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History and Culture of Armenia

History and Culture


Armenia is located in the South of the Caucasus region, connecting Europe and Russia. This country of highlands and stones shares borders with Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Based on cultural, historical as well as political components Armenia is considered a part of Europe. However, being located in the area where Europe and Asia meet, it is also considered part of Asia as well.

Early Civilizations

Armenia being one of the oldest countries in the world has a history of thousands of years and has to offer the world more than one can imagine. One of the legends characterizing Armenians is that of Noah’s ark landing on the Biblical mountain Ararat that used to belong to the Armenian territory. According to this legend, Hayk, who was the descendant of Noah, is the ancestor of Armenians.

Armenians like to call Armenia “Hayastan” in honor of this old legend. Armenia’s cradle of civilization is thought to have started right in the area of the Ararat Valley, where the Metsamor kingdom was built. One of the most notable Armenian empires in the history of Armenia is Urartu. This empire united several kingdoms, successfully ruling the Caucasus region from 1200-800 BC.

Often times Urartu was also called “The Kingdom of Ararat,” moreover many historical sources claim that Armenia has been mentioned in many ancient manuscripts of different nations as ‘Urartu.’ The fall of the Urartian dynasty led to the new Orontid dynasty that started ruling Armenia around 600 BC. Several hundred years later Armenia experienced one of its most prominent and powerful rulers and kingdoms. Tigranes II The Great extended the country’s borders from the Caucasus to current eastern Turkey, to Syria and Lebanon, from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean being dubbed "the Kingdom of the Three Seas." This took place during 95-66 BC.

After this short-term glory many different nations and empires, such as the Romans, Seljuks, Arabs, and Byzantines, dominated the country. The establishment of the kingdom of Cilicia followed this period. Rupen founded the kingdom of Cilicia which was also known as Little Armenia. After a short period of the ruling, the kingdom was invaded by Mameluks in 1375.

After these series of events, Armenia lost its independence for many centuries by becoming dominated by the Ottomans and Persians. During and after the Persian domination period of the country, Armenia was separated into many parts, predominantly dividing into Eastern and Western Armenia. This was due to the relationships between Iran, Russia and the Ottoman Turks. Western Armenia which was the main part that was remaining under the rule of the Ottoman Empire would soon be completely taken away from the Armenian nation.

The Armenian Genocide & The formation of the Diaspora

The first massacres of Armenians committed by the Ottoman Turks happened in 1894 and from 1895-1896. During this initial wave of mass murder organized by Abdul-Hamid around three hundred thousand Armenians were killed. The following was what is known to the world as the Armenian Genocide. Around 1,5 million Armenians were massacred and deported from Western Armenia to the Syrian desert – Deir Ez Zor from 1909 to 1915.

The mass killings and the death marches that the Ottoman Turks made Armenians go through shifted the direction of the agenda of Armenian people. This was the first great Genocide of the 20th century and is still denied by the Turkish Government. April 24 is the day of commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, since on April 24, 1915, the second phase of the Genocide started by deporting and killing of the Armenian intellectuals; writers, composers, representatives of the national elite.

There are around 3 million people living in Armenia currently. However, the number of Armenians currently is 11 million. The deportation of Armenians and the mass killings in 20th century; the Armenian Genocide to be more exact was the main cause of the huge Diaspora – millions of Armenians spread all over the world. The largest Armenian community in the world is in Russia.

There are around 2.5 million Armenians living in the Russian Federation. The second largest Armenian community is in the United States of America. It is estimated that there are around 1,5 million Armenians in the States and just as much in Turkey. There are Armenians spread all over the world. One can find pieces of Armenia in every corner of the world. Some of the other large Armenian communities are in France, Georgia, Canada, Argentina, etc.

Eastern Armenia and the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic

Armenia became of the Soviet Union along with Azerbaijan, and Georgia from its neighbors in 1922. Even though Armenia had lost its whole Western Area and several other regions from Eastern Armenia, it still managed to significantly benefit from the communist economic system. After existing under this regime, in 1990 Armenia declared its independence, which became official in 1991, September 21.

Modern Armenia & Velvet Revolution

Armenia in the 21st century is considered a developing country. The restoration of Armenia’s independence opened many doors and opportunities in many aspects in both the international arena and the country itself. Many groups and individuals from all over the world are visiting Armenia, to find out more and learn about the country that made history by starting and successfully finishing a revolution without a bullet fired. Nikol Pashinyan started protesting the government by walking from the regions of the country to the capital in late April 2018.

More and more people started to join the former journalist and political activist and through the unity and the patient battles, the ruling party leaders, starting from Serj Sargsyan resigned from their positions. This major transition caused an outrage of happiness and hope in every citizen of Armenia. While the country has been flourishing since the declaration of its independence despite the internal and external political and non-political issues. Armenia now is a country containing and embracing both its history and traditions as well as it manages to move with the fast pace of the modern world. While visiting Armenia one can feel the mix of the East and the West in terms of the architecture, culture and the atmosphere in general.


Armenia, as it is known to the world, is the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD. The majority of Armenians – around 94% of those living in Armenia consider themselves Christians, believers, and followers of the Armenian Apostolic church. Most Armenians however whether living in the country or from Diaspora do belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, named after the man who practiced Christian faith and preached it to Armenians as well as baptized the king and the majority of the court after returning to Armenia from Cappadocia. He is known as St Gregory the Illuminator (257-337).

Besides the fact that throughout history many churches and monasteries have been destroyed by rulers and enemies both in Eastern and Western Armenia, it is still full of ancient monasteries and churches signifying the uniqueness of the Armenian Apostolic church and its architecture. Etchmiadzin is considered the spiritual and directorial center of the Armenian Apostolic Church.


Armenian is considered one of the most complicated languages in the world. The Armenian language has been alive for more than 1500 years. It is an Indo-European language and has acquired certain words and expressions from Hindu, Persian, Arabic, Greek, and Latin over the course of history. Armenian has its own distinctive alphabet, that was devised between 401-406 by Mesrop Mashtots (361-440) beneath the patronage of King Vramshapuh and Catolicos Sahak Parthev.

Till that point, most written versions of Armenian were in Greek. Throughout the turbulent years of the fourth-century, the new alphabet was treated as a divine gift from God, a weapon of intellect over the dark forces of intolerance. The primary sentence written in Armenian, in translation sounds like “To recognize wisdom and guidance, to know the creations of the greats”.


There are about 3 million people living in Armenia and Armenians are the main ethnic group taking up the number. About 98% of this number are Armenians. There are about 11 million Armenians in the world. The majority of them are part of the diaspora. Armenians are one of the oldest nations in the world tracing their history back to the times of Urartians Hurrians, etc. Current Armenia has been predominantly populated by Armenians mainly over the course of many years, however, with the loss of many lands, Armenians have moved around a lot, living closely with other nations as well as possibly carrying certain physiological characteristics.


Armenian culture holds a lot of diversity in it; the mixture and at the same time the distinctiveness of the traditional and the modern as well as the classical is what makes it so unique and more “approachable.” A significant part of the Armenian culture, more specifically art reflects on its long history representing the struggles and the beauty of the nation. The architecture is mainly reflected on some of the old buildings in Yerevan as well as the many ancient churches and monasteries and the monastic complexes typical of Armenian architecture.

Armenia is considered a country of stones and rocks and is famous for its stone carvings called “khachkars”. Kchakars have become a symbol of not only Armenian architecture, but also a national culture in general. These are cross-stones in other words containing various shapes, styles and decorative carvings originated at the beginning of the 4th century. Khachkars started symbolizing Christianity and were used/are for different purposes and occasions. Armenian culture is rich of applied and fine arts as well. Jewelry making, especially from silver as well as carpet weaving and lacemaking have been around and well developed for centuries.

Carpets are the most famous accessory that has been heavily used in the past by Armenian household for different purposes. They have served as decor due to the fact that most of them are ornamented in iconic, traditional Armenian patterns, colors, and images. Armenian literature started prospering and developing almost after the creation of alphabet, established by Mesrop Mashtots. One of the greatest historians of the Armenian history belonging to IV century was Movses Khorenatsi, whose historical works, especially the one called “History of Armenia” contain a significant amount of historical data not only about Armenia but also about the countries in the Western Asia.

There are hundreds of Armenian poets and writers that contributed to the formation and the prosperity of Armenian literature and culture. Some of the well-known Armenian writers and authors are William Saroyan, Levon Shant, Paruyr Sevak, Yeghishe Charents, Khachatur Abovian, Eric Bogosian, Chris Bohjalian, Peter Balakian, Hovhannes Tumanyan, Yervand Odian, Khachik Dashtenc. Petros Dourian, Kevork Ajemian, etc. Armenian music and its genres are as diverse as the culture itself. Armenian traditional music has been around for many centuries, keeping its unique character due to the medieval instruments and the enthusiasm of protecting the music as it is considered a national treasure.

Armenian traditional melodies sound like no other because of the use of common Armenian music instruments. Such instruments include tavigh (arpha) and qnar (lira), which are string instruments, sring (reed pipe) and zurna and wind instruments and tmbuk as percussion. Among the Armenian national musical instruments duduk (double reed woodwind instrument made of apricot wood) has a significant role, which expresses the sadness of the Armenian history. At present, one of the greatest duduk players is Dzivan Gasparian, whose melodies sound even in the famous movie “Gladiator”. He cooperated with famous musicians, film makers such as Peter Gabriel, Hans Zimer, etc.

Along with that, Armenia has many talented composers and musicians in the field of classical music. Some of the most outstanding Armenian composers of the 20th century were Aram Khachaturian and Arno Babajanian. It’s worth to mention the name of Sergey Khachatryan, one of the best violinists in the world, who was awarded in the international musical competition after the name of Queen Elisabeth in Belgium in 2005, and was authorized to play on the Stradivarius violin. Armenia, having an assortment of successful artists and artworks, has given to the world many unique and gifted painters and architects.

This field has been just as developed and has equally contributed to the cultural image of the country as any other sphere. Armenian paintings have started evolving from the very early ages, almost early civilizations up to this day. Ranging from manuscripts and illustrations to landscape and abstract paintings.

Some of the most prominent Armenian painters include Hovhannes Ayvazovsky, Martiros Saryan, Minas Avetisian, Arshile Gorky. One of the most famous modern Armenian sculptors and designers is Arman Nur. His masterpieces “Fly and Evolution” were awarded the first prize in October 2017, the Lorenzo il Magnifico Gold Medal of the international Contemporary Art Biennale of Florence, Italy.