Armenia

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Template:Otherplaces Template:Infobox Country The Republic of Armenia, or Armenia (Armenian: Template:Hayeren, Hayastan, Template:Hayeren, Hayq), is a landlocked country in the southern Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran (Persia) and the Nakhichevan exclave of Azerbaijan to the south. Armenia is a member of the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Origin of the name

The original Armenian name for the country was Hayq, later Hayastan, translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name Haik and the Persian suffix '-stan' (land). According to legend, Haik was a great-great-grandson of Noah (son of Togarmah, who was a son of Gomer, a son of Noah's son, Japheth), and according to Christian tradition, a forefather of all Armenians. He is said to have settled below Mount Ararat, travelled to assist in building the Tower of Babel, and, after his return, defeated the Assyrian king Nimrod near Lake Van in present-day Turkey.

Hayastan was given the name Armenia by the surrounding states, as it was the name of the strongest tribe living in the historic Armenian lands, who called themselves Armens. It is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik's great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians). Some Jewish and Christian scholars write that the name 'Armenia' was derived from Har-Minni, that is 'Mountains of Minni' (or Mannai). Pre-Christian accounts suggest that Nairi, meaning land of rivers, was an ancient name for the country's mountainous region, first used by Greek historians around 800 BC; while the first recorded inscription bearing the name Armenia, namely the Behistun Inscription in Iran, dates from 521 BC.

History

Main article: History of Armenia

In AD 301, Armenia became the first state to adopt Christianity as its official state religion, twelve years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity official toleration under Galerius, and some 30-40 years before Constantine was baptised. There had been various pagan communities before Christianity, but they were converted by an influx of Christian missionaries.

Having changed between various dynasties -- including Parthian (Iranian), Roman, Arab, Mongol and Persian occupations -- Armenian identity was at a loss. The Armenians were under Turkish rule in the following years, with the nomad Turks occupying Anatolia from 1071 AD. While under the Turkish Empire's rule, Armenians were given unique privileges such as freedom of religion, exclusion from military service, and rights to administrative positions normally obtained through military service. They had been referred to as Millet-i Sidika (Trustworthy People) by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1813 and 1828, present-day Armenia (consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh khanates) was temporarily incorporated into the Russian Empire. After the war between the Ottoman Empire and Russia from 1877 to 1878, when the Reform Law deprived Armenians of their advantageous position (the law gave Muslims and non-Muslims equal rights), Armenians demanded that Russia withdraw from their invaded lands, give sovereignty to Armenia and enact reforms to improve the position of the Armenians.

After a short-lived independent republic established after the Bolshevik Revolution in Petrograd, Armenia was incorporated into the USSR, between 1922 to 1936 as the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (with Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), and from 1936 to 1991 as the Armenian SSR.

During the final years of the Ottoman Empire (1915-1922), a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished as a result of what is termed the Armenian Genocide, regarded by Armenians and many Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings. Turkish authorities, however, maintain that the deaths were a result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides. Most estimates for the number of Armenians killed range from 600,000 to 1,500,000, and these events are traditionally commemorated yearly on April 24. Armenians and a handful of other countries worldwide have been campaigning for official recognition of the events as genocide for over 30 years.

Armenia remained preoccupied by a long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly Armenian-populated enclave that, as alleged by Armenians, Stalin had placed in Soviet Azerbaijan. A military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan began in 1988, and the fighting escalated after both countries gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, Armenian forces controlled not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the surrounding districts of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both countries have been hurt in the absence of a peaceful resolution.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Armenia

The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have questioned the fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referenda since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the electoral commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. For the most part however, Armenia is considered one of the more pro-democratic nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The unicameral parliament (also called the National Assembly) is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party [1], the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Country of Law party. The main opposition is comprised of several smaller parties joined in the Justice Bloc.

Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum. Levon Ter-Petrossian was president until January 1998, when public demonstrations against his increasingly authoritarian regime and his domestic and foreign policies forced his resignation. In 1999, as the Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, parliament Speaker Karen Demirchian, and six other officials were killed in the attack on the National Assembly [2], the country experienced a period of political instability. President Robert Kocharian was successful in riding out the unrest, and currently rules with the support of the parliamentary coalition.

Administrative Provinces

Armenia is divided into 11 provinces (marzer, singular - marz):

  1. Aragatsotn (Template:Hayeren)
  2. Ararat (Template:Hayeren)
  3. Armavir (Template:Hayeren)
  4. Geghark'unik' (Template:Hayeren)
  5. Kotayk' (Template:Hayeren)
  6. Lorri (Template:Hayeren)
  7. Shirak (Template:Hayeren)
  8. Syunik' (Template:Hayeren)
  9. Tavush (Template:Hayeren)
  10. Vayots' Dzor (Template:Hayeren)
  11. Yerevan (Template:Hayeren)


Geography

File:Armenia map.png
Map of Armenia
Main article: Geography of Armenia

Armenia is a landlocked country, lacking a seacoast or a port. It is usually considered to be technically part of Asia, however as it also has much in common with Europe, it is sometimes claimed to fall within that continent. It is found between the Black and the Caspian Seas, bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan, and on the south and west by Iran and Turkey.

The terrain is mostly mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and few forests. The climate is highland continental: hot summers and cold winters. The land rises to 4,095 m above sea-level at Mount Aragats, and no point is below 400 m ASL (above sea level). Mount Ararat, regarded by the Armenians as a symbol of their land, is the highest mountain in the region and used to be part of Armenia until around 1915, when it fell to the Turks.

Armenia is trying to address its environmental problems. It has established a Ministry of Nature Protection and introduced taxes for air and water pollution and solid waste disposal, whose revenues are used for environmental protection activities. Armenia is interested in cooperating with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a group of 12 former Soviet republics) and with members of the international community on environmental issues. The Armenian Government is working toward closing its Nuclear Power Plant at Medzamor near Yerevan as soon as alternative energy sources are identified.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Armenia

Until independence, Armenia's economy was largely industry-based – chemicals, electronics, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, and textile – and highly dependent on outside resources. Agriculture contributed only 20% of net material product and 10% of employment before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead. The vast majority of energy is produced with fuel imported from Russia, including gas and nuclear fuel (for its one nuclear power plant); the main domestic energy source is hydroelectric. Small amounts of coal, gas, and petroleum have not yet been developed.

Like other New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, Armenia's economy suffers from the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the breakdown of former Soviet trading patterns. Soviet investment in and support of Armenian industry has virtually disappeared, so that few major enterprises are still able to function. In addition, the effects of the 1988 Spitak Earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 homeless, are still being felt. The conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. The closure of Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has devastated the economy, because Armenia depends on outside supplies of energy and most raw materials. Land routes through Georgia and Iran are inadequate or unreliable. GDP fell nearly 60% from 1989 until 19921993. The national currency, the dram, suffered hyperinflation for the first years after its introduction in 1993.

Nevertheless, the government was able to make wide-ranging economic reforms that paid off in dramatically lower inflation and steady growth. The 1994 cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also helped the economy. Armenia has had strong economic growth since 1995, building on the turnaround that began the previous year, and inflation has been negligible for the past several years. New sectors, such as precious stone processing and jewelry making, information and communication technology, and even tourism are beginning to supplement more traditional sectors in the economy, such as agriculture.

This steady economic progress has earned Armenia increasing support from international institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign countries are extending considerable grants and loans. Loans to Armenia since 1993 exceed $1.1 billion. These loans are targeted at reducing the budget deficit, stabilizing the currency; developing private businesses; energy; the agriculture, food processing, transportation, and health and education sectors; and ongoing rehabilitation in the earthquake zone. The government joined the World Trade Organization on February 5, 2003. But one of the main sources of foreign direct investments remains the Armenian diaspora, who finances major parts of the reconstruction of infrastructure and other public projects. Being a growing democratic state, Armenia also hopes to get more financial aid from the Western World.

A liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994, and a Law on Privatization was adopted in 1997, as well as a program on state property privatization. Continued progress will depend on the ability of the government to strengthen its macroeconomic management, including increasing revenue collection, improving the investment climate, and making strides against corruption.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Armenia

Armenia has a population of 2,982,904 (July 2005 est.) and is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. There is a serious problem of population decline, with widespread emigration increasing since the break-up of the USSR. A drastically reduced birth rate is not nearly sufficient to keep the population from dropping in the long term. Some observers estimate that as many as one-third of Armenia's population lives in Russia illegally, and that Armenia has no more than about two million residents. Some have observed that this could pose a threat if Azerbaijan, which has had a much less severe problem with demographic decline, seeks to regain its lost territories.

Ethnic Armenians make up 97.9% of the population. Most of Azerbaijan's once sizable population have left since independence, and nearly all of the Armenians in Azerbaijan now live in Nagorno-Karabakh and the occupied territories. There is a large Armenian diaspora, with communities existing all over the world. Kurds make up 1.3%, and Russians 0.5%. There are smaller communities of Assyrians, Georgians, Greeks and Ukrainians.

The predominant religion in Armenia is Christianity. The roots of the Armenian Church go back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. Armenia is considered the first nation to have adopted Christianity as a state religion, in 301. Over 95% of Armenian Christians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a form of Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodoxy, which is a very ritualistic, conservative church, roughly comparable to the Coptic and Syrian churches. Armenia also has a population of evangelical Protestants, Catholics and followers of the Armenian traditional religion. The Yazidi Kurds, who live in the western part of the country, practice Yazidism. The Armenian Catholic Church is headquartered in Bzoummar, Lebanon.

Ethnic Azeris and Kurds who lived in the country before the Karabakh conflict practiced Islam, but most Azeris were driven out of Armenia into Azerbaijan in 1988-1991 at the beginning of the conflict. During the same period, Armenia also received a large influx of Armenians scattered throughout Azerbaijan.

Culture

File:Yerewan with Ararat.jpg
Although located in Turkey, Mount Ararat, here seen from Yerevan, is the national symbol of Armenia.
File:Mother Armenia, Yerevan, Day.jpg
Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan) statue, located near Victory Park, in Yerevan.
Main article: Culture of Armenia

Armenians have their own highly distinctive alphabet and language. 96% of the people in the country speak Armenian, while 75.8% of the population speaks Russian as well. The adult literacy rate in Armenia is 99% [3]. Most adults in Yerevan can communicate in Russian, while English is increasing in popularity.

Caucasian hospitality is legendary and stems from ancient tradition. Social gatherings focused around sumptuous presentations of course after course of elaborately prepared, well-seasoned (but not spicy-hot) food. The host or hostess will often put morsels on a guest's plate whenever it is empty or fill his or her glass when it gets low. After a helping or two it is acceptable to refuse politely or, more simply, just leave a little uneaten food.

The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages. It houses paintings by many European masters. The Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening each year. They feature rotating exhibitions and sales.

The world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the beautifully refurbished city Opera House, where you can also attend a full season of opera. In addition, several chamber ensembles are highly regarded for their musicianship, including the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra. Classical music can also be heard at one of several smaller venues, including the State Music Conservatory and the Chamber Orchestra Hall. Jazz is popular, especially in the summer when live performances are a regular occurrence at one of the city’s many outdoor cafes.

Yerevan’s Vernisage (arts and crafts market), close to Republic Square, bustles with hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts, many of superb workmanship, on weekends and Wednesdays (though the selection is much reduced mid-week). The market offers woodcarving, antiques, fine lace, and the hand-knotted wool carpets and kilims that are a Caucasus specialty. Obsidian, which is found locally, is crafted into an amazing assortment of jewelry and ornamental objects. Armenian gold smithery enjoys a long and distinguished tradition, populating one corner of the market with a selection of gold items. Soviet relics and souvenirs of recent Russian manufacture—nesting dolls, watches, enamel boxes and so on, are also available at the Vernisage.

Across from the Opera House, a popular art market fills another city park on the weekends. Armenia’s long history as a crossroads of the ancient world has resulted in a landscape with innumerable fascinating archaeological sites to explore. Medieval, Iron Age, Bronze Age and even Stone Age sites are all within a few hours drive from the city. All but the most spectacular remain virtually undiscovered, allowing visitors to view churches and fortresses in their original settings.

The American University of Armenia has graduate programs in Business and Law, among others. The institution owes its existence to the combined efforts of the Government of Armenia, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, USAID, and the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley.

The extension programs and the library at AUA form a new focal point for English-language intellectual life in the city. Many of the country’s most successful young entrepreneurs are graduates of this institution.

See also

Miscellaneous topics

External links and references

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