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Armenia is home to a number of well-known celebrities, artists, and sportsmen. We compiled a list of famous people whom you might not even know are Armenian. Even though most of them weren’t born in Armenia, they are of Armenian origin, thus bringing wide recognition to this small country of the Caucasus.
Kimberly Kardashian West doesn’t need much of an introduction. An American reality television personality and socialite, she was born in Los Angeles into a culturally diverse family. Her father is a third-generation Armenian-American, while her mother has Dutch, Irish, English, and Scottish heritage.
Kim first earned popularity in media as a friend of Paris Hilton, but she drew much wider attention when a sex tape of her and her ex-boyfriend Ray J leaked in 2007. In the same year, the E! channel debuted the television series Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which became a very successful reality show.
Over the years, Kardashian has become an influential online personality, with tens of millions of followers on social media channels. Additionally, she has released various products, including a mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood in 2014, different clothing lines and goods, and a photo book, Selfish, in 2015.
The father of Andre Kirk Agassi, the retired world-famous American tennis player and former world No. 1, claims to have Assyrian and Armenian heritage, whose ancestors had to change their surname from Aghassian to bypass persecution. Agassi was one of the most powerful players from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s.
Agassi is an eight-time Grand Slam champion and a 1996 Olympic gold medalist in singles tennis. Moreover, during the Open Era, he was the first male tennis player to win four Australian Open titles, breaking a record that was later bettered by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. After physical trauma, Agassi retired in 2006.
Cher, an American singer and actress, who is sometimes called the Goddess of Pop, she was born as Cherilyn Sarkisian in California. Her father was an Armenian-American truck driver.
The singer became popular in 1965 when the song “I Got You Babe,” sung by her and her husband (Sonny & Cher duo), reached the number one spot on British and American charts. Cher started her solo career simultaneously and released “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” a million-seller song in 1966. Cher is also known to the public as a television personality who hosted the shows The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and Cher.
Her album Believe, released in 1998, became the biggest-selling single of all time by a female artist in the UK. Throughout her career, Cher has won various awards including an Emmy, a Grammy, an Academy Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and a CFDA Fashion Award.
Considered the greatest chess player of all time, Garry Kimovich Kasparov is a former world chess champion, political activist, and writer. He was born as Garik Kimovich Weinstein in Baku, Azerbaijan into a Russian Jewish-Armenian family.
Until his retirement in 2005, Kasparov ranked as the world’s No. 1 chess player. His rating of 2851 reached in 1999 was the highest until Magnus Carlsen beat it in 2013. He holds records for continuous professional tournament triumphs and Chess Oscars.
He was the youngest player ever acknowledged as World Chess Champion at age 22, beating then-champion Anatoly Karpov in 1985; he held the official FIDE world title until 1993.
After retirement, he dedicated his time to writing and politics. He created the United Civil Front movement and joined The Other Russia, a party opposed to the administration of Vladimir Putin.
Aram Ilyich Khachaturian was a Soviet Armenian conductor and composer. Born and raised in Tbilisi, in an Armenian family, he moved to Moscow in 1921 after the Sovietization of the Caucasus region. His first major work, the Piano Concerto of 1936, gained him popularity both inside and outside of the Soviet Union. Some of this greatest compositions include the Anthem of the Armenian SSR, the Masquerade Suite, and three symphonies to name just a few.
Khachaturian is most famous for the ballet music of Spartacus and Gayane. His most notable work from Gayane – the Sabre Dance – has been widely used in modern culture by many musicians worldwide.
Sergei Parajanov, a Soviet artist and film director of Armenian origin, was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. He made important contributions to Soviet cinema through Georgian, Armenian, and Ukrainian cinema. He created his own cinematic style, which was completely outside of the guidelines of the USSR. It’s not a surprise that this, along with his controversial behavior and lifestyle, made Soviet authorities regularly imprison and persecute him, as well as suppress his films.
His Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors brought him international recognition, but was simultaneously attacked by the system. Almost all of this projects between 1965 and 1973 were forbidden, rejected, or censored by Soviet authorities.
Parajanov’s films gained worldwide recognition after his death in 1990 and earned him several prizes, including awards at the Istanbul International Film Festival, the Mar del Plata Film Festival, the Sitges – Catalan International Film Festival, and the São Paulo International Film Festival, to name a few.