History of the Armenian Jewish Community
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History of the Armenian Jewish Community

According to semi-legendary tradition, Jews appeared in Armenia after Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 B.C. Groups of Jews were moved to Armenia from Palestine in the first century B.C. by the kings Tigran II and Artavazd. However, in the 4th century A.D., after Armenia was defeated by the Persian army, most of the Jews were driven away as captives. Separate Jewish groups remained in Armenia until the 13th-14th centuries. The Zok, a sub-ethnic Armenian group living in the Kapan region, are held to be descended from “Tigran’s” Jews.

In the 19th century, after Armenia was annexed by the Russian Empire under the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, Georgian and Ashkenazi Jews settled there, as well as Sabbatarians – Russian peasants who had converted to Judaism and were exiled to the new outskirts of the empire. By 1970 the Jewish population of Armenia was 1048; by the end of the 1980s their number (including the Sabbatarians) was approximately 3,000. In the 1990s most of the Armenian Jews (about 1,800) emigrated.