Armenia - Article
Armenia (Armenian: Õ€Õ¡ÕµÕ¡Õ½Õ¿Õ¡Õ¶, Hayastan, Õ€Õ¡ÕµÖ„, Hayq), officially the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked mountainous country in the Southern Caucasus (Transcaucasus), bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Nakhichevan exclave of Azerbaijan to the south. A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is one of the oldest and most historic civilizations in the world. It is considered to be the place where Biblical Noah and his descendants first settled, as well as the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion. Although Armenia is constitutionally a secular state, Christianity plays a major role in both its history and the identification of the Armenian people.
Armenia is currently a member of more than 35 different international organizations including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the World Trade Organization. It is also an observer member of the Eurasian Economic Community, La Francophonie, and the Non-Aligned Movement. The country is an emerging democracy and because of its strategic location, it is in both the Russian and American spheres of influence.
The history goes back to the Urartian, or Ararat Kingdom. Urartu was the The first Armenian Kingdom in South-Eastern Anatolia. The modern Armenian name for the country was Hayq, later Hayastan. Hayasa, combined with the Sanskrit suffix '-stan' (land). Haik was one of the great Armenian leaders after whom the The Land of Haik was named. According to legend, Haik was a great-great-grandson of Noah (son of Togarmah, who was a son of Gomer, who was a son of Japheth, who was a son of Noah), and according to an ancient Armenian tradition, a forefather of all Armenians. He is said to have settled at the foot of Mount Ararat, travelled to assist in building the Tower of Babel, and, after his return, defeated the Babylonian king Bel (believed by some researchers to be Nimrod) in 2492 BC near the mountains of Lake Van, in the southern part of historic Armenia (present-day eastern Turkey).
Hayq was given the name Armenia by the surrounding states, presumably as it was the name of the strongest tribe living in the historic Armenian lands, who called themselves Armens who were of Indo-European descent. It is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik's great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians). Some Jewish and Christian scholars write that the name 'Armenia' was derived from Har-Minni, that is 'Mountains of Minni' (or Mannai). Pre-Christian accounts suggest that Nairi, meaning land of rivers, was an ancient name for the country's mountainous region, first used by Assyrians around 1200 BC; while the first recorded inscription bearing the name Armenia, namely the Behistun Inscription in Iran, dates from 521 BC.
Armenia has been populated since prehistoric times, and has been proposed as the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden. Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which tradition tells us Noahâ€™s ark came to rest after the flood. (Gen. 8:4). Archeologists continue to uncover evidence that the Armenia and Armenian Highlands were among the earliest sites of human civilization. From 4000 BC to 1000 BC, tools and trinkets of copper, bronze and iron were commonly produced in Armenia and traded in neighboring lands where those metals were less abundant. During the ancient period of Armenia's history, several states flourished on its territory, including Hayasa-Azzi (15th - 12th cc BC), Nairi (12th - 9th cc BC), and the Kingdom of Urartu (9th - 6th cc BC), each participating in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by the Urartian king Argishti I.
Around 600 BC, the kingdom of Armenia was established under the Orontid Dynasty, which existed under several local dynasties till 428 AD. The kingdom reached its height between 95 - 66 BC under Tigranes the Great, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time. Throughout its history, the kingdom of Armenia enjoyed periods of independence intermitted with periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Armenia's strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks and Russians.
In AD 301, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official state religion. There had been various pagan communities before Christianity, but they were converted by an influx of Christian missionaries. Tiridates III (A.D. 238-314) was the first ruler to officially Christianize his people, his conversion ten years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity official toleration under Galerius, and 36 years before Constantine was baptised.
After the fall of the Armenian kingdom in 428 AD, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sassanid Empire, ruled by a marzpan. Following an Armenian rebellion in 451-484 AD, Christian Armenians maintained their religions freedom, while Armenia gained autonomy and the right to be ruled by an Armenian marzpan unlike other territories of the empire where the marzpan was a Persian. The Marzpanate of Armenia lasted till 630's AD, when Sassanid Persia was destroyed by Arab Caliphate.
After the marzpanate period (428 - 636 AD), Armenia emerged as an autonomous principality within the Arabic Empire, reuniting Armenian lands previously taken by the Byzantian Empire as well. The principality was ruled by the Prince of Armenia, recognized by the Calpih and the Byzantine Emperor. It was part of the administrative division/emirate Arminiyya created by the Arabs, which also included parts of Georgia and Caucasian Albania, and had its center in the Armenian city Dvin. The Principality of Armenia lasted till 884 AD, when it regained its independence from the weakened Arabic Empire.
The reemerged Armenian kingdom was ruled by the Bagratuni dynasty, and lasted till 1045 AD. In time, several areas of the Bagratid Armenia separated as independent kingdoms and principalities such as the Kingdom of Vaspurakan ruled by the House of Artsruni, while still recognizing the supremacy of the Bagratid kings.
In 1045 AD the Byzantian Empire conquered Bagradit Armenia. Soon, the other Armenian states fell under Byzantian control as well. The Byzantian rule was short lived, as in 1071 AD Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantians and conquered Armenia at the Battle of Manzikert, establishing an the Seljuk Empire.
The Seljuk Empire soon started to collapse. In early 1100's, Armenian princes of the Zakaryan noble family established an independent Armenian principality in northern and eastern Armenia, known as Zakaryan Armenia. The noble family of Orbelians shared control with the Zakarians in various parts of the country, especially in Vayots Dzor. Southern parts of Armenia remained under control of Kurdish dynasties of Shaddadids and Ayyubids.
In 1230's Mongol Ilkhanate conquered the Zakaryan Principality, as well as the rest of Armenia. The Mongolian invasions were soon followed by those of other Central Asian tribes, which continued from 1200's till 1400's. After incessant invasions, each bringing destruction to the country, Armenia in time became weakened. In 1500s, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia divided Armenia among themselves. The Russian Empire later incorporated Eastern Armenia (consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh khanates within Persia) in 1813 and 1828.
Under the rule of the Ottomans, the Armenians and the Turkish majority lived in relative harmony. However, as the Ottoman Empire began to collapse and World War I began, a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished as a result of the Armenian Genocide. The events of 1915 to 1918 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings. Turkish authorities, however, maintain that the deaths were the result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides. Most estimates for the number of Armenians killed range from 650,000 to 1,500,000. Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have been campaigning for official recognition of the events as genocide for over 30 years. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on April 24, the Armenian Christian martyr day.
In the aftermath of World War I, the Democratic Republic of Armenia was established, encompassing the former Ottoman-ruled Western Armenia and Russian-controlled Eastern Armenia. Signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sevres on August 10, 1920, the Treaty of SÃ¨vres promised to maintain the existence of the state under protection from the League of Nations. The treaty, however, was rejected by the Turkish National Movement, and never came into effect. The movement, under Kemal AtatÃ¼rk, used the treaty as the occasion to declare itself the rightful government of Turkey, replacing the monarchy based in Istanbul with a republic based in Ankara.
In 1920, Armenia and Turkey engaged in the Turkish-Armenian War, a violent conflict that ended with the Treaty of Alexandropol in which the Armenians surrendered the bulk of their weapons and land to the Turks. Simultaneously, Armenia was invaded by the Red Army, which led to establishment of Soviet rule in Armenia in December of 1920. The treaty of Alexandropol, signed by deposed former Armenian officials after the establishment of Soviet rule, was never ratified by the new Communist government. In 1922, the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union as part of the short-lived Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (TSFR) along with Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Treaty of Alexandropol was then superseded by the Treaty of Kars, between Turkey and the Soviet Union. In it, Turkey ceded the province of Ajaria to the Soviet Union in return for sovereignty over the territories of Kars, Ardahan, and IÄŸdÄ±r. Because the Armenians did not have a say in the treaty, Armenia, to this day, does not recognize the treaty and still holds claims to those provinces.
The TSFR existed from 1922 to 1936, when it was divided up into three separate entities (Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Georgian SSR). Armenians enjoyed a period of relative stability under Soviet rule. They received medicine, food, and other provisions from Moscow, and communist rule proved to be a soothing balm in contrast to the turbulent final years of the Ottoman Empire. The situation was difficult for the church, which struggled under Soviet rule. After the death of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin took the reins of power and began an era of renewed fear and terror for Armenians. As with various other ethnic minorities who lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin's Great Purge, millions of innocent Armenians were executed and deported. Fears decreased when Stalin died in 1953 and Nikita Khruschev emerged as the country's new leader.
In the Gorbachev era of the 1980s, tension developed between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the same decade, Soviet Armenia suffered the devastating 1988 Leninakan Earthquake. In 1991, the Soviet Union broke apart and Armenia re-established its independence. Unfortunately, the early years of Armenia's independence were marred by the continued confrontation with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. A Russian-brokered cease-fire was put in place in 1994. Since then, Armenia and her neighbor have held peace talks, mediated by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (or OSCE). The status over Karabakh has yet to be determined and the economies of both countries have been hurt in the absence of a complete resolution. Still, despite high unemployment, Armenia has managed to make some economic improvements. It has made a full switch to a market economy and as of 2006, remains the 27th most economically free nation in the world. Its relations with Europe, the Middle East, and the CIS states has allowed Armenia to increase trade. Gas, oil, and other supplies come through two vital routes: Iran and Georgia, both of whom Armenia has been maintaining cordial relations with.
- More information on politics and government of Armenia can be found at the Politics and government of Armenia series.
Politics of Armenia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. Robert Kocharian is the republic's current president.
The Armenian government's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have questioned the fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referenda since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the Electoral Commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. For the most part however, Armenia is considered one of the more pro-democratic nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The unicameral parliament (also called the National Assembly) is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Country of Law party. The main opposition is composed of several smaller parties joined in the Justice Bloc.
Main article: Subdivisions of Armenia
Armenia is subdivided into eleven administrative divisions. Ten of these are provinces (marzer, singular - marz) with Yerevan (ÔµÖ€Ö‡Õ¡Õ¶) given special status as the country's capital.
- Aragatsotn (Ô±Ö€Õ¡Õ£Õ¡Õ®Õ¸Õ¿Õ¶Õ«)
- Ararat (Ô±Ö€Õ¡Ö€Õ¡Õ¿Õ«)
- Armavir (Ô±Ö€Õ´Õ¡Õ¾Õ«Ö€Õ«)
- Gegharkunik (Ô³Õ¥Õ²Õ¡Ö€Ö„Õ¸Ö‚Õ¶Õ«Ö„Õ«)
- Kotayk (Ô¿Õ¸Õ¿Õ¡ÕµÖ„Õ«)
- Lori (Ô¼Õ¸Õ¼Õ¸Ö‚)
- Shirak (Õ‡Õ«Ö€Õ¡Õ¯Õ«)
- Syunik (ÕÕµÕ¸Ö‚Õ¶Õ«Ö„Õ«)
- Tavush (ÕÕ¡Õ¾Õ¸Ö‚Õ·Õ«)
- Vayots Dzor (ÕŽÕ¡ÕµÕ¸Ö ÕÕ¸Ö€Õ«)
- Yerevan (ÔµÖ€Ö‡Õ¡Õ¶)
Armenia is a landlocked country in the southern Caucasus. Located between the Black and Caspian Seas, the country is bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan, and on the south and west by Iran and Turkey. Though geographically in Western Asia, politically and culturally Armenia is closely aligned with Europe. Historically, Armenia has been at the crossroads between Europe and Southwest Asia, and is therefore seen as a transcontinental nation.
The Republic of Armenia, covering an area of 30 000 square kilometres (11,600 sq. mi), is located in the north-east of the Armenian Highland (covering 400 000 kmÂ² or 154,000 sq. mi), otherwise known as historic Armenia and considered as the original homeland of Armenians.
The terrain is mostly mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and few forests. The climate is highland continental: hot summers and cold winters. The land rises to 4095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea-level at Mount Aragats, and no point is below 400 metres (1,312 ft) above sea level. Mount Ararat, regarded by the Armenians as a symbol of their land, is the highest mountain in the region and used to be part of Armenia until around 1915, when it fell to the Turks.
Armenia is trying to address its environmental problems. It has established a Ministry of Nature Protection and introduced taxes for air and water pollution and solid waste disposal, whose revenues are used for environmental protection activities. Armenia is interested in cooperating with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a group of 11 former Soviet republics) and with members of the international community on environmental issues. The Armenian Government is working toward closing its Nuclear Power Plant at Medzamor near Yerevan as soon as alternative energy sources are identified.
Until independence, Armenia's economy was largely industry-based â€“ chemicals, electronics, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, and textile â€“ and highly dependent on outside resources. Agriculture contributed only 20% of net material product and 10% of employment before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The republic had developed a modern industrial sector, supplying machine tools, textiles, and other manufactured goods to sister republics in exchange for raw materials and energy.  In the words of Christopher J. Walker, the economic performance of the Armenian SSR compared "with that of advanced industrialised nations of similar size." 
Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead. The vast majority of energy is produced with fuel imported from Russia, including gas and nuclear fuel (for its one nuclear power plant); the main domestic energy source is hydroelectric. Small amounts of coal, gas, and petroleum have not yet been developed.
Like other newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, Armenia's economy suffers from the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the breakdown of former Soviet trading patterns. Soviet investment in and support of Armenian industry has virtually disappeared, so that few major enterprises are still able to function. In addition, the effects of the 1988 Spitak Earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 homeless, are still being felt. The conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. The closure of Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has devastated the economy, because Armenia depends on outside supplies of energy and most raw materials. Land routes through Georgia and Iran are inadequate or unreliable. GDP fell nearly 60% from 1989 until 1992â€“1993. The national currency, the dram, suffered hyperinflation for the first years after its introduction in 1993.
Nevertheless, the government was able to make wide-ranging economic reforms that paid off in dramatically lower inflation and steady growth. The 1994 cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also helped the economy. Armenia has had strong economic growth since 1995, building on the turnaround that began the previous year, and inflation has been negligible for the past several years. New sectors, such as precious stone processing and jewelry making, information and communication technology, and even tourism are beginning to supplement more traditional sectors in the economy, such as agriculture.
This steady economic progress has earned Armenia increasing support from international institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign countries are extending considerable grants and loans. Loans to Armenia since 1993 exceed $1.1 billion. These loans are targeted at reducing the budget deficit, stabilizing the currency; developing private businesses; energy; the agriculture, food processing, transportation, and health and education sectors; and ongoing rehabilitation in the earthquake zone. The government joined the World Trade Organization on February 5, 2003. But one of the main sources of foreign direct investments remains the Armenian diaspora, which finances major parts of the reconstruction of infrastructure and other public projects. Being a growing democratic state, Armenia also hopes to get more financial aid from the Western World.
A liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994, and a Law on Privatization was adopted in 1997, as well as a program on state property privatization. Continued progress will depend on the ability of the government to strengthen its macroeconomic management, including increasing revenue collection, improving the investment climate, and making strides against corruption.
In the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia ranked 27th best, tied with Japan and ahead of countries like Norway, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The rank puts Armenia in the category of "Mostly Free" countries, making it the most economically free state in the Commonwealth of Independent States. 
In the 2005 Transparency International CPI (Corruption Perception Index) chart, Armenia ranked 88 (in a range of 1 through 158), continuing to remain as one of the least corrupt states among former Soviet Republics.
According to the 2005 UN Human Development Report, Armenia has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 83 (from a range of 1 through 177), the highest among the Transcaucasian republics.
- See Also: Armenia Census
Armenia has a population of 2,982,904 (July 2005 est.) and is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. There has been a problem of population decline due to elevated levels of emigration after the break-up of the USSR. The rates of emigration and population decline, however, have been decreasing in the recent years, a trend which is expected to continue. In fact Armenia is expected to resume its positive population growth by 2010.
Ethnic Armenians make up 97.9% of the population. Kurds make up 1.3%, and Russians 0.5%. There are smaller communities of Assyrians, Georgians, Greeks and Ukrainians. Most Azerbaijanis, once a sizable population, have been forced to leave their homes since the independence and the occupation.
Armenia has a very large diaspora (8 million by some estimates, greatly exceeding the 3 million population of Armenia itself), with communities existing across the globe, including France, Russia, Iran, Lebanon, and North America. Approximately 120,000 Armenians now live in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The predominant religion in Armenia is Christianity. The roots of the Armenian Church go back to the 1st century AD. According to tradition, the Armenian Church was founded by two of Jesus' twelve apostles--Thaddaeus and Bartholomew--who preached Christianity in Armenia in the 40s-60s AD. Because of these two founding apostles, the official name of the Armenian Church is Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, in AD 301. Over 93% of Armenian Christians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a form of Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodoxy, which is a very ritualistic, conservative church, roughly comparable to the Coptic and Syriac churches. Armenia also has a population of Catholics (both Roman and Mekhitarist - Armenian Uniate (180,000)), evangelical Protestants and followers of the Armenian traditional religion. The Yazidi Kurds, who live in the western part of the country, practise Yazidism. The Armenian Catholic Church is headquartered in Bzoummar, Lebanon.
Ethnic Azeris and Kurds who lived in the country before the Karabakh conflict practised Islam, but most Azeris fled out of Armenia into Azerbaijan between 1988 and 1991 at the beginning of the conflict. During the same period, a large number of Armenians fled from Azerbaijan to Armenia.
Armenians have their own highly distinctive alphabet and language. The letters were invented by Mesrob Mashdots and consists of 36 letters. 96% of the people in the country speak Armenian, while 75.8% of the population additionally speaks Russian as a result of the Soviet language policy. The adult literacy rate in Armenia is 99% . Most adults in Yerevan can communicate in Russian, while English is increasing in popularity.
Armenian hospitality is legendary and stems from ancient tradition. Social gatherings focused around sumptuous presentations of course after course of elaborately prepared, well-seasoned (but not spicy-hot) food. The hosts will often put morsels on a guest's plate whenever it is empty or fill his or her glass when it gets low. After a helping or two it is acceptable to refuse politely or, more simply, just leave a little uneaten food. Alcohol such as cognac, vodka, and red wine are usually served during meals and gatherings. It is considered rare and unusual for one to go inside an Armenian household and not be offered coffee, pastry, food, or even water.
The weddings are usually quite elaborate and regal. The process begins by the man and woman becoming "promised". The man's immediate family (Parents, Grandparents, and often the Uncles and Aunts) go over to the woman's house to ask for permission from the woman's father for the relationship to continue and hopefully prosper. Once permission is granted by the father, the man gives the woman a "promise ring" to make it official. To celebrate the mutual family agreement, the woman's family opens a bottle of Armenian cognac. After being promised, most families elect to have a semi-large engagement party as well. The girl's family is the one who plans, organizes and pays for the party. There is very little involvement by the man's family. At the party, a priest is summoned to pray for the soon husband and wife to be and give his blessings. Once the words of prayer have concluded, the couple slide wedding bands on each other's right hands (the ring is moved to the left hand once a formal marriage ceremony is conducted by the Armenian church). The customary time to wait for the marriage is about one year. Unlike other cultures, the man and his family pay for the wedding. The planning and organization process is usually done by the bride and groom to be.
The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages. It houses paintings by many European masters. The Modern Art Museum, the Childrenâ€™s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening each year. They feature rotating exhibitions and sales.
The world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the beautifully refurbished city Opera House, where you can also attend a full season of opera. In addition, several chamber ensembles are highly regarded for their musicianship, including the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra. Classical music can also be heard at one of several smaller venues, including the State Music Conservatory and the Chamber Orchestra Hall. Jazz is popular, especially in the summer when live performances are a regular occurrence at one of the cityâ€™s many outdoor cafÃ©s.
Yerevanâ€™s Vernisage (arts and crafts market), close to Republic Square, bustles with hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts, many of superb workmanship, on weekends and Wednesdays (though the selection is much reduced mid-week). The market offers woodcarving, antiques, fine lace, and the hand-knotted wool carpets and kilims that are a Caucasus specialty. Obsidian, which is found locally, is crafted into an amazing assortment of jewelry and ornamental objects. Armenian gold smithery enjoys a long and distinguished tradition, populating one corner of the market with a selection of gold items. Soviet relics and souvenirs of recent Russian manufactureâ€”nesting dolls, watches, enamel boxes and so on, are also available at the Vernisage.
Across from the Opera House, a popular art market fills another city park on the weekends. Armeniaâ€™s long history as a crossroads of the ancient world has resulted in a landscape with innumerable fascinating archaeological sites to explore. Medieval, Iron Age, Bronze Age and even Stone Age sites are all within a few hours drive from the city. All but the most spectacular remain virtually undiscovered, allowing visitors to view churches and fortresses in their original settings.
The American University of Armenia has graduate programs in Business and Law, among others. The institution owes its existence to the combined efforts of the Government of Armenia, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, USAID, and the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
The extension programs and the library at AUA form a new focal point for English-language intellectual life in the city. Many of the countryâ€™s most successful young entrepreneurs are graduates of this institution.
- Armenian Genocide
- Armenian needlelace
- Van Resistance
- Castles of Armenia
- Communications in Armenia
- Foreign relations of Armenia
- Hayastani Azgayin Scautakan Sharjum Kazmakerputiun - the Armenian National Scout Movement
- List of Armenians
- List of Armenian Patriarchs
- Military of Armenia
- Music of Armenia
- Public holidays in Armenia
- Transportation in Armenia