Given its strong claim to be the world’s first officially Christian nation, there are many monasteries and cathedrals situated in breathtaking natural settings. Even without the magnificent, millennium-old monasteries, the monasteries at Tatev, Noravank, Haghartsin, Haghpat, and Geghard are well worth a visit.
Armenia is located at the intriguing crossroads of Europe and Asia, and its culture is influenced by both. While many Armenians consider themselves European, their social conservatism in certain areas is incompatible with Europe. The new environment that Armenians have found themselves in after the collapse of the Soviet Union has witnessed significant societal changes, particularly in the capital, Yerevan. The tiny and extremely homogenous (about 99 percent Armenian) population values family. The inhabitants of the region are very friendly and take great pleasure in their hospitality. If you show up at a hamlet with no money, food and a place to stay will be provided, along with beverages and countless toasts.
Politically, Armenia has sided with Russia while opposing its Turkish and Azeri neighbors.
Armenia also has many road signs in English, and there are a good number of English-speaking Armenians in general, giving the impression that visitors are welcome. The police don’t seem to be overly corrupt, at least not in Yerevan, and the nation looks to be fairly secure and well-organized in general.
Armenia is a landlocked nation in the geographical Transcaucasus (South Caucasus) area, situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and northeast of the Armenian Highlands. Armenia is bounded on the north by Georgia, on the east by Azerbaijan, on the south by Iran, and on the west and southwest by Turkey. Armenia is located between the latitudes of 38° and 42° N, and the meridians of 43° and 47° E.
The Republic of Armenia has a land area of 29,743 square kilometers (11,484 sq mi). The landscape is mainly hilly, with few trees and fast-flowing rivers. Armenia has a highland continental climate, which means it has hot summers and chilly winters. Mount Aragats reaches 4,090 meters (13,419 feet) above sea level, and no point is lower than 390 meters (1,280 feet).
Mount Ararat, which was traditionally part of Armenia, is the region’s highest peak. It is now situated in Turkey, yet it is plainly visible in Armenia, and the Armenians consider it as a symbol of their homeland. As a result, the mountain is still visible on the Armenian national symbol today.
Armenia has created a Ministry of Nature Protection and imposed fees on air and water pollution as well as solid waste disposal, the proceeds of which are used to fund environmental protection efforts. Trash management in Armenia is undeveloped, since there is no waste sorting or recycling at any of the country’s 60 landfills.
Despite the availability of numerous renewable energy sources in Armenia (particularly hydroelectric and wind power), the Armenian government is planning to construct a new nuclear power station at Metsamor, near Yerevan.
Armenia has a decidedly continental climate. Summers are dry and bright from June until mid-September. The temperature ranges from 22 and 36 degrees Celsius (72 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit). The low humidity level, on the other hand, mitigates the impact of high temperatures. Evening winds sweeping down the slopes are appreciated for their refreshing and cooling impact. Autumns are lengthy and springs are brief. Autumn is well-known for its bright and colorful foliage.
Winters are cold and snowy, with temperatures varying between 10 and 5 °C (14 and 23 °F). Skiers love skiing down the slopes of Tsakhkadzor, which is situated thirty minutes outside of Yerevan. Lake Sevan, located in the Armenian highlands, is the world’s second biggest lake in terms of height, at 1,900 meters (6,234 feet) above sea level.
Armenia is the second most densely inhabited of the former Soviet republics, with a population of 3,238,000 (as of 2008). Following the dissolution of the USSR, there has been an issue of population decrease due to high levels of emigration. Emigration has decreased in recent years, while population growth has been consistent.
Armenia has a rather significant foreign diaspora (8 million by some estimates, much outnumbering Armenia’s 3 million people), with communities located all over the world. Russia, France, Iran, the United States, Georgia, Syria, Lebanon, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Poland, Ukraine, and Brazil have the biggest Armenian community outside of Armenia. Turkey still has 40,000 to 70,000 Armenians living there (mostly in and around Istanbul).
The Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City is home to around 1,000 Armenians, a relic of a once-larger population. San Lazzaro degli Armeni, an island in the Venetian Lagoon, is entirely inhabited by a monastery managed by the Mechitarists, an Armenian Catholic community. Around 139,000 Armenians reside in the de facto nation of Nagorno-Karabakh, where they constitute the majority.
Ethnic Armenians account for 97.9% of the population. Yazidis account for 1.3 percent of the population, whereas Russians account for 0.5 percent. Other minorities include Assyrians, Ukrainians, Pontic Greeks (also known as Caucasus Greeks in the region), Kurds, Georgians, and Belarusians. There are also Vlachs, Mordvins, Ossetians, Udis, and Tats communities. There are also minorities of Poles and Caucasus Germans, but they are highly Russified. In 2016, an estimated 35,000 Yazidis lived in Armenia.
Azerbaijanis were historically the country’s second biggest population during the Soviet period (forming about 2.5 percent in 1989). However, as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, almost all of them fled from Armenia to Azerbaijan. Armenia, on the other hand, experienced a significant inflow of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan, giving Armenia a more homogenous character.
Armenia was the first country to embrace Christianity as a national religion, which occurred in AD 301.
Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in Armenia. The Armenian Church has its origins in the first century. The Armenian Church is said to have been established by two of Jesus’ twelve apostles, Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, who taught Christianity in Armenia about AD 40–60. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the official name of the Armenian Church because of these two founding apostles.
Over 93 percent of Armenian Christians are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, a branch of Oriental (non-Chalcedonian) Orthodoxy that is highly ceremonial and traditional, similar to the Coptic and Syriac churches. Only a few churches within Oriental Orthodoxy are in contact with the Armenian Apostolic Church.
With over a thousand members throughout the nation, the Armenian Evangelical Church has a significant and positive influence in the lives of Armenians. Its origins may be traced back to 1846, when it was founded under the patronage of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople with the goal of training competent clergy for the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Other Christian denominations in Armenia that practice faith based on the Nicene Creed are the Pentecostal branches of the Protestant community such as the Word of Life, the Armenian Brotherhood Church, the Baptists, who are one of the oldest existing denominations in Armenia and were permitted by Soviet Union authorities, and the Presbyterians.
Catholics of both the Latin and Armenian rites exist in Armenia. The Mechitarists (sometimes spelt “Mekhitarists”) are an Armenian Catholic Church community of Benedictine monks established in 1712 by Mekhitar of Sebaste. They are most known for a series of academic publications including ancient Armenian translations of otherwise lost ancient Greek literature.
The Armenian Catholic Church has its headquarters in Bzoummar, Lebanon.
Armenia is home to a Russian group known as the Molokans, who follow a type of Spiritual Christianity derived from the Russian Orthodox Church.
Yazidism is practiced by the Yazidi Kurds, who reside in the country’s west. In 2016, the world’s biggest Yazidi temple was being built in the tiny hamlet of Aknalish. Non-Yazidi Kurds who follow Sunni Islam are also present.
Since independence, Armenia’s Jewish population has shrunk to 750 people, with the majority of immigrants heading to Israel. Armenia presently has two synagogues: one in Yerevan, the capital, and one in Sevan, near Lake Sevan.
The economy is largely on on investment and assistance from Armenians living abroad. Prior to independence, Armenia’s economy was primarily focused on industry — chemicals, electronics, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, and textile – and was heavily reliant on foreign resources. The republic had established a sophisticated industrial sector, providing sister republics with machine tools, textiles, and other manufactured products in return for raw resources and energy. Recently, Intel Corporation, together with other technology firms, decided to establish a research center in Armenia, indicating the development of Armenia’s technology sector.
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, agriculture accounted for less than 20% of both net material output and total employment. Agriculture’s significance in the economy grew significantly after independence, with its proportion of GDP and total employment reaching more than 30% by the end of the 1990s. This rise in the significance of agriculture was due to the population’s need for food security in the face of uncertainty during the initial stages of transition, as well as the collapse of the non-agricultural sectors of the economy in the early 1990s. As the economy steadied and growth resumed, agriculture’s proportion of GDP fell to little more than 20% (2006 statistics), despite the fact that agriculture employed more than 40% of the workforce.
Copper, zinc, gold, and lead are all mined in Armenia. The overwhelming majority of energy is generated using fuel imported from Russia, including gas and nuclear fuel (for its only nuclear power plant); hydropower is the primary local energy source. Small coal, gas, and petroleum reserves exist but have yet to be exploited.
Armenia’s economy, like that of other newly independent nations of the former Soviet Union, suffers from the collapse of old Soviet trade patterns. Soviet investment in and support for Armenian industry has practically vanished, leaving just a few large companies in operation. Furthermore, the impacts of the 1988 Spitak earthquake, which killed over 25,000 people and displaced 500,000, are still being felt. The Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan has not been settled. The closing of the Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has wreaked havoc on Armenia’s economy, since the country relies on foreign sources of energy and most basic commodities. Land routes via Georgia and Iran are either insufficient or unreliable. Between 1989 to 1993, the GDP dropped almost 60%, but subsequently began rapid development. For the first several years following its introduction in 1993, the national currency, the dram, experienced hyperinflation.
Nonetheless, the administration was able to implement broad economic changes that resulted in much reduced inflation and stable growth. The 1994 cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh war aided the economy as well. Armenia has had significant economic development since 1995, building on the previous year’s recovery, and inflation has been low for many years. New industries like as precious stone processing and jewelry manufacturing, information and communication technology, and even tourism are starting to complement more traditional areas of the economy such as agriculture.
As a result of its consistent economic growth, Armenia has gained growing assistance from foreign organizations. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign governments are providing significant grants and loans. Since 1993, Armenia has received more than $1.1 billion in loans. These loans are intended to help reduce the budget deficit and stabilize the currency, as well as to help grow private companies, energy, agriculture, food processing, transportation, the health and education sectors, and continuing reconstruction in the earthquake zone. On February 5, 2003, the government became a member of the World Trade Organization. However, the Armenian diaspora continues to be a key source of foreign direct investment, funding significant portions of infrastructure rebuilding and other public projects. Armenia, as a developing democratic state, expects to get greater financial assistance from the West.
A liberal foreign investment legislation was passed in June 1994, and a privatisation law, as well as a privatisation program, were passed in 1997. Continued development will be contingent on the government’s ability to improve macroeconomic management, which includes boosting tax collection, strengthening the investment environment, and combating corruption. However, unemployment, which stood at 18.5 percent in 2015, remains a significant issue as a result of the inflow of thousands of refugees fleeing the Karabakh war.
Armenia was rated 85th in the 2015 UNDP Human Development Index, the lowest ranking among Transcaucasian countries. Armenia rated 95th out of 168 nations in the 2015 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Armenia scored 54th in the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, ahead of nations such as France, Portugal, and Italy.