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The Assyrians

The AssyriansAssyrians in Russia are to be found mainly in the cities of Moscow, St.Petersburg, Rostov-na-Donu, and in Krasnodarsky Krai.

Language: Assyrian (neo-sirian, neo-arameic, sirian); other lang. from the region (Armenian, Arab, Persian)
Religion: Christians (Most of them Nestorian, but Jacobites in Turkey, some Chaldeans).
Diaspora: Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Siberia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon.

The Assyrians believe themselves to be direct descendants of the Assyrian empire in the Middle East 2500-612 BC, in Northern Mesopotamia (Now Iraq). It was initially subject to Sumer, and intermittently to Babylon. The Assyrians adopted in the main the Sumerian religion and structure of society. At its greatest extent the empire included Egypt and streched from the Eastern Mediterrean coast to the head of the Persian Gulf.

From around the year 100, Christianity became a factor strengthening the ethnicity of the Assyrians. The Nestorian church became leading among the Assyrians under the Arab kalifate (from the 7th c.). During the conquests of Timur in the 14th c., the Assyrians were nearly eliminated, as they rejected Islam. The survivors had fled to the mountains of Kurdistan. From the 16th c. the majority of the Assyrians lived on the territory of the Ottoman empire.

In the 19th c., the Assyrians found themselves in the epi-centre of the international conflicts and power-struggles in the Middle East, where European powers tried to exploit the fact the Assyrians and some other groups were Christian. This was not popular with the Turkish authotorities and resulted in repression and pogroms. Around the First World War some 500,000 Assyrians were killed by Turks and Kurds, and many fled to other countries.

Assyrians came to Russia and the Soviet Union in three main waves: The first waThe Assyriansvw was after the Treaty of Turkmanchai in 1828, that delineated a border between Russia and Persia. Many Assyrians found themselves suddenly under Russian sovereignty and thousands of relatives crossed the border to join them. The second wave was a result of the repression and violence during and after World War 1. The third wave came after World War 2, when Moscow unsuccessfully had tried to establish a satellite state in Iranian Kurdistan. Soviet troops withdrew in 1946, and left the Assyrians exposed to exactly the same kind of retaliation that they had suffered from the Turks 30 years earlier. Again, many Assyrians found refuge in the Soviet Union, this time mainly in the cities.

Soviet power in the thirties repressed the Assyruians' religion and persecuted religious and other leaders.
In recent years, the Assyrians have tended to assimilate with Armenians, but their cultural and ethnic identity, strengthened through centuries of hardships, found new expression under Glasnost.

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