Europe

Armenia country profile

  • 2 June 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Armenia

A landlocked country with Turkey to the west and Georgia to the north, Armenia boasts a history longer than most other European countries.

Situated along the route of the Great Silk Road, it has fallen within the orbit of a number of cultural influences and empires.

After independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia quickly became drawn into a bloody conflict with Azerbaijan over the mostly Armenian-speaking region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

One of the earliest Christian civilisations, its first churches were founded in the fourth century. In later centuries, it frequently oscillated between Byzantine, Persian, Mongol or Turkish control, as well as periods of independence.

FACTS

The Republic of Armenia

Capital: Yerevan

  • Population 3.1m

  • Area 29,743 sq km (11,484 sq miles)

  • Major languages Armenian, Russian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 71 years (men), 77 years (women)

  • Main exports Diamonds, machinery, foodstuffs

LEADER

President: Serge Sarkisian

Image copyright Getty Images

Serge Sarkisian became president following elections in 2008 and won a second term in early 2013.

He was a Soviet soldier and later worked in the defence committee of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. He was then appointed Armenia's minister of defence. He had a spell as minister of national security and head of the presidential staff before returning to the defence ministry.

In 2009, he signed a historic deal to re-establish diplomatic ties with Turkey. However, the thaw in relations proved to be short-lived, and ratification of the agreement was suspended after only a few months, on account of pressure from nationalists on both sides.

MEDIA

Television is Armenia's dominant medium. Some 25 private stations operate alongside two public networks. The main Russian networks are widely available.

Few Armenians rely on newspapers as their main news source. Print runs are small - usually a few thousand copies - and most titles are owned by wealthy individuals or political parties.

A media law prohibits censorship. However, libel and defamation can be punished by prison terms and journalists have been sentenced under relevant laws.

TIMELINE

Some key events in Armenia's history:

1915 - 1917 - Between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenians are massacred or deported from their homeland in Anatolia to present-day Syria. Armenia considers the killings genocide, a charge Turkey does not accept.

1918 - Independent Armenia emerges from defeat of Ottoman Empire in World War I.

1922 - Armenia is incorporated into the Soviet Union.

1989 - Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh begins. In 1994 a Russian-brokered ceasefire but no peace deal is reached and intermittent fighting continues.

1991 - Armenia secedes from the Soviet Union.

2009 - Armenia and Turkey agree on a provisional roadmap for normalising diplomatic ties, but subsequently fail to ratify the deal.

2015 - Armenia officially joins the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union, having decided against signing a EU Association Agreement.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mount Ararat is an Armenian national symbol. It lies tantalisingly close but cruelly distant, just beyond the country's borders

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