Armenia

REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA

President: Serzh Sarkisyan (2008)

Prime Minister: Tigran Sarkisyan (2008)

Land area: 11,506 sq mi (29,800 sq km); total area: 11,506 sq mi (29,800 sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 2,970,495 (growth rate: 0.11%); birth rate: 12.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 18.21/1000; life expectancy: 73.49; density per sq mi: 258

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Yerevan, 1,100,000 (metro. area), 1,267,600 (city proper)

Other large cities: Vanadzor, 147,400; Gyumri (Leninakan), 125,300; Abovian, 59,300

Monetary unit: Dram

National Name: Hayastani Hanrapetut'yun

Current government officials

Languages: Armenian 98%, Yezidi, Russian

Ethnicity/race: Armenian 97.9%, Russian 0.5%, Kurds 1.3%, other 0.3% (2001)

Religion: Armenian Apostolic 95%, other Christian 4%, Yezidi 1%

National Holiday: Independence Day, September 21

Literacy rate: 99.4% (2012 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $17.95 billion; per capita $5,400. Real growth rate: 4.6%. Inflation: 7.7%. Unemployment: 5.9% (2011 est.). Arable land: 16.78%. Agriculture: fruit (especially grapes), vegetables; livestock. Labor force: 1.194 million; agriculture 46.2%, industry 15.6%, services 38.2% (2006 est). Industries: diamond processing, metal-cutting machine tools, forging-pressing machines, electric motors, tires, knitted wear, hosiery, shoes, silk fabric, chemicals, trucks, instruments, microelectronics, jewelry manufacturing, software development, food processing, brandy. Natural resources: small deposits of gold, copper, molybdenum, zinc, alumina. Exports: $1.319 billion f.o.b. (2011): diamonds, mineral products, foodstuffs, energy. Imports: $3.538 billion f.o.b. (2012 est.): natural gas, petroleum, tobacco products, foodstuffs, diamonds. Major trading partners: Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkmenistan, Italy, Germany, Iran, Israel, U.S.%, Georgia (2006)

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 589,900 (2011); mobile cellular: 3,865,000 (2012). Radio broadcast stations: AM 9, FM 16, shortwave 1 (2006). Television broadcast stations: 48 (private television stations alongside 2 public networks; major Russian channels widely available) (2006). Internet hosts: 192,541 (2011). Internet users: 208,200 (2011).

Transportation: Railways: total: 869 km (2012). Highways: total: 8,888 km; (includes 1,561 km of expressways) (2011). Waterways: n.a. Ports and harbors: none. Airports: 11 (2011).

International disputes: Armenia supports ethnic Armenian secessionists in Nagorno-Karabakh and since the early 1990s, has militarily occupied 16% of Azerbaijan - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continues to mediate dispute; over 800,000 mostly ethnic Azerbaijanis were driven from the occupied lands and Armenia; about 230,000 ethnic Armenians were driven from their homes in Azerbaijan into Armenia; Azerbaijan seeks transit route through Armenia to connect to Naxcivan exclave; border with Turkey remains closed over Nagorno-Karabakh dispute; ethnic Armenian groups in Javakheti region of Georgia seek greater autonomy; Armenians continue to emigrate, primarily to Russia, seeking employment.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Armenia

Geography | Government | History

Geography

Armenia is located in the southern Caucasus and is the smallest of the former Soviet republics. It is bounded by Georgia on the north, Azerbaijan on the east, Iran on the south, and Turkey on the west. Contemporary Armenia is a fraction of the size of ancient Armenia. A land of rugged mountains and extinct volcanoes, its highest point is Mount Aragats, 13,435 ft (4,095 m).

Government

Republic.

History

One of the world's oldest civilizations, Armenia once included Mount Ararat, which biblical tradition identifies as the mountain that Noah's ark rested on after the flood. It was the first country in the world to officially embrace Christianity as its religion (c. A.D. 300).

In the 6th century B.C., Armenians settled in the kingdom of Urartu (the Assyrian name for Ararat), which was in decline. Under Tigrane the Great (fl. 95–55 B.C.) the Armenian empire reached its height and became one of the most powerful in Asia, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean seas. Throughout most of its long history, however, Armenia has been invaded by a succession of empires. Under constant threat of domination by foreign forces, Armenians became both cosmopolitan as well as fierce protectors of their culture and tradition.

Over the centuries Armenia was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Russians. From the 16th century through World War I, major portions of Armenia were controlled by their most brutal invader, the Ottoman Turks, under whom the Armenians experienced discrimination, religious persecution, heavy taxation, and armed attacks. In response to Armenian nationalist stirrings, the Turks massacred thousands of Armenians in 1894 and 1896. The most horrific massacre took place in April 1915 during World War I, when the Turks ordered the deportation of the Armenian population to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. According to the majority of historians, between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were murdered or died of starvation. The Armenian massacre is considered the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that a genocide took place and claims that a much smaller number died in a civil war.

Striving for Independence

After the Turkish defeat in World War I, the independent Republic of Armenia was established on May 28, 1918, but survived only until Nov. 29, 1920, when it was annexed by the Soviet army. On March 12, 1922, the Soviets joined Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic, which became part of the USSR. In 1936, after a reorganization, Armenia became a separate constituent republic of the USSR. Armenia declared its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Sept. 23, 1991.

In 1988, Armenia became involved in a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority of the enclave consisted of Armenian Christians who wanted to secede from Azerbaijan and either become part of Armenia or gain full independence. War ensued between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region from 1992–1994, resulting in 30,000 casualties. Armenia effectively controls the region today, although no formal resolution exists.

An Armenian diaspora has existed throughout the nation's history, and Armenian emigration has been particularly heavy since independence from the Soviet Union. An estimated 60% of the total 8 million Armenians worldwide live outside the country, with 1 million each in the United States and Russia. Other significant Armenian communities are located in Georgia, France, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, and Canada.

The Death of Markarian Leads to Political Unrest

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian died suddenly in March 2007. He was replaced by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan.

Sarkisyan won almost 53% of the vote and former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan took 21.5% in February 2008 presidential elections. Ter-Petrosyan, who was Armenia's first president after it gained independence in 1991, claimed the vote was rigged. Tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Yerevan to protest the election. A 20-day state of emergency was declared on March 1 when the protests turned violent and eight people were killed. On March 22, the state of emergency ended and troops left the capital.

On April 9, 2008, Serzh Sarkisyan was sworn in as president and named Tigran Sarkisyan (no relation) as prime minister.

International Relations Have Ups and Downs

After nearly 100 years of hostility between Turkey and Armenia over the murder of between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I, the two countries agreed in Oct. 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border between them. Both parliaments must approve the deal.

Continuing trouble on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan resulted in the deaths of at least three Armenian and five Azerbaijani soldiers in early June 2012. The eruption of violence coincided with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the region; she made a statement imploring both sides to honor a ceasefire for the area that was first contested in the 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh.

Safarov Pardon Increases Tension with Azerbaijan and Hungary

On August 31, 2012, Armenia ended diplomatic relations with Hungary over the return of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan. Safarov was convicted of killing Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan in 2004 in Hungary. The Hungarian government released Safarov to Azerbaijan on the assumption that he would serve at least 25 years of his life sentence. Upon his arrival in Azerbaijan, Safarov was pardoned. Once news of the pardon hit, protestors in Armenia burned Hungarian flags and threw eggs at the Hungarian Embassy. Demonstrations were also held in Budapest.

Safarov was welcomed back to Azerbaijan. A lieutenant at the time of the murder, Safarov was promoted to rank of major, given eight years of back pay, and treated as a national hero in September 2012. His pardon and warm welcome threatened to break up the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, a process that has kept the two countries from backsliding into violent feud over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.

Sarkisyan Easily Wins Second Term

In February 2013, Serzh Sarkisyan was re-elected to a second five-year term as president. Preliminary returns showed that Sarkisyan received 59 percent of the vote, enough of a majority to avoid a runoff. Raffi Hovanessian, a former foreign minister, came in second, far behind at 37 percent.

Seen as a stable leader who had made economic improvements during his first term, Sarkisyan had been favored to win for months. The election wasn't without conflict. Paruir A. Airikyan, another candidate for president and former Soviet dissident, was shot in late January 2013, as the election approached. Authorities ruled it as an assassination attempt. Airikyan threatened to delay the election by using a provision in Armenia's constitution due to his injury, but decided against it.

See also Encyclopedia: Armenia.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Armenia
Ministry of Statistics www.armstat.am/ .


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