A Brief History Of Armenia

The Armenian origin 

There are several theories about the history of Armenia. Legends opine that the descendants of bisbisnipote (great great grandson) of Noah, Hayk are known as the Armenians. It is said that after the floods, Noah’s Ark ran aground on Mount Ararat. Since then to mark this tradition, the Armenians call it their country and the place came to be known as Hayastan.

However, historians have spoken differently about the history of Armenia. Historians have linked the origin of Armenians to the birth of a tribal group in Hayasa-Azzi between 1500 BC-1200 BC. The tribals lived to the west of the Armenian plateau.

As the Hayasa-Azzi lived close to the Hittite empire, violent confrontations often broke out between the two. The clashes continued till the end of the Bronze age when the Hayasa-Azzi was finally defeated by the Hittites.

The rise of Urartu Kingdom 

According to the history of Armenia, the Armenian empire fell under a group of kingdoms, referred to as Nairi (land of rivers) by the Assyrians between 1200 and 800 BC. These kingdoms finally assimilated with the kingdom of Urartu.

The kingdom of Urartu is a civilization that developed in between 800 and 600 BC is the East Asia minor and the . The kingdom was known as the first Armenian empire.

King Aramu was the first to unite the empire as per the history of Armenia. The empire stretched from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and also spread across the majority of Eastern Turkey. 

The Urartu kingdom enjoyed its maximum prosperity under King Sardui II. He extended the borders of the kingdom beyond River Tigris and river Euphrates, much similar to Lake Aleppo and Urmia.

Urartu was also known as the ‘kingdom of Ararat.’ Through the various manuscripts about the history of Armenia, it is learned that Urartu and Armenia were often referred to as the same country. 

The Behistun’s inscription, carved in three languages in 520 BC is a prime example. Built under the orders of Persia’s Darius the great, the inscription refers to the kingdom as Harminuia in Elamite, Armenia in Old Persian, and Urartu in Babylon.

Between the end of the seventh century and early sixth century, the Urartu kingdom was substituted by the Armenian kingdom. Orontid, the Armenian dynasty ruled over this empire.

The Rule of the Orontid dynasty, the Birth of Armenian Kingdom

The dynasty of Orontid established their rule over the empire of Armenia after the fall of the Urartu kingdom in 600 BC. The Orontids had captured the Armenian empire during the invasion of the Medes and the Scythians. Around this period, the Armenians took to Iranians traditions and names.

The Orontids acted as provincial governors or satraps to the Persian kings. However, after the death of Persia’s Cambyses II, the Armenians led a revolution that was disrupted by Persia’s Darius the I.

Soon after the changes in the Persian Empire, the Armenian empire too was divided into many satrapies. In 480 BC, the satrapies had assigned troops for the Xerxes invasion. The proximity of the Persians and the Armenians were broken by the Macedonian conquest. 

After the invasion of Alexander the Great, the Persian empire crumbled, and just like other regions, the Armenian empire was soon divided into two parts.

One region, Sophene or great Armenia was located between the Tigris headwaters Euphrates’s middle course. Later it was bifurcated into Sophene and Armenia. 

The other region, Armenia Pontica or little Armenia was located between the headwaters of Ali and Lico and the Euphrates.

According to the history of Armenia, the different regions were subjected to different fates. Little Armenia came under the rule of the very powerful king Pontus in the second century BC. 

Meanwhile, Sophene lost its independence and survived under the rule of king Cappadocia for a brief period.

A different Armenian history says that Great Armenia established itself as a state by escaping the rule of the Seleucids. The Seleucids could not capture the region because of its mountainous region which acted as a barrier against Greek invasions. The other reason was the Persian characteristics ingrained in the Armenians that involuntarily opposed Greek influence.

Armenia’s Second Kingdom

As per Strabo, during this time the Armenians started speaking one language, the Armenian language. Soon the Armenians announced their independence with the defeat of the Seleucides by the Roman empire.

Between 95 to 66 BC, under the leadership of Tigranes II the Great, the empire spread from the Caucasus to the present eastern region of Turkey, from Syria to Lebanon and across the ‘kingdom of three seas’- the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean sea.

The capital of the second Armenian empire which was born cannot be located to date. However, Tigranes II succumbed in the hands of the Roman troops, and the Armenian major was ruled by the Romans.

The Advent of Rome

In 37 AD the Armenians were forced to surrender under the Parthians soon to be taken over by the Roman after 10 years. The Romans lost the empire shortly after.

Under Nero’s rule between 55-63 AD, the Romans again fought against the Parthians ruling over Armenia. Capturing the Armenian empire in 60 AD and losing it in 62 AD, the Romans finally captured the region in 63 AD. However, In the battle of Rhandeia, the Parthians lost. The Parthian king forcibly signed a treaty assigning his brother Tiridates the throne of Armenia. The crowning of the king took place under Nero’s rule. Thus rose Armenia’s Arcadis dynasty.

Armenia Christianized

The Armenian history records the Armenians as the first to officially be termed as Christians after its conversion in 301 AD, long before the Romans adapted to it. 

According to the King Tiridates’ historic Agatangelo, the Christianization took place due to a clash between king Tiridates III and Son of Anak, Gregory.

The Armenian history says that Gregory was instructed to make sacrifices to goddess Anahit which he refused in the name of his faith for Christianity. Upon his refusal, he was subjected to severe torture which didn’t deter him from his opinion. Finally, he was ordered to be thrown into a deep well filled with snakes, a place where none had been before. But Gregory survived his time in the well with the blessings of a widow.

Meanwhile, several attempts were made by Diocletian, a Roman emperor, to seduce Hripsime. Smelling the danger, Hripsime had escaped to Armenia to seek protection. 

Amidst this, Tiridates fell in love with Hripsime and wanted to be with her. After several rejections from Hripsime, Tiridates tortured and killed her. 

As a traditional punishment marked in the history of Armenia, the king was transformed into a wild boar. He came back to his human form after rescuing Gregory from the pit after thirteen years.

Witnessing the miracle of being transformed into the human form, Tiridates decided to take to Christianity. He also baptized the Armenians and the official religion of the Armenians came into being.

Soon Gregory and Tiridates started destroying the Pegan’s worship places and started building churches.

The Armenian history also speaks about a vision of Jesus Christ that Gregory saw. Following the vision, Gregory built a church in Vagarshapat. The place came to be known as the Etchmiadzin meaning a place where the only-begotten descended. 

Soon the Pegan priests were taught about Christianity. They became ministers of the new religion. Pegan children went on to priests in churches. Thereafter, Gregory left the kingdom and settled as a hermit. His son became a bishop and head of the church.

Despite several historical theories about Armenians, the period of 301 AD- the Christianization of Armenians and 404 AD- the initiation of the Armenian alphabets by Mesrop Mashtots will remain evidence of the Armenian history.

The clash of the Three-Byzantine, Arab, and Seljuk 

In 591, the Persians were crushed by the Emperor Maurice of Byzantine. The emperor captured a vast part of Armenian territory. In 629 AD, Emperor Heraclius completed the capture only to lose it to Muslim Arabs in 645 AD. Following this, the Armenians came under the Caliph rule. 

Being ruled by a prince, the region soon came under the pressure of being converted to Islam. However, a treaty was signed which allowed the Armenians to practice Christianity.

The Armenians went through an economic, political, and cultural renaissance between 884-1045 AD until captured by Byzantium.

Ani, a new capital was founded which had a population of 200,000 people and 1001 churches. Armenian history says that at this time the population of European capitals had not reached 20,000.

Armenia gained prosperity after Ani came into the picture. It is said that Armenia was said to have a political impact on neighboring countries after Ani was built. However, the country’s loyalty faded as the feudal system became powerful in the region,

The greater Armenia was finally conquered by the Seljuk Turks In 1071 AD. Fearing slavery and death, several families fled from Armenia to settled places like Poland, Cilicia, etc.

It is mention-worthy that among the escapists was Ani’s last king, Rupen, Gagik II’s relative who settled in Cilicia.

The Death of the Armenian Independence

In 1080, Rupen founded the Cilician kingdom also known as Little Armenia or Armenia Minor after arriving on the Mediterranean Sea’s Gulf of Alexandretta. 

Thus the Rupenid dynasty was found which was a part of the Bagratid dynasty. Sis Sis became the capital of the kingdom. Although being squeezed between several Muslim states, the Christian kingdom was able to establish a powerful relationship with important Italian maritime cities that have been prospering for three hundred years. Colonies were built by Genoa, Venice, and Pisa on the kingdom’s coast.

The Mamelukes invaded Cilicia in the latter part of the fourteenth century. In 1375 the capital of Sis was captured by them which brought an end to the ongoing reign. 

The last independent king of the Armenian kingdom, Leo VI escaped for exile in Paris where he breathed his last is 1393.

In the Armenian history, Armenia lost its sovereignty during this period for atleast the next six centuries and was ruled by several foreign kings.

The Dominating Rule of the Ottoman and Persian 

The Armenian culture lost itself in the period between the fall of the Cilician empire and the end of the seventeenth century. 

Tamerlane forced his rule in Eastern Europe and Central Anatolia at the end of the fourteenth century but soon his kingdom was crushed.

The Ottoman Empire and the Safavids dynasty in Central Iran rose during the middle of the fifteenth century. The two dynasties battled against each other for about a hundred years for capturing Caucasus areas and Eastern Anatolia. 

The fight came to an end with the victory of the Ottomans. In 1585, the Ottomans successfully conquered Armenia’s eastern part.

At the onset of the seventeenth century, the Ottomans were forced to leave the Armenian territory by Shah Abbas I who failed in his repeated attempts. 

While he was withdrawing from the kingdom, he demanded the Armenians migrate from Julfa city. 

Following the incident, the city of New Julfa was founded by the migrants in Esfahan where they had settled. The region prospered commercially and culturally throughout the 17th century and early 18th century. The economic activities took place from India to Britain and Italy.

In 1736, the enmity between Persians and Ottomans settled with the defeat of the Ottomans by the Persians. The Persians established rule over the southern part of Transcaucasia which included Armenia.

As portrayed in the history of Armenia, the Persian Armenia soon feel into the hands of Russia and became a part of the USSR due to the Treaties of Gulistan and Turkmanchay,1813 and 1828, respectively. 

The Armenian region which was still under the Ottomans aimed at getting independence. Revolution started in the latter part of the 19th century with the formation of revolutionary committees based on a model by the nihilists of Russia. 

Sultan Abdul-Hamid struck back fiercely and the first mass killing of the Armenians took place in 1894, August-September. 

The second Armenian massacre happened in 1895-1896 during which thousands of Armenians were slaughtered by Hamidiés. 

Thus started the Armenian massacre which was to continue for the next thirty years under the regime of various Turks.

The Massacre

As the ‘Union and Progress’ party rose, the Armenians living in Turkey continued to suffer. The ‘young Turks’ tried to establish the supremacy of the Turks in the Ottoman region.

As the Turks had lost the Ottoman region in Europe, hey decided that the only way to expand was to reunite the Turks of Central Asia namely Tatars, Uzbeks, Kazakhs etc. 

The idea of Pan-Turkism in the history of Armenia originated from two main cultures. The first ideology was that of Marxism which taught the Young Turks about equality which said that all Ottomans must be equal, if so then all Ottomans must be Turks and in turn Muslims.

The second ideology focused on the Turks of the steppes of Central Asia and their reunion as the expansion of the European region was getting out of hand.

The idea of Pan Turkism was opposed by Christians, Armenians, Indo-Europeans, and Kurdish minorities. The Kurds being Muslims had no problem in getting along with the Turks. But the Christians and Armenians being of completely different origins posed a problem in accepting the Turks. Thus, they had to be removed.

In a view to eliminating the Armenians, in 1909 the massacre of Adana was led by the Turks who grabbed the opportunity at the eruption of the first world war.

During this period, the young Turks started eliminating the Armenians referred to as “Metz Yeghèrn,’ the Great Crime, the Armenian Genocide.

The initial genocide of the 20th century took place between 1915 to 1923. The history of Armenia recorded the massacre of nearly 1.5 people. The Armenian genocide let to the deportation and death of people in the Syrian desert. 

The survivors of the Armenian Genocide sought refuge in the Republic of Armenia.

The Republic of Armenia was born after the battle of Sardaraparat in which the Armenians defeated the Turks. Many people also took refuge in Syria, Israel, Europe, the United States, Egypt, and Lebanon.

In 1920, after the war, the Treaty of Sèvres forced the Turks to free the Armenians and hand over Armenia’s Ottoman territories. 

The Turkish national movement rejected the treaty. The leader of the movement, Mustafa Kemal toppled the Ottoman sultanate and announced a national secular republic. 

On 24th September, the Turks with the help of the Russians waged the Armenian-Turkish war. The war ended with the Treaty of Alexandropol signed on 2nd December 1920. The treaty marked the victory of the Turks.

However, on December 4th, of Armenia was occupied by the Soviet Eleventh Army. This marked the end of the independent Democratic Republic. 

Soviet Power 

Armenia became a part of the Soviet Union on 4th March 4th, 1922.

On 11 September 1922 the Treaty of Kars was signed which made Turkey give up the Batumi port in exchange for cities like Iğdır, Kars, and Ardahan.  

The communist economic system-aided Soviet Armenia. It became an industrial economy from an agricultural one. Several villages transformed into cities. The Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic broke down in 1936.

Thereafter, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan gained the title of independent republics of the USSR.

During the fifteenth anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the Armenians protested on the streets for the incident to be recognized by the Russian government. However, the order was restored by the Soviet troops.

To steer clear of further protests, a monument was built honoring the ones who died in the Armenian genocide. 

In Yerevan, a memorial was constructed in 1967 which consisted of a 44-meter stele. This symbolized the rebirth of the Armenians. The monument also had twelve monoliths in a circle which signified the twelve provinces which now belonged to the Turkish territories. 

A flame burning in the center of the circle represents the memory of the deceased in the Armenian genocide. A 100-meters long memorial hall leading to the monument displays the names of the villages where the Armenian genocide took place.

Nagorno-Karabakh War

Armenia announced its independence on 23 August 1990 which was a year prior to the downfall of the Soviet Union. But Armenia’s independence wasn’t acknowledged officially until 21 September 1991. On this day the new Republic of Armenia was declared.

The history of Armenia mentions that the rivalry between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh territory kept growing and resulted in war. The war continued even after a cease-fire notice in 1994 and is still unresolved.

Present Armenia 

Since Armenia’s independence, it has gone through several developments even after blocked borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey. It has been referred to as “the Tiger of the Caucasus” since then and is appreciated for its high growth rate. 

The region receives funds worth $1.5 billion every year which accounts for about 20% of the GDP. Although poverty exists, the government involves the export of powerful technology and human capital for development. 

However, after the violent history of Armenia, it has been able to establish itself as a country that promises growth and has successfully maintained friendly relations with neighboring countries like Russia, Iran, and Georgia.

The development is funded by the international network of expats of the diaspora, who pay $ 1.5 billion each year: about 20% of GDP. Poverty is still widespread: to fight it the government supports exports focused on high technology and human capital and, although in the last five years the economic boom has been resized, Armenia is still a country with a strong growth thanks to the friendly relations maintained with the other neighboring Countries: Russia, Georgia, and Iran.

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