[ history of armenia ]
Armenian Culture has earned its place in the history of the world by virtue of the fact that it is one of the
oldest, continuous civilizations today.
Throughout the centuries, Armenians have created a unique and remarkable culture at the intersection of east and west. Even though countless invaders attempted to destroy it, archaeological research testifies to its existence alongside that of the Babylonians and the Assyrians from at least the III Millennium BC, proven by excavations at Erebuni, Teyshebaini and Medzamor.
The designation "Armenia" applies to different entities: a "historical" Armenia, the Armenian plateau, the 1918 - 1920 U.S. State Department map of an Armenia, and the current republic of Armenia. The notion "Armenian culture" implies not just the culture of Armenia but that of the Armenian people, the majority of whom live outside the current boundaries of the republic of Armenia.
Armenians call themselves hay and identify their homeland not by the term "Armenia" but as Hayastan or Hayasdan. The origins of these words can be traced to the Hittites, among whose historical documents is a reference to the Hayasa. In the Bible, the area designated as Armenia is referred to as Ararat, which the Assyrians referred to as Urartu. Armenians also identify themselves as the people of Ararat/Urartu and of Nairi, and their habitat as nairian ashkharh or yergir nairian. Armenians have called themselves Torkomian or Torgomian. They also call themselves Haigi serount or Haiki seround, descendants of Haig/Haik.
Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which, as Judeo-Christian theology
states, Noah's Ark came to rest after the flood. (Gen. 8:4). 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 (1500-1200 BC). Then, the Nairi people (twelfth to ninth centuries BC) and the Kingdom of
Urartu (1000-600 BC) successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned
nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital
of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by the Urartian king Argishti I.
Armenians are an Indo-European race, whose origins are not clearly known. Specialists speculate that the Armenians migrated to the Armenian Highland via the Balkans or the Caucasus. At that time the area was inhabited by the Urartians, who seem to have assimilated very quickly and absorbed the language of the newcomer Armenians. An advanced Urartian nation existed at the turn of the first millennium before Christ, later replaced by the first Armenian kingdom in the sixth century B.C.. This kingdom united the tribes of Hayas and Armen.
Tigran the Great
Armenia was independent on and off starting in the ninth century, BC. At times it was splintered, at other times engulfed temporarily by neighbors, but until the Armenian genocide in 1915, large numbers of Armenians lived throughout the Caucasus and Anatolia, from the Mediterranean, to the Black and Caspian seas. At its largest, the Armenian Empire encompassed that entire area under the rule of Tigran the Great, shortly before the time of Christ's birth.
The work of the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew in Armenia after Jesus' crucifixion set the stage for the official conversion of Armenia in 301 A.D. to Christianity, the first country to officially do so. Traditionally, it was Saint Gregory the Illuminator who's prayers healed the king, causing the pagan king, and country to become officially Christian. A century later the monk Mesrop Mashtots invented the Armenian alphabet in order to translate the Bible.
As large parts of Armenia became parts of the Persian and Byzantine Empires, the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was born on the Mediterranean coast in 1080. It existed for hundreds of years and was very helpful to the crusaders. Eventually it was conquered by the Mameluks 1375.
In 1047, Seljuk Turks invade Armenia for the first time and by the 1300s were ruling large parts of historic Armenia in Anatolia. At the same the Persians were ruling Eastern or Caucasian Armenia, which caused the political separation of the Armenian people. Even as Persian rule over Caucasian Eastern Armenia gave way to Russian rule, the political separation of the Armenians did not change, and along with the mountainous terrain caused a large overall rift in the eastern and western Armenian dialects, and other associated differences. As the concept of nationalism reached Armenia, new international Armenian organizations were formed, and new Armenian literature crossed borders, desires for an end to the separation spread.
Unfortunately, a virulent form of nationalism was adopted by the leadership of the Ottoman Empire before the beginning of the first world war. As they saw their European holdings disappearing, and saw a national consciousness forming among Armenians, they began formulating a plan to rule all of the Turkic peoples across Anatolia, Caucasia, and Central Asia. The Armenians were the only nationality between Anatolian Turks and the eastern Turks, so the Ottoman rulers, primarily Talaat Pasha decided to eliminate them completely so that they could never threaten the heartland of this new empire. The mass killings began in 1915, and by the time Mustafa Kemal formed the Republic of Turkey and expelled all of the remaining Armenians in Anatolia in the early 1920's the Armenian population went from 2 million to virtually zero in Anatolia. A fledgling Armenian Republic was born in Caucasia with the collapse of the Russian Empire which was attacked by Mustafa Kemal's forces which resulted in the annexation and depopulation of Armenians from Kars and Ardahan as well. This Armenian Republic was attacked by Soviet forces which were repelled once, but not the second time.
Armenia was attached to Georgia and Azerbaijan as part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Republic from 1922 until 1936, when the three states once again became separate republics. The borders were very unfavorable to Armenia with hundreds of thousands of Armenians left out of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in adjacent lands such as Karabakh, Nakhichevan, Akhalkalakh, and Javakh. Nevertheless Armenians were no longer in physical danger and Armenia began to develop into an advanced economy. Yerevan, a village at the turn of the century exceeded a million residents, high tech computer and defense industry was located here, as well as large scale chemical and many other industries. Tourists from throughout the Soviet Union and beyond began to flock to Dilijan, Sevan, Jermuk and other resorts, and a few hundred thousand Armenians moved to Armenia from abroad. At the same time there was oppression, with tens of thousands of Armenians dying in the numerous purges, and with Armenians in Azerbaijan being treated as second class citizens in Karabakh and Nakhichevan. These actions by the Azerbaijanis led to the Armenian population of Nakhichevan dropping from 50% of the population to zero, and the Armenian population in Karabakh dropping by about 15% before the war of independence began in 1988.
The policies of glasnost and perestroika were first tested on a revolutionary scale by the one million strong peaceful Armenian protests demanding the union of Karabakh with Armenia in February, 1988. These protests shocked the world and led to outbursts of nationalism throughout the East Bloc countries and eventually splintered the Soviet Union in December, 1991. The last few years of the Armenian SSR saw the most destructive earthquake it had known, the start of a brutal war in Karabakh, and a suffocating blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey. The fighting ended in 1993 but a peace treaty has not been signed to this day. This meant that in addition to privatizing the economy, forming a new government, and dealing with the collapse of the heavily interdependent Soviet factory system, landlocked Armenia had to spend much of its budget on the military, and develop entirely new supply systems over the long windy mountain roads linking to Iran, and the uncontrolled streets of Georgia. Today Armenia's economy is growing again with tourism, information technologies, and other fields of business rapidly expanding.