ARMENIA

Armenia or Hayastan as the locals call the country,
- the oldest Christian country in the world for more than 1700 years - has a rich cultural heritage with hundreds of medieval churches and monasteries, beautiful landscapes with forests, plateaus and snow-capped mountains
and a very active present. Find out more about the land at the foot of the biblical Mount Ararat here.

destination

The small country surprises its guests with a large variety of natural treasures and cultural sites. At the crossroads of East and West, the Armenian people are one of the oldest ethnic groups in the world and have a long, turbulent history. Many historically significant sights and religious sites can still be visited today. Embedded in the varied landscape of Armenia, travelers can enjoy some unforgettable views over forested mountain slopes, blue-green lakes or sandy steppes.

The land at the foot of Mount Ararat

Today's Republic of Armenia consists of only part of ancient Armenia, which stretched from south of the Lesser Caucasus through the highlands of Armenia to the mountains of Tavros. With an area of 29,800 km², its national territory is about the same size as the federal state of Brandenburg. In the east, the landlocked country borders with Azerbaijan, in the southwest with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, interrupted by a 35 km long common border with Iran. Western and northern neighboring countries are Turkey and Georgia.

Armenian folklore preserves some myths about the origin of the Armenian people. One of them tells about the hero Hayk, whose name is like that of the Armenians, and about the fact that the Armenians called themselves "Armenians" and called their country "Hayk" or "Hayastan" (Armenia). The 5th-century historian Movses Khorenatsi also describes in some detail the exploits of Aram, whose fame spread far beyond the borders of his country. The neighboring peoples called these people "Armenians" or "Armenians" after him. The archeology of Armenia counts to the prehistory of the Ašelyan area, about 500,000 years ago, when people went through life hunting and gathering and in search of pastures followed their flocks. The first period of prosperity among the inhabitants of the Armenian highlands was in the 3rd century BC. These people were counted among the ancient Armenians who discovered bronze and the wheel and who grew grapes. The first written memoirs about the Armenian inhabitants are the kingdom's hieroglyphs, written in 1388-1347 BC. in Asia Minor. The earliest found inscription concerning Armenian land was dated 1114 BC. engraved by the Assyrians describing the unification of the kings from the central region of Armenia, also called the "Nairi people".

One of the most important events in Armenian history was the elevation of Christianity to the state religion. With the introduction of the new religion, Armenia established its unique Christian way of life and thus became a part of the western world. Saint Gregory the Illuminator baptized Trdat III. as a Christian who proclaimed Christianity as the state religion in 301. Thus, Armenia became the first country to officially recognize Christianity as a state religion.

This is the proclamation of Constantine the Emperor, 12 years before the Charter of Milan: through this tolerance of the Christian inhabitants of the Roman Empire was proclaimed.

Later, the series of saints was added: Gregory the Illuminator, who was elected as the first catholicos of the new Armenian national church. For the scattered Armenian people, the creation of the Armenian alphabet in 405 became a special factor. The scientist and cleric Mesrop Mashtots created the Armenian alphabet with 36 letters (3 letters were added later), which makes Armenia very special compared to the surrounding countries from a linguistic and spiritual point of view. The alphabet, in which many special consonants are present, has remained unchanged for 1600 years.

Armenia is often referred to as an open-air museum. On the entire territory of Armenia, tourists will find about 4000 historical monuments covering world history of different epochs, from prehistoric to Hellenistic times, and from early Christian times to the Middle Ages. There are more than 40 art museums and galleries in Yerevan alone. Perhaps you too will visit the land at the foot of Ararat.

The land at the foot of Mount Ararat

Today's Republic of Armenia consists of only part of ancient Armenia, stretching from south of the Lesser Caucasus, through the Armenian Highlands to the mountains of Tavros. With an area of 29,800 km², its national territory is about the same size as the federal state of Brandenburg. In the east, the landlocked country borders with Azerbaijan, in the southwest with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, interrupted by a 35 km long common border with Iran. Western and northern neighboring countries are Turkey and Georgia.

Armenian folklore preserves some myths about the origin of the Armenian people. One of them tells about the hero Hayk, whose name is like that of the Armenians, and the fact that the Armenians called themselves "Armenians" and called their country "Hayk" or "Hayastan" (Armenia). The 5th-century historian Movses Khorenatsi described in some detail the exploits of Aram, whose fame spread far beyond the borders of his country. The neighboring peoples called these people "Armenians" or "Armenians" after him. The archeology of Armenia counts towards the prehistory of the Ašelyan area, around 500,000 years ago, when people went about life hunting and gathering and following their herds in search of pasture. The first period of prosperity among the inhabitants of the Armenian highlands was in the 3rd century BC. These people were counted among the ancient Armenians who discovered bronze and the wheel and who grew grapes. The first written memoirs about the Armenian inhabitants are the kingdom's hieroglyphs, written in 1388-1347 BC. in Asia Minor. The earliest found inscription concerning Armenian land was dated 1114 BC. engraved by the Assyrians, describing the union of the kings of the central region of Armenia, also called the "Nairi people".

One of the most important events in Armenian history was the elevation of Christianity to the state religion. With the introduction of the new religion, Armenia established its unique Christian way of life and thus became a part of the western world. “Saint Gregory the Illuminator” baptized Trdat III. as a Christian who proclaimed Christianity as the state religion in 301. Thus, Armenia became the first country to officially recognize Christianity as a state religion.

This is the proclamation of Constantine the Emperor, 12 years before the Charter of Milan: through this tolerance of the Christian inhabitants of the Roman Empire was proclaimed.

Later, the line of Saints Gregory the Illuminator was added, who was elected the first catholicos of the new Armenian national church. For the scattered Armenian people, the creation of the Armenian alphabet in 405 became a special factor. The scientist and cleric Mesrop Mashtots created the Armenian alphabet with 36 letters (3 letters were added later), which makes Armenia very special compared to the surrounding countries from a linguistic and spiritual point of view. The alphabet, in which many special consonants are present, has remained unchanged for 1,600 years.

Armenia is often referred to as an open-air museum. On the entire territory of Armenia, tourists will find about 4,000 historical monuments covering world histories of different epochs, from prehistoric to Hellenistic times and from early Christian times to the Middle Ages. There are more than 40 art museums and galleries in Yerevan alone. Perhaps you too will visit the land at the foot of Ararat.

The story in key words

Armenia is a young republic with a history that goes back thousands of years. We have prepared keywords and short texts for you and invite you to gain insight into the rich history of the country from Urartu to today's Republic of Armenia.

Today's Republic of Armenia consists of only part of ancient Armenia, stretching from south of the Lesser Caucasus, through the Armenian Highlands to the mountains of Tavros.

The frequent earthquakes remind us to this day that the region that lies between the Asian and African continents is geologically close to a major rift. The highlands of Armenia rise immediately above the nearby territory. Geography has undoubtedly played a crucial role in Armenian history and culture. With the formed link between Asia and Europe and with the emergence of the fundamental main line of trade, it seemed that Armenia is not destined to fight against the disasters. Characterized by its considerable wealth and imports, the country occupied a strategic position in the region as a bone of contention for the entry of many "superpowers". For centuries, the Armenians were in constant struggle with the invaders and conquerors - Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Parthians, Arabs and Turks - who from time to time waged constant wars to conquer the country, albeit not without stubborn resistance. Despite these tumultuous centuries, Armenians have successfully maintained their historical identity and national heritage. Despite such catastrophes, the Armenians basically managed to preserve national self-government. History has favored the formation of diverse and unique culture, grounded in social, intellectual and religious factors.

Armenian folklore preserves some myths about the origin of the Armenian people. One of them tells about the hero Hayk, whose name is like that of the Armenians, and about the fact that the Armenians called themselves "Armenians" and called their country "Hayk" or "Hayastan" (Armenia). The 5th-century historian Movses Khorenatsi wrote in some detail about the exploits of Aram, whose fame spread far beyond the borders of his country. The neighboring peoples called these people "Armenians" or "Armenians" after him. The archeology of Armenia counts towards the prehistory of the Ašelyan area, around 500,000 years ago, when people went about life hunting and gathering and following their herds in search of pasture. The first period of prosperity among the inhabitants of the Armenian highlands was in the 3rd century BC. These people were counted among the ancient Armenians who discovered bronze and the wheel and who grew grapes. The first written memoirs about the Armenian inhabitants are the kingdom's hieroglyphs, written in 1388-1347 BC. in Asia Minor. The earliest found inscription concerning Armenian land was dated 1114 BC. engraved by the Assyrians describing the unification of the kings of the central region of Armenia, also called the "Nairi people".

In the 9th century B.C. the confederation of native tribes grew and became the unified state of Urartu. This developed very quickly and became one of the strongest states in the Middle East and a dangerous opponent for the Assyrians and their hegemony in the region. The Urartians produced and exported ceramic, stone and metal goods, built castles, monasteries, palaces and other large public buildings. One of their canal irrigation systems is still used today in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, where the ancient Urartian fortress of Erebuni still stands.

Urartu was annexed by Media (Marastan) in the 6th century, but after a short while the Medes (Marastan) were conquered by the Persians and ousted by "Cyrus the Great". From the 6th to the 4th century B.C. BC Armenia was under Persian rule. Culture and Zoroastrian religion had a major impact on Armenian spiritual life, as Zoroastrian characteristics were introduced into polytheistic and spiritual beliefs. When Armenia was under Persian rule, it divided into satrapy states, each with its local satrap chief overseen by Persian officials. The Armenians paid high fees to the Persians, who, while collecting taxes, constantly confiscated the property of the Armenians. The country was ruled by the ruling satrap royal family of Ervanduni for about 200 years until the Greeks invaded western Asia.

After the declaration of the rule of "Alexander the Great" (the Macedonian) in the Persian Empire in 331 BC. BC, the Greeks appointed new satraps to administer Armenia through Ervandunier Mihran. In the Greek Empire, which stretched across Asia and Europe, cities grew rapidly, spreading Hellenistic architecture, religion, and philosophy. Greek influences were noticeable even in Armenian culture.

Residing in China, India and Central Asia connected to the Mediterranean trade route, the central cities prospered thanks to economic activity. The Greek influences were also noticeable in the Armenian version of Zoroastrian invention, with religious peculiarities in personal beliefs. After the sudden death of "Alexander the Great" (the Macedonian) in 323 B.C. The division of the empire and the war between its generals led to the foundation of three Greek empires. Despite pressure from the Seleucid monarchy, one of the three empires, the Ervanduni Empire, secured control of the largest of the three Greek empires, dividing Armenia itself into Greater Armenia, Lesser Armenia, and Tsopk.

Seleucid rule over Armenia finally ended when, in the 2nd century B.C. the resident general Artashes proclaimed himself king of Greater Armenia and founded a new empire. Artashes expanded his territory, established borders of the country and united the Armenian people. Armenia reached its peak of power during the reign of Tigran II (the Great, circa 95-55 BC), who called himself "King of Kings". During the reign of Tigran II, military power and political influence increased. According to the Greek historian Plutarch, the Roman general Luculus said the following about this king: “In Armenia reigns Tigran, surrounded by power, who reconquered Asia from the Parthians, who drove the Greek colonizers towards Marastan, who conquered Syria and Palestine and conquered them separated from the Seleucids.” And the Roman orator and politician Ciceron wrote of Tigran the Great: “He made Rome tremble at the might of his armed forces.” The borders of Armenia stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

After the victories of Tigran the Great came the period of his decline from the year 66 BC. His son Artavasd II ruled in Greater Armenia for 20 years until Antonio and Cleopatra took him to Egypt in chains. Artavasd refused to call Cleopatra queen and was beheaded. In the new kingdom of the Arsacids, the Parthian branch of the Arsacids came in 64 BC. in power, and the whole country soon became a buffer zone where they fought for hegemony against the Romans and Parthians.

One of the most important events in Armenian history was the elevation of Christianity to the state religion. With the introduction of the new religion, Armenia established its unique Christian way of life and thus became a part of the western world. "Saint Gregory the Illuminator" baptized Trdat III. as a Christian who proclaimed Christianity as the state religion in 301. Thus, Armenia became the first country to officially recognize Christianity as a state religion.

This is the proclamation of Constantine the Emperor, 12 years before the Charter of Milan: through this tolerance of the Christian inhabitants of the Roman Empire was proclaimed.

Later, "Gregor the Illuminator" was added to the series of saints, who was elected the first catholicos of the new Armenian national church. For the scattered Armenian people, the creation of the Armenian alphabet in 405 became a special factor. The scientist and cleric Mesrop Mashtots created the Armenian alphabet with 36 letters (3 letters were added later), which makes Armenia very special compared to the surrounding countries from a linguistic and spiritual point of view. The alphabet, in which there are many special consonants, has remained unchanged for 1600 years.

The introduction of the Christian faith brought political difficulties and caused serious alarm signals in neighboring Persia. The Persians, ruled by the Sassanids, took advantage of Armenia's internal weakness and began a campaign to eliminate Christianity and replace it with Zoroastrianism. Against the general dangers, princes, palace owners and the Armenian people united. Under the leadership of Commander-in-Chief Vardan Mamikonyan, the Persians fought heroically in 451 in the Avarayr field. The Persians, having great advantages numerically, defeated the Armenians: Vardan Mamikonyan and many other braves perished on the battlefield. After the defeat at the Battle of Avarayr, guerrilla warfare ensued in the mountainous regions. From the dynasty of Vardan Mamikonyan, Vahan then led the national struggle that resulted in an Armenian victory in 484 at the Battle of Nvarsaki, restoring freedom of belief and giving Armenia some independence.

In the 7th century, the Arabs stormed the land of Armenia and conquered it. Since the 9th century, the era of independence began in Armenia, where the mighty Bagratid Empire maintained its political power. The restoration of international trade led to prosperity and the rebirth of artistic and literary activity. The population of the capital Ani was 100,000, more than any other European capital. Religious life flourished and Ani became known as the "City of a Thousand and One Churches". In the middle of the 11th century, a large part of Armenia was occupied by Byzantium.

The fall of the Bagratid kingdom ended with the campaign of the new invaders, the Seljuk Turks in Central Asia. Because of the low resistance and Byzantine weakness, the Seljuk Turks spread in Asia Minor, as well as in the Armenian highlands. This invasion forced numerous Armenians to move south, to the Tavros Mountains near the Mediterranean Sea, where in 1080 Ruben (the Rubenid Empire) founded the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. The close ties with the Crusaders and Europe led to the spread of Western European ideas and the development of a feudal society. Cilician Armenia became a land of barons, knights and peasants. The judges of Cilicia wore European clothes. In addition to the Armenian language, Latin and French were also spoken and used jointly. The era of Cilicia is considered the enlightening Golden Age, famed for its richness in ornamentation and for the great influence of western miniature. The geographic location of Cilicia on the Mediterranean coast gave the Armenians there an opportunity to engage in international trade with western Asia and Europe. For almost 300 years, the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia flourished, but in 1375 it was handed over to Egyptian Mamluks. The last monarch of Cilicia, King Leon VI. died in the French city of Calais in 1393, and his ashes were buried in Saint-Denis (near Paris) in the mausoleum of the kings of France.

At the time when the Armenians were flourishing in the Kingdom of Cilicia, the Armenians living in eastern Armenia submitted to the Mongol invaders. Later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Armenia was divided between Ottoman Turkey and Sefyan Persia. After conquering the Armenian Highlands, Armenians lost the possibility of independent political life. The Persian King (Shah) Abbas I implemented a complete deportation policy against the inhabitants of the Armenian region so that the route of advance to the Ottoman Empire would be cleared through desert areas and lead a class of skilled tradesmen and craftsmen to the new capital Isfahan. In the Armenian community of Isfahans, a suburb of New Julfa, King Abbas I enjoys the patronage and becomes one of the founders of the economic pillars of the Persian Sefyan. The Persians ruled Eastern Armenia until 1828 when it was united with Russia. During this period, most of historical Armenia was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Armenians living under Ottoman rule suffered from discrimination, heavy tax burdens and armed attacks against them in the 19th century, organized and carried out with the permission of central and local authorities. No legal protection was afforded to a Christian Armenian in the event of injustice. In return, they were taxed at unbearable levels and Armenians were forbidden to own guns in a country where the killing of non-Mohammedans often went unpunished. Armenians also had no right to testify in court on their own behalf. After the end of the 19th century, the Armenians' hopes that the Young Turks would come to power, and that 1908 would bring better times, soon evaporated. In another bloodshed in Adana in the spring of 1909, 30,000 Armenians were killed after stubborn resistance. The First World War created a good opportunity for the Young Turk government in the Ottoman Empire to solve the “Armenian problem”. In 1915 a secret military detachment arrested many Armenians and in one fell swoop annihilated the most important leaders of the Armenian community. Armenian men who served in the Ottoman army were separated, disarmed and brutally murdered. The Istanbul government deported the entire Armenian population. The Armenians were driven out of the towns and villages into Syria, Mesopotamia and the Arabian deserts. During the violent deportation and "resettlement" many Armenians were killed, impaled, buried alive. Many of them were drowned in rivers, beheaded and left to starve. The genocide was accompanied by indescribable atrocities and the confiscation of all Armenian real estate and chattels. During the time of the first genocide in the 20th century, 1.5 million people lost their lives. Further massacres took place in successive waves in 1918 in Baku, in 1920 in Shushi and elsewhere.

The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the collapse of the Russian Empire gave the Armenians a chance to declare their independence.

After the victory on May 28, 1918 in the battles of Sardarapat, Gharakilisa and Bash-Aparan against the Turks, the Republic of Armenia was proclaimed. The newly founded republic was confronted with insurmountable difficulties: wars, blockades and refugees. But even under these conditions, Armenians invested all their energies in rebuilding their country and solving the current problems. At the same time, the republic had ceased to exist under pressure from the Turks and the Bolsheviks in 1920. The Soviet Red Army entered Eastern Armenia and on November 29, 1920 a Soviet constituent republic was declared. Armenia was admitted as a member of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic in 1922, and in 1936 it became part of the republics of the Soviet Union. In the second half of the 20th century, Armenia's economic, scientific and cultural life flourished. The areas of information technology and industry developed strongly. In the 1980s, rapid changes took place in the Soviet Union, which also had an inevitable impact on Armenia.

In 1988, a movement began in Armenia in support of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, whose population was fighting for the right to self-determination. In 1921, on Stalin's orders, these mainly Armenian-inhabited regions were handed over to Azerbaijan by an illegal decision of the Caucasus Bureau of the Russian Communist Party. In 1988, Armenia suffered from a powerful earthquake that claimed the lives of thousands of people. Supply routes from the rest of the Soviet Union, as well as from the West, were blocked by the government of Azerbaijan, which was conducting ethnic cleansing against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh with the help of Soviet KGB special forces. Despite these two problems, Armenia was clearly superior in the political sphere. It held the first democratic elections in the Soviet period: in 1990, the Armenian National Movement won the majority of votes in parliament and formed a government. The independence of Armenia was declared by the Supreme Council of Armenia on August 23, 1990. The people of Armenia overwhelmingly voted for independence at the time of the state referendum, and thus an independent Armenia was born. After independence, Armenia's economy was in a paralyzed state: the newly independent republic was forced to resist the aggression of Azerbaijan and the blockade by Turkey. At the same time, protection for the 400,000 displaced people from Azerbaijan had to be provided, as well as protecting the Armenians of Artsakh from ethnic cleansing, while the threat of large-scale military action by Azerbaijani politicians. With the help of Armenia and the diaspora, Artsakh Armenians managed to win the war, create a security zone around Nagorno-Karabakh and force Azerbaijan to sign a ceasefire. The peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue remains one of Armenia's diplomatic priorities.