Armenia is a landlocked country located in the Caucasus. It has had a long and turbulent history and much is still to be unwrapped. As Armenia deals with its complex past, its citizens are increasingly achieving fame abroad. Here are some interesting facts about Armenia.
Facts about Armenia
1. With a total area of 29,743 km², Armenia ranks 142nd by size in the world.
It is also the smallest officially recognized country in the Caucasus. In fact, it is only slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
2. Armenia shares land borders with 4 countries.
It is bordered by Azerbaijan to the east (996 km), Georgia to the north (219 km), Iran to the south (44 km), and Turkey to the west (311 km).
3. The native name of Armenia is Hayastan.
The origins of the country’s name are disputed, including theories to do with local geography, the suffix -stan is known to stem from the Persian word for “place”. More interestingly, the oldest documented name of the country, Hayk, is not really in use anymore. The English name, Armenia, stems from the ancient Greek name for the country.
4. The highest point in Armenia is Mount Aragats.
Standing at 4,090 m (13,419 ft), Mount Aragats is the highest point in Armenia. It is a volcano massif located in western Armenia and is also the highest point of the Lesser Caucasus.
5. Armenia is more mountainous than Switzerland.
No point in Armenia is below 390 m (1,280 ft) above sea level. In fact, the average elevation of the country area is the 10th highest in the world. 86% of the country is considered mountainous, more than Switzerland or Nepal.
6. Mount Ararat is the national symbol of Armenia.
Although Mount Ararat is located in modern-day Turkey, it is the national symbol of Armenia. To Armenians, Mount Ararat is known as a holy mountain and has been intertwined with its history and culture for thousands of years. Religion ties closely into this as Mount Ararat was described as the landing place for Noah’s Ark in Genesis 8:4, a myth also linked to the Armenian origin story outlined by Movses Khorenatsi in the early Middle Ages.
7. The currency used in Armenia is the Armenian dram (AMD).
Literally translating to “money”, the name dram is clearly related to the Greek drachma and the Arabic dirham. It was historically divided into 100 luma and luma coins are still in circulation, although inflation has rendered their nominal value very low.
8. Chess classes are mandatory in Armenian schools.
This is one of the most unique facts about Armenia. Although chess has been played in Armenia since the Middle Ages, it gained immense popularity during Soviet rule. Today, Armenia sports some of the best chess players in the world not least due to governmental support for the country’s top chess players. In 2011/2012 chess was also made a mandatory subject in all public schools in Armenia.
9. Armenia was the first country to officially adopt Christianity as its national religion.
Christianity took an early foothold in Armenia as two of Jesus’ apostles, Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, preached in the region between 40 and 60 AD. In 301, Christianity was officially adopted as the state religion. Today, 97% of Armenians are Christian with the majority of believers belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
10. The oldest church in the world is found in Armenia.
Considering the early adoption of Christianity, it comes as no surprise that some of the oldest churches in the world can be found in Armenia. According to some sources, Etchmiadzin Cathedral (built in the early 4th century) is believed to be the oldest cathedral in the world. In fact, it was built on the ruins of a pagan temple to symbolize the change to a new faith.
11. An estimated 1.2 million Armenians died in the Armenian genocide.
During World War I, the Ottoman Empire invaded modern-day Armenia and engaged in a systematic cleansing of its Armenian (Christian) population. Most of them died on horrific death marches to the Syrian desert, along which they were deprived of food and water and subject to assault, rape, and murder. Others died in concentration camps.
Until today, no Turkish government has officially recognized the atrocities against the Armenians as genocide. It is their position that any deaths among the Armenian population were due to a perfectly reasonable response of the Ottoman forces to a pro-Russian Armenian uprising.
Despite being well-documented and due to heavy lobbying on Turkey’s behalf, only 32 countries have recognized the events as a genocide.
12. More Armenians live outside of Armenia than in Armenia.
Also known as the Armenian Diaspora, a large number of Armenians actually live outside of Armenia today. This is mostly due to Armenians fleeing their homeland during the Armenian Genocide in the early 20th century. Today, only about 3 million of 11 million Armenians worldwide live in Armenia. The largest Armenian communities abroad can be found in North America and Russia.
13. Armenia has one of the most homogenous populations in the world.
The population of Armenia is very homogenous. 98% of residents are ethnically Armenian. There is also a small Yezidi (Kurd) minority.
14. Armenia is home to the oldest leather shoe in the world.
This may be one of the most random facts about Armenia, but the country is in fact recognized in the Guinness World Records for being the home of the oldest shoe. It’s about 5,000 years old and was found in a cave in south-eastern Armenia in 2008.
15. Armenia is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world.
The world’s oldest shoe happens to have been found in the world’s oldest winery. Areni-1 winery was discovered in 2007 and is estimated to be 6,100 years old! It consists of fermentation vats, a wine press, and several pieces of pottery.
16. Armenian flatbread is UNESCO-listed.
In 20014, the UNESCO recognized Armenian lavash as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The flatbread is traditionally made with flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt and prepared in a clay oven, often underground.
17. Armenia is the home of apricots.
Although the origin of apricots is disputed, they are known to have been cultivated in Armenia during ancient times. In fact, apricot seeds from the so-called Copper Age have been found in Armenia, dating back between 6,000 and 8,000 years.
18. Armenia’s capital Yerevan is known as the pink city.
Brightest at sunrise and sunset, Armenia’s capital city Yerevan shines in a hazy pink light. Soviets built up a large part of the city from tuff, local volcanic stone. Volcanic stone is usually black, making the pink tuff very rare.
19. Armenia is home to the longest non-stop double track cable car.
A strange record to set perhaps, but Armenia actually has the longest non-stop double track cable car. It connects the town of Halidzor with Tatev Monastery and is 5,752 m (18,871 ft) long!
20. Winston Churchill loved Armenian cognac.
This is surely one of those random Armenia facts. Rumor has it that Joseph Stalin presented Winston Churchill with a bottle of Armenian brandy during the Yalta Conference and Churchill liked it so much, he continued drinking it long after. Whether true or not, Armenian brandy is considered to be one of the best in the world. After all, the grapes from which Armenian cognac is distilled are grown on a vine from the garden of Eden by Noah (at least, according to tradition).
21. Armenia has a unique alphabet.
The Armenian alphabet was developed in 405 AD and came into wide use in the Ottoman Empire. It’s an important part of the Armenian identity and even has a monument dedicated to it, located close to the capital Yerevan.
22. Armenia’s capital Yerevan is one of the oldest capitals in the world.
Yerevan is Armenia’s capital and largest city. The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC which actually makes it one of the oldest capital cities in the world. Interestingly, it was preceded by 13 other capitals, which made Yerevan Armenia’s 14th capital in 1918.
23. Armenia is technically at war.
Armenia is technically at war with its neighbor Azerbaijan and has been since 1988. At its heart sits the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, an ethnic and territorial conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The latest ceasefire agreement was only signed in November 2020 after weeks of bloodshed, taking thousands of lives of Armenian and Azerbaijani people.
24. Armenia is home to more than 50% of Europe’s bird species.
Here is an interesting fact about Armenia. Armenia is a delight for ornithologists as it is home to 345 of Europe’s estimated 530 bird species.
25. Armenia has won 14 Olympic medals.
Armenian’s sure are tough! Armenia has won 14 Olympic medals in total, all of them in only 3 disciplines: wrestling, weightlifting, and boxing.
26. Armenia has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With a history as rich as Armenia’s, it is not surprising that Armenia is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are the Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, the Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots, and the Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley.
27. The duduk is the national instrument of Armenia.
The duduk is a traditional Armenian instrument made from apricot wood and one of the national symbols of Armenia. It and its music are also a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity according to UNESCO.
28. Armenian Khachkars are inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Khachkars are Armenian cross-stones and a common expression of Medieval Christian Armenian art. Not only are they an Armenian national symbol, but they have also been UNESCO-listed since 2010. About 40,000 of them exist today.
29. The Armenian flag contains the “color of apricot”.
The modern Armenian flag which has been in use since 1990 consists of three bands of equal with. The colors of the Armenian flag are red, blue, and orange and each represents a particular characteristic of the country and its people.
Officially, the red stands for the Armenian Highland, the Armenian people’s continued struggle for survival, maintenance of the Christian faith, Armenia’s independence, and freedom. The blue emblematizes the will of the people of Armenia to live beneath peaceful skies. Lastly, the orange signifies the creative talent and hard-working nature of the people of Armenia.
30. Many Armenians have made it big in entertainment.
Some of the most famous Armenians or people of Armenian descent are Cher, the band members of the heavy metal band System of a Down, and, of course, the Kardashian clan.