Republic of Armenia lies in a triangular section of the Transcaucasus,
bordered by Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. With
an area of 29,800 square kilometers (11,490 square miles), the country
is just slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
capital city, Yerevan, lies on the Hrazdan River, and is home to some 1.2
million people. The next three largest cities are Gyumri(pop. 121,000),
Vanadzor (pop. 74,000) and Abovian (pop. 54,000). Another important city
is Echmiadzin, located some 20 miles west of Yerevan, which is the seat
of the patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The greatest part of Armenia is mountainous
(about 300 feet above sea level), while one-third is pastureland. Forest
and woodland cover 12 percent of the republic, arid land some 18 percent,
and permanent crops cover 3 percent.
There are more than 200 streams and
rivers in Armenia, none navigable, however, because of their steep descents
and rapid currents. The Armenian countryside also boasts some 100 small,
but picturesque lakes. One of the largest mountain lakes in the world,
Lake Sevan, covers an area of 1,400 square kilometers and is about 650
feet above sea level.
Armenians comprise nearly 96 percent of the republicís 3.7 million population,
with the remainder being Kurds, Yezidis, Russians, Jews, Assyrians, and
Greeks. The majority (68%) lives in urban areas. One third of the total
population lives in the capital city of Yerevan. There are 27 cities, 31
towns, and 921 villages with the population density ranging from 17 to
330 per sq. kilometer. Armeniaís administrative structure consists of 10
districts and the city of Yerevan which has a district status.
Composition of the Population
|By Age Group
|60 and up
In the beginning of the 1990s, there
was a spontaneous migration of Armenians. Due to the lack of the official
statistics, the numbers are based on the estimates. About 500,000 people
(12-13% of the total population) have left Armenia since 1993. The most
intensive migration was to the central and southern regions of the Russian
Federation, as well as to various CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]
countries. At least 40, 000 people left for the United States and other
industrialized countries. Estimated 60% of the total eight million Armenians
lives outside Armenia in 60 countries, with one million in each the U.S.
and Russia. Significant Armenian communities are in Georgia, France, Iran,
Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, and Canada.
Minorities in Armenia enjoy equal
rights and full freedom. The Government has adopted policies encouraging
the minorities to develop their cultures and education. Minorities in Armenia
have always been free from any persecution on their religious beliefs,
languages, traditions and customs. These freedoms are enshrined in the
Declaration on Independence, which guarantees the "free and equal development
of its citizens, regardless of national origin, race or creed." Next to
the Russians, the largest minority are Yezidis, who live mainly in the
rural areas of Armenia. They adhere to a distinct religion which bears
traces of Iranian Zoroastrinism, Christianity and Islam. Though the language
spoken by Yezidis is Kurdish, they tend to regard themselves as distinct
from Kurds. The Kurdish community in Armenia is also very active. There
is a Kurdological Department of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the
Yerevan State University and a Kurdish Writers Union of Armenia. The Kurdish
paper Ria Taza (New Way) has been publishing since 1930, and there are
daily radio broadcasts in Kurdish. Today, after seven decades under Soviet
rule, many Jews are finally coming forward to assert their Jewish identity.
The Jewish community in Armenia dates back to the first century A.D., when
Tigran the Great resettled some 10,000 Jews in Armenia following his retreat
from Palestine. The most recent wave arrived during the World War II, as
Armenia offered a safe haven for those driven away from the Nazi-occupied
parts of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Recently, a cultural center and
a Sunday school were opened to provide a place to teach the history of
Judaism and Hebrew. Almost two hundred students, half of which are adults,
are now enrolled in the school.