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|Print version. Published on site Rusnet.NL 8 December 2003
Republic of Armenia (estimated population 3,336,100 - 2001), 11,500 sq mi (29,785 sq km, in the Southern Caucasus. Armenia is bounded by Turkey on the west, Azerbaijan on the east (the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan is on its southwestern border), Iran on the southwest, and Georgia on the north. Yerevan is the capital.
The region and former kingdom of Asia Minor that was Greater Armenia lay east of the Euphrates River; Little, or Lesser, Armenia was west of the river. Armenia is generally understood to have included north-eastern Turkey, the area covered by the modern republic of Armenia (the eastern part of ancient Armenia), and parts of Iranian Azerbaijan.
According to tradition, the kingdom was founded in the region of Lake Van by Haig, or Haik, a descendant of Noah. Modern scholars, however, believe that the Armenians crossed the Euphrates and came into Asia Minor in the 8th century BC invading the Khaldian state called Urartu by the Assyrians, they intermarried with the indigenous peoples there and formed a homogeneous nation by the 6th century BC. This state was a Persian satrapy from the late 6th century BC to the late 4th century BC.
Conquered in 330 BC by Alexander the Great, it became after his death part of the Syrian kingdom of Seleucus I and his descendants. After the Roman victory over the Seleucids at Magnesia in 190 BC, the Armenians declared in 189 BC their independence under a native dynasty, the Artashesids.
The imperialistic ambitions of King Tigranes led to war with Rome; defeated Armenia became tributary to the republic after the campaigns of Lucullus (69 BC) and Pompey (67 BC).
The Romans distinguished between Greater Armenia and Lesser Armenia, respectively east and west of the Euphrates. Tiridates, a Parthian prince, was confirmed as king of Armenia by Nero in AD 66.
Christianity was introduced early; Armenia is reckoned the oldest Christian state.
In the 3rd century AD, Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid, came to power in Persia and overran Armenia. The persecution of Christians created innumerable martyrs and kindled nationalism among the Armenians, particularly after the partition of the kingdom between Persia and Rome in 387. Attempts at independence were short-lived, as Armenia was the constant prey of Persians, Byzantines, White Huns, Khazars, and Arabs.
From 886 to 1046 the kingdom enjoyed autonomy under native rulers, the Bagratids; it was then reconquered by the Byzantines, who promptly lost it to the Seljuk Turks following the Byzantine defeat at the battle of Manzikert in 1071.
With the Mongol invasion of the mid-11th century, a number of Armenians, led by Prince Reuben, were pushed westward. In 1080 they established in Cilicia the kingdom of Little Armenia, which lasted until its conquest by the Mamluks in 1375. Shortly afterward (1386-94) the Mongol conqueror Timur seized Greater Armenia and massacred a large part of the population. After Timur's death (1405) the Ottoman Turks, whom Timur had defeated in 1402, invaded Armenia and by the 16th century held all of it.
Under Ottoman rule the Armenians, although often persecuted and always discriminated against because of their religion, nevertheless acquired a vital economic role. Constantinople and all other large cities of the Ottoman Empire had colonies of Armenian merchants and financiers. Eastern Armenia was chronically disputed between Turkey and Persia.
Russia acquired Armenia from Persia in 1828 and made it into a province. The Armenian people underwent one of the worst trials in their history between 1894 and 1915. Their attempted extermination was put into action under Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid II and was sporadically resumed, notably in 1915, when the Armenians were accused of aiding Russia during World War I. Over 600,000 Armenians were killed by Turkish soldiers or died of starvation during their forced deportation to Syria and Mesopotamia. The Armenians rose in revolt at Van, which they held until relieved by Russian troops.
After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Russian Armenia joined Azerbaijan and Georgia to form the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation, which, however, was dissolved in 1918. That same year the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between Soviet Russia and Germany made Russian Armenia an independent republic under German auspices. It was superseded by the Treaty of Sevres, which created an independent Greater Armenia, comprising both the Turkish and the Soviet Russian parts.
In the same year, however, the Communists gained control of Russian Armenia and proclaimed it a Soviet republic. From 1922 to 1936, Armenia was combined with Azerbaijan and Georgia to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, after which it became a separate constituent republic of the USSR.
A devastating earthquake struck Armenia in 1988, killing thousands of people and destroying most of the republic's infrastructure.
Armenia had been relatively stable as a republic of the Soviet Union, but the dissolution of the USSR allowed nationalism and historical conflicts to rekindle. In mid-1988, fighting broke out between ethnic Armenians and Azeris in the Armenian-dominated Nagorno-Karabakh region of neighbouring Azerbaijan, leading to Armenian demands that Azerbaijan cede the region to Armenia.
Armenia declared itself independent of the USSR in Aug., 1991, and Levon Ter-Petrosian was elected as first president of the republic. Armenia then joined the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh led to war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1992, with heavy casualties. A blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan, the country through which most of Armenia's supply routes run, caused economic hardship.
By early 1994, Armenian forces had gained control of the enclave and some adjoining territory in Azerbaijan; a cease-fire negotiated with Russian mediation in May, 1994, has generally been observed by both sides. In 1995 voters approved a new constitution that strengthened the president's powers. Ter-Petrossian was re-elected in 1996 but resigned in 1998, and Robert Kocharyan was elected president. In Oct., 1999, terrorists stormed the parliament in an apparent coup attempt, killing the prime-minister and other officials before being apprehended. Attempts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh situation have proved difficult, and Armenia's economy has been hurt by Turkish and Azerbaijaini blockade.
In early 2003 Robert Kocharyan, despite strong opposition, was re-elected president of Armenia