Armenia became the first country to officially adopt Christianity in 301 AD.
A landlocked country with Turkey to the west and Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran to the south, Armenia boasts a history longer than all other European countries.
Situated along the route of the Great Silk Road, it has been an empire, has had multiple kingdoms as well as fallen within the orbit of a number of political influences and empires.
After regaining its freedom from Soviet occupation and proclamation of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia quickly became drawn into a bloody conflict with Azerbaijan over the historic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).
Its rich cultural and architectural heritage combines elements from different traditions. The Armenian language is part of the Indo-European family, and its alphabet is unique, created by Mashtots, a priest at the Royal Court of King Vramshapuh in 405 AD, thus making it one of the oldest alphabets still in use today.
Divided between the Persians and Ottomans in the 16th century, Eastern Armenia became part of the Russian Empire in the early 19th century, while the Western Armenia was annexed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Between 1890’s and through 1920’s millions of Armenians suffered the Genocide, perpetrated by successive Turkish governments, and which peaked in 1915 (around 1.5 million victims) due to meticulously planned extermination operation of the government of the Young Turks.
While Turkey continues to officially deny even the fact of the Genocide, and incorporates it in the general picture of the atrocities of the WWII, many countries have recognized the organized nature of the ethnic cleansing and racial extermination essence of the Turkish state’s policies, especially in 1915 and passed laws on the Armenian Genocide through their legislatives, thus making the recognition a law.
The government of Armenia, through mediation of US, Russia, France, Switzerland, etc. tried to normalise relations with Turkey in October 2009, but after signing the protocols in Zurich, Turkey denied to ratify the agreements and tied the possible de-blockade of the Armenian border to the concessions that it expects from Armenia to Azerbaijan. As a result Armenia has withdrawn its signature from the protocol of normalization of relations.
An independent Republic of Armenia was proclaimed at the end of the first world war in 1918 but was short-lived, lasting only until the beginning of the 1920s when the Bolsheviks invaded the republic and forcefully incorporated it into the Soviet Union.
Armenia’s economic problems are aggravated by a trade and border blockade imposed by neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the dispute over Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) which was illegally incorporated into the newly created Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan by the Soviet dictator Iosif Stalin.
A military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Republic legally left the Azerbaijan SSR and joined the Armenian SSR which provoked the Azerbajani armed forces to commit a genocide of Armenians first in Sumgait, a suburb of capital Baku followed by the Armenian pogroms in Baku itself. The Soviet armed forces intervened, but it was late to halt a military conflict that ensued.
Full-scale war broke out in which Azerbaijan annexed some more Armenian territories (Getashen Martunashen, Artsvashen etc.). However, the Armenian forces were successful in reestablishing the Armenoan sovereignty over parts of the Greater Artsakh itself, which incorporates 7 former regions of the Soviet Azerbaijan, which, before the bolshevik occupation were legally part of the Republic of Armenia (1918-1920).
As a result of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and immigration due to war of Artsakh and economic hardship that ensued the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia has a huge diaspora. It is estimated that Armenia has lost up to a quarter of its population since independence of 1991, as young families seeked what they hoped would be a better life abroad.