Native speakers: 6.7 million. Armenia is a nation, and former Soviet republic, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan. The ancient Armenian kingdom was split between the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires around the early 5th century. By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia had been conquered by the Russian Empire. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, they became the Republic of Armenia. In the early 20th century, Armenians were victims of genocide inflicted on them by the Ottoman government in Turkey, where 1.5 million Armenians were killed and slaughtered, and many more Armenians were dispersed and fled throughout Syria and Lebanon.
Armenia, officially the Republic of Armenia.
Currency: Armenian dram
Population: 2.973 million (2018)
In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1600–1200 BC). Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan. The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu (Assyrian for Ararat) was replaced by the Orontid dynasty. Starting in the early 16th century, Greater Armenia came under Safavid Persian rule; however, over the centuries Eastern Armenia, remained under Persian rule while Western Armenia fell under Ottoman rule. By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia was conquered by Russia and Greater Armenia was divided between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.
During World War I, Armenians living in their ancestral lands in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated in the Armenian Genocide.
In the early 20th century Armenians suffered in the genocide inflicted on them by the Ottoman government of Turkey, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more dispersed throughout the world via Syria and Lebanon.
Following the Russian Revolution, all non-Russian countries declared their independence after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, leading to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia in 1918. By 1920, the state was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and in 1922 became a founding member of the Soviet Union. In 1936, the Transcaucasian state was dissolved, transforming its constituent states, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, into full Union republics. And in 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, they became the modern Republic of Armenia. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s defined by many religious sites. Human rights in Armenia tend to be better than those in most former Soviet republics and have drawn closer to acceptable standards.
The Armenian language has its own alphabet, the Armenian alphabet. The unique Armenian alphabet was invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD.
Is the Armenian language similar to Russian?
Armenian has just as much in common with Russian as Albanian has with English.
The Armenian alphabet serves as a decorative piece in many homes.
Locals are so proud of their script that they consider it as a cultural treasure and have it framed and hang it in their living room. Some are decorated with jeweled images made of trchnakir (letters made out of drawn bird shapes) or gold and celebrate the legacy of Mashtots.
Background: Armenia prides itself on being the first nation to formally adopt Christianity (early 4th century). Despite periods of autonomy, over the centuries Armenia came under the sway of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab,Persian, and Ottoman. During World War I in the western portion of Armenia, Ottoman Turkey instituted a policy of forced resettlement coupled with other harsh practices that resulted in at least 1 million Armenian deaths. The eastern area of Armenia was ceded by the Ottomans to Russia in 1828; this portion declared its independence in 1918, but was conquered by the Soviet Red Army in 1920. Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by the long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, ethnic Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also a significant portion of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution. Turkey closed the common border with Armenia in 1993 in support of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, further hampering Armenian economic growth. In 2009, senior Armenian leaders began pursuing rapprochement with Turkey, aiming to secure an opening of the border, but Turkey has not yet ratified the Protocols normalizing relations between the two countries. In September 2013, President SARGSIAN announced Armenia will join Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan as a member of the Customs Union.
After several years of double-digit economic growth, Armenia faced a severe economic recession with GDP declining more than 14% in 2009, despite large loans from multilateral institutions. Sharp declines in the construction sector and workers’ remittances, particularly from Russia, led the downturn. The economy began to recover in 2010 with 2.1% growth, has grown even faster in the three years since then. Under the old Soviet central planning system, Armenia developed a modern industrial sector, supplying machine tools, textiles, and other manufactured goods to sister republics, in exchange for raw materials and energy. Armenia has since switched to small-scale agriculture and away from the large agroindustrial complexes of the Soviet era. Armenia’s geographic isolation, a narrow export base, and pervasive monopolies in important business sectors have made it particularly vulnerable to the sharp deterioration in the global economy and the economic downturn in Russia. Armenia has experienced a sharp currency depreciation. Armenia has only two open trade borders—Iran and Georgia—because its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey have been closed since 1991 and 1993, respectively, as a result of Armenia’s ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia is particularly dependent on Russian commercial and governmental support and most key Armenian infrastructure is Russian-owned and/or managed, especially in the energy sector. The electricity distribution system was privatized in 2002 and bought by Russia’s RAO-UES in 2005. Natural gas is primarily imported from Russia but construction of a pipeline to deliver natural gas from Iran to Armenia was completed in December 2008, and gas deliveries expanded after the April 2010 completion of the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant. Armenia’s severe trade imbalance has been offset somewhat by international aid, remittances from Armenians working abroad, and foreign direct investment. Armenia joined the WTO in January 2003. The government made some improvements in tax and customs administration in recent years, but anti-corruption measures have been ineffective and the economic downturn has led to a sharp drop in tax revenue and forced the government to accept large loan packages from Russia, the IMF, and other international financial institutions. Amendments to tax legislation, including the introduction of the first ever “luxury tax” in 2011, aim to increase the ratio of budget revenues to GDP, which still remains at low levels. Armenia will need to pursue additional economic reforms and to strengthen the rule of law in order to regain economic growth and improve economic competitiveness and employment opportunities, especially given its economic isolation from two of its nearest neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $20.61 billion (2013 est.)
Country comparison to the world: 133
The dispute over the break-away Nagorno-Karabakh region and the Armenian military occupation of surrounding lands in Azerbaijan remains the primary focus of regional instability; residents have evacuated the former Soviet-era small ethnic enclaves in Armenia and Azerbaijan; Turkish authorities have complained that blasting from quarries in Armenia might be damaging the medieval ruins of Ani, on the other side of the Arpacay valley; in 2009, Swiss mediators facilitated an accord reestablishing diplomatic ties between Armenia and Turkey, but neither side has ratified the agreement and the rapprochement effort has faltered; local border forces struggle to control the illegal transit of goods and people across the porous, undemarcated Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian borders; ethnic Armenian groups in the Javakheti region of Georgia seek greater autonomy from the Georgian Government Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 6,000 Syria (ethnic Armenians) (2013) IDPs: 8,400 (conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh) (2009).
Stateless persons: 35 (2012)
Illicit cultivation of small amount of cannabis for domestic consumption; minor transit point for illicit drugs—mostly opium and hashish—moving from Southwest Asia to Russia and to a lesser extent the rest of Europe.
(End of CIA World FactBook 2016 about Armenia text.)