History

A visit to Armenia will give you an opportunity to look at the world from a different perspective, because those are not the well-trodden paths that lead to life-changing experiences, but the ones that are discovered firstly by you. Here you can have the chance to experience the traditional lifestyle of the locals in parallel with the vibrant youth culture in the capital․ Beware! Armenia can take you easily to a time whirl!
Rich in culture yet unpretentious Armenia has indeed an intriguing history. Being on the way of major trading and military routes of the Ancient world, Armenia suffered a lot from the invasions of foreign conquerors and now the country occupies a territory of 30 thousand square kilometers in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia which is only one tenth of the historical Armenia.
The first written source of the Armenian Hayasa country is found in Hittite inscription which date back to the 2nd millennium BC. Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions (1st century BC) are another important source which mentioned Urartu or Ararat kingdom as a federation of Armenian tribes (860 BC–590 BC).
The pinnacle of the power and glory for Armenia is the reign of Tigranes the Great (95-55 B.C.) from Artaxiad Dynasty. During this period the Armenian Empire comprised a territory of 316 thousand sq. km and was the strongest state in Asia Minor.
A very important highlight in the history of the nation was the creation of the alphabet in 405 AD which fortified the identity of the nation preventing assimilation.
Historical monuments scattered all across the country are the living witnesses of the great civilizations’ chronicles. Medieval monasteries will tell the history of the first Christian nation, while the ancient ruins like Erebuni fortress (782 B.C.) are an eloquent testimony to the nation’s antiquity and rich cultural heritage.

PREHISTORIC ARMENIA

 

From the world’s oldest stone tools, 48,000 years-old human heart, the world’s first leather shoe up to the most ancient wine-making facility were found in the biblical land of Armenia. The Armenian civilization had its beginnings nearly 5,000 years ago. Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan, translated as the land of Haik, which is identified with the Sun-God Orion. 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 Noah’s Ark came to rest after the flood.
The earliest evidences and traces of Bronze age are found on the Ararat plain. The earliest forms of the word Hayastan, an ethonym the Armenians (Hayer) use to designate their country, might possibly come from Hittite sources of the Late Bronze Age, such as the kingdom of Hayasa-Azzi. Another record mentioned by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.
The Iron age is described as the period of Urartian Kingdom. The Kingdom of Urartu flourished between the 9th century BC and 585 BCin the Armenian Highland. The founder of the Urartian Kingdom, Aramé, united all the principalities of the Armenian Highland and gave himself the title “King of Kings”, the traditional title of Urartian Kings.The Urartians established their sovereignty over all of Taron and Vaspurakan. The Urartu Kingdom boasted very many powerful kings, among which the most famous is Argishtis I of Urartu, who built the Erebuni Fortress, located in modern-day Yerevan, in 782 BC.

KINGDOMS OF ARMENIA

 

After the fall of Urartu around 585 BC, the Satrapy of Armenia was ruled by the Armenian Orontid Dynasty, which governed the state in 585–190 BC. Under the Orontids, Armenia during this era was a satrapy of the Persian Empire, and after its disintegration (in 330 BC), it became an independent kingdom.
After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, a Hellenistic Armenian state was founded in 190 BC. It was a Hellenistic successor state of Alexander the Great’s short-lived empire, with Artaxias becoming its first king and the founder of the Artaxiad dynasty (190 BC–AD 1). At the same time, a western portion of the kingdom split as a separate state under Zariadris, which became known as Lesser Armenia while the main kingdom acquired the name of Greater Armenia.
At its zenith, from 95 to 66 BC, Greater Armenia extended its rule over parts of the Caucasus and the area that is now eastern and central Turkey, north-western Iran, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, forming the second Armenian empire. For a time, Armenia was one of the most powerful states east of Rome. It eventually confronted the Roman Republic in wars, which it lost in 66 BC, but nonetheless preserved its sovereignty. Tigranes continued to rule Armenia as an ally of Rome until his death in 55 BC. Later on, in 1 AD, Armenia came under full Roman control until the establishment of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. The Armenian people then adopted a Western political, philosophical, and religious orientation. According to Strabo, around this time everyone in Armenia spoke “the same language.”
Armenia, under its Arshakuni dynasty was often a focus of contention between Rome and Parthia.Western Armenia quickly became a province of the Roman Empire under the name of Armenia Minor; Eastern Armenia remained a kingdom within Persia until 428, when the local nobility overthrew the king, and the Sassanids installed a governor in his place.

FIRST CHRISTIAN COUNTRY

 

In 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion,amidst the long-lasting geo-political rivalry over the region. It established a church that today exists independently of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, having become so in 451 after having rejected the Council of Chalcedon. The first Catholicos of the Armenian church was Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Because of his beliefs, he was persecuted by the pagan king of Armenia, and was “punished” by being thrown in Khor Virap, in modern-day Armenia. He acquired the title of Illuminator, because he illuminated the spirits of Armenians by introducing Christianity to them. Before this, the dominant religion amongst the Armenians was Zoroastrianism.
In 405-06, Armenia’s political future seemed uncertain. With the help of the King of Armenia, Mesrop Mashtots, a unique alphabet was created to suit the people’s needs. By doing so, he ushered in a new Golden Age and strengthened Armenian national identity.

TURMOIL OF MIDDLE AGES

 

The history of medieval Armenia is full of foreign invasions. The historical location of Armenia has always been a fighting field for different nations and tribes, like the Arabs, the Seljuqs, the Persians, and others. Starting from 645, the Arab Caliphates attacked and conquered the country establishing the province of Arminiya. Evolving as a feudal kingdom in the 9th century, Armenia experienced a brief cultural, political and economic renewal under the Bagratuni Dynasty. Bagratid Armenia was eventually recognized as a sovereign kingdom by the two major powers in the region: Baghdad in 885, and Constantinople in 886. Ani, the new Armenian capital, was constructed at the Kingdom’s apogee in 964. Although the native Bagratuni Dynasty was founded under favourable circumstances, the feudal system gradually weakened the country by eroding loyalty to the central government. Thus internally enfeebled, Armenia proved an easy victim for the Byzantines, who captured Ani in 1045. The Seljuk Turks under Alp Arslan in turn took the city in 1064. To escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II, King of Ani, an Armenian named Roupen with some of his countrymen went into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia. Here the Byzantine governor gave them shelter. Thus, from around 1080 to 1375, the focus of Armenian nationalism moved south, as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

TIMES OF OCCUPATION

 

Due to its strategic significance, the historical Armenian homelands of Western Armenia and Eastern Armenia was constantly fought over and passed back and forth between Safavid Persia and the Ottomans. For example, at the height of the Ottoman-Persian wars, Yerevan changed hands fourteen times between 1513 and 1737. Nevertheless, Greater Armenia was annexed in the early 16th century by Shah Ismail I.Following the Peace of Amasya of 1555, Western Armenia fell into the neighbouring Ottoman hands, while Eastern Armenia stayed part of Safavid Iran, until the 19th century. The khanate of Eastern Armenia was part of Persia and it continued to rule Eastern Armenia, which included all of the modern-day Armenian Republic, until the first half of the 19th century. By the late 18th century, Imperial Russia had started to encroach to the south into the land of its neighbours; Qajar Iran and Ottoman Turkey. The following years were devastating for the Iranian towns in the Caucasus as well as the inhabitants of the region, as well as for the Persian army. The war eventually ended in 1813 with a Russian victory after their successful storming of Lankaran in early 1813. The Treaty of Gulistan that was signed in the same year forced Qajar Iran to irrevocably cede significant amounts of its Caucasian territories to Russia, comprising modern-day Dagestan, Georgia, and most of what is today the Republic of Azerbaijan.Karabakh was also ceded to Russia by Persia.

RUSSIAN EMPIRE

 

In the aftermath of the Russo-Persian War, 1826-1828, the parts of historic Armenia (also known as Eastern Armenia) under Persian control, centering on Yerevan and Lake Sevan, were incorporated into Russia after Qajar Persia’s forced ceding in 1828 per the Treaty of Turkmenchay.Under Russian rule, the area corresponding approximately to modern-day Armenian territory was called “Province of Yerevan”. The Armenian subjects of the Russian Empire lived in relative safety, compared to their Ottoman kin, albeit clashes with Tatars and Kurds were frequent in the early 20th century. After the incorporation of the Erivan khanate into the Russian Empire, Muslim majority of the area gradually changed, at first the Armenians who were left captive were encouraged to return. As a result of which an estimated 57,000 Armenian refugees from Persia returned to the territory of the Erivan Khanate after 1828, while about 35,000 Muslims (Persians, Turkic groups, Kurds, Lezgis, etc.) out total population of over 100,000 left the region.
This was the time when the western part of Armenia was under the Ottoman Empire rule. The Ottoman Empire ruled in accordance to Islamic law. As such, the People of the Book (the Christians and the Jews) had to pay an extra tax to fulfil their status as dhimmi and in return were guaranteed religious autonomy. While the Armenians of Constantinople benefited from the Sultan’s support and grew to be a prospering community, the same could not be said about the ones inhabiting historic Armenia. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire systematically carried out the Armenian Genocide. This was preceded by a wave of massacres in the years 1894 to 1896, and another one in 1909 in Adana. In 1915, with World War I in progress, the Ottoman Turks accused the (Christian) Armenians as liable to ally with Russia, and treated the entire Armenian population as an enemy within their empire.
The events of 1915-23 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. The exact number of deaths is hard to establish. It is estimated by many sources that close to a million and a half Armenians perished in camps, which excludes Armenians who may have died in other ways. Most estimates place the total number of deaths between 600,000 (by Turkish authorities) and 1,500,000. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on 24 April, the Armenian Christian martyr day.

FIRST INDEPENDENCE

 

Between the 4th and 19th centuries, the traditional area of Armenia was conquered and ruled by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, among others. Parts of historical Armenia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire after the collapse of these two empires in the wake of the First World War. The republic was established in the Armenian-populated territories of the disintegrated Russian Empire, known as Eastern Armenia or Russian Armenia. The leaders of the government came mostly from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF or Dashnaktsutyun). The First Republic of Armenia bordered the Democratic Republic of Georgia to the north, the Ottoman Empire to the west, Persia to the south, and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic to the east. It had a total land area of roughly 70,000 km² (174,000 km² under the Treaty of Sèvres), and a population of 1.3 million.
The Armenian National Council declared the independence of Armenia on 28 May 1918. From the very onset, Armenia was plagued with a variety of domestic and foreign problems. A humanitarian crisis emerged from the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide as tens of thousands of Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire settled there. The republic lasted for over two years, during which time it was involved in several armed conflicts caused by territorial disputes. By late 1920, the nation was conquered by the Soviet Red Army. The First Republic, along with the Republic of Mountainous Armenia which repelled the Soviet invasion until July 1921, ceased to exist as an independent state, superseded by the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic that became part of the Soviet Union in 1922. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the republic regained its independence as the current Republic of Armenia in 1991.

SOVIET UNION

 

Armenia also commonly referred to as Soviet Armenia, was one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union in December 1922 located in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. It was established in December 1920, when the Soviets took over control of the short-lived First Republic of Armenia and lasted until 1991. It is sometimes called the Second Republic of Armenia, following the First Republic of Armenia’s demise. As part of the Soviet Union, the Armenian SSR transformed from a largely agricultural hinterland to an important industrial production center, while its population almost quadrupled from around 880,000 in 1926 to 3.3 million in 1989 due to natural growth and large-scale influx of Armenian Genocide survivors and their descendants. On August 23, 1990, it was renamed the Republic of Armenia after its sovereignty was declared, but remained in the Soviet Union until its official proclamation of independence on 21 September 1991. Its independence was recognized on 26 December 1991 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the state of the post-Union Republic of Armenia existed until the adoption of the new constitution in 1995.

Armenia Today

 

Armenia declared its sovereignty from the Soviet Union on 23 August 1991. A referendum was held where the 99% of the population answered “YES” to the newly born independent Republic of Armenia. Armenia faced many challenges during its first years as a sovereign state. Several Armenian organizations from around the world quickly arrived to offer aid and to participate in the country’s early years. From Canada, a group of young students and volunteers under the CYMA – Canadian Youth Mission to Armenia banner arrived in Ararat Region and became the first youth organization to contribute to the newly independent Republic.
Following the Armenian victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, both Azerbaijan and Turkey closed their borders and imposed a blockade which they retain to this day, severely affecting the economy of the fledgling republic.
And today we have our very young and very old Armenia, very modern and very historical Armenia. Our country boasts technology development, tourism industry growth and smart civil society building, but still there are so many economic and political challenges to overcome and stand stable on the Biblical land of Armenia.
Armenia is a must country to visit, where you will witness the historical traces of hundreds of thousand years, the mix of cultures and civilizations, the joint reflection of old and new, historical and modern. Welcome to Today’s Armenia.