Armenian immigrants in Marseille
Un siècle d'immigrations en France
First broadcast date
The Armenian genocide survivors arrived in the South in the early 20s.
At a party of the Association of Armenians, Stéphane Kelian recalls that the footwear industry, in Romans, needed these artisans. He evokes the pride of this association that maintains the traditions.
Memories of Maryam Markoyan, survivor of genocide.
Hilda Tchoboyan notes that emissaries used to come to the refugee camps, in Greece, and take away the Armenians.
France 3 - Coproduction
- MEMVI - Coproduction
- Economy / Markets and crafts
Credits / Cast
- Kelian Stéphane - Participant
- Tchilinguirian Jean - Participant
- Markoyan Maryam - Participant
- France - South East - Valence
- France - South East - Romans
- France - South East - Decines-Charpieu
Armenian immigrants in Marseille
Between September 1922 and the end of 1927, 50,000 fugitives from the genocide in Armenia disembarked at Cap Janet near Marseille. Out of a hundred Armenians arriving at the port, 40 stayed in Marseille, rapidly filling the camps to overflowing: Victor Hugo, Mirabeau and Oddo. Many then remained in the suburbs, settling in groups according to where they originally came from: at St Antoine the inhabitants of Sivas, at St Loup and St Marguerite the inhabitants of Adana and Cilicia; at Beaumonet people from Van and at St Jerome those from Caesarea. They worked in trade, crafts and industry. Putting down roots in France was their only option since they were often classified as stateless. In the 1980's Marseille had 50,000 French of Armenian origin (10% of the population), making it the biggest Armenian town in France, but the diaspora can be seen in almost all the small towns of the region, in particular where there are leather works (Draguignan, Barjols) and industrial centres. In the areas on the edge of Marseille, and in the centre of the town, many associations, most often cultural, preserve a specific culture. There is a football team celebrating its 80th anniversary, scout troops, choirs, dance clubs, an Armenian youth club. Churches also act as magnets, binding communities. Beginning in 1965, the 50th anniversary of the atrocities of 1915, one part of the Armenian population born in France become conscious of their history, their culture and their identity, demanding that the genocide be recognised as such. During the "terrorist decade", extremist Armenian organisations carried out bombings everywhere in the world. Thus ASALA (Armée Secrète Arménienne pour le Salut de l'Arménie) claimed the murder of 42 Turkish diplomats. In France ASALA was responsible for various armed actions against Turkey's representatives. In 1981 several bombings were committed in Paris: on March 4th Reşat Morali, an attaché at the Turkish embassy, and Tecelli Ari, a religious affairs councillor were mortally wounded as they started their car. On September 24th, again in Paris two Armenian terrorists occupied the Turkish consulate, taking 56 hostages before giving themselves up to the police.
The journalist meets Armenians from Marseille to record their response to these acts. Those interviewed have mixed feelings about this violence which seemed to be increasing. Some condemned it and, fearing a back-lash, were angry the Armenian issue should be posed in this way. The young were more in favour and thought violence was the only way to make the public aware of the importance of recognising the Armenian genocide. It was a time when many memories of this sort were being rekindled, a movement that Armenia's independence in 1991 exacerbated. This return to recent history and in particular to atrocities can be seen throughout the region with many inaugurations of commemorative plaques or monuments, in particular at Aix, in 1983, in Vitrolles in 1987 then, in the 1990's at La Ciotat, Draguignan, Bouc-Bel-Air, Septèmes-les-Vallons, etc. In 1998 the National Assembly voted a law recognising the Armenian genocide. In April 2006 Marseille unveiled a genocide memorial on the Boulevard du 24 avril 1942 in the 12th arrondissement but already, on April 24th 1999 the Garden of April 24th 1915 had been opened on the old site of the Camp Oddo, as well as a plaque recalling the existence of this camp.
Lydie Belmonte, La petite Arménie. Histoire de la communauté arménienne à Marseille à travers le boulevard des Grands Pins à Saint-Loup, Marseille, Paul Tacussel, 1999.
Myriame Morel-Deledalle, Claire Mouradian, Florence Pizzoni-Itié (dir.) Loin de l'Ararat... Les petites Arménies d'Europe et de Méditerranée, Les Arméniens de Marseille, Paris, éd. Hazan/Musées de Marseille/MUCEM, 2007.
Laurence Ritter, La longue marche des Arméniens : Histoire et devenir d'une diaspora, éd. Robert Laffont, 2007.