The relations between Turks and Armenians stretches back to quite old times, to the 3rd century. When Armenians rebelling against Iran in Caucasia understood that they were going to lose in their struggle, they asked help from Kipchaks and gained their independence. However, when Roman Emperor Diojletianus destroyed Iran and Armenia at the end of the century (297), Armenians living here found themselves again in a difficult situation. The process in question caused the approach of the Armenians to Kipchaks. Armenians sent Grigoris, the grandson of Saint Grigoriy, to the Kipchak sultan and a relationship and unity of belief appeared between the Armenians and Kipchaks from this meeting. As a result of the Armenian-Kipchak intimacy, it is possible to mention a word exchange between the Armenian and Turkish languages starting from the fourth century (Karaağaç, 2001, p. 967).
When it was the 11th century, the fact that Kipchaks became again an important dominant power in Caucasia made Armenians and Kipchaks come close due to geographical position. The Kipchaks who established good relations with both the Georgians and Armenians were influential on the political and social balances of Caucasia. Some of Kipchaks accepted Christianity and some of these were linked to the Georgian Orthodox Church, and some were linked to the Armenian Gregorian Church (Kırzıoğlu, 1992, p. 136). This situation meant a unity of religion and this meant that the two parties would have tighter cultural and social relations.
The first meeting of the Armenians with Ghuzz Turks was in the 11th century. With the conquest of Ani by the Seljuks, the Armenian Bagrationi State collapsed and the Armenians were distributed to the north of the Black Sea, mainly Crimea (Kutalmış, 2003, p. 37). This distribution made Armenians meet the Kipchaks and the Kipchak culture living in Crimea. The Armenians who settled in Crimea increased their trading activities with the Kipchaks and adopted Kipchak Turkish first as the language of the church and then the official language. Later on, some Armenians leaving Armenia for different reasons became neighbours to the Kipchaks in especially the Crimea and Besarabya regions and learnt Kipchak Turkish. Armenian Gregorians who spoke Kipchak Turkish were called Mankerman in some sources (Aynakulova, 2005, p. 830).
Some of the Armenians speaking Kipchak Turkish settled in the cities of Kamenets and Podolsk in the west of Ukraine starting from the year 1280 and they were recognized as Poland Armenians later on. (Pritsak) Kamenets-Podolsk or the Poland Armenian community spoke Turkish from the 14th century until the 19th century and produced their written works in Turkish with Armenian letters. However, these Armenians moved away from the Turkish language today and started to speak Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish (Aynakulova, 2005, p. 825).
In the 11th century, Ghuzz Turks became the rulers of Anatolia and therefore, the first relations between the Ghuzz Turks and Armenians started in the period of the Seljuks. This beginning would continue by increasing mutual influence in the Ottoman period.
In the period of Mehmet the Conqueror, the Armenian Patriarchate was opened in Istanbul and Armenians were brought to Istanbul from other places and privileges were given to them in all fields of life. Armenians had an active role in urban life in this period and made strong relations with Turkish along with Arabic, Persian, and Kurdish depending on the regions they lived in (Kutalmış, 2003, p. 47-50). Besides, many of the Armenians living in the cities and big towns of Western Anatolia and Istanbul, where Muslim Turks held the majority, started to leave their own language and speak Turkish. In this period, Armenian became a language used only in religious ceremonies. Yet, some Armenians converted to the Catholic sect with the influence of European missionaries and deliberately abandoned Armenian to put forth their differences. Armenians living in Eastern Anatolia and Caucasia continued to speak Armenian. This cultural differentiation caused them to be divided into two, as Eastern Armenians and Western Armenians.
The relations between Armenian and Turkish lasted for many years both in Caucasia and in Anatolia, and as a result of this relation it was possible to say that there were 4000 Turkish words in Armenian in the 20th century, while there were around 200-680 Armenian words in Turkish. Similarly, it is certain that Turkish had an influence on Armenian grammar as well.
Armenians never changed their letters throughout history. Even in the period of the Soviet Union, though all other nations under Soviet rule used Cyrillic letters, Armenians and Georgians continued to use their own letters. Some of the Armenians building relations with Turks in Caucasia and even in Anatolia did not change their letters, though they changed their language and wrote Turkish with Armenian letters.
Armenian letters used by Ottoman Armenians and Gregorian Kipchaks have differences in terms of spelling and writing style (Rona –Tas, 1998). Also in terms of word existence, borrowed words from the Slavic language in Gregorian Kipchak Turkish are more. Arabic and Persian words, on the other hand, are partly seen in some works. However, Armenian words are very limited (Berta, 1998, p. 165). It is seen that a differentiating language according to the region and quality of the work is used in the works by Armenians under Ottoman rule. In such works, there are Arabic and Persian words along with the Anatolian accents. Writing Turkish texts with Armenian letters is come across in manuscripts after the 14th century and in pressed works after the 18th century. Armenian books started to be pressed in printing houses after the beginning of the 16th century. The first Turkish book with Armenian letters was pressed in Venice in 1876 by Sivaslı Mıkhitar, the founder of the Union of Mikhitarists (Koptaş, 2002, p. XIV). The number of the pressed books is quite a lot. It is stated in the bibliography called Turkish Literature with Armenian Letters, published in Paris in 2001, that the number of Turkish books with Armenian letters is more than 2000. Turkish texts with Armenian letters, which continued to exist until 1968, were pressed in more than 200 printing houses in around 50 cities. The number of printing houses pressing such books only in Istanbul is 85. After the decision of dispatchment and settlement, the number of Turkish books pressed with Armenian letters in Anatolia decreased; but it continued in different countries and cities such as Tabriz, Aleppo, Damascus, Cairo, Beirut, Alexandria, Paris, Marseille, Buenos Aires, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. The last Turkish book with Armenian letters published outside of Turkey is Dikren Kireçyan’s Restan Kitabı, published in 1968 in Buenos Aires (Koptaş, 2002, p. XVII-XXII).
Works written in Armenian Turkish and letters in Ottoman lands are generally categorized into five groups. These are the works of Armenian poet-singers (aşug), written literary works, translations, newspapers, journals, and epitaphs. It is possible to classify this classification with a more general approach by also including Kipchak areas as such: literary works (it is possible to consider this as oral and written works), dictionaries, and works on language, translations, legal documents, historical works, and periodicals.
Works to be examined under these titles make a significant total and display how Turkish-Armenian relations were important and in a strong position in language and literature just like many other fields of culture.
In conclusion, it is also possible to say that the dominant culture in Turkish-Armenian relations is the Turkish culture. This can be proven by the number of words borrowed from Turkish into Armenian. The fact that Armenian letters were compatible with Turkish was also influential in this. The Armenian alphabet is very convenient in terms of showing the vowels of Turkish. The relation between the two languages –while considering Turkish works written with Armenian letters- is an important source, especially in the research of Kipchak Turkish and accents used in Anatolia.
Aynakulova, G. (2005), “Gregorian Kıpçaklar’a Dair”, Belleten, 256, 825-839.
Berta, A. (1998), Middle Kipchaki The Turkic Languges, London and New York.
Karaağaç, G. (2001), “Türk-Ermeni Dili İlişkileri”, Yeni Türkiye Ermeni sorunu Özel Sayısı, 38, 967-973.
Kırzıoğlu, M. F. (1992), Yukarı Kür ve Çoruk Boylarında Kıpçaklar. Ankara: TTK.
Koptaş, R. (2002), “Ermeni Harfleriyle Türkçe”, Ermeni Harfli Türkçe Metinler, (Kevork Pamukçiyan), Istanbul: Aras.
Kutalmış, M. (2003), “On the Armeno-Kipchak”, Karadeniz Araştırmaları, 2, 35-43.
Kutalmış, M. (2003), “On the Turkish in Armenian Script”, Journal of Economic and Social Research, 5, 35-43.
Róna-Tas, A. (1998), Turkic Writing Systems, The Turkic Languages. London and New York.