An old Armenian is on his deathbed. "Listen closely children," he says. They lean in, ears straining. "Above all else, treasure the Jews." "Why the Jews, father?" they ask. "Because once they've been dealt with, we'll be next!" he says.
Tucked away in the Caucasus mountains, in that little clutch of former Soviet Republics where Russia meets Turkey, is Armenia (Armenian:
Հայաստան Hayastan), officially known as the Republic of Armenia (Armenian:
Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն Hayastani Hanrapetutyun). Though the current republic formed after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it's not a new country by any means - the first Kingdom of Armenia goes back to 331 BC, and was the first country to officially adopt Christianity, in 301 AD. It also used to be much
bigger than it is now, most of its former historical lands now being part of Turkey (this includes Mt. Ararat, which is considered a national symbol for the country. Ouch...).
Ancient to Medieval Times
Before the Kingdom of Armenia arose the area of eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus was dominated by the Kingdom of Urartu (roughly 858 to 585 BC), where many historians believe the Armenian nationality had its genesis. Folk history denotes that the Armenians are descended from a legendary hero known as Hayk, who led the Armenian people out of Mesopotamia and was a grandson of Noah, though this aspect of the legend is likely a case of ancient Armenian mythology being Hijacked by Jesus note
. Earliest references to the area as "Armenia" come from the annals of King Darius in the 500's B.C., so it is likely that the ethnic group had been perhaps one of the several under Urartian rule. But scholars can't agree on whether or not Armenians were indigenous to the area or had migrated from the west. In any case, people have been living in the area for quite some time, as the world's oldest shoe
found in a cave in Armenia can attest to.
Armenia first became an independent Kingdom after Rome defeated the Selucid Empire, leading a former Selucid general from Armenia, Artashes I, to declare himself king. Though technically ruled over by a king, throughout ancient and medieval times Armenia would be more or less controlled by powerful noble families called nakharars
that governed their own provinces and had their own armies, with a social system somewhat similar to feudalism, and also akin to the clans of Scotland. The king could be simply the head of the most powerful of these families. Armenia's influence grew to its zenith under the reign of Tigran the Great from 95-55 BC, when the Armenian Empire stretched from the Caspian Sea to Israel. This wasn't to last long however, due to Roman and Parthian-Persian invasions gradually chipping the empire down. Armenia became a buffer kingdom between Rome and Persia for centuries note
. During this time Armenia's King Trdat III converted to Christianity (the traditional date given is 301 AD, though it may have been as late as 314), and made Christianity the official religion, becoming the first country to do so. The move would strengthen ties with Rome but alienate it from Persia, which had been taken over by the rival Sassanid dynasty. After Armenia was partitioned between Rome and Persia, in the year 451 a war was fought against the ruling Persians who were trying to convert Armenia to Zoroastrianism
, and though Armenia was on the losing side initially, their guerrilla tactics paid off eventually and they were allowed to keep their new religion. Around this time, the Armenian alphabet was created by Mesrob Mashtots, initially for the purpose of translating The Bible
into Armenian. One could argue this move ended up preserving Armenian identity over the centuries more than anything else.
Armenia continued to fall under the rule of almost anyone building an empire for the next thousand years or so with only brief moments of independence in between; of note being the Bagratuni Kingdom between 885 and 1045, which came about after the Arabs relinquished control of the area in hopes of appeasing the Armenians and gaining an ally against the Byzantine Empire
. The kingdom however was destined to fall due to the Armenian nakharar families not liking one another very much
, and splitting their land off into independent kingdoms, which one by one would then be conquered by the Byzantines. The Byzantines didn't have the means to defend Armenia once they had it again, paving the way for the Seljuk Turk invasions. The next two hundred years were chaotic for Greater Armenia, as it was then invaded by the Mongolians, Georgia, Tamerlane's forces, only to finally fall under Ottoman Turkish rule for the majority of the last millennium (its location, between the Black and Caspian seas, makes it a hot commodity for empire builders, unfortunately for the Armenians themselves).
Ottoman Rule and the Genocide
Ottoman rule was a relief to the Armenians at first; the region had been completely devastated by invasions within decades of one another from the Seljuk Turks, Mongols, and the forces of Tamerlane. Christians in the empire were second class citizens and more heavily taxed, but the Armenians made due by mostly becoming merchants. Eastern Armenia changed hands a few times over the centuries between Persia, Russia, and the Ottomans, until Armenia was partitioned again between Russia and Turkey after the Russo-Turkish War, ultimately causing the Eastern-Western split in the Armenian language still present today. The Ottoman Armenians then fell under suspicion during the latter half of the 19th century, as the Ottoman Empire lost territory in Greece and the Balkans, and the remaining Christians in the empire became a scapegoat of sorts, resulting in sporadic government-condoned massacres of the Armenians, particularly in the 1890's. This finally came to a head during World War One
under the Young Turks, and the matter of the Armenian Genocide that was to follow is still a very contentious one - few western observers doubt that there was a major humanitarian disaster in the area in 1915, precipitated by Turkish troops against the Ottoman Empire's Christian population, most of whom were put on death marches into the Syrian desert, when not massacred on the spot, killing over a million Armenians. And the common opinion of genocide scholars, in the face of overwhelming proof through contemporary photographic and eyewitness accounts, is that it falls under the definition of a genocide. The Young Turk government had delusions of creating a "racially pure" Pan-Turkish state stretching from Istanbul to Turkmenistan, something that the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians stood in the way of, as well as of course Russia, who ended up defeating the Ottomans badly in the war and preventing the completion of the genocide.
Modern Turkey, nearly 100 years later, still refuses to even discuss the genocide issue
, even though any crimes would have been committed by the government deposed by the current state. Overall, the Turkish government admits that atrocities occurred, though they deny this reached genocide level, or say it was not intended that way. Additionally, they contend the Armenian minority had rebelled and was aiding Russia note
, then invading the Ottoman Empire, making the forced removal of Armenians in border areas, in their view, a reasonable measure
. They claim that massacres were not ordered by the government, but committed by militia, soldiers and local Turkish villagers on their own, a claim that runs counter to certain contemporary documents that feature members of the Young Turk government giving explicitly genocidal orders 
. But, the tides have been turning in recent years. Kurds living in Turkey on former Armenian lands, for instance, generally admit what happened and are apologetic, thanks to suffering oppression at the hands of the Turkish government themselves for several decades after the genocide. More Turkish scholars like Taner Akcam have come forward to speak about it with the easing of laws restricting its mention. Genocide deniers in Turkey tend to be of the more conservative, pro-government and nationalistic type, if not simply misinformed, though even a few liberal Turks like Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks
have been outspoken deniers. However, they're rapidly becoming a (still very) Vocal Minority
, albeit one which controls the government.
In any case, the Turkish government often goes to great lengths to force other countries not to pass any legislation acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. This has not stopped quite a number of countries from doing so anyway, however. Most obviously, the Soviet government (the federal to Armenia's republican government), in response to 1965 demonstrations among the Armenian diaspora in the USSR, commissioned the construction of the massive monument at Tsitsernakaberd, overlooking Yerevan, finished in 1967, officially in memorial to the lives lost in the event, the first of its kind. The monument and associated museum were extensively visited by both Soviet leaders and international representatives. You can even be arrested and fined for denying the genocide in Switzerland, Greece and Slovakia, as you can any other recognized genocide note
The First Republic and Soviet Armenia
Getting back to history, shortly before the end of World War One
Armenia would become independent for a brief period, thanks to the Russian and Ottoman empires collapsing. You see, just before the Russian Empire fell, Russia had (as usual
) soundly beaten
Turkey and retaken most of the historically Armenian territories, and when Armenia became independent it had inherited these territories. In Russia's absence from the war the Armenians were used as an Unwitting Pawn
by the allies toward the end of World War One
, with England promising them military aid and more territory if they prevented the Turkish advance into Baku and allowed them to use their territory as a springboard into Russia during the Russian Civil War, only to go back on its promise once the war was over to focus on more strategically important territories. Such betrayals were par the course for most countries Britain had backed in the Middle East during the war. As a result of the allies' neglect, the country was quickly weakened by wars with its neighbors and though it put up a valiant effort not to be reconquered by Turkey, Armenia was eventually assimilated into the Soviet Union after only two years—contested lands were surrendered to Turkey, another in a long series of government concessions throughout the western USSR made out of a fear of an escalating invasion of the USSR by European states, the USA and Japan, and the belief that a worldwide revolution would make the losses irrelevant or that the lands would at least improve relations with Turkey. Not all Armenians took Soviet occupation laying down; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, headed by Garegin Nzhdeh, led a successful rebellion in 1921 after the Soviets threatened to make Armenia's Zangezur region (modern Syunik) a part of the Azerbaijani SSR, forming the very short-lived Republic of Mountainous Armenia, and even capturing Yerevan for 42 days before being pushed back by the Soviets. The Red Army then pushed into Zangezur and quelled the rebellion, ensuring their surrender by promising to keep Zangezur a part of the Armenian SSR, as it remains today. In the aftermath, however, Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, was put under Azeri control, something that would come back to haunt everyone involved decades later.
As the Armenian SSR, Armenia's fortunes rose and fell (along with the rest of the country). After the initial violence of the shift between governments, Moscow elected to compromise, expanding Armenian infrastructure, education and healthcare, and the republic benefited from Lenin's New Economic Policy. However, as elsewhere, the Great Purges exacted an serious toll, both in the area of rapid industrialization than targeted arrests and deportations (the ancient Armenian church was a frequent target, as during the period of the Romanov-mandated Russian Orthodox domination). Many of the 'Old Bolsheviks', now the Armenian political elite, were targeted. The fact that Soviet-drawn boundaries seemed to be giving Armenia the short end of the stick in almost every way possible (Western Armenia going to Turkey, Javakh going to Georgia, Nakhichevan going to Azerbaijan, Artsakh being made an autonomous oblast within Azerbaijan) left many Armenians feeling very bitter towards Moscow both at home and abroad; sadly most of the outspoken ones within the Armenian SSR ended up in The Gulag
. Fortunately, the Great Patriotic War
spared Armenia (especially compared to the other republics). As elsewhere, the republic contributed thousands to the war effort (as much as 500,000 soldiers and officers), many of whom didn't return, but the war also created a number of celebrated war heroes (including many recipients of the country's top decoration, Hero of the USSR), and sixty Armenians were promoted to the rank of general. In an effort to bolster the war effort, Stalin's government allowed limited nationalistic and religious expression. Armenia's contributions, and a generation of political and military elite, were able to lobby the post-war government to redress the contested lost territories and succeeded, with Foreign Minister Molotov annulling its treaties with Turkey (intervention by NATO prevented anything further though).
The government also made an effort to encourage the Armenian diaspora to return, with limited success (about 150,000 did, leading to tensions across the population). With the normalization of life after the war and political liberalization after Stalin's death, Armenia did enjoy an economic and cultural boom, thanks in no small part to the role of Armenian Old Bolshevik and de facto
Soviet President Anastas Mikoyan. Following 1965 public demonstrations, the Soviet government planned and built a monument to the Genocide, Tsitsernakaberd, outside of Yerevan, by far the most famous memorial to the event. Political and ethnic tensions rose with the rise of Perestroika, as ethnic tensions with Azerbaijan were allowed to rise to the surface.On December 7, 1988 a devastating earthquake in northern Armenia leveled the city of Spitak and also took down buildings in nearby cities, particularly Leninakan (modern Gyumri), killing thousands. Aid poured in from America and Europe, but even twenty five years later repairs were still being made on some buildings. This earthquake came at a most inopportune time; right before the Soviet Union collapsed, and relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan took a turn for the worse. The Armenian SSR, along with Georgia and Moldova, boycotted the New Union Treaty referendum (78% of those able to voted 'yes', not that it mattered), and became one one of the first republics to declare independence in 1991.
Modern Armenia still has poor relations with Turkey, and also with its neighbor, Azerbaijan, over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh
, nominally an autonomous Arminopohone part of the Azerbaijani SSR note
, but which the region's native Armenians, with help from the country itself
, freed after a war between 1992-1994. It's now declared itself an independent country known as the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (or Artsakh), which no one recognizes - no, not even Armenia, because the situation's basically been frozen ever since the 1994 ceasefire and understandably, the Armenian government is not eager to restart armed conflict
, though the Armenian president has gone on the record stating Armenia would recognize it if another war broke out. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, hasn't been quite as passive, and violates the ceasefire almost daily. The country is only stopped from unleashing a full-on war by international pressure, and the fact that it fared poorly last time. It would also mean firing on Russian Peacekeepers stationed in the area, which didn't work great for the last country that did that.note
Turkey, showing solidarity with its ally Azerbaijan, shut its borders with Armenia during the war, and the borders remain closed to this day. Which only adds insult to injury when you consider Armenia's former historic lands that Turkey annexed in the 1920's, including Mt. Ararat, sits just on the other side of the border. On the other side, Russia, despite having pretty amicable relations with both Turkey and Azerbaijan, has generally sided with Armenia in the Karabakh matter, and it's an open secret that the war was basically won with the Russian equipment and aid. Of course, exactly because of its good relations with all involved countries Russia has the least
incentive to restart the conflict, or as some political analysts suggest, solving it note
, being closely allied with both Turkey and Azerbaijan, refuses to even recognize Armenia as a sovereign state; in retaliation Armenia recognized the disputed territory of Kashmir as part of India, and enjoys healthy relations with India.
There was a brief moment in 2009 in which it looked like Turkey and Armenia might
reconcile, with the signing of Protocols that would open their border, but as it turns out Turkey soon began attaching preconditions that included Armenia dropping the genocide issue and pulling out of Nagorno-Karabakh, so the Protocols are now in limbo. Which conveniently allows Turkey to threaten to pull out of them at the slightest hint that a country (most notably the US) is thinking about recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Most countries have stopped buying the excuse by now and the protocols remain a trump card that Turkey might utilize in the future, perhaps just in time for the centennial of the genocide in 2015. Stay tuned.
More Armenians live outside Armenia than inside - latest estimates are that, of 9 million Armenians worldwide, 3 million live in Armenia and the rest are scattered around the world, mainly in Russia (1 to 2 million), the US (0.5 - 1 million) and France (300 to 500 thousand), whose large Armenian population means that France often gives Armenia high votes in the Eurovision Song Contest
, and is one of the few countries in Europe that will stick up for Armenia on issues like genocide recognition and Karabakh. Surprisingly there are still Armenians in Turkey, mostly situated in Istanbul. Official estimates of the population are between 40 to 70 thousand. However - those are just the ones who admit to being Armenian; some experts guess there may be several million "crypto-Armenians" in Turkey who've been Islamized and either don't know about their Armenian ancestry or are keeping it secret. There is also the matter of the Hemshin peoples, an ethnic group originating from Islamized Armenians from the early Medieval period which still resides in northern Turkey, and has been in recent years less likely to hide their roots.
Armenia is best described as an oddity - in an area mainly Muslim or Orthodox, it has its own form of Christianity, a language that seems to be in its own little branch of the Indo-European family (as far as anyone can guess, it descended from Phrygian and may be sorta-kinda related to Greek, but no one is 100% sure), its own alphabet note
and friendly relations towards Russia and Iran in a region increasingly hostile to them (having the Turks on one side, the Azeris on the other, both closing their borders and placing it in an economic stranglehold tends to make them grateful for all the help they can get.) Armenia and Iran have had a friendship going back centuries, despite religious differences, and in modern times its one of Iran's only trading partners with the economic sanctions placed on it. Armenia also has a bit of a love/hate relationship with its northern neighbor Georgia, through which it imports and exports to Russia and uses its ports on the Black Sea. note
Armenia sits on the Europe/Asia boundary, but culturally it's considered European (being the first officially Christian country helped), plays its sport in European federations and usually competes in the Eurovision Song Contest
as mentioned. Armenia's loyalties to Europe came into some question in September 2013 however, when Armenia opted to join Russia's new Customs Union over a free-trade deal with The European Union
, sparking a rivalry between the two organizations. Seeing as how Russia is a much closer and more essential ally to Armenia than the EU is, this decision went over a lot better in Armenia than it later would in Ukraine, though there were minor protests. It is still hoped by many EU members that Armenia can still make some kind of trading deal with the EU while also being part of the Customs Union, in light of it's rather unique geopolitical situation, but Russia likes to keep Armenia on a short leash, like the rest of the former Soviet states, so it remains to be seen.
Another note; whenever you meet someone with a last name ending in 'ian' or 'yan', there's probably at least a 95 percent chance that they're Armenian (or else Third Dynasty [Telmarine] Narnian
). Some diasporan families had the suffix removed due to either post-genocide paranoia or in an eager attempt to assimilate themselves into their new countries.
See also: Nagorno-Karabakh
, Armos with Armor
Famous Armenians and Diaspora Armenians
(Fictional and Real Life
- Hayk Nahapet, the founder of Armenia according to folklore. He defeated the Assyrian titan Bel and led the Armenians out of Assyria in 2492 B.C. No one is sure if he was based on an actual historical figure or not. Some scholars believe he sprung from the Urartian god Haldi.
- Tigran the Great, king of Armenia during the 1st century BC. He conquered a significant chunk of the Middle East during his reign, which is considered the Golden Age of Armenia.
- Vartan Mamikonian, led the Armenian army in the year 451 against the Persians, who were attempting to force Armenians to integrate with the rest of the Persian Empire (this included abandoning Christianity). Though he died in battle, the Persians were impressed by the Armenian efforts, and after suffering a Pyrrhic Victory in the war allowed them to keep their cultural and religious traditions in exchange for organizing an Enemy Mine against the Huns. Vartan is canonized as a saint in the Armenian church.
- Meshrop Mashtots, inventor of the Armenian alphabet.
- Avedis Zildjian, founder of the company that makes cymbals for drumkits.
- Robert Zildjian, founder of the rival Sabian cymbal company, and brother of Avedis.
- Calouste Gulbenkian, petroleum magnate and patron of the arts.
- Cherylinn Sarkisian alias "Cher", daughter of an Armenian refugee, John Sarkisian.
- Howard Kazanjian, producer of Star Wars among other things, of Armenian descent and active in Armenian charity and cultural organisations.
- Robert Kardashian, Johnnie Cochran's no. 2 in the OJ Simpson trial, more famous for his socialite daughters Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney.
- Aram Khachaturian, classical composer.
- Charles Aznavour, a singer, actor and songwriter of the French-Armenian diaspora. (And yes, his real family name is "Aznavourian").
- Ross Bagdasarian (Sr and Jr), creators of ''The Chipmunks'', of Armenian descent.
- System of a Down - all members are of Armenian descent, though only bass player Shavo Odadjian was actually born there.
- Michael Omartian, pop songwriter, singer, producer and keyboardist.
- Alain Boghossian, French-Armenian footballer.
- Youri Djorkaeff, likewise.
- George Deukmejian, former governor of California of Armenian descent.
- Alain Prost, French racing driver of Armenian descent.
- Andre Agassi, whose father is Iranian-Armenian (as noted above, Iran and Armenia get along pretty well—Armenians are the largest Christian group in Iran and are guaranteed two seats in the Majlis or Parliament—and Iranians can occasionally get fairly chummy, especially abroad).
- David Nalbandian, Argentine tennis player of Armenian descent.
- Principal Seymour Skinner from The Simpsons, born Armin Tamzarian.
- Alan Hovhaness, composer, born Alan Vaness Chakmakjian.
- Artem Mikoyan, one half of the famous Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) aircraft design pair. Twice awarded the USSR's highest purely civilian honor, Hero of Socialist Labor.
- Anastas Mikoyan, Soviet politician considered to have been the second most powerful man in the USSR under Khrushchev. Brother of the above, he briefly served as Soviet head of government (chair of the presidium, a.k.a. president) and outlasted his political partner.
- Hovhannes Bagramyan, Marshal of the Soviet Union. First non-Slavic officer to be granted the command of a front (army group equivalent) in World War II.
- Hamazasp Babadzhanian, another Marshal of the Soviet Union (albeit only Chief Marshal of Tank Troops) born in the same village as above!
- William Saroyan, Armenian-American writer, and patriarch of a veritable clan of American Saroyans, including his actress daughter Lucy, his writer son Aram, and journalist granddaughter Strawberry. (And his last name is pronounced ''Sah-row-yawn'', not ''Ser-roy-yen'' as Americans typically pronounce it.)
- Alex Manoogian, an Armenian-American industrialist and philanthropist known for starting an auto-parts empire and for donating his mansion to the city of Detroit to serve as its executive residence (called Manoogian Mansion to this day). His name is plastered all kinds of stuff in and around Detroit: everything from buildings at Wayne State University to high schools to Armenian cultural centers (there are a lot of Armenians in the Detroit area) are named "Manoogian [whatever]"
- John Yossarian, the main character of Catch-22, although he claims to be Assyrian as a joke.
- Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the famous/infamous right-to-die activist, and a member of the aforementioned Detroit part of the Diaspora. His mother was a Genocide survivor.
- Arshile Gorky, born Vostanik Manoog Adoyan. Famous Armenian-American abstract artist.
- Vic Darchinyan, loud-mouthed, power punching current WBA/WBC Super Flyweight champion who fights out of Australia. Possibly the most bad ass man in the world under 120 lbs.
- Nune Yesayan, Armenian singer who chiefly focuses on modern arangements of traditional Armenian folk songs.
- Isabel Bayrakdarian, Armenian-Canadian opera singer who performed on the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also sings traditional opera and Armenian folk music.
- Komitas Vardapet, Armenian priest and composer who travelled Western Armenia and gathered folk music and dances from its towns and villages before the genocide, a move credited for saving its cultural heritage from extinction. He survived the Armenian Genocide only to go insane and die in a mental hospital because of what he witnessed.
- Raffi Cavoukian, children's singer and entertainer.
- Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian news reporter who's controversial stance on the genocide (i.e. acknowledging it even occurred) ended up leading to his assassination by a Turkish nationalist.
- Eva and Kevin Khatchadourian of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
- Harout Pamjoukian, famous Armenian singer, often called the "Armenian Elvis"
- Atom Egoyan, an Armenian-Canadian film maker.
- Robert Sahakyants, famous armenian animator, creator of Armen Film Animated Shorts.
- Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, one of the most successful and popular actors in Soviet and Russian cinema
- Frunzik Mkrtchyan, popular soviet actor
- A disproportionate amount of eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperors were Armenian, such as Heraclius, Basil I the Macedonian, and John I Tzimiskes.
- Actor Andy Serkis (originally Serkisian), who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings.
- Rabo Karabekian, the Armenian-American protagonist of the novel Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut.
- Dita Von Teese is of Armenian descent. (No word on whether her original name was "Vonteesian".)
- Frankie Kazarian, a professional wrestler currently at TNA.
- Anita Sarkeesian, outspoken feminist and host of the online series Feminist Frequency.
- Geoffrey Zakarian, restaurateur, chef, regular judge on Chopped, and newest Iron Chef.
- Chris Bohjalian, an Armenian-American best-selling author.
- R. J. (Rousas John) Rushdoony, controversial Armenian-American Calvinist theologian, deemed the father of Christian Reconstructionism (a philosophy advocating Christian theocracy and inspiration of the US Christian homeschooling movement. Both his parents were Genocide survivors.
- Mike Connors, star of the classic 1970's crime drama, Mannix, of Armenian descent. Real name Krekor Ohanian. Has narrated documentaries on the Armenian Genocide.
- Andrea Martin, Canadian-American comedienne from Second City Television, of Armenian descent. Her grandparents were immigrants during the Armenian Genocide.
- Arlene Francis, actress and What's My Line? regular guest, of Armenian descent. Her father was an Armenian immigrant.
- Kirk Kerkorian, 1980's MGM owner and designer of MGM Hotel in Las Vegas, of Armenian descent.
Armenia provides examples of:
The Armenian flag
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan), embodies the country and specifically symbolizes a defender. She's probably rooted in the goddess Anahit or Nane. Her sword-wielding statue dominates Yerevan's skyline and faces the Turkish border, not-so-coincidentally.
- Defeat Means Friendship: It's relationship with Iran, strangely, started out like this.
- The Determinator: After how many empires have conquered the place over the past two thousand years it's a wonder an Armenian identity still exists at all. Resisting being converted away from Christianity and maintaining their own language and alphabet probably helped.
- Dying Town: Sadly, there are a lot of these outside of Yerevan. Towns devastated by the 1988 earthquake in the north have it the worst, although most of the buildings have been rebuilt. Other towns that were big tourist spots in Soviet times like Dilijan have seen business dry up since independence. People from small villages across the country are leaving in large numbers to the cities, or worse, to Russia or the US.
- Egopolis: Under the reign of Tigran the Great there were four cities named Tigranakert after him; the biggest and former capital of the Armenian Empire is now the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, another is now in Nagorno-Karabakh. Tigran wasn't the only king to do this either; King Artashes I founded Artashat, a city which still exists, and King Vagharsh I renamed the town of Vardgesavan into Vagharshapat (now commonly called Etchmiadzin, though officially the city is still Vagharshapat).
- This occasionally happened when foreigners ruled Armenia as well; for example see the saga of Gyumri's name changes below.
- The Eiffel Tower Effect: No, you can't see Mt. Ararat from everywhere in the country, like thousands of paintings and photographs suggest. It has to be a clear day to be able to see it from Yerevan.
- Gratuitous English: A good way for an English speaker to learn what sounds each letter of the Armenian alphabet makes is to just walk around Yerevan and look at how they spell English words with Armenian letters on most of their signs. English has become nearly as prevalent as Russian (see below), though not so much outside of Yerevan.
- Gratuitous Russian: Being part of the Soviet Union had the somewhat unfortunate effect of mixing the Eastern Armenian dialect with so many Russian words that an Armenian speaker and a Russian speaker could probably still understand a lot of what the other is saying. Many Armenians from the Republic of Armenia won't even realize they're using Russian words until they encounter a Western Armenian speaker from the diaspora who points it out to them.
- These days, street signs will often be in both Russian and Armenian, if not English as well.
- Istanbul Not Constantinople: After the Soviets took charge many city names were changed. The names were changed back once Armenia gained independence.
- Gyumri, Armenia's second-largest city, is a good example. It's name was changed from Gyumri to Alexandropol under Tsarist Russian rule in 1837, then to Leninakan in 1924 under Soviet rule, only to revert back to Gyumri in 1991 with Armenia's independence.
- Overly Long Name: Armenian surnames can get pretty long.
- Proud Merchant Race: Especially in the Middle Ages when the Armenians of New Julfa in Iran operated a vast trade network stretching from Europe to the Philippines. Before the genocide this was the main reason the diaspora spread out so far, and part of the reason for their resentment within the Ottoman Empire, due to being a prosperous minority people.
- Racial Remnant: In Turkey, mainly in Istanbul. Population numbers vary depending on whether or not you count crypto-Armenians who are either unaware of or are keeping their identities secret. Sadly, a lot of this has to do with Armenian women who were taken as concubines during the genocide and forced to convert to Islam and change their names.
- Regional Riff: The duduk, an ancient ancestor of the oboe, playing something by Komitas Vardapet. That, or the aggressive kochari music, with heavy drums and the high-pitched zurna horn.
- Smart People Play Chess: It's something of a national pastime. This trope is why learning to play chess was made a requirement in Armenian schools. Naturally natives of the country have gone on to do very well in world chess tournaments, even winning several.
- Status Quo Is God: Ever since the Nagorno-Karabakh War pretty much ended in a stalemate. It's mainly kept that way by the more powerful countries in the region, and the fact that neither country wants to concede anything.
- And in ancient times, the Kingdom of Armenia was the catalyst that kept the peace between Rome and Persia, seeing as how if one of these empires annexed Armenia it'd mean total war between the two. The treaty that allowed Persia and Rome to agree on Armenia's king was one thing that kept them playing nice for a couple centuries.
- Verbal Tic: Adding "Che?" at the end of every sentence, for a lot of Armenian speakers.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Acknowledging the Armenian genocide is a criminal offence in Turkey, and it is still widely denied. This has led to a rather nice piece of Black Comedy in Armenia and Russia:
Q: How you make Turkish coffee?
A: You grind up a bunch of Armenian coffee beans, and then lie about it for a hundred years.
The flag's red, blue and yellow-orange stripes symbolize the blood of Armenia's defenders, the sky and fields of wheat, respectively. A similar flag was used in Soviet times, but with the hammer and sickle in the top left corner.