The Lom people, also called Armenian Gypsies are a branch of the proto-Romani people.
The ancient proto Romani people known as Phen (one of the two main branches of Romani resulting from a parting of ways in the Persian territory, the other being the Ben Romani) migrated to Armenia in the seventh century. It was the first time the Romani were on European soil and first time they encountered Christianity which led to many conversions to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Eventually the Romani were forced to another mass migration into the Western Byzantine territory- Constantinople and Thrace- from where they eventually spread throughout the Balkans and the whole of Europe. When and why the exodus of this group of Romani from Armenia occured is somewhat a matter of speculation, but it was probably the Turkish invasion and desctruction of Armenia in the middle of the eleventh century. No one knows exactly how long the Phenn Romani stayed in Armenia but linguistically their language was heavily influenced by the Armenian language. To this day European dialects of Romani contain a large number of Armenian loan words.
The second migration into Armenia happened sometime in the eleventh or twelfth century. Their descendants calling them selfs “Lom” (As opposed to Rom in Europe and Dom in Syria and Iran) still live Armenia and the Caucasus, Incorrectly called Caucasian Gypsis. Dom, Lom and Rom are likely to have the same origin. The Lom, Just like the Phenn who came before them converted mostly to the Armenian Apostolic Church where they still belong.
The Lom speak the Lomavren language which is a fuse between the Romani language and Armenian. It’s grammar is closely related to that of Armenian, with the vocabulary being almost exclusively Indic
“The most significant influence of Armenian on Romani was a shift in sound. Words pronounced with a “bh” - that is, an aspirated “b” - came to sound like “ph”. So whereas in Middle East or Asiatic Romani the word for sister was, and is, “bhen” (as it is in Hindi), in Armenia, and subsequently in Europe, the word is “phen”. It is on the basis of this shift - indeed of this word - that the English linguist and Gypsiologist John Sampson in the 1920s became the first to classify Romani dialects, and thus the Romany migration, into two major groups.”
- Isabel Fonseca ”Bury Me Standing, The Gypsies and Their Journey”
As Romani were persecuted in most parts of the world, the Lom people in Armenia assimilated more and more into Armenian society as time went past. The Armenization of the Lom started shortly after their arrival although they retained their identiy through their dialect and a different lifestyle. The assimiliation into Armenian society by the nineteenth century was very impressive in comparison to the treatment of Romani in the rest of Europe.
They have kept their Lom identity and perform the traditional Romani professions and practises, except fortune-telling. The Lom are present in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Israel. They are no longer endogamous, and intermarriage with Armenians are common. They are well identified with the Armenian culture, and several Lom have been important personalities in Armenian history
One of those is Kerope Patkanyan who was a Scientist and orientalist, he belonged to the Armenian Roma people. He studied at the Lazarevsky Institute of Eastern Languages and became an expert in Armenian history, culture, language and literature. In 1863 he graduated as Master in Eastern Literature for his studies on the Sassanid history and in 1864 as Doctor in Literature for his work on the composition of the Armenian language. In 1871 he was appointed professor at the University of Sankt-Petersburg. He translated into Russian some works of Armenian writers and performed a research on the languages and culture of Caucasian Gypsies and other nomadic groups, and wrote articles on geography and history for encyclopaedic publications.
Another is Zarifa Mgoyan, she is a Romani Armenian professional singer. Zara performs different genres and gives concerts in the most prestigious stage halls throughout Russia. She has won several important contests and has been awarded many important prizes granted by the Russian Academy of Culture and Arts and other institutions, and is considered one of Russia’s most popular singers.
Currently Armenian Lom live in cities like Yerevan and Gyumri. There is no reliable figures of the number of Lom currently living in Armenia and Georgia, but it is estimated at around a few thousand individuals.