U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Armenia, March 1996
Bureau of Public Affairs

March 1996
Official Name: Republic of Armenia 
 
 
PROFILE 
 
Geography 
 
Area:  29,800 sq. km. (11,500 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Maryland. 
Cities: Capital--Yerevan. 
Terrain: High plateau with mountains, little forest land. 
Climate: Highland continental, hot summers, cold winters. 
 
People 
 
Nationality: Noun--Armenian(s). Adjective--Armenian. 
Population: 3.7 million; 700,000 people are estimated to have left 
Armenia during the last five years. 
Ethnic groups: Armenian 96%; Kurd 2%; Russian, Greek, and other 
2%. 
Religion: Armenian Apostolic Church (more than 90% nominally 
affiliated). 
Languages: Armenian (96%), Russian, other. 
Education: Literacy--99%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--20/1,000. Life expectancy--72 years. 
Work force (1.6 million):  Industry and construction--30%. Agriculture 
and forestry--35%. Other--35%. 
 
Government 
 
Type: Republic. 
Constitution: Approved in 1995 referendum. 
Independence: 1918 (First Armenian Republic); 1991 (from Soviet 
Union). 
Branches: Executive--president (head of state) with wider powers 
relative to other branches, prime minister (head of cabinet), Council of 
Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly 
(parliament). Judicial--Constitutional Court. 
Administrative subdivisions: 10 marzer (provinces) in addition to the 
city of Yerevan, which has the status of a province. 
Political parties: Armenian National Movement (ruling party), 
Shamiram Women's Party, National Democratic Union, National Self-
Determination Union, Liberal Democratic Party, Christian Democratic 
Party, Republican Party, Communist Party of Armenia, Armenian 
Ramkavar Azatakan Party, Armenian Revolutionary Federation-
Dashnaktsutyun (temporarily banned under a December 28, 1994, 
presidential decree), plus 34 marginal parties. 
Suffrage: Universal at 18. 
 
Economy (1995) 
 
GDP: $1.4 billion. 
GDP growth rate: 5%. 
Per capita GDP: $450. 
Natural resources: Copper, zinc, gold, and lead; hydroelectric power; 
small amounts of gas and petroleum. 
Agriculture: Products--fruits and vegetables, wines, some livestock. 
Industry: Types--chemicals, electronic products, machinery, processed 
food, synthetic rubber, and textiles. 
Trade: Exports--$264 million (of which 39% to countries outside the 
former Soviet Union): precious stones and jewelry 34%, machinery and 
equipment 22%, minerals and metals 24%, plastics and chemicals 7%. 
Imports--$669 million (of which 50% from countries outside the 
former Soviet Union), including $152 million of humanitarian 
assistance: minerals and metals 35%, food and foodstuffs 34%, 
machinery and equipment 10%, chemicals 9%, precious stones and 
jewelry 9%. Major trade partners--Russia 24%, Turkmenistan 20%, 
Iran 13%, Georgia 7%, EU countries 15%. 
Exchange rate: 402 dram=U.S.$1. 
 
U.S.-ARMENIAN RELATIONS 
 
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 brought an end 
to the Cold War and created the opportunity to build bilateral relations 
with the New Independent States (NIS) as they began a political and 
economic transformation. The U.S. recognized the independence of 
Armenia on December 25, 1991, and opened an embassy in Yerevan in 
February 1992.

The United States has made a concerted effort to help Armenia and the 
other NIS during their difficult transition from totalitarianism and a 
command economy to democracy and open markets. The cornerstone 
of this continuing partnership has been the Freedom for Russia and 
Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) 
Support Act, enacted in October 1992, under which the U.S. to date has 
provided nearly $500 million in humanitarian and technical assistance 
for Armenia.

In addition, the U.S. has played a leading role in the Minsk Group, 
which was created in 1992 by the Conference of Security and 
Cooperation in Europe--now the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)--to encourage a peaceful, negotiated 
resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the 
Nagorno-Karabakh region. That conflict has cost several thousand 
lives, created nearly one million refugees and displaced persons, and 
caused economic hardships for Armenia. 
 
U.S.-Armenian Economic Relations 
 
In April 1992, the U.S. and Armenia concluded a trade agreement 
which provides reciprocal most-favored-nation status to the products of 
each country and guarantees intellectual property protection.

An Overseas Private Investment Corporation agreement with Armenia, 
which encourages U.S. private investment by providing direct loans 
and loan guarantees and by assisting with project/investor matching, 
entered into force in April 1992.  A bilateral investment treaty was 
signed on September 23, 1992, and was ratified by the Armenian 
parliament in September 1995. Armenia has also expressed interest in 
negotiating a tax treaty and is receiving U.S. technical assistance in 
revising its tax structure. 
 
U.S. Support To Build A Market Economy 
 
The U.S. continues to work closely with international financial 
institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World 
Bank to help Armenia in its transition to a free-market economy. 
Armenia has embarked upon an ambitious reform program, which 
should eventually allow a move away from humanitarian aid toward 
more development assistance. U.S. economic assistance programs have 
three objectives:  to help create a legal, regulatory, and policy 
framework for competition and economic growth in energy, 
agriculture, housing, and other sectors; to promote fiscal reform; and to 
develop a competitive and efficient private financial sector. The Peace 
Corps is also very active in Armenia, with a focus on small business 
development and English language education.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Extension Program 
provides advisory services and support to private farmers in all 
Armenian provinces, facilitates the formation of farmer associations 
and marketing initiatives, and has laid the groundwork for several 
agribusiness associations. USDA's Cochran Fellowship Program 
provides training to Armenian agriculturists. USDA and USAID have 
also launched an effort to revive production and export of Armenian 
vegetables and fruits. Under the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, 
Volunteers for Overseas Cooperative Assistance provides production 
and marketing assistance to Armenia's farmers, including the first 
farmer-owned winery, which is now producing and selling wine under 
its own label.

USAID's Energy-Sector Reform Project funded technical assistance 
and training (implemented by a resident energy advisor), feasibility and 
technical studies, and the purchase of critically needed equipment and 
commodities to support the Armenian energy sector's transition to a 
market economy.

The International City/County Manager Association (ICMA), also 
funded by USAID, facilitates the drafting and enactment of laws that 
promote the development of a private housing market, including a 
mortgage law, a condominium law, and a draft real estate law. Largely 
because of ICMA's efforts, more than half of all public housing in 
Yerevan has been privatized.

The Eurasia Foundation, working with a local bank in Yerevan, has 
established the first line of credit for small to medium-sized enterprises 
in Armenia. Lending began in late 1995, backed by a $2 million grant 
from USAID. 
 
U.S. Humanitarian Assistance 
 
The United States provided $138 million in assistance to Armenia in 
FY 1995, the highest per capita amount in the NIS. Humanitarian aid 
accounted for 85% of this total, reflecting the economic effects caused 
by Turkish and Azerbaijani embargoes related to the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict, destruction in northern Armenia left from the 
devastating 1988 earthquake, and the virtual paralysis of most of the 
country's factories. In 1995, this aid included 138,000 tons of wheat, 
25,000 metric tons of kerosene, and 81,000 tons of mazout (low-grade 
fuel oil), which was especially crucial during the cold winter months 
when electricity was available for only two to four hours a day in the 
cities and is virtually unavailable elsewhere. The U.S. Kerosene 
Program, administered by USAID, targets 210,000 of the most 
poverty-stricken families throughout Armenia, as well as 1,100 
schools. The U.S., in collaboration with U.S.-based private voluntary 
organizations, also organized nine flights and shipped 202 containers 
by surface to Armenia to supply food, medicine, and clothing valued at 
$28 million.
 
U.S. Support To Achieve Democracy 
 
Technical assistance and training programs have been provided in 
municipal administration, intergovernmental relations, public affairs, 
foreign policy, diplomatic training, rule of law, and development of a 
constitution. Specific programs are targeted at promoting free and fair 
elections, strengthening political parties, and promoting the 
establishment of an independent judiciary and independent media. 
Educational exchange programs play an important role in supporting 
democratic and free-market reforms. Assistance in the translation and 
publication of printed information also has been provided.

The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) sponsored in 1995 a range of 
exchange programs in the U.S. for Armenian lawyers, judges, political 
party members, and journalists to study the American judicial and 
political system and participate in programs on privatization, the 
media, and civil society. USIA continues to support Hai-FM, an 
independent, privately owned radio station that ran voter education 
programming before the July 1995 elections. In addition, USIA also 
funded a project by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to print 
several thousand brochures showing people how to participate in the 
elections.

USAID helped fund international and domestic groups to monitor the 
parliamentary elections held July 1995. USAID has also funded 
programs run by NDI to monitor the July elections and strengthen an 
array of democratic and civic organizations. 
 
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 
 
Ambassador--Peter Tomsen 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Louis Licht 
Political Officer--Susan Thornton 
Economic Officer--Albert Fournier 
Consular Officer--Patricia Lieberman 
Administrative Officer--Laura Kirkconnell 
Regional Security Officer--Rebecca Dockery (resident in Tbilisi, 
Georgia) 
Agricultural Officer--Mary Revelt (resident in Moscow, Russia) 
USAID Officer--Fred Winch 
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--John Quintus 
 
The U.S. embassy in Yerevan, Armenia is at 18 Marshal Bagramyan; 
tel: 3742-151-144 or 3742-524-661; fax: 3742-151-138. 
 
========================================
HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS 
 
After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, the first Armenian state 
was founded in 190 BC. At its zenith, from 95 to 55 BC, Armenia 
extended its rule over the area of what is now eastern Turkey. For a 
time, Armenia was the strongest state in the Roman East. It 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 later political eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to 
preserve and protect its unique identity. 

Between the 4th and 19th centuries, Armenia was conquered and ruled 
by, among others, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks. 
For a brief period from 1918 to 1920, it was an independent republic. 
In late 1920, the communists came to power, and in 1922, Armenia 
became part of the Trans-Caucasian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1936, 
it became the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenia declared its 
independence from the Soviet Union on September 23, 1991.
========================================

ECONOMY 
 
Armenia is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet 
republics. It is a landlocked country between the Black and the Caspian 
Seas, bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan and on 
the south and west by Iran and Turkey. Armenia's economy has been 
based largely on industry--chemicals, electronic products, machinery, 
processed food, synthetic rubber, and textiles--and highly dependent on 
outside resources. Agriculture accounted for only 20% of net material 
product and 10% of employment before the breakup of the Soviet 
Union in 1991. Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead. 
About 95% of energy is imported; the main domestic energy source is 
hydroelectric. Small amounts of gas and petroleum could be developed.

Like other New Independent States, Armenia's economy suffers from 
the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the breakdown of 
former Soviet trading patterns. In addition, the effects of the 1988 
earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 
homeless, are still being felt. Finally, the ongoing conflict with 
Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has led to a blockade which has 
devastated the economy because of Armenia's dependence on outside 
supplies of energy and most raw materials. Land routes through 
Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed; routes through Georgia and Iran are 
inadequate or unreliable. In 1992-93, GDP fell nearly 60% from its 
1989 level.

Nevertheless, the Government of Armenia, helped by the cease-fire 
that has been in effect in Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994, has been able 
to carry out wide-ranging economic reforms which paid off in 
dramatically lower inflation. Armenia also registered strong economic 
growth in 1995, building on the turnaround that began the previous 
year.

In December 1994, the IMF approved the first tranche of a systemic 
transformation facility to support Armenia's macroeconomic reform 
program. As part of the program, the government pledged to strengthen 
its macroeconomic management (including increasing revenue 
collection), move toward full price liberalization, eliminate most 
exchange and trade restrictions, and accelerate the privatization 
process.

Privatization in agriculture has gone furthest. About 87% of farm land 
has been distributed, and the sale of land has been permitted since 
February 1994. Privatization in other areas of the economy is moving 
more slowly. Distribution of privatization vouchers began in October 
1994; the government accelerated the pace of small-scale privatization 
and began to convert larger enterprises to joint stock companies as a 
first step toward full privatization. More than half of the housing stock 
has been privatized. Most prices have now been completely liberalized.

A liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994. A 
national currency, the dram, was introduced in late November 1993 
and was very stable in 1995. 
 
Environmental Issues 
 
Armenia is trying to address its environmental problems. It has 
established a Ministry of Environment and has introduced a pollution 
fee system by which taxes are levied on air and water emissions and 
solid waste disposal, with the resulting revenues used for 
environmental protection activities. Armenia is interested in 
cooperating with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent 
States (a group of 12 former Soviet republics) and with members of the 
international community on environmental issues. 
 
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS 
 
Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 
1991 referendum, followed by a presidential election in October 1991 
that gave 83% of the vote to Levon Ter-Petrossian. Ter-Petrossian had 
been elected head of government in 1990, when the Armenian National 
Movement defeated the Communist Party. The next presidential 
elections are slated for the fall of 1996.

The government is dominated by the anti-communist, nationalist 
Armenian National Movement, which is the largest party in the 
parliament. Opposition parties exist but have limited support. In 
November 1990, the Armenian Communist Party declared itself 
independent. In 1991, after the August coup in Moscow, a large group 
of party members split from the Armenian Communist Party and 
formed a separate Democratic Party.

The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style 
parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. 
However, international observers questioned the inherent fairness of 
the parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum conducted in 
July 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the 
electoral commission, and the failure to register opposition parties and 
candidates. Observers noted, though, that several opposition parties and 
candidates were able to mount credible campaigns and proper polling 
procedures were generally followed. The new constitution greatly 
expands the powers of the executive branch and gives it much more 
influence over the judiciary and municipal officials.

The observance of human rights in Armenia is uneven and was marked 
by serious shortcomings in 1995. Police brutality goes largely 
unreported, while observers note that defendants are often beaten to 
extract confessions and are denied visits from relatives and lawyers. 
Public demonstrations usually take place without government 
interference, though one rally in June 1995 by opposition parties was 
broken up by paramilitary troops. Freedom of religion is not protected 
under existing law. Non-apostolic churches have been subjected to 
harassment, sometimes violently. Non-apostolic churches must register 
with the government, and proselytizing is forbidden by law. Most of 
Armenia's ethnic Azeri population was deported in 1988-89 and remain 
refugees, largely in Azerbaijan. Armenia's record on discrimination 
toward the few remaining national minorities is generally good. The 
government does not restrict internal or international travel. Although 
freedom of the press and speech are guaranteed, the government 
maintains its monopoly over television and radio broadcasting. 
 
Principal Government Officials 
 
President--Levon Ter-Petrossian 
Prime Minister--Hrant Bagratyan 
Foreign Minister--Vahan Papazyan 
Ambassador to the U.S.--Ruben Shugarian 
Ambassador to the UN--Aleksandr Arzoumanian 
 
Armenia's embassy in the U.S. is at 2225 R Street, NW, Washington, 
DC, 20008; tel: 202-319-1976 or 202-319-2983; fax: 202-319-2984. 
 
DEFENSE AND MILITARY ISSUES 
 
Armenia established a Ministry of Defense in 1992. Border guards 
subject to the ministry patrol Armenia's borders with Georgia and 
Azerbaijan, while Russian troops continue to monitor its borders with 
Iran and Turkey.

The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty was ratified 
by the Armenian parliament in July 1992. The treaty establishes 
comprehensive limits on key categories of military equipment, such as 
tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and combat 
helicopters, and provides for the destruction of weaponry in excess of 
those limits. Armenian officials have consistently expressed 
determination to comply with its provisions. Armenia has provided 
data on armaments as required under the CFE Treaty. There are 
indications that Armenia is trying to establish mechanisms to ensure 
fulfillment of its arms control obligations. Armenia is not a significant 
exporter of conventional weapons, but it has provided substantial 
support, including materiel, to separatists in the Nagorno-Karabakh 
region of Azerbaijan.

In March 1993, Armenia signed the multilateral Chemical Weapons 
Convention, which calls for the eventual elimination of chemical 
weapons. Armenia acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as 
a non-nuclear weapons state in July 1993. The U.S. and other Western 
governments have discussed efforts to establish effective nuclear 
export control systems with Armenia. 
 
FOREIGN RELATIONS 
 
Armenia is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the 
United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in 
Europe, NATO's Partnership for Peace, the North Atlantic Cooperation 
Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the International Bank 
for Reconstruction and Development. 
 
Nagorno-Karabakh 
 
In 1988, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic 
Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, voted to secede and join 
Armenia. This eventually developed into a full-scale armed conflict. 
Armenian support for the separatists led to an economic embargo by 
Azerbaijan, which has crippled Armenia's foreign trade and restricted 
its imports of food and fuel, three-quarters of which transited 
Azerbaijan under Soviet rule.

Peace talks in early 1993 were disrupted by the seizure of Azerbaijan's 
Kelbajar district by Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian forces and the forced 
evacuation of thousands of ethnic Azeris. Turkey in protest then 
followed with an embargo of its own against Armenia. President Ter-
Petrossian has thus far resisted domestic pressure to recognize the self-
proclaimed independence of the "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic." Some 
750,000 ethnic Azeris who fled during the Karabakhi offensives still 
live as internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan, while roughly 
400,000 ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan since 1988 remain 
refugees.

Negotiations to peacefully resolve the conflict have been ongoing since 
1992 under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. The Minsk 
Group is currently co-chaired by Finland and Russia and comprises 
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the U.S., several Western European 
nations, and representatives of the Armenian and Azeri communities of 
Nagorno-Karabakh. The talks have focused on the status of Nagorno-
Karabakh, the return of refugees, the lifting of blockades, the 
withdrawal from occupied territories, and the status of the Lachin 
corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Karabakhi Armenians, supported by the Republic of Armenia, now 
hold about one-fifth of Azerbaijan and have refused to withdraw from 
occupied territories until an agreement on the status of Nagorno-
Karabakh is reached. Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to observe the 
cease-fire which has been in effect since May 1994, and in late 1995 
both also agreed to OSCE field representatives based in Tbilisi, 
Georgia to help facilitate the peace process. The United States has 
supported OSCE efforts to work toward deploying a multinational 
peacekeeping operation for the region as part of a broader political 
settlement.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 
 
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings 
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans 
avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for 
all countries and include information on immigration practices, 
currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at (202) 647-
5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs 
Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with 
standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining 
passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may 
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 
647-5225. 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking 
water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health 
Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-
95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S. Government Printing 
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication).

Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register 
at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in 
this publication). This may help family members contact you en route 
in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information: 

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the 
CABB provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and 
helpful information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of 
charge to anyone with a personal computer, modem, 
telecommunications software, and a telephone line. 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the 
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. 
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes 
Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. 
foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key

officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN is accessible three ways 
on the Internet: 

Gopher: dosfan.lib.uic.edu 
URL: gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ 
WWW: http://www.state.gov 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly 
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on 
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an 
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. 
Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs 
(MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 
or fax (202) 512-2250. 

Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. 
For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department 
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related 
information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on 
the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB 
Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.

======================================== 
Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department 
of State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication 
-- Washington, DC -- Series Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner 
 
Armenia -- Department of State Publication 10346 -- March 1996 
 
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without 
permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402.
(###)
Return to Europe Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage