History of Armenia
region and former kingdom of Asia Minor that was Greater Armenia
lay east of the Euphrates River; Little, or Lesser, Armenia was
west of the river. Armenia is generally understood to have included
NE Turkey, the area covered by the modern republic of Armenia
(the eastern part of ancient Armenia), and parts of Iranian Azerbaijan.
to tradition, the kingdom was founded in the region of Lake Van
by Haig, or Haik, a descendant of Noah. Modern scholars, however,
believe that the Armenians crossed the Euphrates and came into
Asia Minor in the 8th cent. B.C. Invading the Khaldian state called
Urartu by the Assyrians, they intermarried with the indigenous
peoples there and formed a homogeneous nation by the 6th cent.
B.C. This state was a Persian satrapy from the late 6th cent.
B.C. to the late 4th cent. B.C.
(330 B.C.) by Alexander the Great, it became after his death part
of the Syrian kingdom of Seleucus I and his descendants. After
the Roman victory over the Seleucids at Magnesia in 190 B.C.,
the Armenians declared (189 B.C.) their independence under a native
dynasty, the Artashesids. The imperialistic ambitions of King
Tigranes led to war with Rome; defeated Armenia became tributary
to the republic after the campaigns of Lucullus (69 B.C.) and
Pompey (67 B.C.). The Romans distinguished between Greater Armenia
and Lesser Armenia, respectively east and west of the Euphrates.
Tiridates, a Parthian prince, was confirmed as king of Armenia
by Nero in A.D. 66. Christianity was introduced early; Armenia
is reckoned the oldest Christian state.
the 3d cent. A.D., Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid, came to
power in Persia and overran Armenia. The persecution of Christians
created innumerable martyrs and kindled nationalism among the
Armenians, particularly after the partition (387) of the kingdom
between Persia and Rome. Attempts at independence were short-lived,
as Armenia was the constant prey of Persians, Byzantines, White
Huns, Khazars, and Arabs. From 886 to 1046 the kingdom enjoyed
autonomy under native rulers, the Bagratids; it was then reconquered
by the Byzantines, who promptly lost it to the Seljuk Turks following
the Byzantine defeat at the battle of Manzikert in 1071.
the Mongol invasion of the mid-11th cent., a number of Armenians,
led by Prince Reuben, were pushed westward. In 1080 they established
in Cilicia the kingdom of Little Armenia, which lasted until its
conquest by the Mamluks in 1375. Shortly afterward (1386-94) the
Mongol conqueror Timur seized Greater Armenia and massacred a
large part of the population. After Timur's death (1405) the Ottoman
Turks, whom Timur had defeated in 1402, invaded Armenia and by
the 16th cent. held all of it. Under Ottoman rule the Armenians,
although often persecuted and always discriminated against because
of their religion, nevertheless acquired a vital economic role.
Constantinople and all other large cities of the Ottoman Empire
had colonies of Armenian merchants and financiers. Eastern Armenia
was chronically disputed between Turkey and Persia.
acquired Armenia from Persia in 1828 and made it into a province.
The Congress of Berlin also assigned the Kars, Ardahan, and Batumi
districts to Russia, which restored Kars and Ardahan to Turkey
in 1921. The Armenian people underwent one of the worst trials
in their history between 1894 and 1915. Their attempted extermination
was put into action under Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid II and was
sporadically resumed, notably in 1915, when the Armenians were
accused of aiding the Russian invaders during World War I. Over
600,000 Armenians were killed by Turkish soldiers or died of starvation
during their forced deportation to Syria and Mesopotamia. The
Armenians rose in revolt at Van, which they held until relieved
by Russian troops.
the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Russian Armenia joined Azerbaijan
and Georgia to form the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation,
which, however, was dissolved in 1918. That same year the Treaty
of Brest-Litovsk between Soviet Russia and Germany made Russian
Armenia an independent republic under German auspices. It was
superseded by the Treaty of Sèvres which created an independent
Greater Armenia, comprising both the Turkish and the Soviet Russian
the same year, however, the Communists gained control of Russian
Armenia and proclaimed it a Soviet republic. In 1921 a Russo-Turkish
Treaty established those countries' common boundary, thus ending
Armenian independence. From 1922 to 1936, Armenia was combined
with Azerbaijan and Georgia to form the Transcaucasian Soviet
Federated Socialist Republic, after which it became a separate
constituent republic of the USSR. Until the late 20th cent. its
fortunes remained tied to those of the Soviet Union.
devastating earthquake struck Armenia in 1988, killing thousands
of people and destroying most of the republic's infrastructure.
Armenia had been relatively stable as a republic of the Soviet
Union, but the dissolution of the USSR allowed nationalism and
historical conflicts to rekindle. In mid-1988, fighting broke
out between ethnic Armenians and Azeris in the Armenian-dominated
Nagorno-Karabakh region of neighboring Azerbaijan, leading to
Armenian demands that Azerbaijan cede the region to Armenia. Armenia
declared itself independent of the USSR in Aug., 1991, and Levon
Ter-Petrossian was elected as first president of the republic.
Armenia then joined the Commonwealth of Independent States.
over Nagorno-Karabakh led to war between Armenia and Azerbaijan
in 1992, with heavy casualties. A blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan,
the country through which most of Armenia's supply routes run,
caused economic hardship. By early 1994, Armenian forces had gained
control of the enclave and some adjoining territory in Azerbaijan;
a cease-fire negotiated with Russian mediation in May, 1994, has
generally been observed by both sides. In 1995 voters approved
a new constitution that strengthened the president's powers. Ter-Petrossian
was reelected in 1996 but resigned in 1998, and Robert Kocharian
was elected president. In Oct., 1999, terrorists stormed the parliament
in an apparent coup attempt, killing the prime minister and other
officials before being apprehended.
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