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- Republic of Armenia (Hayastan - Arminia)
- map sketch: Armenia today
Armenia is a landlocked mountainous country in the southern part of the Transcaucasus region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It has borders with Turkey in the west, Georgia in the north, Azerbaijan in the east, and Iran and the Nakhchivan enclave of Azerbaijan in the south. The terrain is mostly mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and the famous Arax river valley and few forests. Lake Sevan is nestled up in the highlands and you can see Mount Ararat, the holy mountain of all Armenians from the capital Yereven (Erevan). The climate is highland continental, which means that the country is subjected to hot summers and cold winters. The land rises to 4, 090 metres at Mount Aragats, and the deepest point is below 390 metres above sea level. Hospitality is well-known in Armenia and stems from ancient tradition. Cognac, vodka, and red wine are usually served during meals and gatherings after coffee and pastry. Armenia has a population of 3.2 millions and the rates of emigration have declined the population. The influence of Armenians which returning have been the main reasons for the trend, which is expected to continue and have a new and better future. Armenia has a large diaspora, eight million living today outside the country.
Agriculture is today the main branch of the economy, inlcuding cattle breeding, vegetable and fruits, but food has to be imported. Mines produce little copper, zinc, aluminum, molybdenum, gold and lead. Hand-knotted wool carpets and kilims are a Caucasus specialty. Obsidian, which is found locally, is crafted into an assortment of jewellery and ornamental object. New sectors, such as precious stone processing, information and communication technology, and even tourism are beginning to supplement traditional sectors in the economy, such as agriculture and handy crafts. The main sources of foreign income are direct investments from the Armenian diaspora, which finances major parts of the reconstruction of infrastructure and other public projects.
Manuscript art is one of the most unique examples of Armenias medieval culture. You will find this art in large collections of Armenians around the world. Manuscripts from the hands of Seljuks, Mongols and Turkish Ottomans as many others are still in Yerevan. Due to her turbulent history many of the large Armenian cultural monuments (monasteries, churches, palaces, fortressed, etc.) were destroyed or plundered, and few other examples have reached us in their original forms.
The region of todays Armenia, with Turkeys Anatolia between the Euphrates and Tigris, which flow from tributaries and have the sources above and below Mount Ararat has an ancient and historic cultural heritage. the people were pagan and worshipped first fire and water, lightening and rain, as brothers and sisters, thus giving them a holy mission. In the first century AD, Christianity was introduced to the early Armenia Kingdom by the preaching of the apostles of Christ, Thaddeus and Bartholomew. Due to the efforts of Gregory the Illuminator, Armenia established Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD. In the capital of Vagharshabat (later Etchmiadzin), the cathedral of Etchmiadzin was built in 303 AD. This became the place of residence of the Catholicos* of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the spiritual centre of all Armenians.
|*(Greek 'katholikos' = "universal" bishop, in Eastern Christian Churches, title of certain ecclesiastical superiors.
Archeologists find traces of settlement from the Neolithic era (New Stone Age). The Shulaveri-Shomu culture of the central Transcaucasus region was the earliest known prehistoric culture in the area (6000 - 4000 BC). Another early culture is the Kura-Araxes culture (ca. 4000 - 2200 BC), succeeded by the Trialeti culture (ca. 2200 - 1500 BC). Many ancient arms and implements have been discovered, in various places on the plains and slopes, in the Valleys of Lori, on the shores of the Lakes of Sevan and Van, in the salt mines of Koghb (Kulp) and along the Aradzani and upper Tigris Rivers. The oldest Neolithic relics are found in todays Armenia; stone axes, with grooves that show that the handles were attached by lashings. In Armavir, Vagharshapat and elsewhere, Neolithic weapons, knives, axes, hammers, mortars for grinding grains, saw, makhats (large needles for coarse sewing), awls, made of stone, obsidian or bone, and pottery, some of it with geometrical ornamentation, have been found, as well as traces of human habitations, cremations or other mortuary disposals, fossils of domestic animals, such as sheep, goats and dogs, and remains of wheat and barley. One human skeleton was found on the bank of the river Zanku, with a flint implement beside it. In some tombs the dead are in large jars, usually sitting or squatting. Also found are huge stone placements dolmens (large unhewn stones resting on two or more smaller ones), menhirs (standing stones), cromlechs (stone circles), and cyclopean walls. The region of Aragadz Mountain is a natural museum. In megalithic fields are found constructions in huge blocks, composed of a number of concentric walls of decreasing heights. The main object of early Assyrian incursions into Armenia was to obtain metals. The iron-working age followed that of bronze everywhere, opening a new epoch of human progress. The Iron Age appeared in Western Asia after the twelfth century B.C.
Khachkars (cross-stones) appeared in the 9th century, during the time of Armenian revival after liberation from the Arab Empire. The oldest khachkar was carved in 879 AD. This memorial style is covered with crosses, rosettes and botanical motifs. The most common reason was for votive for the salvation of the soul of either a living or a deceased person.
They were also erected for other reasons, such as to commemorate a battle victory, construction of a church, a holy place or as a form of protection from natural disasters.
Below you can see great examples - click on an icon - Enjoy!
History of Armenia
| Kingdom of Urartu
| 9th century to 6th century BC
|Hittites (18th to 8th century BC)
Hatians (3rd millenium BC)
| Kingdom of Armenia
| about 6th century BC (Early Kingdom)
Kingdom of Urartu
9th century to 6th century BC
- map sketch: Kingdom Urartu 9th - 6th entury BC
Uruatri was, for the very first time, used in Assyrian texts dating from the 13th century BC to refer to a geographical region and defines the territory of the tribal Urartians as Nairi country. In the bible, there is found the Hebrew term "Ararat" (mountain around the Lake Van), which is still in use nowadays. These smaller kingdoms formed a rather loose federation in the 13th to 11th century BC, with the centre being the area around Lake Van. In this period they were repeatedly attacked by the Assyrians. In the early 6th century BC the Urartian kingdom was followed by the Armenian Orontid Dynasty, with their largest size in the period of "Greater Armenia (95 - 66 BC)".
In the 9th century BC a kingdom situated in the southern Caucasus and eastern Anatolian area was denominated as Urartu; this realm comprised a territory which was defined by Lake Van in the southwest, the Lake Urmia in the southeast and Lake Sevan in the north. Urartu was an Assyrian denomination for the mixed population settling there. In the Urartian language, the country is called Biainili. This language is related with that of the mixed tribes living in the Nairi country, the Hattians, but has not other relatives. They had used, at least primarily, the Assyrian cuneiform script. Later on, they developed their own scripture in Urartian language and used the Assyrian language that is based on the Accadian only for religious scripts. At that time the capital was called Tushpa (today Van). They remained a dangerous rival of Assyria. At that time, the Assyrians were strict suppressors, hence the two kingdoms (Uruatri and Nairi) agreed on a coalition. There was established a first common kingdom Urartu, founded by Sarduri I, establishing itself around 840-825 BC. In the 7th century BC the Medes and the Sarmatians (Scythian tribes) frequently invaded the territory and marauded their cities. In this period of time, also the Armanians immigrated from the highlands and settled there, in this way establishing a country of two languages. In 714 BC they were conquered by the Assyrian king Sargon II and became tributaries. In this way also the Urartian language ceased to exist, a language making use of a cuneiform script (cuneifrom writing and hieroglyphics). From that point on the Armenian was dominating. They lived on nomadic cattle breeding and erected drainage systems for gaining new cropland. Their red-shining polished ceramics became famous all over. They also processed metal to cauldrons. Their houses had balconies, and the walls were decorated. They erected temples for the highest god "Haldi" (god of war and the realm) as well as fortresses, built in territories with only limited access. The king was the head of the church and also high priest. They also erected so-called tower temples annexed to fortresses. They were also known for their inhumation burials as well as cremation burials; the ash was kept in urns and accomodated in burial sites with several chambers in recesses which were worked into rocks (family graves).
In the 6th century BC they were again repressed by the Medes and Cimmerians invading their country, this leading to their alliance with the Assyrians. The kingdom Urartu still succeeded in maintaing its borders for a while but never again regained the political independent power they had assumed before. After also Assyria had been conquered by the Medes and after the invasions by the Scythians, their power came to an end. Under the Babylonian king Nabopolassar there were realised crusades to Urartu in the years 609 to 607 BC. They called the country they conquered Arminia. The realm existed until the beginning of the 6th century (643 BC last proven date); the question when and how Urartu was destroyed has remained unsolved so far.
The occupation in the year 547 BC under Kyros II (Persian king who then also initiated dominance over the Medes) also constituted the end of the Achamaemenian Kingdom, and it only existed as a kind of administrative province until 521 BC. Dareios I supposedly fought back several rebellions. When Xenophon (Greek general and philosopher) marched through the territory in 401/400 BC, the area was settled by a mixed people, including also Armenians, under Persian rule. The newly immigrated Indo-European Armenians followed the Persian rule, who still settle in the original Urartian area.
- The Hittites were a people with an Indo-European language and established in the 2nd millenium before Christ a greater realm in today's Anatolia. They originally settled in the 4th and 3rd millenia BC in Bulgaria and the Ukraine in the region of the Black Sea. The Hattians are to be distinguished from the Hittites. They are a pre-Indo-European population settling in Anatolia. They immigrated from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea into this area and constituted an Assyrian colony. The Hittites adopted the denomination Hatti for the country. Their language, however, they called Nesha after the city of Kanesh/ Nesha. Their language is part of the Anatolian sub-group of the Indo-Germanic languages. The Hittite language is the oldest known Indo-Germanic language. In the Hittite empire, there were also used various other languages such as the Luvian and Palaic languages, which were more or less closely related with the Hittite language. Together they constituted the Anatolian branch of the Indo-Germanic language family which differed from the other branches especially by way of its terminology. There was also used a different writing system. While the official and diplomatic correspondence as well as the palace archives were elaborated in the Assyrian (Akkadian) cuneiform script, the people used the hieroglyphic writing system pertaining, as we know today, to the Luvian language, to write on rock reliefs and official inscriptures. The Luvian language was especially important for the performance of cults, as well as the Hattian language. Thanksgiving prayers and ceremonies were accompanied by male and female priests. The rites performed are precisely described. There were performed such festivities in spring, summer as well as in autumn. The Hurrian language, step by step, became an important language for diplomatic matters, especially in reference to the Hattian community settling there from early time on; it was widely used in the *Mittani empire (*see more under Assyrians).
Anitta was their first leader, in the first half of the 18th century BC. He did not establish a kingdom proper, neither did he found a dynasty, he merely conquered Hattusha, made it his capital and left these text plates. He was followed by a period of confusion, with the mixed population living in communities near some cities and towns. The first Hittite king of kings residing in Hattusha (Hattusha/Boazköy) and establishing his own realm, was originally born in Kushar, a city which has not been rediscovered so far. This realm comprised big areas in Anatolia and, for some time, also the northern half of today's Syria. The realm went through three periods: the Late Empire from 1650 to 1500 BC, the Middle Empire and the New Empire from 1400 up to the early 12th century BC. They had their farthest expansion in the 14th century BC and dominated central Anatolia, northwestern Syria as far as Ugarit (Ras Shamra), a former trading centre, and the upper part of Mesopotamia as well as Cilician, Arzawa and Cyprus. When the Sea Peoples invaded and conquered Cyprus and Cilician, they brought along new confusion. Until far into the 8th century BC, there had still existed a smaller independent Hittite kingdom which was finally under Sargon II integrated into the Assyrian Empire.
The Egyptian and Babylonian rulers considered the Hittite Khan as equal partner, establishing diplomatic contacts and trading relations with him but also engaging in fightings for predominance. The Khanate comprised some smaller vassal and neighbouring states such as Tarhuntassa or Charchemish. The relations to Troas (Troy) as well as their contacts with the Mycenaean city states, especially the country Arzawa and the city of Miletus/Milawand, are especially interesting, also the findings of Mycenaean import vessels in eastern Cappadocia, in the province city Kusakli Sarissa.
The collapse of the Hittite Khanate took place in the early 12th century BC. There is supposed that the migration of the so-called Sea Peoples was responsible therefore. After the collapse of the realm, there survived Tarhuntasse as well some late Hittite smaller principalities for several centuries in the east and probably west; they were, however, steadily integrated into Aramaean culture and tradition and finally came under Assyrian governance. With the end of the Hittite empire, there also was brought about the end of their monopoly on the smelting of iron which had been practised since the 17th century BC. After the 12th century, this technique was spread to the Middle East and the Mediterranean area. The existence of the Hittites had been unknown until the 19th century AD, with the exemption of some individual bible passages. First archaeological evidence of the Hittites was found in Assyrian trading colonies in Kanesh (today's Kültepe) especially in the form of text plates which were found here at the beginning of the 20th century. Up to this time, there had been provided information on the Hittite people only by means of the old oriental cuneiform texts and the Egyptian hieroglyphics which had been deciphered already at the beginning of the 19th century. Because of the Czech orientalist Bedøich Hrozny it was also possible to decipher Hittite texts, this providing us with rather unique sources on history, religion and culture of this exceptional people.
The empire was closely connected to a feudal system, led by the king of kings (Labarna, later on also Tabarna), who was the highest-ranking priest, judge and soldier and ruled over a number of inferior kings, all primarily originating from the ancestral dynasties of the areas involved. These vassal kings had to take a personal oath to the king of kings, which had to be rendered anew with each new ruler on the Hittite throne. This procedure frequently resulted in rebellions and revolts taking place. Apart from these vassal kings, at the time of the khanates (also from about 1350 BC on), there were also present the vice-kingdoms of Kadesh and Aleppo in northern Syria, administered by the members of the royal family and enjoying, especially in the military area, a great amount of independence. Also the King of Mira, who later on was responsible for the administration of the western Anatolian area, held a similar position. Apart from the king of kings, also the Queen of the Hittites, the so-called Tawananna, was very independent and even allowed to sign state treaties on her own behalf. She was the high priestess and could not lose this position even not in the case of the king's death. Supporting the king, there was the Hittite senate (Panku) participating in the elaboration of laws and treaties and even being granted the right to sit in judgement on the king. The army was usually led by the king himself. Before the battle, oracles were consulted on the outcome of the battle. According to Hittite belief, the gods hurried ahead of the army and directly engaged in the course of the battle, for example by means of storms, thunderbolts or by harming the enemy king with illness and disease. Although they did own their own hieroglyphics, they wrote their myths, poems and royal decrees in the cuneiform script of the Babylonians.
The strict rites are also characteristic for this people. The king was at the same time also high priest. The creation myth was called "The Divine Kingdom": Heaven and earth were in common erected on the world giant Upelluri and later on separated by the "Pre-Deities" by means of a reaping hook made from copper. These pre-deities have existed from the beginning of the world on. From then on, three generations of deities have been fighting for their access to the throne ever since. As local and foreign, mainly Hurrian and Mesopotamian, deities were adopted, the Hittite pantheon comprises more than 1,000 deities. The gods had human failings such as anger, fear, lust, alcoholism, and envy.
Some academics relativize the relationship of the language with the original Kartvelia of today's Georgia. There were even found some words taken from this neighbouring language, but also terminology going back to the Armenian (Urartu).
- After the collapse of the Hittite empire, the Kingdom Urartu was the next to follow. The people of the Hattians founded a first kingdom in the area around Lake Van. They had immigrated from the southern Caucasus area and the area around the Caspian Sea and settled in the eastern and southeastern region of today's Anatolia and the area of the former northeastern Mesopotamia. In the 13th century BC they founded two smaller realms called Uruatri and Nairi. Uruatri in the Assyrian language means "mountainous country", and Nairi denominated the region around today's Lake Van (Nairi Land land between the rivers).
- more information about the history of the equestrian momads see:
Kingdom of Armenia
about 6th century AC (the early Kingdom)
A new Kingdom was established under the Orontid Dynasty and reached its height between 95 - 66 BC under Tigranes the Great and which became one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time within the region. Throughout its history, the new Kingdom of Armenia enjoyed periods of independence intermitted with periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Armenia's strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples. It has been an import trade route between East and West.
- map sketch: Armenia 95 - 66 BC under Tigranes the Great
- map sketch: Armenia in the 4th Century
In 301 AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity. There had been various pagan communities before, but they were converted by the influence of Christian missionaries. Tiridates III (238-314 AD) was the first ruler to Christianise his people. After the fall of the Armenian Kingdom in 428 AD, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sassanid Empire. In 451 AD, following a rebellion, Armenia gained again autonomy.
After the marzpanate period (428-636), Armenia emerged as the Emirate of Armenia, an autonomous principality within the Arabic Empire, reuniting Armenian lands previously taken by the Byzantine Empire as well. The principality was ruled by the Prince of Armenia, recognised by the Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor. It was part of the administrative division/emirate Arminiyya created by the Arabs, which also included parts of Georgia and Caucasian Albania, and had its center in the Armenian city of Dvin. The Principality of Armenia lasted until 884 AD, when it regained its independence from the weakened Arabic Empire.
The re-emergent Armenian kingdom was ruled by the Bagratuni dynasty, and lasted until 1045. In time, several areas of Bagratid Armenia separated as independent kingdoms and principalities such as the Kingdom of Vaspurakan, ruled by the House of Artsruni, while still recognizing the supremacy of the Bagratid kings.
In 1045, the Byzantine Empire conquered Bagratid Armenia. Soon, the other Armenian states fell under Byzantine control as well. The Byzantine rule was short lived, as in 1071. Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantines and conquered Armenia at the Battle of Manzikert, establishing the Seljuk Empire. To escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II, King of Ani, an Armenian named Roupen went with some of his countrymen into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia. The Byzantine governor of the palace gave them shelter, where the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was eventually established.
The Seljuk Empire soon started to collapse. In the early 1100s, Armenian princes of the Zakarid noble family established a semi-independent Armenian principality in Northern and Eastern Armenia, known as Zakarid Armenia, and lasted under patronages of Seljuks, Georgian Kingdom, Atabegs of Azerbaijan and Khwarezmid Empire. The noble family of Oberlians shared control with the Zakarids in various parts of the country, especially in Syzbuj and Vayots Dzor.
During the 12th until the 14th century AD, the Mongols and other tribes from Asia conquered the Zakaryan Principality, as well as the rest of Armenia. After incessant invasions, each bringing destruction to the country, Armenia in time became weakened. During the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia divided Armenia among themselves. However the region kept some autonomy, as Christians under a strict Muslim social system, and Armenians faced pervasive discrimination. When they began pushing for more rights within the Empire. Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, in response, organised state-sponsored massacres against the Armenians between 1894 and 1896. The Russian Empire later incorporated Eastern Armenia (consisting of the Erivan and Karabagh khanates within Persia) in 1813 and 1828.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, Armenia was under the rule of different neighbouring and non-neighbouring countries. From time to time, the Armenians regained their sovereignty, or were ruled locally, as in the period of the Bagradunis of Ani and Cilician Armenia. Western Armenia was under the rule of Ottoman Turkey, and until the beginning of the twentieth century, Armenians formed the greater part of the population there.
Taking advantage of the time of the First World War (1914-1918) and the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Turkish government organised the deportation and massacre of the Armenian population. In 1918, Eastern Armenia became a state, where Soviet rule was established later. In September 1991, Armenia became independent.
We would like to thank all of our Armenian and Swiss friends for their help with the photos, translation and review:
Andranik Michaelian, Hermelinde Steiner
Albi February 2010