Armenia (Armenian Հայաստան, Hayastan) is the only country remaining from 3,000 year old maps of Anatolia. It is located in Caucasus.
It became the world’s first Christian country more than 1,700 years ago in 301 AD and thus has become the first country to make Christianity its official religion.
Armenia is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and Azerbaijan’s Naxcivan exclave to the southwest.
Five percent of the country’s surface area consists of Lake Sevan (Sevana Lich), the largest lake in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range.
Armenian history extends for over 3,000 years.
Armenians have historically inhabited the “Armenian Highlands“, a vast section of mountains and valleys across eastern Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus.
Armenian vassal states, principalities, kingdoms and empires have risen and fallen in different parts of this highland throughout history.
They were only unified once, just before the time of Christ in the empire of Tigran the Great, an empire that stretched from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Sea.
Much of Armenia’s history has been spent under the domination of the great powers of the region. The western parts of Armenia were under Byzantine or Ottoman Turkish rule for long periods, while the eastern parts were under Persian or Russian rule. These empires often fought their wars on Armenian territory, using Armenian soldiers.
It was a rough neighborhood, but Armenians managed to hold onto their language and church and prosper whenever given a chance. Armenia was located on the silk road, and Armenians built a network of merchant communities and ties extending from eastern Asia to Venice.
The Armenian Genocide was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of about 1.5 million of its minority Armenian subjects inside their historic homeland, which lies within the present-day Republic of Turkey.
The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople to Ankara, the majority of whom were eventually murdered.
The estimated total of 1.5 million Armenians were murdered during the Genocide.
The Armenian Genocide is still actively denied by Turkey.
In many ways, the Soviet period was a golden one for Armenians. The price they paid for it was extraordinarily high, though, with arbitrary borders being drawn between Armenia and Azerbaijan (setting the stage for future conflict).
The country boomed economically, and there were heavily subsidized cultural education and activities. Yerevan mushroomed from a dusty garrison town of 20,000 to a metropolis of 1 million.
In the early 1990s, the Armenians in Karabakh fought for independence from Azerbaijan with support from Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.
The war was won militarily, resulting in Azerbaijan losing control of 20% of its territory, but no diplomatic solution was reached.
As a result, Azerbaijan has closed their borders with Armenia, and Turkey has also closed their borders with Armenia in support of their Azeri-Turk kinsmen.
Both countries have since imposed sanctions against Armenia, putting the local economy in a delicate situation because Armenia depends on outside supplies of energy and most raw materials. Land routes through Georgia and Iran are inadequate and unreliable.
As a result, the economy relies heavily on investment and support from Armenians abroad. The economic situation has also been beset due to widespread corruption and poverty.
For many years after collapse of Soviet Union, the government was in the hands of bureaucrats who had promoted nepotism and corruption.
In May, 2019, the in a peaceful “velvet revolution” the power was transferred to Nikol Pashinyan – a journalist who had previously spent some time in jail for his views.
As a promoter of democracy, Pashinyan has great support of the United States and Europe.
Due to Pashinyan’s liberal ways and the bloodless revolution that had taken place, the Economist journal named Armenia the country of the year in 2018.
Armenia is a small, mountainous, landlocked country whose geography almost never fails to surprise foreign visitors. Mountain passes, valleys and canyons make Armenia feel much larger than it really is, and when you’re on its southern shores, Lake Sevan provides the sight of endless water.
In addition to its geographic variation, Armenia’s climate varies a great deal as well; be ready for everything from barren lunar landscapes to rain forests to snow-capped peaks and a vast alpine lake. There are some places in Armenia where several of these can be experienced at once.
Armenians are an incredibly hospitable nation. Armenian dinners are lavish and long.
The host would bring the best to the table to please the guest.
The culinary tourism has taken off in Armenia and gaining momentum, as
Westerners are discovering an amazingly delicious, fresh and inexpensive food.
Here are some popular dishes:
Khorovats (BBQ) can be pork, lamb, chicken or beef and is flavored with onions and other Armenian spices. Tomatoes, eggplant (aubergine) and bell peppers are also part of the khorovats meal.
Borscht is a vegetable soup traditionally made with beetroot as a main ingredient, which gives it a strong red color. It is usually served warm with fresh sour cream.
Khash is a traditional dish that originated in the Shirak region. Formerly a nutritious winter food for the rural poor, it is now considered a delicacy and is enjoyed as a festive winter meal.
Dolma (stuffed grape leaves; a variety with stuffed cabbage leaves, bell peppers and eggplants) also exists.
Armenian fruits and vegetables are special. One should definitely try them and will never forget the taste of Armenian apricot, peach, grapes, pomegranate, etc.
Armenian bread is very tasty as well. There is a wide range of different types of bread, starting from black and white till lavash (a soft, thin flatbread) and matnaqash.
Don’t miss trying milk products! Along with ordinary milk products, there are some traditional and really tasty and refreshing ones. Matsun (yogurt) is a traditional Armenian dairy product that has centuries of history. It contains a number of natural microelements, which have high biochemical activity. It’s really refreshing, especially when you try it cold during hot summers.
Okroshka, cold soup with kefir and cucumber and dill, is a healthy and refreshing dairy dish. Spas is really tasty hot kefir soup with grains in it.
Café culture rules in Armenia, and the best places to have a cup of coffee and people-watch are sidewalk cafés. Any place near the Opera is certain to be jumping late into the summer nights. A popular chain is “Jazzve” (several locations throughout the city, including near the Opera and off Mesrop Mashtots Avenue), which offers many varieties of tea and coffee as well as great desserts.
Alcoholic: Vodka, tutti oghi (mulberry vodka), honi oghi (cornelian cherry vodka), Tsirani oghi (apricot vodka), local beer (Kilikia, Kotayk, Gumri), wine (can also be made of pomegranate), and brandy.
Other: Tan (yogurt combined with water and salt), Jermuk (mineral water), masuri hyut (rose hip juice), chichkhani hyut (sea buckthorne juice), bali hyut (sour cherry juice), Armenian coffee, and herbal teas.