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Ethnic minorities

In a land where less than 3 percent of the population is not ethnically Armenian, one can imagine that life is not always easy for those who are counted among the minorities. However, outright intolerance is extremely rare. This is especially true in Yerevan, where locals often go out of their way to be accommodating to those who do not look, or speak, Armenian.

The largest ethnic and religious minority in Armenia is the Yazidis, a Kurdish community who number about 40,000 in the west ol the country. Many Yazidis came to Armenia and (Georgia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to escape religious persecution by the Ottoman Turks, who had tried to convert them from Yazidism — a monotheistic religion that incorporates many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions to Islam. Their story is similar to the Armenians', in that they were massacred alongside them during the genocide of the early twentieth century. Relationships with the Armenians are relatively stable, and the Yazidis have developed strong ties with the country. During the Nagorno Karabakh War, members of the Yazidi community renounced their ties with the Muslim Kurds, and some took up arms in support of the Armenian army.

Another small minority, the Molokans, also have a historic alignment with Armenia. A religious sect made up predominantly of Russian peasants, Molokans broke from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1550s. They got their name from the Russian word for milk (moloko), because they refused to participate in the Orthodox days of fasting, drinking milk instead. Molokans also follow Old Testament kosher dietary laws. They claim to be direct descendants from an ancient Armenian tribe that also migrated to Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Serbia.

Much has also been written about Jews in Armenia. The Jewish population began settling in the country around 80 все, when Tigranes the Great returned from Palestine with about 10,000 Jews. Today, very few of the Jewish community remain, and those who do are generally left in peace. However, the Jews, like all others who make up Armenia's minorities, are always aware that they are not a part of the majority of Armenians.


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