Who are the Armenian Bosha-Lom living in Western Armenia and what is their identity? Do they speak a language similar to Armenian or is it a secret language and why are they afraid to reveal their Armenian roots in occupied Western Armenia? How are the Muslim Loms treated by the Khamshen and Laz?

These questions are addressed in the article “Armenian Identity: The Bardzr Lom” series of articles. 

Since in the Bardzr Hayk dialect only followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian-speaking gypsies are called Bosha, and since almost all Bosha living in the occupied territories of Western Armenia have been Islamized, we will refer to them in our study as Bosha or Lom, rather than the traditional Armenian Bosha.

  • Who are the Bosha or Loms?

Once upon a time, in the Karin-Erzurum dialect, the Bosha treatment was given to the Gypsy tribe who communicated in Armenian and professed the faith of the Armenian Apostolic Church. They are sometimes called “sieve makers” or “sieve hayk” because of their main occupation, making sieves.

According to Grigor Vantsyan, who published a series of articles on the subject in the Tbilisi magazine “Murch” in the 1890s, the Bosas are related to the Gypsies and their origin is the same as that of the Gypsies all over the world, i.e. Indo-Aryans.

According to some linguistic and anthropological studies, the homeland of the Gypsies is generally India. According to Vrtanes Papazian, they left India around 1000 B.C. and entered Asia in two large branches. It is also known that Gypsies stayed in Iran for a long time. In the Iranian world, Gypsies were called “Luri”, “Mitrip”, “Karachi” and other names, and the name “Bosha” was given to them by the Armenians. Researchers have not yet reached a final conclusion about the name Bosha and its origin. The Armenian word for gypsy in the Armenian language is Tsigan – gypsy since ancient times, and the word Bosha came into use later, in the 19th century. According to Iranologist Vardan Voskanyan, the name Bosha should be included among the names of natural phonetic or phonetic origin: “Apparently, the frequent and simultaneous pronunciation of the sounds b and sh in the language of the gypsies who entered Armenia sounded strange to the Armenian ear, and as a result they began to call the second one Bosha”. 

The Bosha call themselves Lom, perhaps derived from the name Domba, as they are descendants of an Indian tribal caste called Domba.

Syunik, Vaspurakan and Atrpatakan are the provinces of our historical homeland where the Gypsies probably first set foot.The secret or mixed language of the Boshas, Boshaca or Lomavraj, contains Persian words in addition to Armenian words. This proves that they came to Armenia partly from Iran and partly from Mesopotamia. By the end of the 19th century, the Bosas were concentrated in the provinces of Western Armenia, especially in Sebastia-Sivas, and the second part of the Bosas living in Mesopotamia, probably after the raids of Lenk Timur, ascended the Euphrates to the Karin-Erzurum province of High Hayk. Later they spread to Olti, Kars and Trabzon, and in 1828 to Alexandropol and Javakhk.

According to the research of Armenian ethnographers, the Boshas now living in the territory of Armenia and Javakhk consider themselves to be predominantly Armenian and do not want to separate from the indigenous Armenians. As G. Vantsyan noted at the end of the 19th century, if we connect the Bosha settlements with a common line, we get a parallel with the southern shores of the Black Sea. In Western Armenia, according to the available data, the Bosha live in Shavshat, Arhavi, Hopa, Ardanush, Yusufeli and Borchka districts of Ardvin province, Ardeşen district of Rize province, Trabzon, Samsun, as well as Çankırı, Tokat, Oltu and Olur districts of Karin, Kars, Ardahan, Sebastia, Baberd, Yerznka and other places.

Gypsies living on the borders of the currently occupied Western Armenia are divided into 3 main groups: Roma, Dom and Lom. As Professor Suat Kolukırık points out, unlike the Roma and Dom groups who managed to preserve their Romani and Domani languages respectively, the Gypsies of the Lom group, namely the Bosas, began to lose their language. He also emphasizes that the Lom, more than other Gypsy groups in Western Armenia, tend to hide their origins. According to him, one of the reasons for this is the fear of being considered Armenian.

To be continued…

Ashkhen Virabyan

journalist-analyst Western Armenia TV