Members of the Armenian community of Cyprus have been asked to provide DNA samples on Sunday after a Christmas church service in Nicosia for research that aims to map the genetic background of the Cypriot population, Cyprus Mail reports.
Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (Cing) – which is carrying out the research – has chosen this date as the most suitable for the DNA collection since the church was expected to see a bigger turnout than usual.
Members of the Armenian community over the age of 18 who were born in Cyprus and who would like to participate in the project, will give saliva samples after the liturgy.
The aim of the study, supervised by Professor Marios Cariolou of the Cing’s Department of Cardiovascular Genetics and the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics, is to identify the genetic profile of Armenians living in Cyprus.
The project, according to Cariolou, is a continuation of efforts to study the background of the Cypriot population.
Cariolou said that if they are able to collect between 150 and 200 DNA samples from the Armenian community on Sunday, then they will be able to have the results by summer.
Researchers will analyse the Y-chromosome of DNA samples from men whose father is of Armenian extraction and the mitochondrial DNA of women whose either mother or father are Armenian.
According to the Armenian Representative in the House of Representatives Vartkes Mahdessian there are around 4,000 Armenians living in Cyprus.
The Armenian community in Cyprus consists mostly of descendants of the Genocide survivors, Mahdessian said, who arrived on the island in the early 1920s although there were Armenians on the island as early as 578 AD, during the Byzantine Period, when villages such as Armenokhori in Limassol and Arminou in Paphos were created.
The Armenian Prelature of Cyprus was established in 973 by Catholicos Khatchig I and has ever since maintained a continuous presence on the island. Historically, the Prelature has been under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
Prior to the mass arrivals of the mid-1910s and early 1920s, there was a very small number of Armenians in Cyprus, around 200, who had mostly arrived in the 19th century, fleeing early persecution in Ottoman Empire.