||The Last Assyrians - A History of the
Aramaic speaking Christians
|Mark Merlino - Home page
The Last Assyrians is a French documentary made in 2003 and directed by Robert Alaux. This
film offers views an excellent introduction and unique glimpse into a little known history. This
documentary is a well researched and presented history of the Aramaic speaking peoples of
Mesopotamia, known collectively as the Chaldo-Assyrians.
The documentary begins by explaining the origins of the Aramaean people and the reasons why
Aramaic begin the predominant language of the Middle East in Antiquity. The film then gives the
history for the origins of the Syriac and Assyrians churches, also explaining the considerable
cultural and literary influence made by these Christians on early Arab / Islamic civilization.
It is fascinating to learn how successful the Church of the East was in its missionary activities in
Asia up until the 11th century. The video then explains that the modern Chaldo-Assyrians
descent from those who fled persecution to the safety of the mountains, near their great
monasteries. From these strongholds in the 16th century theses Christians met renewed
Catholic influence and in the 19th and 20th centuries developed their own national identity.
Much of the documentary focuses on the contemporary difficulties faced by these communities,
how competing nationalisms and partitioning of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century
led to much emigration and suffering. The documentary then takes a closer look at the situation
faced by different Aramaic speaking communities, those in the Tur Abdin (Turkey), Baghdad
and Northern Iraq, Paris, and the USA. Current issues include the 1994 reconciliation between
the Assyrian and Catholic Churches and ongoing problems of emigration and loss of identity.