Located on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Armenia is a fascinating country with ancient history, rich culture, unique language and traditions. In fact, Armenia, along with Iran, China, Greece, Egypt and Japan, is among the 6 ancient countries that have survived for thousands of years. Scientific research, numerous archaeological findings and old manuscripts prove that the first evidence of human settlement in Armenia dates back to 70,000 BC. Further findings in caves and stone inscriptions are a proof of human settlement in Armenia through the Paleolithic period.
Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D. The Armenian Apostolic Church has derived its faith directly from the apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who preached in Armenia during the first century. Gregory the Illuminator (Lusavorich), who baptized Armenia in 301, became the first Catholicos of All Armenians and thus Armenia became the first Christian state.
In the 4th century (301-303) Holy Echmiadzin Cathedral - The First Church In The World was built In Armenia. Christ’s Spear (Spear of Longinus), which the Roman soldier Longinus thrust in Jesus Christ, is kept in the treasury of the Echmiadzin Cathedral. Since 2000, the Cathedral is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and one of the oldest constantly inhabited cities in the world. A city with over 2800 years of history, yet one of the most modern and dynamic capitals, situated at the crossroad of Europe and Asia. Yerevan is 29 years older than Rome. It was founded in 782 BC. Yerevan is also known as the "pink city"; her buildings are made of naturally coloured volcanic rocks of varying shades of pink, hence giving her the name "pink city".
The Armenian alphabet was created in 405 by the scientist and monk Mesrop Mashtots. Initially, the alphabet consisted of 36 letters, then three more letters were added. The rest of the alphabet remained almost unchanged for more than 1,600 years. Scientists consider the Armenian alphabet one of the three most advanced in the world, along with Georgian and Korean alphabets. The letters of the Armenian alphabet initially performed a digital function, and the numerical system was one of the most advanced ones in the ancient world. Despite the difficult periods in the history of Armenians, the Armenian Church managed to preserve over thirty thousand Armenian manuscripts created during the 5th-18th centuries, many of which are stored in the Yerevan Matenadaran and on the island of St. Lazarus in Venice.
Armenia is also often referred to as the Land of Noah based on biblical scripts. As Noah’s ark came to rest on the Ararat mountain, which until 1915 was still officially part of Armenia. “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat" (Genesis 8:4)
Although it is not in Armenia’s current territory today, Mount Ararat is considered to be the national symbol of Armenia and also appears in Armenia’s national emblem.
Ararat Mountain range consists of two extinct volcanoes: Great Ararat (Masis - 5165m) and Small Ararat (Sis - 3927m).
Armenia is the Homeland of Apricot
Armenia is considered to be the motherland and the oldest center for growing apricots. This is proved by 3000 year old apricot cores discovered during excavations at Garni temple in Armenia.
The famous French biologist De Poerderle (fr. De Poerderlé) in the XVIII century, wrote: "The name of this tree comes from Armenian, Asian province, where it appeared and from where it was brought to Europe ..."
Apricot is mentioned in the sources of the I century, which gives evidence that the apricot was called "Armenian apple" (lat. Mela armeniaca, lat. pomum armeniacum), which confirms the theory that the apricot was brought to Rome from Armenia. Arab geographer Ibn al-Faqih in his "Book of Countries" (903) mentions the Armenian apricot by its Armenian name “tsiran” and calls it "the fruit of Armenia."
Apricot is also remarkable among Armenians because one of the most beloved and famous Armenian national musical instruments, the world acclaimed duduk (in Armenian "tsiranapogh" apricot pipe), is made from an apricot tree.
The oldest winery in the world has been uncovered in a cave in the mountains of Armenia. An international team of researchers discovered a drinking bowl, a grape press, a cup, and fermentation jars dating to about 6100 years ago in the cave at the area called Areni-1 in Armenia. Scientists believe that the grapes, from which the wine was made in Armenia 6000 years ago, was the ancestor of the famous Pinot Noir. Now in France, they produce expensive wine from this sort of grape.
The village of Areni is famous for its wine even now. Each October Armenian winemakers and thousands of visitors gather in Areni village to celebrate the annual Areni Wine Festival.
One more time in history world’s attention was driven into this small mountainous country. The reason was the ancient shoe found in one of the villages of Armenia. The leather shoe dates back to more than 5500 years. This is evidenced by independent expert studies carried out by four different research centers. It took 18 months for the study of footwear in specialized laboratories of California and Oxford, after which they announced the oldest shoe in the world. The shoe was filled with straw and thanks to the cool and dry conditions of the cave, was kept in perfect condition. Now the shoe is kept in the History Museum of Armenia.
In 2014 Armenian bread lavash ("Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia") was included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Lavash is a traditional thin bread that forms an integral part of Armenian cuisine. Its preparation is typically undertaken by a small group of women, and requires great effort, experience and special skills. Thin layers of dough are stretched over a special oval cushion that is then slapped against the wall of a traditional conical clay oven (tonir).
Armenian brandy is a well known and respected drink in all over the world.
Armenia got its first brandy factory in 1877. The entrepreneur and businessman Nerses Tairyan built the first winery in Yerevan. 12 years later it was bought by a Russian merchant Nikolai Shustov from Moscow. At the 1900 Universal Expo of Paris, Shustov & Sons’ brandy, awarded the Grand Prix in a blind judging, beating out stiff competition from Cognac’s leading producer and earning the reward to legally call their product Cognac instead of Brandy.
British Prime minister Winston Churchill after testing the Armenian cognac for the first time loved it so much that from that day on he drank a bottle of cognac every day for the rest of his life. Stalin personally oversaw the delivery of the Armenian cognac to the British Premier. During his old age when Churchill was asked what had been the secret of his longevity, without even giving it a second of thought, he had answered: "Don’t be late for lunch, smoke Havana cigars and drink Armenian cognac."
Wings of Tatev is the aerial tramway to the natural and historic treasures of Syunik. It is the longest reversible cableway in the world (5752 m) built in only one section, and holds the record for Longest non-stop double track cable car.
Wings of Tatev is the shortest, most picturesque and impressive route to Tatev Monastery. It takes 12 minutes of unforgettable flight above the ravine of the fierce Vorotan River, the maximum height is 320m.
Chess has been played in Armenia since the early Middle Ages. It is mentioned in Armenian manuscripts of XII-XIII centuries. However, it was institutionalized during the early Soviet period. Highly popular in Armenia today, chess gained widespread recognition during the 1960s, when Soviet Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian became the World Chess Champion. A country of only about three million people, Armenia is considered one of the strongest chess nations today.
From 2011, chess has become part of the primary school curriculum along with such standards as math and history for children over the age of 6. Chess is a compulsory subject in Armenian schools.
In 1999 men's and in 2003 Armenian women's team became the winners of the European Championship. In 2006 the men's team won the Chess Olympiad in Turin, in 2008 repeated this success in Dresden, and in 2011 won the World Team Championship in Ningbo. Currently, Armenian men's team is one of the strongest in the world, and leading Armenian chess player Levon Aronian is consistently among the top three players in the world in the FIDE rating list.
Chess is Armenia’s international brand.
Karahunj (also called Zorats Karer) is a prehistoric site known as the Armenian Stonehenge and it is believed to be around 3500 years older than the British Stonehenge.
Its name contains two Armenian words: kar (which means stone) and hunge (which means sound), thus the name can be interpreted as “speaking stone”. Another name used is Zorats Karer, which means “vertical stones”.
The stones are arranged to form two circles, and in the middle, there are about 40 stones that are formed into an ellipse. The size of the stones ranges from 0.5 to 3 meters and can weigh up to 10 tons. There are 223 stones that have been identified, and many more that are broken and unnumbered.
In 1994- 2001, investigations by Paris Herouni and his team were made at the site and they had concluded that it was the world’s oldest astronomical observatory. This was theorized because of the holes found in some of the stones, which point perfectly towards specific stars.