History of Armenia
Armenian history extends for over 3,000 years. Armenians have historically inhabited the "Armenian Highlands", a vast section of mountains and valleys across eastern Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus.
In the 6th century B.C. , Armenians settled in the kingdom of Urartu (the Assyrian name for Ararat), which was in decline. Under Tigrane the Great (fl. 95–55 B.C. ) the Armenian empire reached its height and became one of the most powerful in Asia, stretching from the Caspian to the Mediterranean seas. Throughout most of its long history, however, Armenia has been invaded by a succession of empires. Under constant threat of domination by foreign forces, Armenians became both cosmopolitan as well as fierce protectors of their culture and tradition.
Over the centuries Armenia was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Mongols, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Russians. From the 16th century through World War I, major portions of Armenia were controlled by their most brutal invader, the Ottoman Turks, under whom the Armenians experienced discrimination, religious persecution, heavy taxation, and armed attacks. In response to Armenian nationalist stirrings, the Turks massacred thousands of Armenians in 1894 and 1896. The most horrific massacre took place in April 1915 during World War I, when the Turks ordered the deportation of the Armenian population to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia.
After the Turkish defeat in World War I, the independent Republic of Armenia was established on May 28, 1918, but survived only until Nov. 29, 1920, when it was annexed by the Soviet army. On March 12, 1922, the Soviets joined Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic, which became part of the USSR. In 1936, after a reorganization, Armenia became a separate constituent republic of the USSR. Armenia declared its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Sept. 23, 1991.
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Many visitors will be surprised to know that Armenia is not just a Christian nation, but it is the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. It took place in 301 AD. One can find thousands of churches and monasteries in Armenia. Armenians are Apostolic Christians and have their own Catholicos (religious leader, like the Pope for Catholics).
The roots of the Armenian Church go back to many centuries, starting from the 1st century. According to historical information, the Armenian Church was founded by two of the twelve apostles of Jesus, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who preached Christianity in Armenia from 40 to 60. In their honor the official name of the Armenian Church is Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenians also call it Gregorian Church, in honor of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first patriarch (in Armenian Catholicos) of the Armenian Church. The Armenian Church has 4 hierarchical sees: Holy See of Ejmiadzin, Cilicia, Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The official language is Armenian, while Russian and English are also frequently used. Armenian language is a separate branch of Indo-European language family, between groups of Slavic and Greek languages. The Armenian alphabet, created by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD, has been used until now, without any changes over the centuries.
As Armenia straddles Europe and Asia, East and West, so does the culture. Many Armenians refer to Armenia as a European nation, but their social conservatism in some realms hasn't been seen in Europe proper for a few decades. The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up many of these channels again, and change is coming rapidly, but much more so in Yerevan than in the rest of the country. The small and very homogeneous (about 99% Armenian) population is strongly family oriented. The people across the land are very hospitable, and place a lot of pride in their hospitality. Show up in a village without a penny, and food and a place to stay will flow - along with drinks and endless toasts.
Weather and Climate
Armenia stands out with a large variety of landscapes, including 7 geographic zones, from deserts and semi-deserts to alpine and subalpine meadows. Because of the numerous mountain formations, which block the influence of seas, and the high location of the territory above sea level, the climate is continental with a large difference between the seasons, including hot summers and cold winters. Average summer temperatures exceed 25 º C; while in winter the temperature is -5 º C.
The best time to visit the country is from April to October.
Armenia Public Holidays 2014
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Armenia. Exercise a high degree of caution due to occasional demonstrations and protests. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
We strongly advise you not to travel in the area of the closed Armenia-Azerbaijan border and ceasefire line because of sporadic clashes. We strongly advise you not to travel to the Armenian-occupied enclave of Azerbaijan known as Nagorno-Karabakh and the military occupied area surrounding it because of the risk of armed conflict along the border and ceasefire line with Azerbaijan.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.
What to wear
Although Armenian women tend to dress and act more freely than in nearby Muslim countries, and usually dress in normal western-style, female visitors should still try to avoid wearing very short skirts and shorts.
It is expected that a visitor invited to an Armenian home brings some kind of small gift, like flowers, wine or chocolate candies. Since Armenian conversations tend to be highly politicized, guests are advised to avoid expressing their strong opinions. Homosexuality is now decriminalized, however most Armenians still find it as an unacceptable lifestyle.
Tipping is increasingly common in Armenia, especially at cafes and restaurants. Many Armenians will simply round up their cheques, or leave ten percent. Some workers, like at cafes, are said to only get paid in tips, but you should never tip unless you want to. Many restaurants have begun to charge a ten percent "service fee" which they usually do not share with the waiters, and it is not clear for what it is used. This fee is often not clearly stated on the menu, so you should ask if you want to know. If you want to tip, you must leave money separate from this charge.
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