The First Large Emigration of the Armenians
The fall of the city of Ani and the conquest of Armenia by the Seljuk Turks during the 11th century and later the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, caused the first large emigration of the Armenians. Of course, emigrations had occurred earlier, but on a lesser scale. The Byzantine Empire had created Armenian settlements at its borders to set this warrior people against its enemies (in Tracia and Macedonia against the Slavic people, and in Asia Minor against the Arabs).
The other period of significant emigration occurred at the beginning of the 11th century when Prince Artzrouni and some of his subjects, weary if the attacks of the Seljuk Turks, handed over his province of Vaspourakan (the region around Van) to Byzantine in exchange for being able to settle down in Sivas.
However, it was after the decisive Turanian conquest of Armenia and during the ravages of the Mongols (12th and 13th centuries) that a larger scale Armenian emigration took place.
In the previous chapter we looked at the Armenian princes, who decided to resist the enemy, fought their way to freedom and climbed the mountains in Cilicia and there established a new state by the name of New Armenia, which would remain independent for three centuries.
Another part of the Armenians, numbering around 200,000, emigrated towards the Crimean Peninsula and Moldavia. During the 13th and the 14th centuries, when the Tartars occupied the Crimean Peninsula, some of these Armenians, around 50,000, settled down in Poland, especially in the province of Lemberg (in Lwow and Leopold). The Polish kings received them with open arms since they recognised the abilities of the Armenians. During the 14th century, the Polish king Casimir III, let the Armenians establish their own national council, consisting of twelve judges in each city they were represented in.
Over time the Polish Armenians assimilated the native people through marriage and became Polish. The services which the Armenians rendered in the economic, trade and military spheres for their new country during this period are widely recognised.
The Armenians who had emigrated to Moldavia in the 12th and the 13th centuries remained there until the 17th century, but when the Ottoman Turks, in 1675, invaded Moldavia, the majority of them moved to Transylvania or Hungary.
In Transylvania the Armenians established cities such as Elisabethpol and Armenierstadt. Kaiser Charles VI, in the 18th century, gave them important rights, proclaiming these two cities and others free.
Finally there was the Crimean Peninsula which for a while was called the “Armenian Maritima” and remained as an important Armenian centre until the 18th century.