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But Why Glendale? A History of Armenian Immigration to Southern California



Despite its many contributions to Los Angeles, the internally complex community of Armenian Angelenos remains enigmatically absent from academic print. As a result, its history remains untold. While Armenians live throughout Southern California, the greatest concentration exists in Glendale, where Armenians make up a demographic majority (approximately 40 percent of the population) and have done much to reconfigure this homogenous, sleepy, sundown town of the 1950s into an ethnically diverse and economically booming urban center. This article presents a brief history of Armenian immigration to Southern California and attempts to explain why Glendale has become the world's most demographically concentrated Armenian diasporic hub. It does so by situating the history of Glendale's Armenian community in a complex matrix of international, national, and local events.
But Why Glendale? A History
of Armenian Immigration to
Southern California
ABSTRACT Despite its many contributions to Los Angeles, the internally complex community of Armenian
Angelenos remains enigmatically absent from academic print. As a result, its history remains untold.
While Armenians live throughout Southern California, the greatest concentration exists in Glendale, where
Armenians make up a demographic majority (approximately 40 percent of the population) and have done
much to reconfigure this homogenous, sleepy, sundown town of the 1950s into an ethnically diverse and
economically booming urban center. This article presents a brief history of Armenian immigration to Southern
California and attempts to explain why Glendale has become the worlds most demographically concen-
trated Armenian diasporic hub. It does so by situating the history of Glendales Armenian community in
a complex matrix of international, national, and local events. KEYWORDS: California history, Glendale,
Armenian diaspora, immigration, U.S. ethnic history
Los Angeles contains the most visible Armenian diaspora worldwide; however, it has
received virtually no scholarly attention. The following pages begin to shed light on this
community by providing a prefatory account of Armenianshistorical immigration to
and settlement of Southern California. The following begins with a short history of
Armenian migration to the United States. The article then hones in on Los Angeles,
where the densest concentration of Armenians in the United States resides; within the
greater Los Angeles area, Armenians make up an ethnic majority in Glendale. To date,
the reasons for Armenianssudden and accelerated settlement of Glendale remains
unclear. While many Angelenos and Armenian diasporans recognize Glendale as the
epicenter of Armenian American habitation, no one has yet clarified why or how this
came about. Prior to the 1960s, only a handful of Armenians resided in the ethnically
2FALL 2017
California History, Vol. 94, Number 3, pp. 219, ISSN 0162-2897, electronic ISSN 2327-1485. © 2017 by the Regents of the
University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content
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homogenous and notoriously prejudicial community. However, at present, approxi-
mately 40 percent of Glendalespopulationofover200,000residentsclaimsArmenian
ancestry. To be sure, Armenians inhabit several locales scattered throughout Greater
Los Angeles and several communities throughout the United States. But there exists no
explanation as to why Glendale has become the epicenter of the Armenian community
outside Armenia. Based on interviews, archives, and census data, I explore the multi-
layered settlement of Armenians in Southern California, particularly in Glendale.
While this article attempts to document Armenianshistorical immigration to and
settlement of Southern California, it also analyzes these phenomena from various per-
spectives. Armenian history is often told through a limited prism, one that reflects the
internal dynamics of the community in question. However, this articlesfindingsreflect
the diverse and dialectic variables through which residents shape their communities and
their communities shape them. Armenians represent an important part of Los Angeless
history, and this article is a first attempt to explore the internally diverse Armenian
Angeleno community.
Armeniansresidency in the United States dates back to the American colonial period. The
first person identified as Armenian in the New World came, most likely, in 1618 or 1619.
Referred to as Martin the Armenian,this early Armenian immigrant is mentioned several
times in the available records until 1624, at which time, presumably, Martin returned to
England with the tobacco he had grown in Virginia.
Several other Armenians followed
Martin to Virginia, and their contributions are recorded in various spheres from the mid-
seventeenth century onward. By the 17
century, Armenians were already renowned for their
silk-weaving production.
As such, early colonial figures sought expertise from Armenians
abroad around 1653.
One of these Armenians, George the Armenian,has been eulogized
in print. John Ferrer endorses early Armenian settlers thus:
His two Armenians from Turky sent
Are now most busy on his brave attempt
And had he stock sufficient for next yeare
Ten thousand pound of Silk would then appeare
And to the skies his worthy deeds upreare.
Despite their numerical and cultural insignificance, the handful of early Armenian settlers,
as one scholar observes, played a mythological role for a later generation of immigrant
Armenians . . . to feel part of American history; like Yankee bluebloods, they too possessed
deep roots in America.
Thus, Armenians have been woven into Americas multicultural
fabric from the very outset.
Armenian migration to North America grew more conspicuously in the nineteenth
century. Students and clergymen migrated to the United States for largely educational
purposes in the first third of the century. In addition, a smattering of businesspeople
moved to the industrializing city centers of the United States; and, toward the end of the
century, rural Armenians migrated in larger numbers than they had previously.
In fact,
by the late nineteenth century, approximately 5,000 Armenians had immigrated to the
United States.
As their situation at home became increasingly vulnerable under
Ottoman control, these numbers increased substantially during the first two decades of
the twentieth century. Although the number of immigrants varied by year (with a rather
significant decrease occurring on account of World War I), 1921 alone brought over 10,000
Armenians to U.S. territory.
By World War II, approximately 80,000 Armenians had
relocated to the United States. A considerable portion came directly or indirectly from
Ottoman territory, where they faced considerable hardship and peril.
However, several
also emigrated from Russian territories. On account of voyage expenses, only families
with the means to send at least one member could make the trip. However, as the cost
to transit between New York and Constantinople dropped during the first years of the
twentieth century, an increasing number could afford passage.
As indicated, most Armenians docked in New York (although smaller groupings docked
in Boston, Philadelphia, Mexico, Canada, and other locations), and, as a result, settled in the
Northeast. However, a small number starting in the twentieth century entered via California
as well. Those reaching Californian ports often had come from Japan or China traveling via
Russia and Siberia.
Armenian immigration to the United States in the first fifteen years of the twentieth
century fluctuated dramatically on account of the political unrest in the unraveling Ottoman
Empire. The Young Turk movement initially recruited and then persecuted Armenians
in various locations throughout Turkey. While the recruitment neutralized emigration,
persecution accelerated it. Overall, the number of Armenians residing in the United States
increased exponentially during the period leading up to World War I. Most estimates claim
that roughly 1,500 Armenians came to the United States prior to 1891; an additional 12,500
Armenians are said to have come between 1891 and 1898; and, rather strikingly, nearly
52,000 arrived between 1899 and 1914.
Thus, by the start of World War I, approximately
66,000 Armenians had relocated to the United States.
These numbers continued to expand (indeed, between 1920 and 1924, more than
20,000 arrived) until 1924, when the quota system came into effect.
This system,
maintained until 1965, significantly curtailed the ingress of Armenians resettling in
the United States. Some exceptions to the quota, however, did exist: those Armenians
who could procure Nansen passports (documents supplied to refugees by the League
of Nations) found a means by which to relocate.
In addition, the American National
Committee for Homeless Armenians (ANCHA) helped place approximately 4,500 Soviet
Armenians who found themselves stuck in Germany or Italy following the Second World
War. The Displaced Persons Act exempted these displaced persons(DPs). The DPs are
revisited in the discussion below, for many of them settled in Los Angeles. Taken as a
whole, ANCHA intervened on behalf of 25,000 Armenian refugees from various places
throughout the world despite the quotas otherwise placed on many prospective immi-
grants in the mid-twentieth century.
Restrictive immigration policies in the United
States curtailed the incremental increase, with fewer than 10,000 Armenians entering
the country between 1925 and 1949. These numbers did not begin to grow again until
4FALL 2017
While there existed a concentration in and around factories scattered throughout the
Northeast (with the largest concentrations in industrial cities such as Worcester, Boston,
Watertown, Lynn, and Lowell), Armenians were also found in a variety of other places and
in a variety of other capacities: they worked in silk in Rhode Island and New Jersey,
railroads and electricity in New York, coal mines in Pennsylvania, iron and steel in Illinois,
automobiles in Michigan (Detroit), slaughter yards in Illinois (Chicago), furniture in Wisconsin,
steel and cement in Southern California, and so on.
Thus, Armenians began planting roots
and forming communities in various places from the outset of the twentieth century.
While residing in the eastern United States, Armenian immigrants, like most twentieth-
century immigrants, worked in factories. However, many Armenians, especially those com-
ing from Ottoman territory, had been trained in farming and agriculture. Thus, when they
had the opportunity to do so, many opted to venture west, where they could use their skills
in a new, more promising milieu.
While most Armenian immigrants worked in manufacturing and industrial capacities,
some, as mentioned above, brought with them talent in farming and viniculture. Although
they lived in various places throughout California from the late nineteenth century onward,
the most concentrated and significant settlement arose first in Fresno. Mirak documents this
early settlement in his book Torn between Two Lands (1983). In this text, he chronicles the
auspicious timing of ambitious Armenians who moved to Fresno just as the fallow fields
blossomed into a prosperous agricultural center on account of the irrigation and railroad
tracks that had recently been laid.
The first clustering of Fresno Armenians arrived in the
1870s. Consistent with the entrepreneurial spirit associated with early Armenian settlers, the
first Armenians to settle in Fresno were talented business owners. The Seropian family came
in the hope that the climate might improve the health of the familys paterfamilias, John.
Once settled, they opened a general store in the 1880s.
During their time in Fresno, the
Seropians dabbled in the fruit industry, coffee shops, grocery stores, dried fruit packaging,
goods shipment, among other enterprises. Their business ventures brought them attention
not only among other Fresnans, but also among other Armenians scattered throughout the
United States. Seeing the opportunities available in Fresno, Armenians began to follow the
Seropianswestward ambitions.
The Seropians and other early Fresnan Armenian settlers (such as Stepan Shahamirian
and Melkon Markarian) dabbled in agriculture on land both rented and purchased. Their
land acquisitions provided space for subsequent Fresnan Armenians to inhabit. The vast
majority of early Armenian settlers migrated to Fresno from other parts of the United States.
LaPieres 1930 study states that 84 percent of early Armenian settlers had moved to Fresno
after living, on average, 5.7 years in some other U.S. city beforehand.
And Armenians
continued to come in large numbers. By the outbreak of World War I, 10,000 were estimated
to reside in Fresnomaking up about 25 percent of the countys minority population.
Outbidding competitors, newly settled Armenians acquired lands to cultivate grapes, melons,
figs, and other fruits. By 1904, Armenians farmed more than 10,000 acres of land that they
While farming was by no means their only occupation, Fresnan Armenians gained
the most prominence (and, later, notoriety) in this occupational field. And the prominence
came not only from landholding, but also from capital gain: prior to the Nineteenth
Amendments prohibitions on alcohol consumption in 1919, prices for raisins soared
and Armenian viniculturalists began to amass great wealth. With this wealth, they pur-
chased more property and expanded their business ventures. Although this inflation
plummeted in the 1920s, Armenians had already established themselves as a permanent
fixture of the thriving agricultural scene of Fresno and its environs.
AndFresnoprovedaboonformanyArmenian farmers, not only those in grapes and
raisins. The first and only U.S.-based Armenian community, Yettemabout forty miles
southeast of Fresnodeveloped a commercial pistachio orchard; the first Armenian mil-
lionaire in California, Krikor Arakelian, also known as the Melon King,led melon pro-
duction; and the Markarians cornered a substantial portion of the fig market20 percent
of U.S. production.
This early period proved a truly fecund moment in Armenian
economic mobilization. Even after the farming industry began to decline, post-genocide
Armenians who settled in and around Fresno continued to buy up and cultivate land.
While their fortunes were often less auspicious than their predecessors,farmingin
Fresno still proved a striking improvement from what they had only recently survived.
In addition, agriculture didnt require native familiarity with the local institutions, prac-
tices, or language, which also favorably oriented many newly arrived Fresnan Armenians to
Armenian residence also expanded beyond Fresno. Other communities quickly sprouted
in the environs of this fertile soil. Just as Armenianssettlement of the northeastern United
States or Southern California proved diffuse, so too was their settlement of Northern
California. Even now, there are Armenian churches in Fresno, Yettem, Fowler, Reedley,
and Wahtoke. Although these smaller communities have gradually declined, they testify
to the geographical breadth of Armenian settlement and ambition in the early twentieth
These early Fresno Armenians overcame adversity and prospered in the face of unfamiliar-
ity, prejudice, and competition.
As Mirak describes them, Because of their business abili-
ties, work ethic, frugal living, and good management, all in a generally prosperous economic
climate, the Armenians in and around Fresno achieved considerable success before World
War I.
Their success is reflected in the number of local institutions they created
churches, schools, newspapers, restaurants, and many other establishments. This impressive
community established a precedent of achievement for California Armenians after them.
To be sure, throughout this period, Armenians had already begun to establish residence
in Southern California; however, they remained a comparatively quiescent population in the
early part of the twentieth century. No one would likely have anticipated that, shortly after
the Second World War, the central node of Armenian diasporic activity would shift so rapidly
to various sites throughout Los AngelesPasadena, Boyle Heights, Montebello, Hollywood,
and, most strikingly, Glendale.
While the growth of Los Angeless Armenian community is largely associated with political
tumult in the Middle East and Russia in the latter half of the twentieth century, Armenians,
in smaller numbers, inhabited the city much earlier. They worked in various capacities.
6FALL 2017
Among the first were artisans who set up carpet shops in Los Angeles and Pasadena. As the
Seropians had perceived in Fresno a more salutary climate, these entrepreneurs, such as the
Pashigian brothers of Pasadena, typically moved westward for mercantile opportunity in
established communities in the late nineteenth century. And, as before, these were trailblaz-
ing and ambitious individuals. While their numbers were small, their businesses often
became rooted in the citys establishments. The aforementioned Pashigiansrug business,
for example, still operates in central Pasadena.
Among the firstthe so-called Russian Armenians”—came to Los Angeles at the
turn of the twentieth century. Their history is closely aligned with that of the Russian
Dukhobors and Molokans. These groups had been persecuted in Russia since the late
eighteenth century.
In 1895, Czar Nicholas II persecuted the Dukhobors residing in
the Caucasus on account of their refusal to serve in the royal military.
Among those
persecuted included a group of 4,000 who were forcibly relocated to Armenian and
Georgian villages. After living in close proximity to Armenians for several years, many
social ties had been forged. In 1898, after securing financial and political relief (from
the likes of Count Tolstoy and others), many sailed, ultimately, for Winnipeg, Canada.
Transnational circulations, such as letters, eventually resulted in the chain migration of
other Dukhobors, as well as their Armenian neighbors, to Canada in subsequent years.
From Canada, many Dukhobors relocated to Los Angeles. And, as such, when the Russian
Armenians arrived in Canada, several followed.
In addition, economic hardship and in-
creasing conflict (in the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Russo-Tartar Wars of 1905
1907) increased Russian Armenian emigration from the Caucasus to the New World,
and, ultimately, to Los Angeles, in the first decade of the twentieth century. This small
group of Russian Armenians was among the first in Greater Los Angeles (most promi-
nently in Riverside).
Several of the original Russian Armenians settled in the ethnically diverse community of
Boyle Heights. This neighborhood attracted diverse new settlers since it had streetcars
giving commuters access to downtown Los Angeles.
Its ethnic diversity earned it
the moniker the Ellis Island of New York.In addition, affluent landholders subdivided
their estates and began renting them to recent immigrants at relatively affordable rates.
Boyle Heightss population expanded considerably in the opening decades of the twenti-
eth century; this expansion included Russian Armenians (and Russian Molokans) as well
as Jews, Mexicans, and African Americans. The Russian Armenians brought knowledge
and the wherewithal to ease their transition into the rapidly expanding American metrop-
olis. Indeed, Los Angeless population doubled (577,000 to 1.24 million) in the 1920s
It was in these settlement pockets that a sense of Armenian presence began to
Even before the mid-twentieth century, however, the distinct migratory streams lent
themselves to an intra-ethnically diverse community. The lack of institutional and organi-
zational infrastructure inhibited this regionally diverse population from cohering as an
ethnic community. A slow trickle of descendants of genocide survivors from the Ottoman
Empire (via various locations), displaced persons from the Soviet Union, and political ref-
ugees from the Middle East relocated to Los Angeles. Not only were they culturally divided,
but they settled in distinct areas within the city: Pasadena, Montebello, Beverly Hills, etc.
As the historian Richard Hovannisian (himself a 1960s internal immigrant from Fresno to
Los Angeles) shared in an interview:
The community largely consisted of two parts. One was old, [the] Ottoman Armenian community.
Some of them had come earlier, very early on to LA. But others of [them] had gone to Fresno and
bought farms, but then, during the Great Depression, they couldnt make their payments. So they
were foreclosed upon. And many of those people moved to LA and became small-shop proprietors,
for the most partmom and pop grocery stores, photo engraving, a number of other things. So
they were the bulk of the community. They got things moving here in Los Angeles. But there was
also another part of the community that had come very early on, around the turn of the 20C, the
so-called Russian Armenians,who came from the region of Alexandropol, Gyumri, and Kars. . ..
So these people concentrated in East Los Angeles, and they were sort of exotic because they did
Caucasian dances, and all the other things that we have now become accustomed to. But, for us
Western Armenians, it was quite different because we were more sedate than they were. And it was
in those years also that, even in the 50s, that the community got strong enough on its feet that it
began to organize groups outside the church.
The foresight of several early figures provided the organizational infrastructure upon which
to begin the difficult task of organizing and collectivizing this diverse, dispersed population.
These figures, including people such as Mateos Ferrahian, Alex Pilibos, Gabriel Injejikian,
Kirk Kerkorian, and Arshag Dickranian, built the infrastructure necessary for Armenians to
establish a foothold in Los Angeles. To be sure, as the discussion below will reflect, sub-
sequent waves of Armenians from the Middle East, post-Soviet countries, and Armenia
would diversify this already complex society; however, these early visionaries established
Armenian schools, churches, businesses, and so onthe ethnic organizations and platforms
necessary for the establishment of an Armenian Angeleno community.
Before Glendale, Hollywood was home to the greatest concentration of Armenians in Los
Angeles in the latter half of the twentieth century. This community was the first to concen-
trate sufficient numbers to resemble an Armenian enclave. The communitys contributions
are pervasive: restaurants, shops, schools, churches, etc. While Armenians from a variety of
places settled in Hollywood prior to Glendales surge, many have since left. Newcomers in
the 1960s came to Hollywood in order to join co-ethnics. While Armenians had settled in
Hollywood much earlier in the twentieth century, a significant wave came in the 1970s as
Soviet dissidents. A second wave occurred in the 1980s and continued with the fall of the
Soviet Union (with the establishment of an independent Republic of Armenia). This com-
munity became the ultimate destination for many post-Soviet Armenians (as well as others),
who brought a distinct set of cultural and political orientations. But its urban culture
appealed increasingly less to Armenian newcomers. As Hollywoods urbanization increased
in the 1960s through the 1980s, its appeal to many newcomer Armenians decreased com-
mensurately. By the 1980s, the impetus had clearly shifted to Glendale and surrounding
Nonetheless, before this shift took place, Hollywoods Armenian community had
accomplished a lot. Hollywood Armenians concentrated their energies in several fields,
many of which expanded considerably over the twentieth century. Areas of salient contri-
bution included commerce and automobiles. Armenians became involved in several pre-
existing industries and mobilized commercially. Armenianspride in their contributions
8FALL 2017
gave rise to a district becoming named, perhaps a bit anachronistically, Little Armenia
in October 2000. Seeing the district named Thai Town,a community member, Garo
Keurjikian, and owner of an automotive company remonstrated to city councilmember
Jackie Goldberg. Goldberg urged the Armenian community to procure 10,000 votes in
favor of representation. Through community outreach, the signatures were acquired and
the designation assigned. This designation represents Armeniansimprint on the city,
even as its Armenian community has waned in recent years.
While Glendale has more recently become the epicenter of Armenian institutional and
political incorporation, most Armenian commercial franchises or chains originated in Hol-
lywood: the popular restaurant chain Zankous Chicken and the franchise grocery outlet
Jons, for example, began in Hollywood. Armenian automotive work has become quite
prominent in Hollywood, and, to this day, Armenians own a substantial portion of local car
shops. Close proximity to an urban landscape and a far more integrationist mind-set have
also led Hollywood Armenians to adapt forms entirely absent elsewhere in the diaspora,
such as the first version of an Armenian street gang, Armenian Power. While the gang began
initially as way to protect siblings and friends from pre-existing street gangs, it gradually
adapted to harsh urban realities and began dabbling in money laundering, extortion, and
other forms of theft.
Hollywoods Armenian population, although scant now, reflects an ethnic enclave. Little
Armenia(like North Hollywood, Pasadena, and Montebello) has a culture distinct from that
of Glendale. And community members are well aware of these distinctions. In an interview
with the only Armenian from Armenia to run, albeit unsuccessfully, for council in Holly-
wood, he shared of his upbringing: When I was growing up I would go to Glendale. My aunt
lived in Glendale. I went to Glendale to play basketball at Maple Park. But, other than that,
I did not really connect with their [Iranian Armenian] culture. They were different....We
didnt interact; there just wasntmuch.Even though this individual sees the efficacy of
Glendale Armenianspolitical successes,
he acknowledges, to this day, the strict cultural
differences that separate different Armenian neighborhoods scattered throughout Los
Angeles. As with Pasadena and Montebello before, or North Hollywood and Burbank now,
Hollywood Armenians warrant their own, in-depth treatment, for their distinctive character
and contributions to the Los Angeles mosaic.
Armeniansspontaneous settlement of Glendale may, at first, seem surprising. To be sure,
Armenians had inhabited Greater Los Angeles for nearly a century prior to the 1970s. How-
ever, Glendale was home to relatively few Armenians through the 1960s as compared
to other areas, such as Hollywood, Montebello, and Pasadena. In addition, Glendaleslocal
ordinances were notoriously prohibitive and discriminatory. Through the 1960s, Glendale
was a sundown townthat is, a community in which minority groups were prohibited after
the sun had set. The police would often escort non-whitepeople in sundown towns to the
city limits lest their presence invoke violence from the local population. Armenians’“white-
nessby the mid-1960s may not have been as contested as it had been, for example, in
Fresno only a few decades before. Nonetheless, Armenians continued to face discrimination.
One Glendale resident says of the community in the 1960s, Hispanics and people of Arabic
and Armenian descent were tolerated, but only if they lived in areas in the part of town bor-
dering Los Angeles, not in the upperpart nearer the hills.
For these reasons, Armenians
rapid, concentrated settlement of Glendale in the 1970s and 1980s may seem a bit peculiar.
Why did Glendale become such a popular destination for newly arrived Armenian immi-
grants in the 1970s? Armenians had already established communities in various places.
In fact, Hollywoods growing Armenian community had already begun to take definite shape
by midcentury. As such, it seemed as though this community would grow into Los Angeless
Armenian hub. Nevertheless, the momentum had shifted dramatically to Glendale by
the 1980s.
Among the first Armenians to settle in Glendale were members of the Jamogchian family.
According to Paul Robert Ignatius, his grandfather, Avedis Jamogchian, purchased property
and built a home in Glendale after moving to California in 1911. Avedis became quite active
with the Near East Relief Committee. Through this organization, he spearheaded initiatives
to assist Armenians left destitute in the wake of genocide. A local judge and manager of
the Southern California Armenian Relief Committee, H. N. Wells also participated in the
Armenian Driveof 1918 and 1919. Wells had spent time in Syria and Turkey, where he
experienced firsthand the atrocities Armenians suffered. In his appeal, he wrote passionately
on behalf of Armenians and the necessity to aid them in a time of acute distress. He invoked
Glendale residentscivic duty to aid Armenians, stating, It does not seem conceivable that
the response to the appeal for funds to help the destitute Armenians will not be answered
doubly. Every cent contributed will be sent to the relief of the 4,000,000 known to be starv-
ing, to the 400,000 orphans who are actually crying for something to eat. This community
[Glendale] will have an opportunity to do its share.
Willss appeal and Glendales response
ultimately proved among the most successful in Greater Los Angeles. Thus, Glendalesear-
liest Armenian inhabitants (and others) undertook intensive outreach on behalf of displaced
Armenians. According to the Glendale Evening News,Glendalewent over the top in the
Armenian Driveand raised $2,144.58 to contribute to the cause.
observes, In view of the fact that returns are lagging inLos Angeles and manyother commu-
nities. . . it is cheering to know that this city [Glendale] has oversubscribed and helped that
much in making good deficiencies elsewhere.This is among the first recorded outreach
efforts between Glendale and Armenians.
According to a thesis written in 1923, about five families, or approximately twenty
Armenians, lived in Glendale during the first two decades of the twentieth century.
Glendale Evening News distributed an article in 1922 entitled “‘Taxi NishSecures Citizenship
Papers.In the article, Nushon Bader Parsekian is identified as a resident of Glendale.
AnativeofBan (Van), Armenia,”“Nishis described as a self-reliant taxi driver whose father
was killed in a rebellion against Turkey.
Nish moved to the United States in 1909 and
settled in Glendale around 1918. The article identifies his residence at 119 West Broadway.
A more recognizable early Glendale resident was Paul Robert Ignatius (noted above), who
ultimately served as secretary of the Navy between 1967 and 1969 as well as assistant secre-
tary of defense under President Johnson. Ignatius has produced a memoir, Now I Know in
10 FALL 2017
Part, in which he describes his upbringing in early twentieth-century Glendale. This is a
useful document that describes the suburban environment of that time. Still, Avedis, Nish,
Ignatius, and others like them were exceptional, not typical. Only in the 1950s and 1960s did
Glendale begin to receive a steadier stream of Armenian newcomers.
In 1976, one of Glendales local newspapers spotlighted the citys burgeoning Armenian
community. In it, the author asked, But why Glendale?,responding, The consensus
among Armenians interviewed is that Glendale has become a center for their nationality
because it is considered a peaceful, conservative town and therefore a good environment for
people who strongly believe in traditions.
While likely true in a general sense, this doesnt
provide a concrete explanation for why, out of several peaceful suburbs, Glendale has be-
come perhaps among the most densely concentrated Armenian diasporic settlements. In
fact, neighboring Pasadena fit a similar description and had been a site of Armenian habita-
tion since the opening years of the twentieth century. Even more strikingly, Pasadena
granted Armenians protected minority status in 1985. By including its Armenian population
in affirmative action policy, Pasadena recognized Armenians officially as a minority
a sta-
tus shift that is interpreted along different community lines.
Two early twentieth-century
court decisionsIn re Halladjian et. (1909) and United States v. Cartozian (19241925)
granted Armenians the right to naturalization on account of their determined whiteness.
As such, Pasadena provided prospective Armenian immigrants an avenue through which to
involve themselves in local institutions. Nonetheless, Glendale continued to prove the most
significant destination for a large majority of globally migrating Armenians.
And, by the
late 1980s, when President Reagan increased the quota of Soviet Armenians allowed entry
to the United States, the conversation had shifted to local Glendale concerns, such as how to
fund and integrate the influx of coming students in need of teachers and residents in need of
low-income housing.
And yet Armeniansrapid and robust settlement of Glendaleremains
unresolved in print.
Much of the pattern of Armenian migration to Glendale relates to U.S. legislation. The civil
rights movement of the 1960s played a critical role in transforming American immigration
policies. Responding to institutionalized prejudice, African American activists and others
advocated on behalf of many marginalized groups. These activists forced the American polit-
ical system to change its treatment of many groups. In 1965, Congress passed the Hart-
Celler Act (or Immigration and Nationality Act). Before this legislation, immigration had
been restricted largely to immigrants from Western Europe. However, the Hart-Celler Act
led to an unprecedented diversification of America, bringing migrants from Asia, Africa, the
Middle East, and Southern and Eastern Europe. These immigrants and their children also
inculcated civil rights principles and altered American ethnic identification. As Gary Gerstle
has argued, Immigrant groups, both old and new, quickly adopted a similar stance in regard
to their ethnic cultures, thereby broadening and intensifying the effort to locate Americas
vitality in its ethnic and racial diversity.
Thus, post-1965 immigrants transformed the
United States, both demographically and ideologically. Americansaggressive, pre-1960s
assimilationist attitudes now came into rather stark contact with increasing ethnic awareness
and empowerment. Still, as ethnic communities expanded and took root through the 1970s
and 1980s, this growing awareness infused many ethnic organizations and community
members. On account of the diversity it brought, this legislation marked a decisive shift in
American society, one that continues to resonate today.
It is in this charged climate that Armenians began coming to Southern California in
large numbers. And the countries from which they came were also undergoing profound
internal alterations. By the mid-twentieth century, Armenians had formed distinct and
influential communities in diverse locations worldwide. The last several decades of the
twentieth century, however, witnessed a radical reconfiguration of these historical com-
munities. Armenians came to Southern California in distinct waves and in response to
several upheavals. They came in the wake of the political tumult of or leading up to the
Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the Iranian Revolution (1979), the Iran-Iraq War
(1980-8), the facilitation of emigration from the USSR due to the Jackson-Vanik amend-
ment (1974), collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), the economic crash of the Republic of
Armenia (1992-onwards), and other international events.
Despite Armeniansscattered presence in the United States before 1965, Glendale
would ultimately become the most densely concentrated and diverse Armenian diasporic
settlement in the country. Like so many other immigrant groups from various locations
throughout the world, Armenian immigrants and refugees alike made Greater Los
Angeles their home in the latter half of the twentieth century. Joining already settled
co-ethnics, Armenians moved to Hollywood, Pasadena, Burbank, and so on. But Armenians
presence would most thoroughly transform San Fernandos sleepy sundown town, Glendale.
There are many generic ways to answer why Glendale, including its location and access to
the highway, the safety of its community, the quality of its schools and college, and its family-
oriented neighborhoods. But these qualities existed in several places in Southern California.
Three specific factors led to this communitys efflorescence: (1) the earlier settlement of
Glendale by some noteworthy Armeniansparticularly well-to-do families and students
from Iran in the 1950s and 1960s; (2) socioeconomic changes occurring in Glendale (and
the United States more generally) in the 1960s and early 1970s; and (3) the establishment of
Armenian institutions, such as an Armenian church and school, by the mid-1970s.
Several Iranian Armenian families came to Glendale in the 1950s and 1960s, and, later,
became quite prominent in business and politics. For example, Larry Zarian came to
Glendale in the early 1950s. After completing high school in Massachusetts, he moved to
Southern California. Following a brief stay in Hollywood, he relocated to Glendale. Still a
teenager, Zarian spent almost his entire adulthood in Glendale. Given his age at the time of
the move, education played a role in his decision to settle in Glendale. According to a family
member, a friend told him how great Glendale was and how nice Glendale College was, so
he hoped a ride with some guys and came out to California by car from Boston.In an inter-
view, an Armenian who came from Jerusalem in the aftermath of the Palestinian War of
1948 (along with a small cluster of other Armenians) and studied at Glendale Community
College (then Glendale College) in the late 1950s said he remembered about a dozen
Armenians enrolled at Glendale College by 1958 (as of 2015, there were 7,277 Armenians
registered, making up 32 percent of the 15,843 for-credit students, and 48 percent of the
4,599 non-credit students). Zarian moved to Glendale in 1953 and joined this small handful
of other Armenian students. He worked as a businessman for many years but eventually
12 FALL 2017
became interested in public office. After an unsuccessful bid in 1967, he won a seat on
Glendales City Council in 1983. He was the first Armenian in Glendale to win political
office. Zarian, a moderate conservative, was active in Glendalepolitics for sixteen years, from
1983 to 1999, eventually becoming Glendales first Armenian mayor. His tenure as mayor
occurred between 1986 and 1987, 1990 and 1991, 1993 and 1994, and 1997 and 1998.
Zarians visibility as a public official (and public persona) also attracted newcomers to
Glendale as well as influenced a later generation of Armenian politicians. As mayor and pub-
lic personality, Zarian strengthened Armeniansassociation with Glendale.
In addition to Larry Zarian, another visible Iranian Armenian family, the Shirvanians,
moved to Glendale on account of the Adventist Church. In a personal interview, a member
of this family said that her family had been converted to Adventism by missionaries abroad
and moved to Glendale in order to be close to their church and community. Glendale boasted
the regions most active Adventist community. In addition, the Shirvanian family had
strong ties to the Republican Party, and Glendale was also a Republican headquarters
before, ironically, Armenian activists helped shift the citys political orientation from the
late 1990s onward. The Shirvanian family invested in rubbish collection and amassed a
great fortuneestablishing Western Waste Industries in 1955. Their Iranian Armenian
network and visible success explain several subsequent Armeniansmigrations from
Iran. Perceiving trouble afoot in the Shahs regime, several of the Shirvanians' friends
relocated to Glendale. In fact, many of the first Iranian Armenians who purchased homes
in Glendales hills came directly from the Shirvanianssocial network. Family and friend
networks brought many of the first Iranian Armenians to Glendale. Thus, the presence
of prominent Iranian Armenian families, such as the Zarians and Shirvanians, helped
establish a growing Glendale Armenian presence from 1950s and 1960s onward.
Apart from these early Iranian Armenian settlements, Iran had been sending students
to the United States even before the passage of the Hart-Celler Act. After years boycotting
Iranian oil, the United States reopened trade once the Shah had been restored in 1953. In the
mid-twentieth century, the resumption of oil revenue and aid to Iran bolstered its economy
significantly. As Mehdi Bozorgmehr and Georges Sabagh explain, The oil revenues in-
creased 16 times from $34 million in 195455 to $555 million in 1963, and more than doubled
to $1.2 billion in 197071.
This revenue led to state-sponsored industrialization and mod-
ernization initiatives. Despite the inflow of money, Iran lacked the educational facilities and
human resources to generate specialists to operate the machinery. The Shahs government
therefore invested in education by sending Iranian students abroad in large numbers. The
shortage of space in Irans universities along with the difficulty of entrance exams most likely
led to exponential increases in Iranian and Iranian Armenian student visitors coming to the
United Statesfrom 18,000 in 1963 to 227,497 in 1997.
Since Iranian Armenians had
already settled there, Glendale was an attractive option for many students who entered in the
Glendale, too, suited many Iranian Armenian students socioeconomically. Those who
arrived prior to 1979 often had the resources to travel and study abroad. As such, they repre-
sented a relatively affluent segment of Iranian society. Unlike traditional immigrants, Iranian
Armenian students came with intellectual and material resources. Irans economy had boomed,
and those from this socioeconomic stratum of society profited from that boom. According to
Homa Katouzian, Irans oil revenues increased from $4.4 billion to $17.1 billion in the mid-
1970s alone.
Many of the first Iranian Armenians to settle in Glendale, whether directly or in-
directly, were the beneficiaries of these new revenue flows. In a personal interview, Richard
Hovannisian reflected:
The Persian Armenians were different from other Armenians because most of them came with
some degree of wealth. Whereas Soviet Armenians and even those from the Middle East didnt
have that wealth, Iranian Armenians, because of their association with the imperial household and
regime and because they are hardworking people, they were able to get a part of their wealth out,
sometimes by bribery and other means to the U.S.
As such, early Iranian Armenians, particularly those whose migrations predate the Shahs
demise, couldafford to buy homes in relatively affluent neighborhoods as opposed to settling
in densely concentrated urban centers. Compared to Hollywood or other urban locations,
the conurbation of Glendale presented an appealing alternative to these student visitors and
their relatives or social networks. And their selection conditioned their settlement patterns.
Similar to the Taiwanese in Monterey Park or first-wave Cubans in Florida, early Iranian
Armenian settlers leapfroggedsocioeconomic impecuniousness and settled in sub-
urban comfort shortly after their arrival. But this population consisted only of a demographic
cluster; its numbers were not significant enough to play a transformative role in Glendale
Glendale itself experienced several sociopolitical changes at the same time. By the early
1970s, Glendale had begun to take on a more progressive character. Just as migrants from
Iran, Cuba, Korea, and elsewhere began settling in Glendale, several city ordinances made
new ethnic settlement possible. While several traditions persistedsuch as housing discrim-
ination, which targeted African Americans through the early 2000sthe civil rights ethos
that had been altering national legislation also became a mainstay of local communities. For
example, native Glendale residents protested against the presence of the neo-Nazi headquar-
ters in 1964.
A new generation of Glendale natives sought to oust its prejudicial organiza-
tions. In the 1960s, Glendale government officials created new bodies and organizations
that sought to safeguard minority rights. Although Armenians would not enter the scene with
demographic prominence until the mid-1970s, the 1960s laid a foundation that would enable
new ethnic members of society to participate in Glendales development.
This foundation included an increasingly booming commercial sector. Responding to eco-
nomic downturn in the 1950s and 1960s, Glendale city officials sought to attract prospective
consumers by constructing new shopping malls and opening up new business opportunities.
City officials incentivized large companies by waiving business license fees and payroll and
corporation taxes.
For many businesses, Glendale also proved less chaotic than the frenetic
downtown district. Nestle, DreamWorks, Disney, Whole Foods, and other corporations even-
tually established themselves in Glendale, and, in turn, bolstered its local economy. In addi-
tion, conservative housing measures, ironically, created more opportunities for multi-ethnic
newcomers. Among the new business clientele that entered Glendale were several commer-
cial real estate developers. As older Glendale natives moved out, developers came in to build
large apartment complexes. This profit-driven scheme provided spaces in which less affluent
immigrants could settle. Developers purchased the property of landowners and built several
14 FALL 2017
new multi-unit apartment buildings.
As Armenians were coming to Southern California
from places such as Iraq, Iran, and Jordan, Glendales recently constructed affordable housing
units provided these immigrants with a peaceful, family-oriented housing option. As such,
these commercial changes provided a foundation upon which Armenians could establish
The tenor of official city discourse also began changing with the emergence of increasingly
visible ethnic groups, including Armenians, Koreans, Cubans, and Filipinos. In 1972, C. E.
Perkins, then city manager, exhorted the Glendale Rotary Club to prepare itself as Glendale
could no longer remain an isolate in an increasingly diverse America.
In 1974, the city put
forth its most dramatic infrastructural and commercial initiative to date: the construction of
Glendales massive shopping mall, the Galleria. The first wing of the Galleria opened in
1976, and it continued to grow through the early 1980s. At the time of its construction, it
numbered among the largest malls in the United States.
National legislation and local socioeconomic changes overlapped with Armenians
multipolar arrival to Southern California. By the early 1970s, they had already formed a
fairly visible cluster in Hollywood; however, the axis had shifted rather dramatically by
the 1980s. Glendale had become a magnet for Armenians from all over. Even Armenians
(some second- or third-generation) from other parts of Los Angeles and the United States
relocated to Glendale. Two decades after families like the Shirvanians and the Zarians
entered the homogenous sundown town, Glendale had emerged as the most demograph-
ically concentrated Armenian habitation throughout the Americas. Student visitors had
been replaced by economic immigrants and refugees as Armenian diasporic centers ex-
perienced increased sociopolitical tumult. Unlike the Iranian Armenians who came to
Glendale before 1979, later Armenian immigrants often had to leave everything behind
and begin anew. But, on account of the international tumult, the status of those who had
come as students also changed to that of immigrant. So they, too, had to leave behind
their homes. After the revolution, Iranian Armenian refugees joined their friends and
family in Glendale (although typically via another locationsuch as Austria, Sweden, or Ger-
manyfirst). By the end of the 1980s, intra-ethnically diverse Armenians had become
a visible presence in Glendale. Early migrants owned large homes in the north, while
newcomers inhabited small apartment complexes in the south.
As Armenians planted new roots in Glendale, they created important community centers.
The establishment of several Armenian institutions made Glendale increasingly visible and
accessible to newcomers. By the end of the 1980s, several key institutions and organizations
had been established, such as a branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF),
the Iranian Armenian Society, the Homenetmen, the Scouts, and the Armenian Education
Foundation. Symbolically, perhaps the most significant Armenian institutionan Armenian
church (in conjunction with an Armenian school)opened in 1975. As Anny Bakalian conjec-
tures, once a specific demographic threshold has been met, Armenians typically establish a
church for the community.
This signals roots in the community. But the Armenian Church
is not a monolithic entity, and association with one branch or another sometimes factors into
migration trajectories. From the fifteenth century onward, the Armenian Apostolic Church
has existed as two distinct branches with two Catholicoi: at present, these church centers are
in Antelias (Lebanon) and Etchmiadzin (Armenia). The Holy See of Cilicia, the head of the
Western Prelacy, is located in Antelias. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is located
in Etchmiadzin. Before the establishment of St. Marys Armenian Apostolic Church in
1975, the Armenian Church with the largest congregation was located in Hollywood. For
many Armenians, proximity to an Armenian church (as well as a school) factors into their
migration choices. The opening of St. Marys Church and its attendant school offered pro-
spective Armenian newcomers community structures with which they could engage. To be
sure, it is difficult to assess the extent to which a church factored into Armenian decision mak-
ing; however, family and friend networks within the peaceful, suburban community coupled
with the existence of several Armenian institutions, such as a church and school, likely shaped
the migratory patterns of many migrants in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In my interviews, Iraqi Armenians frequently cited access to an Armenian church and
school as paramount in their migration experiences. While Iraqi Armeniansleanings tend
toward Etchmiadzin in Iraq, migration routes via several other places, such as Lebanon,
Syria, and Greece, brought them into contact with Antelian churches. Upon settlement, Iraqi
Armenians, who lacked the same material resources as early Iranian Armenians, depended
heavily on the church. In several interviews, correspondents noted the majority Iraqi
Armenian congregationists who visited the Iranian Armenianfunded St. Marys Church
in Glendale in the 1970s and after. One Iraqi Armenian, who moved to Glendale in the
1970s, said of his community:
This is the only way to help you keep your identity: You have to go to Church and you have to go to
school. It wasmandatory for us. In the [Armenian] school, we had a religionclass every single day.. . .
Everyday you have to have your Armenian classes: language, history, and religion. So this is the only
way you can keep the community together.. . . So when we came here, that was one of the factors.
Another person I interviewed, a relative of one of St. Marys founders and someone who was
raised attending events at St. Marys, said of the late 1970s: The Church was growing; they
started to have bingo nights. So every Friday we would go to bingo nights. And it became
a nice, community church. And it started to grow. And at that point it was a lot of Iraqi
Armenians coming and then slowly the Persian Armenians.While several Iraqi Armenians
settled in Hollywood and elsewhere, the establishment of an Armenian church in Glendale
attracted several of them to relocate to Glendale. The presence of the church thus seems to
have resonated especially with select Armenians, such as those from Iraq.
As Armeniansnumbers swelled, the pre-existing Anglo community often responded
virulently. This antipathy appeared in newspaper journals, city hall meetings, and interper-
sonal relations. As one non-Armenian former reporter shared in an interview:
[Armenians] were coming up against such hatred you wouldnt believe.. . .The hatred was so strong.
I remember we had a reporter at the newspaper whose name was Tanya Soussan, and people would
see that as Soussanianor assume she changed it. And all of us would get calls virtually everyday.
But she would get the nastiest calls. Youre one of them. And I can see you just wrote this story to
help them. You didnt mention the robber in this was Armenian. . . wasntit?!Wasnt it?!
Armenians received backlash from various socioeconomic quarters: Anglos responded
harshly to wealthy Armenians in the north for the elaborate designs of their homes
(mansionization) and the less affluent Armenians for their dense concentration in the
16 FALL 2017
south. Development in Glendale had become negatively associated with Armenian over-
population. For many Glendale natives, Armenians disrupted Glendales homogeneity
and normalcy. Ironically, the backlash probably only helped create, in turn, its own
backlashthat is, an increased sense of ethnic cohesion among an otherwise internally
diverse and fragmented population. And this cohesion would have significant political
implicationsat present, Armenians occupy a visible majority (80 percent) of electoral
seats in Glendale. Armenians, who had been disregarded as politically insignificant
throughout the 1980s, emerged in the late 1990s as a dominant political force. And
their business and real estate endeavors, now commonplace throughout the expansive
city, also saturated the market.
Armenian presence in Glendale is now practically omnipresent: Armenian shops, restau-
rants, grocery stores, bakeries, and delis appear on every major artery throughout the city.
Armenian businesspeople own and operate many of the non-Armenian establishments as
well. Also, as stated, local politics has a distinctly demographic slant. Between 2005 and
2009, there existed a majority Armenian population on Glendales city council. The majority
was regained in 2013 and has remained to date. By voting in increasing number and electing
majority officials on the city council (as well as the city school board), Glendale Armenians
have relied on Armenian American leadership to make claims and reallocate resources that
specifically cater to the Armenian population. These reallocations include affordable senior
housing, increased park space (particularly in south Glendale, which has the greatest concen-
tration of Armenian residents), the availability of all city voting material in the Armenian
language, the development of a public Armenian Center, the passage of dual immersion
(Armenian/English) language programs in public schools, the establishment of April 24 as
a school holiday to commemorate the Armenian genocide, the approval to build an Armenian
Museum in central Glendale, and other issues. These and many other influences result
from Armeniansdemographic concentration in the city itself.
Armenians in Greater Los Angeles have evolved and acquired significant influence politically
and economically. They play an integral role in Los Angeless ethnic mosaic. When Adam
Schiff defeated James Rogan for the 27th District Senate seat in 2000, both politicians took
trips to Armenia, pledged support for genocide recognition, and spoke against Turkish
policies. The Economist even printed an op-ed entitled From Monica to Armenia.More
recently, during 2016s 25th District Senate race, Supervisor Michael Antonovich unveiled
an Armenian genocide monument in Los Angeless Grand Park, while Anthony Portantino
traveled to Armenia with city councilmember Zareh Sinanyan, and even enrolled in
Armenian language courses at Glendales Community College. Armeniansstory resem-
bles that of many other immigrants, and yet it possesses a character distinctly its own.
Their history and contributions warrant more extensive documentation.
Glendale Armenians make up one of the most visible diasporic outposts in Armenian
history. Their contributions in several sectors of Glendale are striking. However, the history
of any community does not exist in a vacuum. As this article reflects, such a history is as
much about events taking shape around it as about the community itself. The manner in
which this brief history has been constructed is intended as a corrective. Many ethnic com-
munity histories rely too heavily on linear and narrowly focused narratives. These accounts
present history as though it existed outside of the historical settlements that condition them.
As such, the diversity of this community itself, as well as the events shaping it, are at times
neglected. A central assumption of this historical overview is that community formation
occurs within a complex matrix of local, international, and institutional variables. These
variables participate in a dialectic process that facilitates the movement and, eventually, the
character of the community itself.
In this brief article, I have provided an intentionally cursory history of Armenian
settlement of Los Angeles; considerably more work is required. A thorough historical
treatment of Armenianshistory in Los Angeles warrants a much larger research project.
While their demographic concentration elsewhere may not match that in Glendale,
Armenians have contributed to various localities throughout Los Angeles. Their histories
help explain several facets of the community itself as well as American cultural history.
In addition, Armenian American case studies can enrich our understanding of various
academic topicsincluding ethnic history, political incorporation, immigration, trans-
nationalism, assimilation, panethnicity, and ethnicization. Armenian influence is salient
in several spheres of Angeleno culture. As several key events laid the foundation for the
emergence of new ethnic communities after 1965, these communities, in turn, shaped
key aspects of American civilization and policy-making. I hope this brief history initiates
more scholarship on the external contributions and internal workings of the Armenian
Angeleno community.
1. When the audience is Armenophone, I often use the term Hreshtakahayto refer to an Armenian Angeleno.
This is transliterated Armenian (reformed orthography). Following Armenian linguistic conventions, the
expression is a compound, consisting of an ethnonym and toponym: In Armenian, hreshtakmeans angel
(as in Los Angeles) and haymeans Armenian.While not a commonly used expression, I believe
Hreshtakahaysuccinctly translates Armenian Angeleno.
2. Malcolm Vartan Malcolm, The Armenians in America (Boston and Chicago: Pilgrim Press, 1910), 50.
3. Ibid., 197199.
4. Sebouh Aslanian, From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants
from New Julfa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
5. Robert Mirak, Torn between two Lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I (Boston: Harvard University
Press, 1983).
6. The poem features in Peter Force, ed., Tracts and Other Papers,vol.3,no.53(1886),3135.
7. Ibid., 36.
8. Robert Mirak, Torn between two Lands: Armenians in America, 1890 to World War I (Boston: Harvard University
Press, 1983).
9. Berge Bulbulian, The Fresno Armenians: History of a Diaspora Community (Fresno: California State University
Press, 2000).
10. Richard T. LaPiere, The Armenian Colony in Fresno County, California: A Study in Social Psychology,vol.2,(Palo
Alto: Stanford University Press, 1930), appendix 4.
11. Mirak, Torn between Two Lands,13.
12. LaPiere, The Armenian Colony in Fresno County,2:160.
13. Mirak, Torn between Two Lands,71.
14. Anny Bakalian, Armenian-Americans: From Being to Feeling Armenian (London: Transaction Publishers, 1993), 10.
15. Ibid.
16. Harold Takooshian, Armenian Immigration to the United States from the Middle East,Journal of Armenian
Studies 3, no. 12 (1986): 133155.
18 FALL 2017
17. Sidney Heitman, The Third Soviet Emigration: Jewish German and Armenian Migration from the
USSR since World War II (1987, 79). Berichte des Bundesinstituts fur Ostwissenschaftliche und
Internationale Studien, no. 21198
18. Mirak, Torn between two Lands,111.
19. Bulbulian, The Fresno Armenians 22.
20. LaPiere, The Armenian Colony in Fresno County.
21. Mirak, Torn between Two Lands, 113.
22. Bulbulian, The Fresno Armenians,55.
23. Ibid., 73.
24. For further details on the local prejudiced leveled at Armenians, see LaPiere, The Armenian Colony in Fresno
County,Mirak, Torn between Two Lands, and, for how these prejudiced affected the second generation,
Bulbulian, The Fresno Armenians.
25. Mirak, Torn between Two Lands, 119.
26. Susan Wiley Hardwick, Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
27. Mirak, Torn between Two Lands,57.
28. Ibid., 58.
29. Karen Wilson, Reexamining Los Angeles Lower East Side: Jewish Bakers Union Local 453 and Yiddish
Food Culture in 1920s Boyle Heights, in Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2013.
30. Ibid., 28.
31. Jules Tygiel, Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s, in Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in
the 1920s, edited by Thomas Sitton and William Deverell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 1
32. At present, nearly 80 percent of elected officials in Glendale claim Armenian ancestry.
33. See also the following:
34. Glendale Evening News, January 8, 1919.
35. Glendale Evening News, January 20, 1919.
36. Aram Yeretzian, A History of Armenian Immigration to America with Special Reference to Conditions in
Los Angeles (Masters Thesis, University of Southern California, 1923), 38.
37. Glendale Evening News, July 22, 1922. In Van, Armenians launched a defense against the Ottomans during
the Hamidian Massacres in 1896. The same community would also defend itself against the Ottomans
during the genocide in 1915. This latter initiative is known as the Defense or Siege of Van.
38. Glendale News-Press, August 28, 1976.
39. Glendale News-Press,April24,1985.
40. Talar Chahinian and Anny Bakalian, Language in Armenian American Communities: Western Armenian
and Efforts for Preservation, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 237 (2016): 3757.
41. Alexander Benjamin, Armenian and American: The Changing Face of Ethnic Identity and Diasporic
Nationalism, 19151955 (PhD diss., The City University of New York, 2005).
42. However, this is not to suggest that Pasadena did not also experience a surge in Armenian inhabitants.
43. See these newspaper articles: Daily News, Schools Seeks Funds to Aid Armenians, March 20, 1988;
Glendale News-Press, Armenian Emigration Threatens Funds, April 1, 1988; Los Angeles Times, Supervisors
OK Funds for Armenian Groups, November 11, 1989.
44. Gary Gerstle, Acquiescence or Transformation? Divergent Paths of Political Incorporation in America, In
Outsiders No More? Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation, edited by J. Hochschild, et al. (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2013), 306320.
45. Prior to 1965, the Egyptian Revolution (1952) had also depopulated a prominent Middle Eastern Armenian
community and brought many Armenians to the United States. To be sure, Armenian communities
continue to thrive in some places, such as Beirut and Tehran, but in much smaller numbers.
46. For up-to-date statistics, see Glendales campus demographics page at:
47. M. Mehdi Bozorgmehr and Georges Sabagh, High Status Immigrants: A Statistical Profile of Iranians in
the United States, Iranian Studies 21, no. ¾ (1998):5-36.
48. Ibid., 10.
49. Homa Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran (New York: New York University Press, 1981).
50. Juliet Arroyo, Glendale, 19402000:Images ofAmerica(Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2006).
51. See Gregory Rodriguez,
Glendales Racist Shadow Shrinks as City Transforms Itself,,Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1996.
52. For more information, see Arroyo, Glendale.
53. Ibid., 82.
54. Bakalian, Armenian-Americans.
... Access to death records in California to create the ASL is particularly advantageous because Armenian immigration to the state dates back to the 1800s and California remains the state with the largest population of Armenians in the United States [24]. The utilization of the Soundex blocking strategy in the linkage between the MESL Armenian surnames and the CPUDF allowed for the identification of nearly 18% of the surnames added to the ASL. ...
Full-text available
Background There are an estimated 460,000 Armenians in the United States, and more than half live in California. Armenian-Americans are generally represented within the ‘White’ or ‘Some Other Race’ race categories in population-based research studies. While Armenians have been included in studies focused on Middle-Eastern populations, there are no studies focused exclusively on Armenians due to a lack of standardized collection of Armenian ethnicity in the United States or an Armenian surname list. To fill this research gap, we sought to construct and evaluate an Armenian Surname List (ASL) for use as an identification tool in public health and epidemiological research studies focused on Armenian populations. Methods Data sources for the ASL included the California Public Use Death Files (CPUDF) and the Middle Eastern Surname List (MESL). For evaluation of the ASL, the California Cancer Registry (CCR) database was queried for surnames with birthplace in Armenia and identified by the MESL. Results There are a total of 3,428 surnames in the ASL. Nearly half (1,678) of surnames in the ASL were not identified by the MESL. The ASL captured 310 additional Armenian surnames in the CCR than the MESL. Conclusions The ASL is the first surname list for identifying Armenians in major databases for epidemiological research.
... A high proportion of people living in Armenia have CV risk factors: 47% of males and 2% of females are smokers, 43.5% of males and 40.7% of females have hypertension, and 14.3% of males and 31.7% of females are obese. Since a large proportion of Armenians living in the US immigrated from Armenia, it can be expected that American Armenians have similar risk profiles to individuals living in Armenia.18 ...
Full-text available
Objectives: While several studies have examined the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in larger racial and ethnic groups within the United States, limited information is available on smaller sub-populations, such as Armenians, with high rates of CVD in their home country. This study examined the association between Armenian ethnicity and a positive exercise treadmill test (ETT). Design: Prospective cohort study of patients at a 377-bed county hospital in Los Angeles, California from 2008-2011. Setting: All patients were interviewed at the time of ETT to assess their cardiovascular risk factors at the cardiac laboratory of the hospital. Participants: 5,006 patients between 18-89 years of age, of whom 12.6% were of Armenian ethnicity and 54.4% were female.Main Outcome Measure: ETT results as a proxy for CVD risk. Results: After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, Armenian ethnicity was significantly associated with higher odds of positive ETT (OR = 1.40, p = 0.01). Known coronary artery disease CAD (OR = 2.28, p < 0.01), hyperlipidemia (OR = 1.37, p < 0.01), and hypertension (OR = 1.24, p = 0.05) were significantly associated with higher odds of a positive ETT. In subgroup analyses, hyperlipidemia was the only significant predictor of positive ETT (OR = 1.92, p = 0.02) among Armenians, while patient history of CAD (OR = 2.49, p < 0.01), hyperlipidemia (OR = 1.29, p = 0.03), and age (OR = 1.04, p < 0.01) were significant predictors among non-Armenians. Armenian ethnicity remained associated with higher odds of positive ETT (OR = 1.40, p < 0.01) when patients with CAD were excluded. Conclusion: Armenian ethnicity may be an independent risk factor for CVD, influenced by the uniformity of the genetic pool and cultural and dietary exposures.
... And they were not alone. Although less economically privileged, several Armenians from Iraq also began moving to Glendale in the 1970s, particularly once an Armenian church opened in 1975 (Fittante, 2017a). ...
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Drawing upon ethnographic data collected in Glendale, California, this study applies constructivist theories of ethnic politics to political incorporation research. The analysis demonstrates how the evolving loci of political incorporation—from marginalized racial minorities in urban centers to multi-ethnic migrants in prosperous suburbs—have given rise to new agents (ethnopolitical entrepreneurs) in new spaces (ethnoburbs). In these evolving spaces, community leaders emphasize, consciously and unconsciously, specific attributes, which determine, in part, whether co-ethnics support selected candidates. Specific emphases lead to both the nomination of prospective politicians as well as the political incorporation of newcomers. By applying constructivist theories of ethnic politics to the study of political incorporation, this article expands and refines discourses in both fields of study. Based upon a case study of the intra-ethnically diverse yet highly mobilized Armenian community in Glendale, California, the paper’s findings synthesize the strengths of both analytical perspectives.
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At the dawn of the twentieth century, droves of former Ottoman subjects including Armenians and Syrians began to set foot in the United States searching for better opportunities. Many faced American white supremacist xenophobia and fell victim to racial discrimination. Various Ottoman diasporic communities responded to this harassment by expressing an increasing investment in the question of American whiteness and vigorously yearning to move beyond its fringes. Their voices, however, remain considerably muted; their stories are largely excluded from most American immigration narratives and conventional area-studies histories. This study endeavors to help reverse this scholarly tradition by examining the mindset of Ottoman Armenian expatriates as articulated in the editorials of Asbarēz, an Armenian-language weekly published in Fresno, California starting in 1908. As this micro-study shows, the migrants used the European racialist knowledge imported from the Ottoman empire to lay claim to whiteness and achieve integration in the US but also to affect change at home.
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This article is an introduction to the subject of Armenian Americans in Los Angeles, both within the broader context of the diaspora and a narrower one, presenting an analysis of the mutual relations between the Armenian community and the city. In the twenty-first century, Los Angeles has become home to the second largest urban population of Armenians in the world after Yerevan. It consists of three main groups: descendants of the first immigrants, refugees from the Middle East, and most recently, the so-called “Soviet” Armenians and immigrants from the Republic of Armenia. The construction of the Armenian Americans Museum will begin in the near future. The mission of the institution will be to document the experience of Armenian migration and to support the maintenance of ethnic identity among the next generations of the diaspora. In Glendale, an ethnoburb of Los Angeles, Armenian Americans make up 40 percent of the population. A significant proportion of the administrative decision-makers there come from the Armenian diaspora. The city is not only the informal second capital city for the Armenian global community, but also an incubator for its cultural project; in particular, it is a center of the Armenian music industry.
Concentrated immigrant settlement of US suburbs is transforming how many newcomers become politically incorporated. While the scholarship traditionally assumed political incorporation takes place after social or cultural incorporation, novel political agents—or ethnopolitical entrepreneurs—have arisen from within immigrant communities and inverted this assumption. In these dynamic ‘ethnoburbs’, ethnopolitical entrepreneurs play an increasingly important role in constructing, organizing, and mobilizing internally diverse first generation, co-ethnic constituents. And they do so before their prospective constituents have become socially or culturally incorporated. But the existing scholarship on ethnopolitical entrepreneurs is very limited. Because entrepreneurs’ approaches to political incorporation vary based upon their individual experiences and backgrounds, this article seeks to broaden the framework through two case studies of Armenian ethnopolitical entrepreneurs in Glendale, California—Rafi Manoukian and Ardashes (Ardy) Kassakhian. While they manifest considerable overlap in terms of their career trajectories and incorporation strategies, these entrepreneurs’ individual experiences—particularly as a first and second-generation immigrant, respectively—have influenced the ways in which they incorporate newcomers and run campaigns.
Scholarship often assumes that there is a correlation between successful immigrant political incorporation and newcomers’ ability to make sustained claims and reallocate city or state resources. By influencing or nominating legislators, scholars assume immigrants become civically engaged and politically empowered. However, these assumptions have not been tested. This article explores the personal experiences and perceptions of Armenian immigrants in Glendale, California, where nearly 40 per cent of the city's 200,000+ population is of Armenian descent, 70 per cent of whom are first‐generation immigrants. Furthermore, over 70 per cent of Glendale's elected officials claim Armenian ancestry. Nonetheless, many of Glendale's Armenian residents do not perceive the benefits of their electoral achievements. That is, there exists a perceptual disconnect between the city's ethnic‐leaning reallocations and the residents’ recognition thereof. This article argues, therefore, that electoral incorporation may not, after all, prove the final step in the achievement and perception of inclusion.
This article examines the state of Western Armenian language instruction in Armenian day schools within the United States to evaluate the state of language transmission and acquisition through the specific structure of private schools. In analyzing methodologies and modes of instruction, content development, resources, teacher training and student demographics, we aim to identify patterns that can pose a challenge to or serve as models for Armenian language instruction and, ultimately, the maintenance of Western Armenian, which UNESCO classified as an endangered language in 2010. To begin with, we offer an overview of the standardization of modern Western Armenian, first, in the late 1800s in Constantinople and subsequently, in the Middle East after World War II. Then, we examine Armenian immigration to the United States to understand the impact of language use as well as the establishment of educational and other institutions necessary for its prolonged existence. The move to establish Armenian day schools in the United States dates back to the 1960s. We trace the development of this movement and study the current state of language instruction, as well as current trends in student demographics, to ask how successful these institutions are in heritage language maintenance.
Drawing on a rich trove of documents, including correspondence not seen for 300 years, this study explores the emergence and growth of a remarkable global trade network operated by Armenian silk merchants from a small outpost in the Persian Empire. Based in New Julfa, Isfahan, in what is now Iran, these merchants operated a network of commercial settlements that stretched from London and Amsterdam to Manila and Acapulco. The New Julfan Armenians were the only Eurasian community that was able to operate simultaneously and successfully in all the major empires of the early modern world-both land-based Asian empires and the emerging sea-borne empires-astonishingly without the benefits of an imperial network and state that accompanied and facilitated European mercantile expansion during the same period. This book brings to light for the first time the trans-imperial cosmopolitan world of the New Julfans. Among other topics, it explores the effects of long distance trade on the organization of community life, the ethos of trust and cooperation that existed among merchants, and the importance of information networks and communication in the operation of early modern mercantile communities.
In 1987, when victims of religious persecution were finally allowed to leave Russia, a flood of immigrants landed on the Pacific shores of North America. By the end of 1992 over 200,000 Jews and Christians had left their homeland to resettle in a land where they had only recently been considered "the enemy." Russian Refuge is a comprehensive account of the Russian immigrant experience in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Columbia since the first settlements over two hundred years ago. Susan Hardwick focuses on six little-studied Christian groups—Baptists, Pentecostals, Molokans, Doukhobors, Old Believers, and Orthodox believers—to study the role of religion in their decisions to emigrate and in their adjustment to American culture. Hardwick deftly combines ethnography and cultural geography, presenting narratives and other data collected in over 260 personal interviews with recent immigrants and their family members still in Russia. The result is an illuminating blend of geographic analysis with vivid portrayals of the individual experience of persecution, migration, and adjustment. Russian Refuge will interest cultural geographers, historians, demographers, immigration specialists, and anyone concerned with this virtually untold chapter in the story of North American ethnic diversity.
Iranians constitute one of the most numerous new immigrant groups from the Middle East, and one of the highest status foreign-born groups in the United States. Yet there are few published studies documenting their immigration to the United States, and their characteristics. An understanding of different aspects of Iranian adaptation to the United States requires a basic knowledge of their immigration history, and demographic, social and economic characteristics. This paper presents the first systematic and comprehensive profile of Iranians in the U.S. based on the most recent available statistical data. The sources for this analysis are: (1) all available published reports from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and from the 1980 U.S. Census; (2) INS data tapes on Iranian immigrants admitted to the U.S.from 1972 to 1986; and (3) the 5 percent sample tape from the 1980 U.S. Census of population.
The Armenians in America
  • Malcolm Malcolm Vartan
Malcolm Vartan Malcolm, The Armenians in America (Boston and Chicago: Pilgrim Press, 1910), 50. 3. Ibid., 197-199.
The Fresno Armenians: History of a Diaspora Community
  • Berge Bulbulian
Berge Bulbulian, The Fresno Armenians: History of a Diaspora Community (Fresno: California State University Press, 2000).