Armenians have a unique alphabet and language. Mesrop Mashtots created the alphabet in AD 405 and it consists of thirty-nine letters, three of which were added during the Cilician era. Armenian is spoken by 96 percent of the population, while Russian is spoken by 75.8 percent of the population, but English is growing more popular.
Television, periodicals, and newspapers are all run by for-profit and for-profit businesses that rely on advertising, subscriptions, and other sales-related income. Armenia’s constitution protects freedom of expression, and the country ranks 78th on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 Press Freedom Index, between Lesotho and Sierra Leone. Armenia’s media system is changing as a result of the country’s change.
Attacks on journalists working for non-state-sponsored media pose a significant danger to Armenian press freedom. The frequency of attacks has lately decreased, although journalists’ physical safety remains jeopardized.
Music and dance
Armenian music is a blend of indigenous folk music, probably best exemplified by Djivan Gasparyan’s well-known duduk music, light pop, and substantial Christian music.
Instruments such as the duduk, dhol, zurna, and kanun are prevalent in Armenian folk music. Artists such as Sayat Nova are well-known for their contributions to the development of Armenian folk music. The Armenian chant, the most prevalent form of religious music in Armenia, is one of the earliest types of Armenian music. Many of these chants date back to pre-Christian times, while others are more recent, including many written by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of the Armenian alphabet. During the Soviet era, Armenian classical music composer Aram Khatchaturian became globally renowned for his music, for numerous ballets, and for the Sabre Dance from his ballet Gayane.
The Armenian Genocide resulted in massive diaspora, resulting in the settlement of Armenians in nations all over the globe. Armenians maintained their traditions, and some diasporans came to prominence via their music. The so-called “kef” type Armenian dance music, which included Armenian and Middle Eastern traditional instruments (sometimes electrified/amplified) and some western instruments, was popular among the post-Genocide Armenian population of the United States. This style maintained Western Armenian traditional songs and dances, and many performers also sang current popular songs from Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries where Armenians moved.
Richard Hagopian is probably the most well-known performer in the traditional “kef” style, and the Vosbikian Band was renowned in the 1940s and 1950s for creating their own brand of “kef music” strongly inspired by popular American Big Band Jazz at the time. Later, stemming from the Middle Eastern Armenian diaspora and influenced by Continental European (especially French) pop music, the Armenian pop music genre rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, with artists such as Adiss Harmandian and Harout Pamboukjian performing to the Armenian diaspora and Armenia, as well as artists such as Sirusho performing pop music combined with Armenian folk music to this day.
Other famous Armenian diasporans include world-renowned French-Armenian singer and composer Charles Aznavour, pianist Sahan Arzruni, and notable opera sopranos Hasmik Papian and, more recently, Isabel Bayrakdarian and Anna Kasyan. Certain Armenians, such as the heavy metal band System of a Down (which often integrates traditional Armenian instrumentals and style into their songs) and pop diva Cher, choose to perform non-Armenian songs. Armenian revolutionary songs are popular among the young in the Armenian diaspora. These songs promote Armenian patriotism by focusing on Armenian history and national heroes.
On Saturdays and Wednesdays, the Yerevan Vernissage (arts and crafts fair) near Republic Square bustles with hundreds of merchants offering a variety of products (though the selection is much reduced mid-week). The market sells woodcarving, antiquities, exquisite lace, and hand-knotted wool rugs and kilims, which are a speciality of the Caucasus. Obsidian, which may be found locally, is fashioned into a variety of jewelry and decorative items. Armenian gold smithery has a lengthy history, with a variety of gold goods occupying one part of the market. The Vernisage also sells Soviet antiques and souvenirs made in Russia recently – nesting dolls, clocks, enamel boxes, and so on.
On weekends, a major art fair occupies another municipal park across from the Opera House. Armenia’s lengthy history as an ancient global crossroads has resulted in a landscape teeming with interesting archaeological sites to visit. Sites from the Middle Ages, Iron Age, Bronze Age, and even Stone Age are all within a few hours’ drive of the city. All save the most magnificent are practically unknown, enabling tourists to see cathedrals and castles in their natural surroundings.
The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has almost 16,000 pieces dating back to the Middle Ages, illustrating Armenia’s rich narratives and legends of the period. It also contains works by several European masters. Other notable collections of fine art on exhibit in Yerevan include the Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum. Furthermore, there are numerous private galleries in operation, with many more opening every year, with rotating exhibits and sales.
The Armenian government announced a modification in legislation on April 13, 2013, allowing freedom of panorama for 3D works of art.
Armenian cuisine is as old as the country’s history, a fusion of many flavors and fragrances. The cuisine often has an unique fragrance. Different spices, vegetables, seafood, and fruits mix to create distinct meals that are closely linked to eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The primary features of Armenian cuisine are the use of herbs, the use of wheat in a variety of forms, legumes, nuts, and fruit (as a principal component as well as to sour food), and the stuffing of a broad range of leaves.
That country is represented by the pomegranate, which has a symbolic connection with fertility. The apricot is the country’s national fruit.