Western Armenia is the western area of the Armenian Highlands, situated in the eastern part of Turkey, near the borders with Azerbaijan, Iran and Armenia itself. Although the Western Armenian diaspora is scattered all over the world, various dialects and variations of the Western Armenian language are spoken as unofficial languages in the likes of Georgia, parts of the Middle East and, understandably, Turkey.
Western Armenia emerged when the area considered the historical Armenian homeland was split, with the Eastern side falling under the Sasanian Empire and the west within the Byzantine Empire in the 1st century. In the mid 16th century Western Armenia fell under Ottoman rule where it remained until the breakout of the First World War. The region and its people were victim to widespread massacres in the late 19th century, as well as the disputed Armenian Genocide in 1915. While the number of total deaths is difficult to ascertain, the massacre deaths are estimated at anything up to 300,000, while the genocide may have claimed the lives of as many as 1.5 million people.
The Caucasus Campaign by the Russians during the First World War saw most areas of the Ottoman Empire fall under their temporary control, until the Republic or Turkey was formed in 1919. The Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 designated Armenia as an official state, but the area considered Western Armenia, or Ottoman Armenia, became part of Turkey, where it has remained ever since.
As it stands, Armenia has no political power or official claim to Western Armenia and it remains part of Turkey. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) is a socialist party that was founded in present day Georgia in the late 19th century, but operates in Armenia as well as countries with an Armenia diaspora, including Turkey. The party is a strong supporter of Armenian nationalism, campaigning for a united Armenia (that includes Western Armenia) and the recognition of the Armenian genocide that they maintain occurred under the Ottoman Empire (and latterly, Turkey) from 1914 to 1923.
The ARF also publish a number of newspapers (in Western Armenian, Eastern Armenian and English), predominantly in North America and the Middle East, as well as two television channels in Armenia, the US and Canada.
Western Armenia are competing at the 2018 CONIFA World Cup, here’s everything you need to know about the tournament.
The Armenian Genocide has scattered the Western Armenian population, with the majority of ethnic Armenians leaving the area and settling in Istanbul (on the other side of the country). Most speak Turkish as their first language, with less than 20% speaking Armenian, and even less using the Western dialect.
Turkey also has a population of “Crypto Armenians” or “Hidden Armenians”, which is a term applied to those ethnic Armenian communities who hid and converted to Islam to conceal their ethnicity in an attempt to escape genocide, the majority of which live in Western Armenia today.