post Armenians of Ethiopia

July 21st, 2008

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 14:51

By Garbis Krajian

As a form of introduction, I was born in Ethiopia from Armenian parents. My family’s history in Ethiopia goes back over 150 years. From my father’s side, I am fortunate to trace my genealogy back five generations. From my mother’s side, I am only able to go back as far as my grandfather. Nonetheless!

Armenian Church in Addis (image: Flickr)

I grew up in the Arat Kilo region and still remember many of my childhood friends. I became fluent in Amharic and loved doing everything a child would do in our neighborhood. Ethiopia became my home country and home to almost all Armenians who live in Ethiopia. Right after the fall of the Emperor I left Ethiopia for Canada.

After living abroad for thirty years, I have returned to Ethiopia as an educator. Upon my arrival I learned that the once vibrant and prosperous Armenian community that numbered around 1,500 has dwindled to less than one hundred. The remaining twenty families still run the community school, a club and a church. On April 24th, like it has been done for the last 90 years, I also went to my church to pray for the soul of my ancestors.

It is estimated that over ten million Armenians and friends in one hundred fifty-two countries gathered in churches, community centers, and national assembly halls to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I was one of sixty Armenians who congregated at St. George Armenian Church to pay tribute to my ancestors who were victims of the atrocities committed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Needless to say, I could not think of being anywhere else in the world at this particular moment than this sacred place in Addis which is still situated in the same setting where I regularly prayed as a child until I was 19 years of age. This was the same site, where every year, on April 24th, a thousand or so Armenian-Ethiopians gathered to remember their ancestors, the children, and the elderly who were slaughtered by the Ottoman Army. In fact, what makes my conviction so much stronger is that I am the grandchild of one of the Forty Orphans, the “Arba Lijoch,” who survived the genocide and escaped to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, these forty orphans were given shelter at the Armenian Monastery later to be adopted by Emperor Haile-Selassie. The Emperor brought them to Ethiopia, where they made this lovely country their home. These forty young men, who were a band had impressed the Emperor with their musical skills. Upon their arrival to Ethiopia, they were commissioned, under the directorship of Noubar Nalbandian, uncle of Nerses Nalbandian, to compose the National Anthem of Ethiopia. It remained as the anthem, “Teferi Marsh” or “Ethiopia Hoy,” until the arrival of the Dergue.

Before I move to the topic of my immediate concern, I pay much gratitude to all Ethiopians, present and past, for giving the Armenians a home for the last 100 years.
…Read the whole article.

About the author:
Garbis Kradjian is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a teacher of ethics courses. His current assignment is in Ethiopia and Zambia.

This article was published on Addis Tribune



  1. Hello Garbris:
    My name is Aris and armenian family name Martirossian. I live in New Jersey, USA. My background goes back to Armenia and Iran. I am well aware of the Genocide and read a lot of History going back to Urartu….It is a pleasure to know you better, such an accomplished gentleman with the love of Hye and Hyastan hyrenik in your heart. I have among other things curiosity about Amharic language going back to Mesrop Mashtots and design of Armenian alphabeth with the assistance of a couple of other collegues. As a rare find to be my friend, collaborator and penpal I would like to correspond with you. You must be fluent in Amharic and Armenian and of course we can converse in English with no problem. I am professionally an Architect educated in France and USA. If you are interested I would love to receive a note from you.
    My sincere greetings to you…
    Aris Martin

    Comment by aristo martin — 7. December 2010 @ 04:49

  2. I am glad you went back to Ethiopia to teach. My husband has always spoken highly of the Armenians that he worked for, prior to migrating to the U.S. And, every now and then he will try and google the family he worked for, that moved to Canada; but he has yet to find them on the Internet.
    He has been in the U.S. since 1980, and, once in awhile, he does think of going back and teaching in the field of Civil Engineering, but its often just a thought. Luckily, we all had a chance to go back to Ethiopia, as a family, (my first time there as a African-American), and one of our required stops, on our daily agenda there, was the Armenian shop he worked at. He was really saddened by what he saw, and, most likely, cried when we weren’t looking; and given what the owners did for him, to make his journey to America a safe one, one would understand the tears of sadness. I believe the store was called the “Artistic Shop.” It was like a stationary store. In any case, I somehow came across this blog, after my son asked me where is Armenia? We were discussing Jack Kavorkian, who is Armenian, and his quest to allow the terminally ill the right to die…

    Comment by Janell Lemma — 4. April 2011 @ 00:35

  3. I have no Armenian background but the name “Artistic Stationary” arouses a great memory in my mind. Knowing now that this stationary belonged to our fellow Ethiopians with Armenian background (I call them Ethiopians because they were and still are deeply anchored to Ethiopia than our clueless generation of these days.) I am grateful for the great service that this stationary given us artists on that time.

    Back in those days, I was a student of Addis Ababa Fine Arts School. Walking through Piassa, visiting Artistic Stationary was a “must” ritual that all art students have gone through. It was a place where we updated our artistic necessity. Even though we didn’t afford buying all needed stuff, the very feeling that this stationary will be there to provide us with what we need when we would afford, gave us a reassuring feeling. But, as we all have witnessed, Artistic stationary was one among many essential establishments that was crippled by a dumb system…

    Comment by Mandefro — 4. April 2011 @ 20:58

  4. Janell I beleive that store was owned by my family which family did your husband work for?


    Comment by SnowShoe — 10. July 2011 @ 21:18

  5. We lived in Ethiopia in the late 60’s. In Addis, there was a string quartet (Armenian) lacking a violist. Since my father played viola, he was invited to join the qurtet. Asside from my father (Basil Wentworth) the other members of the quartet were: Elias Djerahian (with possible errors in spelling), his son Vartan, and Dikran Vorperian (same possibility of spelling error).

    Comment by Peter Wentworth — 26. April 2012 @ 22:43

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

© 2012 Lissan Magazine , Powered by WordPress
Initiated & sponsered by Admassu Mamo Kombolcha, Frankfurt, Germany