KIM KARDASHIAN IS KEEPING UP WITH THE ARMENIANS
Dec 1 2011
THE photo of the curvaceous, dark-haired woman is passed from one set
of gnarled agricultural hands to another as an icy wind howls across
the frozen grassland.
“Kim Kardashian?” cattle farmer Cengiz Kesikkol, 42, says in
heavily-accented Turkish. “She is very beautiful, like the women in
our village – but we’ve never heard of her.”
With horse-drawn carts clip-clopping past tumbledown stone shacks,
remote Karakale is more like the fictional Borat movie than Los
Angeles’ Beverly Hills.
Yet it was from this poverty-blighted village on the Eastern
Europe/Southwest Asia border that Californian reality TV star Kim’s
God-fearing family fled as the storm clouds of one of history’s
greatest tragedies swirled.
Now, for the first time, The Sun can reveal the Kardashian family’s
incredible journey from membership of an obscure Christian sect in this
snow-capped wilderness to reality TV stars in just four generations.
Armenian-American Kim – who famously featured in an internet sex
“tape” – has often spoken proudly of her roots.
The 31-year-old whose marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries ended in
October after just 72 days, once revealed: “I was raised with a huge
Armenian influence, always hearing stories of Armenia, celebrating
“My father taught us to never forget where we came from.”
Today, life in the Kardashian’s home village of Karakale – in east
Turkey close to the Armenian border – appears to have changed little
since the Middle Ages.
Some 500 Muslim farmers eke out a meagre living making cheese and
growing root vegetables on the frozen wastes while women in headscarves
rise early to milk the herds of dairy cows by hand.
But a look at the well-built village mosque tells a story from
Farmer and dad-of-five Salman Gopur, 60, showed us his 135-year-old
cottage and revealed: “The mosque was once a church many years ago.
Christians used to live in the village but not now.”
I asked Salman if there had been bloodshed. An AK47-toting soldier
motioned to him not to answer.
In fact, Karakale was once an ethnic Armenian village. Salman’s shack
may even have been the home to Kim Kardashian’s great grandad.
Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, from 1878 to 1917 the village
and the surrounding province of Kars was ruled by Russia.
The Tsars offered land to peasants in this new borderland and some
migrants brought with them the Molokan Christian faith.
Many of Karakale’s Armenian villagers came under the sway of a branch
of Molokan teaching whose faithful were known as Jumpers.
So-called because some members leapt in the air with hands held up
during a religious service, Jumpers believed in the power of prophecy.
In July 1896, Jumpers Sam and Harom Kardaschoff – a Russian spelling
of the Armenian name Kardashian – became proud parents to a little
boy called Tatos – Kim’s great grandfather.
But in 1915 a bloodshed which Armenians call the Great Calamity swept
across the eastern plains of what is now Turkey. Many historians call
it the Armenian Genocide.
Ottoman Turks deported Armenians to the Syrian desert. Thousands were
butchered or died from starvation or disease.
The number of Armenians who died is disputed but the International
Association of Genocide Scholars claim it was “more than a million”.
Armenians who remained in Turkey were forced to convert to Islam,
Christians who refused were herded into barns which were set on fire.
Some 20 countries have recognised the genocide but Britain and the
US have declined so as not to upset Turkey, a Nato ally.
Early this year Kim wrote: “It’s time to recognise the Armenian
“Until this crime is resolved, the Armenian people will live with
the pain of what happened to their families.”
Karakale itself became part of Armenia after Russia’s 1917 revolution,
before becoming officially part of Turkey in 1921.
So how did the Kardashians escape the genocide horrors?
They, like many Armenian Jumpers, listened to an 11-year-old “boy
prophet” Efim Gerasemovitch Klubniken, who, in 1852, had urged them
to flee to escape a tragedy.
Wrapping up … local women sport headscarves in snowy Karakale He
identified Los Angeles on a map – some 7,000 miles away – as the
place to head. People began to flee in the early 20th Century.
Sam and Harom Kardaschoff, with their son Tatos and his siblings,
fled in the autumn of 1913 – just before the bloodshed.
Once in LA, Tatos anglicised his name to Tom, started a business in
rubbish collection and married another Karakale Jumper immigrant,
Short-lived marriage … Kim Kardashian and her husband of 72 days,
Kris Humphreys The family moved into the meat-packing business,
becoming hugely wealthy through grit and hard work. The couple’s
son Arthur – alive today at 94 – and Armenian wife Helen built up
Arthur – father to Kim’s dad Robert – was said to have had the largest
meat-packing company in southern California.
Robert, who died of esophageal cancer in 2003, became a celebrity
lawyer and married Kim’s American mum Kris. Kim’s socialite siblings –
Khloe, Kourtney and Rob – have all featured in TV’s Keeping Up With
Rural … Turkish farmers herd cattle in Karakale, a formerly Armenian
village Richard G. Hovannisian, Professor of Armenian and near Eastern
history at the University of California, said: “It’s amazing the
family have gone from the ultra religious Jumpers to Kim Kardashian
in such a short period of time.”
On my visit to Karakale, locals were initially very wary, but after
assuring them I was a journalist, they were soon welcoming.
Entrepreneurs … Kim’s grandfather Arthur Kardashian on the day
of his wedding to Helen Huseyin Aslanbenzer, 55, who runs one of the
village’s two tiny shops selling sugar, pasta and chocolates, insisted:
“We don’t have much here but we are happy.”
Mayor Atilla Gopur, 42, said the villagers arrived in Karakale from
neighbouring Georgia after the Armenians had fled.
The dad-of-three, who has ten milking cows, said: “It’s a big surprise
Kim Kardashian is from our village – but we would love her to come