Understanding Lebanese Armenians

Understanding Lebanese Armenians

Third in a three-part series.

Glendale News-Press
February 19, 2005

In the past weeks I have been looking at the relationships between
Armenian sub-groups. Now, I want to turn my attention to the Lebanese
Armenians, the last sub-group I will be discussing in this series.
Like the other two Armenian sub-groups, the Lebanese Armenian
community is isolated in its own enclave and members tend to group
with their “own kind.”

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic, in my opinion, about
Lebanese Armenians or “Arevmedahyes,” as they are known, is their very
distinctive dialect. Although the other groups speak in their own
dialects, the Lebanese Armenian dialect varies the most from the other

I cannot remember a time when the three groups ever came together for
a mutual goal. There has always been a divide among the sub-groups
regarding their actions and understanding.

Lebanese-Armenians have always seemed to me to be the more “patriotic”
and most proud Armenians of their culture. That is not to say that the
other two groups are not proud of their heritage, but the
Lebanese-Armenian community has always been involved with activism and
progressive politics.

I recently spoke with a Lebanese Armenian college friend of mine named
Natalie who shared with me some of her observations about the
sub-groups and their relationship to each other.

“I always thought that Arevmedahyes and Barskahyes [Iranian-Armenians]
which are both Spurkahyes [Diaspora Armenians] got along but were both
doing their own thing to benefit the Armenians acculturating as
opposed to assimilating in the U.S.,” Natalie said.

She said “own thing” referring to both groups working separately but
for the same cause. Natalie also said that the different dialects and
cultural differences of the two groups has fueled these Armenians to
go about upholding the Armenian culture in their own way —

Historically, Barskahyes and Lebanese-Armenians have had a positive
relationship even though they have gone about their own ways —
knowing they were striving to succeed for a common cause.

I do agree with Natalie’s thoughts about these sub-groups, but what
strikes me the most is that they still remain apart and have yet to
establish long-term relationships outside of community and cultural
activism. What keeps them apart in particular is their language or
dialectical disparity.

The dialects of the Barskahye and Arevmedahye sub-groups are on two
separate ends of the spectrum. I also asked Natalie what she thinks
about the relationship between Lebanese-Armenians and Hayastansis. She
said it is one where they intermingle and get along, but what sets
them apart from Lebanese-Armenians and even Barskahyes is their

The former groups are “more westernized in their train of thought,
since they did not grow up under the controlled government of
communism, as Hayastansis did,” Natalie said.

Another Lebanese-Armenian I spoke with, my cousin-in-law Hrant, also
agreed that the sub-groups are more cooperative and have just got used
to each other. Hrant said he had difficulty in the past understanding
the Barskahye dialect.

“I remember when I first came to the U.S. my only real problem was
understanding my sister’s Barskahye friends,” Hrant said. “But then I
mostly figured out their dialect.”

He also said that as a Lebanese-Armenian, he has noticed that the
sub-groups intermarry a lot more. For example, more Barskahye women
are marrying Lebanese-Armenian men.

Despite greater interaction between all three sub-groups, there is yet
still a divide when it comes to “intimate socializing,” he said.

“Most people still prefer to be with their own group,” said
Hrant. “Language, happens to be a prominent reason why Armenians in
general stick with their ‘own kind.'”

There is no denying that to coexist, language plays an important role
with the Armenian sub-groups. The only time when language is not an
issue is when Armenians of any sub-group speak in English, which in
turn the subject of disparity among the sub-groups fades out.

It seems unusual that when Armenian sub-groups speak another language
other than their own, they all become “Armenian” as one group. The
disparity becomes irrelevant.

So then does belonging to a sub-group give people a sense of a more
focused identity?

According to Hrant, “Time still tends to blend everything together
… ”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress