The news lately has been a plethora of stories about the riots in Baltimore, which designer celebrities wore to the Met Gala in New York City, and the upcoming presidential election. Somewhere in the midst of the national and local news, there was slight coverage of the Armenian Genocide centennial that happened on April 24.
The Armenian Genocide was a centrally planned mass murder administered by the Turkish government against the entire Christian population of the Ottoman Empire. From 1915 to 1918, the Armenian people were subjected to torture, massacre, abduction, rape, expropriation, starvation and deportation. Yet the only way most people are even familiar with the atrocity is by following Kim Kardashian on Instagram and seeing her posts from her recent trip to the country.
There is a lack of knowledge in society about the Armenian culture other than the people have dark features, nice eyebrows, extravagant parties, livers that can tolerate any amount of alcohol, everlasting family traditions and an overabundance of food.
Since many are unaware that there is even a country named Armenia, it is a small country of approximately 3 million people located in Western Asia and is bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Armenia gained its independence from seven decades of Soviet rule in 1991 and is governed by a semi-presidential republic; the current president is Serzh Sargsyan and the Prime Minister is Hovik Abrahamyan.
Post-Genocide, the Armenian people were dispersed in several different places throughout Europe, Russia, America and the Middle East, which is why the Armenian people are so diverse.
A leading factor in Armenian culture is the heavy stress on the importance of family. As an Armenian, I was raised knowing that my family members would stand by me during both the good and the bad. I was also brought up with a sense of pride of being Armenian, since I live in an area where my family was the designated Armenian family, and having a deep connection to my roots and heritage.
Alina Kazarian, 19, nutrition major at Glendale Community College, had a lot to say about her upbringing and the prominence of family and culture. “Like many Armenian families do, I lived with my direct family, my aunt and uncle, my cousins and my grandparents. I used to be ashamed of having so many people live in my house but as I grew older and say the families of my friends deteriorate, I stopped taking it for granted and started appreciating what I have.”
She added, “Another thing that always made me giggle was how when I came home from school there was always a meal prepared for me. Always. We rarely ever ate out. If we did, something serious had happened to where my mom, aunt or grandma was unable to cook for us.”
In the Greater Los Angeles area, Glendale is where most Armenians reside. There is a surplus of Armenian bakeries and restaurants, with owners who usually incorporate their personal family traditions into their products. There are shops designated to solely selling Armenian foods, spices, cloths, etc., and Armenian is a language that most people, even those of other ethnicities, are somewhat familiar with. At schools, Armenian is available to take as a language and all public schools recognize the Armenian Genocide as a holiday, so classes are not in session.
Henry Sahakian, 26, biology major at the University of California, Los Angeles, said one of his favorite parts of being Armenian is the food and the get-togethers that circulate around food. “I grew up on watching my dad and men of the family barbeque vegetables, meats and potatoes on a charcoal grill then giving them to my mom to prepare and set the table with, while including the rice and appetizers her and the women made. It’s something that I know other cultures do, but being Armenian is different. Only other Armenians will understand.”
Going with the stereotype of Armenians being heavy drinkers and starting at a young age, Sahakian added, “I started drinking at age 14 with the comfort of my family and I learned my limits with my favorite people surrounding me. All my friends always ask when I’m going to have another family party. Little do they know that it’s a normal Friday for me.”
Being Armenian is something that has always been special to me. It’s been an integral part of my life and although it took a long time for me to understand why I had to miss going to the movies with my friends to go to a relatives house and why I had to be home hours before my friends, I will always be grateful to have been raised with such an importance on things that actually matter.
Behind the lavish parties and exceptional food, the Armenian culture is one that is very tight knit and the people embrace their roots to the highest level possible. They are a group of people who believe in unity and treat each other like family, at all times.