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History

Armenia has been populated since prehistoric times, and has been proposed as the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden. Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which tradition tells us Noah’s ark came to rest after the flood. (Gen. 8:4). Archeologists continue to uncover evidence that the Armenia and Armenian Highlands were among the earliest sites of human civilization. From 4000 BC to 1000 BC, tools and trinkets of copper, bronze and iron were commonly produced in Armenia and traded in neighboring lands where those metals were less abundant.

St. Gregory the Illuminator
St. Gregory the Illuminator's influence led to the adoption of Christianity in Armenia in the year 301. He is the patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

During the ancient period of Armenia's history, several states flourished on its territory, including Hayasa-Azzi (15th - 12th cc BC), Nairi (12th - 9th cc BC), and the Kingdom of Urartu (9th - 6th cc BC), each participating in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by the Urartian king Argishti I.

Around 600 BC, the kingdom of Armenia was established under the Orontid Dynasty, which existed under several local dynasties till 428 AD. The kingdom reached its height between 95 - 66 BC under Tigranes the Great, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time. Throughout its history, the kingdom of Armenia enjoyed periods of independence intermitted with periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Armenia's strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks and Russians.

In AD 301, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official state religion. There had been various pagan communities before Christianity, but they were converted by an influx of Christian missionaries. Tiridates III (A.D. 238-314) was the first ruler to officially Christianize his people, his conversion ten years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity official toleration under Galerius, and 36 years before Constantine was baptised.

After the fall of the Armenian kingdom in 428 AD, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sassanid Empire, ruled by a marzpan. Following an Armenian rebellion in 451-484 AD, Christian Armenians maintained their religions freedom, while Armenia gained autonomy and the right to be ruled by an Armenian marzpan unlike other territories of the empire where the marzpan was a Persian. The Marzpanate of Armenia lasted till 630's AD, when Sassanid Persia was destroyed by Arab Caliphate.

After the marzpanate period (428 - 636 AD), Armenia emerged as an autonomous principality within the Arabic Empire, reuniting Armenian lands previously taken by the Byzantian Empire as well. The principality was ruled by the Prince of Armenia, recognized by the Calpih and the Byzantine Emperor. It was part of the administrative division/emirate Arminiyya created by the Arabs, which also included parts of Georgia and Caucasian Albania, and had its center in the Armenian city Dvin. The Principality of Armenia lasted till 884 AD, when it regained its independence from the weakened Arabic Empire.

Armenia in history, ca. 57 AD The reemerged Armenian kingdom was ruled by the Bagratuni dynasty, and lasted till 1045 AD. In time, several areas of the Bagratid Armenia separated as independent kingdoms and principalities such as the Kingdom of Vaspurakan ruled by the House of Artsruni, while still recognizing the supremacy of the Bagratid kings.

In 1045 AD the Byzantian Empire conquered Bagradit Armenia. Soon, the other Armenian states fell under Byzantian control as well. The Byzantian rule was short lived, as in 1071 AD Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantians and conquered Armenia at the Battle of Manzikert, establishing an the Seljuk Empire.

The Seljuk Empire soon started to collapse. In early 1100's, Armenian princes of the Zakaryan noble family established an independent Armenian principality in northern and eastern Armenia, known as Zakaryan Armenia. The noble family of Orbelians shared control with the Zakarians in various parts of the country, especially in Vayots Dzor. Southern parts of Armenia remained under control of Kurdish dynasties of Shaddadids and Ayyubids.

In 1230's Mongol Ilkhanate conquered the Zakaryan Principality, as well as the rest of Armenia. The Mongolian invasions were soon followed by those of other Central Asian tribes, which continued from 1200's till 1400's. After incessant invasions, each bringing destruction to the country, Armenia in time became weakened. In 1500s, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia divided Armenia among themselves. The Russian Empire later incorporated Eastern Armenia (consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh khanates within Persia) in 1813 and 1828.

Under the rule of the Ottomans, the Armenians and the Turkish majority lived in relative harmony. However, as the Ottoman Empire began to collapse and World War I began, a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished as a result of the Armenian Genocide. The events of 1915 to 1918 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings. Turkish authorities, however, maintain that the deaths were the result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides. Most estimates for the number of Armenians killed range from 650,000 to 1,500,000. Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have been campaigning for official recognition of the events as genocide for over 30 years. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on April 24, the Armenian Christian martyr day.

In the aftermath of World War I, the Democratic Republic of Armenia was established, encompassing the former Ottoman-ruled Western Armenia and Russian-controlled Eastern Armenia. Signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sevres on August 10, 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres promised to maintain the existence of the state under protection from the League of Nations. The treaty, however, was rejected by the Turkish National Movement, and never came into effect. The movement, under Kemal Atatürk, used the treaty as the occasion to declare itself the rightful government of Turkey, replacing the monarchy based in Istanbul with a republic based in Ankara.

In 1920, Armenia and Turkey engaged in the Turkish-Armenian War, a violent conflict that ended with the Treaty of Alexandropol in which the Armenians surrendered the bulk of their weapons and land to the Turks. Simultaneously, Armenia was invaded by the Red Army, which led to establishment of Soviet rule in Armenia in December of 1920. The treaty of Alexandropol, signed by deposed former Armenian officials after the establishment of Soviet rule, was never ratified by the new Communist government. In 1922, the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union as part of the short-lived Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (TSFR) along with Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Treaty of Alexandropol was then superseded by the Treaty of Kars, between Turkey and the Soviet Union. In it, Turkey ceded the province of Ajaria to the Soviet Union in return for sovereignty over the territories of Kars, Ardahan, and Iğdır. Because the Armenians did not have a say in the treaty, Armenia, to this day, does not recognize the treaty and still holds claims to those provinces.

The Coat of Arms of Soviet Armenia. The TSFR existed from 1922 to 1936, when it was divided up into three separate entities (Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Georgian SSR). Armenians enjoyed a period of relative stability under Soviet rule. They received medicine, food, and other provisions from Moscow, and communist rule proved to be a soothing balm in contrast to the turbulent final years of the Ottoman Empire. The situation was difficult for the church, which struggled under Soviet rule. After the death of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin took the reins of power and began an era of renewed fear and terror for Armenians. As with various other ethnic minorities who lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin's Great Purge, millions of innocent Armenians were executed and deported. Fears decreased when Stalin died in 1953 and Nikita Khruschev emerged as the country's new leader.

Source: armeniapedia.org