The Armenian civilization had its beginnings nearly 5,000 years ago. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan translated as the land of Haik. The name Armenia was given to the country by the surrounding states, and it is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik’s great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians).
Armenia situated along the route of the Great Silk Road, is located in the southern Caucasus on the crossroad between Europe and Asia. Armenia is bounded by Georgia on the north, Azerbaijan on the east, Iran on the south, and Turkey on the west. One of the famous Silk Roads crossed Armenia. Contemporary Armenia is a fraction of the size of ancient Armenia. One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Armenia once included Mount Ararat, which biblical tradition identifies as the mountain that Noah’s ark rested on after the flood. One of the most crucial events in Armenian history was the conversion to Christianity. By adopting the new religion, Armenia established a distinct Christian character of its own and, at times, became identified with the Western world. King Tiridates III (Trdat), having been converted by Gregory the Illuminator, proclaimed Christianity as the religion of the state in 301 A.D. Thus, Armenia became the first nation to embrace Christianity officially. Christianity played a huge role in Armenian history and culture.
Under Tigran the Great (95-55 B.C.) the Armenian empire reached its height and become one of the most powerful in Asia. Stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean Seas. Throughout most of its long history, howevedr, Armenia has been invaded by succession of empires. Since biblical times Armenia was ruled by well-known “tsar dynasties”: the Yervandunies, the Arshkunies, the Bagratunies and so on. And in 1045 during the decline of the capital of Bagratunian Armenia – Ani (city of one thousand and one churches), Armenia lost its statehood. After the fall of the kingdom in 1045, and the subsequent Seljuk conquest of Armenia in 1064, the Armenians established a kingdom in Cilicia, where they prolonged their sovereignty to 1375.
Over the centuries Armenia was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs and Ottoman Turks.
Starting in the early 16th century, Greater Armenia came under Safavid Persian rule, however over the centuries Eastern Armenia remained under Persian rule while Western Armenia fell under Ottoman rule. By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia was conquered by Russia and Greater Armenia was divided between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.
From 16th century through World War I major portions of Armenia were controlled by their most brutal invader, the Ottoman Turks. In 1915, 1.5 milion Armenians were killed by Turkish soldiers or died of sratvation during their forced deportation to Syria and Mesopotamia. The Armenian massacre is considerd the first genocide in the 20th century. To this day Turkey continues to deny that a genocide took place. Armenia, from then on corresponding to much of Eastern Armenia, once again gained independence on May 28 1918, with the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, but survived only until November 29, 1920, when it was annexed by the Soviet Army. The Soviet Era for Armenia started on 2nd December 1920. Armenia declared its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on September 23, 1991, became a member of the United Nations on March 2, 1992. On January 25, 2001, Armenia also became a member of the Council of Europe. Armenian people managed to keep national identity, high culture and tradition, continuing to prosper both in economy and culture.
RELIGION IN ARMENIA
Today, about 94% of Armenians are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church. This branch of the Orthodox Church has derived its faith directly from the apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who preached in Armenia during the first century. The Christian faith has shaped the Armenian culture so intimately that it permeates the very landscape of the country, with khachkars (cross stone carvings) strewn across even the most remote valleys, and ancient monasteries nestled on the peaks of mountains surrounded by breathtaking nature.
The mission of the Armenian Church is the preservation of the Armenian identity and culture. While the Armenian Church has the status of the national church, the state and the church function independent of one another.