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The Armenian diaspora refers to the communities of Armenians outside Armenia and other locations where Armenians are considered an indigenous population. Since antiquity, Armenians have established communities in many regions throughout the world. However, the modern Armenian diaspora was largely formed as a result of the WWI, when the Armenian Genocide ordered by the Ottoman Empire forced the people living in their homeland to flee or be killed.
In Armenian, the diaspora is referred to as spyurk (pronounced [sprk?]), spelled in classical orthography and ? in reformed orthography. In the past, the word gaghut ( pronounced ['?ut?]) was used mostly to refer to the Armenian communities outside the Armenian homeland. It is borrowed from the Aramaic (Classical Syriac) cognate of Hebrew galut (?).
The Armenian diaspora has been present for over 1,700 years. The modern Armenian diaspora was formed largely after World War I as a result of the Armenian Genocide. According to Randall Hansen, "Both in the past and today, the Armenian communities around the world have developed in significantly different ways within the constraints and opportunities found in varied host cultures and countries."
In the fourth century, Armenian communities already existed outside of Greater Armenia. Diasporic Armenian communities emerged in the Sassanid and Persian empires, and also to defend eastern and northern borders of the Byzantine Empire. In order to populate the less populated areas of Byzantium, Armenians were relocated to those regions. Some Armenians converted to Greek Orthodoxy while retaining Armenian as their language, whereas others stubbornly clung on to remain in the Armenian Church despite pressure from official authorities. A growing number of Armenians voluntarily migrated or were compelled to move to Cilicia during the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. After the fall of the kingdom to the Mamelukes and loss of Armenian statehood in 1375, up to 150,000 went to Cyprus, the Balkans, and Italy. Although an Armenian diaspora existed during Antiquity and the Middle Ages, it grew in size due to emigration from the Ottoman Empire, Iran, Russia, and the Caucasus.
The Armenian diaspora is divided into two communities – those from Ottoman Armenia (or Western Armenian) and those who are from the former Soviet Union, the independent Armenia and Iran. (or Eastern Armenian)
The Armenian diaspora grew considerably during and after the First World War due to dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Although many Armenians perished during the Armenian Genocide, some of the Armenians managed to escape, and established themselves in various parts of the world.
Of those, approximately 3 million live in Armenia, 130,000 in the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh and 120,000 in the region of Javakhk in neighboring Georgia. This leaves approximately 7,000,000 in diaspora (with the largest populations in Russia, the United States, France, Argentina, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Canada, Ukraine, Greece, and Australia).
Less than one third of the world's Armenian population lives in Armenia. Their pre-World War I population area was six times larger than that of present-day Armenia, including the eastern regions of Turkey, northern part of Iran, and the southern part of Georgia.
Currently, only one-sixth of that land [ancestral territory] is inhabited by Armenians, due first to variously coerced emigrations and finally to the genocide of the Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1915.