3 of My Armenian Grandparents Had Roots Where the Azeris Say We Never Were


Long ago, in a far away place, Julfa was a thriving Armenian city. And then it was not.

What do you know about Julfa? I can tell you that there was an Old Julfa and a New Julfa.

During the Middle Ages, Old Julfa was on the Silk Road at the crossroads of great empires. A few hundred thousand Armenians called the ancient city home — a population about the equivalent of the number of Armenians living in the United States today. As their silk worms were spinning silk into gold, Julfa’s Armenian merchants were welcomed across Europe and the Far East. But, Julfa and its inhabitants were also in the crosshairs of warring kings.

After one particularly brutal turf battle won by Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, Persian Shah Abbas I set fire to everything he could burn as he retreated. It was on this scorched earth that the Shah attempted to bring all of Julfa’s Armenians back with him. At first, they didn’t want to go, but he persuaded them to take his deal: deportation or death. Many thousands died on the journey. Those who survived, settled in Isfahan and established Nor (New) Julfa. Three of my grandparents descended from the Old Julfa Armenians. My father was born in New Julfa, in present-day Iran. He immigrated to America with his parents and sisters in 1948.

Today, Old Julfa is simply Julfa, a city in Azerbaijan. If you believe the Azeri government, the Armenians were never there. To put an end to the question of why there was an Armenian cemetery with thousands of graves in Old Julfa, Azerbaijan destroyed it.

Read Hyperallergic.com’s post, “A Regime Conceals Its Erasure of Indigenous Armenian Culture – A groundbreaking forensic report tracks Azerbaijan’s recent destruction of 89 medieval churches, 5,840 intricate cross-stones, and 22,000 tombstones.”

[Photo credit: Copyright Argam Ayvazyan archives, 1970-1981; posted February 17, 2019, Hyperallergic.com]

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