Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Armenia [ɑr'miniə] (help·info) (Armenian: Հայաստան Hayastan), officially in English the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked mountainous country in Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the Southern Caucasus. It borders Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan to the south. A transcontinental country at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Armenia has had and continues to have extensive socio-political and cultural connections with Europe.

A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is a unitary, multiparty, democratic nation-state with an ancient and historic cultural heritage. The Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion in the early years of the 4th century (the traditional date is 301). The modern Republic of Armenia is constitutionally a secular state, although the Christian faith plays a major role in the history and identification of the Armenian people.

Armenia is currently a member of more than 40 international organisations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. It is a member of the CSTO military alliance and also participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. In 2004 its forces joined KFOR, a NATO-led international force in Kosovo. It is also an observer member of the Eurasian Economic Community, La Francophonie, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Armenia is also active in the international sports community with full membership in the Union of European Football Associations and International Ice Hockey Federation. The country is an emerging democracy and, because of its strategic location, lies among both the Russian and Western spheres of influence.


The native Armenian name for the country is Hayk‘. The name in the Middle Ages was extended to Hayastan, by addition of the Iranian suffix -stan (land). The name has traditionally been derived from Hayk (Հայկ), the legendary patriarch of the Armenians and a great-great-grandson of Noah, who according to Moses of Chorene defeated the Babylonian king Bel in 2492 BC, and established his nation in the Ararat region. The further origin of the name is uncertain.

The exonym Armenia is first attested in the Old Persian Behistun inscription (515 BC) as Armina. Greek Ἀρμένιοι "Armenians" is attested from about the same time, perhaps the earliest reference being a fragment attributed to Hecataeus of Miletus (476 BC). Herodotus (440 BC) has Ἀρμένιοι δὲ κατά περ Φρύγες ἐσεσάχατο, ἐόντες Φρυγῶν ἄποικοι. "the Armenians were equipped like Phrygians, being Phrygian colonists" (7.73). Some decades later, Xenophon, a Greek general waging war against the Persians, describes many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality. He relates that the people spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians.

Government and politics

Politics of Armenia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic. According to the Constitution of Armenia, the President is the head of government and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The unicameral parliament (also called the Azgayin Zhoghov or National Assembly) is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party, the Prosperous Armenia party, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The main opposition parties include Artur Baghdasarian's Rule of Law party and Raffi Hovannisian's Heritage party, both of which favor eventual Armenian membership in the European Union and NATO.

The Armenian government's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. It has universal suffrage above the age of eighteen.

International observers of Council of Europe and U.S. Department of State have questioned the fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referendum since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the Electoral Commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. In its 2008 Nations in Transit report, Freedom House categorized Armenia as a "Semi-consolidated Authoritarian Regime" (along with Moldova, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia) and ranked Armenia 20th among 29 nations, with a "Democracy Score" of 5.21 out of 7 (with 7 having the lowest democratic progress). Since 1999, Freedom House's "Democracy Score" for Armenia has been steadily on the decline (from 4.79 to 5.21). Furthermore, Freedom House ranked Armenia as "partly free" in its 2007 report, though it did not categorise Armenia as an "electoral democracy", indicating an absence of relatively free and competitive elections. However, significant progress has been made and the 2008 Armenian presidential election was hailed as largely democratic by OSCE and Western monitors.

Foreign relations

Armenia presently maintains good relations with almost every country in the world, with two major exceptions being its immediate neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Tensions were running high between Armenians and Azerbaijanis during the final years of the Soviet Union. The Nagorno-Karabakh War dominated the region's politics throughout the 1990s. The border between the two rival countries remains closed up to this day, and a permanent solution for the conflict has not been reached despite the mediation provided by organisations such as the OSCE.

Turkey also has a long history of poor relations with Armenia over its refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The Karabakh conflict became an excuse for Turkey to close its land border with Armenia in 1993. It has not lifted its blockade despite pressure from the powerful Turkish business lobby interested in Armenian markets. Since 2001, however, the Armenian airline company Armavia regularly flies between the Zvartnots International Airport of Yerevan and Atatürk International Airport of Istanbul.

Due to its position between two unfriendly neighbours, Armenia has close security ties with Russia. At the request of the Armenian government, Russia maintains a military base in the northwestern Armenian city of Gyumri as a deterrent against Turkey. Despite this, Armenia has also been looking toward Euro-Atlantic structures in recent years. It maintains good relations with the United States especially through its Armenian diaspora. According to the 2000 US census, there are 385,488 Armenians living in the country.

Armenia is also a member of the Council of Europe, maintaining friendly relations with the European Union, especially with its member states such as France and Greece. A 2005 survey reported that 64% of Armenia's population would be in favor of joining the EU. Several Armenian officials have also expressed the desire for their country to eventually become an EU member state, some predicting that it will make an official bid for membership in a few years.


The Republic of Armenia, covering an area of 30 000 square kilometres (11,600 sq. mi), is located in the north-east of the Armenian Highland (covering 400 000 km² or 154,000 sq. mi), otherwise known as historical Armenia and considered as the original homeland of Armenians. The terrain is mostly mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and few forests. The climate is highland continental, which means that the country is subjected to hot summers and cold winters. The land rises to 4095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea-level at Mount Aragats, and no point is below 400 metres (1,312 ft) above sea level.

Mount Ararat, which was historically part of Armenia, is the highest mountain in the region. Now located in Turkey, but clearly visible in Armenia, it is regarded by the Armenians as a symbol of their land. Because of this, the mountain is present on the Armenian national emblem today.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenia

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