Subbotniki in Sevan, Armenia

Segment from video: Jews in Armenia: The Hidden Diaspora, a thesis/film by Vartan Akchyan
2002, DVD/video, 25+ minutes, $46 — Russian, Hebrew, Armenian, and English with subtitles in Engish.
History and existence of the Jewish community in Armenia. Made in the summer of 2001 in Armenia, Israel,
and the US. Nominee for "Best Documentary" at the 2002 AFFMA International Film Festival.

In the 1730s, many Subboniki were resettled from central Russia, some to Armenia where they built the
village of Yelenovka, now called Sevan, at the north shore of Lake Sevan. A student at the University of
Georgetown, Vartan Akchyan, who is an American-Armenian, wrote a thesis and produced a video:
"Jews in Armenia: The Hidden Diaspora". Chapter 5 of the video, titled: "Modern Communites", is 3.5
minutes about the Subbotniki (9:23 to 12:51 min.). Below is a storyboard of Chapter 5 showing the English
subtitles. For more details, download his published thesis (PDF): Jews in Armenia: The Hidden Diaspora,
Georgetown Journal of International Afairs, Culture & Society, Winter/Spring 2003. The Subbonik
information is on pages 81-86.

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Jews in Armenia: The Hidden Diaspora

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[Panorama of Lake Sevan with
singing]
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Sevan, Armenia
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Three frames from the video were joined to make this panoramic view of part of the
Subbotniki prayer meeting in Sevan, Armenia. Their song melodies on the video
are somewhat similiar to tunes sung by American Molokan-Jumpers. After this
song, a narration begins in Russian which is translated in the subtitles below.

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I was born in Sevan, formerly
known as Yelenovka, renamed
Sevan in 1935. 
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We have been living here until
now.
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I was born here, and will probably
die here. Where else can we go?
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This is our Homeland. We love
our Homeland. We love Armenia.
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Subboniks are Armenian citizens
whose religion is Judaism. They
observe the Sabbath.
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Rimma Warzhapetyan, Leader
of the Jewish Community of
Armenia
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Well, we are locals here.
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Our ancesters settled here in the
1730s. They came from Russia.
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They were Russians who
renounced Christianity....
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...and accepted the five books
of Moses.
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When the split of Christianity
[raskol] took place our ancestors
broke away.
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There were probably missionaries
from Israel in Russia who won
them over.
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And our ancestors considered that
his religion was...
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...the truest of all the religions
hat existed in the world.
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And we have continued the
traditions of our ancestors until now.
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Fishing, stockbreeding -- it seems
that this is what our ancestors
survived on.
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The fish was very good. The
trout was big then, very tasty.
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Our ancestors had their own
synagogue where they prayed.
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They had their own Rabbi and
prayer books, which were
translated from Hebrew to
Russian.
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We continue to use these prayers
today.
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The subbotniks had been
considered a sect.
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But we have come to realize that
they are not a sect at all because
the Torah ...
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...constitues the very basis of their
beliefs and there is nothing except
the Torah.
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We gather on Saturdays, pray to
our God, sing, talk...
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..discuss things and then return to
our homes.
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They are genuinely religious
people and I respect them greatly.
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[Return to views of Lake Sevan
with singing]
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In September 2006 only 13 of these 23 Subbotniki in Armenia remained in Sevan. From: JTA, Around the Jewish World: Small community in Armenia strives to preserve its heritage

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