Nansen Passport : list of the Armenians from Marseille and its surroundings who applied for this document (1926 – 1946 )

The Association for the Research and Archiving of Armenian Memory ( ARAM ) invites you to discover below the list of the Armenians from Marseille and its surroundings who applied for a Nansen passport at the Bouches-du-Rhône Prefecture between December 8th 1926 and December 3rd 1946. These lists come from the register referenced 4M1138 : Foreigners Police. Register of the Nansen certificates, which may be consulted at the Bouches–du- Rhône county archives.

The search and the complete capture under Excel spreadsheet are Denis Der Sarkissian’s work which enabled the association to integrate 1503 identities in a MySQL data base.

The Nansen passport is an identity document recognized by many states and which enabled stateless refugees to travel freely. It was initiated in 1922 by Fridtjof Nansen ( 1861 – 1930 ) , the first High Commissioner of the League of Nations. Originally it was dedicated to the refugees of the former Russian Empire fleeing the October Revolution and who became stateless after a soviet decree at the end of 1922. Its benefit will be extended to Armenians on May 31st 1924 and in 1928 to Assyro-Chaldeans. Even if the passport collected many reproaches ( it didn’t give the right to return to the country of origin and didn’t give more protection in the country of refuge ) an agreement in May 1926 gave more flexibility to stateless people and its adoption spread more and more largely to Armenians. Its final status was fixed by the Geneva Convention on October 28th 1933. Its denomination was officially suppressed after WWII but was still present in the administration current language. At that time the Travel Document replaced the Nansen passport.

Between December 9th 1926 and December 3rd 1946 about 1500 Armenians from Marseille and its surroundings appeared in the Town Hall of their residence or in the Préfecture des Bouches-du-Rhône to register an individual application for a Nansen passport.

You can file the list ( alphabetically according to family names , names , residence , address ) by clicking on the head of each column. You can also use the search section according to names.

A quick analysis of the data proposed by Denis Der Sarkissian leads us to make the following comments :

  1. The register started on December 9th 1926 and the first applicant for the Nansen passport was registered under the number 1076 which lets us think that 1076 applications were established on the full year 1926. ( Armenians but also probably Russians. ) Therefore we may possess only 60% of the applications.
  2. Between 1926 and 1930 most of the applicants for a Nansen passport signed their names with armenian characters. It is usual to see signatures different from the name registered by the Prefecture’s official. For instance we can read Hagop Malkhassian who signed “Malkhassi” or Tavit Hovsepian : “Hovian” or Srpouhi Krikorian : “Korian”. This could come from the fact that Armenians used to append a unique and not reproducible signature. Later , from 1931 , signatures with armenian characters left place to signatures in latin letters.
  3. In the thirties Armenian women surviving the genocide were , for some of them , were married to French men and it is quite usual to notice french family names or names in the register
  4. From 1926 to 1930 the applications came mainly from isolated persons whereas in the thirties they came from couples or even entire families with three or four children. Sometimes we can notice americanized armenian names like Moomjian for instance.
  5. The year 1926 is probably the peak year when the applications reached their maximum. Indeed we can note that 11% of the passports obtained on the period covered by this register were released on the month of December alone. We then notice a rather linear decrease of applications except for the years 1930 and 1931 and then naturally a strong decline during WWII.
  6. The Armenians on these lists were mainly living in the following streets : rue des Dominicaines , rue des petites Maries , rue du Baignoir , rue Bernard Du Bois. A finer analysis gives the following distribution ( for the twenty most reported streets and borroughs in the register ).

Number of applications according to years:

Number of applications according to addresses:


Serial NumberLast NameFirst NameMaiden NameHarmonised addressCity of residenceRelease dateNansen NumberSignature NoteActions
Serial NumberLast NameFirst NameMaiden NameHarmonised addressCity of residenceRelease dateNansen NumberSignature NoteActions