By Christopher Atamian
Intellectually curious and charming, Ian Bremmer has carved out a central place for himself in the American foreign policy establishment. He has become the go-to man of presidents and congressmen for strategic advice and balanced intelligence, especially when it comes to Russia and the former Soviet republics.
Armed with a Ph.D. from Stanford University and a formidable work ethic, Bremmer has penned seven books, including the recent “Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World” and hundreds of articles and opinion pieces for the world’s leading publications. He has even coined new terms in political science, including the “J-Curve” and “G-Zero.”
But Ian Bremmer is more than just a talking head. While some former diplomats or retired professors turn to consulting a là Henry Kissinger late in their careers, Bremmer actually began his by founding Eurasia Group, an enterprise he has since built into the most successful political risk-consulting firm in the world.
Growing up Armenian
Ian Bremmer is only one-fourth Armenian (on his mother’s side), but he has always treasured that part of his heritage and the Armenian community’s embrace of his abilities and ambition. Ian’s mother eloped with his father and moved to Ecuador when she was just 19 years old. She became an officer’s wife, and after 22 years in the service they moved back to the United States, where Ian was born.
Unfortunately, his father died when Ian was four. His mother moved Ian and his brother to the projects outside Boston, where his grandparents lived. “I was more connected to my Armenian upbringing,” says Bremmer, “because I was raised only by my mother and my mother's side of the family. I barely remember my father and his side of the family, who live out West.”
Armenians are known for their strong, traditional sense of family, and Ian’s grandparents were no exception. “I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents. My grandmother, in particular, was quite a pistol,” Ian remembers.
The father of Ian’s maternal grandmother Maria was Simon Orfaly (originally Simon Ourfalian), a merchant from Aleppo. Simon’s parents were Nikolas Orfaly and Anna Poladian. According to Ian’s uncle Louis, Nikolas’s family name was originally Gimishgerdanian, and his family hailed from Ourfa. Simon married Tourfanda Kassabian in Adana, Turkey. They had three sons and one daughter, as well as two other children who died shortly after birth. Maria and her brother Loutfik were born in Aleppo; their brothers Antranik and Nubar were born in Adana. Simon, Tourfanda and their children left Piraeus, Greece on the S.S. King Alexander and arrived on Ellis Island on July 2, 1923.
Ian’s grandmother Maria was “incredibly tough,” a fiercely intelligent woman with an outsized personality who didn't want help from anybody. Ian inherited his love of politics from her: “She was very politically involved: she started a ‘silver haired legislature’ in Massachusetts for senior citizens in order to promote legislation that would support them.
She would bring me to the State House for meetings and events, including ceremonies every Veterans Day.
[November 11] also coincidentally happened to be her birthday—mine was the 12th — which seemed to amuse everybody. When I was in second grade, she got me a meeting with the Lieutenant Governor Tom O'Neill, Tip O’Neill’s son, which I wrote up as an interview in the Chelsea Record, our daily paper,” Ian remembers.