Although the number of Armenians in the US is unknown, speculation puts the number from anywhere between 500,000 to 2,000,000. Due to the fact that the US census does not have Armenian in the list of ethnicities to choose from, most Armenians just mark off "white". According to the census however, we do know that there were 202,708 Armenian speakers in the USA in the year 2000.
The First Armenian
Martin the Armenian was the first Armenian known to have moved to America. He arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1618, when the colony was 11 years old.
History of the Armenian Community
Armenians began immigrating to the United States in significant numbers starting in the 1890s. Much of this immigration was caused by the widespread massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, when an estimated 200,000 Armenians were killed. There were many protestant missionaries and missionary hospitals, schools and outposts working with the Armenians at this time, which also served to afford Armenians the opportunity to go to the United States.
Most chose to settle in New England, with smaller communities forming in Wisconsin, Fresno, and elsewhere. Boston and Watertown were, and remain the largest centers of the Armenian community on the east coast. These communities grew a great deal in numbers following the Armenian Genocide. The number of Armenians emigrating to the United States slowed down a great deal after the genocide, and there was only a trickle until the late 1960s and 1970s, when the Middle East erupted in war and violence. Beginning at that time a steady stream of Armenian refugees began to flow, or sometimes flood into the Unites States.
After the Armenian Genocide, the largest number of survivors outside of the Soviet Union ended up in the Middle East. Beirut and Aleppo, Alexandria and Tehran, Jerusalem and many other cities across the Middle East had important and large Armenian communities. As war ripped across the area, Armenians began to flee once again to the United States. The Arab-Israeli wars, the Lebanese civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, and other factors all contributed to a large surge of Armenian emigration. This time however, the vast majority chose Los Angeles as their destination. An Armenian community had already been established in Los Angeles, to a large degree by Armenians who had left Fresno, which mushroomed at this time. Hollywood, Montebello, Pasadena and the Valley all saw the establishment of Armenian churches and schools.
With the start of the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, for the first time a large number of Persian Armenians arrived to the United States. Before that virtually all Armenian immigrants had beenWestern Armenian, and spoke a very different dialect. Then, in the 1980s, as the Soviet Union loosened control on emigration, the two groups that took advantage of the loosened restrictions were the Armenians and the Jews. Many of the first to arrive were Armenians who had been repatriated to Armenia during Stalin's rule after WWII, when the Soviet Union had asked Armenians from around the world to move to Armenia. These Armenians, many of them from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and the Middle East left Soviet Armenia at this first opportunity and arrived in Los Angeles, to form the basis of the Eastern (or Russian) Armenian community. Later, as the Soviet Union collapsed, another large wave of Armenians left the newly independent Republic of Armenia for the United States, again primarily choosing to settle in Los Angeles.
Due to these immigration patterns, Los Angeles has undoubtedly the largest Armenian community in the United States, and probably the most diverse Armenian community in the world. There are fourth or fifth generation American-Armenians, as well as Armenians born across the Middle East, Europe, the Former Soviet Union, Africa and Latin America.
The Armenian community in the United States today is second only to that of Russia in numbers, and likewise the size of the diaspora community in Los Angeles is second only to that of Moscow.