Armenia Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Armenia is an independent nation in Western Asia. With the capital city of Yerevan, Armenia 2020 population is estimated at 2,963,254 according to countryaah. The history of Armenia goes further than most European countries and Armenia is considered to have been the first in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. For the past two millennia, Armenia has had brief periods of independence and otherwise found itself under Persian, Roman, Arab, Turkish and Soviet rulers.

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Around the 13th century BC, clans around Lake Van in present-day Turkey began to merge into a state, called by the Assyrians called Urartu (the same word as the Ararat of Hebrew). When Urartu was at its peak during the 8th century BC, it included the areas around and between the lakes Van, Urmia (in present-day Iran) and Sevan (in present-day Armenia) – thus areas where later Armenians would come to live. For Armenia political system, please check carswers.

The language spoken in Urartu was not Armenian but a now extinct Caucasian language, but possibly the ancestors of the Armenians had already begun to immigrate from the west. From the 5th century BC the Armenians are mentioned as a special people in Greek and Persian sources.

In the following centuries, the Armenians predominantly reigned under the Persians but became increasingly independent. Around 191 BC, two independent Armenian kingdoms arose on both sides of the Euphrates River. The greater reached its maximum extent during King Tigranes II (95-55 BC) – from the Mediterranean in the west to the Caspian sea in the east. However, this large Armenia shrank considerably already before the death of Tigran.

Rome soon entered the lesser Armenian Empire but left a remnant of former Great Armenia as a buffer state between the Romans and their enemies in Central Asia, the Parthians (related to the Persians). Under the parthian-esque king Tigridates III, Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion – the year 301 is the year usually mentioned. The country was divided in the late 300s between the East Roman Empire and the Persians.

Persians and Turks share in Armenia

The Armenians had to maintain their Christian faith even after their country in the 600s came under Arab, Muslim rule. From the 8th century Armenia served as a semi-independent state and experienced a period of cultural prosperity.

The conquest of the area by the Turkish cellists in the 11th century destroyed this state. With the exception of the small kingdom of Cilicia on the coast of Asia Minor against the Mediterranean, which existed until 1375, there was no longer an independent Armenian state. In 1639, the Armenian territories were divided between the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire and the Persians. The western parts went to the Ottoman Empire, while today’s Armenia was part of the territory that went to Persia.

When conditions for Armenians deteriorated, especially in the Ottoman Empire, as Christian Tsarist Russia expanded, many Armenians believed that it would be better to obey the Russians than under Turks or Persians. Therefore, when Russia conquered most of Persian Armenia in 1828, it was actively assisted by the Armenians.

Trade and industry were encouraged under the Tsarist rule. Cities grew, communications expanded, and Western and Russian ideas gained momentum. This in turn led to an intellectual awakening among the Armenians and a renewed interest in the country’s history. Armenian nationalism began to sprout. The Armenians were increasingly oriented towards Christian Europe.

The Ottoman Empire was falling apart, and European peoples who listened to the Turks released themselves: Greeks, Serbs, Romanians and others. Inspired by this and encouraged by Russia, the Armenians living in eastern Turkey began to demand regional autonomy. Among other things, the Sultan responded by inciting the Armenian Kurdish neighbors to them, which in 1894 became the beginning of massacres of thousands of Armenians.

Persecutions and massacres

The persecution continued on a smaller scale until the First World War. To secure themselves against the legacy of Russia, Ottoman Turkey fought on the side of Germany and Austria. At the same time, Russian Armenians, who fought voluntarily on the Russian side, also recruited volunteer soldiers from Turkey’s Armenians. With the risk of an Armenian uprising as an excuse, the Istanbul government in the winter of 1915 decided that Turkey’s Armenians should be deported to Syria and Mesopotamia in a hurry. Turkish troops also carried out systematic mass murders of fleeing Armenians. The incident has been labeled as the first genocide of modern times, but the details of the number of victims are disputed. The British encyclopaedia Encyclopaedia Britannica (online edition) quotes a contemporary British intelligence officer, Arnold J Toynbee, which estimated the number of Armenians in Turkey at the beginning of the war to be about 1.8 million. About one-third or 600,000 of these were killed or succumbed to mortality during the displacement, according to Toynbee, while 600,000 survived in exile and another 600,000 in various ways avoided being displaced. Armenian sources usually indicate significantly higher death rates.

The fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917 opened the way to proclaim an Armenian independent state in the Caucasus on May 28, 1918. During the two and a half years that the independence lasted, several border wars were fought with neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan. Particularly contentious areas were, as now, Nagorno-Karabakh and Nachichevan. Independent Armenia was also severely wedged between Turkey, which wanted Armenian territory in the west, and the Russian Red Army, which had occupied Azerbaijan in the east. In September 1920, Armenia was attacked by Turkish troops, which were, however, halted with Russian soldiers from the east.

In November of that year, the ruling Armenian Dashnak Party formed a coalition government with the Communists, and Armenia became a Soviet republic. In 1922, Armenia was merged with Azerbaijan and Georgia into the Transcaucasian Soviet Republic. All parties except the Communist Party were banned and planning economy introduced.

The 1920s became a period of recovery. Armenian remained the first language, and political life was dominated by indigenous communists who promoted Armenian culture. At the end of the 1920s, however, Moscow tightened its grip on the republics, where all nationalism was suppressed. During the 1930s, Armenia suffered the brutal collectivization of agriculture by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. The peasants were forced to abandon their lands, which were merged into large collective farms. Armenia was also exposed to Stalin’s purge campaigns. Intellectual and local party workers were executed or sent to prison camps. In 1936, the Transcaucasian Soviet Republic was dissolved and Armenia again became its own Soviet republic.



Opposition editor in court

Opposition editor Nikol Pasjinyan, who is accused of organizing mass protests after the 2008 presidential election, is facing trial.

Problematic agreement with Turkey

Armenia and Turkey’s foreign ministers sign an agreement to normalize relations and open the border within two months. The agreement causes the Nationalist Party Dasjnak to organize a hunger strike outside the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan. Since the agreement requires the approval of both countries’ parliaments, and the Turkish government also faces opposition at home, normalization is slow (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).


Amnesty for prosecuted politicians

Former Defense Minister Alexander Arzumanyan and four other opposition politicians, who were charged with the mass protests in 2008, are released through an amnesty.


Relations with Turkey divide the government

The Dashnak Party leaves the government in protest against Armenia approaching Turkey without acknowledging Turkey’s genocide on Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Armenia Old History