History of Armenia in brief
The beginnings of the Armenian Civilization
Legends say that the Armenians are the descendants of Hayk, bisbisnipote of Noah, whose Ark ran aground on Mount Ararat after the Flood. In honor of this tradition, the Armenians call it their country Hayastan. Historians instead trace the origins of this people between 1500 and 1200 BC with the birth of a tribal confederation known as Hayasa-Azzi who resided in the western part of the Armenian plateau. Because of their proximity to the Hittite Empire violent clashes often used to break out with mixed results until the Hittites finally defeated the Hayasa-Azzi at the end of the Bronze Age.
The Kingdom of Urartu
Between 1200 and 800 BC, most of Armenia was united under a confederation of kingdoms known by the Assyrians as Nairi (Land of Rivers). This confederation was later absorbed into the kingdom of Urartu, the civilization that flourished in the Caucasus and in Eastern Asia Minor between 800 BC and 600 BC, which represents the first Armenian empire. The kingdom was first unified under King Aramu and stretched from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, including much of the territory of Eastern Turkey. It lived its period of maximum splendor during the reign of Sarduri II, who expanded the boundaries of the kingdom to the territories beyond the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, lake Urmia and Aleppo. Urartu was often called "the Kingdom of Ararat" in many ancient manuscripts and sacred texts of different nations who interchangeably used "Armenia" and "Urartu" to refer to the same country. For example, in the inscription of Behistun carved in three languages in 520 BC by order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country is referred to Arminia in Old Persian, Harminuia in Elamite and Urartu in Babylonian. Between the late seventh and early sixth century BC, the Urartian kingdom was replaced by the Kingdom of Armenia, which was ruled by the Armenian dynasty known as Orontid.
The Orontid dynasty, the Persian and Macedonian rule and the birth of the Kingdom of Armenia
After the fall of the Urartu civilization around 600 BC, the kingdom of Armenia was ruled by the Orontid dynasty which established its supremacy on Armenia at the time of the invasions of the Scythians and Medes, a period during which the Armenians assumed Iranian names and customs. The Orontids acted as satraps of the Persian Empire paying tributes to the Persian king. In 521 during the clashes blown up after the death of Cambyses II of Persia, the Armenians revolted but the revolt was crushed by Darius I of Persia who defeated the rebels.
After the reorganization of the Persian Empire, Armenia was divided into several satrapies. The satraps of Armenia also sent troops for the invasion of Xerxes against Greece in 480 BC. In 401 BC, the close union between Armenians and Persians was broken with the Macedonian conquest. The invasion of Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian kingdom and began the rapid Hellenization of the whole Middle-East. Armenia shared the fate of other regions previously subject to the Persians becoming a satrapy of the Macedonian Empire and was divided into two regions: the Great Armenia or Sophene (set between the middle course of the Euphrates and the headwaters of the Tigris and which later would have been further divided in Armenia itself and in Sophene), and the Little Armenia or Armenia Pontica (located between the Euphrates and the upper headwaters of Lico and Ali). The historical destiny of these three Armenian kingdoms was very different. The Little Armenia had a disastrous proximity to the more powerful Kingdom of Pontus and after a short time become part of it in the second century BC, while the Sophene could never achieve a true independence, and managed to survive for a short time only with the support of the Kingdom of Cappadocia. A different history had Armenia (the Great Armenia) which grew up very rapidly managing to escape the feudal dependence of the Seleucids and thus rising into a powerful and formidable state. The Seleucids never managed to firmly establish themself in the Greater Armenia, firstly because of the mountainous nature of the region, which was a natural defense system against the campaigns of the Greeks, and secondly because Armenia had achieved a strong Iranian character which, having deeply rooted in the people's culture, strongly opposed to the influence the Greeks.
The second Kingdom of Armenia
It was during this period that, according to Strabo, the population of Armenia began to speak one language, the Armenian, and, when the Romans destroyed the Seleucid kingdom, the Great Armenia proclaimed its independence. In its heyday, 95-66 B.C. and under the guidance of Tigranes II the Great, the greater Armenia extended from the Caucasus to the current eastern Turkey, to Syria and Lebanon, from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean being dubbed "the Kingdom of the Three Seas." The second Armenian empire was born, its capital Tigranocerta is still wrapped in an aura of mystery not being modern archeology able to find its exact location. In 66 BC, the Roman legions of Pompey invaded Armenia Major and Tigranes was forced to surrender and agreed to make his reign a Roman protectorate.
The arrival of Romans
A campaign of the Parthians forced Armenia into submission in 37 AD which was reconquered by the Romans ten years later but was again lost shortly thereafter. Under the reign of Nero, the Romans led another campaign (55-63 AD) against the Parthians who had invaded Armenia. Again roman legions conquered the region in 60 and lost it again in 62; Rome finally conquered the country in 63 AD with the defeat of the Parthians at the Battle of Rhandeia and the Parthian king was forced to sign a treaty obtaining for his brother Tiridates the throne of Armenia. He was crowned by Nero himself, starting the dynasty of the Arsacids of Armenia.
The Christianization of Armenia
The conversion of Armenia at the beginning of the fourth century, traditionally dated in the year 301 AD, gave the Armenians the consciousness of being the first officially Christian people, well before Christianity was recognized as the religion of the Roman Empire.
Agatangelo (historic of King Tiridates), in a story full of symbolism, recounted in detail the events of this conversion. The story begins with the providential and dramatic encounter of the two characters that are at the basis of this events: Gregory, son of Anak, and the Armenian king Tiridates III. At first it was, in reality, a clash: Gregory, in fact, was asked by the king to make sacrifices to the goddess Anahit, but he adamantly refused professing his faith in the God of the Christians. Legend says that, because of this choice, Gregory was tortured, but he, assisted by the power of God, didn't bend. Seeing his steadfast faith in the Christian confession, the king had him thrown into a deep well, a dark, narrow place infested with snakes, where previously no one had survived. But Gregory, nourished by the merciful hand of a widow, lived for many years in that pit without succumbing. The story goes on to report the attempts made in the meantime by the Roman Emperor Diocletian to seduce the virgin Hripsime, who, to escape the danger, fled from Rome with a group of companions to seek refuge in Armenia. The beauty of the young woman attracted the attention of King Tiridates, who fell in love with her and wanted have her. Because of the stubborn refusal of Hripsime, the king enraged and cruelly tortured and killed her and her companions . According to tradition, in punishment for his crime, Tiridates was turned into a wild boar, and could not return to human form, except when he released Gregory from the pit into which he had been imprisoned for thirteen long years. Achieved the miracle of returning to human form for the prayers of the Saint, Tiridates decided to convert himself, together with the family and the army, to Christian Religion and worked for the evangelization of the whole country. So the Armenians were baptized, and that Christianity was imposed as the official religion of the Nation. Gregory, who in the meantime had received the episcopal ordination in Caesarea, together with Tiridates travelled through the Country, destroying the pagan places of worship and building Christian churches. Following a vision of Gregory of Jesus Christ, a church was built in the village of Vagarshapat and because of the miraculous event the place took the name of Etchmiadzin, that is the place where "the only-begotten descended". The pagan priests were educated in the new religion and became ministers of the new religion, while their children formed the nucleus of the clergy and the subsequent monasticism. Soon Gregory withdrew as a hermit in the desert, and the youngest son Aristakes was ordained a Bishop and became head of the Armenian Church abd participated at the Council of Nicea.
Believing or not believing this version of the conversion of Armenia to Christianity, an incontrovertible fact remains: the conversion to Christianity in 301 and the codification of the Armenian alphabet a century later, by Mesrop Mashtots in 404, will be the two points of constant reference that will save over the centuries the identity and culture of Armenians despite the adverse historical events.
The Byzantine, Arab, and Seljuk
In 591, the great warrior and Byzantine Emperor Maurice defeated the Persians and took a large part of Armenian territory within the Empire. The conquest was completed later by Emperor Heraclius in 629 but in 645, Muslim Arabs attacked the region conquering it. So Armenia, which once had its own rulers under the Persians and the Byzantines, came under the rule of the Caliphs. Known as the Emirate of Armenia (Arminiyya), the region was ruled by a prince, also recognized by Byzantium, which was based in Dvin, not far from Yerevan (Bagratuni dynasty or Bagratids). From this date on, started the pressure to convince people to convert to Islam, but was later reached an agreement that allowed the Armenians to continue to profess Christianity.
In 884 the Armenian princes recovered their independence, which was defended until 1045, when they were again subdued by Byzantium. In this period, Armenia experienced a cultural, political and economic renaissance. A new capital was founded, Ani, which it is said was populated by about 200,000 people and had 1001 churches, in a time when the European capitals did not reach 20,000 inhabitants. With the construction of Ani, Armenia became a populous and prosperous nation that had political influence on neighboring nations. However, the feudal system gradually weakened the country eroding the sense of loyalty to the central government.
In 1071, after the defeat of the Byzantine Empire by the Seljuk Turks led by Alp Arslan at the Battle of Manzikert, Greater Armenia was conquered. To escape from death or slavery, thousands of families left Armenia and settled in foreign lands, such as Cilicia, Poland, etc. Among them, Rupen, a relative of Gagik II, the last king of Ani, fled, along with the people, between the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and from there in Cilicia.
The Kingdom of Cilicia and the end of the independence of Armenia
Rupen arrived on the Gulf of Alexandretta in the Mediterranean Sea, and in 1080 he founded the kingdom of Cilicia (also known as Armenia Minor or Little Armenia) starting the Rupenid dynasty, a collateral branch of the Bagratid dynasty, making Sis the capital of the kingdom. This Christian kingdom didn't have an easy life because it was nestled between many Muslim States and it was also hostile to the Byzantines, but succeeded, in spite of the pressures at its borders, to establish business relationships with the major Italian maritime cities flourishing for about three hundred years. Pisa, Genoa and Venice established colonies on the coast of the kingdom and Marco Polo left for his trip to China by Laiazzo, a Venetian colony in the kingdom of Cilicia, in 1271.
At the end of the fourteenth century Cilicia was invaded by Mamelukes who conquered the capital of Sis in 1375 and that was the end of the reign. The last king, Leo VI, fled into exile in Paris where he died in 1393 after trying unsuccessfully to promote another crusade.
Thus ended the last fully independent Armenian political entity, from this moment onwards, Armenia as a sovereign state will never exist for more than six centuries succumbing to this or that foreign domination.
The Ottoman and Persian domination
The time that goes from the collapse of the kingdom of Cilicia until the end of the seventeenth century marks a period of impoverishment and decay of the Armenian culture. Towards the end of the fourteenth century in Central Anatolia and Eastern Europe Tamerlane imposed his rule arriving almost in Ankara; however, soon his empire fell apart. The second half of the fifteenth century recorded on the one hand the rise of the Ottoman Empire, on the other hand the rise in Central Iran of the new dynasty of the Safavids. For more than a hundred years these two empires fought for domination of Eastern Anatolia and Caucasus regions. The fight ended with the decisive victory of the Ottomans, who in 1585 succeeded in annexing the eastern parts of Armenia. In the early decades of the seventeenth century Shah Abbas I, failed in his attempt to oust the Ottomans from Armenian territory, during his retreat, forced the migration of Armenians from Julfa city on the banks of Arax river. The immigrants settled in Esfahan, where they founded the city of New Julfa, a flourishing commercial and cultural center for the whole XVII century and part of the XVII century, with a wide range of economic activities which extended from India to Italy and Britain. The rivalry between Persians and Ottomans finally resolved in 1736 when the Persians defeated the Ottomans and conquered the entire southern Transcaucasia including Armenia.
The Persian Armenia from the mid-18th century. began to pass into the hands of the Russians thanks to sales enshrined in the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkmanchay (1828) and, from this moment on, those parts of Armenian territory followed the fortunes of the Russian Empire until the revolution, becoming part of USSR. The part of Armenia which remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, dashed the hopes of achieving independence and passed to revolutionary actions with the creation, in the late nineteenth century, of revolutionary committees modeled on Russian nihilists. Sultan Abdul-Hamid replied with a fierce repression and in August-September 1894 there was the first massacre of the Armenians, which was followed by the massacre of 1895-96. Between 1894 and 1896 a number between two and three hundred thousand Armenians were killed by Hamidiés (Kurdish battalions specially made by the sultan). This was the beginning of a series of massacres that would last, in a more or less strong way, for thirty years under three different Turks regimes.
The "Metz Yeghern" (Great Crime): the Armenian Genocide
With the rise to power of the "Union and Progress" party, the situation of the Armenians of Turkey continued to deteriorate: the "Young Turks" in fact began to advocate the ideal of the supremacy of the Turkish race in the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Imbued with the doctrines of Socialism and Marxism they studied in Europe, and disappointed by the loss of the Ottoman possessions in Europe, the party had indicated as the only expansion possibility the reunification of the Turk peoples living in Central Asia: Tatars, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, etc. It was mainly because of two main cultural matrixes that the ideology of Pan-Turkism was born. The first one was Marxism which inculcated the "Young Turks" of the idea of equality: because all Ottomans must be equal, then all Ottomans must be Turks, and all of them must be Muslims. The second one was the impossibility of maintaining and expanding the European domains, so they directed their attention to the Turks of the steppes of Central Asia aiming at the reunion to give birth to a pan-turkish magnitude that could go from the Bosphorus to China. The obstacles that stood in the way were made by the Armenian, Christian, Indo-European, and Kurdish minorities: Kurds, however, did not represent an insurmountable problem of assimilation because already Muslims, Armenians and Christians, on the other hand, in addition to profess a different religion, also possessed a millenary culture and their assimilation would not only be difficult, but their very presence prevented the unification with other populations of turkish blood. Therefore, they had to be eliminated.
The massacre of Adana took place in 1909, but, to definitely set the policy of annihilation, the Young Turks had to wait for a favorable opportunity: they found it in the outbreak of the First World War. At this point the Young Turks started the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians: the "Metz Yeghèrn", the Great Crime, the Genocide of Armenians. It is estimated that from 1915 to 1923 about 1,5 million people was massacred or deported and left to die in the Syrian desert: the first great genocide of the twentieth century. Many survivors took refuge in the Republic of Armenia, born as the result of the Armenian victory over the Turks in the Battle of Sardarapat and which survived for two years; but many took also refuge in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Europe and the United States. At the end of the war, the Allied powers, with the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, imposed to Turkey the granting of independence of the Armenians and the transfer of the Ottoman territories of Armenia. However, the treaty was rejected by the turkish national movement led by General Mustafa Kemal, who overthrew the Ottoman sultanate proclaiming a national secular republic with Ankara as capital. On the 24th of September of the same year, taking advantage of the war of Armenia against Azerbaijan, Turkey, with the support of Russia, began the so-called Armenian-Turkish war that ended with the Treaty of Alexandropol (2 December 1920), the 'today's Gyumri, which marked the Turkish victory and the cancellation of the concessions made in Sèvres. Immediately after,on December 4th, the Soviet Eleventh Army entered Armenia and occupied Yerevan, putting an end to the independent Democratic Republic and starting a domain that would last until the end of the first millennium.
Armenia was incorporated into the Soviet Union on March 4th, 1922 as part of the Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic, which included Georgia and Azerbaijan. Soon after, the Treaty of Alexandropol was replaced by the Treaty of Kars (11 September 1922), in which Turkey ceded to Russia the port of Batumi in return for the cities of Kars, Ardahan and Iğdır. The Soviet Armenia greatly benefited from the communist economic system, which transformed a predominantly agricultural economy into an industrial economy; during this period, many villages became cities. In 1936, the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic was dissolved and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia became independent republics of the USSR; it was at this stage that the Nagorno-Karabakh was given to Azerbaijan by Stalin laying the basis for the war of the 90s.
On April 24, 1965, thousands of Armenians protested in the streets of Yerevan during the fiftieth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, requesting the recognition of it by the government, but the Soviet troops entered the city and restored the order. To avoid further protests, the Kremlin agreed to erect a monument in honor of those who lost their lives in this atrocity. In 1967 a memorial was built in Yerevan, designed by the architects and Kalashian Mkrtchyan, consisting of a 44-meter stele that symbolizes the national rebirth of Armenians and twelve monoliths arranged in a circle to represent the twelve lost provinces now in the turkish territory. In the center of the circle an eternal flame burns in memory of the dead, while, along the path that leads to the monument, a memorial wall 100 meters long remembers the names of the villages where the killings took place.
The independence and the war for Nagorno Karabakh
On 23 August 1990, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia declared its independence, however, it wasn't officially recognized until 21 September 1991, the day when the new Republic of Armenia was proclaimed. However, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued to grow because of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, culminating in the outbreak of war between the two countries that, despite a cease-fire established in 1994, is still unresolved .
Armenia has undergone a remarkable development since independence, despite the blockade of the borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and since then it has been known as "the Tiger of the Caucasus" with a double digits growing rate. The development is funded by the international network of expats of the diaspora, who pay $ 1.5 billion each year: about 20% of GDP. Poverty is still widespread: to fight it the government supports exports focused on high technology and human capital and, although in the last five years the economic boom has been resized, Armenia is still a country with a strong growth thanks to the friendly relations maintained with the other neighboring Countries: Russia, Georgia and Iran.
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