History of Armenia

The history of Armenia is a unique world treasury full of great civilizations’ chronicles, biographies of legendary people and dramatic moments connected with the formation of Christianity. Armenia repeatedly suffered from conquerors; time and time again it seemed that the name of Armenia was erased from the map forever. But Armenian people have survived and defended their existence in fierce battles.
The thirty thousand square kilometers which are occupied today by The Republic of Armenia make up only a tiny part, less than one tenth of that huge historical Armenia, whose chronicles are a separate chapter in the world’s history and culture.
Armenian uplands were on the road of major trading and military routes of the Ancient world connecting the East and the West. This beneficial position of Armenia was always envied by numerous conquerors. Therefore, the borders of Ancient Armenia were exposed to frequent changes, and Armenians had to move to new lands. That is why the history of Armenia is so rich and infinite. But the most important events are as follows…
Ancient Tribes on the territory of Armenia
Ignoring the fact that the first people appeared in Armenia during the epoch of early Paleolith, the first pre-Armenian tribes (Urartians, Hourrites, Luvians etc.) which inhabited Armenian uplands, were mentioned in the 4th – 3rd millennia BC. According to one hypothesis they were Thracian-Phrygian tribes; the other one states that those were ancient Indo-European tribes which came from Asia Minor. The country’s name, Armina, and Arminians were first mentioned in the cuneiform writings of the Persian tsar Darius I (522-486 BC)
In the beginning of the 1st millennium BC class distinctions appeared. The tribes of the Armenian uplands united to form tribal unions (Uruatri, Nairi, Daiani etc.) on the basis of which in the 11th century BC the powerful ancient slaveholding state Urartu with the capital in Tushpa (Van) was formed. During the period the intense ethnic unification of tribes of Armenian uplands and Armenian nationality took place.
In the 9th – 6th centuries BC the people of the Urartu kingdom created the ancient civilization which defined the cultural future of ancient Armenia. The high level of this civilization was proved by the existence of writing, development of agriculture, cattle breeding and metallurgy as well as the highly developed ways of construction of fortified cities such as Erebuni, Teishebaini, Argishtikhinili etc.).
However, the internal contradictions, the absence of unity and the invasion intrusion of the Assyrians caused the collapse of Urartu in the early 4th century BC.
Urartu was replaced by Ervanduni, another ancient Armenian kingdom. The governors and the population of Ervanduni were already the representatives of Armenian-speaking ethnic group – the ancestors of modern Armenians.
In 520 BC the Armenian kingdom was conquered by Persians and remained as a part of Akhmenid Empire as a vassal state until Alexander the Great’s campaigns (330 BC).
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Great Armenia
After the fall of Persian power and with the beginning of the Hellenistic epoch which arrived thanks to aggressive campaigns of Alexander the Great, Armenia entered the new era of its development. By the beginning of this period the territory occupied by Armenians included three separate areas: Big or Great Armenia, Sofena, between the Euphrates and the Tiger, and Little Armenia – between the Euphrates the Lykos. In the 2nd – the 1st centuries BC these states merge in the uniform powerful slaveholding state – Great Armenia.
Ararat valley with the centre in the city of Artashat became the political, economic and cultural centre of Great Armenia. The 1st century BC was the Golden Age of Great Armenia. I was the time of Tigran the Great (95-56) the grandson of Artashes I, the founder of the Artashesid dynasty. Tigranakert became the capital of the state. The empire of Tigran covered the most part of Southwest Asia from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, from Mesopotamia to the Kura. However, Great Armenia stayed within those borders not for long. From the 1st century AD the territory of Armenia became the object of fierce struggle between Rome and Parthia. In 69-66 BC the empire collapsed. Its disintegration marked the end of the Artashesid dynasty who had ruled the country for almost 2 centuries.
Division of Armenia between Rome and Persia and Adoption of Christianity
During the first four centuries AD Armenia gradually lost its independence. The Armenian kingdom was divided between two powerful empires – The Roman Empire and The Persian Sasanid state. Until the middle of the first century the Armenian throne was taken by a variety of governors acceptable by Rome. Roman influence in Armenia started to concede to Oriental in the second half of the century. The Armenian throne was taken by Trdat, the founder of new Arshakid dynasty. In response to that Roman emperor Neron sent his legions to the East.
Several years of war with Persians brought Romans no success and they were forced to make peace. Romans and Persians soon come to the agreement of dividing Armenian lands between them with the most part going to Persians. So in 428 Persian tsar Varakhran V turned Armenia into a province of Sasanid state and put an end to Arshakid dynasty.
But hundred years prior to that, in 301, Armenia had adopted Christianity as the state religion.
Splitting in Principialities. Fall of Sasanids
In the 5th – 6th centuries Armenia was still divided between East-Roman empire (Byzantium) and Persian Sasanid power. During that difficult period Armenians preserved themselves and their culture thanks to the courage and firmness of the people. The feudal system penetrated into both parts of Armenia; it gradually broke up into a number of princedoms. There were about 50 of them by the end of the 7th century. The princedoms of Mamikonids, Bagratids and Artsrunids were the most influential of them.
From the middle of the 6 th century with the weakening of The Sasanids Byzantium started to expand its borders in Armenia at the expense of the Persian part. In the 630s Sasanids were defeated by Arabs. The new religion, Islam, started its way.
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Arabic Caliphate. Unification of Armenia by Bagratids
The devastating raids of Arabs forced the former Persian Armenia to accept the power of Arabic Caliphate. In 652 Armenia became a province of the caliphate. Numerous uprisings took place against it. The most active were Bagratids who managed to achieve their ambitions. In 859 Ashot, one of the princes, was appointed the ruler of Armenia.
In 885 Ashot accepted the title of the tsar. Armenian statehood was restored. The Bagratid state with the capital in Ani had favorable conditions for developing trade, crafts, arts, churches, and monasteries. The apogee of the prosperity of Bagratid kingdom was reached under Gagik I (989-1020).
Decline of Armenia. Invasion of Byzantium and Seljuk Turks
From the mid -11 th century Bagratid kingdom and its princedoms declined due to the impact of Byzantium which was free to act the weakening of the caliphate and pressure of the new enemies – Seljuk Turks.
Armenia was again divided between the Muslim East and the Christian West as once between Romans and Persians. The country was devastated by wars and attacks, the cities were destroyed, the population was mercilessly annihilated.
Many Armenian princes conceded their possessions to Byzantium and received cities and lands in the far southwest of the empire, near the Mediterranean Sea, in the mountains of Cilicia Tavr . It was there that the new Armenian kingdom, Cilicia , was formed. It preserved the traditions of Armenian culture and maintained Armenian statehood for another three centuries.
Cilician Armenia
The beginning of Cilician kingdom is dated 1080. It was founded by Rubenian dynasty (Rubenids) which started from prince Ruben, the relative of the last Bagratid tsar, who also escaped to the mountains from Byzantine and Turkish yoke. In 1375 Cilicia fell after the invasion of Egyptian Mamelukes.
Armenian Zakarid Principality as a Part of Georgian Kingdom
As The Armenian kingdom moved closer to Europe Armenian statehood began its revival on its historical territory (the Caucasian part of Armenia). It occurred in the 12th century. By 1122 Christian Georgia got stronger and Tsar David IV (the Builder) could liberate Tiflis from Moslems and in 1124 The Armenian city of Ani. Under Queen Tamara the entire Northern part of Armenia was freed from Seljuk Turks and large the Zakarid principality was created.
During that epoch (12th – 14th centuries) the city of Ani remained the centre of Armenian culture in the north. The dependence on Georgia was nominal. The heavy blow to the prosperity of Ani and the hopes of other territories of ancient Armenia was struck by the Mongolian invasion. In 1236 the hordes of Mongols attacked the princedom. And in the 14th century they were replaced by the hordes of Tamerlane moving across the entirety of Asia. The devastating attacks ended in mass destruction of the population and cities.
Armenia under Oppression of The Ottoman Empire and Persia
In the end of the 13 th century Osman-bei founded his state in the outlying districts of Asia Minor. It was the birth of new great Ottoman Empire. By the end of the 14 th century they conquered Asia Minor and The Balkan Peninsula. In the 15th century Ottomans crushed the Byzantine Empire and set off to Asia. The wars between Ottomans and Persians who founded the new Iranian Sefevid state in 1502 began.
In the 16th century Turkey and Iran fought for the territories of Transcaucasia. In 1639 they, finally, signed the treaty according to which Western Armenia (the main part) belonged to Turkey, and Eastern – to Iran. Such situation lasted until the beginning of the 19 th century. Armenia entered the gloomiest period of its history. Severe political, social, national, religious oppressions led to the decline of economy and culture. The oppressed Armenia did not cease to make desperate attempts to ease and improve its position. Beginning from the 14th century Armenians addressed Christian nations for help.
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Russian Assistance in Struggle for Freedom
In the end of the 17 th century Armenian princes asked Russian tsar Peter the Great for help. In the 18 th century Russia began the military campaign in Transcaucasia. But the real chance to obtain freedom appeared only in the 19th century. During the Russian-Persian War East Armenia was freed from Iranian yoke. Under the Turkmanchai Treaty contract of 1828 East Armenia was annexed to the Russian Empire. As the result of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–1878 Russia freed only a part of Western Armenia.
Armenian Genocide
The most part of Western Armenia was left under the power of Turkey. Soon after the beginning of the First World War, Turks started solving “the Armenian Issue” by means of forcible exile of all Armenians from Asia Minor.
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Soviet Armenia
On May 28th , 1918 Russian Armenia was proclaimed an independent republic. In September 1920 Turkey started the war against Armenia and occupied two thirds of its territory. In November the Red Army entered Armenia, and on November 29th , 1920 the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed.
On March 12th , 1922 Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia agreed on formation of the Federal Union of Socialist Soviet Republics of Transcaucasia which was transformed in the Transcaucasian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic on December 13th, 1922. Each republic preserved its independence. In 1936 TSFSR was abolished and Armenia along with Georgia and Azerbaijan were proclaimed independent union republics within the structure of the USSR.
Karabakh Conflict
In 1988 the historical area of the Caucasus, Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region, announced its decision to leave the structure of Azerbaijan and join Armenia. This was followed by the conflict with Azerbaijan. Mass demonstrations, meetings and strikes began. The situation was aggravated after the Armenian pogroms in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait in February 1988. Before 1990, 250,000 Armenians escaped from Azerbaijan to Armenia, and 150,000 Azerbaijanis left Armenia.
In June 1990 the Supreme Council of Armenia expressed its consent to accept Nagorno-Karabakh in the structure of Armenia but this decision was vetoed by the USSR. The actions of Moscow resulted in new mass protests. The expanding ethno political conflict resulted in armed conflicts which after the disintegration of the USSR grew into the full-scale war; the considerable part of Azerbaijan was taken under Armenian control. In 1994 with the assistance of Russia the armistice agreement was reached under which both sides stay on the positions as of the moment of the treaty conclusion. Nagorno-Karabakh is de facto an independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
It maintains close relations with Republic Armenia and uses its national currency – dram. The international community still considers Nagorno-Karabakh the part of Azerbaijan. The political lives of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are so closely interconnected that the former president of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Robert Kocharian became the head of Armenian government in 1997 and the President – since 1998.
Independent Armenia
On August 23rd, 1990 during the 1st session of the Supreme Council of Armenia the declaration on “Independence of Armenia” was adopted. The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was abolished and independent Republic of Armenia was proclaimed.
On September 21st , 1991 over 99 % of the participants of the referendum voted for separation from the USSR
On September 23rd the Supreme Council proclaimed Armenia an independent state. In October, 1991 Levon Ter-Petrosian was elected the President of independent Armenia. The same year Armenia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 1992 Armenia joined the United Nations. Since 2001 Armenia has been the full member of the Council of Europe.
In 2002 Armenia became a member-state of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
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