History of Armenia
|History of Armenia|
Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan (Armenian: Հայաստան), translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name of the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya (ha-ià) and the Iranian suffix '-stan' ("land"). The historical enemy of Hayk (the legendary ruler of Armenia), Hayastan, was Bel, or in other words Baal (Akkadian cognate Bēlu). The word "Bel" is named in the Bible at Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 50:2 and 51:44.
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). In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1600–1200 BC). Soon after the Hayasa-Azzi were Arme-Shupria (1300s–1190 BC), the Nairi (1400–1000 BC) and the Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC), who successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by King Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Erebuni has been described as "designed as a great administrative and religious centre, a fully royal capital."
The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu (Assyrian for Ararat) was replaced by the Orontid dynasty. Following Persian and Macedonian rule, the Artaxiad dynasty from 190 BC gave rise to the Kingdom of Armenia which rose to the peak of its influence under Tigranes II before falling under Roman rule.
In 301, Arsacid Armenia was the first sovereign nation to accept Christianity as a state religion. The Armenians later fell under Byzantine, Persian, and Islamic hegemony, but reinstated their independence with the Bagratuni Dynasty kingdom of Armenia. 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.
Greater Armenia was later divided between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. In the early 20th century Armenians suffered in the genocide inflicted on them by the Ottoman government, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more dispersed throughout the world via Syria and Lebanon. Armenia, from then on corresponding to much of Eastern Armenia, regained independence in 1918, with the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia, and in 1991, the Republic of Armenia.
- 1 Prehistory
- 2 Antiquity
- 3 Middle Ages
- 4 Early Modern period
- 5 20th century
- 5.1 The Armenian Genocide (1915–1921)
- 5.2 First Republic of Armenia (1918–1920)
- 5.3 Georgian-Armenian War (1918)
- 5.4 Armenia in the Soviet Union (1922–1991)
- 6 Independent Armenia (1991-today)
- 7 Legendary history
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Stone tools from 325,000 years ago have been found in Armenia which indicate the presence of ealy humans at this time. In the 1960s excavations in the Yerevan 1 Cave uncovered evidence of ancient human habitation, including the remains of a 48,000 year old hearth, and a human cranial fragment and tooth of a similar age.
The Armenian Highland shows traces of settlement from the Neolithic era. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and 2011 have resulted in the discovery of the world's earliest known leather shoe (3,500 BC), straw skirt (3,900 BC), and wine-making facility (4,000 BC) at the Areni-1 cave complex.
An early Bronze Age culture in the area is the Kura-Araxes culture, assigned to the period of c. 4000 – 2200 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread to Georgia by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), proceeding westward and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van. The name Armenian was firstly recorded on an inscription which mentions Armani together with Ibla, from territories conquered by Naram-Sin (2300 BC) identified with an Akkadian colony in the current region of Diyarbekir. To this day the Assyrians still refer to the Armenians by the name Armani. The word is also thought to be related to the Mannaeans and to the biblical Minni.
The earliest forms of the word Hayastan, an ethonym the Armenians (Hayer) use to designate their country, come from Hittite sources of the Late Bronze Age, such as the kingdom of Hayasa-Azzi. Another record mentioned by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land "heaven rests upon its four pillars".
Between 1500 – 1200 BC, the Hayasa-Azzi existed in the western half of the Armenian Highland, often clashing with the Hittite Empire. Between 1200 – 800 BC, much of Armenia was united under a confederation of kingdoms, which Assyrian sources called Nairi ("Land of Rivers" in Assyrian").
The Kingdom of Urartu flourished in the Western Asia and eastern Asia Minor between the 9th century BC and 585 BC in the Armenian Highland. The founder of the Urartian Kingdom, Aramé, united all the principalities of the Armenian Highland and gave himself the title "King of Kings", the traditional title of Urartian Kings. The Urartians established their sovereignty over all of Taron and Vaspurakan. The main rival of Urartu was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
During the reign of Sarduri I (834–828 BC), Urartu had become a strong and organized state, and imposed taxes to neighbouring tribes. Sarduri made Tushpa (modern Van) the capital of Urartu. His son, Ishpuinis, extended the borders of the state by conquering what would later be known as the Tigranocerta area and by reaching Urmia. Menuas (810–785 BC) extended the Urartian territory up north, by spreading towards the Araratian fields. He left more than 90 inscriptions by using the Mesopotamian cuneiform scriptures in the Urartian language. Argishtis I of Urartu conquered Latakia from the Hittites, and reached Byblos, Phoenicia, and he built the Erebuni Fortress, located in modern-day Yerevan, in 782 BC by using 6600 prisoners of war.
In 714 BC, the Assyrians under Sargon II defeated the Urartian King Rusa I at Lake Urmia and destroyed the holy Urartian temple at Musasir. At the same time, an Indo-European tribe called the Cimmerians attacked Urartu from the northwest region and destroyed the rest of his armies. Under Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC) the boundaries of the Assyrian Empire reached as far as Armenia and the Caucasus Mountains.
The Medes under Cyaxares invaded Assyria later on in 612 BC, and then took over the Urartian capital of Van towards 585 BC, effectively ending the sovereignty of Urartu. According to the Armenian tradition, the Medes helped the Armenians establish the Orontid dynasty.
After the fall of Urartu around 585 BC, the Satrapy of Armenia was ruled by the Armenian Orontid Dynasty, which governed the state in 585–190 BC. Under the Orontids, Armenia at times was an independent kingdom, and at other times a satrapy of the Persian Empire. Darius III was an Armenian satrap before he became the emperor of Persia.
After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, a Hellenistic Armenian state was founded in 190 BC.
The new kings began a program of expansion which was to reach its zenith a century later. Their acquisitions are summarized by Strabo. Zariadris acquired Acilisene and the "country around the Antitaurus", possibly the district of Muzur or west of the Euphrates.
Artaxias took lands from the Medes, Iberians, and Syrians. He then had confrontations with Pontus, Seleucid Syria and Cappadocia, and was included in the treaty which followed the victory of a group of Anatolian kings over Pharnaces of Pontus in 181 BC. Pharnaces thus abandoned all of his gains in the west.
At its zenith, from 95 to 66 BC, Greater Armenia extended its rule over parts of the Caucasus and the area that is now eastern and central Turkey, northwestern Iran, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, forming the second Armenian empire. For a time, Armenia was one of the most powerful states in the Roman East.
It eventually confronted the Roman Republic in a war, which it lost in 66 BC, but nonetheless preserved its sovereignty. Tigranes continued to rule Armenia as an ally of Rome until his death in 55 BC.
Later on, in 1 AD, Armenia came under full Roman control until the establishment of the Armenian Arsacid dynasty. The Armenian people then adopted a Western political, philosophical, and religious orientation. According to Strabo, around this time everyone in Armenia spoke "the same language." (Strabo 11.14.4).
Roman Province of Armenia
From Pompeius' campaign Armenia was, in part or whole, subject to the Roman Empire for nearly four centuries. Roman emperor Trajan created even a short-lived Province of Armenia between 114 and 117 AD.
Indeed Roman supremacy was fully established by the campaigns of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, that ended with a formal compromise: a Parthian prince of the Arsacid line would henceforth sit on the Armenian throne, but his nomination had to be approved by the Roman emperor.
Because this agreement was not respected by the Parthian Empire, in 114 Trajan from Antiochia in Syria marched on Armenia and conquered the capital Artaxata. Trajan then deposed the Armenian king Partamasiri (imposed by the Parthians) and ordered the annexation of Armenia to the Roman Empire as a new province.
The new province reached the shores of the Caspian sea and bordered to the north with Caucasian Iberia and Caucasian Albania, two vassal states of Rome. As a Roman province Armenia was administered by Catilius Severus of the Gens Claudia.
Under Nero, the Romans fought a campaign (55–63) against the Parthian Empire, which had invaded the kingdom of Armenia, allied to the Romans. After gaining (60) and losing (62) Armenia, the Romans under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, legate of Syria entered (63) into an agreement of Vologases I of Parthia, which confirmed Tiridates I as king of Armenia, thus founding the Arshakuni Dynasty.
The Arsacid dynasty lost control of Armenia for a few years when emperor Trajan created the "Roman Province of Armenia", fully included into the Roman Empire from 114 to 117 AD. His successor Hadrian reinstalled the Arsacid Dynasty when nominated Parthamaspates as "vassal" king of Armenia in 118 AD.
Another campaign was led by Emperor Lucius Verus in 162–165, after Vologases IV of Parthia had invaded Armenia and installed his chief general on its throne. To counter the Parthian threat, Verus set out for the east. His army won significant victories and retook the capital. Sohaemus, a Roman citizen of Armenian heritage, was installed as the new client king.
The Sassanid Persians occupied Armenia in 252 and held it until the Romans returned in 287. In 384 the kingdom was split between the Byzantine or East Roman Empire and the Persians. Western Armenia quickly became a province of the Roman Empire under the name of Armenia Minor; Eastern Armenia remained a kingdom within Persia until 428, when the local nobility overthrew the king, and the Sassanids installed a governor in his place.
According to tradition, the Armenian Apostolic Church was established by two of Jesus' twelve apostles—Thaddaeus and Bartholomew—who preached Christianity in Armenia in the 40s—60s AD. Between 1st and 4th centuries AD, the Armenian Church was headed by patriarchs.
Christianized Arsacid dynasty
In 301, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion. It established a church that today exists independently of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, having become so in 451 after having rejected the Council of Chalcedon. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, not to be confused with the Eastern Orthodox communion. The first Catholicos of the Armenian church was Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Because of his beliefs, he was persecuted by the pagan king of Armenia, and was "punished" by being thrown in Khor Virap, in modern-day Armenia. He acquired the title of Illuminator, because he illuminated the spirits of Armenians by introducing Christianity to them.
During its later political eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique identity.
In 405/406, Armenia's political future seemed to be uncertain. With the help of the King of Armenia, Mesrop Mashtots thus invented a unique alphabet to suit the people's needs. By doing so, he ushered a new Golden Age and strengthened Armenian national identity.
After years of partial rule, the Arsacid dynasty fell in 428, with Eastern Armenia being subjugated to Persia and Western Armenia, to Rome. In the 5th century, the Sassanid Shah Yazdegerd II tried to tie his Christian Armenian subjects more closely to the Sassanid Empire by imposing the Zoroastrian religion. The Armenians greatly resented this, and as a result, a rebellion broke out with Vartan Mamikonian as the leader of the rebels. Yazdegerd thus massed his army and sent it to Armenia, where the Battle of Avarayr took place in 451. The 66,000 Armenian rebels, mostly peasants, lost their morale when Mamikonian himself died in the battlefield. They were substantially outnumbered by the 180,00–220,000-strong Persian army of Immortals and war elephants. Despite being a military defeat, the Battle of Avarayr and the subsequent guerrilla war in Armenia eventually resulted in the Treaty of Nvarsak (484), which guaranteed religious freedom to the Armenians.
Byzantium and Bagratid Armenia
In 591, the Byzantine Emperor Maurice defeated the Persians and recovered much of the remaining territory of Armenia into the empire. The conquest was completed by the Emperor Heraclius, himself ethnically Armenian, in 629.
In 645, the Muslim Arab armies of the Caliphate had attacked and conquered the country. Armenia, which once had its own rulers and was at other times under Persian and Byzantine control, passed largely into the power of the Caliphs.
Nonetheless, there were still parts of Armenia held within the Empire, containing many Armenians. This population held tremendous power within the empire. The Emperor Heraclius (610–641) was of Armenian descent, as was the Emperor Philippicus (711–713). The Emperor Basil I, who took the Byzantine throne in 867, was the first of what is sometimes called the Armenian dynasty (see Macedonian Dynasty), reflecting the strong effect the Armenians had on the Eastern Roman State. The Armenians were able and allowed to maintain a distinct culture.
Evolving as a feudal kingdom in the 9th century, Armenia experienced a brief cultural, political and economic renewal under the Bagratuni Dynasty. Bagratid Armenia was eventually recognized as a sovereign kingdom by the two major powers in the region: Baghdad in 885, and Constantinople in 886. Ani, the new Armenian capital, was constructed at the Kingdom's apogee in 964. The royal capital at Ani held approximately 200,000 inhabitants and a reported "1001 churches". With the construction of Ani, Armenia became a populous and prosperous nation, exerting political and economic influence over surrounding states and nations. Yet Armenia was still a weak state, perched precariously between the rival Byzantine Empire and the Abbassid Caliphate. Its existence depended on both of these states desiring the continuation of Bagratid Armenia as a buffer state, and Armenia itself being strong enough to maintain this status.
Although the native Bagratuni Dynasty was founded under favourable circumstances, the feudal system gradually weakened the country by eroding loyalty to the central government. Thus internally enfeebled, Armenia proved an easy victim for the Byzantines, who captured Ani in 1045. The Seljuk Turks under Alp Arslan in turn took the city in 1064. In 1071, after the defeat of the Byzantine forces by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert, the Turks captured the rest of Greater Armenia and much of Anatolia. So ended Christian leadership of Armenia for the next millennium with the exception of a period of the late 12th-early 13th centuries, when the Muslim power in Greater Armenia was seriously troubled by the resurgent Georgian monarchy. Many local nobles (nakharars) joined their efforts with the Georgians, leading to liberation of several areas in northern Armenia, which was ruled, under the authority of the Georgian crown, by the Zacharids/Mkhargrdzeli, a prominent Armeno-Georgian noble family.
Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
To escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II, King of Ani, an Armenian named Roupen with some of his countrymen went into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia. Here the Byzantine governor of the place gave them shelter. Thus, from around 1080 to 1375, the focus of Armenian nationalism moved south, as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.
After the members of the first Crusade appeared in Asia Minor, the Armenians developed close ties to European Crusader States, flourished in southeastern Asia Minor until it was conquered by Muslim states. Count Baldwin, who with the rest of the Crusaders was passing through Asia Minor bound for Jerusalem, left the Crusader army and was adopted by Thoros of Edessa, an Armenian ruler of Greek Orthodox faith. Hostile as they were to the Seljuks, and unfriendly to the Byzantines, the Armenians took kindly to the crusader count, and when Thoros was assassinated, Baldwin was made ruler of the new crusader County of Edessa. It seems that the Armenians enjoyed the rule of Baldwin and the crusaders in general, and some number of them fought alongside the crusaders. When Antioch had been taken (1097), Constantine, the son of Roupen, received from the crusaders the title of baron.
The Third Crusade and other events elsewhere left Cilicia as the sole substantial Christian presence in the Middle East. World powers, such as Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy and even the Abbassid Caliph competed and vied for influence over the state and each raced to be the first to recognise Leo II, Prince of Lesser Armenia, as the rightful king. As a result, he had been given a crown by both German and Byzantine emperors. Representatives from across Christendom and a number of Muslim states attended the coronation, thus highlighting the important stature that Cilicia had gained over time. The Armenian authority was often in touch with the crusaders. No doubt the Armenians aided in some of the other crusades. Cilicia flourished greatly under Armenian rule, as it became the last remnant of Medieval Armenian statehood. Cilcia acquired an Armenian identity, as the kings of Cilicia were called kings of Armenians, not of Cilicians. In Lesser Armenia, Armenian culture was intertwined with both the European culture of the Crusaders, and with the Hellenic culture of Cilicia. As the Catholic families extended their influence over Cilicia, the Pope wanted the Armenians to follow Catholicism. This situation divided the kingdom's inhabitants between pro-Catholic and pro-Apostolic camps. Armenian sovereignty lasted until 1375, when the Mamelukes of Egypt profited from the unstable situation of Lesser Armenia and destroyed it.
Early Modern period
Due to its strategic significance, the historical Armenian homeland of Western Armenia and Eastern Armenia was constantly fought over and passed back and forth between the dominion of Persia and the Ottomans. For example, at the height of the Ottoman-Persian wars, Yerevan changed hands fourteen times between 1513 and 1737.
In 1604, Shah Abbas I pursued a scorched-earth campaign against the Ottomans in the Ararat valley. The old Armenian town of Julfa in the province of Nakhichevan was taken early in the invasion. From there Abbas' army fanned out across the Araratian plain. The Shah pursued a careful strategy, advancing and retreating as the occasion demanded, determined not to risk his enterprise in a direct confrontation with stronger enemy forces.
While laying siege to Kars, he learned of the approach of a large Ottoman army, commanded by Djghazadé Sinan Pasha. The order to withdraw was given; but to deny the enemy the potential to resupply themselves from the land, he ordered the wholesale destruction of the Armenian towns and farms on the plain. As part of this the whole population was ordered to accompany the Persian army in its withdrawal. Some 300,000 people were duly herded to the banks of the Araxes River. Those who attempted to resist the mass deportation were killed outright. The Shah had previously ordered the destruction of the only bridge, so people were forced into the waters, where a great many drowned, carried away by the currents, before reaching the opposite bank. This was only the beginning of their ordeal. One eye-witness, Father de Guyan, describes the predicament of the refugees thus:
- It was not only the winter cold that was causing torture and death to the deportees. The greatest suffering came from hunger. The provisions which the deportees had brought with them were soon consumed... The children were crying for food or milk, none of which existed, because the women's breasts had dried up from hunger... Many women, hungry and exhausted, would leave their famished children on the roadside, and continue their tortuous journey. Some would go to nearby forests in search of something to eat. Usually they would not come back. Often those who died, served as food for the living.
Unable to maintain his army on the desolate plain, Sinan Pasha was forced to winter in Van. Armies sent in pursuit of the Shah in 1605 were defeated, and by 1606 Abbas had regained all of the territory lost to the Turks earlier in his reign. The scorched-earth tactic had worked, though at a terrible cost to the Armenian people. Of the 300,000 deported it is calculated that under half survived the march to Isfahan. In the conquered territories Abbas established the Erivan khanate, a Muslim principality under the dominion of the Safavid Empire. Armenians formed less than 20% of its population as a result of Shah Abbas I's deportation of much of the Armenian population from the Ararat valley and the surrounding region in 1605.
An often-used policy by the Persians was the appointment of Turks as local rulers as so called khans of their various khanates. These were counted as subordinate to the Persian Empire. Examples include: the Khanate of Erevan, Khanate of Nakhichevan and the Karabakh Khanate.
In the aftermath of the Russo-Persian War, 1826-1828, the parts of historic Armenia under Persian control, centering on Yerevan and Lake Sevan, were incorporated into Russia. Under Russian rule, the area corresponding approximately to modern-day Armenian territory was called "Province of Yerevan". The Armenian subjects of the Russian Empire lived in relative safety, compared to their Ottoman kin, albeit clashes with Tatars and Kurds were frequent in the early 20th century.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the ambitious Russians sought out to continue their expansion into Armenian land in order to reach the warm waters of the Mediterranean. This caused conflict between the Russian and Ottoman Empires eventually culminating in the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829. In the aftermath of the war, the Ottoman Empire ceded a small part of the traditional Armenian homeland to the Russian Empire, known as Eastern Armenia following the while Western Armenia remained under Ottoman sovereignty.
Mehmed II conquered Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453, and made it the Ottoman Empire's capital. Mehmed and his successors used the religious systems of their subject nationalities as a method of population control, and so Ottoman Sultans invited an Armenian archbishop to establish the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Armenians of Constantinople grew in numbers, and became respected, if not full, members of Ottoman society.
The Ottoman Empire ruled in accordance to Islamic law. As such, the People of the Book (the Christians and the Jews) had to pay an extra tax to fulfill their status as dhimmi and in return were guaranteed religious autonomy. While the Armenians of Constantinople benefitted from the Sultan's support and grew to be a prospering community, the same could not be said about the ones inhabiting historic Armenia. During times of crisis the ones in the remote regions of mountainous eastern Anatolia were mistreated by local Kurdish chiefs and feudal lords. They often also had to suffer (alongside the settled Muslim population) raids by nomadic Kurdish tribes. Armenians, like the other Ottoman Christians (though not to the same extent), had to transfer some of their healthy male children to the Sultan's government due to the devşirme policies in place. The boys were then forced to convert to Islam (by threat of death otherwise) and educated to be fierce warriors in times of war, as well as Beys, Pashas and even Grand Viziers in times of peace.
The Armenian national liberation movement was the Armenian effort to free the historic Armenian homeland of eastern Anatolia and Transcaucasus from Russian and Ottoman domination and re-establish the independent Armenian state. The national liberation movement of the Balkan peoples and the immediate involvement of the European powers in the Eastern question had a powerful effect on the development of the national liberation ideology movement among the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian national movement, besides its individual heroes, was an organized activity represented around three parties of Armenian people, Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Armenakan and Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which ARF was the largest and most influential among the three. Those Armenians who did not support national liberation aspirations or who were neutral were called chezoks.
In 1839, the situation of the Ottoman Armenians slightly improved after Abdul Mejid I carried out Tanzimat reforms in its territories. However, later Sultans, such as Abdul Hamid II stopped the reforms and carried out massacres, now known as the Hamidian massacres of 1895–96 after a failed Armenian attempt to assassinate him.
The Armenian Genocide (1915–1921)
In 1915, the Ottoman Empire systematically carried out the Armenian Genocide. This was preceded by a wave of massacres in the years 1894 to 1896, and another one in 1909 in Adana. In 1915, with World War I in progress, the Ottoman Turks accused the (Christian) Armenians as liable to ally with Russia, and treated the entire Armenian population as an enemy within their empire.
The events of 1915 to 1923 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings. Turkish authorities, however, maintain that the deaths were the result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides.
The exact numbers of deaths is hard to establish. It is estimated by many sources that close to a million and a half Armenians perished in camps, which excludes Armenians who may have died in other ways. Most estimates place the total number of deaths between 600,000 (by Turkish authorities) and 1,500,000 (by Western academics). These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on April 24, "Red Sunday."
First Republic of Armenia (1918–1920)
Between the 4th and 19th centuries, the traditional area of Armenia was conquered and ruled by Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, among others. Parts of historical Armenia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire after the collapse of these two empires in the wake of the First World War.
Transcaucasian Federation (1917–1918)
During the Russian Revolution, the provinces of the Caucasus seceded and formed their own federal state called the Transcaucasian Federation. Competing national interests and war with Turkey led to the dissolution of the republic half a year later, in April 1918.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the takeover of the Bolsheviks, Stepan Shaumyan was placed in charge of Russian Armenia. In September 1917, the convention in Tiflis elected the Armenian National Council, the first sovereign political body of Armenians since the collapse of Lesser Armenia in 1375. Meanwhile, both the Ittihad (Unionist) and the Nationalists moved to win the friendship of the Bolsheviks. Mustafa Kemal sent several delegations to Moscow in an attempt to win some support for his own post-Ottoman movement in what he saw as a modernised ethno-nationalist Turkey. This alliance proved disastrous for the Armenians. The signing of the Ottoman-Russian friendship treaty (January 1, 1918), helped Vehib Pasha to attack the new Republic. Under heavy pressure from the combined forces of the Ottoman army and the Kurdish irregulars, the Republic was forced to withdraw from Erzincan to Erzurum. In the end, the Republic had to evacuate Erzurum as well.
Further southeast, in Van, the Armenians resisted the Turkish army until April 1918, but eventually were forced to evacuate it and withdraw to Persia. Conditions deteriorated when Azerbaijani Tatars sided with the Turks and seized the Armenian's lines of communication, thus cutting off the Armenian National Councils in Baku and Yerevan from the National Council in Tiflis.
The First Republic of Armenia was established on May 28, 1918.
Georgian-Armenian War (1918)
During the final stages of World War I, the Armenians and Georgians had been defending against the advance of the Ottoman Empire. In June 1918, in order to forestall an Ottoman advance on Tiflis, the Georgian troops had occupied the Lori Province which at the time had a 75% Armenian majority. After the Armistice of Mudros and the withdrawal of the Ottomans, the Georgian forces remained. Georgian Menshevik parlementarian Irakli Tsereteli offered that the Armenians would be safer from the Turks as Georgian citizens. The Georgians offered a quadripartite conference including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus in order to resolve the issue which the Armenians rejected. In December 1918, the Georgians were confronting a rebellion chiefly in the village of Uzunlar in the Lori region. Within days, hostilities commenced between the two republics.
The Georgian-Armenian War was a border war fought in 1918 between the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the First Republic of Armenia over the parts of then disputed provinces of Lori, Javakheti which had been historically bicultural Armenian-Georgian territories, but were largely populated by Armenians in the 19th century.
A considerable degree of hostility existed between Armenia and its new neighbor to the east, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, stemming largely from racial, religious, cultural and societal differences. The Azeris had close ethnic and religious ties to the Turks and had provided material support for them in their drive to Baku in 1918. Although the borders of the two countries were still undefined, Azerbaijan claimed most of the territory Armenia was sitting on, demanding all or most parts of the former Russian provinces of Elizavetpol, Tiflis, Yerevan, Kars and Batum. As diplomacy failed to accomplish compromise, even with the mediation of the commanders of a British expeditionary force that had installed itself in the Caucasus, territorial clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place throughout 1919 and 1920, most notably in the regions of Nakhichevan, Karabakh, and Syunik (Zangezur). Repeated attempts to bring these provinces under Azerbaijani jurisdiction were met with fierce resistance by their Armenian inhabitants. In May 1919, Dro led an expeditionary unit that was successful in establishing Armenian administrative control in Nakhichevan.
South West Caucasian Republic
While problems with Azerbaijan continued, a new state headed by Fakhr al-Din Pirioghlu and centered in Kars, the South West Caucasian Republic was established. It claimed the territory around the regions of Kars and Batum, parts of the Yerevan district and the Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki districts of the Tiflis province. It existed alongside with the British general governorship created during the Entente's intervention in Transcaucasia. It was abolished by British High Commissioner Admiral Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe in April 1919 and the region was assigned to the Armenian Republic.
Treaty of Sèvres
The Treaty of Sèvres was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres, France on August 10, 1920. The treaty included a clause on Armenia: it made all parties signing the treaty recognize Armenia as a free and independent state. The drawing of definite borders was, however, left to President Woodrow Wilson and the United States State Department, and was only presented to Armenia on November 22. The new borders gave Armenia access to the Black Sea and awarded large portions of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire to the republic. The Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the Ottoman Government, but Sultan Mehmed VI never signed it and thus never came into effect. The Turkish Revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, began the Turkish National Movement which, in opposing any territorial concessions to either the Greeks or the Armenians, moved forward with their plans to crush the Armenian republic.
Turkish-Armenian War (1920)
In 1920, Armenian border troops skirmished with Muslim warlords in the former Georgian region of Oltu, on the border with the First Republic of Armenia. Turkish General Kazım Karabekir then led four Turkish battalions into the district on September 3 and drove the Armenians out. The Turkish Revolutionaries alleged that the Turks inside Armenia were being mistreated and oppressed by the Armenians. On September 20, 1920, the Turkish General Kazım Karabekir invaded the region of Sarikamish. In response, Armenia declared war on Turkey on September 24 and the Turkish invasion of Armenia (1920) began. In the regions of Oltu, Sarikamish, Kars, Alexandropol (Gyumri) Armenian forces clashed with those of Karabekir’s armies. Mustafa Kemal Pasha had sent several delegations to Moscow in search of an alliance, where he had found a receptive response by the Soviet government, which started sending gold and weapons to the Turkish revolutionaries. This proved disastrous for the Armenians.
Armenia gave way to communist power in late 1920. In November 1920, the Turkish revolutionaries captured Alexandropol and were poised to move in on the capital. A cease fire was concluded on November 18. Negotiations were then carried out between Karabekir and a peace delegation led by Alexander Khatisian in Alexandropol; although Karabekir’s terms were extremely harsh the Armenian delegation had little recourse but to agree to them. The Treaty of Alexandropol was thus signed on December 2/3, 1920.
The consequences of Armenia's war with Turkey were severe. In the Treaty of Alexandropol, the young Armenian republic was to disarm most of its military forces, cede more than 50% of its pre-war territory, and to give up all the territories granted to it at the Treaty of Sèvres.
However, as the terms of defeat were being negotiated, Bolshevik Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze invaded from Azerbaijan the First Republic of Armenia in order to establish a new pro-Bolshevik government in the country. The 11th Red Army began its virtually unopposed advance into Armenia on November 29, 1920 at Karavansarai. The actual transfer of power took place on December 2 in Yerevan. The Armenian leadership approved an ultimatum, presented to it by the Soviet plenipotentiary Boris Legran. Armenia decided to join the Soviet sphere, while Soviet Russia agreed to protect its remaining territory from the advancing Turkish army. The Soviets also pledged to take steps to rebuild the army, protect the Armenians and to not pursue non-communist Armenians, although the final condition of this pledge was reneged when the Dashnaks were forced out of the country. On December 5, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (Revkom, made up of mostly Armenians from Azerbaijan) also entered the city. Finally, on the following day, December 6, Felix Dzerzhinsky's Cheka, entered Yerevan, thus effectively ending the existence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. At that point what was left of Armenia was under the influence of the Bolsheviks.
Although the Bolsheviks succeeded in ousting the Turks from their positions in Armenia, they decided to establish peace with Turkey. In 1921, the Bolsheviks and the Turks signed the Treaty of Kars, in which Turkey ceded Adjara to the USSR in exchange for the Kars territory (today the Turkish provinces of Kars, Iğdır, and Ardahan). The land given to Turkey included the ancient city of Ani and Mount Ararat, the spiritual Armenian homeland. In 1922, the newly proclaimed Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, under the leadership of Alexander Miasnikyan, became part of the Soviet Union as one of three republics comprising the Transcaucasian SFSR.
Armenia in the Soviet Union (1922–1991)
The Transcaucasian SFSR was dissolved in 1936 and as a result Armenia became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union as the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. The transition to communism was difficult for Armenia, and for most of the other republics in the Soviet Union. The Soviet authorities placed Armenians under strict surveillance. There was almost no freedom of speech, even less so under Joseph Stalin. Any individual who was suspected of using or introducing nationalist rhetoric or elements in their works were labeled traitors or propangandists, and were sent to Siberia during Stalinist rule. Even Zabel Yessayan, a writer who was fortunate enough to escape from ethnic cleansing during the Armenian Genocide, was quickly exiled to Siberia after repatriating to Armenia from France.
Soviet Armenia participated in World War II by sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the frontline in order to defend the "Soviet motherland." Soviet rule also had some positive aspects. Armenia benefited from the Soviet economy, especially when it was at its apex. Provincial villages gradually became towns and towns gradually became cities. Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan was reached, albeit temporarily. During this time, Armenia had a sizeable Azeri minority, mostly centred in Yerevan. Likewise, Azerbaijan had an Armenian minority, concentrated in Baku, Kirovabad. Many Armenians still had nationalist sentiments, even though they were discouraged from expressing them publicly. On April 24, 1965, tens of thousands of Armenians flooded the streets of Yerevan to remind the world of the horrors that their parents and grandparents endured during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This was the first public demonstration of such high numbers in the USSR, which defended national interests rather than collective ones. In the late 1980s, Armenia was suffering from pollution. With Mikhail Gorbachev's introduction of glasnost and perestroika, public demonstrations became more common. Thousands of Armenians demonstrated in Yerevan because of the USSR's inability to address simple ecological concerns. Later on, with the conflict in Karabakh, the demonstrations obtained a more nationalistic flavour. Many Armenians began to demand statehood.
In 1988, the Spitak Earthquake killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed multiple towns in northern Armenia, such as Leninakan (modern-day Gyumri) and Spitak. Many families were left without electricity and running water. The harsh situation caused by the earthquake and subsequent events made many residents of Armenia leave and settle in North America, Western Europe or Australia.
On February 20, 1988, interethnic fighting between the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijanis broke out shortly after the parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous oblast in Azerbaijan, voted to unify the region with Armenia. The Nagorno-Karabakh war pitted Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, backed by Armenia, against the Army of Azerbaijan.
Independent Armenia (1991-today)
Armenia declared its sovereignty from the Soviet Union on August 23, 1990. In the wake of the August Coup, a referendum was held on the question of secession. Following an overwhelming vote in favor, full independence was declared on September 21, 1991. However, widespread recognition did not occur until the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991.
Armenia faced many challenges during its first years as a sovereign state. Several Armenian organizations from around the world quickly arrived to offer aid and to participate in the country's early years. From Canada, a group of young students and volunteers under the CYMA - Canadian Youth Mission to Armenia banner arrived in Ararat Region and became the first youth organization to contribute to the newly independent Republic.
Following the Armenian victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, both Azerbaijan and Turkey closed their borders and imposed a blockade which they retain to this day, though in October 2009 Turkey and Armenia signed a treaty to normalize relations. These events severely affected the economy of the fledgling republic, and closed off its main routes to Europe.
Ter-Petrosyan Presidency (1991–1998)
Levon Ter-Petrosyan was popularly elected the first President of the newly independent Republic of Armenia on October 16, 1991 and re-elected on September 22, 1996. His re-election was marred by allegations of electoral fraud reported by the opposition and supported by many international observers. His popularity waned further as the opposition started blaming him for the economic quagmire that Armenia's post-Soviet economy was in. He was also unpopular with one party in particular, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which he banned and jailed on the grounds that the party had a foreign-based leadership—something which was forbidden according to the Armenian Constitution.
Ter-Petrosyan was forced to step down in February 1998 after advocating compromised settlement of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh which many Armenians regarded as undermining their security. Ter-Petrosyan's key ministers, led by then-Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, refused to accept a peace plan for Karabakh put forward by international mediators in September 1997. The plan, accepted by Ter-Petrosyan and Azerbaijan, called for a "phased" settlement of the conflict which would postpone an agreement on Karabakh's status, the main stumbling block. That agreement was to accompany the return of most Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territories around Karabakh and the lifting of the Azerbaijani and Turkish blockades of Armenia.
Kocharyan Presidency (1998–2008)
After the resignation of his predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Robert Kocharyan was elected Armenia's second President on March 30, 1998, defeating his main rival, Karen Demirchyan, in an early presidential election marred by irregularities and violations by both sides as reported by international electoral observers. Complaints included that Kocharyan had not been an Armenian citizen for ten years as required by the constitution.,
During his presidency, several opposition leaders in the Armenian Parliament and the Prime Minister of Armenia were killed by gunmen in an episode known as the 1999 Armenian parliament shooting. Kocharyan himself negotiated with terrorists to lease the MP hostages. It is widely believed by Armenians at large that Kocharyan is responsible for the parliament shooting.
The 2003 Armenian Presidential election were held on February 19 and March 5, 2003. No candidate received a majority in the first round of the election with the incumbent President Kocharyan winning slightly under 50% of the vote. Therefore a second round was held and Kocharyan defeated Stepan Demirchyan with official results showed him winning just over 67% of the vote. In both rounds, electoral observers from the OSCE reported significant amounts of electoral fraud by Demirchyan's supporters and numerous supporters of Demirchyan were arrested before the second round took place. Demirchyan described the election as having been rigged and called on his supporters to rally against the results. Tens of thousands of Armenians protested in the days after the election against the results and called on President Kocharyan to step down. However Kocharyn was sworn in for a second term in early April and the constitutional court upheld the election, while recommending that a referendum be held within a year to confirm the election result.
As President, Kocharyan continued to negotiate a peaceful resolution with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Talks between Aliyev and Kocharyan were held in September 2004 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the sidelines of the CIS summit. Reportedly, one of the suggestions put forward was the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the Azeri territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, and holding referendums (plebiscites) in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan proper regarding the future status of the region. On February 10–11, 2006, Kocharyan and Aliyev met in Rambouillet, France to discuss the fundamental principles of a settlement to the conflict, including the withdrawal of troops, formation of international peace keeping troops, and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Contrary to the initial optimism, the Rambouillet talks did not produce any agreement, with key issues such as the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and whether Armenian troops would withdraw from Kalbajar still being contentious. The next session of the talks was held in March 2006 in Washington, D.C. Russian President, Vladimir Putin applied pressure to both parties to settle the disputes. No progress arose from further meetings in Minsk and Moscow in November 2006.
Sargsyan Presidency (2008)
Serzh Sargsyan, then Prime Minister of Armenia and having President Kocharyan's backing, was viewed as the strongest contender for the post of the President of Armenia in the February 2008 presidential election.
Ter-Petrosyan officially announced his candidacy in the 2008 presidential election in a speech in Yerevan on October 26, 2007. He accused Kocharyan's government of massive corruption, involving the theft of "at least three to four billion dollars" over the previous five years. He was critical of the government's claims of strong economic growth and argued that Kocharyan and his Prime Minister, Serge Sargsyan, had come to accept a solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh that was effectively the same solution that he had proposed ten years earlier. A number of opposition parties have rallied behind him since his return to the political arena, including the People's Party of Armenia led by Stepan Demirchian, Armenian Republic Party led by Aram Sargsyan, Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, "Azadakrum" movement for Jirair Sefilian, "New Times" Party and the Heritage Party, led by Raffi Hovannisian.
Final results from the election, which was held on February 19, 2008, officially showed Sargsyan winning about 53% of the vote, and Ter-Petrosyan in second place with 21.5% of the vote. Ter-Petrosyan and his supporters accused the government of rigging the election and claimed victory; beginning on February 20, he led continuous protests involving tens of thousands of his supporters in Yerevan. On the early morning of March 1, reportedly acting on evidence of firearms in the camp, the authorities moved in to inspect the tents set up by demonstrators. Law enforcement agents then violently dispersed the hundreds of protestors camped in. Ter-Petrosyan was placed under de facto house arrest, not being allowed to leave his home, though the authorities later denied the allegations. A few hours later, tens of thousands of protestors or more gathered at Miyasnikyan Square to protest the government's act. Police, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd, pulled out. A state of emergency was implemented by President Kocharyan at 5pm, allowing the army to be moved into the capital. At night, a few thousand protestors barricaded themselves using commandeered municipal buses. As a result of skirmishes with the police, ten people died, including policemen.  This was followed by mass arrests and purges of prominent members of the opposition, as well as a de facto ban on any further anti-government protests. Sargsyan was recognized as legitimate president.
On October 10, 2009, the Turkish-Armenian protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations constituted a novelty in Turkish-Armenian relations. Sargsyan accepted the proposal of studying the issue of the Armenian genocide through a commission, and recognized the current Turkish-Armenian border.
In 2011, protests erupted in Armenia as part of the revolutionary wave sweeping through the Middle East. Protesters continue to demand an investigation into the 2008 violence, the release of political prisoners, an improvement in socioeconomic conditions, and the institution of democratic reforms. The Armenian National Congress and Heritage have been influential in organizing and leading protests.
The legendary founder of Armenia was Hayk, a chieftain who called on his kinsmen to unite into a single nation, thus forming Armenia. Ararat was the mountain around which was centered Urartu and subsequent kingdoms, and is still considered sacred by the Armenians.
The original Armenian name for the country was Hayq, later Hayastan, translated as the land of Hayk, and consisting of the name Haik and the Iranian suffix '-stan' (land). According to legend, Haik was a great-great-grandson of Noah (son of Togarmah, who was a son of Gomer, a son of Noah's son, Yafet), and according to tradition, a forefather of all Armenians. Mount Ararat, a sacred mountain for the Armenian people, rising in the center of the Armenian Highland as its highest peak, is traditionally considered the landing place of Noah's Ark.
- Armenian Rebellions
- Dissolution of the Soviet Union
- History of Azerbaijan
- History of the Caucasus
- History of Georgia (country)
- History of Iran
- History of Nagorno-Karabakh
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- List of Armenian Kings
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- List of Patriarchs of Armenia
- Politics of Armenia
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- Timeline of Armenian history
- Timeline of Armenian national movement
- Zakarid Armenia
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However, political observers across the world speculate that Sarkissian was hoping to take a stronger position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue than Kocharian liked. Many Armenians believe the shootings were the result of a conspiracy, in which Kocharian was involved. They note that some of Kocharian's main political rivals at the time were among those killed.
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