bagdasarian, creator of “Alvin and the Chipmunks”
- Cher (Cherylin Sarkissian), singer/actress
- System of a Down, rock band
- Dita von Teese, burlesque artist
- Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. (adopted by Armenian woman, Clara Hagopian, who taught him the language)
- Princess Diana (ok, she’s only 1/64th Armenian, but once a Hye, always a Hye!)
So there’s plenty of other famous Armenians besides the Kardashians! (Thank goodness!)
Anyways, I hope that you learned a lot about my culture. Please share these fun facts with everyone you meet today to honor Armenian Genocide Memorial Day!