History of Armenia

Armenians are one of the oldest nations in the world history. This nation has seen many invasions, attacks, tortures and sufferings, yet it today exists. The coevals of Armenians were the Babylonians and the Hittite but they have all become extinct. The age long history of Armenians is so much stuffed with interesting events and developments that getting acquainted with it is like reading a most well-written literary work.

Armenians call themselves “Hay.” As they say, they come from Hayk, who is the great grandson of Japheth, the son of Noah. Referred to as the father of the Armenian people, Hayk refused the authority of Babylonian dictator Belus. Hayk then took his entire family and leaving Babylon came to the Land of Ararat where he founded a settlement. The settlement was named “Haykashen” meaning “built by Hayk.” But Belus wanted Hayk to obey to him, and when Hayk refused again, Belus gathered an army and attacked the Land of Ararat. In the battle that took place on August 11, 2492 BC Hayk killed Belus with his arrow.

The historical data show that Armenians advanced from Cappadocia to the plateau of Erzurum within the period of 8th-7th centuries BC. In case you don’t know, Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia. Notably, the first mentions of the name “Armenia” were found in Assyrian inscriptions. They date to the 9th century BC.

History of Armenia: Oldest Period

To the west of the Armenian Highlands there once was the Tegarama state formation or the House of Torgom, which played an enormous role in the formation of the Armenian people. Evidence regarding this “house” dates to the 2nd millennium BC. To the south-east of Tegarama there was the Kingdom of Hayasa (15th-13th centuries BC), also known as Hayasa-Azzi, which bordered the Hittite Empire. The Hittites were often in war with Hayasa, but they were eventually not able to gain a victory over it.

During the Urartian period (9th-7th centuries BC) there was the Etiuni state formation, which included Ararat plain as well as the pool of Lake Sevan. Over 20 tribes were involved in the union. The items (statuettes, weapons) found at Lchashen give more than a broad idea of how they lived.

History of Armenia: Kingdom of Van (Urartian Kingdom)

In the 9th century BC a state was formed in the Armenian Highlands. The state was mentioned as Bianili in the inscriptions of its kings. The kingdom was mentioned as Urartu in the Assyrian inscriptions. The name “Van” derives from “Bianili,” and therefore the kingdom is known as the Kingdom of Van as well. On the whole, all three names apply to the same state and are equally used.

The founder of Van Kingdom was Sarduri I. The kingdom was greatly enlarged during the reign of Menua, the grandson of Sarduri I. The latter is also known to have built a 72 meter long channel that stretched from the River of Hayots Dzor (Armenian Canyon; it’s presently named Khoshab) to Tushpa, the capital of the kingdom.

Son of Menua Argishti I (786-764 BC) not only enlarged and strengthened the borders of Van Kingdom but also built the city of Erebuni on the territory of which the present day capital city (Yerevan) of Armenia is located. It was built in 782 BC; accordingly in already 2018 Erebuni-Yerevan will celebrate its 2080th anniversary.

Among other notable kings of Van were Sarduri II, Rusa I and Rusa II. The Kingdom was continuously being attacked, and already in the 7th century BC it eventually started falling.

History of Armenia: Sea to Sea Armenia

Armenia reached the peak of its political power and territorial expansion in the first century BC. It was during the rule of King Tigran the Great (95-55 BC). It’s the time period when the Armenian territory stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The realm extended across the Middle East, Syria and the borders of Egypt. The territory of Tigran the Great included Northern Syria and Cilicia. Meanwhile, Southern Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were vassal states and recognized Tigran’s authority.

The empire Tigran the Great had established was undoubtedly one of the hugest ones, yet it was not to have a long life as the continuous attacks from the Romans in the west and the Parthians in the east eventually caused the empire to be partitioned.

History of Armenia: Adoption of Christianity (301)

In the third century King Tiridates III (287-330 AD) was restored to the Armenian throne. He ruled under Roman protection; back then Roman influence prevailed in Armenia. In 301 Tiridates the Great was converted to Christianity by Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator). A cathedral was later built in the place where the king is believed to be converted. (It’s the Cathedral of Zvartnots, and it takes around half an hour to get there from capital Yerevan.)

After the King was converted to Christianity, Christianity was adopted as state religion in Armenia. This conversion renewed the conflict with the Zoroastrian Sassanid Persia.

History of Armenia: First Partition and Invention of Armenian Alphabet

In 387 Armenia was partitioned between Byzantium and Persia. The areas, however, were governed by native Armenians.

The partition beyond a shadow of doubt weakened the country, but there is the other side of the coin as well; a sense of national distinctiveness and consciousness rose. It was then strengthened by the creation of the Armenian Alphabet, which was invented in 405 by Armenian linguist Mesrop Mashtots. The invention of the Armenian alphabet was then followed by the translation of Bible into Armenian.

The invention if the Armenian alphabet and the translation of the Holy Book into Armenian were a great event for the Armenian people.

History of Armenia: Battle of Avarayr

The Battle of Avarayr took place in 451. Persian King Yazdegerd II ordered Armenians to be converted to Zoroastrianism, which they refused to do. The commander in Chief of the Armenian forces was Vardan Mamikonyan, and therefore the battle is also rather widely known as the Vardanants War. Against the Persian fighters and cavalry the number of which amounted to 220,000, Armenians had only around 66,000 men and cavalry. Other than that, the Persians had elephants, which made them appear more powerful and stronger.

The war was fought “in the name of our Fatherland and our Faith,” as the Commander in Chief declared and he was one of the thousands who were killed during the war. The essence of this war is explained by the fact that after that Persians realized they could not convert Armenians against their will and so renounced their plans. Armenians scored a moral victory in the war as they preserved their race and religion.

History of Armenia: Second and Third Partitions

In 591 Armenia was again divided between Persia and Byzantium. The larger part passed under the Byzantine rule.

The Armenian Kingdom was reestablished in the 9th century under the control of Bagratunis, an Armenian Royal Dynasty.

The third division of Armenia took place in 1555. This time the country was divided between Ottoman Turkey and Persia. The territory that passed under Turkish control was known as Western Armenia, and the one that appeared under Persian rule came to be known as Eastern Armenia. A relatively peaceful period was established for around twenty years.

In 1578 Persia was busy with the struggles for the Persian throne and the Turks took advantage of these inner disputes and resumed the war. In 1590, Persia signed a peace treaty upon which all of Armenia passed under Turkish rule.

In 1605 another war broke out between Safavid Persia and Ottoman Turkey. It continued until 1639. Then a peace treaty was signed due to which peace was established for around 80 years. Armenia was divided between Safavid Persia and Ottoman Turkey.

History of Armenia: Liberation Struggles and Plans

The 17th century was marked with the liberation struggles. In 1677 Catholicos Hakob Jughayetsi organized a secret meeting in Ejmiatsin. 12 spiritual and secular figures were present at the meeting during which a decision was made to turn to European states for help. A delegation led by the Catholicos was formed. Not having reached Europe Catholicos Hakob Jughayetsi died and the delegation returned. Nevertheless, Israel Ori who was one of the members of the delegation didn’t come back. Israel Ori spent 20 years in Europe and returned to Armenia.

In 1699 a secret meeting was held in the village of Angeghakot at which Israel Ori was authorized to continue negotiating with the European states and the Russian authorities. After returning to Europe, Israel Ori realized that he could rely on Russia and only. In 1701 Israel Ori arrived in Russia and presented to Russian Emperor Peter I his plan regarding the liberation of Armenia. Back then Persia was rather weakened so it would not be able to resist against the joint Armenian and Russian forces. Quite unexpectedly Israel Ori died in 1711.

The rise of the liberation struggle at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century is closely related to Israel Ori who clearly knew that only by joint forces Armenia could be liberated.

On September 26, 1724 Turkish forces captured capital Yerevan. It should be noted that the Turks were able to capture the city only after around four months of siege. The resistance they met at the city and the defense of Yerevan held up the advance of the Turks to Syunik and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).

History of Armenia: 19th Century

Armenians entered the 19th century deprived of freedom and independence. The country was still under the Turkish and Persian rule. In 1827 the Russian army captured Yerevan. This was a great military and political event since Armenians related to it all their hopes for better future.

History of Armenia: Armenian Genocide

In the beginning of the 20th century Young Turks came to power in Ottoman Empire. This fact only made things harder.

Armenian Genocide – The Armenian Genocide was committed in 1915. The massacres committed by the Turkish Government are commemorated on April 24 as it’s the day when Armenian scholars, writers, prominent figures were killed. The ultimate goal of the Armenian Genocide was to exterminate Armenians living in Turkey as well as in the provinces where Turkish rule dominated. Around 1.5 million Armenian men and women, children and elderly people were killed.

Until this day Turkey has not recognized Armenian Genocide. Those who want to pay tribute to the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide can visit the Genocide Memorial and lay a flower in their memory.

History of Armenia: First Republic of Armenia

The first Republic of Armenia didn’t have a long life. The first republic was declared on May 28, 1918 and lasted until 1920.

Today May 28 is one of the most widely celebrated holidays among all Armenians.

History of Armenia: Armenia a Soviet Union State

Armenia was declared a Soviet Union State on December 2, 1920. The Soviet rule continued for the next seventy years. Soviet authorities were sure that the new social system could be implemented only by literate and educated people; therefore a decision was made to educate both kids and the adults. It pursued one goal – to give the working class people an opportunity to get included into the political and cultural life. Both social and natural sciences developed in Armenia. The 1930s marked a new beginning for the Armenian literature. Art also developed. Some of the most prominent artists of those times were Martiros Saryan, Hakob Kojoyan, Sedrak Arakelyan and others.

It should be said that during the 1920-1930s Armenian architecture also developed. The founder of the new Armenian architecture is considered to be architect Alexander Tamanyan. He was the architect of some of the most important buildings of capital Yerevan. Among them are the Opera House and the National Library.

History of Armenia: Independent Armenia

Armenia remained a Soviet Union State until 1991 and became an independent republic on September 21, 1991. Levon Ter-Petrosian was elected the First President of the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian army was established. The economic situation of the newly established republic was rather hard and only in the recent years Armenia has stepped on the path of steady growth and development.

On July 5, 1995, the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia was adopted.

The Armenian flag was adopted. It features three colors – red (for blood), blue (for the sky) and orange or apricot (for work). The flag is also called the Armenian Tricolor.

The anthem is “Mer Hayrenik” (“Our Motherland”) patriotic song.

The national coat of arms includes an eagle on the right side and a lion on the left side. The lion and the eagle support a shield, which consists of various components.

The present territory of the Republic of Armenia makes up 30,000 square kilometers.