in full Republic of Armenia, Armenian Hayastan, or Hayastani
Country, Transcaucasia, western Asia.
Area: 11,484 sq mi (29,743 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 2,983,000.
Capital: Yerevan. Armenians constitute nine-tenths of the population;
there are also small numbers of Azerbaijanians, Kurds, Russians, and
Ukrainians. Languages: Armenian (official), Russian. Religions:
Christianity (predominantly Armenian Apostolic; also Roman Catholic);
also Islam. Currency: dram. Armenia is a mountainous country with an
average elevation of 5,900 ft (1,800 m). The Lesser Caucasus ranges
stretch across its northern portion, and Lake Sevan lies in the
east-central part. Armenia has a dry and continental climate that
changes dramatically with elevation. Though the country has become
highly industrialized (as a result of the development of hydroelectric
power during Soviet rule) and increasingly urbanized, agriculture is
still important. The Republic of Armenia is a successor state to a
historical region in Caucasia. Historical Armenia’s boundaries have
varied considerably, but old Armenia extended over what are now
northeastern Turkey and the Republic of Armenia. The area was equivalent
to the ancient kingdom of Urartu, which ruled c. 1270–850 bc. It was
later conquered by the Medes (see Media) and Macedonia and still later
allied with Rome. Armenia adopted Christianity as its national religion
c. ad 300. For centuries the scene of strife among Arabs, Seljūqs,
Byzantines, and Mongols, it came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in
1514–16. Over the next centuries, as parts were ceded to other rulers,
nationalism arose among the scattered Armenians; by the late 19th
century it had caused widespread disruption. Fighting between Ottomans
and Russians escalated when part of Armenia was ceded to Russia in 1828,
and it continued through World War I (1914–18), leading to genocide
against Armenians (see Armenian massacres). With the Ottoman defeat, the
Russian portion became part of a Soviet republic in 1922. Armenia was
established as a constituent republic of the U.S.S.R. in 1936. The
U.S.S.R. began to dissolve in the late 1980s, and Armenia declared its
independence in 1991. In the years that followed, it fought Azerbaijan
for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict that continued despite
attempts to settle it. Large numbers of Armenians left the country in
the 1990s following an economic downturn, and many stayed away even
after the economy began to improve.
Official name Hayastani Hanrape-tut’yun (Republic of Armenia)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with a single legislative
body (National Assembly )
Head of state President
Head of government Prime Minister
Official language Armenian
Official religion none1
Monetary unit dram (AMD)
Population estimate (2008) 2,996,000
Total area (sq mi) 11,484
Total area (sq km) 29,743
1The Armenian Apostolic Church (Armenian Orthodox Church) has special
status per 1991 religious law.
in full Republic of Armenia, Armenian Hayastan, or Hayastani
country of Transcaucasia, lying just south of the great mountain
range of the Caucasus and fronting the northwestern extremity of Asia.
To the north and east Armenia is bounded by Georgia and Azerbaijan,
while its neighbours to the southeast and west are, respectively, Iran
and Turkey. Naxçıvan, an exclave of Azerbaijan, borders Armenia to the
southwest. The capital is Yerevan (Erevan).
Modern Armenia comprises only a small portion of ancient Armenia, one
of the world’s oldest centres of civilization. At its height, Armenia
extended from the south-central Black Sea coast to the Caspian Sea and
from the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Urmia in present-day Iran. Ancient
Armenia was subjected to constant foreign incursions, finally losing its
autonomy in the 14th century ad. The centuries-long rule of Ottoman and
Persian conquerors imperiled the very existence of the Armenian people.
Eastern Armenia was annexed by Russia during the 19th century; western
Armenia remained under Turkish rule, and in 1894–96 and 1915 Turkey
perpetrated systematic massacres and forced deportations of Armenians.
The portion of Armenia lying within the former Russian Empire
declared independence on May 28, 1918, but in 1920 it was invaded by
forces from Turkey and Soviet Russia. The Soviet Republic of Armenia was
established on Nov. 29, 1920; in 1922 Armenia became part of the
Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic; and in 1936 this
republic was dissolved and Armenia became a constituent (union) republic
of the Soviet Union. Armenia declared sovereignty on Aug. 23, 1990, and
independence on Sept. 23, 1991.
The status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of 1,700 square miles in
southwestern Azerbaijan populated primarily by Armenians, was from 1988
the source of bitter conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. By the
mid-1990s Karabakh Armenian forces occupied much of southwestern
Azerbaijan, but the conflict had caused an economic crisis in Armenia.
Armenia is a mountainous country characterized by a great variety of
scenery and geologic instability. The average altitude is 5,900 feet
(1,800 metres) above sea level. There are no lowlands: half the
territory lies at altitudes of 3,300 to 6,600 feet; only about one-tenth
lies below the 3,300-foot mark.
The northwestern part of the Armenian Highland—containing Mount
Aragats (Alaghez), the highest peak (13,418 feet, or 4,090 metres) in
the country—is a combination of lofty mountain ranges, deep river
valleys, and lava plateaus dotted with extinct volcanoes. To the north
and east, the Somkhet, Bazum, Pambak, Areguni, Shakhdag, and Vardenis
ranges of the Lesser Caucasus lie across the northern sector of Armenia.
Elevated volcanic plateaus (Lory, Shirak, and others), cut by deep river
valleys, lie amid these ranges.
In the eastern part of Armenia, the Sevan Basin, containing Lake
Sevan (525 square miles) and hemmed in by ranges soaring as high as
11,800 feet, lies at an altitude of about 6,200 feet. In the southwest,
a large depression—the Ararat Plain—lies at the foot of Mount Aragats
and the Geghama Range; the Aras River cuts this important plain into
halves, the northern half lying in Armenia and the southern in Turkey
Armenia is subject to damaging earthquakes. On Dec. 7, 1988, an
earthquake destroyed the northwestern town of Spitak and caused severe
damage to Leninakan (now Gyumri), Armenia’s second most populous city.
About 25,000 people were killed.
Of the total precipitation, some two-thirds is evaporated, and one-third
percolates into the rocks, notably the volcanic rocks, which are porous
and fissured. The many rivers in Armenia are short and turbulent with
numerous rapids and waterfalls. The water level is highest when the snow
melts in the spring and during the autumn rains. As a result of
considerable difference in altitude along their length, some rivers have
great hydroelectric potential.
Most of the rivers fall into the drainage area of the Aras (itself a
tributary of the Kura River of the Caspian Basin), which, for 300 miles
(480 kilometres), forms a natural boundary between Armenia and Turkey
The Aras’ main left-bank tributaries, the Akhuryan (130 miles), the
Hrazdan (90 miles), the Arpa (80 miles), and the Vorotan (Bargyushad;
111 miles), serve to irrigate most of Armenia. The tributaries of the
Kura—the Debed (109 miles), the Aghstev (80 miles), and others—pass
through Armenia’s northeastern regions. Lake Sevan, with a capacity in
excess of 9 cubic miles (39 cubic kilometres) of water, is fed by dozens
of rivers, but only the Hrazdan leaves its confines.
Armenia is rich in springs and wells, some of which possess medicinal
More than 15 soil types occur in Armenia, including light brown alluvial
soils found in the Aras River plain and the Ararat Plain, poor in humus
but still intensively cultivated; rich brown soils, found at higher
elevations in the hill country; and chernozem (black earth) soils, which
cover much of the higher steppe region. Much of Armenia’s soil—formed
partly by residues of volcanic lava—is rich in nitrogen, potash, and
phosphates. The labour required to clear the surface stones and debris
from the soil, however, has made farming in Armenia difficult.
Because of Armenia’s position in the deep interior of the northern part
of the subtropical zone, enclosed by lofty ranges, its climate is dry
and continental. Regional climatic variation is nevertheless
considerable. Intense sunshine occurs on many days of the year. Summer,
except in high-altitude areas, is long and hot, the average June and
August temperature in the plain being 77° F (25° C); sometimes it rises
to uncomfortable levels. Winter is generally not cold; the average
January temperature in the plain and foothills is about 23° F (−5° C),
whereas in the mountains it drops to 10° F (−12° C). Invasions of Arctic
air sometimes cause the temperature to drop sharply: the record low is
−51° F (−46° C). Winter is particularly inclement on the elevated,
windswept plateaus. Autumn—long, mild, and sunny—is the most pleasant
The ranges of the Lesser Caucasus prevent humid air masses from
reaching the inner regions of Armenia. On the mountain slopes, at
elevations from 4,600 to 6,600 feet, yearly rainfall approaches 32
inches (800 millimetres), while the sheltered inland hollows and plains
receive only 8 to 16 inches of rainfall a year.
The climate changes with elevation, ranging from the dry subtropical
and dry continental types found in the plain and in the foothills up to
a height of 3,000 to 4,600 feet, to the cold type above the 6,600-foot
Plant and animal life
The broken relief of Armenia, together with the fact that its highland
lies at the junction of various biogeographic regions, has produced a
great variety of landscapes. Though a small country, Armenia boasts more
plant species (in excess of 3,000) than the vast Russian Plain. There
are five altitudinal vegetation zones: semidesert, steppe, forest,
alpine meadow, and high-altitude tundra.
The semidesert landscape, ascending to an elevation of 4,300 to 4,600
feet, consists of a slightly rolling plain covered with scanty
vegetation, mostly sagebrush. The vegetation includes drought-resisting
plants such as juniper, sloe, dog rose, and honeysuckle. The boar,
wildcat, jackal, adder, gurza (a venomous snake), scorpion, and, more
rarely, the leopard inhabit this region.
Steppes predominate in Armenia. They start at altitudes of 4,300 to
4,600 feet, and in the northeast they ascend to 6,200 to 6,600 feet. In
the central region they reach 6,600 to 7,200 feet and in the south are
found as high as 7,900 to 8,200 feet. In the lower altitudes the steppes
are covered with drought-resistant grasses, while the mountain slopes
are overgrown with thorny bushes and juniper.
The forest zone lies in the southeast of Armenia, at altitudes of
6,200 to 6,600 feet, where the humidity is considerable, and also in the
northeast, at altitudes of 7,200 to 7,900 feet. Occupying nearly
one-tenth of Armenia, the northeastern forests are largely beech. Oak
forests predominate in the southeastern regions, where the climate is
drier, and in the lower part of the forest zone hackberry, pistachio,
honeysuckle, and dogwood grow. The animal kingdom is represented by the
Syrian bear, wildcat, lynx, and squirrel. Birds—woodcock, robin,
warbler, titmouse, and woodpecker—are numerous.
The alpine zone lies above 6,600 feet, with stunted grass providing
good summer pastures. The fauna is rich; the abundant birdlife includes
the mountain turkey, horned lark, and bearded vulture, while the
mountains also harbour the bezoar goat and the mountain sheep, or
Finally, the alpine tundra, with its scant cushion plants, covers
only limited mountain areas and solitary peaks.
One of the more important of the distinctive regions of Armenia is the
Ararat Plain and its surrounding foothills and mountains. This
prosperous and densely populated area is the centre of Armenia’s economy
and culture and traditionally the seat of its governmental institutions.
The other regions are the Shirak Steppe, the elevated northwestern
plateau zone that is Armenia’s granary; Gugark, high plateaus, ranges,
and deep valleys of the northeast, covered with forests, farmlands, and
alpine pastures; the Sevan Basin, the hollow containing Lake Sevan, on
the shores of which are farmlands, villages, and towns; Vayk,
essentially the basin of the Arpa River; and Zangezur (Siuniq) in the
extreme southeast. This last region is a maze of gorges and river
valleys cutting through high ranges. It is an area rich in ores, with
fields and orchards scattered here and there in the valleys and on the
The population density is highest in the Ararat Plain. The river
valleys in the southeast and northeast are the next most densely
populated areas. Half the population is concentrated in the zone marked
by an upper altitudinal limit of 3,300 feet, which makes up only about
one-tenth of the entire territory. Many people also live in the
foothills, at altitudes of 3,300–4,900 feet, and in the mountains
(4,900–6,600 feet). These regions account for a further third of the
entire population. The high ranges and mountains are lightly populated;
no one resides above 7,800 feet.
Fundamental changes in the distribution of Armenia’s population have
been caused by the urbanization resulting from economic growth,
particularly from the country’s industrialization. Before the Russian
Revolution, Armenia’s four cities—Erevan (now Yerevan), Alexandropol
(Gyumri), Kamo, and Goris—accounted for about one-tenth of the total
population. Two-thirds of the population are now urbanized.
The high country to the north of Shirak and in the Zangezur region
has small hamlets that lie in secluded glens, on riverbanks, and near
springs; in the plain, such settlements cluster around mountain streams
and irrigation canals, amid orchards and vineyards.
Armenians constitute nearly all of the country’s population; they speak
Armenian, a distinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The
remainder include Kurds, Russians, and small numbers of Ukrainians,
Assyrians, and other groups. Most of Armenia’s Azerbaijani population
fled or was expelled after the escalation of the conflict between the
two countries. More than 3 million Armenians live abroad, including
about 1.5 million in the states of the former Soviet Union and about 1
million in the United States.
The Armenians were converted to Christianity about ad 300 and have an
ancient and rich liturgical and Christian literary tradition. Believing
Armenians today belong mainly to the Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox)
church or the Armenian Catholic church, in communion with Rome.
The Russian campaigns against the Persians and the Turks in the 18th
and 19th centuries resulted in large emigrations of Armenians under
Muslim rule to the Transcaucasian provinces of the Russian Empire and to
Russia itself. Armenians settled in Yerevan, Tʿbilisi, Karabakh,
Shemakha (now Şamaxı), Astrakhan, and Bessarabia. At the time of the
massacres in Turkish Armenia in 1915, some Armenians found asylum in
Russia. A number settled in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh within the
neighbouring Muslim country of Azerbaijan. Armenians now constitute
about three-fourths of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh; since 1988
there have been violent interethnic disputes and sporadic warfare
between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in and around the enclave.
The economic crisis of the 1990s caused substantial numbers of
Armenians to emigrate. By the mid-1990s an estimated 750,000
Armenians—about one-fifth of the population—had left the country.
Under Soviet rule the Armenian economy was transformed from agricultural
to primarily industrial; agriculture, however, remains important,
accounting for about two-fifths of the gross domestic product and
employing one-fifth of the labour force. Industry is heavily dependent
on imports of energy and raw materials.
The massive earthquake of 1988 destroyed nearly one-third of
Armenia’s industrial capacity, seriously weakening the economy. In 1989
the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh led Azerbaijan to impose a blockade,
closing a vital natural gas pipeline to Armenia. The subsequent severe
energy shortage—combined with the disruption of key trade routes due to
civil unrest in Georgia—caused a sharp drop in industrial production,
further devastating the economy. Most of the population of Armenia thus
experienced severe economic hardship during the 1990s.
After independence, Armenia implemented a number of structural
reforms in an effort to create the institutional and legal basis for a
market economy. Reforms included substantial privatization of industry
and agriculture, restructuring of the tax and financial systems, and
price liberalization. A new currency, the dram, was introduced in 1993,
replacing the ruble.
Agriculture in Armenia has to contend with many difficulties. Arable
land is scarce; cultivated lands (plowland, orchards, and vineyards)
occupy less than two-fifths of the total area. Pastures and meadows
mowed for hay cover a larger area, approaching one-fourth of the
territory. Farmlands in mountain regions form a mosaic of cornfields,
orchards, vineyards, and pastures. Considerable tracts of arable land
also are found in the Ararat Plain, the Shirak Steppe, and the southern
part of the Sevan Basin.
The extensive irrigated lands in the low, sunny Ararat Plain and
cultivated stretches in the northeastern and southern river valleys
yield high-quality grapes and fruits. Storage lakes, dams, and pumping
stations have been built and irrigation canals dug. More than half the
total arable land area is irrigated. Farming, above an elevation of
3,300 feet, also combines with cattle raising; grain crops are
cultivated and cattle are raised in the mountains, while tobacco and
potatoes are raised in the lower, warmer part of the mountain belt. Farm
products provide raw materials for many industries.
Viticulture is the leading branch of agriculture. Among the many
orchard crops, peaches and apricots are the most common. Apples,
cherries, mazzards (sweet cherries), and pears are cultivated in the
colder climate, and walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pomegranates, and figs
are also produced in this area. Vegetables are grown in the main
agricultural regions, potatoes in the cooler mountains. Quality tobaccos
are widely cultivated. Cotton and sugar beets, formerly grown in the
Ararat Plain, are being succeeded by more valuable crops, such as
grapes. The area under grain crops has been sharply reduced.
Extensive alpine pastures enhance the productivity of animal
husbandry, whose main branches are the raising of beef and milk cattle
and sheep. Pig and poultry raising, as well as sericulture and
apiculture, play subsidiary roles.
Mechanical engineering, machine tools and electrical power machinery,
electronics, and the chemical and mining industries hold a prominent
place in Armenia’s heavy industry, but light and food industries are
also fairly well advanced. Yerevan, Gyumri, and Vanadzor are
machine-building cities. The centres of the chemical industries are
Yerevan, Vanadzor, and Alaverdi.
Nonferrous metallurgy—in Alaverdi, Kapan, and Kajaran—includes the
mining and dressing of copper, molybdenum, and other ores, the smelting
of copper, and the extraction of precious and rare metals.
The food industry processes farm products, which meet domestic demand
and are exported. The most advanced branches are involved in the primary
processing of grapes and production of high-quality brandy, wines,
canned fruits, and vegetables for export.
Light industry—a modern innovation—specializes in the production of
woolen, silk, and cotton fabrics; knitted goods and clothes; carpets;
Yerevan is the main industrial centre, accounting for nearly
three-fifths of the total industrial output of Armenia. Other industrial
centres and regions are developing, notably in the north, where Gyumri
and Vanadzor are now major industrial centres.
At the initial stage of industrialization, the creation of a power base
utilizing the hydraulic potential of mountain streams was of decisive
importance. Production of electricity was combined with the building of
irrigation works and water-supply systems for industries and cities. The
Sevan-Hrazdan series of hydroelectric power stations was a
first-priority project that used not only the waters of the Hrazdan but
also those of Lake Sevan. This project made possible the electrification
of agriculture and helped to build numerous industries. In the 1960s and
’70s emphasis shifted to thermal electric power stations burning fossil
fuels and to nuclear energy. Armenia’s sole nuclear power station, near
Yerevan, was shut down following the 1988 earthquake, but after
Azerbaijan closed its gas pipeline to Armenia—causing a severe energy
shortage—Armenia reopened the plant in 1995.
The mountainous terrain is a serious impediment to the construction of
land transport routes of any kind, although distances between towns and
regions are not great. A railway line, leading to Tʿbilisi in the north
and Baku in the east, runs through the northern, western, and southern
regions of Armenia, but the rail link to Baku was closed in 1989.
Yerevan is linked with the Sevan Basin by a line running along the
Hrazdan River. Clustered along the rail routes are major industrial
The network of roads is much denser, with Yerevan as the main hub.
Road transport carries more freight than the railways; buses remain the
chief mode of travel between towns and villages.
Air routes link Yerevan with Moscow and many Russian cities and with
international cities including Athens, Paris, and Tehrān. Aircraft carry
fresh fruits and grapes to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere.
Pipelines link Armenia with the Azerbaijani and Georgian gas fields,
though the Azerbaijani pipeline was closed in 1989, and the Georgian
pipeline has been subject to periodic disruption.
Armenia exports chemicals, nonferrous metals, machines, precision
instruments, textiles and clothing, wine, brandy, and foodstuffs. Its
major imports, in addition to coal and petroleum products, include
ferrous metals, wood and paper products, grain, meat, milk, butter, and
consumer goods. Armenia’s major import source and export destination is
Russia; other trading partners include Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Iran,
Syria, and the countries of Central Asia.
Administration and social conditions
In 1995 Armenia adopted a new constitution, replacing the Soviet-era
constitution that had been in force from 1978. The 1995 document
establishes legislative, executive, and judicial branches of goverment
and provides for a strong executive. A number of basic rights and
freedoms of citizens are enumerated.
Legislative authority is vested in a 131-member legislature, the
National Assembly. Members are elected to four-year terms. The
legislature has the authority to approve the budget, ratify treaties,
and declare war.
The president is the head of state and is elected directly to a
maximum of two consecutive five-year terms. The president appoints the
cabinet and members of the high courts (subject to approval by the
legislature), serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, and has
broad authority to issue decrees.
The judiciary consists of trial courts, appellate courts, a Court of
Cassation (the highest appellate court), and a nine-member
Constitutional Court, which determines the constitutionality of
legislation and executive decrees.
Armenia is divided into numerous oblasti (provinces). Local authority
at the community level is held by mayors or village elders.
During the Soviet period political life was directed by the Communist
Party of Armenia, which was controlled by the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union. Major political parties now include the Armenian National
Movement, a moderate nationalist party that has governed Armenia since
independence; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun),
which ruled Armenia during the brief period of independence before the
Soviet takeover; and the Democratic Party of Armenia, the successor to
the Communist Party.
Armenia was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent
States. In 1992 Armenia joined the United Nations.
Armed forces and security
The Armenian military, formed partly out of forces that had belonged to
the Soviet Union, includes an army and an air force. Military service is
compulsory, though draft evasion is common. Armenia supplies weapons,
matériel, and troops to the Karabakh Self-Defense Army in
The Ministry of Internal Affairs controls the regular Armenian police
force. Organized crime increased sharply during the 1990s.
Countrywide eight-year schooling has become the standard. There are
trade schools, secondary specialized educational establishments, and
institutes and colleges. Establishments of higher learning include
Yerevan State University; polytechnical, medical, agricultural,
pedagogical, and theatrical institutes; and a conservatory.
Health and welfare
Medical treatment in hospitals and clinics is free of charge for all
citizens, being supported, like education, by taxation. The government
provides modest benefits to the elderly, the unemployed, and parents of
Armenian written literature began in the 5th century ad, and monasteries
became the principal centres of intellectual life. The earliest works
were historical, such as Moses of Khoren’s History of Armenia. The
masterpiece of classical Armenian is Eznik Koghbatsi’s Eghts aghandots
(Refutation of the Sects). The first great Armenian poet (10th century)
was St. Gregory Narekatzi, renowned for his mystical poems and hymns.
During the 16th to 18th century, popular bards, or troubadours, called
ashugh, arose; outstanding among them were Nahapet Kuchak and,
especially, Aruthin Sayadian, called Sayat-Nova (d. 1795), whose love
songs are still popular. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hakob
Paronian and Ervand Otian were notable satirical novelists, and Grigor
Zohrab wrote realist short stories. Paronian was also a comic
playwright, whose plays still entertain Armenian audiences. The most
celebrated novelist was Hakob Meliq-Hakobian, called Raffi, and perhaps
the best dramatist of recent times was Gabriel Sundukian (d. 1912).
The country boasts a State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet,
several drama theatres, theatres for children, orchestras, a national
dance company, and the Yerevan film studios, which produce feature,
documentary, and science films. The traditional folk arts, especially
singing, dancing, and artistic crafts, are popular. The 20th-century
Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian achieved worldwide renown.
The public libraries include the A.F. Myasnikyan State Public Library
and the Matenadaran archives in Yerevan, which contain 10,000 Armenian
manuscripts, the largest collection in the world. There are also a
number of museums, including the State Historical Museum of Armenia.
Armenian science, like its culture, has its roots in antiquity, but
research institutions are a 20th-century development. The Armenian
Academy of Sciences is composed of a number of institutes engaged in
research problems in natural and social sciences.
The radio broadcasting system has been operating since 1926, and the
Yerevan television centre since 1956. Broadcasts and telecasts are
conducted in Armenian, Russian, Azerbaijani, and Kurdish. Many
newspapers and periodicals are published in Armenia, most of them in the
Aleksey Aleksandrovich Mints
G. Melvyn Howe
Ancient and premodern Armenia
The Armenians, an Indo-European people, first appear in history shortly
after the end of the 7th century bc. Driving some of the ancient
population to the east of Mount Ararat, where they were known to the
Greeks as Alarodioi (“Araratians”; i.e., Urartians), the invaders
imposed their leadership over regions which, although suffering much
from Scythian and Cimmerian depredations, must still have retained
elements of a high degree of civilization (e.g., walled towns,
irrigation works, and arable fields) upon which the less-advanced
newcomers might build.
The Hayk, as the Armenians name themselves (the term Armenian is
probably the result of an Iranian or Greek confusion of them with the
Aramaeans), were not able to achieve the power and independence of their
predecessors and were first rapidly incorporated by Cyaxares into the
Median empire and then annexed with Media by Cyrus II (the Great) to
form part of the Achaemenian Empire of Persia (c. 550 bc). The country
is mentioned as Armina and Armaniya in the Bīsitūn inscription of Darius
I (the Great; ruled 522–486 bc) and, according to the 5th-century Greek
historian Herodotus, formed part of the 13th satrapy (province) of
Persia, the Alarodioi forming part of the 18th. Xenophon’s Anabasis,
recounting the adventures of Greek mercenaries in Persia, describes the
local government about 400 bc as being in the hands of village headmen,
part of whose tribute to the Persian king consisted of horses. Armenia
continued to be governed by Persian or native satraps until its
absorption into the Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great (331) and
its successor, the Seleucid kingdom (301).
For additional information on the ancient peoples and cultures of
Armenia and the surrounding region, see Mesopotamia, history of; art and
After the defeat of the Seleucid king Antiochus III (the Great) by Rome
at the Battle of Magnesia (winter 190–189 bc), his two Armenian satraps,
Artaxias (Artashes) and Zariadres (Zareh), established themselves, with
Roman consent, as kings of Greater Armenia and Sophene, respectively,
thus becoming the creators of an independent Armenia. Artaxias built his
capital, Artashat (Artaxata), on the Aras River near modern Yerevan. The
Greek geographer Strabo refers to the capital of Sophene as
Carcathiocerta. An attempt to end the division of Armenia into an
eastern and a western part was made about 165 bc when the Artaxiad ruler
sought to suppress his rival, but it was left to his descendant Tigranes
II (the Great; 95–55 bc) to establish, by his conquest of Sophene, a
unity that was to last almost 500 years.
Under Tigranes, Armenia ascended to a pinnacle of power unique in its
history and became, albeit briefly, the strongest state in the Roman
east. Extensive territories were taken from the kingdom of Parthia in
Iran, which was compelled to sign a treaty of alliance. Iberia
(Georgia), Albania, and Atropatene had already accepted Tigranes’
suzerainty when the Syrians, tired of anarchy, offered him their crown
(83 bc). Tigranes penetrated as far south as Ptolemais (modern ʿAkko,
Although Armenian culture at the time of Tigranes was Iranian, as it
had been and as it was fundamentally to remain for many centuries,
Hellenic scholars and actors found a welcome at the Armenian court. The
Armenian empire lasted until Tigranes became involved in the struggle
between his father-in-law, Mithradates VI Eupator of Pontus, and Rome.
The Roman general Lucius Licinius Lucullus captured Tigranocerta,
Tigranes’ new capital, in 69 bc. He failed to reach Artashat, but in 66
bc the legions of Pompey, aided by one of Tigranes’ sons, succeeded,
compelling the king to renounce Syria and other conquests in the south
and to become an ally of Rome. Armenia became a buffer state, and often
a battlefield, between Rome and Parthia. Maneuvering between larger
neighbours, the Armenians gained a reputation for deviousness; the Roman
historian Tacitus called them an ambigua gens (“ambiguous people”).
Both Rome and Parthia strove to establish their own candidates on the
Armenian throne until a lasting measure of equilibrium was secured by
the treaty of Rhandeia, concluded in ad 63 between the Roman general
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and Tiridates (Trdat), brother of the Parthian
king Vologeses I. Under this treaty a son of the Parthian Arsacid
dynasty, the first being Tiridates, would occupy the throne of Armenia
but as a Roman vassal. A dispute with Parthia led to Armenia’s
annexation by the Roman emperor Trajan in 115 or 116, but his successor,
Hadrian, withdrew the frontier of the Roman Empire to the Euphrates.
After the Roman emperor Caracalla’s capture of King Vagharshak and his
attempt to annex the country in 216, his successor, Macrinus, recognized
Vagharshak’s son Tiridates II (Khosrow the Great in Armenian sources) as
king of Armenia (217).
Tiridates II’s resistance to the Sāsānid dynasty after the fall of
the Arsacid dynasty in Persia (224) ended in his assassination by their
agent Anak the Parthian (c. 238) and in the conquest of Armenia by
Shāpūr I, who placed his vassal Artavazd on the throne (252). Under
Diocletian, the Persians were forced to relinquish Armenia, and
Tiridates III, the son of Tiridates II, was restored to the throne under
Roman protection (c. 287); his reign determined the course of much of
Armenia’s subsequent history, and his conversion by St. Gregory the
Illuminator and the adoption of Christianity as the state religion (c.
314) created a permanent gulf between Armenia and Persia. The Armenian
patriarchate became one of the surest stays of the Arsacid monarchy and
the guardian of national unity after its fall. The chiefs of Armenian
clans, called nakharars, held great power in Armenia, limiting and
threatening the influence of the king.
The dissatisfaction of the nakharars with Arshak II led to the
division of Armenia into two sections, Byzantine Armenia and Persarmenia
(c. 390). The former, comprising about one-fifth of Armenia, was rapidly
absorbed into the Byzantine state, to which the Armenians came to
contribute many emperors and generals. Persarmenia continued to be ruled
by an Arsacid in Dvin, the capital after the reign of Khosrow II
(330–339), until the deposition of Artashes IV and his replacement by a
Persian marzpān (governor) at the request of the nakharars (428).
Although the Armenian nobles had thus destroyed their country’s
sovereignty, a sense of national unity was furthered by the development
of an Armenian alphabet and a national Christian literature; culturally,
if not politically, the 5th century was a golden age. (See Armenian
The Persians were not as successful as the Byzantines in their efforts
to assimilate the strongly individualistic Armenian people. The
misguided attempt of the Persian Sāsānian king Yazdegerd II to impose
the Zoroastrian religion upon his Armenian subjects led to war in 451.
The Armenian commander St. Vardan Mamikonian and his companions were
slain at the Battle of Avarayr (June 2?, 451), but the Persians
renounced their plans to convert Armenia by force and deposed their
marzpān Vasak of Siuniq, the archtraitor of Armenian tradition.
The revolt of 481–484, led by Vahan Mamikonian, Vardan’s nephew,
secured religious and political freedom for Armenia in return for
military aid to Persia, and with the appointment of Vahan as marzpān the
Armenians were again largely the arbiters of their own affairs. Their
independence was further asserted in 554, when the second Council of
Dvin rejected the dyophysite formula of the Council of Chalcedon (451),
a decisive step that cut them off from the West as surely as they were
already ideologically severed from the East. (According to the
dyophysite formula, Christ, the Son of God, consists of two natures,
“without confusion, without change, without separation, without
In 536 the Byzantine emperor Justinian I reorganized Byzantine
Armenia into four provinces, and, by suppressing the power of the
Armenian nobles and by transferring population, he completed the work of
Hellenizing the country. In 591 its territory was extended eastward by
the emperor Maurice as the price of helping the Sāsānian king Khosrow II
regain the Persian throne. After transporting many Armenians to Thrace,
Maurice (according to the Armenian historian Sebeos) advised the Persian
king to follow his example and to send “this perverse and unruly nation,
which stirs up trouble between us,” to fight on his eastern front.
During the war between the emperor Phocas and Khosrow, the Persians
occupied Byzantine Armenia and appointed a series of marzpāns, only to
be ousted by the emperor Heraclius in 623. In 628, after the fall of
Khosrow, the Persians appointed an Armenian noble, Varaztirotz
Bagratuni, as governor. He quickly brought Armenia under Byzantine rule
but was exiled for plotting against Heraclius (635).
The Mamikonians and Bagratids
The first, unsuccessful, Arab raid into Armenia in 640 found the defense
of the country in the hands of the Byzantine general Procopius and the
nakharar Theodor Rshtuni. Unable to prevent the pillage of Dvin in 642,
Theodor in 643 gained a victory over another Arab army and was named
commander in chief of the Armenian army by the Byzantine emperor
Constans II Pogonatus. In 653, after the truce with Muʿāwiyah, then Arab
governor of Syria, Constans voluntarily surrendered Armenia to the
Arabs, who granted it virtual autonomy and appointed Theodor as governor
Theodor’s successor, Hamazasp Mamikonian, sided with Byzantium, but
after 661 Arab suzerainty was reestablished, although Byzantine-Arab
rivalry, Armenian resistance, and reluctance to pay the tribute made the
region difficult to govern. An unsuccessful revolt led by Mushegh
Mamikonian (771–772) resulted in the virtual extinction of the
Mamikonians as a political force in Armenia and in the emergence of the
Bagratunis and Artsrunis as the leading noble families. (See Bagratid
dynasty.) The Arabs’ choice in 806 of Ashot Bagratuni the Carnivorous to
be prince of Armenia marked the establishment of his family as the chief
power in the land. The governor Smbat Ablabas Bagratuni remained loyal
to the caliph al-Mutawakkil when al-Mutawakkil sent his general Bughā
al-Kabīr to bring the rebellious nakharars to submission, although Smbat
too was dispatched in 855 with the rest of the captive nobles to
The election by the nobles of Smbat’s son Ashot I (the Great), who
had been accepted as “prince of princes” by the Arabs in 862, to be king
of Armenia in 885 was recognized by both caliph and emperor. Throughout
the 10th century, art and literature flourished. Ashot III (the
Merciful; 952–977) transferred his capital to Ani and began to make it
into one of the architectural gems of the Middle Ages.
The Bagratids of Ani—who bore the title shāhanshāh (“king of kings”),
first conferred upon Ashot II (the Iron) by the caliph in 922—were not
the sole rulers of Armenia. In 908 the Artsruni principate of Vaspurakan
became a kingdom recognized by the caliph; in 961 Mushegh, the brother
of Ashot III, founded the Bagratid kingdom of Kars; and in 970 the
prince of Eastern Siuniq declared himself a king.
By the time of the invasions of the Turkish Seljuqs in the 11th
century, the Armenian kingdoms had already been destroyed from the west.
The province of Taron had been annexed to the Byzantine Empire in 968,
and the expansionist policy of the Byzantine emperor Basil II finally
extinguished Armenian independence. The possessions of David of Tayq
were annexed in 1000 and the kingdom of Vaspurakan in 1022. In the
latter year, the Bagratid king of Ani, Yovhannes-Smbat, was compelled to
make the emperor heir to his estates, and in 1045, despite the
resistance of Gagik II, Ani was seized by Constantine IX Monomachus.
The Byzantine conquest was short-lived: in 1048 Toghrïl Beg led the
first Seljuq raid into Armenia, in 1064 Ani and Kars fell to Toghrïl’s
nephew and heir Alp-Arslan, and after the Battle of Manzikert (1071)
most of the country was in Turkish hands. In 1072 the Kurdish Shāddādids
received Ani as a fief. A few native Armenian rulers survived for a time
in the Kiurikian kingdom of Lori, the Siuniqian kingdom of Baghq or
Kapan, and the principates of Khachen (Artzakh) and Sasun. In the 12th
century many former Armenian regions became parts of Georgia, and
between 1236 and 1242 the whole of Armenia and Georgia fell into the
hands of the Mongols. Armenian life and learning, centred around the
church, continued in monasteries and village communities.
On the collapse of Greater Armenia, many Armenians emigrated to Georgia,
Poland, and Galicia, while others crossed into Cilicia, where some
colonies had already settled at the end of the 10th century. One of
Gagik II’s lieutenants, Ruben, established himself about 1080 at
Bardzrberd in the Taurus Mountains and another noble, named Oshin, at
Lambron; the former became the founder of the Rubenid dynasty of barons
and kings who ruled Cilicia until 1226, and the latter was the ancestor
of the Hethumid dynasty, which succeeded them and ruled until 1342. The
barons Constantine I (1092–1100), Thoros I (1100–29), and Levon I
(1129–39) enlarged their domains at the expense of the Byzantines, and
by 1132 Vahka, Sis, Anazarbus, Mamistra, Adana, and Tarsus were under
Rubenid rule. Although the Byzantine emperor John II Comnenus succeeded
in annexing the whole of Cilicia during 1137–38, Thoros II (1145–68) and
Mleh (1170–75) restored Armenian rule, with some Turkish aid. Levon I
(the Great; 1199–1219), an ally of the German emperor Frederick I
(Frederick Barbarossa), received the royal crown from Frederick’s son
Henry VI and Pope Celestine III and was crowned king of Armenia in
Tarsus in 1199 by the cardinal Conrad von Wittelsbach. The Byzantine
emperor lost no time in sending a crown also, but Little Armenia was now
firmly allied to the West.
Intermarriage with Frankish Crusading families from the West was
common, and Frankish religious, political, and cultural influence,
though resisted by many barons, was strong. Levon reformed his court and
kingdom on Western models, and many French terms entered the language.
Little Armenia played an important role in the trade of the Venetians
and Genoese with the East, and the port of Lajazzo (on the Gulf of
Iskenderun) rivaled Alexandria. Levon left no son, and the throne passed
to his daughter Zabel (Isabelle). Her first husband, Philip of Antioch,
who refused to accept the Armenian faith—Levon’s lip service to Rome as
the price of his coronation being largely ignored—was deposed by the
barons, and the regent Constantine, who was baron of Lambron and a
descendant of Oshin, arranged the marriage of Zabel to his son Hayton
(Hetum or Hethum) I (1226–69), the first of the Hethumid dynasty. Hayton
employed the Mongols against the growing menace of the Mamlūk dynasty of
Egypt and was present with the Mongol army that entered the Syrian
cities of Aleppo and Damascus in 1260. His successors followed his
policy, but the Mongols weakened and, after their defeat in 1303 near
Damascus, were unable to protect Cilicia.
On the death, without heir, of Levon V (or IV), the crown passed to
Guy de Lusignan, the eldest son of Hayton II’s sister Zabel and her
husband Amaury (Almaric) de Lusignan. (See Lusignan family.) He was
assassinated by the barons in 1344 for doctrinal reasons, and the next
two kings, Constantine IV and V, were elected from their own ranks. On
the assassination of Constantine V, the crown passed again to a
Lusignan, to Guy’s nephew Levon VI (or V; 1374–75). By this time, as a
result of the Mamlūk advance, little remained of Armenia except Sis and
Anazarbus; Lajazzo had finally fallen in 1347, followed by Adana,
Tarsus, and the Cilician plain in 1359. In 1375 the capital of Sis fell
to the Mamlūks, and the last king of Armenia was captured; ransomed in
1382, he died in Paris in 1393. The title “king of Armenia” passed to
the kings of Cyprus and thence to the Venetians and was later claimed by
the house of Savoy, but from the end of the 14th century the history of
Armenia as separate states is replaced by the history of Armenians under
Ottomans and Ṣafavids
After the capture of Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) by the
Ottoman Turks, Armenians, as non-Muslims, were greatly disadvantaged.
Yet they retained, as zimmîs (Arabic dhimmī, “people of the Book”), the
management of their own affairs in what would later be known as the
millet system. By the late 18th century the Armenian patriarch of
Constantinople headed the Armenian community, the ermeni millet, though
the amira (wealthy Armenians) and sarafs (moneylenders) usually
controlled his election and administration. The number of Armenians
within Ottoman realms was increased at the beginning of the 16th century
by the Ottoman conquest of Cilicia and Greater Armenia.
On the death of the great Turkic conqueror Timur in 1405, the eastern
Armenian regions had passed into the hands of rival Turkmen tribal
confederacies, the Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep) and the Ak Koyunlu (White
Sheep), until the defeat of the Ak Koyunlu by the Persian shah Ismāʿīl I
in 1502. Armenia again became the battlefield between two powerful
neighbours, and in 1514–16 the Ottomans wrested it from Persian rule.
During the war that broke out in 1602, Shah ʿAbbās I strove to regain
the lost territories, and in 1604–05, with the aim of stimulating trade
in his dominions, he forcibly transferred thousands of Armenians from
Julfa to Eṣfahān, Iran, where those who survived the march settled in
the quarter named New Julfa. At the peace of 1620, while the greater
part of Armenia remained in Ottoman hands, Persia regained the regions
of Yerevan, Nakhichevan (Naxçıvan), and Karabakh. In mountainous
Karabakh a group of five Armenian maliks (princes) succeeded in
conserving their autonomy and maintained a short period of independence
(1722–30) during the struggle between Persia and Turkey at the beginning
of the 18th century; despite the heroic resistance of the Armenian
leader David Beg, the Turks occupied the region but were driven out by
the Persians under the general Nādr Qolī Beg (from 1736–47, Nādir Shah)
In New Julfa the Armenian merchants played an important role in the
economic life of Iran, serving as links between Europe (including
England, Spain, and Russia) and the East, exporting Persian silk and
importing such items as glass, clocks, spectacles, and paintings. During
the 17th century they amassed great wealth and built many magnificent
churches and mansions, thereby attracting Persian envy, and from the
beginning of the 18th century, when Nādir Shah penalized them with
excessive taxation, they began a gradual decline that has continued to
the present day.
Armenia and Europe
At the beginning of the 19th century the Russians advanced into the
Caucasus. In 1813 the Persians were obliged to acknowledge Russia’s
authority over Georgia, northern Azerbaijan, and Karabakh, and in 1828
they ceded Yerevan and Nakhichevan. Contact with liberal thought in
Russia and western Europe was a factor in the Armenian cultural
renaissance of the 19th century. In the Ottoman Empire the Armenians
benefited with the rest of the population from the measures of reform
known as the Tanzimat, and in 1863 a special Armenian constitution was
recognized by the Ottoman government. But social progress in the Ottoman
state was slow, and the Armenians in Anatolia were subject to many
abuses. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, in which Russian
Armenians had taken part, Russia insisted in the Treaty of San Stefano
that reforms be carried out among the sultan’s Armenian subjects and
that their protection against the Kurds be guaranteed or Russia would
continue to occupy Turkish Armenia. This demand was softened at the
Congress of Berlin, but the “Armenian question” remained a factor in
international politics, with Great Britain taking on the role of the
Ottomans’ protector until the end of the century.
The socialist Hënchak (“Bell”) party was founded in 1887 and the more
nationalist Dashnaktsutyun (“Confederacy”) party, whose members were
commonly called Dashnaks, in 1890, and, in the face of increasing
Armenian demands for much-needed reforms, both the Ottoman and Russian
governments grew more repressive. In 1895, after Abdülhamid II had felt
compelled to promise Britain, France, and Russia that he would carry out
reforms, large-scale systematic massacres took place in the provinces.
In 1896, following the desperate occupation of the Ottoman Bank by 26
young Dashnaks, more massacres occured in the capital. In Russia both
Tsar Alexander III and his son Nicholas II closed hundreds of Armenian
schools, libraries, and newspaper offices, and in 1903 Nicholas
confiscated the property of the Armenian church.
The greatest single disaster in the history of the Armenians came
with the outbreak of World War I (1914–18). In 1915 the Young Turk
government resolved to deport the whole Armenian population of about
1,750,000 to Syria and Mesopotamia. It regarded the Turkish
Armenians—despite pledges of loyalty by many—as a dangerous foreign
element bent on conspiring with the pro-Christian tsarist enemy to upset
the Ottoman campaign in the east. In what would later be known as the
first genocide of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of Armenians
were driven from their homes, massacred, or marched until they died. The
death toll of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey has been estimated at between
600,000 and 1,500,000 in the years from 1915 to 1923. (See Researcher’s
Note: Armenian massacres.) Tens of thousands emigrated to Russia,
Lebanon, Syria, France, and the United States, and the western part of
the historical homeland of the Armenian people was emptied of Armenians.
The republic of Armenia
In 1916 the Armenian regions of the Ottoman Empire fell to the Russian
army, but in March 1918 the Soviet Union (having succeeded Russia) was
forced by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to cede all of Ottoman Armenia and
part of Russian Armenia to the now moribund Ottoman Empire, though some
Armenians continued to hold out against the advancing Ottomans. On April
22, 1918, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan formed the Transcaucasian
Federal Republic, but their basic diversity soon caused them to split
into separate republics; Armenia declared independence on May 28.
Although short-lived, this Armenian republic was the first independent
Armenian state since the Middle Ages. On June 4 Armenia was forced to
sign the Treaty of Batum with the Ottoman state, acknowledging the
pre-1878 Russo-Turkish frontier along the Arpa and Aras rivers as its
boundary, but after the Allied victory in World War I the Armenians
reoccupied Alexandropol (now Gyumri) and Kars. A short war ensued with
Georgia for the possession of the cities of Borchalu (modern Marneuli,
Georgia) and Akhalkʿalakʿi and with Azerbaijan for the Karabakh region;
despite temporary military success, these areas were destined to remain
outside Armenia. On January 15, 1920, the Allies recognized the de facto
existence of the three Transcaucasian republics. U.S. President Woodrow
Wilson hoped to persuade the United States to accept a mandate for an
independent Armenia, but the Senate refused the responsibility (June 1,
1920). On August 10 Armenia, now recognized de jure, signed the Treaty
of Sèvres, by which the Ottomans recognized Armenia as a free and
independent state. On November 22 Wilson, as instructed, announced
projected boundaries that ceded to Armenia most of the provinces of
Erzurum, Trabzon, Van, and Bitlis. Already in the summer of 1919,
however, the new Ottoman Turkish government of Ankara, under Mustafa
Kemal (Atatürk), had repudiated Constantinople’s treaties with Armenia.
In September 1920 the Turks attacked, seizing Kars and Alexandropol by
November 7. By the Treaty of Alexandropol on December 2, 1920, Armenia
renounced all pre-1914 Turkish territories and Kars and Ardahan,
recognized that there were no Armenian minorities in Turkey, and
accepted that the region of Nakhichevan should form an autonomous
Charles James Frank Dowsett
Ronald Grigor Suny
That same day a new Armenian government at Yerevan, a coalition of
communists and Dashnaks, proclaimed Armenia a Soviet republic. The
Dashnaks were soon driven from the government, provoking an abortive
revolt in February 1921. In March 1922 Armenia joined Georgia and
Azerbaijan to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist
Republic, which joined the U.S.S.R. on December 30, 1922. Nakhichevan, a
largely Muslim region, was awarded to Soviet Azerbaijan, as was
Nagorno-Karabakh, an overwhelmingly Armenian district. In 1936 Armenia,
Georgia, and Azerbaijan became separate union republics of the Soviet
The 71 years of Soviet rule in Armenia were a period of relative
security from hostile neighbours, of great economic development, and of
cultural and educational achievements. But full expression of Armenian
national aspirations was impossible under the imposed Soviet regime.
Particularly harsh were the years of Joseph Stalin’s rule (1928–53),
during which state terror was used to suppress the political and
intellectual elite in the republic, to crush peasant resistance to the
collectivization of agriculture, and to destroy the influence of the
With the rise of the reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev,
Armenians organized a massive nationalist movement focused on recovering
Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia. This movement grew into a popular
democratic organization, the Armenian National Movement (ANM). In the
1990 elections the ANM won a majority in parliament. Armenia declared
sovereignty on August 23, 1990, and independence on September 23, 1991.
In October Levon Ter-Petrossian was elected the first president of
Ronald Grigor Suny
Meanwhile, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was intensifying.
Ethnic violence between Armenians and Azerbaijanians in the enclave,
which had begun in 1988, escalated into war; Karabakh Armenian forces,
supported by Armenia, subsequently established control of
Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied territory connecting the enclave with
By the mid-1990s thousands of Armenians had been killed. A blockade
imposed by Azerbaijan in 1989 had devastated the Armenian economy; the
resulting severe decline in living conditions led hundreds of thousands
of Armenians to emigrate. Despite an economic turnaround in the early
21st century, many Armenians stayed abroad, and no permanent solution to
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was at hand. Ter-Petrossian, who was
reelected in 1996, appointed Robert Kocharian, a former leader of the
self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, prime minister of Armenia in
1997. A fallout between the two over negotiations with Azerbaijan the
following year led to Ter-Petrossian’s resignation and Kocharian’s
election as president. Kocharian pressed for closer ties to the
West—Armenia joined the Council of Europe in 2001—and was reelected in
A presidential election was held as Kocharian’s second term neared
expiration in early 2008. Although Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisyan
defeated Ter-Petrossian in an election that international observers
largely deemed free and fair, a number of sizable pro-opposition
protests held in Yerevan criticized the integrity of the vote and the
validity of the election’s outcome.
In November 2008 Sargsyan signed an agreement with Azerbaijani Pres.
Ilham Aliyev that aimed to intensify the countries’ efforts to resolve
the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Late the following year Armenia also
signed a historic pact with Turkey, wherein the two countries agreed to
restore normalized diplomatic relations. Pending parliamentary approval
by both countries, the agreement stipulated that their mutual border was
to be reopened within two months. (Turkey had closed its border with
Armenia in 1993 in support of Azerbaijan, Armenia’s opponent in the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.) In addition, the agreement called for an
international commission to investigate the killings of Armenians by the
Ottoman Empire during World War I, an issue central to the difficult
relations between the two countries that had persisted since that time.