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General Background

Awash in gorgeous landscapes and architecture, Armenia is situated along the route of the Great Silk Road. It is a landlocked country of rugged mountains, extinct volcanoes, fast flowing rivers, and an ancient cultural heritage. Officially known as the Republic of Armenia, this country is located in the southern Caucasus region of Eurasia and resides between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. 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. Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD. Modern Armenia comprises only a small portion of ancient Armenia, one of the world’s oldest centers of civilization.


Ancient Armenia was subjected to constant foreign incursions. Over the centuries it was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Russians. The centuries-long rule of Ottoman and Persian conquerors imperiled the very existence of the Armenian people. 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. The Armenian Genocide forced millions of Armenians to flee abroad, where they established strong communities in the US, Russia and France. There are thought to be some 5.6 million people of Armenian descent living abroad, which is greater than the population of Armenia (3 million).

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 November 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 August 23, 1990, and independence on September 23, 1991.


Armenia is a republic and a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation-state with a semi-presidential governing system. Head of state is the President. The president appoints the prime minister, who appoints the members of government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the unicameral National Assembly (parliament).


Armenian is the only official language. The main foreign languages that Armenians know are Russian and English. Due to its Soviet past, most of the old population can speak Russian quite well. According to a 2013 survey, 95% of Armenians said they had some knowledge of Russian (24% advanced, 59% intermediate) compared to 40% who said they knew some English (4% advanced, 16% intermediate and 20% beginner).


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 season.


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 300 CE 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.

Tourist Destination Armenia

Numerous monuments and masterpieces of the Ancient era and Middle Ages can be found throughout the Armenia. Tourism here is rooted in the country’s historical landmarks and natural attractions such as the water resorts of Lake Sevan, the hot springs of Arzni and Jermuk, the forests of Dilijan, Aghveran, Tsaghkadzor, Bjurakan and Gugark, and the mountainous natural caves and cliffs of the Southeast region. Mount Ararat, geographically located in Turkey, is a national symbol of Armenia and is visible from much of the Southwest region. It is said that this is where Noah’s Ark resides, but excavations have not proven this claim.


Armenian cuisine is closely related to eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Various spices, vegetables, fish, and fruits combine to present unique dishes. The main characteristics of Armenian cuisine are a reliance on the quality of the ingredients rather than heavily spicing food, the use of herbs, the use of wheat in a variety of forms, of legumes, nuts, and fruit (as a main ingredient as well as to sour food), and the stuffing of a wide variety of leaves. The pomegranate, with its symbolic association with fertility, represents that nation. The apricot is the national fruit. Dinner tables in Armenia are rarely without huge piles of lavash, a tasty flatbread that is the cornerstone of Armenian cuisine. So important is this humble dish that it was placed on Unesco’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2014.


Fauna in Armenia is diverse given the country’s relatively small geographic size, owing to the varied habitats created by the area’s mountainous terrain. Armenia is an important area for migratory animals. Many of the world’s domesticated animals originated in or near Armenia including the mouflon, the ancestor of domesticated sheep, which is still present there. Research suggests that about a quarter of the animal species in Armenia are internationally endangered. Endangered animals here include:

-The Syrian Brown Bear, a subspecies of Brown Bear native to Eurasia which is one of the largest living carnivores. Although their exact population is unknown, there are thought to be some 150 Syrian Brown Bears in the wild. Poaching and habitat destruction from mining and quarrying are the main reasons for the decline in their numbers.

-The Caucasian Lynx, which is the largest predator in Europe after the Brown Bear and Grey wolf. It is capable of killing prey 3-4 times its size and consumes up to 4.5 lbs of meat a day. In the recent decades, these animals are rarely seen as their numbers have dramatically decreased due to illegal skin trade, habitat loss, and prey base depletion.

-The Caucasian Leopard, which is one of the biggest of the eight recognized subspecies of leopard. There are currently fewer than 15 Caucasian Leopards present in Armenia. Their population has been devastated due to uncontrolled hunting of them as well as their prey, which include the Bezoar Goat and the Armenian Mouflon.

Additionally, the Sevan trout, which once made up thirty percent of the fish in Lake Sevan, have virtually disappeared and Bezoar Goats, also known as Wild Goats or Bezoar Ibex, have been hunted throughout the Caucasus for decades, resulting in their current listinh as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their highly prized horns, which curve upwards and backwards, have made them a prey for trophy hunters.In the 1980s, there were approximately 3,500 to 4,000 Bezoar Goats in the Caucasus, but this number has significantly declined since and they are locally extinct in Jordan and Syria.

Music & Dance

Armenian music is a mix of indigenous folk music, perhaps best-represented by Djivan Gasparyan’s well-known duduk music, as well as light pop, and extensive Christian music. Instruments like the duduk, dhol, zurna, and kanun are commonly found in Armenian folk music. Artists such as Sayat Nova are famous due to their influence in the development of Armenian folk music. One of the oldest types of Armenian music is the Armenian chant which is the most common kind of religious music in Armenia. Many of these chants are ancient in origin, extending to pre-Christian times, while others are relatively modern, including several composed by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. Whilst under Soviet rule, the Armenian classical music composer Aram Khatchaturian became internationally well known for his music, for various ballets and the Sabre Dance from his composition for the ballet Gayane. The Armenian Genocide caused widespread emigration that led to the settlement of Armenians in various countries in the world. Armenians kept to their traditions and certain diasporans rose to fame with their music. In the post-Genocide Armenian community of the United States, the so-called “kef” style Armenian dance music, using Armenian and Middle Eastern folk instruments (often electrified/amplified) and some western instruments, was popular. This style preserved the folk songs and dances of Western Armenia, and many artists also played the contemporary popular songs of Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries from which the Armenians emigrated.

Interesting Facts

  • Chess is a required subject in Armenian elementary schools, and Armenia has more grandmasters per capita than most other countries.
  • According to Guinness World Records, the longest non-stop double track cable car is the Tatev Aerial Tramway in Armenia, which clocks in at 18,871ft ( 5,752 m) long. The spectacular cable car connects the village of Halizor with the Tatev Monastery, offering spectacular views across the Vorotan River Gorge en route.
  • When the Armenian alphabet celebrated its 1,600th birthday in 2005, authorities erected 39 stone statues depicting its letters near the final resting place of the man who created it, Mesrop Mashtots. Visitors can visit the Armenian alphabet monument, which stands large and proud in the town of Aparan.

Our Projects

Establish Cultural Exchange

We are partnering with Peace Corps volunteer Kathleen Casey, a third year extendee working in community and economic development in Sisian, a town in the Syunik Province in the south of Armenia. She is connecting us to a school there located an incredibly warm and loving community that is slowly becoming more popular with international visitors. Students there are eager to learn about and connect with other cultures. Through our virtual cultural exchange program, you will have the opportunity to learn about Armenian culture directly from these students while teaching them about your own. You will be able to complete shared activities and share photos and videos of your respective lives. Through this program you will be able to help fulfill this small Armenian school’s need of updated textbooks, art supplies, sports equipment and musical instruments while also developing and growing your understanding of the world.

Get the WorldChanger Experience™ with us!