U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Armenia, March 1996
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Republic of Armenia
Area: 29,800 sq. km. (11,500 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Maryland.
Terrain: High plateau with mountains, little forest land.
Climate: Highland continental, hot summers, cold winters.
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
Religion: Armenian Apostolic Church (more than 90% nominally
Languages: Armenian (96%), Russian, other.
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%.
Constitution: Approved in 1995 referendum.
Independence: 1918 (First Armenian Republic); 1991 (from Soviet
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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)
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:
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.
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