From early antiquity, the Armenian people developed a rich and distinctive culture on the great highland plateau extending from eastern Asia Minor to the Caucasus. On that crossroad, they interacted on many levels with civilizations of the Orient and Occident. The Armenian community in Constantinople, dating back to the fourth century, contributed to the cultural and material development of the imperial city, the City of Constantine—Kostandnupolis or Bolis, today’s Istanbul.
Constantinople served as a major cultural center for Armenians, as Byzantine, Arab, Seljuk, Mongol, and Mamluk invaders battled across their homeland for regional hegemony, compelling Armenians in growing numbers to migrate westward to the Byzantine Empire or being forced to do so by the Byzantine rulers in furtherance of their imperial objectives.
Under Ottoman rule, Armenians in the capital registered impressive cultural and economic achievements despite their legal status as second-class citizens, and they witnessed an enlightenment and cultural reawakening in all spheres of literature and arts led by such intellectuals as Bedros Turian, Hagop Baronian, Srpuhi Diusap, Zabel Yesayan, Rupen Sevag, Taniel Varoujan, and Siamanto, the last three falling victim to the genocidal policies of the Young Turk regime. The military and economic decline of the Ottoman Empire, however, caused severe tensions between Turks and Armenians, further exacerbated by strains in international relations. The Armenian massacres of 1894-96 and 1909 culminated in the Armenian Genocide beginning in 1915 during World War I. Still, the Armenian community in Istanbul today and Armenians across the world remain the beneficiaries of the rich cultural legacy inherited from the generations of the Armenian enlightenment.
The UCLA conference series, “Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces,” is organized by the Holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History with the purpose of exploring and illuminating the historical, political, cultural, religious, social, and economic legacy of a people rooted for millennia on the Armenian highland.
Armenian Constantinople is the ninth of the conference proceedings to be published. Scholars from various disciplines offer the story of the Armenian presence in Constantinople across the centuries until the early decades of the twentieth century. Other publications in this series include Van/Vaspurakan; Baghesh/Bitlis and Taron/Mush; Tsopk/Kharpert; Sebastia/Sivas and Lesser Armenia; Karin/Erzerum; Tigranakert/Diarbekir and Edessa/Urfa; Armenian Cilicia; and Armenian Pontus.