Also known as Hemshinlis or Khemshils, Hamshenis (or Hamshen Armenians) settled in the south-east of the Black sea from the end of the 8th century.
According to Ghevond (Leontius the Priest), the Armenian princes Hamam and Shapuh Amatuni, who lost their domains to the Arabs, moved to the Byzantine Empire in the 8th century with 12,000 of their people – primarily from Mets Hayk: from the states of Ayrarat, Aragatsotn, Kotayk and Vaspurakan (from the provinces of Artaz). They settled in the town of Tambut in the mountains and it was eventually renamed Hamamashen, which evolved to Hamshen* or Hamshin**. This group of Armenians prospered in the Pontic Mountains, and, virtually cut off from other Armenian populations, developed its unique dialect of Armenian.
The majority of these Armenians were Christians belonging diocese of Khachkar of the Armenian Apostolic Church. In 1461 the Hamshen area was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. As a result, in the 16th to 18th centuries a significant number of Hamshens were forced to convert to Islam.
Those who refused to convert fled to farther western parts of Pontus, like Trabzon, Giresun, Ordu, Samsun, and also in 19th and early 20th centuries they found settlements in the western region of Turkey like Adapazari, Bolu and in the eastern Black Sea coast of the Russian Empire.
Before and after the Armenian Genocide, the Hamshen Armenians spread all over the world, especially to Abkhazia (Georgia), Krasnodar region (Russia), Adjara, and Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekstan, Kirgizstan.
Hamshenis themselves are divided into three main groups (according to their settlements):
WESTERN HAMSHENIS (Hemshinli) of Bash Hemshin reside in the Rize Province, in Pazar (Atina), Cayeli Mapavri), Ardeshen (Artashen), Findikli (Vice) districts, in western region of Turkey (Istanbul, Sakarya, Duzce, Kocaeli and Zanguldak). They are Sunni Muslim by faith.
EASTERN HAMSHENIS (Hamshetsi) of Hopa Hemshin are also Sunni Muslims and live in the Artvin Province, in the town Kemalpasha (Makriali) in Hopa, and in Muratli (Berlivan) village in Borchka.
This group also once comprised a sizeable population in the Adjara area of Georgia, but was deported by Stalin to Kazakhstan, Uzbekstan, and Kirgizstan. A considerable number of these deportees have moved to Krasnodar Krai (Russia) since 1989. These Hamshenis are said to be the last to convert to Islam (probably in the late 19th century).
NORTHERN HAMSHENIS (Hamshentsi) are descendants of non-Islamicized Hamshenis who fled the Hamshen area following conversions and settled in other regions like Samsun (Kurshunlu in Charshamba), Ordu, Giresun, and Trabzon.
Most of these Hamshenis currently live in Abkhazia (Georgia) and in Krasnodar Krai region of Russia, in particular, the Sochi area and Adygeya.
Northern Hamshenis are Christian and belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church and they still keep their Hamsheni identity and culture.
Hamshenis are well- known for their clever jokes, riddles, and stories they tell. They accompany dances with their own brand of music using the tulum (the Pontic bagpipe-for the western group), the shimshir kaval (flute made of buxus – for the eastern group) or the Hamshna zurna (Hamsheni zurna- for the northern group).
The traditional occupations of the Turkish Hamshenis are cultivating tea and maize, breeding live stock, and beekeeping.
Northern Hamshenis of Russia and Abkhazia (Georgia) are known as citrus, corn, tobacco, and tea growers as well as fishermen.
Christian and Muslim Hamshenis are also active in economic life as expert bakers, restaurateurs, and transporters.
Whether Christian or Muslim, most Hamshenis are willing to work with and try to understand their ethnic cousins.
Hamshen*= The Armenian and local name for it.
Hemshin**= Today the official Turkish name.