Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, 1992

Site Information: Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union Title:

Armenia

Public Affairs Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication Description: Washington, DC Date: May 27, 19925/27/92 Category: Site Information Region: Eurasia Country: Armenia, USSR (former) Subject: History, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Cultural Exchange Map: Central, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Republics [TEXT]

Overview

Armenia is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. It is a land-locked country between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan and on the south and west by Iran and Turkey. Armenia was well-known to ancient authors. In 400 BC, the Greek historian Xenophon described Armenia's local governing structure in his famous work, Anabasis, which detailed the life of Greek mercenaries in the Persian Empire. After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, the first Armenian state was founded in 190 BC. At its zenith, between 95- 55 BC, Armenia extended its rule over eastern Turkey. For a time, Armenia was the strongest state in the Roman East. Armenia eventually became part of the Roman Empire and adopted a Western political, philosophical, and religious orientation. In 301 AD, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, establishing in the 6th century a church that still exists independently of both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. During its political eclipse, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique identity. For a brief period between 1918 and 1920, Armenia was an independent republic, but in 1922, it became part of the Soviet republic of Transcaucasia until 1936, when it became a separate republic within the USSR. Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum, followed by a presidential election in October that gave 83% of the vote to President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, head of the government since 1990. Armenia is rich in copper, bauxite, and precious metals but must depend upon outside supplies of energy and raw materials. At present, the economy must cope with an aging industrial infrastructure as well as interference in the delivery of imports. Supplies that arrive at landlocked Armenia via Turkey must be reloaded at the border onto cars that fit the Armenian gauge, while supplies crossing Georgia or Azerbaijan are subject to strikes and blockades. Along with the breakdown of distribution systems among the former Soviet republics, Armenia is struggling to recover from the devastating 1986 earthquake. Its key industries are machine-building and metal-cutting, chemicals, and light industry.

Yerevan at a Glance

Yerevan is located 14 miles from the Turkish frontier and is ringed by extinct volcanic peaks-including the biblical Mt. Ararat. Although the first recorded reference to the city occurs in 607 AD, archealogical evidence dates back to the 6th millennium BC. From the 6th century BC, Yerevan was part of the Armenian Kingdom. Because of its importance to east-west trade, Yerevan was highly coveted by its neighbors. It was captured by the Turks in 1582, the Persians in 1604, and the Russians in 1827. Today, Yerevan is remarkable for its pure air, but winters can be very cold. City buildings are known for their colorful facades constructed with local stone, including basalt, marble, onyx, and volcanic rock. Yerevan has an excellent Museum of Modern Art-the only one in the former USSR. According to 1986 estimates, Yerevan has a population of about 1.2 million.

Principal Government Officials

President: Levon Ter-Petrosyan Prime Minister: Gagik Harutyunyan Foreign Minister: Raffi Ovanissian Capital: Yerevan