Armenia (Armenian: Հայաստան Hayastan, Hayq) is a landlocked country in southern Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan in the east and Iran and the Naxçıvan exclave of Azerbaijan in the south. Armenia is a member of the Council of Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States and for centuries has been on the crossroads between West and East. The country is formally named the Republic of Armenia.
Origin and history of the name
The original Armenian name for the country was Hayq, later - Hayastan, translates as the land of Haik, consisting of the name Haik and the Persian suffix stan (land). According to the legend, Haik was a great-great-grandson of Noah (son of Togarmah, who was a son of Gomer, a son of Noah's son, Yafet) and according to Christian tradition, a forefather of all Armenians. He is said to have settled below Mount Ararat, traveled to assist in building the Tower of Babel, and, after his return, defeated the Assyrian king Nimrod near Lake Van in present-day Turkey.
Hayastan was given the name Armenia by its neighbors as it was the name of the strongest tribe living in the historic Armenian lands, who called themselves Armens. It traditionally derives from either Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik's great-grandson, and another Armenian leader from rich Armenian legend, who is also according to traditional accounts the ancestor of all Armenians). Pre-Christian accounts suggest it as having derived from Nairi, which means land of rivers, and is the ancient name for the country's mountainous region, the name first used by Greek historians around 1,000 BC (???), while the first recorded inscription bearing the name, namely the Behistun Inscription in Iran dates from BC 521.
Armenia was a regional empire with a rich culture in the years leading up to the 1st Century, its territory spanning from the shores of the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea during the rule of Tigranes the Great. In 301, Armenia was the first state to formally adopt Christianity as its official state religion, twelve years before Rome. It also changed between various dynasties. But after Parthian (Iranian), Roman, Arab, Mongol and Persian occupation, Armenia had been substantially weakened. In 1454, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia divided Armenia among themselves.
In 1813 and 1828, present-day Armenia (consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh khanates) was temporarily incorporated into the Russian Empire. This occurred once again with the incorporation of Armenia in the USSR in 1920, as the Armenian SSR, after briefly existing as an independent state.
During the final years of the Ottoman Empire (1915-1923), a large proportion of Armenians living in eastern Anatolia (referred to by Armenians as "Western Armenia"), were killed as a result of what Armenians refer to as the Armenian Genocide, claiming it to be a state-sponsored deportation and eradication effort by Ottoman Turks. The Turkish side, however, maintains that the deaths were a result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides. The estimated figures for the number of Armenians who perished in the event range from 200,000 to 1,800,000. Their death is commemorated by Armenians worldwide on April 24th.
Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by a long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave that was placed by Stalin in Soviet Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the enclave in 1988 and the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, ethnic Armenian forces controlled not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also a portion of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution and by mutual economic blockades.
The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have questioned the inherent fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referenda since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the electoral commission , and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. For the most part however, Armenia is considered one of the most pro-democratic nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The unicameral parliament (also called the National Assembly) is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party , the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Country of Law party. The main opposition is comprised by several smaller parties joined in the Justice Bloc .
Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum. Levon Ter-Petrossian was president until January 1998, when public demonstrations against his increasingly authoritarian regime and his domestic and foreign policies forced his resignation. In 1999, the assassination of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian , parliament Speaker Karen Demirchian , and six other officials led to a period of political instability. President Robert Kocharian was successful in riding out the unrest, and currently rules with the support of the parliamentary coalition
Armenia is divided into 11 provinces (marzer, singular - marz):
Aragatsotn (Արագածոտնի մարզ)
Ararat (Արարատի մարզ)
Armavir (Արմավիրի մարզ)
Geghark'unik' (Գեղարքունիքի մարզ)
Kotayk' (Կոտայքի մարզ)
Lorri (Լոռու մարզ)
Shirak (Շիրակի մարզ)
Syunik' (Սյունիքի մարզ)
Tavush (Տավուշի մարզ)
Vayots' Dzor (Վայոց Ձորի մարզ)
Armenia is a landlocked country located in Asia Minor. The terrain is mostly mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and few forests. The climate is highland continental: hot summers and cold winters. The land rises to 4,095 m at Mount Aragats, and no point is below 400m above sea-level. Pollution from toxic chemicals such as DDT is not helping the already poor soil quality in many parts of the county. A Turkish communications blockade, the result of the conflict with Azerbaijan, has led to deforestation.
Armenia is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. It is a landlocked country between the Black and the Caspian Seas, bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan and on the south and west by Iran and Turkey. Up until independence, Armenia's economy was based largely on industry — chemicals, electronic products, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, and textiles — and highly dependent on outside resources. Agriculture accounted for only 20% of net material product and 10% of employment before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead. The vast majority of energy is produced with imported fuel, including gas and nuclear fuel (for its one nuclear power plant) from Russia; the main domestic energy source is hydroelectric. Small amounts of coal, gas, and petroleum have not yet been developed.
Like other New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, Armenia's economy suffers from the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the breakdown of former Soviet trading patterns. Soviet investment in and support of Armenian industry has virtually disappeared, so that few major enterprises are still able to function. In addition, the effects of the 1988 earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 homeless, are still being felt. Although a cease-fire has held since 1994, the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. The consequent closure of both the Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has devastated the economy, because of Armenia's dependence on outside supplies of energy and most raw materials. Land routes through Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed; routes through Georgia and Iran are inadequate or unreliable. In 1992-93, GDP fell nearly 60% from its 1989 level. The national currency, the dram, suffered hyperinflation for the first few years after its introduction in 1993.
Nevertheless, the Government of Armenia, helped by the cease-fire that has been in effect in Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994, has been able to carry out wide-ranging economic reforms that paid off in dramatically lower inflation and steady growth. Armenia has registered strong economic growth since 1995, building on the turnaround that began the previous year, and inflation has been negligible for the past several years. New sectors, such as precious stone processing and jewelry making, information and communication technology, and even tourism are beginning to supplement more traditional sectors such as agriculture in the economy.
This steady economic progress has earned Armenia increasing support from international institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign countries are extending considerable grants and loans. Total loans extended to Armenia since 1993 exceed $1.1 billion. These loans are targeted at reducing the budget deficit, stabilizing the local currency; developing private businesses; energy; the agriculture, food processing, transportation, and health and education sectors; and ongoing rehabilitation work in the earthquake zone.
Continued progress will depend on the ability of the government to strengthen its macroeconomic management, including increasing revenue collection, improving the investment climate, and making strides against corruption. A liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994, and a Law on Privatization was adopted in 1997, as well as a program on state property privatization. The government joined the World Trade Organization on February 5, 2003.
Armenia is trying to address its environmental problems. It has established a Ministry of Nature Protection and has introduced a pollution fee system by which taxes are levied on air and water emissions and solid waste disposal, with the resulting revenues used for environmental protection activities. Armenia is interested in cooperating with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a group of 12 former Soviet republics) and with members of the international community on environmental issues. The Armenian Government is working toward closing the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant as soon as alternate energy sources can be identified.
Armenia is a primarily Oriental Orthodox country, and is considered to be the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, tracing its church's roots back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. The country formally adopted the Christian faith in 301 A.D. Over 90% of Armenian believers belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a form of Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodoxy, which is a very ritualistic, conservative church, roughly comparable to the Coptic and Syrian churches. Armenia also has a population of evangelical Protestants, Catholics and believers of the Armenian traditional religion. The Yazidi, who live in the western part of the country, practice Yazidism.
Ethnic Kurds and Azeris who lived in the country before the Karabakh conflict practiced Islam, but most Azeris fled to Azerbaijan in 1988-1991 in the beginning of the conflict. During the same period, Armenia also received a large influx of Armenians fleeing Azerbaijan, however widespread emigration is one of the most serious problems that Armenia has been facing since the break-up of the USSR, along with a drastically reduced birth rate which is not nearly sufficient to keep the population from dropping over the long term. Some observers estimate that as many as one-third of Armenia's population is living in Russia illegally, and that Armenia has no more than about two million residents currently. This would appear to pose an existential threat to the Armenian nation, especially if Azerbaijan, which has had a much lesser problem with demographic decline, seeks to regain its lost territory.
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