“Apricot Mountains”

ArmeniaGoing through my previous posts, I noticed that I have referred to my homeland every now and then without  officially introducing it to you. So, I decided to arrange a virtual journey to one of the oldest countries with fascinating culture and history.

Let’s go! Enjoy your trip!

  • Geography

armenian-political-mapArmenia (capital city: Yerevan) is a small, landlocked, mountainous country with a geography that never fails to surprise foreign visitors. Mountain passes, valleys and canyons make Armenia feel much larger than it really is, and when you’re on its southern shores, Lake Sevan, which covers five percent of the country’s surface area and is the largest lake in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range, provides the sight of endless water. In addition to its geographic variation, Armenia’s climate varies a great deal as well; be ready for everything from barren lunar landscapes to rain forests to snow-capped peaks and a vast alpine lake. There are some places in Armenia where several of these can be experienced at once.Armenia is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Iran to the south and Azerbaijan to the east.

  • History

Armenia has a history of around 4000 years. Armenians have historically inhabited the “Armenian Highlands”, a vast section of mountains and valleys across eastern Anatolia (Western Armenia) and the Southern Caucasus. Armenian vassal states, principalities, kingdoms and empires have risen and fallen in different parts of this highland throughout history.

In the 6th century B.C. , Armenians settled in the kingdom of Urartu. Under Tigran the Great (95–55 B.C.) the Armenian empire reached its height and became one of the most powerful in Asia, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean seas. Throughout most of its long history, however, Armenia has been invaded by a succession of empires. Under constant threat of domination by foreign forces, Armenians became both cosmopolitan as well as fierce protectors of their culture and tradition.450x488_Armenia_Ezekiel

In 301 AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. One can find thousands of churches and monasteries in Armenia. Armenians are Apostolic Christians and have their own religious leader, Catholicos (like the Pope for Roman Catholics).

Over the centuries Armenia was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Russians. From the 16th century through World War I, major portions of Armenia were controlled by their most brutal invader, the Ottoman Turks, under whom the Armenians experienced discrimination, religious persecution, heavy taxation, and armed attacks. The most horrific massacre took place in April 1915 during World War I, when the Turks ordered the deportation of the Armenian population to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. According to the majority of historians, between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were murdered or died of starvation. The Armenian massacre is considered the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that a genocide took place and claims that a much smaller number died in a civil war.

In April 2015, during the mass commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Pope Francis called the 1915 murder of between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey responded by withdrawing its ambassador to the Vatican

After the Turkish defeat in World War I, the independent Republic of Armenia was established on May 28, 1918, but survived only until Nov. 29, 1920, when it was annexed by the Soviet army. On March 12, 1922, Armenia officially became part of the USSR. It declared its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Sept. 23, 1991.

In 1988, Armenia became involved in a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority of the enclave consist of Armenian Christians who want to either become part of Armenia or gain full independence. The dispute hasn’t found its format resolution yet.

  • Art & Culture

Armenia has a  rich cultural and architectural heritage combining elements from different traditions.  The official language of Armenia  is Armenian which forms its own language group in the Indo-European language family. Armenian is a unique and flexible language thanks to which natives learn foreign languages easily. The majority of Armenians are also fluent in Russian and speak English.

Armenia’s small, homogeneous population (about 99% Armenian) is strongly family-oriented. All across the land, people place a lot of pride in their hospitality. One can show up in a village without a penny,  and a place to stay will come to you along with food, drinks and endless toasts. This is just one of the numerous illustrations of the unique nature of the natives and the prevailing mentality. Believe me, the list is long and extremely interesting! Surely, not all the characteristics are positive, yet one has the cozy feeling here that nowhere else can be felt.

Visual Arts

Armenian architecture and miniature painting have dominated Armenian art and have shown consistent development over the centuries. Other forms of Armenian art include sculpture, fresco, mosaic, ceramic, metalwork, engraving, and textiles, especially Armenian carpets.

Illuminated manuscripts were created mainly between the 5th and the 17th centuries. The highest point of this art is associated with the 13th century and the name of Toros Roslin.

A unique element of Armenian sculpture are “khachkarner”, the so-called cross-stones, Armenian monuments which are not found in any other culture.

As for the painting, let the breath-taking works of Armenian painters, such as Minas Avetisyan, Ivan Ayvazovsky, Martoros Saryan, Arshile Gorky, etc. speak for themselves:

Works of these artists and their modernist counterparts can be found in various museums and galleries of Armenia (National Gallery of ArmeniaCafesjian Center of Arts)

Music

One of the essential aspects of Armenian culture is the music. Armenia has a long musical tradition, that was primarily collected and developed by Komitas, a prominent priest and musicologist, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Armenian music has been presented internationally by composers Aram Khachatrian, Arno Babajanian, duduk player Djivan Gasparyan, composer Ara Gevorgyan and others. Instruments played include qamancha , kanun (dulcimer), dhol , oud, duduk (you have watched “The Gladiator“, right?),  shvi and  saz.

Jazz and rock are also popular in Armenia. During summer periods one can enjoy live performances in many outdoor cafés, clubs and parks. Armenian rock has made its input to the world rock culture. Some of the prominent rock bands include “System Of A Down“, “The Beautified Project” “Bambir“, etc.

Modern day Armenian artists have incorporated folk music into more modern jazz and rock genres so that the traditional music still influences their creations.

Cuisine

Armenian cuisine, a combination of different tastes and aromas, is as ancient as the history of Armenia. Closely related to eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, various spices, vegetables, fish, and fruits combine to present unique dishes. Armenia is also famous for its wine and brandy. In particular, Armenian cognac is renowned worldwide (winner of several awards), and was considered by the late British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, as his favorite.

A very important aspect of the Armenian cuisine is the traditional bread called Lavash. In 2014, “Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia” was included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Armenian soup, Khash, also has its own, unique place in the Armenian cuisine.

Pomegranate

Apricote, Pomegranate

Pomegranates and apricots are national fruits. About 50 different varieties of apricots are grown in Armenia. They are enjoyed from the middle of June till late August. The rich volcanic soil and the abundance of sunshine in Armenia give apricots grown there a distinct sweetness that causes many people to consider them among the tastiest in the world.

Common varieties are about the size of a small plum and can vary in color from light gold to deep orange. They have a velvety skin and firm flesh, they are not too juicy, and they can range in taste from sweet to tart. Some describe the taste of the more popular varieties as somewhere between that of a peach and a plum.

In Armenia, pomegranate has a symbolic association with fertility.

Sights

The extravagant beauty of Armenian nature combined with historical values allure travelers from around the world.
The Monastery of Tatev has been recently announced as a top tourist destination by The National Geographic.

  • Opportunities

Not only one can marvel the beauty of our nature and history, but also one can find a bunch of opportunities that a developing country can provide. Information technology (IT) companies remain the fastest-growing sector of the Armenian economy. Thanks to the sunny climate and mountainous relief, Armenia is also a hot-spot for start-up companies specialized in alternative energy resources such as solar and geothermal energy.

There are also a number of opportunities for students and adventurers to study or work here, take internships and just explore our apricot mountains.

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