Representatives of a once proud and powerful nation, the Armenians started their exile long time ago, driven by the errors of history. In Romania, the Armenians found a new home where they started living almost 1.000 years ago and where they integrated easily without sacrificing their identity. As exponents of the first Christian nation, Armenians remained close to religion and church, thus maintaining their communities in many cities in Romania. Any Armenian you might meet will tell you that when his ancestors were settling somewhere, they would first build a church, a school and then the rest. Testimonies of their desire to keep the essence of the Armenian nation and to participate in social and urban development of the adoptive country are still being preserved in the regions populated by the former colonies. Cities like Gherla (Armenopolis) or Dumbrăveni (Elisabetopole), the Manuc’s Inn (Hanul lui Manuc) or the Armenian churches in many cities of our country are fingerprints left by the Armenians in the landscape of the Romanian values.
Armenians wrote an important chapter in the history of the Romanian civilization and culture, leaving as evidence a series of buildings, monuments, manuscripts, books, and their whole religious and secular heritage. Religious monuments and places of worship such as the churches of the monasteries Curtea de Argeș, Bistrița, Dragomirna, Cozia, Tismana or Dealu are obviously influenced by Armenian architecture. Along with the Romanian people, the Armenians took part in all the social and political events that have shaped the country’s history, revolutions, unity and war. They gave the Romanian people great personalities such as Ioan Vodă, The Ruler of Moldova, Manuc bei Mirzaian, a diplomat and businessman, the scholar Gheorghe Asachi, the mathematician and politician Spiru Haret, Vasile Misir – President of the Chamber of Deputies and Minister during 1901-1908, painter Theodor Aman, collector and art critic Kricor H. Zambaccian, writer Garabet Ibrăileanu, neurosurgeon Dumitru Bagdasar, Ana Aslan – head of the Romanian School of Gerontology and also contemporary personalities such as the politicians Varujan Vosganian and Varujan Pambuccian, or the musician Harry Tavitian.
In order to know and understand the participation of Armenians in shaping what we know today as Romania, keeping alive the testimonies of the Armenians left is a sine qua non condition. Learning about the Armenian history in our country is ultimately an exercise in preserving the Romanian identity. The photo album Armenians in Romania. The stories of the people close to us is a testimony of the Armenian community in Romania, as seen today. It is a foray into the Armenian tradition, history and the stories of the people close to us. Following the theme of getting to know the Armenian community in Romania, present only in small numbers today (approximately 6.000 people), this documentary fills the Romanian cultural diversity space by presenting a community often omitted by the cultural index or too little known to the public.
Documented in the course of three years (2007 – 2010), this photo documentary is designed in terms of community, the Armenian Church, which is its center of interest. The Armenian Church (of apostolic and catholic rite, the latter more common in Transylvania communities) is the positive pole of the community, its activities revolving around it. The stories collected in the areas with population of Armenian origin recreate the atmosphere and introduces the characters. In addition to the testimonies of the Armenians living in Romania, there are also the stories of the Armenians who were living on Romanian land until the end of the Second World War but then massively migrated to the motherland, Armenia.
One chapter of the book is dedicated to the 1915 Genocide, an event which brought a great number of Armenian deaths, about 1.5 million and led to forced migration and collapse of many other Armenian families. For our country it is a memorable historic episode, since Romania is one of the few countries that opened their doors to host the victims of the horrors committed in the Ottoman Empire. Many Armenian families living today in Romania bear the memory of the crimes recounted by relatives who were fortunate enough to be saved and were received to live in Romania. The denial of human annihilation of this act by the descendants of those who have done it, makes it a current issue.
According to the historical coordinates, the photo album Armenians in Romania. The stories of the people close to us is structured in several chapters, as follows:
1. Introduction. A brief history of the Armenian community in Romania, with the elements that contributed to the Romanian culture.
2. Chapter: Armenians in Moldova. The history of the community.
2.1. In Botoșani. Less numerous, but the inheritor of the oldest Armenian church in Romania.
2.2. In Suceava. History; places of worship and story characters. Hagigadar Monastery is the place where the largest Armenian pilgrimage is held.
2.3. In Iași. The Armenian community in Iași; history. The re-sanctification of the Armenian church by Catholicos Karekin II himself, a very important moment for the community.
2.4. In Roman. The Armenian Church in Roman. The history of the community.
2.5. In Târgu Ocna. The history of the community; Armenian church – details of architecture, buildings.
2.6. In Focșani. The history of the community; churches, buildings, tombstones in the Armenian cemetery and historic characters.
2.7. In Galați. The history of the community; re-sanctification of the church.
2.8. In the Republic of Moldova. Short history of the community; Armenian church; Ruins of the Manuc Bei’s palace in Hâncești.
3. Chapter: Armenians in Transylvania. The history of the community.
3.1. In Gherla. City entirely built by Armenians, after a predetermined urban plan. The history of the community; architecture details; churches; Characters.
3.2. In Dumbrăveni. The history of the community. Holiday dedication day; Armenian Days in Dumbrăveni; architecture details; secrets of the community; story characters.
3.3. In Frumoasa. The history of the community; Armenian church; architecture details; story characters – Peter Zakariaș, the only Armenian in Transylvania who knows the Armenian language.
3.4. In Gheorgheni. The history of the community; Dedication day; architecture details; story characters.
4. Chapter: Armenians in Muntenia and Dobrogea. The history of the community.
4.1. In Bucharest. Presentation of the Armenian community in Bucharest, which is the largest and most active today. Religious activities – religious holidays, the visit of the Catholicos of all Armenians, Karekin II; Church choir; Presentation of the museum and the library; School Activities (Courses of Eastern and Western Armenian language taking place every Saturday and Sunday); Armenian folk dances ensemble Vartavar; Armenian community mass-media, activities and events organized by the community; story characters.
4.2. In Pitești. History of the community; Dedication day; story characters.
4.3. In Brăila. The history of the community; details of architecture inside the Armenian church.
4.4. In Constanța. History of the Armenian community in Constanta, the second largest in Romania; Armenian church; Sunday School of Western Armenian language; story characters (representative people – the great jazz man Harry Tavitian).
5. Chapter: About the Armenian Genocide. Documents; Strunga – the story of the former children orphanage, which housed 200 Armenian refugee children, survivors of the genocide in 1915; Interview with Haik Demoyan, the director of The Armenian Genocide Museum and Institute in Yerevan, Armenia, Interview with Alexander Ter Grigorian, a Genocide survivor who lived in Armenia; Simple considerations (interviews).
6. Chapter: The funeral of the Archbishop Dirayr Mardikian.
7. Chapter: Romanian connections in Armenia. The Armenians repatriated to motherland between 1946-1948. Characters. Romanian language course at the State University of Foreign Languages V. Brusov in Yerevan, Armenia.
8. Bibliographical notes.