ARMENIALOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENERGY AND POWER
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
Republic of Armenia
Hayastani Hanrapetut 'Yun
FLAG: Three horizontal bands of red (top), blue, and gold.
ANTHEM: Mer Hayrenik.
MONETARY UNIT: The dram (introduced 22 November 1993) is a paper currency in denominations of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 500 drams. The dram (d) replaced the Armenian ruble and the Russian ruble (r). Currently d1 =$0.00225 (or $1 = d445) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1–2 January; Christmas, 6 January; Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Genocide, 24 April; Peace Day, 9 May; Anniversary of Declaration of First Armenian Republic (1918), 28 May; Public Holiday, 21 September; Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Earthquake, 7 December; New Year's Eve, 31 December.
TIME: 4 pm = noon GMT.
Armenia is a landlocked nation located in southeastern Europe/southwestern Asia. Comparatively, the area occupied by Armenia is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland with a total area of 29,800 sq km (11,506 sq mi). Armenia shares boundaries with Georgia on the n, Azerbaijan on the e and s, Iran on the s, and Turkey on the w and has a total boundary length of 1,254 km (778 mi). Armenia's capital city, Yerevan, is located in the west-central portion of the country on the Hrazdan River.
The topography of Armenia features the high Armenian Plateau and three primary mountain ranges, the Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the north, the Vardenis Range in central Armenia, and the Zangezur Range in the southeast. There is little forest land and a few fast flowing rivers. The Aras River Valley contains good soil. Mount Aragats, an extinct volcano in the plateau region, is the highest point in Armenia at 13,425 ft (4,095 m). The nation occasionally suffers from severe earthquakes. In December 1988, a massive earthquake struck near the city of Kumayri, killing over 25,000 people.
Armenia's climate ranges from subtropical to alpine-like in the mountains. The mean temperature in midsummer is 25°c (77°f). In midwinter, the mean temperature is 0°c (32°f). Rainfall is infrequent. The capital city receives 33 cm of rain annually (13 in), though more rainfall occurs in the mountains.
Armenia is located in what geographers call the Aral Caspian Lowland. The country has broad sandy deserts and low grassy plateaus. The region is home to European bison, snow leopards, cheetahs, and porcupines.
In 2000, Armenia's chief environmental problems resulted from natural disasters, pollution, and warfare. A strong earthquake in 1988 resulted in 55,000 casualties. Radiation from the meltdown of the nuclear reactor facility at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union also polluted the environment. The nation's soil has also been polluted by chemicals including DDT and the Hrazdan and Ares rivers have also been polluted. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan has strained the country's economy, limiting the resources that can be devoted to environmental preservation. It has also led to an energy blockade that has caused deforestation as trees are cut for firewood. Yet another environmental hazard is the restarting of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, which has been brought online without the safety systems recommended by the IAEA.
From 1990–1995, deforestation occurred at an average annual rate of 2.69%. However, some reforestation projects have been initiated. As of 2003, 7.6% of the total land area in Armenia is protected, including two sites protected as Ramsar wetlands: Lake Sevan and Lake Arpi. As of 2002, 11 of the nation's 84 species of mammal were threatened, as were 4 species of bird and 1 higher plant species. Endangered species include the Barbel sturgeon, Dahl's jird, and the field adder.
The population of Armenia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,033,000, which placed it at number 133 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 11% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 22% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 87 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 0.3%; this low rate, attributed to a decline in fertility rates and migration, was considered too low by the government. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,258,000. The population density was 102 per sq km (264 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 65% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that population in urban areas was changing at an annual rate of -0.43%. The capital city, Yerevan, had a population of 1,079,000 in that year. Other urban centers and their estimated populations include Kumayri (206,600) and Kirovakan (170,200). Most of the cities and towns are located along the river valleys in the north and west.
Independent Armenia is only a portion of historic Armenia, which at its greatest extent also included lands now in Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan. There are Armenian communities in these countries and also in Russia, Georgia, Lebanon, Syria, and the United States. Between 1988 and 1993 around 360,000 ethnic Armenians arrived in Armenia from Azerbaijan as a result of the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. In 1995 a citizenship law, which included special provisions making naturalization much easier for refugees from Azerbaijan, was enacted. By the end of January 2004, the number of refugees from Azerbaijan obtaining Armenian citizenship topped 65,000. One of the largest naturalizations of refugees in recent decades, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) supported the process with financial and material assistance. In 2003, there were 50,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country. The UNHCR reported that at the end of 2004 there were 235,235 refugees in Armenia and 68 asylum seekers, of which over 50,000 refugees were assisted by UNHCR. From 1998 to 2003, except for 2000, remittance flows to Armenia grew by 20% per year.
Armenia has a net migration rate of -6.1 migrants per 1,000 population as of 2005. The government views both the immigration and emigration levels as too high.
A 2004 report indicates that Armenians comprise an estimated 98% of the population. Minority groups include the Azeri, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Jews, Assyrians, Georgians, Greeks, and Yezidi Kurds. As of 1993, most of the Azeris had emigrated from Armenia.
Armenian is spoken by about 97% of the population. Armenian belongs to an independent branch of the Indo-European linguistic family. It is a highly inflective language, with a complicated system of declensions. It is agglutinative, rich in consonants, and has no grammatical gender. The vocabulary includes many Persian loan words. There are two main dialects: East Armenian, the official language of Armenia, and West, or Turkish, Armenian. The alphabet, patterned after Persian and Greek letters, has 38 characters. Armenian literature dates from the early 5th century ad. Yezidi is spoken by about 1% of the population; Russian and other various languages are spoken by the remaining 2%.
In 2005, about 90% of the population were nominally members of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Catholic churches, both Roman and Mekhitaris (Armenian Uniate), had an estimated 180,000 adherents. The next largest group was the Yezidi, a Kurdish ethnic and religious group that practice a mixture of beliefs from Islam, Zoroastrianism, and animism; they had an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 members. Other Christian denominations include Pentecostals, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Armenian Evangelical Church, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Most Jews, Muslims, and Baha'is are located in Yerevan.
Armenia became a Christian country in the 4th century ad. In 1991, the Law on Freedom of Conscience established the separation of church and state but granted the Armenian Apostolic Church status as the national church. All religious denominations and organizations outside of the Armenian Apostolic Church must be registered in order to operate. Those that are not registered are prohibited from publishing newspapers or magazines, sponsoring television or radio broadcasts, and renting meeting space. In 1997 amendments tightened registration requirements by raising the minimum number of adult members to qualify for registration from 50 to 200. The laws also indicate that a petitioning organization must adhere to a doctrine that is based on "historically recognized Holy Scriptures." Registration and monitoring of religious groups was originally under the jurisdiction of a government-based Council of Religious Affairs. In 2002 the president abolished the council and announced that a new office, under the prime minister, would handle matters of religion. The National Minorities and Religious Affairs Department was also established by the government.
The Armenian Apostolic Church is a member of the World Council of Churches.
As of 2004, there were 825 km (513 mi) of 1.520-m (broad) gauge railroad, not including industrial lines. An estimated 828 km (515 mi) are electrified. Supplies that arrive from Turkey by rail must be reloaded, due to a difference in rail gauges. Goods that cross Georgia or Azerbaijan are subject to travel delay from strikes and blockages and may be interdicted.
As of 2003, the highway system included 7,633 km (4,748 mi) of roads, all of which are paved. Of that total, 1,561 km (971 mi) are expressways.
There were an estimated 16 airports as of 2004, 11 of which had paved runways (as of 2005). The Zvartnots airport at Yerevan is fairly well maintained and receives scheduled flights from Moscow, Paris, New York, London, Amsterdam, Athens, Beirut, Dubai (UAE), Frankfurt, Istanbul, Prague, Tehrān, Vienna, Zürich, and Sofia. In 2003, 367,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.
Cargo shipments to landlocked Armenia are routed through ports in Georgia and Turkey.
Armenian territories were first united into an empire under Tigranes the Great (95–55 bc), whose extensive lands included parts of Syria and Iraq. Defeated by the Roman general Pompey, Armenia became a client state of the Roman Empire. Rome and Sasanian Persia partitioned Armenia, and after them Byzantium and the Ummayed and Abbasid caliphates controlled parts of Armenia. Armenia adopted Christianity at the beginning of the 4th century ad. The Seljuk Turks invaded Armenia in the 11th century, followed by Genghis Khan and Timur, leading to mass emigrations. Persia and Ottoman Turkey divided Armenia into eastern and western portions in the 16th–18th centuries. Russia took over Persia's holdings in 1828, and during the latter part of the 19th century both Russia and Turkey carried out harsh repression against nationalist activities among Armenians under their sway, leading to many deaths and mass emigrations. During World War I, Ottoman Turkey carried out forced resettlement and other harsh policies against Armenians, which Armenians term their national genocide. The historical experience remains a contentious issue in Armenian-Turkish relations.
After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, Armenia declared independence in May 1918. Armenia's population of 750,000 included as many as 300,000 who had survived flight from Turkey, and the heavy burden of independence among hostile neighbors (it clashed with Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and an inhospitable climate may have led to as many as 150,000 deaths from famine and disease. Although the August 1920 Treaty of Sevres accorded international recognition of Armenian independence, the Russian Red Army conquered Armenia in November 1920. In 1922, Armenia was named part of a Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, which encompassed lands now in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, but it became a separate union republic in 1936. During the 1920s, Moscow drew internal borders in the Caucasus, which resulted in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), then a mostly ethnic Armenian region, being incorporated into Azerbaijan, separated from the rest of Soviet Armenia by a few miles of Azerbaijani territory. NK was given the status of an "autonomous republic."
Following a February 1988 call by the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) legislature for unification with Armenia, the Armenian Supreme Soviet in December 1989 declared that NK, a largely ethnically Armenian-populated enclave within Azerbaijan, was part of Armenia. It also proclaimed Armenia's sovereignty over its land and resources. A popular referendum on independence was held in Armenia on 21 September 1991, in which 94% of the eligible population reportedly participated and which was approved by 99%. The Armenian legislature declared Armenia's independence two days later. Armenia received worldwide diplomatic recognition upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
Beginning in 1988, conflict engulfed NK, with Azerbaijan resisting the secession or independence of its enclave. Casualties were estimated at over 5,000. Emigration of 350,000 Armenians residing in Azerbaijan and over one million Azerbaijani residing in Armenia or NK followed pogroms in both states and conflict in NK and surrounding areas. In December 1991, a referendum in NK (boycotted by local Azerbaijani) approved NK's independence and a Supreme Soviet was elected, which on 6 January 1992, declared NK's independence and futilely appealed for world recognition. In 1993, Armenian forces gained control over NK and surrounding areas, occupying over 20% of Azerbaijani territory, which they continued to hold despite an Azerbaijani offensive in 1993–1994 that reportedly cost 6,000 Azeri casualties. A ceasefire has held fitfully since May 1994, but talks on a political settlement remain inconclusive. In the six-year period of conflict from 1988 to 1994, more than 35,000 people were killed and nearly one million have been left homeless.
In November 1989, Levon Ter-Petrosyan became a leader of the Armenian National Movement (ANM), which grew out of the Karabakh Committee to push for Armenia's independence, and its chairman in March 1990. ANM and other nationalist deputies cooperated to elect him chairman of the Armenian Supreme Soviet in August 1990, inflicting a serious blow on the Armenian Communist Party. Following Armenia's declaration of independence, presidential elections were held on 16 October 1991. Ter-Petrosyan was supported by the ANM, winning 83% of the vote against six other candidates, including internationally famous dissident Paruir Hairikian of the Association for National Self-Determination and Sos Sarkisyan of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF; called Dashnaktsutyun in Armenian, meaning "federation"). Ter-Petrosyan was sworn into office on 11 November 1991, for a five-year term. His suspension of the activities of Armenian Revolutionary Federation party in December 1994 and a trial of its leaders raised concerns among some observers about possible setbacks to democratization.
Elections to Armenia's unicameral 190-member National Assembly (legislature) were held in June 1995, at the same time as a referendum in which Armenian voters adopted the country's first post-Communist new constitution. International observers reported many campaign and voting irregularities. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) judged the elections "free but not fair," in part because the main opposition party, the ARF, was banned from participation, the government dominated campaigning, the CEC appeared heavily pro-government in its decisions, and security officers constituted a chilling presence in many voting places. Voting irregularities reported on election day by the international observers included the violation of secret voting and pressure in voting places to cast a ballot for certain parties or candidates. In all, the Republic Bloc and other pro-government parties won 166 out of 190 seats, while the opposition won only 18 and independents four (two seats were undecided).
Ter-Petrosyan won reelection as president on 22 September 1996, by garnering 51.75% of the vote, a far smaller majority than in 1991, barely avoiding runoff balloting. Ter-Petrosyan's main opponent in the presidential race was Vazgen Manukian, head of the National Democratic Union (NDU) party. He garnered 41.3% of the presidential vote. Manukian had worked closely with Ter-Petrosyan in the Karabakh Committee. Following the presidential election, followers of Manukian's electoral coalition demonstrated against what they and many international observers termed irregular voting procedures. On 25 September 1996, tens of thousands of protesters stormed the legislative building in Yerevan and assaulted the legislative speaker and deputy speaker, both belonging to the ANM. The crowd was dispersed by police with few injuries or deaths.
In March 1997, in an attempt to garner greater public support for his regime, Ter-Petrosyan appointed a highly popular war hero of the NK conflict, Robert Kocharian, to the post of prime minister of Armenia. Ter-Petrosyan and others viewed Kocharian as having the leadership abilities necessary to help revive the slumping economy and to increase tax collection. In accepting the prime ministership, Kocharian resigned as president of NK.
Ter-Petrosyan announced in September 1997 that he had accepted an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) peace plan as a basis for resolving the NK conflict that would require "compromises" from Armenia. The two-stage plan called for NK Armenians to withdraw from most territories they had occupied outside of NK and for international peacekeepers to be deployed, followed by discussion of NK's status. The announcement brought open criticism from Kocharian and other Armenian and NK officials. On 1 February 1998, Yerkrapah, a legislative faction and militia group composed of veterans of the NK conflict, and headed by the country's defense minister, called for Ter-Petrosyan to resign. Many members of Ter-Petrosyan's ANM legislative faction defected, leading to the resignation of the parliamentary speaker. Heated debate in the legislature culminated with Ter-Petrosyan's resignation on 3 February 1998. Ter-Petrosyan denounced the "bodies of power" for demanding his resignation, referring obliquely to Kocharian, Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan, and Minister of the Interior and National Security Serzh Sarkisyan. Although the constitution called for the legislative speaker to assume the duties of acting president pending an election, the resignation of the speaker caused these duties to devolve upon Prime Minister Kocharian. A special presidential election was scheduled for 16 March 1998.
Twelve candidates succeeded in registering for the March presidential election. The main contenders were Kocharian, Vazgen Manukyan (who had run against Ter-Petrosyan in 1996 and was head of the National Democratic Union), and Karen Demirchyan (head of the Armenian Communist Party from 1974 to 1988). Since none of the candidates won the required "50% plus one" of the 1.46 million votes cast (in a 64% turnout), a runoff election was held on 30 March. In the runoff, acting President and Prime Minister Kocharian received 59.5% of 1.57 million votes cast (in a 68.5% turnout). The OSCE concluded that "this election showed improvement in some respects over the 1996 election," but did "not meet OSCE standards to which Armenia has committed itself." Observers alleged ballot box stuffing, discrepancies in vote counting, and fraud perpetrated by local authorities that inflated the number of votes for Kocharian. Nevertheless, he was inaugurated on 9 April 1998. The legislature selected Demirchyan as its speaker on 10 June.
On 27 October 1999, gunmen entered the legislature and opened fire on deputies and officials, killing Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan and Speaker Karen Demirchyan, two deputy speakers, and four others. The purported leader of the gunmen claimed they were targeting the prime minister and were launching a coup to "restore democracy" and end poverty, and took dozens hostage. President Robert Kocharian rushed to the legislature and helped negotiate the release of the hostages, promising the gunmen a fair trial. The killings appeared the product of personal and clan grievances. Abiding by the constitution, the legislature met on 2 November and appointed Armen Khachatryan (a member of the majority Unity bloc) as speaker, and Kocharian named Sarkisyan's brother Aram the new prime minister the next day, seeking to preserve political balances. Political infighting intensified. The military prosecutor investigating the assassinations detained a presidential aide, appearing to implicate Kocharian in the assassinations. The Unity and Stability factions in the legislature also threatened to impeach Kocharian in April 2000. Seeking to counter challenges to his power, Kocharian in May 2000 fired his prime minister and defense minister. In October 2001, on the second anniversary of the shootings in parliament, thousands of protesters staged demonstrations in Yerevan to demand Kocharian's resignation. In December 2003, six individuals were sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the 1999 assassinations. The death penalty in Armenia had been abolished that August. Protests against Kocharian's presidency continued in 2004, despite his reelection in 2003.
Although Armenia has the highest economic growth rate of any country in the former Soviet Union, more than 50% of the population lives in poverty. Unemployment and emigration remain problems, and Armenia is under a trade blockade from Turkey and Azerbaijan over the dispute in Nagorno-Karabakh—goods are transported only through Georgia. However, US and European companies interested in tapping oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea have been planning the construction of a pipeline through the Caucasus to Turkey. In September 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Armenia, the first Russian president to do so since independence. Armenia and Russia negotiated a 10-year economic cooperation package, and an agreement was reached on expanding a Russian military base in Armenia.
Presidential elections were held on 19 February 2003, with no candidate receiving 50% of the votes; a runoff election was scheduled for 5 March. Kocharian took 48.3% of the first-round vote, with Stepan Demirchyan—son of Karen Demirchyan, the former parliamentary speaker assassinated in 1999—taking 27.4% of the vote. Artashes Geghamian came in third with 16.9%. The opposition called the election fraudulent and said it would not recognize the vote, and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declared the election "flawed." Stuffing of ballot boxes allegedly took place, although many ballots were cast in transparent boxes, in an attempt to have a fair vote. Also, Kocharian received five times as much television coverage as all of his opponents combined. In the runoff election held on 5 March, Kocharian was reelected president with 67.5% of the vote; Demirchyan received 32.5%.
Armenia adopted its post-Soviet constitution by public referendum on 5 July 1995 by 68% of the voters. A commission headed by Ter-Petrosyan had drawn up the draft constitution. It provides for a strong presidential system of government with a weak legislative system, granting the president power to appoint and remove the prime minister, judges, and prosecutors. It also gives him liberal grounds for dissolving the legislature, declaring martial law, and limiting human rights by declaring a state of emergency. The president serves a five-year term. The prime minister is nominated by the president and is subject to legislative approval. The prime minister with presidential and legislative approval appoints the Cabinet of Ministers. The unicameral National Assembly has 131 members, who serve four-year terms; 75 members are elected by party list, and 56 by direct vote.
Armenia held elections to a new single-chamber 131-seat legislature on 30 May 1999, with 75 deputies elected by party list and 56 elected by direct vote. Twenty-one parties and blocs fielded candidates on the party list vote, but only six passed a 5% vote hurdle. The Unity bloc garnered 42% of over two million votes cast, gaining 29 seats, followed by the Communist Party of Armenia with about 12% of the vote. In constituency balloting, the Unity Bloc (which included the country's two largest parties, the People's Party and the Republican Party) garnered the most seats (35), followed by nonparty-affiliated candidates (29). Other major parties that received at least 7% of the party list vote in the 1999 legislative race include the National Democratic Union, Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, Law-Governed Country Party, Communist Party of Armenia, the Armenian Pan-National Movement, Law and Unity bloc, and the Mission Party. The other registered parties included both those newly created for the legislative race and more traditional parties. They were the Mighty Motherland, Homeland bloc, Ramkavar Azatakan Party (Liberal Democratic Party), Freedom Party, Democratic Party of Armenia, Union of Socialist Forces and Intelligentsia bloc, Union of Communist and Socialist Parties, Youth Party of Armenia, Decent Future, National State Party, Free Hayk Mission Party, Shamiram Party, and ONS+ bloc (the National Self-Determination and Homeland-Diaspora).
Legislative elections were held on 25 May 2003. The Republican Party won 23.5% of the vote (23 seats) for deputies elected by party list, followed by Justice Bloc, 13.6% (14 seats); Rule of Law, 12.3% (12 seats); ARF (Dashnak), 11.4% (11 seats); National Unity, 8.8% (9 seats); United Labor Party, 5.7% (6 seats). However, seats by party change frequently as deputies switch parties or declare themselves independent.
The regional governmental structure is closely modeled after the national structure. The president appoints governors to Armenia's 11 provinces (marzer ), including the mayor of the capital of Yerevan, which has the status of a marz. Each province has both executive and legislative bodies that control the provincial budget and businesses within the region. Regional governments do not have authority to pass laws independent of national legislation. Marzer are divided into rural and urban communities (hamainkner ), and Yerevan is divided into 12 districts. The communities and Yerevan districts are governed by community chiefs and legislative bodies called councils of elders (avakani ). In the cities, community chiefs hold the title of mayor. In 1997 a law on self-government was passed calling for decentralization in some areas and some fiscal independence for local governments. Elections for mayors, community chiefs, and local councils in 654 constituencies were held 20 October 2002, with a 46% voter turnout rate (an increase of close to 20% from the turnout in 1999). Local elections are held every three years. There were fewer complaints of electoral irregularities than in previous elections. The ruling Republican Party fielded the most candidates, and 18 other parties, in addition to independents, participated. The Law-Governed Country Party came in second, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was third. Local elections were held once again in October 2005, and voters decided not to return many incumbents to office.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice courts are vulnerable to pressure from the government, though legal reforms are resulting in some changes. The court system consists of district courts of first instance, an Appeals Court, and a Court of Cassation. Judges for the local courts of first instance and the Court of Appeals began operating under a new judicial system in January 1999. Judges were selected for their posts based on examinations and interviews by the Minister of Justice, approval of a list of nominees by the Council of Justice, and approval by the president. Unless they are removed for malfeasance, they serve for life. About one-half of Sovietera judges have been replaced. Prosecutors and defense attorneys also began retraining and recertification. A military bureaucracy continues to follow Sovietera practices.
A Constitutional Court has the power to review the constitutionality of legislation, approves international agreements, and settles electoral disputes. Its effectiveness is limited. It only accepts cases referred by the president, two-thirds of the members of the legislature, or election-related cases brought by candidates in legislative or presidential races. The president appoints four of the nine judges of the Constitutional Court.
The constitution establishes a Council of Justice, headed by the president and including the prosecutor general, the minister of justice, and 14 other members appointed by the president. The Council appoints and disciplines judges in courts of first instance and the Court of Appeals. A Council of Court Chairs has been created to reduce the power of the Ministry of Justice and increase the independence of the judicial system. It is responsible for financial and budgetary issues involving the courts, and consists of 21 senior judges.
A criminal procedure code entered into force in January 1999 specifies that a suspect may be detained for no more than 12 months pending trial, has the right to an attorney, right to a public trial and to confront witnesses, and the right to appeal.
The active armed forces numbered 48,160 in 2005. There were 45,000 personnel in the Army, organized into five corps that would include a mix of motorized and standard rifle regiments, armored and other support units. Equipment in 2005 included 110 main battle tanks, 104 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 140 armored personnel carriers, and 229 artillery pieces. The Air and Defense Aviation Forces numbered 3,160 personnel with 16 combat capable aircraft (one fighter and 15 fighter ground attack aircraft) and 12 attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces numbered 1,000 and were made up of border troops and Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel. The military budget in 2005 totaled $135 million.
Armenia was admitted to the United Nations on 2 March 1992. The country serves as a member of several specialized agencies within the United Nations, such as FAO, IAEA, ICAO, IDA, IFC, IFAD, ILO, IMF, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, WIPO, and WHO. Armenia is a member of the CIS and the Council of Europe. The country was admitted to the OSCE on 30 January 1992 and serves as an observer in the OAS. It became a full member of the WTO on 5 February 2003. Armenia is one of 12 members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone, which was established in 1992. It is also a part of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the EBRD. Armenia is a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the NATO Partnership for Peace. The country ratified the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty in July 1992. The Armenia government supports the cause of the ethnic Armenian secessionists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The OSCE is serving as a mediator in what has been a sometimes violent struggle.
In environmental cooperation, Armenia is part of the Basel Convention, the Conventions on Biological Diversity and Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Ramsar, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
As part of the Soviet Union, the Armenian economy featured largescale agro-industrial enterprises and a substantial industrial sector that supplied machine tools, textiles, and other manufactured goods to other parts of the USSR in exchange for raw materials. Trade with its neighbors, on which resource-poor Armenia relies heavily, was jeopardized by the outbreak of conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in 1988, and by political instability in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Also, in December 1988, a severe earthquake did considerable damage to Armenia's productive capacity, aggravating its regional trade deficit. The physical damage had not been repaired when the economy suffered the implosion that accompanied the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
With independence, as real GDP fell 60% from 1992–93, small-scale agriculture came to dominate in place of the former agro-industrial complexes, with crops of grain, sugar beets, potatoes, and other vegetables, as well as grapes and other fruit. Growth was not registered until 1994, at 5%, when, in July, a ceasefire was signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, and, in December, the government embarked on a comprehensive IMF-monitored program of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform. By 1996, growth was in double digits and inflation in single digits, although setbacks, which began in late 1996, reduced real GDP growth to 3% in 1997, while inflation surged to 27%. In 1998, real growth reached 7.3% while inflation fell to a single digit 8.7%, despite the negative impacts of the Russian financial crisis and a continuing Azerbaijanled economic blockade over the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Growth in the first nine months of 1999 was at an annual rate of 6%, but this was reduced to 3% for the year in the disruptions following the hostage-takings and assassinations of the prime minister and parliamentary speaker in October, a stated motive for which was the large proportion of Armenians living in poverty (at 55% in 2001 by CIA estimates). Inflation was held to 0.7% in the crisis, due to policy changes that have continued to keep inflation at a low level. Moderate GDP growth of 6% was achieved in 2000 while prices, as measured by the consumer price index, actually declined an estimated 0.8%.
In 2001, targeted real growth under the IMF-guided program was 6% but actual growth was about 10% (CIA est.) as the effects of economic reforms, the privatization of small and medium-sized enterprises, and increased foreign investment began to impact performance. IMF and CIA estimates for 2002 were for real growth between 12.5% and 12.9%, with stable price levels. Barring major disruptions (only too likely as the war in Iraq, launched 19 March 2003, added another source of instability to the region), Armenia was expected to attain its pre-independence level of percapita income by 2005. Growth sectors include telecommunications, assembly of electric and electronic appliances, agriculture and food processing, energy generation and distribution, construction, coal and gold mining, and international air communications.
The IMF-sponsored economic liberalization program encouraged remarkable GDP growth rates: 13.9% in 2003, 10.1% in 2004, and a predicted 8.0% in 2005. Rising investment levels, exports, and real incomes also contributed to this growth. Inflation, tamed in 2002, was on the rise in 2003 and 2004, at 4.7% and 7.0% respectively. For the most part however, the government has done a good job of keeping the inflation in check, and stabilizing the local currency. Despite encouraging economic figures though, unemployment remains fairly high (at around 14%) and poverty is a critical issue that needs to be dealt with immediately.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Armenia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $15.3 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $5,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 24.9% of GDP, industry 34.6%, and services 40.5%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $168 million or about $55 per capita and accounted for approximately 6.0% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $247 million or about $81 per capita and accounted for approximately 8.5% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Armenia totaled $2.35 billion or about $768 per capita based on a GDP of $2.8 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.8%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 52% of household consumption was spent on food, 18% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 15% on education. It was estimated that in 2003 about 43% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
As of 2004, Armenia's labor force numbered 1.2 million. In 2002, an estimated 25% were involved in industry, 45% in agriculture, and 30% in services. The unemployment rate was estimated at 30% in 2003.
Legislation passed in 1992 guarantees workers the right to bargain and organize collectively. An independent labor federation was created in 1997. However, organized labor remained weak as of 2005, because of high unemployment and a slow economy. Collective bargaining does not occur because most large employers are still under state control. Labor disputes are generally settled in economic or regular courts of law. According to the Confederation of Labor Unions (CLU) an estimated 290,000 workers belonged to 25 labor unions in 2005.
Armenians are guaranteed a monthly minimum wage which was set at around $26.00 as of 2005. The standard legal workweek was 40 hours, with mandatory overtime and rest periods. Children under the age of 16 are prohibited by law from full-time labor, although children at age 14 can be employed if permission is given by the child's parents and from the labor union. Due to the dire economic situation, none of these legal standards are relevant. Although the government is required to promulgate minimum occupational health and safety standards, as of end 2005, such standards have yet to be implemented. In addition, a lack of government resources and general worker insecurity prevent any effective enforcement of the nation's labor laws.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, about 16% of Armenia's land was cultivated. As of 2002, there were an estimated 560,000 hectares (1,384,000 acres) of arable cropland (20% of the total land area), of which 65,000 hectares (160,600 acres) were planted with permanent crops. Agriculture engaged about 45% of the economically active population in 2003. That year, agricultural production was 13% higher than what it had been during 1999–2001.
Production for 2004 included tomatoes, 222,047 tons; potatoes, 575,942 tons; wheat, 296,000 tons; and grapes, 148,892 tons. In 2002, there were some 18,300 tractors and 4,000 harvester-threshers in service.
Over one-fifth of the total land area is permanent pastureland. In 2004, the livestock population included: sheep, 580,000; cattle, 565,800; pigs, 85,300; goats, 48,300; and horses, 12,500. There were also some 3.6 million chickens. In 2004, some 54,000 tons of meat were produced, including 33,400 tons of beef and veal, 7,200 tons of mutton and lamb, 4,300 tons of poultry, and 8,500 tons of pork. In 2004, 535,800 tons of milk, 31,500 tons of eggs, 4,500 tons of cheese, and 1,200 tons of greasy wool were also produced. Meat, milk, and butter are the chief agricultural imports.
Fishing is limited to the Arpa River and Lake Sevan. Commercial fishing is not a significant part of the economy. The total catch in 2003 was 1,633 tons. Trout and carp are the principal species.
Forests cover an estimated 12.4% of Armenia. Soviet mismanagement, the 1988 earthquake, hostilities with Azerbaijan, and fuel shortages have impaired development. Available timber is used for firewood during the harsh winters. Imports of forestry products totaled $12.2 million in 2003.
Mineral resources in Armenia are concentrated in the southern region, where several operating copper and molybdenum mines were located. Armenia had been mining one-third of the former Soviet Union's (FSU) output of molybdenum (2,073 metric tons in 2002, down from 3,100 metric tons in 2000). Copper mines were located at Kapan, Kadzharan, Agarak, Shamlugh, and Akht'ala; the latter two were not in operation in 2002. Kadzharan and Agarak also had molybdenum mines. Despite relative proximity to rail and port facilities that supplied European markets, the mineral sector's ability to compete on the world market was inhibited by infrastructure problems. Armenia's production of perlite has been estimated at a steady 35,000 metric tons annually, from 1998 through 2002.
In 2002, Armenia produced industrial minerals such as clays, diatomite, dimension stone, limestone (12.5 million short tons), salt (30,300 metric tons), and semiprecious stones. It mined copper (16,641 metric tons of copper concentrate), copperzinc, and native gold deposits. The Zod and Megradzor gold mines ceased operations in 1997. The government hoped to revive the gold industry through the recovery of gold tailings at the Cuarat gold mill. Significant by-product constituents in the nonferrous ores in 2002 included barite, gold (estimated at 3,200 kg), lead, rhenium, selenium, silver (5,500 kg), tellurium, and zinc.
Armenia's exports of mineral products in 2002 accounted for around 70% of its total exports by value. In that year, total exports were valued at $507.2 million.
With only negligible reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal, and with no production, Armenia is heavily reliant on foreign imports. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, oil consumption has declined from 48,400 barrels per day in 1992 to 38,630 barrels per day in 2002. Natural gas consumption in 2002 was 38.49 billion cu ft. Total electrical consumption in 2002 was 4.446 billion kWh.
Net electricity generation in 2002 totaled 5.215 billion kWh, primarily from the reopened Medzamor nuclear plant at Yerevan (815,000 kW capacity), the Hrazdan (near Akhta) oil/natural gas plant (1,110,000 kW capacity), the Yerevan heat/power plant (550,000 kW capacity), and the Sevan-Hrazdan hydroelectric plant and smaller plants (925,000 kW capacity). Of total electricity generated in 2002, some 31% came from hydroelectric plants, 40% from nuclear power, and 29% from thermal power. Total capacity in 2002 was 3.341 million kW. The Medzama plant, reopened in 1995, increased electricity generation by 40% and has enabled electricity to be supplied around the clock for the first time in years. However, the Armenian government has promised to decommission the plant by 2004 to save money on maintenance if enough alternative power sources can be found by that time. As of 2002 three major and 38 smaller hydroelectric projects were planned, at a total cost of $300 million, with backing by the World Bank.
As of 1999, the domestic distribution grid for electric power was scheduled for restructuring and privatization, with assistance from the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). A December 1988 earthquake disrupted the Yerevan nuclear power plant, creating almost total dependence on imported oil and natural gas for power. When ethnic hostilities with Azerbaijan again resurfaced in 1992, Azerbaijan discontinued service of its pipeline to Armenia (with natural gas from Turkmenistan). The only other supply routes passed either through Turkey (which was sympathetic to Azerbaijan) or through Georgia (which was dealing with its own civil chaos). Since the 1994 ceasefire with Azerbaijan, the revival of energy supplies has helped start the recovery of Armenia's economy. If Armenia and Azerbaijan ever resolve their disputes, the transit of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea region abroad will become possible.
Before the earthquake in 1988, Armenia exported trucks, tires, electronics, and instruments to other republics. A number of these plants were destroyed by the earthquake. Armenia was also a major producer of chemical products, some 59% of which were exported to other republics. Armenia has the highest number of specialists with higher education and second highest number of scientists of all the former Soviet republics. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, industrial production has been severely disrupted by political instability and shortages of power. Much of Armenia's industry is idle or operating at a fraction of its capacity.
Economic blockades by Turkey and Azerbaijan as part of the continuing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh have cut Armenia off from an old direct gas pipeline from Azerbaijan, as well as precluded it from participation in any of the east–west pipelines being built in the post-Soviet era. The alternative Armenia has pursued is a gas pipeline from Iran delivering Turkmenistan gas (to avoid sanctions on customers of Iran, which were renewed by the US Congress in August 2001). Intergovernmental agreements on the project were signed in 1992 and 1995. In December 1997 the Korpezehe-KurtKwi pipeline feeding Turkmen natural gas directly into the Iranian system was opened. In December 2001 agreement was reached on a route that bypassed the Azeri exclave of Nakhichevan, running from Kadzharan to the southern border at Megri. Work on the Armenian section of the Iran-Armenian gas pipeline was to have begun in 2002 but was delayed until 2003 by disputes over the price Iran was intending to charge.
Light industry dominates Armenia's industrial sector and is striking for its diversity. The leading industries in 2002 included metal-cutting machine tools, forging-pressing machines, electric motors, tires, knitted wear, hosiery, shoes, silk fabric, chemicals, trucks, instruments, microelectronics, gem cutting (in 2002, 53 diamond-polishing companies exported $150 million worth of diamonds), jewelry manufacture (up 200% in 2002), software development, food processing, and brandy. Most of the country's small and mediumsized enterprises have been privatized, spurring the recovery of industrial growth.
Progress has been slower with larger industries often due to the lack of viable bidders. About 70% of the larger operations had been privatized by 1998, the year Armenia passed legislation for the sale of the country's electricity transmission and distribution networks, retaining government control over power generation. To support the privatization, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) bought a 20% share in each of Armenia's four distribution companies in an agreement preserving the government's right to buy back the shares should the agreement be abrogated. In 2002, after two failed offerings, management of the electricity distribution network was won by Daewoo Engineering. In 2001, Armenia reached a debt-to-equity agreement with Russia to exchange the debt it owed Russia—at almost $100 million and requiring about $20 million a year to service, the largest and only nonconcessional part of Armenia's external debt—for five nonperforming staterun enterprises. The center-piece was the Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant, valued at about $100 million, but also including the "Mars" Electronics Factory established in 1986 for making robots, and three research institutes. Under the debt for property agreement the Russian government will turn the operations over to private entrepreneurs.
Armenia has the highest number of cooperatives (per capita) in the Commonwealth of Independent States. By CIA estimates for 2000, industry accounted for 32% of GDP, but employed about 42% of the labor force. In 2002, with 12.5% overall GDP growth, industry grew 16%, including a 42% growth in construction. The country is projecting growth along with partnership opportunities in areas such as power generation, aviation, construction, electronics, apparel, tourism, food processing, industrial property acquisition, banking, and other areas.
In 2004, industry accounted for 36.1% of the overall GDP; agriculture made up 22.9% of the economy, while services came in first with 41.1%. What is remarkable though, is the fact that only about 25% of the working population was employed by the industry, whereas around 45% worked in agriculture. This indicates a high productivity rate in the industrial sector, and a low one in agriculture. The industrial production growth rate was, at 15%, higher than the GDP growth rate, indicating that industry is the main engine of the Armenian economy. Particularly metallurgy, energy, and machine building managed to attract new investment and helped boost the industrial sector output.
The Armenian National Academy of Sciences, founded in 1943 and headquartered in Yerevan, has departments of physical, mathematical, and technological sciences; and natural sciences; and 32 research institutes in fields such as agriculture; biological, mathematical, physical, and earth sciences; and technology. Yerevan State University (founded in 1919) has faculties of mechanics, mathematics, physics, radiophysics, chemistry, biology, geology, geography, and mathematical cybernetics and automatic analysis. Also in Yerevan are the State Engineering University of Armenia (founded in 1930), the Yerevan State Medical University (founded in 1922), the Yerevan Zootechnical and Veterinary Institute (founded in 1929), and the Armenian Scientific and Technical Library. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 29% of college and university enrollments.
As of 2002, there were 1,606 researchers and 147 technicians per million people, actively engaged in research and development (R&D). Spending on R&D accounted for $24.25 million, or 0.25% of GDP in 2002. Of that amount, government accounted for 55.2% of R&D spending, while foreign sources accounted for 11.2%. The remainder was undistributed. In 2002, high technology exports totaled $3 million, 2% of the country's manufactured exports.
As of 1999, there were about 23,128 wholesale and retail companies registered in Armenia, accounting for over 54% of the total registered businesses. The main retail center is in Yerevan. A majority of retail establishments are small food and specialty item shops. Many of these work with wholesalers and sell items on a consignment basis. There are also large open markets in Yerevan and other cities offering a wide variety of food, clothing, housewares, and electronics.
Beginning in 1996, the government launched a major privatization drive. By 1999, over 80% of small businesses and over 60% of medium and large corporations were in private hands. Nearly all farmland is privately owned. Seasonal openair food markets are also popular. Some of these markets still engage in bartering.
Armenia's main trading partners are Belgium, Russia, the United States, Iran, Switzerland, Israel, Georgia, the United Kingdom, the UAE, and the EU. Exports include gold and diamonds, aluminum, transport equipment, electrical equipment, and scrap metal. Imports
|Italy-San Marino-Holy See||18.8||38.1||-19.3|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
include grain and other foods, fuel and energy. Inter-republic trade has suffered as a result of border hostilities, particularly the ongoing conflict over the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, which may prevent the proposed Caspian Sea oil pipeline from passing through Armenia. As of 2003, recent talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan represented a positive step toward resolving the dispute.
Due to its delicate geographic placement, Armenia scores modest foreign trade figures. In 2004, exports totaled only $850 million (FOB—Free on Board), while imports climbed to $1.3 billion (FOB). Main export commodities were precious or semiprecious stones and metals (accounting for 42.5% of total exports), base metals (19.5%), mineral products (11.7%), prepared foodstuffs (9.7%). Principal imports included precious or semiprecious stones and metals (22.5%), mineral products (16.2%), machinery and equipment (10.1%), and prepared foodstuffs (7.0%). These last figures indicate that while Armenia has a vibrant industry, it is not exploiting it to its fullest potential. Existing trade barriers probably hinder the export of manufactured goods, so it has to resort to trading mainly natural resources.
Although the government is working to reduce Armenia's large trade deficits by improving export performance, the conflict over the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan continues to weaken the economy by disrupting normal trade and supply links. Armenia receives large amounts of humanitarian assistance.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Armenia's exports was $338.5 million while imports totaled $868.6 million resulting in a trade deficit of $530.1 million.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Armenia had exports of goods totaling $353 million and imports totaling $773 million. The services credit totaled $187 million and debit $204 million.
Exports of goods and services continued to grow in the following years, reaching $696 million in 2003, and $738 million in 2004. Imports followed a similar path, totaling $1.1 billion in
|Balance on goods||-434.1|
|Balance on services||-68.3|
|Balance on income||93.4|
|Direct investment abroad||-0.4|
|Direct investment in Armenia||120.9|
|Portfolio investment assets||0.1|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||0.2|
|Other investment assets||-63.6|
|Other investment liabilities||117.6|
|Net Errors and Omissions||-1.7|
|Reserves and Related Items||-72.4|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
2003, and $1.2 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, at around -$400 million. The current account balance was also negative, dropping to -$190 million in 2003, and recuperating to -$161 million in 2004. Reserves of foreign exchange and gold reached $555 million in 2004, covering almost six months of imports.
The Central Bank of Armenia is charged with regulating the money supply, circulating currency, and regulating the commercial banks of the country. Commercial banks in Armenia include the Ardshinbank, Armagrobank, Armeconombank, Armimplexbank, Arminvestbank, Bank Armcommunication, Bank "Capital," Bank "Haykap," Central Bank of Armenia, Commercial Bank "Ardana," Commercial Bank Anelik, "Gladzor" Joint Stock Commercial Bank, Masis Commercial Bank, and the State Specialized Savings Bank of the Republic of Armenia. Leading foreign banks include: Mellat Bank (Iran) and Midland Armenia (UK).
The IMF has been concerned about the direction of policy taken by the National Bank of Armenia and the slow pace of financial reform. Armenia's financial sector is overbanked and beset with nonperforming credits, mainly to large state enterprises. Armenia has been a model reforming country among the former Soviet republics, and multilateral creditors are worried that public pressure may now force the government to loosen monetary and fiscal policies.
It was revealed in January 1997 that the central bank's credits to finance the government's budget gap has surpassed their $100 million limit in the first 10 months of 1996. The bank has been forced to intervene in the domestic markets, selling foreign exchange reserves to maintain the stability of the dram. The dram has lost some 14% in value since September 1996, when it stood at d412:$1. By the end of June1997 the rate had gone down to almost d500:$1. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $141.6 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $310.3 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 19.4%.
There are three stock exchanges in Armenia the largest of which is the Yerevan Stock Exchange which listed 91 companies in 1999 and had total capitalization of $17 million. The next largest is the "Adamand" Yerevan Commodity and Stock Exchange which listed 45 companies.
Insurance is largely controlled by government organizations inherited from the Soviet system, although private insurance companies are not unknown.
In 1994, the government began a three-year effort to privatize the national industries. Loans from the IMF, World Bank, EBRD, and other financial institutions and foreign countries aimed at eliminating the government's budget deficit. However, by 1996, external public debt exceeded $353 million with annual debt service payments exceeding $55 million. Loans to Armenia since 1993 total over $800 million.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Armenia's central government took in revenues of approximately $786.1 million and had expenditures of $930.7 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$144.6 million. Total external debt was $1.868 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were d338,463 million. The value of revenues was us$590 million, based on an exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = d573.35 as reported by the IMF.
|Revenue and Grants||338,463||100.0%|
|General public services||…||…|
|Public order and safety||…||…|
|Housing and community amenities||…||…|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||…||…|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
Armenia's complex tax system was revised in 1997 and again in 2001. The top corporate profit tax rate was lowered from 30% to 20%. As of 1 July 2001 a single rate was applied to all taxable profits, defined as the difference between revenues and the sum of wages, amortization payments, raw and intermediate purchases, social security contributions, insurance fees, and interest expenses. Newly formed enterprises are exempt from taxes for the first two years, but there is no provision for carrying forward losses.
Individual income taxes are withheld by enterprises and are paid to the Ministry of Finance monthly. The personal income tax has been reduced from three bands to two: 10% for monthly taxable income up to d80,000 ($144) and 20% plus a payment of d8,000 ($14.40) for taxable income between d120,000 and d320,000 ($1,892) for monthly taxable income above d80,000. Armenians also pay taxes to social security and pension funds. In 1992, Armenia introduced a value-added tax, which stood at 20% in 2003. Excise taxes are applied to diesel fuel, oil, spirits, wine and beer at various rates. There are also land taxes and property taxes. Achieving a higher level of tax collection has been an important part of Armenia's economic reform programs. The fiscal deficit was projected at 2.4% of GDP for 2003.
All exports are duty-free. Minor customs duties (up to 10%) are imposed on certain imports. Imports of machinery and equipment for use in manufacturing by enterprises with foreign investment are exempt from all customs duties.
Armenia's investment climate is regulated by the bilateral investment treaty (BIT) signed with the United States on 23 September 1992 and by the law on foreign investment adopted by Armenia on 31 July 1994. Armenia has also concluded BITs on investment and investment protection with 15 other countries: Georgia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Iran, Egypt, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, France, Germany, Canada, Argentina, China, and Vietnam. Its investment policy is geared to attract foreign investment, with foreign investors accorded national treatment and any sector open to investment. As of 2003, under the law of profit tax, two-year tax holidays are accorded foreign investors whose equity investment in a resident company is at least 500 million drams, or a little less than one million dollars. There are no limits on the repatriation of profits, or on the import and export of hard currency, so long as the currency is imported or earned in Armenia. Otherwise there is a $10,000 limit on the export of cash.
In late 1997, the government initiated the privatization of 11 of the larger state owned enterprises (SOEs), including the energy sector. It was not until 2002, however, that a suitable and willing foreign investor, Daewoo Engineering, was found to manage privatized electricity distribution. Operations at the Zvartnots International Airport have also been successfully leased. The 2001 debt-for-equity swap with Russia, whereby five unproductive SOEs (Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant, the "Mars" Electronics Factory established in 1986 to build robots, and three research labs) were exchanged for the cancellation of Armenia's debt with Russia (about $100 million of nonconcessional lending that was costing almost $20 million/year to service) promised to increase Russian private investment in Armenia as the Russian government passed the assets on to private investors.
From 1998–2000 annual inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) ranged from $120 million to $230 million, though it fell to $75.9 million in 2001 in the wake of the global contraction of foreign investment following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Center. In 2002, FDI increased 12% to about $85 million. A large share of FDI comes from the Armenian diaspora in the United States, Russia, Iran, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Syria. Since 1998, the Lincy Foundation of Armenian American Kirk Kirkorian has made available about $165 million to support small and medium enterprise (SME) development (offering concessional loans for businesses that are at least 51% Armenian owned), assistance for tourism development ($20 million in 2000), and infrastructure repair ($60 million in 2002 and $80 million in 2003). Armenia's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2000 has helped improve the investment climate as a consequence of meeting the WTO's strictures for membership.
The flow of foreign capital into Armenia continued to grow steadily, reaching $155 million in 2003, and $300 million in 2004. The main FDI sources have been Russia, the United States, Greece, France, and Germany. Unfortunately, only a small part of the capital inflows were geared towards green field investments. At the end of 2003, the accumulated stock of FDI amounted to 32% of the GDP.
Development planning in Armenia has been aimed at counter-acting the effects of three devastating blows to its economy: the earthquake of 1988; open warfare and economic blockade over Nagorno-Karabakh; and the combination of hyperinflation and industrial collapse following its separation from the Soviet Union. The government has been aggressive in launching economic reform, beginning with its privatization of agricultural land in 1991, which boosted crop output 30% and resulted in a 15% increase in agricultural production. In December 1994, Armenia embarked on a series of ambitious programs of economic reform guided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that have resulted in nine years of positive growth rates. On its present course, Armenia will achieve its pre-independence level of per capita income by 2005. By 1997, privatization of most small industry, as well as an estimated 70% of larger enterprises, was complete. Progress has been slower with larger state-owned enterprises (SOEs), not least because the government has had difficulty finding bidders at its cash sales auctions. In 1997, the ministries controlling the SOEs were merged, and their functions changed from direct control to general supervision and special support. The Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Trade, and certain parts of the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Privatization and Foreign Investment were also merged in order to streamline the bureaucracy.
In late 1997, 11 large enterprises were offered for sale and in 1998 the parliament passed a law allowing for the sale of the state electricity transmission and distribution networks. Viable bidders were not immediately forthcoming and on 5 December 2000, as a means of supporting the privatization program, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed to take 20% shares in each of Armenia's four electricity distribution companies, with provision for the Armenian government's right to buy back the shares if the agreements were abrogated. The privatization process of the distribution networks stalled in 2001 and 2002 as twice the government failed to attract any final bids. To make the offer more attractive, the government merged the four distribution companies into one closed-end joint stock company, Electricity Networks of Armenia, and on 31 October 2002, 100% of the shares were acquired by the English company, Midland Resources Holding, Ltd. Midland in turn contracted with Daewoo International of South Korea to manage the newly privatized company. By 2002, only a small fraction of a total 100 larger SOEs had been privatized, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The republic has substantial deposits of gold, copper, zinc, bauxite, and other minerals, which could be developed with Western capital. The government is currently exploring alternative trade routes, and seeking export orders from the West to aid production and earn foreign exchange. Much of Armenia's industry remains idle or operating at low capacity utilization in large part because of the country's political isolation from oil and gas supplies.
Armenia's determination to create a market-oriented economy and democratic society has engaged (in addition to the IMF) the World Bank and EBRD as well as other financial institutions and foreign countries. Nevertheless, Armenia continues to remain economically isolated in comparison with its Caucasian neighbors.
The Armenian economy is expected to grow strongly in the coming years, based on increased domestic consumption, which in turn is fueled by higher wages and remittances from abroad. In addition, further investments are expected to come in the country as a result of economic restructuring and trade-oriented policies. Armenia boasts a highly educated work force, a diverse and dynamic industrial base, and a strategic geographic location. However, as long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will not be resolved, the economy will find it hard to reach its fullest potential.
Pension and disability benefit systems were first introduced in 1956 and 1964. More recent legislation was passed in 2002 and implemented in 2003. Retirement is set at age 63 for men and age 59.5 for women, although earlier retirement is allowed for those engaged in hazardous work. The cost is covered by employee, employer, and government contributions. Work injury legislation provides 100% of average monthly earnings for temporary disability and a proportion of wages up to a maximum of 100% for permanent disability, depending on the extent of incapacity. Unemployment, sickness, and maternity benefits and family allowances are also provided under Armenian law.
Women in Armenia largely occupy traditional roles despite an employment law that formally prohibits discrimination based on sex. Women do not receive the same professional opportunities as men and often work in low-level jobs. In 2004 women earned approximately 40% less than men. Societal attitudes do not view sexual harassment in the workplace worthy of legal action. Violence against women and domestic violence is widespread and underreported. According to a recent survey, 45% of women were subject to psychological abuse, and 25% of women were physically abused. Most women do not report domestic abuse due to fear of reprisal and embarrassment.
The constitution protects the freedom of assembly and the freedom of religion. The government allows minorities, such as the Russians, Jews, Kurds, Yezids, Georgians, Greeks, and Assyrians, the right to preserve their cultural practices, the law allows them to study in their native language. Discrimination is prohibited on the basis of race, sex, religion, language disability, or social status. Human rights abuses appear to be widespread. Prison conditions fail to meet international standards and accusations of police brutality are not uncommon.
The infant mortality rate was 23.28 per 1,000 live births in 2005, an increase over the previous five years. The estimated maternal mortality rate was 35 per 100,000 live births as of 1999. Life expectancy in 2005 averaged 71.55 years. There were 7,000 warrelated deaths from 1989 to 1992; the death rate was estimated at 10 per 1,000 people in 2002. The incidence of tuberculosis was 58 per 100,000 people. Immunization rates declined as of 1994 due to war and earthquakes but have begun to recover. In 1999, the immunization rates were as follows for a child under the age of one: tuberculosis, 72%; polio, 95%; and measles, 92%. In the same year, the estimated immunization rate for DPT was 91%. In 2000 the total fertility rate was 1.3 births per woman and the maternal mortality rate was an estimated 35 per 100,000 live births.
As of 2004, there were an estimated 352 physicians and 473 nurses per 100,000 people and the country spent an estimated 7.8% of its GDP on health care. In this former republic of the Soviet Union, health care has undergone rapid changes in the last few years. The break from the Soviet Union has meant a disruption of the system that once provided member states with equipment, supplies, and drugs. Out-of-pocket payments by individual are now required for most health care services. However, the health care delivery itself is still largely organized as it was during the Soviet era, with regional clinics and walkin centers delivering most primary health care services.
The incidence of heart disease is high compared to other moderately developed countries. There is nearly a 50% chance of dying of heart disease after age 65 for both women and men. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 2,600 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
Housing throughout Armenia has been somewhat scarce for the past two decades due to a number of factors, including a history of state control, a devastating earthquake in 1988, and civil conflicts. Since the 1993 passage of a law on privatization for previously state and public-owned housing, about 96% of apartments were privatized and transferred to ownership by the existing tenants.
A large number of buildings are neglected and in serious disrepair and utilities are limited and expensive. The total number of housing units in 2001 was at about 750,719. Nearly 59% were multiunit dwellings, most of which are in urban areas. About 25% of all multi-unit homes were built before 1960; another 52% were built between 1960 and 1980. Only about 85% of the population have access to improved water supplies. Only 9% have central heating. About 50% of the population rely on wood burning stoves as a primary heating source.
Overcrowding and homelessness is a great concern, particularly among the population of refugees and displaced persons. In 2001, about 11% of all households lived in one-room homes. In 2001, it was estimated that about 40,000 families (5% of all households) had no permanent shelter. Nearly 40% of these people lived in temporary shelters called domics within the earthquake zone. Another 40,000 families were on waiting lists for new permanent housing because of overcrowding. About 1,200 new housing units were completed in 2001. The same year, there were about 29,000 unfinished housing units (4,487 buildings). Most of these were started in the late 1980s and early 1990s within the earthquake zone, and were simply left incomplete because of lack of funds and materials.
Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 14 years and is free at both the primary and secondary levels. The system is broken into three levels. Primary school lasts for three years, followed by intermediate school, which lasts for five years. This is followed by two years of general secondary education. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 94%; 95% for boys and 93% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 83%; 82% for boys and 85% for girls. The pupil to teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 10:1.
Since the early 1990s, increasing emphasis has been placed on Armenian history and culture. The school year runs from September to July. Instruction is available in Armenian and Russian. The education system is coordinated through the Ministry of Education and Science and the Council of Rectors of Higher Educational Establishments. About 3.2% of the GDP was given to education in 2003.
The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99%, with a fairly even rate between men and women. There are two universities in Yerevan: the Yerevan State University (founded in 1919) and the State Engineering University of Armenia. Seven other educational institutions are located in the capital. There are several other institutes of higher education throughout the country. About 25% of all age-eligible students were enrolled in tertiary education programs in 2003.
There are two branches of the National Library, with the main branch in Yerevan comprising 6.2 million volumes as of 2002. The main library of the Armenian Academy of Sciences in Yerevan has 4.4 million volumes. The Armenian Academy of Sciences and the universities each have research libraries. The Armenian Library Association was established in 1995.
Yerevan's museums include the National Gallery of Arts; the Yerevan Children's Picture Gallery, a unique collection of children's art from Armenia and around the world; the Museum of Modern Art; the House Museum of Ovanes Tumanjan, Armenia's most renowned poet; and the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts. There are also museums devoted to the composer Aram Khachaturian (including his piano) and the filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov, Armenia's most famous sons. The Genocide Memorial and Museum at Tsitsernakaberd is in Yerevan. The Matenadaran Manuscript Museum, also in Yerevan, was established to preserve the ancient written culture of the region.
In 2003, there were an estimated 148 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 60,800 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 30 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. Communications are the responsibility of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and are operated by Armental, a 90% Greek-owned company. Yerevan is linked to the Trans-Asia-Europe fiber-optic cable through Iran. Communications links to other former Soviet republics are by land line or microwave, and to other countries by satellite and through Moscow.
A majority of citizens rely on radio and television as a primary source of news and information. Armenian and Russian radio and television stations broadcast throughout the country. In 2004, there were over 20 radio stations and over 40 television broadcasters, most of which were privately owned and operated. In 2003, there were an estimated 264 radios and 229 television sets for every 1,000 people. Though cable television service is available, only about 1.2 of every 1,000 people are subscribers. In 2003, there were 15.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 37 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were four secure Internet servers available in 2004.
The three largest newspapers as of 2002 were Golos Armenii (The Voice of Armenia, circulation 20,000), Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (a joint publication of the parliament and the newspaper's staff), and Respublika Armenia, (the Russian-language version of Hayastani Hanrapetutyun). According to the Yerevan Press Club, the total newspaper circulation in the country in 2004 was 60,000, an increase of 20,000 from 2003. There were about 27 newspapers available in the capital.
Armenia's constitution provides for freedom of expression, and is said to generally uphold freedom of speech and press. However, journalists seem to adhere to an unspoken rule of self-censorship, particularly when reporting on political issues, since they traditionally depend on the government for funding and access to facilities. The government has, it is noted, begun to shed itself of the state publishing apparatus, and it has dissolved the Ministry of Information.
Important political movements in Armenia include the Armenian National Movement and the National Self-Determination Association. Armenian trade unions belong to the umbrella organization Council of Armenia Trade Unions. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Armenia promotes the economic and business activities of the country in world markets.
The National Academy of Sciences of Armenia encourages the public interest in science and seeks to ensure availability and effectiveness of science education programs. The Armenian Physical Society serves a similar role. The group also works with various research programs. The Independent Media Center promotes the freedom and accuracy of press and other media. The Armenian Medical Association promotes research and education in the field; there are also several professional associations for specialized fields of medicine.
There are a number of national sporting organizations, including the Athletic Federation of the Republic of Armenia, the Armenian National Paralympic Committee, and other groups sponsoring football (soccer), baseball, skiing, and the Special Olympics. The National Youth Council of the Republic of Armenia coordinates youth organizations through the support of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Youth. An affiliate of the United Nations of Youth (UNOY), a foundation based in the Netherlands, was established in Armenia in 1994. Other youth groups include the Aragast Youth Club and the Armenian Euro Club Unipax. There are active chapters of the Girl Guides and Girls Scouts; the World Organization of Scouting is represented by the Armenian National Scout Movement. The Armenian Junior Chamber is a national leadership development organization. The YMCA is also present.
Organizations representing the rights and role of women in society include the League of Armenian Women, the Union of the Protection of Women's, Children and Family Rights, and the Women's Alliance. There is a national chapter of the Red Cross Society, World Vision, and Habitat for Humanity. The Armenian Relief Society supports local community health development programming.
Although there is a shortage of resources, Armenia has been investing in new hotels to increase tourism. Outdoor activities and scenery seem to be the primary attractions. Lake Sevan, the world's largest mountain lake, is a popular summer tourist spot. The Tsakhador ski resort is open year round for skiing in the winter and hiking and picnicking the rest of the year. Mt. Ararat, the traditional site of the landing of Noah's Ark, is located along the border with Turkey. Yerevan, Armenia's capital, also boasts theaters; the casinos in Argavand are popular with tourists and Albanian citizens.
In 2003, there were about 206,000 visitor arrivals, as compared to 45,000 in 2000. Tourist receipts totaled $90 million in 2003.
In 2002, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Yerevan at $184.
Levon Ter-Petrosyan was president of Armenia from 1991 until 1998. Gagik G. Haroutunian has been prime minister, vice president, and chairman of the Council of Ministers since November 1991. Gregory Nare Katzi, who lived in the 10th century, was Armenia's first great poet. Nineteenth-century novelists include Hakob Maliq-Hakobian (1835?–1888) whose pen name is "Raffi" and the playwright Gabriel Sundukian (1825–1912). G. I. Gurdjieff (1872?–1949) was a Greek-Armenian mystic and teacher. Soviet aircraft designer Artem Mikuyan (1905–70) served as head of the MiG design bureau. Arshile Gorky (1904–48) was an Armenian-American abstract expressionist painter.
Armenia has no territories or colonies.
Abrahamian, Levon and Nancy Sweezy (eds.). Armenian Folk Arts, Culture, and Identity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.
Adalian, Rouben Paul. Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002.
De Waal, Thomas. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press, 2003.
Karanian, Matthew. Edge of Time: Traveling in Armenia and Karabagh. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Stone Garden Productions, 2002.
Kohut, David R. Historical Dictionary of the "Dirty Wars." Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2003.
Libaridian, Gerard J. Modern Armenia: People, Nation, State. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2004.
Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.
Suny, Ronald Grigor. Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
Walker, Christopher J. Armenia: the Survival of a Nation, Rev. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.
World Bank. Public Expenditure Review of Armenia. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2003.
"Armenia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700257.html
"Armenia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700257.html
Republic of Armenia
Arzni, Ashtarak, Echmiadzin, Kumayri
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Armenia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
Armenia is one of the great cradles of human civilization. The archeologists tell us that wine was invented in its sheltered valleys, and, perhaps, even the wheel. According to Armenia's librarians, more than a decade before the Emperor Constantine turned Rome into a Christian Empire, Armenia's King Trdat declared his kingdom Christian, making Armenia into the world's very first Christian state.
Certainly, Armenia is home to one of the world's oldest and most durable continuous cultures. Its 3,000 years of history tell a powerful tale of conquest, foreign domination and resurgence. And throughout it all, the country's remarkable people have sustained a clear sense of national, ethnic, and religious identity.
A member of the Soviet Union from 1921-1991, a newly independent Armenia is working hard to fulfill the promise of democracy and a market economy. The 1999 Parliamentary elections, for example, showed real improvement over the previous election. But, despite progress, the transition from the Soviet system has been painful. In addition to the natural hardships faced by all command economies undergoing reform, Armenia faces blockades and sanctions resulting from a complex conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh Region.
Following independence, Armenia was virtually without electric power for 2 years. Its well-developed economy-one of the richest in the Soviet Union-was simply crushed. Recovery has been slow.
Now, however, the worst is over. The dram, the national currency, is currently enjoying relative stability. Oil and gas supplies are flowing steadily. Moreover, with U.S. help, the power sector has been reorganized to dramatically improve efficiency. As a result, the lights have been on in Yerevan for the past two years.
With traditional resilience, the country is slowly climbing out of the abyss, even though high tensions with Azerbaijan keep Armenia's borders with that country and with Turkey closed. Although the traditional economic base has been shattered, small businesses are opening all over the capital, and, to a lesser extent, in the provinces. Consumer goods are available in local markets, kiosks and stores. The metro is running; car traffic is rolling all day long. If normal life still lies in the future, some hope, at least, has returned to the present. Much, however, is contingent on creating a durable political resolution to the volatile Nagorno-Karabakh situation.
Given this dramatic backdrop, Yerevan remains an intensely busy post. The Armenians, among the best-educated people in the entire CIS, are competent and energetic. Personnel assigned to this post can expect many exciting responsibilities at work. Moreover, given the very real nature of the challenges here, there is a genuine sense of making a difference.
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is in the west-central part of the country in the Ararat Valley, a plateau 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level. This fertile plain is ringed by an impressive range of mountains, which are capped with snow for most of the year. With the exception of the relatively flat center city, Yerevan is a town of steep hills and winding cobblestone byways. The tree-lined downtown streets retain some old-fashioned charm, as do sections of the surrounding hillsides. These are clustered with stone villas and small houses in various states of repair. There are many bars and restaurants in the safely walked center. And, in the summer especially, outdoor cafes and fountains abound. Much of the greater metropolis, however, is characterized by Soviet-style high-rise architecture, which lacks any aesthetic appeal. But Armenia's often spectacular countryside is never more than a 30-minute drive from any part of town. It should be noted that all official Embassy housing is currently in the relatively pleasant city center.
The ancient city is the cultural as well as the administrative center of the nation. There are universities, a fine, functional Opera House and many pleasant museums. With about a million people it is home to roughly a third of the country's entire population.
On clear days (and there are many) the mountains ringing Yerevan create a dramatic backdrop. Mount Ararat of Noah's Ark fame, a 16,000-foot peak crowned with eternal snow, commands the southwest horizon across the Turkish border. To the north looms Mount Aragats, Armenia's highest mountain, a rugged snow-capped peak of 13,000 feet.
Electricity is 220v-50hz. There are frequent, sometimes extremely powerful, spikes. Bring surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) for computers and any other expensive or delicate electrical equipment. European-style round-prong sockets are used in all housing. Bring adapter plugs for appliances with auto power-switching properties. Non-power-switching electrical appliances with 110v-60hz input require a transformer. Some appliances like electric clocks cannot be adapted in this way, others, like turntables may require special parts from the manufacturer for full adaptation.
Outlets are not usually grounded, so extra care should always be exercised around appliances. Hand-held equipment-hair dryers, shavers-requires extra caution.
For most of the year there is a good supply of inexpensive raw fruits and vegetables at the open-air markets. In summer there is an abundance of delicious local apricots, cherries, and other fruits. The dead of winter sees a dramatic reduction of selection and an increase in price for fresh produce. Still, by Western standards, prices are not high. Winter crops like cabbages, beets, potatoes, onions, carrots are readily available all the time at cheap prices. And salad greens, fresh herbs and even tomatoes can almost always be had for a price. Oranges, bananas and apples can also be obtained year round. The best places for fruits and vegetables (price and selection) are the GUM fresh market on Tigran Mets Avenue and the Central Market on Mashtots Ave. Small markets and vendors abound in the city.
Fresh pork, lamb, beef, chicken and a limited variety of freshwater fish are available year round. Eggs are available, too. Low and reduced fat UHT shelf milk and full-fat powdered milk can be purchased as well, although supplies of low-fat are sporadic. Pasteurized fresh milk is available, but the quality is low.
Dried fruits like raisins, apricots, dates and figs, as well as many kinds of salami and cured meat, can be found in abundance. A few varieties of whole-bean coffee are available. The Cafe de Paris on Abovian Street (near Tumanian Street) has fresh-roasted beans. And there is plenty of instant coffee in shops and kiosks. Also available are pasta, flour, rice, beans, lentils, a limited variety of European and Australian cheeses, local sour cream, walnuts, hazelnuts, mushrooms, yogurt, and butter. A variety of Western soft drinks, candy, cigarettes, ice-cream bars and a few brands of imported and local beer are available.
There are a few supermarkets in Yerevan, but the inventory is sometimes disappointing and quirky and they are far from Western standard. A shopping trip might include a run through all of them to find something you need. Frozen food is available at these stores, but the selection is extremely limited and there are no frozen vegetables.
The following stores are popular these days: Partez, Europe, Cash and Carry, Yeritsian and Sons, Bravo, Urartu, and the Hayastan Super Market at the Druzbah Metro stop. For meat " The Rooster " butcher on Pushkin Street is popular. The state-run GUM market is a good place to shop, but is a little intimidating at first. One will find there most of the goods carried in the supermarkets, and at much better prices.
Other than some cereal products, baby foods are not generally available. Cake mixes are not available. Pop Tarts and other breakfast bars are not available. Pet food is available, but limited as to type and very expensive. Kitty litter is not available. Beer is available but limited in variety. Wine is available, but limited in variety. Nestle breakfast cereals are available, but are limited in choice and are now selling for $6 a box. Low-fat versions of food are not available. Peanut butter, pancake syrup, and chocolate syrup are not available.
© Dave Bartruff/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.
The supply of ready made clothes available here is limited and often not to American taste. There are some ultra-expensive designer boutiques, however. And medium quality hand tailoring is available.
The sun can be quite strong, especially in the mountains, so hats, sun block, and good sunglasses are needed. Bring some effective winter gear. It does not stay cold, but temperatures can get very low. Long underwear will be needed some days. Keep in mind that many local buildings are poorly heated.
Washable fabrics should be chosen where possible. Although drycleaning services are available here, they are pricey and not as versatile as those in the U.S.
Sturdy walking shoes are a must; walking is a good way to get around in Yerevan.
Supplies and Services
It is strongly suggested that you bring a supply of laundry detergent and fabric softener with you. But what you bring by way of supplies is mainly a matter of preference, not absolute necessity. Most household goods are available here, from cleaning supplies to paper goods. But… they seldom bear a familiar brand name and often the quality is odd or very low. Russian-made toilet paper and Barf Detergent (an Iranian brand name) are good cases in point. Prices can also be quite high for some things, such as laundry detergent. Here you might see some familiar brands, such as Tide, but make sure it is for a machine. Hand detergent is common.
The following services are available and adequate: haircutting, shoe repair, taxi, tailoring, dressmaking, upholstery and draperies, auto repair, locksmith, picture framing, etc. In short, most average needs can be met.
Domestic help is available and runs about $100 per month for day help ($1 per hour). Houses do not have special facilities for live-in maids.
Most churches in Yerevan are Armenian Apostolic, but there are some services for other denominations. A partial list of contacts follows.
Anglican: (Episcopalian) Monthly service in English. Contact: Philip Storventer, St. Zhoravants Church. Tel: 40-79-85, Office: 52-71-27
Catholic: The Mekhitarist Center, daily services (mornings) with Sunday Mass at 10:00 am. (Catholic Armenian rite Mass is held primarily in Armenian with readings usually in English.) Address: 7 Alikhanian St. (opposite the Chinese Embassy) Contacts: Father Serafino (speaks English, French, Italian, Armenian), Father Elia (speaks Armenian, Italian) Tel: 56-18-88, 58-98-37 E-mail: email@example.com
Church of the Latter-Day Saints: Services 10 am or 12 noon at 43 Pushkin St. Five different congregations and a youth group. Contact: Margie Anderson. Tel: 27-0349 or Elder Hadley Tel: 34-43-97 or Elder Reading Tel: 58-33-23.
Seventh Day Adventist: No English Service. There is an Armenian congregation of 300 and a young adult group. Contact: ADRA office. Tel: 39-27-09.
Interdenominational Bible Study and Fellowship: (In English) Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 10:30 am. at the Drummond home, Address: 39A Aigestan St. (Near Peace Corps Office) Contact: Peter or Jekke Drummond. Tel: 57-44-27.
Synagogue: Address: Nar-Dos St. 23, Yerevan. Contact: Rabbi Gersh-Meir Bourstem (Chief Rabbi of Armenia)Tel: 57-19-68 Fax: 374 3 90-69-14. e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
There is only one school in Armenia suited to the needs of the international community, and it is very well regarded. The QSI International School of Yerevan is an independent coeducational day school that offers an educational program from pre-school through grade eight for students of all nationalities. In addition, the school has the capability of coordinating correspondence education for the higher grades through a well-respected program operated out of the University of Nebraska. The school was founded in 1995 by Quality Schools International (QSI), which has 17 schools operating worldwide, many of them in the CIS. The school year comprises three trimesters. These extend from the first week in September to the second week in December; from the first week in January to the third week in March; and, lastly, from the first week in April to the second week in June.
The school is governed by the QSI Board of Directors. The board's composition is set forth in the bylaws of QSI. Additionally, an advisory board, composed of from six to ten members, assists the school in its operation. All members of the advisory board reside in Armenia. They are appointed by the president of QSI in concert with the director of the QSI International School of Yerevan.
The school offers an outcome-based educational program with a curriculum similar to that of U.S.-based public and private schools. Instruction, leading to individual mastery, takes advantage of small class sizes and the diverse educational backgrounds of the students. Instruction is in English.
The school also coordinates extracurricular activities such as ballet, karate woodcarving, jewelry making, sculpting, puppet making, etc. Swimming instruction at a pool operated by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRCC) is available.
There were four full-time faculty members in the 1997-98 school year, two of whom were U.S. citizens.
The school is located in the 650 square meter second floor of the CARITAS Switzerland building on Ashtarak Highway. The building will also house the school's administrative offices and the director's quarters. The facilities will be adequate for the projected enrollment for the next 3 years, and there is sufficient play and exercise space for the students, both indoors and out. The school has its own athletic field and weekly access to the IFRCC gym and pool. There are currently no facilities for handicapped or special needs students. Bus service will be provided.
In the 1998-99 school year, the school's income was derived from regular day school tuition. Annual tuition rates were as follows: Pre-school (3-4-year-olds) $5,300; Kindergarten, $8,300; grades one through eight, $10,800. The school also charges an annual capital fund fee of $1,600 per year or a capital fund deposit of $4,000 for all 5 year and older students. Accreditation: Full accreditation is expected by 1999. Currently, the school's financial system and curriculum have both received accreditation. The school has been accepted into candidacy for full accreditation by two bodies: The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation. The Self Study and School Improvement Plan have been completed and the Accreditation Team visited the school in February 1999. The school holds a Provisional Certificate from the Department of Defense.
Contact: QSI International School of Yerevan, c/o American Embassy, Yerevan, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20521-7020
Local mobile phone: 8-21-407656
A few sport activities are also available in Yerevan. The Armenian soccer team plays at the Hrazdan stadium in season. There are tennis courts and amateur tournaments. For a fee, the gymnasium, sauna and indoor pool operated by the International Federation of the Red Cross are accessible year round. (The IFRCC facility is about 20 minutes from the Embassy.) And the Defense Attaches Office operates a small, but well-appointed gym and sauna in the Chancery. And there is a growing number of private health clubs in the city. Aerobic exercise classes are available.
Fishing is an attractive prospect in Armenia, a country with more than 100 mountain lakes, and countless clear fast rivers. Also, Lake Sevan is only about 50 miles from Yerevan. It is one of the world's largest mountain lakes, is a popular summer tourist spot, and the home of vast numbers of fish-including brown trout. Fishing slower moving streams for carp is also popular.
The Tsakhadzor Ski Resort is a popular destination in both summer and winter. The chair lift operates year round and the overnight accommodation at the House of Writers is decent, albeit far from luxurious. There is skiing in the winter (cross country and downhill) and hiking and picnicking in the spring, summer and fall. The resort is about an hour's drive from Yerevan. Snowshoeing is also possible in many mountain areas for much of the year.
There are pristine camp recreation areas all over Armenia. Some notable ones are found on the slopes of Mt. Aragats, as well as in Hankavan, Dilijan and to the south near Yeghegnadzor.
And for those who like to jog around in strange places, that venerable running society the Hash House Harriers has an active chapter in Yerevan. The group, which is open to all, organizes camp outs from time to time.
Yerevan is an excellent base for exploring Armenia's many ancient churches, monasteries, and natural wonders. Some of the oldest Christian monuments in the world can be found in Armenia. The architecture is fascinating and the settings dramatic; the mountainous Armenian landscape is unforgettable. Many people like to hike, climb and camp. The countryside is safe for overnight camping.
The Cathedral at Etchmiadzin, built in 301 A.D., is the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Located about 30 minutes from Yerevan by car, Etchmiadzin Cathedral can be visited for Sunday services. Tours on other days require special arrangement. The church, its grounds, and museum contain a fine collection of ancient religious artifacts.
There is much to see in Armenia. Take a trip to Mt. Aragats to see the soaring walls of the once impregnable fortress of Amberd. Or visit the Roman mosaics at the pagan temple of Garni. And do not miss the huge chambers hewn out of solid rock at the cave monastery of Gegard; or any of the scores of other churches, monasteries and ruins that hide in the country's rough, wild landscape.
The city of Yerevan itself has a surprising amount to offer. There is opera, ballet, and a world-class symphony. The symphony performs twice a week much of the year and tickets are very inexpensive.
The Armenian Song Theater is also splendid, as is the Chamber Ensemble. The National Art museum on Republic Square is a must see, as is the Matenadaran Manuscript Library, which houses illuminated tomes from ancient times in Armenian, Greek and Latin.
A visit to the open-air art market held near the opera house every weekend is a must, as are periodic trips to the Vermsage, the large crafts market located in the park near Republic Square.
Victory Park, overlooking the city, is a favorite place for runners and joggers, especially during the warm weather. And there is a small amusement midway in the park complete with a working Ferris wheel and other rides. There are also rowboats to rent on the park pond, which is ringed by several small cafes.
The American University of Armenia has several English-speaking clubs to which members of the American community are welcome. Several persons currently get personalized instruction from world-class musicians. The South Caucasus Study Group organizes many interesting talks and excursions. Topics range from history and archeology to natural history and biology.
Recently, a number of restaurants have opened in the city. Local interpretations of Russian, Chinese, Continental, Italian, Indian, Persian, Turkish and American (burgers and pizza) can be found. There are also, of course, many quality establishments serving Armenian cuisine. And there are scores of kabob houses, some of which have a good reputation for wholesomeness. In addition, outdoor cafe society is a vital part of the city life. During the long warm season (April to November) scores of pleasant establishments serving inexpensive coffee and pastries can be found tucked into the green patches around the city.
And, if such is your taste, small casinos abound in Yerevan. No one can vouch for their honesty or safety, however. Lastly, a few adequate bars and pubs popular with the expatriate crowd can be found. A high-tech disco has recently opened at the Armenia Hotel-now being managed by Marriott.
And there is an indoor-outdoor jazz bar and restaurant (Poplavok) by a lake in the center of the city. The music is excellent.
ARZNI, 13 miles north of Yerevan, is noted for its mineral spring and baths, which are set in a park of pine and chestnut trees. The sanatorium was built in 1925. Regular bus service operates between Arzni and Yerevan.
ASHTARAK is on the southern slope of Mount Aragats, about 12 miles northwest of Yerevan. The surrounding area has been inhabited from prehistoric times and the villages of the area have many archaeological sites of interest.
ECHMIADZIN is a pleasant 12-mile drive from Yerevan. Mount Ararat, now in Turkey, can be seen on a clear day. It was on the peak of Mount Ararat that Noah is said to have landed after the Flood, and the mountain remains an important part of Armenian legend.
KUMAYRI, formerly Leninakan, was completely destroyed in the 1988 Armenian earthquake. It was founded by Armenian refugee artisans from Turkey in 1837. The city of 123,000 was noted for its textile industry and theater life. Kumayri is currently being rebuilt, with completion expected soon.
Geography and Climate
Armenia is located in southwestern Asia, just east of Turkey. It covers a total land area of 29,800 square kilometers, which is slightly larger than the state of Maryland. Armenia is a landlocked country bordered by Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan-Naxcivan Enclave, Georgia, Iran and Turkey.
The climate is highland continental. It is dry, with an average of 550mm (21.6 inches) in annual rainfall. In the Ararat Valley, where Yerevan is located, there is far less rain, with an average range of from 200mm to 250mm (7.9 to 10 inches).
Seasonal extremes are pronounced in the Ararat Valley. Temperatures can approach the record summer high of 42°C (107.67) or plunge toward the record winter low of-30°C (-227). Mean temperatures are more temperate, however. July readings give an average high range of from 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F). The January low range averages from-5°C (23°F) to-7°C (19°F). Autumns are long and golden; Armenia enjoys around 2700 hours of sunshine each year. Drought, however, is a perennial problem.
The country rests on a high mountainous plateau cut by fast flowing rivers. The over-grazed hills boast little true forest, but many of the steeper slopes are dressed with scrub and second growth. Good soil is found in the Arax River Basin. And sheltered valleys across the country host fruit orchards and vineyards. The scenery along the highways is often dramatic, with high mountains shadowing green pastures ribboned with clear, cold streams.
Twenty percent of Armenia's land is given over to pasture and 17% to agriculture. Three thousand and fifty square kilometers is under irrigation.
At 4,095 meters, Mount Aragats is the highest point in the country.
The interesting geology consists mostly of young igneous and volcanic rocks including obsidian. Armenia is honeycombed with geologic faults and remains seismically active. The effects of a severe earthquake centered in Spitak in 1988 are still being felt socially and economically, particularly near the epicenter.
(See Health and Medicine for a discussion of the precautions recommended for the hot dry climate and the possibility of earthquake.)
Armenia's population is officially 3.7 million, based on the 1989 census, but is probably substantially less, around 3 million, due to large scale emigration in the difficult years between 1988 and 1995. One-third of the population lives in Yerevan. Armenia retains significant Yezidi Kurdish and Russian minorities, and smaller numbers of Greeks, Ukrainians, and others. Some 300,000 ethnic Azeris fled Armenia in 1988-90, mostly from rural areas, and an approximately equal number of Armenians took refuge in Armenia from Baku and other Azeri cities.
Conditions in Armenia were so difficult from 1991 to 1993 that there was a vast emigration to the U.S., Europe, Russia and other Newly Independent States. True figures are not available, but the current population probably stands between two-and-a-half and three million.
Armenians have their own highly distinctive alphabet and language. Ninety-six percent of the people in the country speak it, while a solid majority of the population know Russian as well. Armenia was totally literate; 99% of the population could read and write Armenian and or Russian in Soviet times. Current literacy figures are not available, but the economic crisis has dramatically affected education.
Most adults in Yerevan can communicate in Russian. Russian is still taught in school, although quality has declined sharply. English is increasing in popularity, but is spoken rarely outside of educated circles. Cyrillic script can still be seen on many older street and building signs. Ninety-four percent of the population claims membership in the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Caucasian hospitality is legendary and stems from an ancient tradition. Social gatherings center around sumptuous presentations of course after course of elaborately prepared, well-seasoned (but not spicy-hot) food. The host or hostess will often put morsels on a guest's plate whenever it is empty or fill his or her glass when it gets low. After a helping or two it is acceptable to refuse politely or, more simply, just leave a little uneaten food. A cleared plate or an empty glass will get filled.
On the whole, Armenia is a safe country, close-knit and with little violent crime.
Foreigners can travel freely throughout the country and be confident of a friendly welcome. Note that Armenians are intensely curious about foreigners, particularly in rural areas. This curiosity will generally manifest itself in open-handed hospitality and ready assistance to the traveler, but can sometimes become intrusive, requiring considerable diplomatic skill to extricate oneself. Stone-throwing by local urchins or vandalism of cars is rare, but can be a problem, particularly when the foreigner is distinctively non-Armenian. Best defense is a friendly greeting in Armenian to the adults on entry to a new village.
Attitudes toward women are still shaped by Middle Eastern links and a pattern of male domination. Though violence against foreign women is rare, women traveling or dining without male escort should dress conservatively and avoid eye contact or other behavior that might attract unwanted attention.
Armenia-"Hayastan" in Armenian-is a republic. On 5 July 1995, the current constitution was adopted through a national referendum.
With the adoption of the constitution ten provinces plus the capital were designated. They are as follows: Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Lori, Kotayk, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, and Vayots Dzor, plus the capital city of Yerevan.
The head of state is the President, in whom much power is vested.
The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed and dismissed by the President. The President also appoints and dismisses the members of the Government, but at the proposal of the Prime Minister.
The unicameral legislative branch is known as the National Assembly, which now has 131 members. Under an election law passed in 1999 two methods are used to choose what is now a professional full-time Assembly; first, a proportional party-based system, and, second, a simple head-to-head majority mandate. Currently, 56 deputies are elected under the proportional party-focused system and 75 are elected under the majoritarian candidate-focused system.
After the presidential election of 1998 a new set of political parties began to coalesce out of the ashes of the previous administration. The largest plurality was for a time the "Yerkrapah" faction, a nationalistic association of Nagorno Karabakh veterans. But it has since been integrated into the Republican Party, which is headed by Defense Minister Vasgen Sarkissian. Moreover, just before the May 30, 1999, election the Republicans allied themselves with the People's Party. The People's Party is headed by Karen Demirchian, former First Secretary of the Armenian Communist Party. This powerful election alliance, the Unity Bloc-which includes Yerkrapah, the Republicans and the People's Party-won a decisive majority of National Assembly seats in the May 30, 1999, election.
The opposition is formed by several parties; notably, the Communists, the Dashnaks (a century-old nationalist party with strong ties to the Armenian Diaspora) and the National Democratic Union.
The country's legal apparatus is founded on a system of civil law. Currently, the National Assembly is very busy passing legislation in virtually every field. The system of new legislation being born is considered one generally favorable to free market business development and is in line with accepted democratic principles.
The judicial branch is headed by the Constitutional Court, which is composed of nine judges. These are appointed by the president. The term of office is for life, but a judge may be dismissed by the president. The president also appoints and dismisses the chief prosecutor.
Under international guidance the judiciary underwent a thorough legally mandated reform and retraining process. And it is now working with a completely rewritten set of legal codes that see it acting with increasing independence.
Moreover, in the past year, there have been important structural changes to the judiciary. What is more, constitutional amendments to even further increase judicial independence are being given consideration. But new laws on the judicial system, the role of judges, advocate service and the enforcement of court judgements have already been passed. Judges have been appointed to the newly created trial courts (Courts of First Instance) and the Court of Appeals. However, it will take a lot of political will to continue to make further reforms encouraging judicial independence.
Many international organizations are represented in Armenia. The United Nations is very active, as is the EU and some national governments. In addition, there are scores of non-governmental organizations. These serve a variety of needs, ranging from humanitarian aid to democratic as well as economic development.
An important national issue is the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region within Azerbaijan, which declared independence in 1988. After a war lasting six years, a fragile ceasefire has held since 1994. Achieving regional stability by finding a durable settlement is a high-priority mission goal. In addition, this unresolved confrontation is an exacerbating factor in the country's severe economic crisis due to the embargo imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey. (See Commerce and Industry for more details.)
Lastly, no discussion of public institutions would be complete without mentioning the vast Armenian diaspora, both in the U.S. and Europe. It has become a bridge to the outside world for many Armenians, particularly with the advent of the Internet, and influences the direction of the country with resources and ideas. In addition, the Diaspora has been very active in humanitarian efforts in Armenia.
Arts, Science, and Education
Yerevan is the country's intellectual as well as its administrative center.
Yerevan State University, the State Medical Institute and the State Engineering University are located in the capital. The latter maintains fairly strong programs in math, engineering and architecture.
The American University of Armenia has graduate programs in Business and Law, among others. The institution owes its existence to the combined efforts of the Government of Armenia, The Armenian General Benevolent Union, USAID, and the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. Many of the country's most successful young entrepreneurs are graduates of this institution.
The extension programs and the library at AUA form a new focal point for English-language intellectual life in the city. English-language instruction plays a large part in the AUA curriculum and many members of the American community here, including spouses of U.S. Mission employees, teach English at the university.
As might be expected from so literate a society, Yerevan is a city of culture. The Matenadaran Library contains a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts, chiefly Armenian, but also Persian, Arab, Latin, and Greek.
The city's National Art Gallery has more than 16,000 works that date back to the middle ages. It houses paintings by many European masters. The Modern Art Museum, The Children's Picture Gallery, and the Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are now opening. They feature rotating exhibitions and sales.
Armenia was a crossroads of the ancient and medieval world. The country is home to hundreds if not thousands of fascinating archeological sites. Medieval, Iron Age, Bronze Age and even Stone Age sites are all within a few hours drive from the city. It can be compared to Greece or Italy in terms of the numbers and quality of its historic sites. There is much to be learned and seen.
The world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the city Opera House. In addition, there are several chamber ensembles and the Serenade Orchestra is also known for its high standards. In season, grand opera is performed. Fine music can also be heard at the State Music Conservatory and at the Chamber Music Orchestra Hall.
In addition, there are many drama theaters in Yerevan hosting plays in Russian as well as Armenian.
Yerevan's Vernisage (arts and crafts market)-held each weekend in the park just off Republic Square-is home to hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts, many of superb workmanship. From inlaid wooden backgammon sets, to the hand-knotted wool carpets that are signature to central Asia, the selection is astonishing. Obsidian, which is found locally, is crafted into an amazing assortment of jewelry and ornamental objects. And there is also an excellent selection of fine jewelry; Armenian gold smithy enjoys a long tradition. Soviet relics and souvenirs of recent Russian manufacture-nesting dolls, watches, enamel boxes, etc.-also may be found at the Vernisage. There is another popular weekend art market in the park across from the Opera House that focuses mainly on paintings.
Carpet emporiums abound in the city.
In Soviet times Armenia boasted very high numbers of specialists and scientists in proportion to its population. There were many important academic institutes located here. Much of the basic research has stopped, however, due to the country's impoverished condition. For this reason many of the country's scientists have left or found more practical ways to make ends meet.
This breakdown has had an interesting consequence. Many of the English-speaking Foreign Service nationals employed at the U.S. Mission in Yerevan are drawn from this distinguished pool of intellectuals. They serve conscientiously in positions far beneath their level of training. These highly educated, self-starting Armenian partners add a great deal to the strength of the U.S. Embassy here. Yerevan has perhaps the best workforce in the entire NIS.
Commerce and Industry
Armenia's once thriving industrial economy largely collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union. Only now is it slowly starting to recover. Once the small landlocked country was no longer an integral part of the economic structure of the Soviet central system, it lost its sources of supply as well as its markets. Historically, Armenia provided machine-building tools, textiles, and much of the Soviet military's high-tech equipment-lasers, navigation systems, etc. Energy and raw materials were supplied from other republics in a centralized system. Today, few industries from that time operate. And those that continue to run do so at greatly reduced capacity.
On top of this, the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has resulted in a closed border with Turkey (a natural trading partner). And Azerbaijan, which was once a main supplier of energy, is now a bitter enemy. Moreover, the expense of the occupation in Azerbaijan drains the Armenian treasury.
Over the last 5 years (1995-99) things have improved relative to the darkest days of early independence. At that time, from 1992 to 1994, Yerevan was virtually without electric power. The people survived mainly through an intensive program of international aid. The critical situation with electricity has changed owing to many of the following factors: improvements in power management, such as metering and transmission, have been made; gas supplies are coming in through Georgia; and the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is up and running. However, the above-mentioned chronic factors hindering Armenia's development-Nagorno-Karabakh, lack of markets and sources of supply-are still very much applicable.
Armenia's problems notwithstanding, many of its macro-economic indicators are strong. Inflation was brought down to comparatively tolerable levels during 1996 (5.9%). And it stood at 20% for 1997. In 1998 there was actually a negative inflation rate (-1.3%) (deflation). And, so far for 1999, the annualized rate of inflation stands at 11%.
The dram has enjoyed relative stability in this environment. Currently, it stands at 545 dram to the U.S. dollar. Moreover, the dram weathered the Russian financial crisis of 1998 quite well. One can expect it to remain basically stable with, perhaps, a weakening trend against the dollar. Official GDP grew at 7% in 1998.
These days, Armenia's biggest source of foreign exchange is from its trade in precious stones. There is a thriving jewelry industry, which includes the manufacture of finished jewels as well as the polishing of rough diamonds bought from South Africa. Some textiles are still produced as well, particularly leather goods. There is also a trade in high-value agricultural produce-apricots and grapes. And it must be mentioned that the country is justifiably famous for its brandy production. Some electronics manufacturing continues. And a few projects involving software development have been launched as well-one of Armenia's assets is its highly trained and educated labor pool.
Natural resources include deposits of gold, copper, molybdenum, zinc and alumina.
Also, Armenia's richness of history may be viewed as a sustainable resource. Tourism has real potential, including archeological and ecological tourism. Armenia is traditionally considered to be the first Christian state; its conversion predates that of the Roman Empire. As a result there are important monasteries and churches that date to the earliest centuries of the first millennium AD. But Armenia was also part of the cradle of civilization and important Bronze and Iron Age sites are also found here. These archeological sites, although undeveloped from a tourism perspective, are second to none in importance. Moreover, their mountain settings are often dramatic and beautiful.
Although agriculture plays an important role in the economy, Armenia still imports much of its food. Most of the raw material for its industry-hides, cotton, rough diamonds-is also imported. Consumer goods are brought in from the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, the other Newly Independent States, Russia, Eastern and Western Europe, Iran and-by way of Georgia and Iran-from Turkey.
Armenia still engages in some old, Soviet-style barter, but this is being slowly phased out.
To the extent that practical considerations allow, the government is planning and executing an aggressive restructuring of most major sectors of the economy. Transportation in the areas of roads, air and rail, is being moved forward. The energy sector has been given the highest priority. And the water system is being addressed as well.
With some exceptions, privatization is also well under way. Over 80% of small businesses are private, and over 60% of medium and large enterprises are private. The phone system has been privatized and the country's premier accommodation, the Armenia Hotel, has recently been privatized as well. It is being managed under contract by U.S.-based Marriott. In 1998 the government overcame strong opposition to privatize the world-famous brandy enterprise. And ninety percent of the country's land, including virtually all of the farmland, is in private hands.
An expanding service sector is emerging in the capital, fueled in part by the substantial amount of aid pouring into the country. The many new shops and restaurants benefit everyone posted here.
In the main, the government appears to have a good understanding of what is needed for economic development. There is a liberal trade regime. Foreigners can own any kind of property or business except land. Investment is encouraged. World Bank and IMF advice is taken seriously.
A car is very desirable, but is not an absolute necessity in Yerevan. Four-wheel drive is needed if you want complete year-round mobility, but a sturdy standard car will do for Yerevan and many other destinations.
Buying a new car locally is an option. You can buy a new Lada Niva (a tough little Russian-made 4x4) for from $5,000 to $6,000. Small sedans, like Lada Zhiguli's, run a little less; big sedans, like Volgas, run a little more. There are many places to buy new Russian-made cars. It is also possible to import a car from Dubai or Russia duty free. Also, Mitsubishi Motors has established a well-run dealership in Yerevan that features both sport utility vehicles and sedans.
Used car prices are extremely variable. Buyers will undoubtedly need the help of a local person to shop Yerevan's weekend auto market where new and used models are sold. The good news is that getting a local car repaired is easier and cheaper. The bad news is that with a Russian-made car the chances that repairs will be needed are greatly increased. It should also be noted that these cars are well below U.S. safety standards.
There are no restrictions on what kind of car you can bring in. There are legal pitfalls if you buy locally, but they are easily avoided. If you buy a car here make sure to check that the registration (the technical passport) matches the vehicle in both the engine number and the body number. Also, get a dated bill of sale that names the price and the parties concerned. This may be hand written. Once the title is transferred into your name by the local authorities-a complex process that involves paying a three percent transfer tax on the value of the vehicle.
Note: Car theft is not a great problem in Yerevan, but stereo theft is known. Removable faceplates and other stereo security systems are advised.
Although engine oil can be obtained here, it is of variable quality, and name brands are sometimes counterfeited and substandard product substituted.
There is no unleaded fuel at all in Armenia so POVs should be modified to accept leaded fuel. This mainly entails removing the catalytic converter if you want to prevent this expensive part from being poisoned by the lead. A permission letter from EPA is required if this is done in the U.S.
Gasoline is available throughout the country, mainly from tanker trucks parked along the road or gas kiosks. Yerevan and larger towns boast an ever-growing number of clean, modern and even luxurious gas stations. On the roadside the quality of fuel is variable and occasionally poor enough to cause problems. Gas stations, however, seem to deliver reasonable quality. Gasoline currently costs about $1.50 per gallon. Gas prices are marked per 20 liters. Currently, gas sells for about 3500 dram (seven dollars) per 20 liters.
The streets of Yerevan are very beaten up in places, but are mostly in adequate repair. National highways vary in quality. Main routes are usually passable for moderate cruising speeds with occasional bad spots, but secondary routes are sometimes quite degraded. Drivers must remain alert for potholes, however, on all roads. As in most of the developing world, the road culture is aggressive and undisciplined. In winter, snow is cleared on main routes, but secondary roads are ignored. Constant jay-walking and poor lighting at night adds to the danger in cities and villages. Yerevan's roads are a place for skilled, confident drivers.
Public surface transportation in Yerevan is crowded and the equipment is old. There are trams, buses, trolley buses and even a funicular. Taxis are available and not overly expensive. Two dollars is the average fare for a ride within the central downtown area. The taxis are not metered and passengers must negotiate, so expect to pay a stiff premium if you can't negotiate in Armenian or Russian. Tips are appreciated, but are not expected.
There are Marshrutnoi (minibus) taxis as well. They run specified routes at varied rates ranging from 50 to 200 drams (10 to 40 cents). As mentioned earlier, there is a central metro line in Yerevan. The price of a token is 40 drams (8 cents). This is also the cost of a bus or tram ride.
There are inter-city buses and mini-vans and also very few trains. The trains are unreliable and are not used by U.S. Mission employees. Most of those posted here move about by private car, on foot, or, on occasion, by charter bus.
Most internal long-distance travel is accomplished by car, minivan, or bus. The trains are very bad both internally and to nearby neighbors. For example, the train to Tbilisi, Georgia takes 14-18 hours, runs an erratic schedule, is uncomfortable and is targeted by thieves. (The same ride by car takes from 5 to 6 hours.)
Bad relations with Turkey over Nagorno-Karabakh have closed that nearby land border. And, because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, travel to Azerbaijan is impossible from Armenia. Moreover, official Americans cannot travel to Nagorno-Karabakh itself without special permission; the road to N-K, however, is open and considered good. The highway to Tbilisi is also open. The Armenian leg is good, but the Georgian side tends to be beaten up and slow going. It is a 6-hour drive maximum. Surface routes through to southern Armenia and Iran are open most of the year. However, official Americans cannot cross the border into Iran.
The regional roads are passable for most of the year, but in the dead of winter some routes close from time to time due to snows in high mountain passes.
Currently, there are no regular commercial in-country flights operating. However, for special purposes it is possible to charter a helicopter from Armenian Airlines.
Travel to nearby and neighboring countries is generally accomplished by air. The UN World Food Program operates an eight-seat commuter plane between Yerevan, Tbilisi, and Baku on which members of the official community can purchase seats when available. In addition, there are regularly scheduled flights on Armenian Air, the national carrier, to many regional cities, including Ashgabat, Dubai, Tbilisi, Istanbul, Sofia, Tehran, Beirut, Aleppo, and Tashkent. It also flies to several cities in Europe (Paris, London, Athens, Frankfurt, Zurich and Amsterdam) as well as to several in Russia (Moscow, Kiev and Samara). The schedule is variable; most flights are weekly, while others, such as those headed for Tbilisi, leave at least three days a week.
There are flights to Moscow every day on either Aeroflot or Armenian Air. This would be a convenient route both into and out of Yerevan, as Moscow is a good-sized hub, but the arbitrary actions of immigration officials in Russia have caused problems for some travelers, even those in transit. Theoretically, holders of multiple-entry Armenian visas are allowed three days of transit time in Moscow without a Russian visa, but this appears to be poorly understood by officials there. Moreover, price gouging by Russian taxi drivers has made road travel between Moscow's airports exorbitant. Such cross-city travel is often a requirement in order to change planes. Very cheap, if very uncomfortable, transit travel by bus is an option, however. That notwithstanding, routing through Moscow is strongly discouraged.
Currently, five carriers operate out of Yerevan: Aeroflot, Armenian Air, British Air, Swiss Air and Vnukovo, a Russian carrier.
The quality of the telephone lines is sometimes very bad. Service can be interrupted and it may take several tries to complete a call.
For modem users the data transmission speed on some of these city lines is sometimes very low. Improvements are underway, however, following the privatization of the phone company. Some city lines have been made digital allowing for decent voice and acceptable data communication. Cellular telephone service is also now available in Yerevan.
Armenia's information policy is open and Yerevan does have several Internet providers. Currently, America Online has a local dial-up number that functions fairly well, even on some city lines. AOL members who wish to keep their accounts should check for the latest Yerevan access number(s) before departing for post. Note that there is currently a $6 /hour network access surcharge for Armenia's AOL users. There are also local ISPs with rates that are competitive to AOLs. One of the better known is Arminco. Also, the Yerevan Physics Institute provides dial-up accounts. The service on the local ISP's is, like AOL, mostly adequate for home E-mail. World Wide Web surfing is also possible at the fairly low but manageable speed of about 1.0 (one) KPS-this includes AOL. Interestingly, some Internet cafes have appeared in the city lately.
Enhanced speed, giving faster access to the World Wide Web, is possible with leased lines or a radio modem. These services can run into hundreds of dollars a month. Also, there is fairly high-speed Internet access at the Hotel Armenia I Business Center. The rates are relatively steep, however. And the Armenia I charges roughly a dollar for every E-mail sent. Predictably, the Internet scene is changing all the time.
Radio and TV
There are several FM radio stations in Yerevan that play a variety of music-including Western-during the day. For English-language TV the best local option appears to be AA TV This is a line-of-site microwave "cable" system (not all residences have line of site). Installation is $100 (this includes a $50 refundable deposit on the antenna). The most popular option for expatriates is the $20 per month 24-channel deal, which includes many English-language channels such as Discovery, The Movie Channel, TNT and Cartoon Network, MTV Europe, BBC, VH1, CNBC and National Geographic, and a few others. Note that not all 24 channels are in English.
There is local Russian and Armenian programming over VHF broadcast bands. In addition there are many broadcast satellites whose footprints cover Yerevan. Most of the programming is in languages other than English, but, with the proper dish and tuner, CNN International is available, as are NBC Europe, Euro News (with a digital tuner/decoder) BBC World Service and more.
Some Americans have paid to have satellite dishes and tuners installed in their residences. The cost is $300$1,500. Employees often sell this equipment to incoming personnel. All the equipment required to receive satellite transmissions is available in Yerevan, and there is a reliable local contractor who can install it. Costs, however, must be born by the employee, both for hardware and installation.
Newspapers, Magazines, Books, and Technical Journals
There is only one local weekly paper publication that provides Armenian news in English: Noyan Tapan. However, there are more electronic options. The SNARK news service provides a daily paid E-mail subscription as do Armenpress and Azg.
The PAO Information Resource Center is a first class facility that maintains a healthy collection of current periodicals for on-site review (50 subscriptions). There are 1,000 books in the library as well as an up-to-date reference collection in hard copy and on CD. Many data bases are available. In the IRC a leased-line Internet connection may be used free of charge on a reservation basis for research and news gathering.
In addition, some Western periodicals in English may be reviewed at nearby English-language American University of Armenia Library.
Malatia Medical Center, a general hospital with an intensive care unit and internal medicine department that meets minimum Western standards for cleanliness and, to some extent, technology. In sum, most average medical problems can be handled locally. If time allows, complex or unusual problems require medical evacuation to London for treatment.
Some dental clinics with acceptable standards have recently been identified. These clinics can provide routine cleaning, do simple procedures as well as give emergency response. For complex dental work evacuation is still an option.
An English-speaking ophthalmolo-gist has also been identified and is available for referrals. No suitable specialist in obstetrics has yet been identified.
The city water supply is poorly treated, and tap water must be briskly boiled for 5 minutes before drinking.
A species of scorpion, which presents no serious health risk, is the source of much discussion. The truth is that for people without an allergic reaction the bite of this animal does not present a danger of death or serious injury. However, the bites of these creatures are often very painful and can cause prolonged swelling at the site of the bite as well as some systemic effects, such as nausea. These creatures have been found in some houses, particularly those in lower areas subject to moisture, but are really an outdoor pest. Store boots and shoes properly if you go camping and shake them out. Warn children not to turn over rocks. And, if you garden yourself, be careful.
A more serious outdoor danger arises from snakes. There are four species of poisonous snake in Armenia: the desert rattlesnake, the Asian rattlesnake, vipera lebetina, and vipera darevsky (English common names unknown). Fifty-per-cent of all bites occur in children 12 years old or younger during the summer months of July and August. Camping is a popular recreation in the Foreign Service community here. Wear high boots and heavy long pants for treks and keep a sharp eye out. Children should be discouraged from playing in thick grass in high summer-even in some less developed parts of the city. Most large hospitals have antivenin.
Alcoholic beverages from state stores are considered safe, but throughout the CIS adulteration of bootleg alcohol (often sold in kiosks) with poisonous wood alcohol is known. Armenia is famous for its brandies: buy them, and all alcohol, from reputable sources and check the state seal carefully.
There is a very serious microbial condition known as Brucellosis that can be contracted from some hoofed animals. One vector is unpasteurized milk from goats or cows. There have been outbreaks of this disease in Yerevan. Homemade Armenian cheese from village producers is the culprit. This rustic salty cheese should be purchased from quality stores and state-run markets, not from street vendors. It should be inspected for state seals. Cheese made in state factories is generally considered safe, as is imported cheese. Be cautious about unfamiliar cheeses at parties or eateries, particularly in the country. Yogurt and sour cream from state factories is considered safe. Again, be careful of village produce.
Giardia, a water-born intestinal bug, has from time to time been detected in city water. To be absolutely safe tap water should be boiled for 5 minutes before consumption. Local sparkling mineral waters like Bjni and Jermuk are considered safe, as are the bottled non-sparkling waters.
Malaria has been reported in some rural areas, especially along the Azerbaijan border. If traveling to the countryside check with the Health Unit for an update on the situation. Prevalence is low, but travelers to these areas should use insect repellent, cover up, and, if possible, avoid outside activity at dawn and dusk.
New arrivals should be aware that strenuous exercise at Yerevan's near mile-high elevation can take one by surprise, particularly if one leaves the relatively low-lying city center for the mountainous suburbs.
Armenia is notoriously dry. Humidifiers are supplied by GSO upon request. Order one for sleeping quarters. Also, stay well hydrated in winter by drinking plenty of water or juice to help avoid upper respiratory complaints. These are common in Armenia.
Hats and sun block are a necessity for any prolonged activity outside in the summer.
Required immunizations for Yerevan include Typhoid, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. People who expect to be out in the country, or whose activities could put them in the way of a dog bite, might want to consider a preventive rabies series, although the disease is not reported.
Familiar brands of Western style over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals are not generally available in Yerevan, although some European products are to be found here. Substitutions are possible, but you have to know what you are looking for. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are available. Bring a full supply of prescription medicines, favorite over-the-counter medications, and health supplies such as corn plasters or Ace Bandages. Arrange with a U.S.-based pharmacy to mail in continuing prescriptions.
Armenia is in an earthquake zone. Without being overly dramatic-and with the full understanding that the possibility of an earthquake at any given place and time is statistically remote-it would nonetheless be prudent to review some materials on how to prepare for and how to behave during a seismic event. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has prepared an excellent fact sheet on the subject. Find it at the following World Wide Web address: http://www.fema.gov/library/quakef.htm
Basic precautions are to check for hazards in the home, identify safe places in each room and have disaster supplies on hand.
NOTES FOR TRAVELLERS
Five carriers currently serve Yerevan: Armenian Air, Aeroflot, British Air, Swiss Air and Vnukovo. (Vnukovo is not used for official travel). Since Aeroflot and Vnukovo flights come through Moscow-and there have been problems there-Armenian Air, British Air and Swiss Air are the only carriers generally used to get from Europe. American carriers are used, however, to get to those European cities where the flights to Armenia originate.
There are flights to Yerevan from Amsterdam, Athens, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Paris and Zurich. These are not daily flights. On average, each city gets served two times per week. Armenian Air changes schedules with little notice. Currently, Northwest/KLM and Austrian Airlines are negotiating to provide service to Yerevan. The agreements are still pending, however. Scheduling flights to Yerevan via Moscow is discouraged due to a variety of transit problems.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Passport and visa required. For further information on entry requirements contact the Armenian Embassy at 2225 R St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 tel. (202) 319-1976; the Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles at 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Suite 210, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, tel. (310) 657-6102 or visit the Armenian Embassy's website at http://www.armeniaemb.org.
Be aware that certain items are proscribed for export and should not be purchased and removed from Armenia without the permission of the Ministry of Culture along with payment of a 100% duty. This includes old carpets, old manuscripts, and antiques. (Anything older than 50 years is subject to this levy and/or may be banned from export altogether.)
You may import pets to Armenia. No quarantine is imposed. Currently, a valid rabies certificate and a health certificate are required. Pets should be given a full range of inoculations before arrival. Be sure to check with all the airlines you use about requirements in transit. Be advised that pets must accompany passengers in the cabin on some Armenian Air flights. The cargo holds on the Russian jets it flies from some cities are not properly heated or pressurized for pets. Pets obtained here should be inoculated by one of the local veterinarians. Bring any specific medications for your pet.
Currency, Banking, Wrights & Measures
The dram is the official currency. It is internally convertible. Currently, one U.S. dollar equals 545 dram. This rate is fairly stable, but the trend has been to weaken slowly against the dollar.
Armenia is a cash-based economy. Banks are not generally used. There is one international bank, HSBC, which operates a few VISA ATMs around town. (One is in the Armenia Hotel.) The HSBC Bank is located next to the Armenia Hotel on Buzand Street. If you are bringing U.S. cash to Armenia, make sure it is in good condition. Torn or marked bills might be refused, as might bills older than 1989.
American Express Travelers Checks are accepted at the largest of the hotels, but there are added fees.
There are many money exchanges throughout Yerevan. They operate 7 days a week. By law all transactions must be in Armenian drams.
The metric system of weights and measures is used here. Fabric is bought by the meter, potatoes by the kilo, gasoline by the 20-liter container, and distances are measured in kilometers.
Americans who are living in or visiting Armenia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and obtain updated information on travel and security within Armenia. The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan is located at 18 General Bagramian Street, telephone 011 (3741) 151-551 and fax 011 (3741) 151-550. The consular section is open from 9:00 AM until 5:30 PM, with time reserved for American citizen services from 2:00 PM until 5:30 PM Monday through Friday
Jan. 1 & 2 …New Year's Day
Jan. 6 …Christmas (Orthodox)
Apr. 7 …Day of Beauty & Mother's
Apr. 24 …Genocide Memorial Day
Apr/May. … Easter*
May. 1 …Labor Day
May. 9 …Victory and Peace Day
May. 28 …First Republic Day
Sep. 23 …Independence Day
Dec. 31 …New Year's Eve
"Armenia." Cities of the World. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700167.html
"Armenia." Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700167.html
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Armenia|
|Region (Map name):||Middle East|
|Area:||29,800 sq km|
|GDP:||1,914 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Television Stations:||4|
|Number of Television Sets:||825,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||247.3|
|Number of Cable Subscribers:||3,420|
|Cable Subscribers per 1,000:||0.9|
|Number of Radio Stations:||16|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||850,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||254.8|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||25,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||7.5|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||50,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||15.0|
Background & General Characteristics
Within the Republic of Armenia, newspaper circulations are small and the press industry represents a tiny portion of an emerging market economy. The country's tepid investigative journalism accompanies comparable democratic development. In the late 1980s the former Soviet Republic joined others in the move to independence that resulted in the collapse of the USSR. The official proclamation came in April 1991, at which time the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was signed and accepted as the basis for developing domestic law. The National Assembly adopted its own Law on the Press and Mass Media in October 1991, guaranteeing the right of access to information, freedom of speech, and a free and independent press. The same principles are embodied in the 1995 Constitution. However, these "guarantees" remain subject to the interpretation of a constitutionally powerful executive. New civil and criminal codes were enacted in 1999, a new broadcast media law in 2000, and a new licensing law in 2001. All three were passed in reaction to the October 27, 1999, terrorist attack on the Armenian Parliament that killed the Prime Minister, Speaker, and six others. The new laws have facilitated the power of government to encroach upon the freedom of the press. However, Armenia also became a member of the Council of Europe in 2001, which carries obligations to guard against threats of excessive state powers restricting a free and independent media.
Armenia's Department of Information registered 642 newspapers and 166 magazines in 2001, but only 150 of these were regularly active. It is safe to say that total newspaper circulation in the Republic is very limited, even though numbers are extremely unreliable. They are based on print runs rather than on actual sales, providing the opportunity to manipulate them for economic gain.
Dailies are issued five times a week, Tuesday through Saturday. Of the 47 registered dailies, the Department of Information estimates a total circulation of only 40,000 copies, or about 1 copy per 83 persons. The major papers circulate between 2,000 and 6,000 daily copies. Many papers circulate only in the several hundreds. Non-dailies may appear two or three times a week, weekly, monthly, or irregularly. Non-daily circulation numbers can run comparatively higher, such as the 30,000 copies for the crime reporting weekly 02 (Police Messenger), a publication of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Armenia has no newspaper chains. Private media groupings are only beginning to appear. Nonetheless, newspapers are privately owned, with the exceptions of Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (Republic of Armenia, in Armenian, circulation 6,500) and Respublica Armenia (in Russian, 3,000). Both are joint ventures between the National Assembly and the newspaper staffs, founded in 1991. Ownership of other papers is organized in corporations of both open and closed joint stock companies. The media industry is structured in a manner that separates newspaper editorial offices from the printing and distribution services. Both of the latter were state-owned monopolies until the privatization process that began in 2001. Newspapers operate with extremely limited resources, and therefore none are completely independent of patronage from political parties, economic interest groups, or wealthy individual sponsors. Private ownership of the print media suffers from a lack of self-sufficiency due to low circulation and weak advertising markets, as well as the little revenue generated by advertising.
The media industry is concentrated in the capital city of Yerevan. Some rural regions of the country see no newspapers at all, and other areas have print runs as low as 100 copies. Newspapers address a limited and elite audience: a mere 5 percent of the population takes its news from papers. Broadcast media represents the widest market share: radio at 10 percent and television commanding 85 percent. Most media organizations, and particularly newspapers, either represent a definite orientation toward some particular political party, or express views constrained by the need to retain their financial sponsors. Low circulation numbers reflect the small target audience. This allows newspapers to be sponsor-oriented, as opposed to reader-oriented. Profit expectations are low, and subsequently business investment and advertising are low as well. In 2002, after a decade of independence from Soviet rule and exposure to the process of emerging markets, the newspaper industry still did not operate as a profitable business.
Armenia is one of the most ethnically homogeneous regions of the former Soviet Union: 96 percent Armenian; 2 percent Russian; 1 percent Kurdish; and 1 percent Yerdish. In 1993, with the outbreak of conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, most of the Azeri population, formerly 3 percent of the total, returned to Azerbaijan. The Armenian enclave community has tried to secede and attach itself to Armenia, but the international community would not accept the move. The Republic's literacy rate has been nearly 100 percent since the 1960s, a fact that makes low circulation rates most disappointing, as does the 3,000-year-old literary culture of the Armenian people.
According to tradition, the ancient country was founded around Lake Van, by a descendant of Noah known as Haik, and remained independent for centuries under Haikian Kings. The first historical mention of Armenia dates to the ninth century BC, with Assyrian inscriptions referring to Urartu, or Ararat. The high rugged mountains and deep fertile valleys lie at the convergence of the Anatolian, Iranian, and Caucasus plateaus, where the headwaters of the Tigris, Euphrates and Araxes Rivers take rise. It has been a land frequently invaded, conquered and divided among various regional powers since ancient times: Assyrians, Medians, Persians, Parthians, Macedonians, and Romans.
Armenians converted to Christianity very early, and formed the world's first Christian state in AD 301. The Armenian Apostolic Church then played a principle role in establishing and preserving the literary traditions of the language. There was a national alphabet by the fifth century. Grabar, the classical religious language, was also the written language of the Armenian cultural community, which drew its identity based on this linguistic distinctiveness and the adaptation of ancient myths to it. The early Christian state lasted until the seventh centuries. The Bagratid Golden Age ran through the ninth and tenth centuries. Beginning in the eleventh century a series of invasions, migrations and deportations led to the dispersion of Armenian communities outside the historic home-land. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia, or Cilicia, in the southeast corner of Anatolia, lasted from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. Cilicia fell to Genghis Khan, and then was destroyed by Tamerlane. By the sixteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire ruled, most Armenians in eastern Anatolia survived as peasant farmers. Diaspora communities had resettled in Istanbul, Smyrna, and various cities along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, becoming artisans, traders and moneylenders.
Trade and commerce led to growing Armenian communities in various regional centers from India and Persia, to the Levant, across the eastern Mediterranean basin and into Europe. The successful Armenian Diaspora drew upon commercial skills, polyglot capacities, and international contacts. Wherever they went, their clerics and intellectuals took the Armenian literary traditions with them. The fourteenth century Dasatun (Scriptorium), located in Aleppo, was famous for the art of calligraphy and illumination of liturgical, canonical, and other religious manuscripts. It maintained special workshops for the manufacture of parchment and paper, ink and pigments, and the binding of manuscripts. The tradition of copying Armenian liturgical books began to decline after the seventeenth century, however, with the popularization of printing.
The first Armenian-language printing establishment was founded at Venice in 1565. Papal restrictions on liturgical works led to it being moved to Istanbul in 1567. Still, more than one hundred Armenian titles were published in Europe between 1695 and 1777. The Armenian printing press in Amsterdam, founded in 1660, produced the first printing of the classical Bible in 1666, and functioned for 57 years free from Papal restrictions. The New Julfa community in Persia printed their first book, Saghmor (Psalms), in 1638, followed by Harants-Vark, (Lives of the Church Fathers) in 1646. The first Armenian newspaper was published at Madras, India, in 1794, 60 years before any would appear in the homeland. From 1794 to 1840, only 15 Armenian journals appeared throughout the world. Between 1841 and 1915, however, 675 new Armenian periodicals were published. The boom resulted from the linguistic innovation of a Benedictine order of Armenians founded by the monk, Mkhit'ar of Sebastia.
The Mekhitarist innovation fundamentally altered Armenian literary expression by producing a vernacular, Ashkharabar, which became the medium of an increasingly nationalistic movement. Cultural and political revival in the late nineteenth century generated formation of secret revolutionary societies. Newspapers assumed the role as organs of political parties.
The first journal printed in the new vernacular was Ararat (Morning), published in Tiflis in 1849. The political party Armenakan was founded in France in 1885 and published Armenia in Marseilles. In the Caucasus, Mshak (Cultivator) was printed between 1872 and 1920. Zang (The Ring) was an organ of the Hnchakists political party and published from 1910 to 1922. The Dashnak party published its journals Ararat from 1909 to 1912 and Ayg (Dawn) from 1912 to 1922.
After a history of subjugation to other powers, Armenia revived as an independent state in May 1918. It did not last long, caught between the forces of a Nationalist Turkey and a Bolshevik Russia. One million Armenians were lost to a holocaust engineered by the emerging Turkish Republic. The Red Army installed a communist-dominated government, the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, that combined Armenia with Azerbaijan and Georgia. The printed press came under strong central control from Moscow, which lasted until the Soviet Union's demise. The Russian language was also imposed.
The circulation numbers of Soviet-era print media were far larger (in the tens of thousands) than the numbers of the infant private press in the transitional environment of the early twenty-first century. However, there has been an explosion of journalistic activity. In the 1980s, perestroika and glasnost permitted the public discussion of issues as well as access to some information. A language and cultural revival inspired the awakening of national consciousness, and the creation of dozens of new journals and newspapers. Armenian replaced Russian as the primary language in schools and newspapers. The push for greater autonomy, democracy and loosening of Russian political domination began in 1987-88. Despite this encouraging environment for explosive journalistic growth, the story also includes many failed enterprises and defunct newspapers. In 1993 there were thirteen major Armenian language magazines and journals covering such topics as science and technology, politics, art, culture, and economics, one satirical journal, one journal for teenagers, and one for working women. In early 1994 the Ministry of Justice reported twenty-four magazines, nine radio stations, twenty-five press agencies, and 232 active newspapers, compared to the 150 that existed in 2002.
The vast majority of news outlets are located and based in the capital of Yerevan. The circulation of 40,000 daily newspapers is well down from the 85,000 reported in 1995. News is comprised of political reporting on government and parliament, and content extends to the arts, culture, religion, sports, and some limited foreign news. The major privately owned national dailies offer a wide variety of opinions, but newspapers in general do not encourage investigative reporting. Only one newspaper, Delavoy Express (Business Express), concentrates on business and economic news. The situation of careful criticism and no aggressive investigative reporting has been exacerbated by the October 1999 attack on the Armenian National Assembly, as well as by the onslaught of the war on terrorism governments internationally have confronted since September 11, 2001.
The major daily papers in the Republic, in addition to those mentioned above, include:
- Aravot (Morning): established in 1994 by editorial staff. (circulation 5,000-6,000)
- AZG (Nation): founded in 1991, centrist, coverage of Diaspora. (4,000)
- Hayots Ashkhar : founded in 1997 by private owner, politicized. (3,500)
- Haykakan Zhamanak : founded in 1997 by the Democratic Motherland Party and the Intellectual Armenia, a social-political organization. (2,500)
- Yerkir (Country): founded in 1991 by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaksutyun (ARF), commonly known as Dashnak; covers religion and the activities of the party; one of the media outlets closed when ARF was suspended by presidential decree in 1994, prior to national elections the next year; resumed publication in 1998 when ARF reinstated. (2,000)
All are printed in either A2 or A3 format, range from 8-16 pages, and have an average price of 100 drams (about 20 U.S. cents).
The major non-daily publications include:
- Ayzhn : organ of the National Democratic Union (NDU) issued weekly. (4,000)
- Dzain Zhoghovrdi (Voice of the People): a weekly established in 1999 as a joint-stock company, issued and financed by the People's party. (3,000)
- Golos Armenii (Voice of Armenia, in Russian): covers news from Russia with an opposition, left-wing orientation. (5,230)
- Garant : a weekly entertainment journal. (30,000)
- Grakan Tert (Literary Paper): issued by the Armenian Union of Writers.
- Hay Zinvor : issued weekly by the Ministry of Defense. (10,000)
- Hayk : founded in 1989 as an organ of the Armenian Pan-national Movement (APM); features party news, entertainment, and foreign news. (3,500)
- Iravunk (Law): founded in 1989; published without interruption. (7,000-12,000)
- Kumairi : printed in Armenia's second city of Gyumri, suffers frequent interruptions, depends on local authorities for financing. (1,000)
- Novoye Vremia (New Time, in Russian): centrist with financial support from a private Moscow-based businessman. (3,000-5,000)
- Nzhar : published weekly by the Ministry of Justice.
- Riya Taze (New Way): a Yezidi ethnic weekly.
The primary printing method in the early twenty-first century remained offset printing. Computer-based (electronic) typesetting has become more popular as imagesetter systems have been introduced to Armenia. The state-owned publishing and printing house, Tigran Met, formerly known as Periodica, was privatized in 2001 and now functions as a commercial enterprise. There are still government-held shares, but no visible government intervention. Tigran Met remains the largest facility, although there are some 20 printing companies registered with the Ministry of Justice; most are very small.
The price of newsprint is a major portion of printing costs. Armenia has no local production and imports newsprint from Russia. Costs are double those in Russia, due to the small market size and transportation costs. Newsprint in Armenia averages $1,200 per ton. Of course, the larger the volume of the purchase, the lower the price, which benefits Tigran Met. The Armenian print media consume 51 tons of newsprint per month; down from Soviet-era figures as high as 920 tons. The average print run fell from 185,000 copies in 1988 to 5,000 in 1997.
The Soviet-era system of subscriptions for newspapers and magazines ceased to exist in 1993. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and subsequent economic blockade and gasoline crisis, brought deliveries to a stop and the system of subscriptions evaporated—another factor contributing to low circulation numbers. The state-run Hayamamoul distribution company began the privatization process in 2001. Since regaining independence the distribution network has consisted of a system of some 200 kiosks scattered throughout the capital city, Yerevan, and in some of the other regions. Kiosk operators are guaranteed a minimum income (U.S. $20-30 per month) based on sales. There is a financial penalty for unsold papers, so Hayamamoul has developed a "no return" policy that establishes a set circulation amount and a guaranteed low cost on returns. The alternative "return" policy gains the paper a higher percentage of kiosk sales, but there is a high collection cost incurred on returned papers. Most papers choose the "no return" policy for the guaranteed revenue. Corruption has worked its way into this process, as circulation numbers are often kept artificially low while the printing house prints overruns (beyond the agreed number), sells them, and keeps the profits. The printing process also serves as a form of censorship, as print runs will be stopped if they contain controversial articles.
The bleak economic environment in the Republic of Armenia since regaining its independence is yet another factor hindering the media's reformation and depressing circulation numbers. The prevailing conditions result from a combination of tensions that include: the transition from Soviet political and economic centralization to market-based economics and democratic politics; the 1988 earthquake that killed 25,000 and left 500,000 homeless; the ethnic tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan; and the global war on terrorism. These macro-economic social and political factors, along with the government's inability to account for and tax as much as 40 percent of economic activity, combine with the micro-economic realities of low newspaper readership and lack of a viable advertising market, to create a difficult environment for the Armenian press.
Limited resources and readership act as overwhelming constraints on the development of advertising revenues, the lifeblood for any independent media. Political sponsorship or some form of patronage of the media is an accepted substitute for business performance. Ownership often remains hidden. This lack of transparency affects the media in that professional standards tend to give way to economic survival. Often a paper's allegiances can be deciphered through the biases in the reporting.
By signing the Alma-Ata Declaration in December 1991, Armenia became a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an economic community, if not political union, of former Soviet Republics. In reaction to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkey and Azerbaijan have imposed an economic blockade against Armenia for a decade. The longer the status of the enclave remains unresolved, the longer it continues to disrupt economic development.
Armenia has claimed 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent annual economic growth between 1993 and 2002. This is misleading, because there has been little improvement in investment, exports, or job creation. The growth numbers suggest a supportive climate for business, but they cloak a failure to create improved conditions for consumers.
There is serious income inequality and widespread poverty, and levels of unemployment and emigration are rising. The government reports unemployment at 12 percent, but it is at least double the official number. Estimates are that nearly half the population lives below the poverty line, and in need of government assistance.
Newspapers also must search for funds to pay for their high printing and other production costs. Extremely limited resources mean dependence on patronage from interest groups or individuals. Editors turn to sponsors as the most common way of meeting financial need. Businessmen contribute to pro-government newspapers for political connections. Sponsors solidify government connections in seeking preferential consideration. Paternalism and clientalistic networks permeate the industry.
The National Assembly tried to encourage journalistic expansion through tax policy. The print media receives an exemption from the value-added tax (VAT), legally stipulated in a 1997 law. However, the editorial offices pay the tax indirectly in costs imposed by the printing houses, for whom the exemption does not apply.
Economic assistance from foreign aid programs and the diaspora community has been on the increase. George Soros' Open Society Institute has invested in media projects since 1996. In 1999 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contributed to the media law reform program. The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) has introduced technical assistance through its Pro-Media program. The Eurasia Foundation helped establish Gind, a private publishing house, to challenge Tigran Mets' monopoly. In May 2001 Gind discontinued Haykakan Zhamanak because of unpaid debt. Questions about political influence in the decision have been raised. The European Institute for the Media (EIM) is a non-profit association under German law working towards integrating the CIS states into a civil digital society by developing cross-border media. EIM also conducts programs to advance research, the media's relationship with democracy, the European television and film forum, and a library documentation center. The funding comes from a variety of European sources.
Constitutional and legal protections for journalists exist in Armenia, but enforcement is ambiguous and uneven. Based on the ICCRP, the 1991 Law on the Press and Mass Media conforms to many accepted European standards. Article 24 of the Constitution, established in 1995, reiterated the protections of freedom of speech and press. Armenia's acceptance into the Council of Europe in 2001 should help provide structure and oversight in protecting freedom of speech. This legal and regulatory framework supports an independent media in principle. In practice the application of constitutional guarantees has fallen far short of expectations.
The registration of journalists and news agencies is mandated in the 1991 law. In 2001 a law on licensing was enacted that requires re-registration of all media companies. The cost has been a burden for all newspapers, which are forced to operate on narrow margins as is.
Article 2 of the press law forbids censorship. However, Article 6 imposes restrictions on types of information that can be published, e.g., appeals to war, violence, and religious hatred. The law also prohibits the publication of "false or unverifiable information," a clause often invoked by the government in its dealings with the media. There exists further invitation for abuse, manipulation, and intimidation on part of the government in any conflict with journalists over the issue of revealing sources. In court cases sources must be revealed, which encourages self-censorship. Libel is a criminal offense in Armenia. However, it is vaguely defined, and this leaves journalists facing legal suits and criminal arrest for conducting their professional responsibilities.
There is no official censorship, but freedom of expression in the press is limited. Armenia's judiciary is hindered in protecting press freedoms by the executive's oversight capacity, and its ability to restrict the jurisdiction of the courts. Judges and prosecutors are dependent on the executive for their employment. Constitutional human rights and press freedoms are, therefore, not safeguarded. The judicial system itself continues to be in transition: in 1999 both prosecutors and defense counsels began a process of retraining and recertification as mandated by the Constitution.
Even though the opposition press criticizes government policies and leaders, journalists see the 1991 press law as inadequate for both their own personal protection and the development of their profession. Criminal defamation, as covered in Article 131 of the 1999 Criminal Code, is a strong instrument for government restriction on press freedom. Fines and compensation for damages are steep, and punishment now includes imprisonment for up to three years. As a result, journalists are tepid investigators, hoping to avoid the retribution some have experienced in recent years on the part of powerful officials and other individuals. The case of Vahram Aghajanian in Nagorno-Karabakh is a reminder that the enclaves' self-proclaimed authorities are less restrained than in the Armenian Republic itself. In June 2000 Vahang Gnukasian suffered incarceration and was beaten at the Interior Ministry, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Self-censorship is common in reporting on such issues as the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, national security, or corruption. In covering domestic policy and political issues, self-censorship has been reinforced by the strengthened libel laws in the criminal code. The news media is not required to reveal sources under the 1991 law, except when involved in a court case. To avoid appearing in court, sources are rarely cited, and "news" stories read more like commentaries than reporting. The need to retain or seek economic patronage is another important factor in self-censorship.
The Armenian journalistic community itself has not developed effective mechanisms to protect itself. An absence of self-regulation norms promotes a false sense of freedom, but gives room to critics who desire to shorten the media's pen. Because journalists have determined no rules themselves, such cases go to the courts.
The constitutional protections and institutional legal structure defining the role between the state and a potentially free and independent press have been taking legislative form for a decade. The printing and distribution agencies, however, have until recently been state-owned. The privatization process was advanced in 2001, but problems persist and success is yet to be verified.
The pursuit of journalism as a profession has been answerable to the government's protection of state secrets and maintaining state security. There are reported transgressions against journalists and media firms by security forces as well as privately hired thugs. Both have delivered beatings and other forms of intimidation to journalists, including fires and destruction of editorial offices. These crimes are rarely solved or even thoroughly investigated, and because the judiciary is constitutionally submissive to the executive, journalistic independence has only uncertain state protection.
Nine political parties were banned prior to the 1995 Parliamentary elections, which resulted in the closure of the media organizations owned by or associated with those parties. The politics of media control was evident in the case of Dashnak's printing house, Mikael Vardanyan, a Canadian-Dashnak joint venture, which was suspended, closed, and looted. Operations remained closed for four years, until re-legalized in February 1998. Similar transgressions preceded the 1999 election.
The degree of political influence on the content of newspaper reporting has intensified since the 1999 attack on the National Assembly. The attack has brought increased tensions between the government and the press, and even among the press themselves. The Yerevan Press Club's extensive media-monitoring project has determined that an "information war" over differing opinions about the parliamentary attack began in early 2000. One group, supported by the political opposition, linked the terrorist activity to associates of President Robert Kocharian. The other group has accused the investigators of political involvement and bias, and views Kocharian as the only guarantor of stability and justice. The increased government monitoring of the press, and demand for the names of sources, has only served to increase self-censorship on the part of journalists.
Corruption and lack of transparency continue to characterize the environment in which the media must operate. Accepting bribes is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 8-15 years imprisonment, plus confiscation of personal property for repeated crimes. Despite these severe penalties, bribery remains widespread and the most common form of media corruption. The shadow economy and money-making potential of influence-peddling serve to advance the hidden and non-transparent exercise of power through manipulation of the press.
Attitude toward Foreign Media
There are no legislative restrictions on access to international news coverage and reception of satellite television, and no censorship of imported printed materials. The free flow of information is protected under the ICCPR and membership of the Council of Europe. Foreign reporters must register with the Ministry of Justice; a presidentially appointed commission conducts licensing of foreign media companies. There is a variety of Russian broadcasts and printed news (Russian is the second language for 40 percent of the population), as well as news presented in translation from the BBC, Euronews, and CNN.
Diaspora Armenians support organizations and associations that produce newspapers and published materials both in the Republic and throughout the world-wide diaspora communities. One-sixth of the 6 million Diaspora population resides in Russia. The Soviet regime had banned diasporic activity in Armenia. There is an active relationship between Russian media and shareholders, whether Armenian or not, and the Armenian Republic. The flow of information, however, is predominantly from the homeland to the dispersed communities, rather than the reverse.
The Armenpress News Agency is the state service that dates from the early Soviet era. It covers political, economic, and cultural news from the homeland and abroad in Armenian, English, and Russian (http://www.armenpress.am).
There are about twenty-five private services registered with the Ministry of Justice. They cover news both in the Republic and the Armenian Diaspora Communities. Some of the major services include the following:
- Agragil, an English-only service covering daily news from Armenia; it feeds Azg, YerkirHayastani Hanrapetutyun, Respublica Armenia, and Golos Armenii. (http://www.aragil.am)
- The Armenian Daily News Service, a service offering news, press reviews, and articles from columnists on domestic issues, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Transcaucasus region, and the Armenian Diaspora. (http://www.armeniandaily.com)
- ARKA, a service created in 1996, specializing in financial, economic, and political information in English and Russian. (http://www.arka.am)
- Noyan Tapan, a multi-media company and information center offering an advertising service and video documentary programming. (http://noyan-tapan.am)
- SNARK, the first independent news agency in Armenia and the Caucasus when it was established in 1991. (http://www.snark.am)
- The SPYUR Information Service, founded in 1992, offering an information and inquiry service about companies and organizations in Armenia. (http://www.spyur.am)
From its inception in 1991, the law has treated the print media as separate and distinct from the broadcast media. The Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting was adopted in October, 2000, of which several aspects have caused alarm in the industry. The Armenian president is given the exclusive right to appoint all nine members to a governing body that regulates and licenses the media. Thus it is seen as a political tool of the executive. Article 9 requires that television and radio stations devote 65 percent of airtime to locally produced programs in the Armenian language. This has caused concern over the financial burden of production. The libel law's vagueness and threat to journalists applies to broadcasters as well as print media.
In 2002 the Ministry of Information reported 850,000 radios in the country and 825,000 television sets. There were 55 radio stations and 48 independent television companies. All media outlets have been required to register with the Ministry of Justice since re-independence in 1991. The government implemented a re-registration and licensing program in 1999. The same law also prohibited individuals from founding a media company. All programming is in Armenian, although foreign films are shown with Russian translation.
As of 2002 there were two state-owned TV channels. H 1, or National Television of Armenia, was a stateowned closed joint stock company. It was founded in 1954 and was able to reach the whole Republic by satellite. The broadcast day was limited to 6 hours until January, 1999, when it was extended to 15. The second channel was founded in 1978 and made available to the concentrated urban, industrialized and population of the Ararat valley. In 1995 it was named Nork, and has become known for its presentation of a liberal political orientation. Programming on Nork was abruptly stopped in early 1999. It was replaced with programming from the channel Kultura.
Shant TV was founded in April 1994 at Gyumri, the second largest city in Armenia. A new Independent Broadcast Network was founded in 2000 by a consortium of Ashtarak TV, A One Plus, Shant TV, and five other smaller companies. A new channel, Biznes TV, focused on computing, education, and televising courses during the day over the Russian ORT frequency. Biznes operated a professional studio for computer graphic production and produces all its own programming. Broadcast days varied station to station. H 1 had two segments: 9 a.m. to noon, and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The independent channel, A One Plus, broadcast 24 hours a day.
Executive control over the licensing process to manipulate the information flow is a blunt political tool. In January, 2001 the government stopped re-broadcasting ORT due to a financial dispute. Broadcast was subsequently resumed on a different frequency when the dispute was settled. Two independent broadcasting companies, A-One Plus and Noyan Tapan, were stripped of their licenses in April, 2002. The action was consistent with past government attempts to quiet opposition ahead of elections. These closures have left Armenia with no major independent broadcast outlets. The frequencies were awarded to other media firms without news broadcasting experience: Sharm, an entertainment company; and Shoghakat, which is associated with the Armenian Apostolic Church.
As a member state of the Council of Europe, Armenia accepted the European Convention on Transforntier Television, which entered into force in March, 2002. The parties are to ensure freedom of expression and information in accordance with Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guarantee reception, and not restrict retransmission of program services.
Electronic News Media
The Internet and Information Technology (IT) have only begun to appear in the beginning of the twenty-first century. The Ministry of Justice registered 43 IT firms in 2001. However, a local business association put the estimate at 200 companies. It is believed 4,000 people were employed in this sector. As of 2002, the main challenges to growth were a shortage of skilled labor and the required educational transformation. Cost and needed technical training keep the Internet within reach of a limited few.
Education and Training
Armenian universities have provided undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism since the Soviet era. The system has been characterized by the journalistic theory lingering from the former Soviet system. The transitional institutional reforms taking place in Armenia throughout the 1990s have introduced some significant changes. Curriculum changes are being made in order to improve journalistic professionalism and quality of reporting.
Private professional organizations are working to improve the quality of journalism and the environment that journalists work in. The Armenian Union of Journalists dates back to the Sovietera, and organizes courses for the journalistic community. The Yerevan Press Club (YPC) was established during a seminar organized by the European Institute for the Media in June 1995. The YPC issues a bulletin, organizes press conferences, seminars, and journalism courses. It also monitors the media and operates a press center. The Mass Media Association of Armenia was created in 1997 with the purpose of participating in the privatization process of the print production and distribution companies.
The demise of the Soviet Union left an unstable political, social, and economic environment in the Republic of Armenia. Political structures and economic practices that had long dominated society were undermined. The situation has remained relatively unstable, and was made worse by the 1988 earthquake and the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The newspaper industry was privatized in 1991, and editorial offices have helped facilitate limited public discourse. Political opposition and criticism of the government has been allowed. However, the print media does not function as an economically viable business. Advertising and circulation revenues are not sufficient to cover the costs of printing and distribution. The transition from a state-supported towards a privately-owned and market-based media has been difficult. In the 1990s there has been an increase in foreign and diaspora aid for the training of journalists. The profession is beginning to show some improvement in the quality of reporting. At the same time, government regulation and surveillance in the name of national security is on the increase. Tension results from the government's need for security and the media's need to protect sources. The legal questions facing the editorial offices only distract them from the effort to increase readership and advertising revenues, as well as begin to engage in investigative reporting. In general, news-oriented papers are not a profitable business. Entertainment orientation of the news and publications enjoy greater profitability. In this regard, Armenia is not unusual.
- 1991: The Republic of Armenia becomes an independent state with the demise of the Soviet Union.
- 1995: The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia is ratified by referendum.
- 1996: The Law on Advertising enacted.
- 1999: The National Assembly passes new civil and criminal codes; on October 27, the National Assembly is attacked and several government officials were killed.
- 2000: The National Assembly enacts the new Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting.
- 2001: The new Law on Licensing enacted which mandates the re-registration of media outlets.
- 2002: The new Law on Printed Press is under legislative review.
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Knutson, Keith. "Armenia." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900019.html
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Armenia|
|Number of Primary Schools:||1,402|
|Compulsory Schooling:||11 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||2.0%|
|Foreign Students in National Universities:||869|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 256,475|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 87%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 19:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Secondary: 79%|
History & Background
Located in Asia Minor, Armenia borders Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan (including the disputed Nagorno Karabagh region) to the east and southwest, and Iran to the south. While the historic Armenian kingdom once extended into northeast Turkey and northwest Iran, from the Caspian to the Mediterranean seas, Armenia is the smallest of the 15 former Soviet Socialist republics, at only 29,800 sq km (11,490 sq mi) in size. The population is 3.8 million. Although for centuries most Armenians lived in highlands tending animals, today 68 percent occupy the nation's towns and urban areas.
Education in Armenia has long been regarded as a vital part of the nation's identity and heritage. An ancient culture and mountainous land, Armenia was located at the center of what has been called the "cradle of civilization." Unfortunately, because it was situated between Eastern and Western civilizations, the country was continually caught in the turmoil of war. At the same time, however, its seat astride trade and migration routes between Europe and Asia Minor allowed goods and ideas to pass frequently through the land. Intercourse with China, for example, may have helped bring to the west some of the tools and knowledge that aided in events of the Renaissance such as the discovery of the new world.
Over time, Armenia developed a unique language, extensive literature, and distinctive art and architecture, all the while sustaining several dynasties. In 301 A.D., it was the first nation to adopt Christianity as the official state religion; subsequently, Armenian schooling has been closely connected with the Armenian Apostolic Church at various stages of the nation's history.
Until the fifth century, Armenians wrote in Greek, Aramaic, Syriac, or other alphabets. In 406 A.D., the clergyman Mesrob Mashtots created the original Armenian alphabet of 36 letters (two more were later added). Immediately afterwards, the first Armenian schools opened. They were state-run and accessible to a large population.
In the seventh century, Anania Shirakatsi developed a primary school that marked a milestone in education. Shirakatsi's writing gained renown outside Armenia for pioneering ideas such as tailoring material according to age and emphasizing not only content but methods of teaching.
One of the first institutions of higher education, the Academy of Tatev, was founded in the ninth century. Other schools and tremendous scholarship emerged over the next 400 years in centers of education throughout Armenia. Notably, one of the historic educators and deacons of the time, Hovhannes Sarkavag, was distinguished for arguing that love of the child was central to teaching. Although an invasion by Seljuk Turks in the eleventh century caused the first large-scale emigration of Armenians, universities were founded, such as University of Gladzor in 1280. The reestablished University of Tatev, celebrated beyond the borders of the country, was referred to as a "Second Athens,"with instruction in music, aesthetics, and philosophy. These medieval Armenian institutions conferred degrees of "Archimandrite" and "Rabbi," upon passing of written examinations and defense of theses. From the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, libraries issued forth and the first schoolbooks were pioneered.
Just as the West began exploring new lands and engaging new ideas in earnest, the East began to degenerate. By the sixteenth century, increasing numbers of schools were forced to close as the land was invaded repeatedly. Soon, most of Armenia was ravaged and fragmented. With no leader, its people amounted to a small Christian cluster surrounded by Muslims and nomads. For many years, the Armenian culture and its people dispersed, with their cultural life developing primarily in centers abroad, in Moscow, Venice, Tiblisi, and elsewhere.
Yet by the 1800s, Armenian intellectual life began to expand again as contact with Europe grew. Armenians helped build the first printing house in the Middle East in 1638 in Iran. The first novel ever written in spoken Armenian was produced by Khatchadour Abovian (1805-1848), making leisure reading accessible to more than solely the rich or educated. Armenians—at home and abroad—grew an extensive educational system during this time, developing schools, textbooks, teacher training, and educational policies to guide the process of learning across the lifespan.
This cultural and educational revival was aggressively dismantled, however, as Armenians fell victim to one of history's first genocides. In 1894 the Ottoman Turks began a massacre of over 200,000 Armenians which lasted for the next two years. The Russians closed Armenian schools and ordered the confiscation of church property, while the Turks wanted to move Armenians to Mesopotamia. After WWI broke out in 1915, the Young Turk party of the Ottoman Turkish Empire oversaw the systematic elimination of 1.5 million Armenians and the deportation of thousands more in a genocidal campaign that lasted until 1918.
With the advent of a brief period of statehood between 1918-1920, the first Armenian republic was established, building on the progress that had been made decades earlier—and then destroyed—to help create a foundation for today's educational system. By 1920, the institutions of school and church were separated. Over the next 20 years illiteracy was reduced drastically, from 83 percent to 16 percent between 1932 and 1940. Compulsory secondary education evolved in the 1960s with extensive construction and development of preschool, vocational, secondary and higher education systems.
After 1921, the Communist Soviet era dominated and information and literature from non-Communist nations was censored. Stalin's policy of "Russification"discouraged Armenians from preserving traditions and customs of their predecessors. By the 1980s, however, Gorbachev's rise to power brought new notions of reform, namely glasnost (openness in the media) and perestroika (rebuilding and restoring prosperity).
Just as positive change began to come to the region, however, the nation and its education system suffered the devastating blow of a massive earthquake in 1988. Some 50 villages were hit directly, and more than 500 schools were utterly destroyed. In all, estimates of as many as 50,000 Armenians were killed and 500,000 people left homeless by the earthquake. Conditions in the earthquake region continue to be dire, with tens of thousands of people still living in—and business and schools being conducted in—the temporary housing they were granted at the time of the quake.
Meanwhile, a war had ignited earlier in the year with neighboring Azerbaijan over the small region of Nagorno Karabagh ("mountainous fertile black gardens"), spawned after hundreds of Armenians were raped, maimed, and killed in Sumgait, north of Baku. Although a tenuous cease-fire has been in place since 1993, Azerbaijan and Turkey continue to impose a blockade around Armenia, leaving the nation in a crippling energy crisis and desperate economic condition.
Upon the breakup of the USSR, the Armenian people declared themselves a republic in 1991, for only the second time in nearly 700 years. While the main cities bustle with activity, they badly need modernizing due to lack of state financing for the fledgling nation.
Constitutional & Legal Foundations
Even amidst difficult economic times, the value of education continues to be held in high regard in Armenia. The present educational system has its roots in the brief period of independence during the formation of the first Republic of Armenia (1918-1920), and was solidified in the ensuing Soviet era of governance (1920-1990).
The significant role of education in the nation's set of priorities can be found within the first chapter of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, which outlines the Foundations of Constitutional Order. Article 11 charges the government with the task of supporting the development of Armenian education and cultural life. The Constitution further states that every citizen is entitled to free public secondary education, as well as free higher and specialized education as granted on a competitive basis.
The Ministry of Education and Science manages the general primary, secondary, and higher educational systems in Armenia. Included among its many responsibilities are the implementation of national education policy, the preparation of legislative bills, the enactment of reform measures, the establishment of performance indicators for decision-making, and the control of the system's resources.
During the Soviet era, the entire educational system rested under state control. Since then, the government has crafted decrees and laws to decentralize school administration. As part of the nation's Constitution, the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Education is organized into 54 articles, outlining the State's goals, objectives, and guarantees regarding the nation's educational system. In this regard, the Law defines education as the "process of training and instruction based on the interests of the person, the society, and the state, aimed at the maintenance of knowledge and its transmission to the new generation."
Article 4 situates the foundation of the state educational policy in "the national school, the main goal of which is preparation of persons with adequate professional and all-round (sic) knowledge, educated in the spirit of patriotism, state and humanity." The full system is divided into six areas: preschool, general (elementary and secondary), vocational, higher professional, supplementary education, and postgraduate professional education. Through the national school system is developed "the spiritual and intellectual potential of the Armenian people, maintenance and development of national and universal values."As an ally in these endeavors, "The Armenian Church also has a contribution in this affair."
Article 5 offers the principles embedded in the school system, including national dignity, democracy, universal values, assistance to the Diaspora, secular teaching, and equality between and access to both state and private educational offerings. For its part, the State guarantees citizens the "right to education, irrespective of nationality, race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, social origin, economic situation or other circumstances." Beyond these intangible, yet valuable, principles, the government goes so far as to pledge to sustain "regular functioning of the educational system, and creat(e) socioeconomic conditions" conducive to receiving a formal education. Towards this end, the system of secondary education is free, and textbooks are also made available without charge or for nominal rental fees.
In the years since independence, dramatic changes have been made to the national educational system, including new mechanisms for managing individual schools and selecting school directors. Local control over school management has shifted to city governors who appoint school councils that approve costs estimates and financial-economic reports, and also select school directors. While this has been regarded as an effective means of improving school management, the reforms have not sufficiently addressed issues of training and implementation. Steps are being taken to address these issues at the school level via a national program involving the training of school headmasters.
Armenia's public educational system is manifested in four levels of schooling: preprimary (ages three to six), primary (grades one to three), intermediate (grades four to eight) and senior (grades nine to ten). The latter three levels are often grouped in the category of general education. Public schooling is free and compulsory until the age of sixteen, essentially through the senior level. From this point, students undergo testing to help determine their placement and financial support in either vocational study (two-year degrees) or from an extensive array of higher education institutions, both private and public. These are further broken down into baccalaureate (four-year undergraduate degrees), magistracy (two-year Master's degrees), and post-graduate (two-year scientific degrees). In sum, Armenia is home to more than 1,400 schools, not including preschools, kindergartens, and specialized institutions.
Armenian became the primary language of instruction in 1990, replacing Russian in this capacity. As with many of the changes that took hold after independence, teachers were not trained or prepared for this transition, and the quality of instructional delivery was affected. Of course, new textbooks presenting the national curriculum needed to be written and printed to reflect this departure, despite a sharp reduction in school expenditures. School construction and maintenance expenditures also dropped dramatically, and outdated laboratory and technical equipment could not be replaced.
The school year begins for all grade levels on September 1 and is divided into semesters and quarters. It lasts 30 weeks for first grade and 34 weeks for the remaining grades. Classes are held in 45-minute intervals. Armenian language and literature, mathematics, and physical education are taught at every grade level. Russian, other foreign languages, and electives are offered beginning in the second grade and continuing throughout the system. The teaching of natural sciences (including ecology, biology, chemistry, physics, and astrology) begins in grade four, and the teaching of social sciences (including history, geography, economics, political science, and law) begins in fifth grade. Courses in "culture, nature and work" (such as music, fine arts, drawing, handwork, and life skills) begin in fifth grade and continue throughout schooling. Military training is reserved for the senior school level. Grades are calculated on a five-point system. In most areas of the country, class sizes are set at 25-30 pupils per class at the secondary level, and 15-20 per class in higher education.
To be sure, the educational system continues to undergo a number of reforms, loosely geared toward addressing the quality and relevance of curricula, as well as promoting decentralization and parental involvement. This has required a major overhaul in the system, given that until 1991 the schools followed prescribed Soviet curricula and methods of teaching and learning. In essence, this meant that the same topics and methodologies were employed for all children in all settings, regardless of differences in demographics, abilities, or interests. However, new approaches have been introduced which emphasize the development of problem solving and decision making skills, as well as tailoring educational experiences for students. As one example, a senior school program with advanced study in selected subjects has been introduced.
Preprimary & Primary Education
Primary education became compulsory in 1932, helping dramatically to reduce illiteracy rates in the nation to nearly nonexistent. The Soviet system created and funded the preschool network in order to accommodate working mothers, who received 1.5 years of maternity leave before they had to return to the workforce. Parents' main contributions went towards clothing and shoes, as the cost of food in the preschools was either free or heavily subsidized. Teachers were held in the highest regard.
After the collapse of the government, funding for preprimary education fell dramatically, forcing many to close and leaving others to deteriorate. In 1997, the government sharply reduced the percentage of the education budget allocation for preschools, using the funds instead to increase spending on basic education and shifting the control of the preprimary system to local municipalities.
Article 17 of the Law on Education lists seven objectives of preschool education: aiding in physical, moral and intellectual development; laying the foundation for native and foreign language development; developing mathematical and other skills; learning rules of behavior and cultural and historical norms; nurturing respect for the Armenian nation; and preparing students for general education. The system is divided between nursery schools (which accommodate children ages one to three) and kindergartens (for children ages three to seven). The schools offer either day care or educational activities, though many combine both of these practices.
While the system relies heavily on strong preprimary schooling—since formal education does not begin until the age of seven—enrollment rates in both preschool and kindergarten began to decline in the late 1980s. Armenia's under-five population numbers approximately 232,000. Although 64,000 children attend preschool and kindergarten in Armenia, this number represents a decrease in attendance; figures show 1989 enrollment rates at 27.8 percent, while the number declined to 15 percent in 1997. Some explanations for this drop in enrollment include both insufficient resources and unprepared local governing bodies abruptly tasked with oversight, leading to a decline in the quality of the system. Further, the high rate of unemployment undoubtedly added to this trend, as many caregivers chose to keep children at home with them instead of sending them off to school. And, by introducing cost into the equation, parents had to decide whether or not it was worthwhile to send their children to preprimary institutions. In 1996, the tuition averaged about 500 dram (roughly $1 USD) a month, but the costs have since risen eight-fold. Private preschools began to emerge in 1999, with 15 schools registered nationally that year.
Article 18 of the Law on Education expands upon the goals outlined for preschool education, noting that general education in Armenia seeks to develop children's knowledge of nature and the self, understanding of values and politics, and military preparation. More specifically, the focus of elementary school (grades one to three) is on the cultivation of language, mathematics, and work skills, with an eye towards character education. The middle school (grades four to eight) brings in a focus on science and healthy living, as well as helping to develop a sense of independence and self-care in the students. Senior school (grades nine to ten) brings these knowledge bases together and offers supplementary training for students with specialized academic interests. A school can offer a single grade level or multiple grade levels.
Children with special needs (including those who are without families) are either mainstreamed into the school system or are placed in schools designed to accommodate their particular needs. Evening and boarding schools, as well as orphanages, are available for this purpose.
The Armenian parliament is considering a draft law that proposes an expansion of the secondary education system, stretching it to eleven or twelve years. This is in response to additional curricula introduced into the system, increasing the number of subjects available for study by as many as 33 percent. The Ministry of Education and Science believes that this expansion is not only necessary for Armenia's school system to meet international standards, but also the rising standards of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
In total, Armenia's under-eighteen population numbers approximately 1,101,000; nearly 750,000 children attend Armenia's general school system. Elementary school enrollment remains high in Armenia, with school-children achieving literacy at this juncture. However, it is important to recognize the growing number of homeless children and child refugees in Armenia, whose lack of schooling not only adversely impacts their own lives but also affects the larger social fabric of which they are a part.
Two examinations are administered at the end of fourth grade in Armenian and mathematics. Students are re-tested in these content areas at the end of intermediate school, at which time they are also tested in a foreign language. Upon completion of these grade levels and exams, students then choose to pursue either the third level of general education—known as senior school—or else to attend a more specialized vocational school.
Significant curriculum reforms have occurred in the post-Soviet era, offering students (and teachers) new paths of inquiry into subjects and topics they had not previously considered—the most notable of which can be found in the arenas of civics and history. In addition to the scope of the new curricula and textbook materials, these texts offer colorful photos and maps as well as space-appropriate passages, which are radical departures from the previously bland, overcrowded, and imageless layout of books from the Soviet era.
In this spirit, a new civics book was introduced in 1999, dealing with issues including human rights, the Armenian constitution, and the workings of the branches of government. The book, supported by funds from Junior Achievement of Armenia as well as USAID, has attained a formal place in the curriculum and is in its second edition.
In addition, significant changes have been made in the manner which Armenian history is taught in Armenia. While the subject was always included in the curriculum, it was not given much importance, being subsumed into the broader spectrum of global and Soviet history. This approach has changed, largely due to the work of a group of academicians and educators who authored texts for seventh and eight grades as well as high school usage, which ambitiously address the beginnings of Armenian history through the 1990s.
These topics are further explored in a textbook that considers "The History of the Armenian Question,"which relates to the study of the national struggle for freedom, emancipation, and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. These issues of state and ethnic identity provide students with a rich and introspective base of knowledge that previously was inaccessible to them. Written for a ninth grade class level, the books are used in the curriculum followed by students who chose to pursue a humanities track after completing their eighth grade year. In addition to the textbook, brief (to keep costs down) but comprehensive teacher manuals and professional development seminars were created, offering educators guidance in both content and in methodology. Funding for these materials—which went through a second printing due to high demand—came from both a private donor and the Armenian Educational Foundation.
Higher education is widespread throughout Armenia, with the nation ranking first in educational attainment in the 1989 general census of the former Soviet Union. Adult literacy rates in Armenia remain exceptionally high, with UNICEF figures showing as many as 100 percent of the male population and 99 percent of the female population over the age of fifteen possessing the ability to read and write. Between 1920 and 1986, over 250,000 individuals were trained in the nation's universities. Armenia's private universities enroll some 20,000 students, while public higher education offers schooling to 34,000 students.
While the developing private school system is still working to streamline its accreditation with the Ministry of Education and Science, students are finding these institutions to be valuable options. Partially due to their focus on social sciences, as well as their flexibility regarding enrollment figures, these schools are driving the public universities into an era of reform as well. In this way, the state institutions are moving towards the American three-tiered system, whereby bachelor's, masters, and doctoral degrees are awarded.
Leading public institutions have achieved strong reputations for their contributions to scholarship in their respective fields, including Yerevan State University, the State Engineering University of Armenia, Yerevan State Medical University, the Armenian Academy of Agriculture, Yerevan State Institute for Russian and Foreign Languages, and Yerevan Komitas Conservatory. Funding continues to be an issue for public universities, however. Before independence, these schools were offered free of charge to Armenian students. Now, prospective students must pass an examination to gain entry to the schools, and based upon their scores they are either granted free admission or required to pay tuition. As such, students compete in large numbers for a select few scholarships. With annual tuition in some specialized departments running as high as $1500 USD, students are under great pressure to try to obtain—and maintain—these scholarships. Recipients are reevaluated annually and are only able to continue studying under scholarship if they display academic excellence.
A vital addition to the higher education landscape in Armenia has been the American University of Armenia (AUA). Opened in 1991, AUA offers English-taught graduate-level programs in Business, Engineering, Political Science, Health Sciences and Law, as well as providing training in English as a Foreign Language. Tuition runs nearly $1000 USD annually. Russia followed with a university in Armenia in 1998, and, in 2000, France also opened an Armenian university.
The National Academy of Sciences of Armenia represents the nation's brightest scholars and researchers and includes over fifty scientific and miscellaneous organizations. Founded in 1943, the Academy boasts 116 academicians, 337 doctors of sciences, and 1,152 candidates of sciences. As with other former Soviet republics, however, Armenian universities, technical institutes and research centers suffered a "brain drain" after independence. While this certainly continues to be a concern, the Ministry of Education and Science is taking steps to keep the nation's intelligentsia working in Armenia. In this regard, the Ministry is trying to encourage and develop links and connections to the international research community that allow scholars to integrate their work in the global landscape without having to leave the country to do so. To help support their efforts, the diasporan organization Fund for Armenian Relief has funded over $100,000 in grants to help foster the research projects of Armenian scientists and scholars.
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
The 1996 decentralization of school and community governance brought additional economic challenges as well as influence by special interest groups. Initially, regional government offices managed all educational activities and appointments, and were given discretionary funds by the central treasury. All of this fell under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science. A revised decree in 1997 shifted control to the local Council which oversees spending and appointments.
The financial constraints upon the educational system prove to be perhaps the most daunting issue facing education in Armenia. Alarmingly, per-pupil public expenditures fell from $600 USD in 1985 to an estimated $36 USD in 1998. As a result, various programs have been enacted in an attempt to address the financial needs of the nation's schools and families.
At the same time, a great deal of assistance comes from outside Armenia. Organizations and individuals from the Armenian Diaspora have contributed funds for the construction of school buildings, for example. The Armenian Educational Foundation has created scholarship programs for students and is helping to renovate approximately 100 schools. The Children's Television Workshop includes Armenia on its list of countries that air "Open Sesame," which provides culturally neutral episodes of "Sesame Street" dubbed into the Armenian language. In addition, many international organizations offer their support via the purchase of computers and professional development. Further, outside funds have come from organizations such as UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF, World Bank, Catholic Refugee Services, the Norwegian government, the Armenian Relief Society, the Fund for Armenian Relief, and Aznavour pour L'Armenie. A notable UNICEF-assisted program established textbook rental policy, wherein students pay a nominal fee (150 drams or approximately $.25 USD) to rent each book, which is returned at the end of the school year. Rental fees are banked by the schools and allowed to accrue interest to be used towards the purchase of additional texts every four years.
As with nearly every other aspect of the educational system in Armenia, the teaching profession has undergone dramatic changes since the fall of the Soviet Union. While teachers continue to be respected as professionals, and 80 percent hold degrees from institutions of higher education or professional pedagogical institutes, the post-Soviet corps tends to be less motivated, undergo fewer hours of professional development training, and hold lower status in their communities.
These problems are exaggerated in the rural areas, where conditions are poorer and fewer opportunities exist for educators to supplement their salaries. The workweek averages between twelve and eighteen hours, although many teachers work the low end of the spectrum because they hold other jobs. Their salaries declined from $200 USD a month in the 1980s, down to as low as $10 USD a month in 1993. Further, the teaching force—of which women comprise the vast majority—often goes unpaid for several months on end. As a result, private tutoring has become an unavoidable sideline business for many teachers. In an attempt to address the pressing concern over teacher salaries, the government decided in 1998 to exempt educational institutions from paying income tax, with the intent that some of the funds that would be retained could be used towards increasing teacher salaries at the school level.
Deteriorating conditions in the schools also adversely affect the profession, both in terms of motivation and efficacy. Until 1990, building renovations were completed every five years in all schools. By the 1993-1994 school year, the percentage of schools undergoing repair fell from twenty to five percent. Minor needs often go neglected, leading to the complete disrepair of many buildings. This deprioritization is reflected in the budget, which in 1997 allocated only $2 USD per pupil for renovations and did not allow for any repair in 1998 other than in disaster areas.
Another issue of concern lies in the discrepancy in the student-teacher ratio, in that the number of trained teachers is increasing while the student population declines due to a decreasing birth rate and financial pressures that force some children (mostly boys) to leave school to help support their families. This results in a pupil-teacher ratio that is too small for the system to sustain—averaging around 1:10—and had led to measures by the government to rationalize the system and decrease the overall number of teachers.
Since Armenia acquired independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, funding for education declined drastically as costs rose. The nation decentralized school and community governance in 1997 and shifted control of spending and appointments to local councils to attempt to address financial needs of families. But annual preprimary tuition for a single student now can cost as much as the annual salary of a teacher. Consequently, many children do not enroll in formal schools until age seven. Unfortunately, the teaching profession suffers too, due to decreases in training opportunities, status, salaries, and overall motivation in the post-Soviet era.
Higher education, however, boasts the highest ranking of the former Soviet states in terms of educational attainment. The finest of the nation's scholars and researchers belong to the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Also, adult literacy rates hovered at 100 percent through 1999.
In the midst of this period of inordinate financial strain, Armenia is striving to enact educational innovations to address the shifting sociopolitical realities it faces. Curricula and methods of teaching and learning are being reinvented anew. Many teachers, however, are skeptical of these radical changes and resistant to the reforms that are being thrust upon them. Understandably, they hesitate to simply adopt the succession of changes they have had no role in enacting, at the same time that they are teaching under increasingly difficult circumstances. As a result, there is a notable disconnect between traditional and progressive philosophies of education in Armenia, and educators' voices need to be heard as the nation struggles to resolve the tenuous, interconnected challenges facing the educational and political systems of the nation. Of course, these same teachers need to reflect upon the new and vibrant ways that they can contribute to this process in their individual classrooms—always, of course, with focus on the enrichment of the nation's educational offerings. Ultimately, this will require dialogue on the parts of all stakeholders in the system—teachers, students, parents, policymakers, and administrators—and holds the most promise for establishing a credible and thoughtful program of reform.
To this end, research in adult development has shown that for adults to make any serious life changes (such as those faced by Armenia's teachers), they need first to take ownership of their own personal development. With empathic support and inspired leadership, teachers in Armenia could take charge of recreating their own educational system. At the same time, they could utilize research by Kegan, Lauer, and Torosyan on fostering this development—for themselves as well as their students. One potential approach is to avoid treating issues as separate and disconnected (e.g. "funding," "training," "motivation" in education) and instead identify the way of thinking that brought about the issues or problems in the first place. Thus an overarching problem such as "poor teacher training" can be seen as being "caused" at least partially by individuals needing a better understanding of how to "listen," "cooperate," and "take leadership." Often, once people can see that such skills form a larger pattern, they can better transfer the abilities to manage other problems that come their way. Moreover, with globalization and the new world economy's emphasis on "ideas" and "entrepreneurs as agents of change," the Armenian people may benefit from creating such a "transformative" (rather than merely "informative") system of education more than ever before.
For its long-term future, Armenia could indeed gain from considering its current status within the Chinese definition of "crisis"—as a time of both "danger" and "opportunity." This turning point carries the stark risk that the nation may initially fall into steep decline, but also brings the very real opportunity ultimately to renew intellectual and cultural resources to meet both the mental and material demands of modern life.
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United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF). "Countries Affected by Armed Conflict."UNICEF Annual Report, 1996. Available from http://www.unicef.org.
—Nicole E. Vartanian and Roben Torosyan
Vartanian, Nicole E.; Torosyan, Roben. "Armenia." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700019.html
Vartanian, Nicole E.; Torosyan, Roben. "Armenia." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700019.html
Republic of Armenia
Hayastani Hanrapetut 'Yun
LOCATION AND SIZE.
Armenia is located in the southwest Caucasus Region, neighboring on Georgia and Azerbaijan to the north, Iran and Turkey to the south, and a separate province of Azerbaijan in the southeast. The total area of the country is 29,800 square kilometers (11,505 square miles), making it about the size of Maryland. The nation's capital is Yerevan, with a population of 1.5 million.
The total population of Armenia was estimated at 3,344,336 people in July 2000. According to the United Nations' Human Development Report, the total population of Armenia in 1993 was estimated at 3.7 million people. Hence the population has dropped since 1993 by more than 350,000 people, or about 10 percent. This decline is the result of a low fertility rate and wide-scale immigration (there are 4.23 migrants per every 1,000 members of the population). Life expectancy at birth for the total population is 66.4 years (61.98 for males and 71.04 for females). The total fertility rate is 1.47 children born per woman, which is below the replacement level, with 10.97 births per 1,000 members of the population. (Replacement level is a term that refers to the number of children a couple must have to replace only themselves. Thus, a man and woman would have 2 children to achieve replacement level. If a society has an overall replacement level of 2, then it has a stable population, neither growing nor shrinking. When women in a society typically have fewer than 2 children on average, this can be a sign of a shrinking population over time.) The infant mortality rate is 41.48 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Ethnic Armenians comprise 93 percent of the population. Other ethnic groups include the Azeris at 3 percent, Russians at 2 percent, and Kurds at 2 percent. Almost 96 percent of the nation's population speak Armenian. Russian is the second most common language, although only 2 percent of the population uses it as their primary form of communication. Orthodox Christianity is the most popular religion. The population density is 137 people per square kilometer (355 per square mile). About 31 percent of the population lives in rural areas and 69 percent in urban areas.
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
In 1920, Armenia was incorporated into what was then the Soviet Union. While it was under Soviet control, an effort began in the 1960s to industrialize the nation. From its previous state of minimal industrial development, Armenia became a significant manufacturing center, supplying machine tools, textiles, and various manufactured goods to the other Soviet Republics. In return, Armenia received raw materials and energy from these republics. Since independence in 1991, however, many large agro-industrial complexes were divided into small-scale agricultural units. New investments and new technologies are necessary for the healthy development of the agricultural sector. The government has given a high priority to privatization of the industrial sector, although the speed of privatization in this sector is slower than that in the agricultural sector. For food, Armenia relies partially on imports, and it possesses only small mineral deposits (mainly gold and bauxite).
The county experienced a severe economic decline in the beginning of the 1990s, due to a devastating 1988 earthquake, the conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region (see below), and the disintegration of the Soviet system. In 1994, with assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Armenian government introduced an economic reform program which resulted in increased economic performance during the 1995-99 period. Inflation was reduced from a staggering 1,885 percent in 1994 to a mere 2.5 percent in 1999. In 1998, about 200 medium and large-scale enterprises and about 600 small enterprises were privatized. Thus far, 74 percent of the country's large and medium enterprises and 64 percent of the small enterprises have been privatized. As a result of economic restructuring and privatization, Armenia's economy has grown since 1994. In 1999, the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5 percent. GDP per capita has also increased to US$2,900 in 1999 from only US$459 in 1994.
Armenia had no foreign debt when it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. At that time, it signed an agreement with Russia that relieved Armenia of any obligations related to the former Soviet Union's external debt . In exchange, Armenia could not claim any of the Soviet Union's external assets. However, after independence the nation ran up a significant foreign debt. By 1998, Armenia's total outstanding external debt was US$827.8 million, or 53.9 percent of its GDP. The nation also has a significant trade deficit : in 1999, it imported US$542 million more in goods than it exported.
External factors have both harmed and helped the Armenian economy. The longstanding ethnic conflict with Azerbaijan over possession of the Nagorno-Karabakh region—an Armenian-dominated region that lies wholly within Azerbaijan—has hurt the economy in a variety of ways, creating internal instability and closing the Azerbaijani markets to Armenian goods (Azerbaijan used to be Armenia's largest trade partner). The conflict also led Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan, to impose a trade embargo . However, Armenia has been the recipient of substantial foreign aid. In 2000, the World Bank granted Armenia US$45 million to reduce the government's budget deficit . The Bank has also granted Armenia US$30 million for economic aid. The country on average has received over US$200 million per year since the mid-1990s.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
Armenia is a parliamentary republic. The government consists of the executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch headed by the Supreme Court. The 3 main institutions of the executive branch are the chief of state, the head of government, and the cabinet. Since March 30, 1998, the chief of state has been President Robert Kocharian, elected by popular vote for a 5-year term and winning with a vote of 59 percent. Since November 3, 1999, the head of government has been Prime Minister Aram Sarkisyan. The president appoints the prime minister (usually the leader of the largest political party in the parliament) who in turn appoints the cabinet members. The legislative branch is the unicameral (one-chamber) National Assembly (Azgayin Zhoghov). The Assembly consists of 131 members who are elected for 4-year terms.
In 1999, the Armenian government's revenues were US$360 million, but its expenditures were US$566 million. In an effort to reduce its deficit, the government has cut spending and received aid from the World Bank. In 1999, the government spent US$75 million on military expenditures, or about 4 percent of GDP. Payments on
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Sets a||Cable subscribers a||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computers a||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.|
|b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
the debt are a major drain on the governmental resources. In 1999, the government spent US$108 million on payments on the debt.
Personal income taxes range from 0 to 30 percent depending on income, and corporate taxes also range up to 30 percent. Banks and insurance companies are charged a 45 percent tax rate.
In 1996, Armenia signed a trade agreement with the European Union (EU). The main benefit of this agreement has been increased foreign aid from the EU. The government has sought other trade agreements, but the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has created uncertainty about the Armenian economy and prevented significant foreign investment.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
Armenia's infrastructure needs substantial improvement. Much of the nation's roadways and railways were built during the Soviet period and are in need of repair and renovation. The length of the railway system in 1995, excluding industrial lines, was 825 kilometers (512 miles). Armenia had 15,998 kilometers (9,942 miles) of roads in 1998, of which 7,567 kilometers (4,702 miles) were expressways. All major roads were paved. Pipelines for natural gas in 1991 were 900 kilometers (560 miles) long. Armenia does not have any ports or harbors. There are 12 airports in Armenia (5 with paved runways), but only 10 are in service. Armenian Airlines, the national air carrier, operates service to a variety of international destinations including, Moscow, Paris, Athens, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Tehran.
In 1995, of Armenia's total production of electric energy, 60 percent was from gas-fired plants, 34 percent was hydroelectric, and 5 percent was atomic. By 1998 these rates had changed to 25 percent thermal, 49 percent hydro, and 26 percent atomic. The total production of electrical energy in that same period was 5.6 million kilowatt hours (kWh), according to the IMF.
The nation has approximately 650,000 telephones, which gives it a telephone density of 17.7 phones per 100 people. This is relatively low when compared with Western European nations. For instance, Belgium has a telephone density of 50 per 100 people. However, the German company Siemens is engaged in a US$100 million project to upgrade the nation's telephone system with fiber optic and digital telephone systems. About 90 percent of the nation's telecommunications system is now privately-owned. Mobile phone use is increasing with 20,000 mobile units in use in 1998. Use of the Internet is also on the rise with the number of Internet service providers increasing from 1 in 1999 to 7 in 2000. The United States has provided US$1 million to Armenia to supply Internet service for schools.
Unlike most industrialized and economically developed nations where services and industry dominate the economy, in Armenia agriculture is the main employer and largest source of GDP. According to the World Development report 2000/2001, the total labor force in 1999 was 1.5 million people, of which 55 percent were employed in agriculture, 25 percent in services, and 20 percent in industry. In 1999, agriculture accounted for 40 percent of GDP, industry 25 percent of GDP, and services 35 percent of GDP.
Among the nations that made up the former Soviet Union, Armenia was the first to privatize agricultural lands. It broke up the large Soviet-style farms and reallocated the land to small, independent farmers. However, only 17 percent of the country's land is suitable for farming, which severely limits agricultural production. The nation has numerous vineyards and is a major producer of wine and cognac. In 1998 the World Bank provided US$15 million to establish a fund to furnish loans for small farmers.
Despite the limitations of this sector, agriculture provides the largest source of income for Armenia. Agricultural exports totaled US$15.4 million in 1998, or about 34 percent of all of the country's exports. The most significant exports were alcoholic beverages, various fruit juices, calf skins, and processed tomatoes. In 1998, the nation had to import US$297.7 million in agricultural products. In all, 70 percent of all food consumed in Armenia was imported in 1999. The main imports were eggs, sugar, flour, and processed foods.
A variety of crops are cultivated including barley, corn, potatoes, and wheat. In 1999, the total volume of crops produced amounted to 715,400 metric tons. This tally included 425,000 metric tons of potatoes, 220,000 metric tons of wheat, 65,000 metric tons of barley, and 5,200 metric tons of corn. The main livestock products were chicken, beef, and pork. In 1999, total agricultural production declined by 4.2 percent.
Industry in Armenia has traditionally been based on mining and the manufacture of goods such as textiles, electric motors, tires, chemicals, trucks, machine tools, and some consumer appliances (mainly washing machines). The contribution of industry to the economy fell from 46.5 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 1999. In 1999 alone, industrial production declined by 2 percent. This decline has been the result of a lack of new investment (because of political uncertainty) and because many of the industrial markets in the former Soviet Union closed due to lack of demand.
Armenia possesses the second-largest reserves of copper in the world. Other important reserves are molybdenum, zinc, gold, silver, construction stones (mainly granite and marble), and other materials such as betonite, bauxite, perlite, zeolite, and diatomite. In the 19th century, industrial metallurgical mining started in the Alaverdy and Zangezur regions, and during Soviet times these activities increased enormously. In the 1980s, 25 percent of the Soviet molybdenum was supplied by Armenia. In 1991 the mining industry collapsed due to deteriorating conditions in the mines and declines in demand. In 1996, the mining industry started to recover, with production rising 32 percent in the period from 1996-99. From January to June 2000, it rose an additional 16 percent.
After food processing and jewelry and diamond processing, Armenia's mining sector was the third-largest industrial sector and the third-largest exporter. According to the Armenian government, exports of minerals and non-precious metals totaled roughly 23 percent of exports in 1995. Although the mining sector does relatively well, its production and export are well below its potential. The government has prepared a program to increase mining and metal production and to export more semi-finished products because of their higher value added . The major copper-molybdenum companies and the gold company are not yet privatized.
Armenia was the leading chemical producer in the Caucasus in the 1970s, producing synthetic rubber, latex, acids, various glues, and special films mainly for the military sector. In the 1980s the chemical industry employed 24,200 people and accounted for 6.6 percent of the industrial production. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the energy crisis of 1992-93, and the war with Azerbaijan decreased the volume of production by more than 50 percent. In 1999, Armenia imported 6 times as many chemical products and materials as it produced itself. The main chemical export product is rubber, comprising 82 percent of total chemical exports, of which 93 percent went to states of the former Soviet Union. According to expert Jocelyne Decaye, the main weaknesses of Armenia's chemical industry are "high dependence on imported raw materials, obsolete technologies and old production lines, logistical difficulties related to Armenia's location, overstaffing and high costs for transports and electricity."
Armenia's light industry sector was well developed in the 1980s, when it had 115,000 employees and accounted for 25 percent of total industrial production. In the 1990s, however, the share of light industry in the total industrial production declined to under 2 percent. Textile and clothing production make up the most significant activities in this sector.
In 1999, the food processing industry accounted for 39 percent of total industrial output and 61 percent of total manufacturing output. In the 1980s, food processing accounted for only 18 percent of Armenia's total industrial production. The first 5 years of the 1990s saw a rise of nearly 70 percent. The major food products are wine and brandy, with such products as vegetables, fruits, tobacco, potatoes, cotton, grains, and teas making up the rest. Less than 10 percent of the total production is exported (US$16 million in 1999).
The value of services to the Armenian economy increased as a percentage of GDP from 31 percent in 1990 to 35 percent in 1999. The main segments of the service sector include tourism and financial services. Many common Western services do not exist in Armenia. For instance, there are no fast food or retail chains.
During the first 5 years of independence, the tourist industry declined, but since 1996, this trend has reversed itself. Since 1996, the number of tourists has more than tripled but remains low compared to the 1980s (about 21,000 visitors in 1999, including business tourism). The share of tourism as a percentage of GDP was 1.7 percent in 1999. The tourism infrastructure needs substantial development and modernization to keep this industry growing.
During the Soviet period, the State Insurance Company provided mandatory insurance for all citizens. The responsibility to regulate the insurance market now rests in the hands of the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance provides licenses for insurance companies, and in 2001 some 65 private and state companies were registered. As of 2001, a legal framework concerning the insurance market was still being developed. Domestic and international companies are treated equally under Armenian law.
The banking system accounts for about 10 percent of GDP. In 1999, there were 31 commercial banks. The main foreign banks are Mellat Bank of Iran and Midland Bank of the United Kingdom. Only Midland Bank has established Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), and only a limited number of businesses in the major cities can accept credit cards as a form of payment. The total capital of all commercial banks in Armenia is US$60 million. The largest private bank is HSBC Armenia Bank with assets of US$9 million.
Armenia has maintained a trade deficit since independence in 1991. According to the CIA World Factbook, Armenia exported US$240 million in 1999, an increase of almost 5 percent compared to 1998. The country has also diversified its trading partners and now trades with an increasing number of Western nations. Armenia imported US$782 million in 1999, a decrease of about 6.5 percent compared to 1998, but still 3 times the amount of 1993. Until the nation's economy recovers, this deficit will continue.
Belgium is Armenia's largest export partner, importing a total value of US$84 million, followed by Russia and Iran, both of which imported US$34 million in 1999. In fourth place was the United States, importing US$16 million, and in fifth came Georgia with US$11 million. Most of the Armenian exports, US$127 million, went to industrial countries, and US$97 million went to developing countries, according to the IMF.
Armenia's main import partner was Russia, accounting for US$181 million in 1999. Second came the United States, exporting US$86 million in 1999. The
|Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Armenia|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).|
|Exchange rates: Armenia|
|dram per US$1|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
United States was followed by Belgium, which exported US$85 million, then Iran with US$78 million, and in fifth was the United Kingdom, exporting US$67 million. Of Armenia's total imports, US$368 million came from industrial countries and US$451 million came from developing countries, according to the IMF's Direction of Trade Statistical Yearbook 2000 .
The value of the dram has declined significantly since the 1990s. In 1995, 405.91 drams equaled US$1. However, by 2000 it took 539.53 drams to equal US$1. This decline is the result of the continuing weaknesses in the Armenian economy.
In 1993, the Yerevan Stock Exchange (YSE) was established, which was followed by the establishment of 3 smaller exchanges. However, the total value of these 4 exchanges was only US$1.67 million in 1999.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
Officially, 45 percent of the population is considered to be poor, but unofficial estimates place the figure as high as 55 percent. Although poverty is mostly urban (59 percent), the incidence of extreme poverty is higher in rural than in urban areas. Rural poverty is expected to worsen as a result of people leaving rural areas for the
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
cities. State expenditures on social infrastructure and product subsidies dropped drastically following independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, thus hurting the ability of the poor to meet basic needs. Since people make very low wages, food comprises about 67 percent of household expenditures. In 1996, the Ministry of Statistics and the World Bank found that the poor represented 55 percent of the total population, while the extremely poor constituted 28 percent. The only good news is that there has been a significant decrease in the proportion of the extremely poor, which is probably due to programs designed to help this sector.
Out of 580,000 pensioners (retired people receiving pensions) in Armenia, 223,000 are old age or retired pensioners, of which 186,402 are identified as needy and included in the system of family allowances. Pensions remain exceedingly low, with the average monthly pension worth US$7.5 and average family allowance at US$12. Without assistance from their families, many pensioners would face the most severe poverty.
In 1994, according to the IMF, 1,488,000 Armenians were employed and 106,000 were unemployed, resulting in an actual labor force of 1,594,000 people. The figures for 1998 give a different picture, with the number of total employed persons decreasing to 1,351,000,
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All Food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|aExcludes energy used for transport.|
|bIncludes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
and a total of 139,000 unemployed, resulting in an actual labor force of 1,492,000 people. Although official figures state that the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in 1998, unofficial estimates place the rate as high as 20 percent. In the state sector, 794,000 people had jobs in 1994, and in the private sector 694,000 people were employed. By 1998, 441,000 people were employed in the state sector, and 912,000 in the private sector, reflecting a major decrease in government payrolls.
According to the constitution, employees have the right to join and form trade unions and to form associations, although members of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies are forbidden to do so.
The minimum monthly wage in 1994 was AMD1, 851, although by the second quarter of 1999 it had risen to AMD 5,000. Forced and bonded labor is forbidden in Armenia, and for children the minimum working age is 16 years, although with the permission of a medical commission and the relevant union board, children may work from the age of 14. The standard legal work week is 41 hours, and with such a low minimum wage, most people have to take multiple jobs to support themselves and their families.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
c. 900 B.C. A number of small kingdoms are established in what becomes Armenia.
66 B.C. Armenia is conquered by the Romans.
1080-1269. During Armenia's "Silver Age," Armenia gains independence from Byzantium and there is a flowering of Armenian culture and the arts.
1375. Armenia is conquered by the Turks.
1639. Armenia is divided between Persia and Turkey.
1828. Eastern areas of Armenia are conquered by Russia.
1902. The Tiflis-Alexandropol-Yerevan railway is completed, dramatically increasing trade.
1915. During the Armenian Genocide, an estimated 1 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks.
1918. Armenia becomes an independent nation following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I (1914-1918).
1918-1920. War occurs between Armenia and Turkey.
1922. Armenia is incorporated into the Soviet Union.
1923. The predominately Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh is transferred to Azerbaijan.
1950s. The Soviets undertake a broad effort to industrialize Armenia.
1988. An earthquake in Armenia results in the deaths of an estimated 25,000 people.
1991. Armenia gains independence from the Soviet Union after a nation-wide referendum.
1994. Azerbaijan and Armenia go to war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Economic conditions deteriorate and inflation exceeds 1,800 percent.
1995. A new constitution is adopted.
1996. Armenia signs a trade agreement with the EU.
1999. Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkissyan and other government leaders are assassinated.
2000. Armenia's request for admission to the Council of Europe is approved.
A major impediment to Armenia's economic growth is its lack of infrastructure. Antiquated equipment has not been upgraded because of a lack of funds, and as a result many sectors of the economy are neither productive nor competitive. Most privatization efforts resulted in sales to people with connections who usually lacked either the commitment or the capacity to streamline operations. Industrial output is still low, and there is a lack of foreign investment. Armenia's imports exceed its exports by a 3-to-1 margin.
Although there are objective reasons for the failure of the Armenian economy, the widespread perception of corruption at every level of society seriously hampers the government's ability to attract foreign investment. The lack of confidence in the government has also created widespread political apathy among the population.
Furthermore, the high level of unemployment and seeming lack of hope in the country's future has created an emigration crisis. Although reliable statistics are hard to come by, the consensus among most observers is that hundreds of thousands of people have emigrated, with no indication that the exodus will abate anytime soon.
Armenia has no territories or colonies.
Bailey, H.W. "Armenian Religion." Encyclopedia Iranica. Vol.2. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.
Chetarian, Vicken. "Eurasia Insight: The Struggle to Fill the Power Vacuum in Armenia." Eurasianet.org. <http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav040300.shtml>. Accessed January 2001.
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Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Armenia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.
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International Monetary Fund. Direction of Trade Statistical Yearbook 2000. Washington, D.C.: IMF, 2000.
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Russel, J. R. "Armenian Religion." Encyclopedia Iranica. Vol. 2.London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.
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U.S. Department of State. Armenia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998. <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1998_hrp_report/armenia.html>. Accessed December 2000.
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World Bank. World Development Report 2000/2001. Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2000.
—Mehdi Parvizi Amineh
Armenian Dram (AMD). One dram equals 100 luma. Coins are in denominations of 1 dram and 50 and 20 luma. Paper currency is printed in denominations of AMD10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 1,000, and 5,000.
Diamonds, scrap metal, machinery and equipment, cognac, and copper ore.
Natural gas, petroleum, tobacco products, foodstuffs, and diamonds.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$9.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$240 million (1999 est.). Imports: US$782 million (1999 est.).
Amineh, Mehdi Parvizi. "Armenia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100194.html
Amineh, Mehdi Parvizi. "Armenia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100194.html
Armenia (country, Asia)
Armenia (ärmē´nēə), Armenian Hayastan, officially Republic of Armenia, republic (2005 est. pop. 2,983,000), 11,500 sq mi (29,785 sq km), in the S Caucasus. Armenia is bounded by Turkey on the west, Azerbaijan on the east (the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan is on its southwestern border), Iran on the southwest, and Georgia on the north. Yerevan is the capital.
Land and People
The landlocked country, a region of extinct volcanoes and rugged mountains, has an average altitude of 5,900 ft (1,800 m). Many peaks exceed 10,000 ft (3,048 m); perpetually snowcapped Mt. Aragats (13,432 ft/4,094 m) is the highest point in Armenia. The climate is continental, with cold, dry winters and scorching, dusty summers. The chief rivers are the Aras (Araks) and its tributary, the Razdan, which provide hydroelectricity and irrigation water. Lake Sevan supports the important fishing industry and is another source of hydroelectric power.
The country's main cities are Yerevan, Kumayri (formerly Leninakan), Vanadzor (formerly Kirovakan), and Yejmiadzin (seat of the Armenian Church). Ethnic Armenians make up the bulk of the people in this densely populated republic. In addition, there are Russian, Kurdish, and Azeri minorities. The official language is Armenian; Russian and various other tongues are spoken by a small minority. The Armenian Church is predominant, and there are Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Muslim minorities.
Agriculture holds a significant place in Armenia's economy, employing almost half of its population. Wine grapes, citrus fruits, vegetables, and livestock are the main agricultural products; fishing is also important. Armenia has deposits of copper, gold, molybdenum, bauxite, and zinc, which provide the basis for a chemical industry. Salts and other minerals have enabled health resorts to thrive. Diamond processing, nonferrous metallurgy, microelectronics, food processing, and the manufacture of electrical equipment, machinery, textiles, and the famous Armenian brandies and wines are also among the republic's industries. The annual value of Armenia's imports is much greater than that of its exports. The main trading partners are Russia, Germany, Belgium, the United States, and Israel.
Armenia is governed under the constitution of 1995 as amended. The head of state of republic is the president, who is head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president. There is a popularly elected 131-member unicameral national assembly, with some members elected directly and others proportionally. Administratively, Armenia is divided into 11 provinces.
The region and former kingdom of Asia Minor that was Greater Armenia lay east of the Euphrates River; Little, or Lesser, Armenia was west of the river. Armenia is generally understood to have included NE Turkey, the area covered by the modern republic of Armenia (the eastern part of ancient Armenia), and parts of Iranian Azerbaijan.
According to tradition, the kingdom was founded in the region of Lake Van by Hayk, or Hayg, a descendant of Noah, in 2492 BC Modern scholars, however, believe that the Armenians crossed the Euphrates and came into Asia Minor in the 8th cent. BC Invading the country called Urartu by the Assyrians, they intermarried with the indigenous peoples there and formed a homogeneous nation by the 6th cent. BC This state was a Persian satrapy from the late 6th cent. BC to the late 4th cent. BC
Conquered (330 BC) by Alexander the Great, it became after his death part of the Syrian kingdom of Seleucus I and his descendants. After the Roman victory over the Seleucids at Magnesia in 190 BC, the Armenians declared (189 BC) their independence under a native dynasty, the Artashesids. The imperialistic ambitions of King Tigranes led to war with Rome; defeated Armenia became tributary to the republic after the campaigns of Lucullus (69 BC) and Pompey (67 BC). The Romans distinguished between Greater Armenia and Lesser Armenia, respectively east and west of the Euphrates. Tiridates, a Parthian prince, was confirmed as king of Armenia by Nero in AD 66. Christianity was introduced early; Armenia is reckoned the oldest Christian state.
In the 3d cent. AD, Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid, came to power in Persia and overran Armenia. The persecution of Christians created innumerable martyrs and kindled nationalism among the Armenians, particularly after the partition (387) of the kingdom between Persia and Rome. Attempts at independence were short-lived, as Armenia was the constant prey of Persians, Byzantines, White Huns, Khazars, and Arabs. From 886 to 1046 the kingdom enjoyed autonomy under native rulers, the Bagratids; it was then reconquered by the Byzantines, who promptly lost it to the Seljuk Turks following the Byzantine defeat at the battle of Manzikert in 1071.
With the Mongol invasion of the mid-11th cent., a number of Armenians, led by Prince Reuben, were pushed westward. In 1080 they established in Cilicia the kingdom of Little Armenia, which lasted until its conquest by the Mamluks in 1375. Shortly afterward (1386–94) the Mongol conqueror Timur seized Greater Armenia and massacred a large part of the population. After Timur's death (1405) the Ottoman Turks, whom Timur had defeated in 1402, invaded Armenia and by the 16th cent. held all of it. Under Ottoman rule the Armenians, although often persecuted and always discriminated against because of their religion, nevertheless acquired a vital economic role. Constantinople and all other large cities of the Ottoman Empire had colonies of Armenian merchants and financiers. Eastern Armenia was chronically disputed between Turkey and Persia.
Russia acquired Armenia from Persia in 1828 and made it into a province. The Congress of Berlin (1878; see Berlin, Congress of) also assigned the Kars, Ardahan, and Batumi districts to Russia, which restored Kars and Ardahan to Turkey in 1921. The Armenian people, whose 19th-century population in the Ottoman Empire was approximately two million, underwent one of the worst trials in their history between 1894 and 1915. Their attempted extermination was put into action under Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid II and was sporadically but regularly resumed. At the beginning of the genocide of 1915 the Armenians were accused of aiding the Russian invaders during World War I. Subsequently, more than 600,000 Armenians were killed by Turkish soldiers or died of starvation during their forced deportation to Syria and Mesopotamia. The Armenians rose in revolt at Van, which they held until relieved by Russian troops.
After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Russian Armenia joined Azerbaijan and Georgia to form the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation, which, however, was dissolved in 1918. That same year the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between Soviet Russia and Germany made Russian Armenia an independent republic under German auspices. It was superseded by the Treaty of Sèvres (see Sèvres, Treaty of; 1920), which created an independent Greater Armenia, comprising both the Turkish and the Soviet Russian parts.
In the same year, however, the Communists gained control of Russian Armenia and proclaimed it a Soviet republic. In 1921 a Russo-Turkish Treaty established those countries' common boundary, thus ending Armenian independence. From 1922 to 1936, Armenia was combined with Azerbaijan and Georgia to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, after which it became a separate constituent republic of the USSR. Until the late 20th cent. its fortunes remained tied to those of the Soviet Union.
A devastating earthquake struck Armenia in 1988, killing thousands of people and destroying most of the republic's infrastructure. Armenia had been relatively stable as a republic of the Soviet Union, but the dissolution of the USSR allowed nationalism and historical conflicts to rekindle. In mid-1988, fighting broke out between ethnic Armenians and Azeris in the Armenian-dominated Nagorno-Karabakh region of neighboring Azerbaijan, leading to Armenian demands that Azerbaijan cede the region to Armenia. Armenia declared itself independent of the USSR in Aug., 1991, and Levon Ter-Petrossian was elected as first president of the republic. Armenia then joined the Commonwealth of Independent States; since the breakup of the USSR, Armenia has had close relations with Russia.
Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh led to war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1992, with heavy casualties. A blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan, the country through which most of Armenia's supply routes run, caused economic hardship. By early 1994, Armenian forces had gained control of the enclave and adjoining Azerbaijani territory to the region's south and west. A cease-fire negotiated with Russian mediation in May, 1994, has generally been observed by both sides, but a final resolution to the conflict was not achieved and border clashes have occurred at times. Ongoing attempts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh situation have proved difficult, and Armenia's economy has been hurt by Turkish and Azerbaijaini blockades, making the nation somewhat dependent on Russia.
In 1995 voters approved a new constitution that strengthened the president's powers; that year Armenia signed an agreement with Russia that granted Russia a 25-year lease on the military base at Kumayri. Ter-Petrossian was reelected in 1996 but resigned in 1998, and Robert Kocharian was elected president. In Oct., 1999, terrorists stormed the parliament in an apparent coup attempt, killing the prime minister and other officials before being apprehended.
Kocharian was reelected in Mar., 2003, after a runoff election that foreign election observers said was marked by widespread fraud. Inspired by the demonstrations in Georgia that led to a change in government there, Armenian opposition leaders called for united protests against Kocharian in Apr., 2004. Accusing the opposition of attempting to destabilize the country, the government responded with arrests and legal actions against them, as well as the use of thugs to break up opposition rallies. Large demonstrations (April–June) failed, however, to martial sufficient pressure against the president. Opposition parties continued to boycott parliament, albeit on a selective basis after Sept., 2005. A referendum in Nov., 2005, that was boycotted by the opposition approved constitutional amendments that diminished the president's powers and expanded civil rights, but European observers and the opposition both questioned the reported results, saying there was ballot fraud.
A prosecutor-general's investigation of government privatizations in 2001–4 criticized many for involving noncompetitive, arbitrary sales that cost the country revenue, but despite the release of the report in Apr., 2006, the practice continued. Tensions between Georgia and Russia in 2006 adversely affected some Armenian businesses when Russia closed its transport links with Georgia, which are also used for Armenian trade with Russia. Parliamentary elections in May, 2007, resulted in a majority for the parties aligned with the president; a three-party legislative coalition was established the following month. Despite opposition claims of electoral fraud, European observers called the balloting as an improvement over the 2003 elections.
In the Feb., 2008, presidential election, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan defeated former president Ter-Petrossian, but Ter-Petrossian denounced the result as rigged. European observers initially said that the elections generally followed democratic standards, but a second assessment three weeks later documented significant failings in the election. The election led to opposition protests in the capital, deadly clashes between security forces and demonstrators on Mar. 1–2, arrests of Ter-Petrossian supporters, and a three-week state of emergency in March.
In Sept., 2008, there was a warming in relations with Turkey when Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited Armenia; in Apr., 2009, the two nations agreed in principle to normalize relations, and protocols calling for normalizing relations were signed in Oct., 2009. The protocols, however, were not ratified by either nation. Turkish legislators resisted approving them without progress toward a settlement in Armenia's conflict with Azerbaijan, and Armenia suspended its ratification process in 2010.
Meanwhile, the parliament approved (June, 2009) a limited amnesty affecting many who were convicted as a result of the events of Mar., 2008. In Aug., 2010, the lease on Russia's military base at Kumayri was extended until 2044. The May, 2012, parliamentary elections resulted in a win for the president's Republican party, which secured a majority; international observers again noted problems with campaign violations and interference by poltical parties. In Feb., 2013, Sargsyan was reelected, defeating Raffi Hovhannisyan, a former foreign minister, and other candidates, but some major opposition parties, fearing fraud, did not field candidates. Hovhannisyan accused Sargsyan of fraud and irregularities were reported, but the vote for the president paralleled the results of polling. In Oct., 2014, Armenia signed an agreement with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to make it a member of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015.
See M. K. Matossian, The Impact of Soviet Policies on Armenia (1962); M. Khorenats'i, History of the Armenians (1978); T. J. Samuelian, Classical Armenian Culture (1982); R. G. Suny, Armenia in the Twentieth Century (1983); R. G. Hovannisian, ed., The Armenian Genocide in Perspective (1986); M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia (1987); K. Maksoudian, A History of Armenia (1987); C. J. Walker, Armenia (1990); T. Akcam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility (2006).
"Armenia (country, Asia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Armenia.html
"Armenia (country, Asia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Armenia.html
Official name: Republic of Armenia
Area: 29,800 square kilometers (11,500 square miles)
Highest point on mainland : Mt. Aragats (4,095 meters/13,425 feet)
Lowest point on land: Debed River Valley (400 meters/1,320 feet)
Hemispheres : Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 4 p.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 400 kilometers (240 miles) from northwest to southeast; 200 kilometers (120 miles) from west to east
Land boundaries : 1,254 kilometers (778 miles) total boundary length; Azerbaijan, 789 kilometers (488 miles), 221 kilometers/137 miles of which is in the Naxçivan enclave; Georgia, 164 kilometers (102 miles); Iran, 35 kilometers (22 miles); Turkey, 268 kilometers (166 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Armenia is a small, landlocked nation located in the mountainous region southwest of Russia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. With a total area of 29,800 square kilometers (11,500 square miles), it is somewhat larger than the state of Maryland. Armenia is divided into eleven provinces.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Armenia has no territories or dependencies.
Although Armenia lies not far from several seas, its high mountains block their effects and give it a continental highland climate. It has cold, dry winters and hot, dusty summers. Temperature and precipitation depend greatly on elevation, with colder and wetter seasons in the high north and northeast.
The widest variation in temperature between winter and summer occurs in the central Armenian Plateau, where in midwinter the mean temperature is 0°C (32°F); in midsummer the mean temperature is over 25°C (77°F). Overall, Armenia is a sunny country. Precipitation rates depend on altitude and location, but are heaviest during autumn. In the lower Aras River Valley, the average annual precipitation is 25 centimeters (10 inches). It can reach 80 centimeters (32 inches) in the mountains.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Armenia's terrain is composed largely of plateaus and rugged mountain ranges, with the exception of a few fertile river valleys and the area around Lake Sevan, in the east-central part of the country. The geological formation known as the Armenia Plateau occupies the western part of the country.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Armenia is landlocked and has no coast.
6 INLAND LAKES
Lake Sevan lies 2,070 meters (6,200 feet) above sea level on the Armenian Plateau. With an area of 1,244 square kilometers (480 square miles), it is the country's largest lake—and one of the largest high-elevation lakes in the world. At its widest point, Lake Sevan measures 72.5 kilometers (58 miles) across; it is 376 kilometers (301 miles) long. The lake's greatest depth is about 83 meters (272 feet). Many tributaries flow into the lake from the south and southeast, but the Hrazdan River is its only outlet.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The Aras River, which is 914 kilometers (568 miles) long, is Armenia's largest and longest river. Its chief tributary in Armenia is the Hrazdan. The Debed River in the north of the country flows northeast into Georgia. The Bargushat River drains the southeastern part of Armenia.
Armenia has no deserts.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The Aras River and the Debed River valleys in the far north are the lowest points in Armenia, with elevations of 380 meters (1,158 feet) and 400 meters (1,320 feet), respectively. The rich soils of the arable river valleys contain vineyards and orchards.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The Lesser Caucasus Mountains enter into Armenia in the north and extend across the entire country along the border with Azerbaijan and into Iran. The Lesser Caucasus system includes the P'ambaki, Geghama, Vardenis, and Zangezur ranges. Composed largely of granite and crystalline rock, the mountains are high, rugged, and include some extinct volcanoes and many glaciers.
The terrain is particularly rugged in the extreme southeast. Some smaller mountain ranges and extinct volcanoes are located on the Armenia Plateau; included in one of these ranges is Mount Aragats (Aragats Lerr), which at 4,095 meters (13,425 feet) is the highest point in Armenia.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are many caves throughout Armenia, and several steep canyons. The longest cave is the Arjeri Cave in the Vayots Dzor region to the south. The Debed Canyon drops to the lowest elevation in the country (400 meters/1,320 feet).
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
Half of Armenia is above 2,000 meters (6,090 feet) in elevation. The Armenian Plateau, which occupies the western part of the country, was formed in a geological upheaval of the earth's crust twenty-five million years ago. It slopes down from the Lesser Caucasus Mountains toward the Aras River Valley.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The 1.8-kilometer-long (1-mile-long) tunnel through the Pushkin Pass in northern Armenia, built in 1970 and reopened after reconstruction in 2000, is a major route linking Armenia and Georgia.
14 FURTHER READING
Lang, David Marshall. Armenia: Cradle of Civilization. London: Allen and Unwin, 1980.
Suny, Ronald G. Armenia in the Twentieth Century. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1983.
Suny, Ronald G. Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Walker, Christopher J. "Armenia: A Nation in Asia." Asian Affairs 19 (February 1988): 20-35.
Armenia Resource Page. http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/Armenia/index.shtrr (accessed June 5, 2003).
Tour Armenia. http://www.tacentral.com (accessed June 5, 2003).
"Armenia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900019.html
"Armenia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900019.html
29,800sq km (11,506sq mi)
Armenian 93%, Azerbaijani 3%, Russian, Kurd
Christianity (mainly Armenian Apostolic)
Dram = 100 couma
Land and climateArmenia is a rugged mountainous republic, the highest peak is Mount Aragats, 4090m (13,420ft). Armenia has severe winters and cool summers, but the total yearly rainfall is generally low (between 200 and 800mm (8–31in). The lowest land is in the ne and nw, where Yerevan is situated. Armenia has many fast-flowing rivers, which have cut deep gorges in the plateau. The major river is the Araks. The largest lake is Lake Sevan, containing 90% of all Armenia's standing water. Vegetation ranges from tundra to grassy steppe. Oak forests are found in the se, beech in the ne. Originally it was a much larger independent kingdom, centred on Mount Ararat; incorporating present-day ne Turkey and parts of nw Iran.
History and politicsArmenia was an advanced ancient kingdom, considered to be one of the original sites of iron and bronze smelting. A nation was established in the 6th century bc, and Alexander the Great expelled the Persians in 330 bc. In 69 bc, Armenia was incorporated into the Roman Empire. In ad 303, Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion. From 886 to 1046 Armenia was an independent kingdom. From the 11th to 15th centuries, the Mongols were the greatest power in the region. by the 16th century Armenia was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. Despite religious discrimination, the Armenians generally prospered under Turkish rule. Eastern Armenia was the battleground between the rival Ottoman and Persian Empires. In 1828 Russia acquired Persian Armenia, and (with promises of religious toleration) many Armenians moved into the Russian-controlled area. In Turkish Armenia, British promises of protection encouraged nationalist movements. The Turkish response was uncompromising, killing c.200,000 Armenians in 1896 alone. In the Russian sector, a process of Russification was enforced. During World War I, Armenia was the battleground for the Turkish and Russian armies. Armenians were accused of aiding the Russians, and Turkish atrocities intensified. More than 600,000 Armenians were killed by Turkish troops, and 1.75 million were deported to Syria and Palestine. In 1918 Russian Armenia became the Armenian Autonomous Republic, the w part remained part of Turkey, and the nw became part of Iran. In 1922 Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia federated to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic (one of the four original republics in the Soviet Union). In 1936 Armenia became a separate republic. Earthquakes in 1984 and 1988 killed more than 80,000 people and destroyed many cities. In 1988 war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh (an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan). In 1990 Armenian voted to break from the Soviet Union, and in 1991 joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In 1992 Armenia invaded Azerbaijan and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. In 1994 an uneasy cease-fire left Armenia controlling c.20% of Azerbaijan. In 1998 Robert Kocharian, a former leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, became president. In 1999, gunmen stormed parliament, killing the prime minister.
EconomyArmenia is a lower-middle-income nation (2000 GDP per capita US$3000). The economy, badly hit by earthquakes and war with Azerbaijan, is in a state of transition. Poverty, corruption, and political assassinations contributed to Armenia losing 20% of its population in the 1990s. The country is highly industrialized, with production dominated by mining and chemicals. Copper is the chief metal, but gold, lead, and zinc are also mined. Agriculture (centred on the River Araks) is the second-largest sector, with cotton, tobacco, fruit, and rice the main products. Despite significant increases in production, Armenia is still dependent on food imports.
"Armenia." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Armenia.html
"Armenia." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Armenia.html
Hayastan/Hayasdan; Haygagan/Haykakan/Haigagan; Haikakan
Identification. The designation "Armenia" applies to different entities: a "historical" Armenia, the Armenian plateau, the 1918–1920 U.S. State Department map of an Armenia, and the current republic of Armenia. The notion "Armenian culture" implies not just the culture of Armenia but that of the Armenian people, the majority of whom live outside the current boundaries of the republic of Armenia.
Armenians call themselves hay and identify their homeland not by the term "Armenia" but as Hayastan or Hayasdan. The origins of these words can be traced to the Hittites, among whose historical documents is a reference to the Hayasa. In the Bible, the area designated as Armenia is referred to as Ararat, which the Assyrians referred to as Urartu. Armenians also identify themselves as the people of Ararat/Urartu and of Nairi, and their habitat as nairian ashkharh or yergir nairian. Armenians have called themselves Torkomian or Torgomian. They also call themselves Haigi serount or Haiki seround, descendants of Haig/Haik.
Location and Geography. Armenia has been identified with the mountainous Armenian plateau since pre-Roman times. The plateau is bordered on the east by Iran, on the west by Asia Minor, on the north by the Transcaucasian plains, and on the south by the Mesopotamian plains. The plateau consists of a complex set of mountain ranges, volcanic peaks, valleys, lakes, and rivers. It is also the main water reservoir of the Middle East, as two great rivers—the Euphrates and the Tigris— originate in its high mountains. The mean altitude of the Armenian plateau is 5,600 feet (1,700 meter) above sea level.
Present-day Armenia—the republic of Armenia—is a small mountainous republic that gained its independence in 1991, after seven decades of Soviet rule. It constitutes one-tenth of the historical Armenian plateau. Surrounding Lake Sevan, it has an area of approximately 11,600 square miles (30,000 square kilometers). Its border countries are Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan-Naxçivan, the Republic of Georgia, Iran, and Turkey. Its climate is highland continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Despite its small size, it was one of the most densely populated republics of the Soviet Union. Half of its inhabitants live in the Ararat plain, which constitutes only 10 percent of its territory and includes the capital city of Yerevan. Yerevan houses one-third of the country's population.
Armenia is a rugged, volcanic country with rich mineral resources. It is highly prone to earthquakes and occasional droughts.
Demography. Approximately 3 million people live in the republic of Armenia. Another 3 million Armenians live in various countries of the ex-Soviet Union—mainly in Russia. One and a half million Armenians are dispersed in the Americas. About one million Armenians live in various European countries, and half a million Armenians live in the Middle East and Africa. The ethnic composition of Armenia's population is 93.3 percent Armenian; 1.5 percent Russian; 1.7 percent Kurdish; and 3.5 percent Assyrian, Greek, and other.
Linguistic Affiliation. Armenian is the official language. When Armenia was under Russian and Soviet rule, Russian constituted the second official language. The Armenian language is an Indo-European language. Its alphabet was invented by the monk Mesrob in 406 c.e.. There are two major standardized versions of Armenian: Western Armenian, which was based on a version of nineteenth century Armenian spoken in Istanbul and is used mainly in the Diaspora, and Eastern Armenian, which was based on the Armenian spoken in Yerevan and is used in the ex-Soviet countries and Iran. This latter dialect was subjected to orthographic reforms during the Soviet era. There is also "Grabar" Armenian, the original written language, which is still used in the liturgy of the Armenian national (Apostolic) church.
Symbolism. Mount Ararat has had symbolic significance for all Armenians. Today it lies outside the boundaries of Armenia. It may be seen on the horizon from Yerevan, but like a mirage it remains inaccessible to Armenians. Ancient manuscripts depicting the history of Armenia are housed in the national library, Madenataran, and are valued national and historical treasures. Particularly significant symbols of Armenian culture include the statue of Mother Armenia; Dsidsernagabert, a shrine with an ever-burning fire in memory of the Armenian victims of the 1915 genocide; the ruined ancient monasteries; khatchkars engraved stone burial crosses; the ruins of Ani, the last capital of historic Armenia, which fell in 1045; and the emblem of the 1918 first republic of Armenia, its tricolor flag.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of The Nation. Many prehistoric sites have been unearthed in and around Armenia, showing the existence of civilizations with advanced notions in agriculture, metallurgy, and industrial production, with diverse standardized manufacturing processes and pottery.
The origins of the Armenians have long been subject to debate among historians, linguists, and archaeologists. In the 1980s, linguists drew attention to the existence of many similarities between the Indo-European and Semitic languages. The only way to explain the linguistic similarities between these two linguistic groups would be to geographically move the cradle of the Indo-European linguistic groups farther east, to the Armenian plateau.
The Armenians and their plateau have been subject to various invasions. They witnessed Alexander the Great's expeditions toward the east. They fought the Roman legions and the Sassanid Persians, and in most cases lost. They stopped the Arabian expansion toward the north and provided emperors to the Byzantine throne. Having lost their own kingdom in the eleventh century to the invading Tartars and Seljuks, they managed to create a new kingdom farther south and west, in Cilicia, that flourished until 1375, playing a significant role during the Crusades. Then, they lost their last monarchy to the emerging Ottoman Empire, after the latter's westward expansion was stopped at the gates of Vienna. For more than two centuries, Armenia was devastated by the wars between two empires: the Iranian and the Ottoman. Starting at the end of the eighteenth century, the Russian empire also gained a foothold south of the Caucasus Mountains, defeating the Iranians and the Ottomans in a series of wars. The Armenian plateau thus became subject to the advances of three empires.
At the onset of the twentieth century, historical Armenia was divided between the Russian and the Ottoman (Turkish) Empires. Starting in the 1890s, periodical massacres of Armenians were organized by the Turkish authorities, which culminated in the genocide of 1915–1923. The Young Turk leadership of the Ottoman Empire, which had come to power in 1908, seized the opportunity of World War I to physically remove the Armenian population. They envisioned a new Turkish nation-state (Turan), based on a monoethnic and monoreligious society, extending from Istanbul to Lake Baykal (in Central Asia). The entire Armenian population living under Turkish rule was thus subjected to systematic annihilation and the survivors scattered through the world in the aftermath of what would be known later as the first documented genocide of the twentieth century. Estimates of the Armenian dead vary from six hundred thousand to 2 million. A report of a United Nations human rights subcommission gave the figure of "at least one million."
In late 1917 the Russian empire collapsed and its armies withdrew from the Caucasus front. Eastern or Russian Armenia was left unprotected and by the spring of the next year, the Turkish army was advancing toward the east, trying to reach the oil fields of Baku, on the Caspian Sea. Only a last-ditch effort at the gates of Yerevan saved the Armenians of the east (in Russian Armenia) from the fate of their western compatriots (in Turkey). After the victorious battles of Sardarapat and Bash-Aparan, the Turkish onslaught was contained and reversed, and Armenia declared its independence on 28 May 1918.
Independence, however, was short-lived. After two years, due to the increasing pressure of, on the one hand, advancing Kemalist Turkish forces, and on the other, the Bolsheviks, the small landlocked republic of Armenia was forced to sign treaties that led to the loss of its territories and to its becoming a Soviet republic. Soviet rule lasted seventy years.
Having essentially followed the same path as most other nations under Soviet rule, the Armenians welcomed the dawn of the glasnost era, proclaimed by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, as a means to correct the decades-old injustices imposed upon them.
Armenians believed in glasnost, and framed their demands in its rhetoric. In February 1988 there were impressive demonstrations in Yerevan and Stepanakert (the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan) requesting the reunification of Karabakh with Armenia on the basis of self-determination rights. Following these demonstrations, on 28 May 1988, the seventeenth anniversary of the independence of Armenia was celebrated for the first time since Soviet rule. During the summer of 1988, mass demonstrations continued, followed by general strikes. In November 1988, Armenians were subjected to further massacres in Azerbaijan, leading to massive refugee problems. Emergency measures were established in both republics and Azerbaijan began a blockade of Armenia. The disastrous earthquake in Armenia on 7 December 1988 added to the existing refugee and economic problems. On 12 January 1989, a special commission to administer the Karabakh region, under the direct control of Moscow, was established. On 28 May 1989, the Soviet Armenian government recognized 28 May as the official anniversary of the republic of Armenia. During the summer of 1989, the Armenian National Movement acquired legal status, and held its first congress in November 1989. In January 1990, further Armenian massacres were reported in Baku and Kirovabad. During the spring elections, members of the Karabakh Committee, Soviet dissidents, came to power in parliamentary elections. The republic of Armenia gained its independence on 21 September 1991.
National Identity. The Armenian national identity is essentially a cultural one. From the historical depths of its culture and the dispersion of its bearers, it has acquired a richness and diversity rarely achieved within a single national entity, while keeping many fundamental elements that ensure its unity. Its bearers exhibit a strong sense of national identity that sometimes even clashes with the modern concept of the nation-state. It is an identity strongly influenced by the historical experiences of the Armenians. Events such as the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in 301 c.e., the invention of the Armenian alphabet in 406 c.e., and the excessively severe treatment at the hands of foreign powers at various times in its history have had a major impact.
Ethnic Relations. The republic of Armenia has thus far escaped the ethnic turmoil characterizing life in the post-Soviet republics. Minority rights are protected by law.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
The great majority of Armenians in Armenia and in the Diaspora are urbanites. In the republic of Armenia, 68 percent live in urban areas with a population density of 286 persons per square mile (110.5 per square kilometer).
Contemporary Armenian architecture has followed the basic characteristics of its historical architectural tradition: simplicity, reliance on locally available geological material, and the use of volcanic tufa for facings. During the Soviet era, however, prefabricated panels were used to build apartment buildings, many of which collapsed during the 1988 earthquake.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. Staple foods are bread and salt. Harissa a traditional meal, consists of wheat grain and lamb cooked over low heat. Armenians everywhere love barbecued meats and vegetables. The pomegranate, with its symbolic association with fertility, is the national fruit. Armenia is also vine and grape country. When speaking of friendship, Armenians say "we have bread and salt among us." In the state protocol, when dignitaries are welcomed, bread and salt are presented.
Breakfasts on nonworking days are sometimes major get-together events. In huge pots khash is prepared, cattle legs are boiled and served with spices and garlic and consumed with Armenian brandy.
Basic Economy. Since its independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia has been focusing on small-scale agriculture. In 1992, the state-run industries, including agriculture, were immediately privatized as Armenia adopted a Western-style economic system.
Major Industries. During Soviet rule, Armenia began to develop and concentrate on computer-based high technology, alongside a manufacturing sphere, the production of brandy, heavy industry, and mining. The 1991 blockade of the country by Azerbaijan led to a fuel shortage that often left its industries at a standstill. Nuclear energy was shut down after the 1988 earthquake as well, but production was resumed after a few years for lack of other reliable sources of energy. The current trend in industrial development is toward small volume/high-value products such as diamond cutting and electronic components, since transportation is still a major problem for the landlocked republic.
Trade. Armenia has been subject to an economic blockade since the early 1990s by its neighboring countries, with the exception of Iran and Georgia. Trade relations are newly developing. Armenia exports woven and knit apparel; beverages, including brandy; preserved fruits; art and handicrafts; books; precious stones; metals; and electrical machinery.
Classes and Castes. For several centuries until the end of monarchic historical Armenia in 1045 and Cilicia in 1375, there were aristocratic noble houses with their respective court-related responsibilities. Afterwards, the notion of a generalized middle class emerged. Most Armenians were peasants until the turn of the twentieth century. During the Soviet era, class was de-emphasized. A new elite had emerged, however, based on the nomenclature or system that prevailed during Soviet rule.
Government. The republic of Armenia is a democratic constitutional state. A constitution was adopted by national referendum in July 1995. Parliamentary elections were held in July 1995 and May 1999. Presidential elections were held in March 1998.
In 1999, fifteen parties and six political blocs took part in parliamentary elections.
Leadership and Political Officials. Robert Kocharian was the second president elected in the republic of Armenia since its independence. There is an elected national assembly (Azgayin Joghov ), or parliament. The cabinet is formed by a prime minister designated by the president.
Social Problems and Control. During Soviet rule, Armenia had followed Soviet criminal and civil law. Since independence, a new autonomous legal system has been developing. The post independence period has also witnessed a rise in awareness in the media of organized crime and sex service rings.
Military Activity. Gradually, an autonomous army and defense system are being developed. Armenia joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in March 1992 and signed the CIS Defense Treaty in May 1992.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
During the Soviet period, there was a well-established welfare system. Since then, the social welfare system has been affected by the economic crisis. Although the old age security system or pension is still in place, the amount of funding designated as monthly payment is not sufficient to maintain a subsistence living.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
The number of organizations registered as of 31 December 1998 broke down as follows: seventy-six political parties, 1,938 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and 905 Media Outlets. The number of NGOs registered with the NGO Training and Resource Center totaled seven hundred.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Armenian culture has historically stressed a division of domains among the sexes. The home/household is a woman's domain. The grandmother/mother-in-law was the manager of the household. Women and men both worked outside the home. In the domestic sphere, women had no choice when it came to the chores. It was their duty and responsibility to maintain the household.
Women and men have equal access to all sectors of the economy. Nevertheless, only five banks, out of the total of 57, are managed by women. In terms of employment, there is a high rate of women's participation in the labor force. Also there is "equal pay for work of equal value." More women, however, are working in lower paid jobs. As a result, the average salary of women constitutes two thirds of men's salaries. The main work areas of women are in the sectors of education and health. The percentage of women working in industry is 40–42 percent. Women constitute 63.9 percent of unemployed workers. Women also account for most of the domestic unpaid labor as well as for subsistence farming work.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. During the first republic of Armenia (1918–1920), women enjoyed equal voting and election rights. Four women were elected to the national parliament and one woman, Diana Apgar, became the ambassador to Japan. During the Soviet period, in spite of the legislation that stressed women's equality at all levels, women found it difficult to get into the higher decision-making processes. In 1991, during the first democratic elections in the newly independent republic of Armenia, women candidates won in only nine constituencies out of 240, representing only 3.6 percent of the parliament membership. None of the permanent parliamentary committees include any female members.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Armenians are monogamous. In some cases, marriages are arranged. The accepted practice is to avoid marriage with close kin (of up to seven kin-distances). Because of housing shortages in Soviet Armenia, the new couple resided with the groom's family (patrilocality). The preference, however, has been and continues to be for neolocality, that is, the new couple forming a new household.
Domestic Unit. The married couple and their offspring constitute the domestic unit. During Soviet rule, the domestic unit consisted of a multi generational family. Often paternal grandparents, their married offspring, and unmarried aunts and uncles resided together. In pre-Soviet times, each region had its own preference. The most common domestic unit, however, was a patrilocal multi generational family.
Inheritance. Although inheritance laws have undergone changes and reforms over the years, historically, men and women have been treated equally. Diaspora Armenian communities follow the inheritance laws of their respective countries.
Kin Groups. Kin relations are bilateral. Descent, however, is determined by the patrilineal line.
Infant Care. Mothers are seen as the main providers of infant care. During Soviet rule, free infant day care was available to all, but Armenians preferred to leave their infants with grandmothers and other close kin. Day-care workers were also mainly women. During the Soviet era, women were guaranteed their employment after a prolonged, paid maternity leave. The practice has continued after independence, pending new reforms, which observers fear may decrease paid maternity leave.
Child Rearing and Education. Women are considered to be the bearers and transmitters of culture, customs, and tradition and are seen as responsible for child rearing. Children are highly valued and they occupy the center of attention in households until they reach puberty. At puberty they are disciplined and are expected to take on responsibilities. Education is valued and is given great weight as an agent of socialization. In Armenia throughout the twentieth century, education was free and accessible to all. Because of privatization trends in the post reindependence period, however, there are fears that education may not remain accessible to all.
Higher Education. Armenia has stressed free access to education. A national policy directed at the elimination of illiteracy began in the first republic (1918–1920) and continued in Soviet times, resulting in a nearly 100 percent literacy rate. Women enjoy equal rights at all levels of education. A private higher education system was introduced in 1992. Although there is no discrimination on the basis of sex, some fields have become labeled "female." Of the students in the health-care field, 90 percent are women. In arts and education women constitute 78 percent of the students, in economics the number drops to 44.7 percent, for agriculture, 41 percent, and for industry, transportation, and communications, 40 percent.
Armenians put great emphasis on hospitality and generosity. There is also an emphasis on respect for guests.
Religious Beliefs. Christianity has been the state religion in Armenia since 301. During Soviet rule, religious expression was not encouraged. The emphasis was on atheism. Armenians had continued to attend church, however, in particular for life-crisis events and rites of passage. The majority of Armenians adhere to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are also adherents to Catholic, Evangelical, and Protestant denominations.
The church has been a symbol of national culture. It has been seen as the home of Armenians and the bearer of Armenian culture.
Religious Practitioners. The Armenian Apostolic Church has two catholicosate sees: the Catholicos of All Armenians at Etchmiadzin, Armenia, and Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon. The two sees are organized differently. Each has its own educational system and hierarchy of priests. Among the Armenians there are celibate and married priests. There are also two patriarchates: one in Istanbul and another in Jerusalem. Women are not ordained into priest-hood. There is only one women's order: the Kalfayian sisters.
Death and the Afterlife. Most Armenians believe in the Christian vision of death and afterlife. The Apostolic Church, unlike some Christian institutions, does not put emphasis on sin and redemption. Likewise the notion of purgatory is absent. Armenians pay special attention to remembering the dead. After every mass, or badarak, there is a memorial service for the dead. The seventh day after death, the fortieth day, and annual remembrance are the accepted way of respecting the dead. Cemeteries are well kept. The communion between the living and the dead is seen in the frequent visits to the graves of loved ones. Food and brandy are served to the dead. The birthdays of dead loved ones are also celebrated.
Medicine and Health Care
Western medical practices are followed in the health sector. Until recently, medicine and health care were universal and state run. The introduction of a private health sector has been discussed. There are already a number of private clinics operating in the republic of Armenia. In addition, a few clinics operate under the sponsorship of Diaspora voluntary associations, such as the Armenian General Benevolent Union and the Armenian Relief Society.
New Year's Eve (or Amanor, Nor Dari, or Gaghant/Kaghand) is a secular holiday. Other secular holidays include: Women's Day 7 April; the commemoration of the 1915 genocide of the Armenians 24 April; the Independence day of the first Armenian republic of 1918, and 28 May; the Independence Day of the current republic of Armenia, 21 September.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. In the republic of Armenia, following the policies put forth during the pre-Soviet and Soviet eras, the state has been supporting the arts and humanities. In recent years, because of economic difficulties, there has been a privatization trend. State support is diminishing. In the Diaspora, the arts and humanities rely on local fund-raising efforts, Armenian organizations, and the initiative of individuals. In the republic of Armenia, artists are engaged full time in their respective arts. In the Diaspora, however, artists are rarely self-supporting and rarely make a living through their art.
Literature. Armenians have a rich history of oral and written literature. Parts of the early oral literature was recorded by M. Khorenatsi, a fourth-century historian. During the nineteenth century, under the influence of a European interest in folklore and oral literature, a new movement started that led to the collection of oral epic poems, songs, myths, and stories.
The written literature has been divided into five main epochs: the fifth century golden age, or vosgetar following the adoption of the alphabet; the Middle Ages; the Armenian Renaissance (in the nineteenth century); modern literature of Armenia and Constantinople (Istanbul) at the turn of the twentieth century; and contemporary literature of Armenia and the Diaspora. The fifth century has been recognized internationally as a highly productive epoch. It was also known for its translations of various works, including the Bible. In fact, the clergy have been the main producers of Armenian literary works. One of the most well-known early works is Gregory Narekatzi's Lamentations. During medieval times, a tradition of popular literature and poetry gradually emerged. By the nineteenth century, the vernacular of eastern (Russian and Iranian) Armenia became the literary language of the east, and the vernacular of Istanbul and western (Ottoman Turkish) Armenia became the basis of the literary rebirth for Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenian literature has been influenced by European literary styles and movements. It also reflects the tragic history of its people. The 1915 genocide led to the death of the great majority of the Armenian writers of the time. The period immediately after the genocide was marked by a silence. Eventually there emerged a Diaspora literature with centers in Paris, Aleppo, and Beirut. In Soviet Armenia, the literary tradition followed the trends in Russia with a recognizable Armenian voice. Literature received the support of the Soviet state. A writers union was established. At the time of glasnost and perestroika, the emerging leaders belonged to the writers union.
Graphic Arts. Historically, Armenian art has been associated with architecture, bas-reliefs, stone engravings, steles, illuminated manuscripts, and tapestry. Since the Armenian Renaissance during the nineteenth century, interest in drawing, painting, sculpture, textiles, pottery, needlework, and lace has intensified. During the Soviet period, graphic arts were particularly encouraged. A new Armenian style of bright colors emerged in painting. An interest in landscape painting, rustic images, a focus on rural life, and ethnographic genre paintings were noticeable in Soviet Armenia. A national art gallery houses the works of Sarian, M. Avedissian, Hagopian, Soureniantz, and other artists of the Soviet epoch. In the current republic, there are outdoor exhibits of newly emerging painters, and new private initiatives are being made.
Performance Arts. Armenia has a long tradition of musical art, dating back to prehistoric times, and Armenian musicians played a fundamental role in the modernization of oriental music during the nineteenth century. Armenian traditional music differs from its oriental counterparts by its sobriety.
The republic of Armenia has thus far continued the trend set in Soviet years. The opera house, the theaters, and the concert halls are the pride of Armenians and have remained highly accessible to the general public. Armenian folk, classic, and religious music, as well as its composers, such as Komitas and A. Khatchadourian, have been known throughout the world. The folk-dance ensembles have also been participating in various international festivals.
The State of Physical and Social Sciences
In the republic of Armenia, as in Soviet Armenia, as well as in the Armenian republic of 1918, the state has been the main support system for the physical and social sciences. There is a well-established Academy of Sciences, where the social sciences and humanities have been and are represented. In recent years Armenia has been experiencing a dramatic financial crisis. The state is unable to continue its support of research and development. There have been calls for Diaspora fund-raising support. International foundations have also been approached to provide financing.
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—Sima Aprahamian with the assistance of Viken Aprahamian
APRAHAMIAN, SIMA; APRAHAMIAN, VIKEN. "Armenia." Countries and Their Cultures. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401700020.html
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Ethnic Armenians make up 93 percent of the population of Armenia. About 3 percent of the population are Azerbaijanis, and Kurds and Russians represent about 2 percent each. For more information on these groups, see the chapter on Azerbaijan in this volume; the article on the Kurds in the chapter on Turkey in Volume 9; and the chapter on Russia in Volume 7.
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"Armenia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900026.html
Armenia (city, Colombia)
Armenia (ärmā´nyä), city (1993 pop. 216,467), W central Colombia. It is located in a fertile agricultural region; coffee, silk, and sugarcane are produced. Armenia is an industrial and a transportation hub. It has a university. The city was devastated by an earthquake in 1999.
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"Armenia." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406900035.html
"Armenia." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 2003. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406900035.html
"Armenia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-Armenia.html
"Armenia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-Armenia.html