The Multiple Diversity of the Armenian Community
The central point of reference, the “heart”—as it is called by the community members—of the Armenian community in Thessaloniki is the Church of the Theotokos Virgin Mary (Panagia), functioning without interruption since 1903. The church is the visible centre of unity for the Armenians in the city of Thessaloniki, and their collective presence is built upon it. As Ms Kassapian mentions, “Everything revolves around the church”.6 The church is actually considered to be the headquarters of the community. It provides the space, frames the organisational structures and safeguards the cohesion of the community. This place brings together all the members of the Armenian community, whether they are directly or indirectly connected with the church. It was the first public building in the community, an inclusive pole of attraction for Armenians, serving a variety of functions: religious, ethnic, ideological-political, linguistic and cultural. The church and community appear to be compact and they both help reproduce Armenianness.
Nonetheless, behind the apparent homogeneity there is a complex diversity with multiple facets determined by the different ideological, political, social, economic and linguistic backgrounds of community members that can be summarised as follows: