By: Florane Lavend'homme
In this article, we will present 12 interesting facts about Armenia. In case you do not know where Armenia is, it is a small country located in the South Caucasus between Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. It does not have any access to maritime shores but it is geographically situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Its capital is Yerevan. There are around 3 million people living in Armenia. The official language is Armenian but many people can still speak Russian, because of the Soviet history of the country. You have probably heard of Armenia through the Kardashian family who is of Armenian descent or, if you are familiar with French musical variety, French singer Charles Aznavour, also has Armenian origins. But thanks to this article, we hope that you will learn so much more about Armenia - this small but very interesting country that we never hear of!
1. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion.
Armenia was the first nation of the world to have adopted Christianity as a state religion in AD 301. Despite its location in the Middle East, Armenia is predominantly Christian and not Muslim, as some could probably assume. Nowadays, most Armenians follow the Armenian branch of Christianity, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is a form of Oriental Orthodoxy.
2. The very first church in the world was built in Armenia.
The Etchmiadzin Cathedral is often considered as the oldest cathedral in the world, according to several scholars. It is located in the city of Vagharshapat in Armenia and is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is believed that the church was originally built between AD 301 and 303. Churches in Armenia all have a very similar and unique architecture, certainly because of its specific religion that is only practiced in Armenia. You will probably never see these kinds of churches anywhere else in the world.
3. Mount Ararat is a national symbol of Armenia, but it is located in Turkey!
Mount Ararat is a 5,137 metres (16,864 ft) high snow-capped summit. It is the highest peak of Turkey and is one of the national symbols of Armenia. It has long been considered a sacred mountain and is believed to be the resting place of Noah’s Ark. It is only 32 km (20mi) away from the Armenian border and is widely visible from the capital, Yerevan. It was originally part of Persia, but the current border was determined in the 1920s, following the Turkish-Armenian war, when the mountain territory became a part of Turkey.
4. The longest double-track cable-car in the world is located in Armenia.
The Wings of Tatev is the name given to this aerial tramway, opened in 2010, which holds the world record for the longest non-stop double-track cable-car. The cable is 5,752 metres long (or 18,871 ft) and connects the village of Halidzor to the small isolated village of Tatev, where stands the incredible 9th-century Tatev monastery.
5. Lake Sevan is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world.
Lake Sevan, situated in the highlands of Armenia, is the largest lake in Armenia and in the Caucasus region. It is also one of the largest freshwater high-altitudes lakes in the world. It is located at an altitude of 1,900 metres above sea level (or 6,234 ft). The lake covers an area of 1,242 km2 (or 480 sq mi).
6. Armenia is a major wine producer and one of the oldest of the world.
Armenia is one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world. Armenian winemakers have been famous since very ancient days. Traces of wine production dates back to 401-400 BC. Nowadays, wineries are found across all provinces of the country. Armenian wines are often quite sweet and even fruity, when combined with fresh fruit juice, such as pomegranate - a common ingredient and the national fruit!
7. They have a very interesting way of baking their bread!
Their special bread, which can actually be found in many regions of the Caucasus is called Lavash. It is a flat slightly chewy bread made from regular bread ingredients: flour, salt and water. The Armenian lavash is baked underground in a big earth oven called the tonir. Very often, bakers have to dive in the oven to stick the bread dough on the inside walls of the oven.
8 Apricot and pomegranate are national symbols.
Armenia is quite famous for its apricots. It is believed that they are some of the best of the world. The apricot is a national fruit and is often used as an ingredient in diverse recipes, dried or fresh. Pomegranate is also a very common fruit. It grows everywhere and it is used in many dishes. It is a symbol of the country and you will probably find many touristic souvenirs featuring a pomegranate! On key rings, fridge magnets, simple jewelry, etc. - the pomegranate is everywhere!
9. Chess is a mandatory subject at school.
Armenia has a long tradition of playing chess. It was already played in the Middle Ages. Chess became highly popular in Armenia in the 1960s, under the Soviet era. Today, Armenia is ranked as one of the strongest chess nations in the world, thanks to several Armenian world chess champions. With a population of only 3 million people, Armenia is one of the countries with the most chess grandmasters per capita. Since the year 2011-2012, the Armenian government made chess lessons compulsory in every public schools, thus making Armenia the first country in the world to establish such a law.
10. Armenia was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union.
You probably already knew this one before reading this article: Armenia was one of the 15 constituent republics of the Soviet Union. In 1922, Armenia was incorporated in the Soviet Union, along with Georgia and Azerbaijan, the three of them forming the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. The three countries were known as the Transcaucasian republics of the Soviet Union, mostly because of the geographical border between them and the rest of the continent, namely the Caucasus mountains. In 1991, Armenia declared its independence and after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was officially recognized - that same year. Following the dissolution of the USSR, Armenia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States which brings together 9 of the 15 former Soviet republics.
11. Around 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide refers to the massive and brutal killings of Armenian citizens during and after the First World War, under the Ottoman Empire ruling. It is estimated that around 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more were deported. Today, the events are widely considered as genocide and many nations have officially recognized it as such. However, the Turkish government has still not recognized it - justifying it as a necessary war measure used against their enemy at the time.
12. Armenia is involved in an ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a portion of territory that is geographically located within Azerbaijan, but mostly populated with Armenian people. The conflict started almost a century ago and has had various phases of peace and war. Peace talks have been held a few years ago, but new aggressions have reappeared. The status of the region has yet to be determined. Because of Turkey’s support to Azerbaijan, Armenia has closed its borders along with its diplomatic relations with both Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Armenia is a country that we never hear of in the news - except for those horrible events that have taken place there. However, Armenia offers so much more than that. It truly has a very rich and unique culture. Its religious traditions are very specific and its culinary specialities are incredible and diverse! Its people are kind and generous and the capital city of Yerevan seemed to me, a very modern and growing city - where it feels good to live. It is a nice spot for students as the town is dynamic and young. Yerevan is also a platform open to modern art and music - where a convivial atmosphere prevails. I believe this country has a lot to offer and is worth discovering!
Florane, the author of the article, visited Armenia last year. If you want to see some typical Armenian landscapes, check out her travel video.