Armenia, otherwise called the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked country in the geopolitical Transcaucasus region and the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia. It is bordered to the west by Turkey, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Lachin corridor and Azerbaijan, and to the south by Iran and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. Its capital city, Yerevan, is also the country’s largest city. Armenia contains two terrestrial ecoregions: Caucasus mixed forests and Eastern Anatolian montane steppe.
Armenia is home to an estimated population of 2.79 million. Ethnic Armenians make up 98.1% of the Armenian population, while Yazidis make up 1.2%, and Russians make up 0.4%. Other minority ethnic groups in Armenia include Assyrians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Kurds, Georgians, Belarusians, and Jews. There are also smaller communities, including Vlachs, Mordvins, Ossetians, Udis, and Tats.
As we proceed, we’ll give a breakdown of the country’s history, including information about its flag and how it came to be. Let’s go!
Characteristics of Armenia
Armenia is located in southern Transcaucasia, southwest of Russia, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Its land mass extends over 11,484 square miles with high mountainous plateaus (85.9% mountain area), characterized by fast-flowing rivers, few forests, and numerous steep slopes with scanty shrub coverings. It consists mostly of young igneous and volcanic rocks, including obsidian.
The highest point in Armenia is Mount Aragats, standing at 4,090 meters above sea level. The former highest point in the country, marked as a historical part of Armenia as seen on the Armenian national emblem, is Mount Ararat. The mountain stands at 5,137 meters. Mount Ararat, although visible from Armenia, is now located in Turkey.
Armenia’s largest lake, Sevana Lich (Lake Sevan), is located thirty minutes outside Yerevan and nestled up in the Armenian highlands. Armenia is also seismically active and occasionally riddled with earthquakes and droughts.
The climate of Armenia varies widely with the altitude of the region. Seasonal extremes are pronounced in the Ararat Valley with hot, dry, and sunny summers and record high temperatures approaching 107.6°F. The winters are bitterly cold and snowy, dropping as low as -22°F, while mean temperatures fall between 77°F and 86°F.
Armenians have a unique alphabet and language system called Hayeren, which is the country’s only official language. The Hayeren alphabet, invented by Mesrop Mashtots c. AD 405 consists of thirty-nine letters. Three of these letters were added during the Cilician period. Besides Hayeren, other main foreign languages Armenians speak include Russian and English. The vast majority of the old population can speak Russian remarkably well due to the country’s Soviet past.
Founding of Armenia
Legend has it that the Armenians are the descendants of Hayk, a descendant of Noah and the founding patriarch of the Armenian nation, whose ark ran to the ground on Mount Ararat after the Great Biblical Flood. However, historians have traced the roots of Armenians back to the period between 1500 BC and 1200 BC when the tribal confederation known as Hayasa-Azzi—settled in the western part of the Armenian plateau—came to be. Between 1200 and 800 BC, a large portion of Armenia was unified under a confederation of kingdoms called Nairi (Land of Rivers), which was subsequently absorbed into the Kingdom of Urartu. The unified kingdom extended from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, including much of the territory of present-day eastern Turkey. However, between the late 7th and early 6th centuries BC, the Urartian kingdom was replaced by the kingdom of Armenia.
From the 4th to the 19th century, present-day Armenia was obtained and ruled by powerful nations, including Persians, Arabs, Byzantines, Mongols, and Turks. Armenia’s conversion to Christianity occurred at the dawn of the fourth century in 301. This conversion marked Armenia as the first state in the world to claim Christianity as its official religion. Around the early 5th century, the ancient Armenian kingdom was divided between the Sasanian and Byzantine Empires. Then, between the 16th and 19th centuries, Eastern Armenia and Western Armenia fell under the rule of the Ottoman and Persian Empires. By the 19th century, the eastern parts of the traditional Armenian homeland had been conquered by the Russian Empire, while western Armenia remained under Ottoman rule.
In the 1920s, Armenia was invaded by the Soviet Red Army. As a result, local communists came to power. On March 4, 1922, Armenia was incorporated into the Soviet Union as a member of the Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic alongside Georgia and Azerbaijan. Within this period, Soviet Armenia evolved under the communist economic system from a predominantly agricultural economy into an industrial economy. In 1936, the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was dissolved, and Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia became independent republics of the USSR.
On August 23, 1990, a year before the fall of the Soviet Union, Armenia gained its independence. However, the country’s independence was not officially recognized until September 21, 1991, when the new Republic of Armenia was proclaimed. Following the proclamation, Armenia progressively transformed into a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation with an ancient cultural heritage. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 created the opportunity for bilateral relations between Armenia and the United States.
History and Symbolism of the Armenian Flag
On August 24, 1990, the national flag of Armenia, used initially between 1918 and 1921, was adopted by the Armenian Supreme Soviet and approved by the National Assembly of Armenia on June 15, 2006, following the constitutional reform of November 27, 2005. The flag consists of three horizontal bands of red, blue, and orange of equal width.
The new Armenian tricolored flag bears little resemblance to early Armenian flags. Earlier Armenian flags included carvings of dragons, eagles, lions, or other mysterious objects chosen to represent God. The former flags were hoisted by the army through bitter wars. However, after Armenia accepted Christianity, the flag with a golden cross was adopted. Before this, the Armenian empire adopted different flags to represent various dynasties. For example, the Artaxiad Dynasty’s flag consisted of a red cloth with two eagles gazing at each other and separated by an eight-pointed star.
The red stripe on Armenia’s new flag represents the mountains of Armenia, hope through struggle, the maintenance of the Christian faith, and its independence and freedom. The blue symbolizes the Armenian desire to live peacefully beneath vibrant blue skies, while the orange represents the creative talent, resilience, and hard-working nature of the people of Armenia.
Where Is Armenia Located on a Map?
Armenia is in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia. It is located east of Turkey, south of Georgia, west of Azerbaijan, and north of Nakhchivan.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/waaruchch
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