ARMENIA   HAYASDAN; Armeniya (Russian).

An  immense region in western Asia, much of it a plateau, to the southeast of the Black Sea

Khor Virap Monastary in Armenia with Mount Ara...

Khor Virap Monastary in Armenia with Mount Ararat in the Background. Taken with a Canon 30D and Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and the southwest of the Caspian, including Mount Ararat, the upper course of the River Euphrates, the upper and middle courses of the River Aras (Araxes), and the large lakes, Van and Sevan.

It has a long history.   There was a Kingdom of Van – called Urartu by the Assyrians – in the last quarter of the second millennium B.C. and much of the first half of the next.  The Armenians themselves appeared in the region c.600 B.C.   Armenia was sometimes independent, sometimes dominated by one of its neighbours, but even when dominated it was often self-governing because of the distances involved.

It enjoyed independence in the early first century B.C., but defeats by Rome in the 60s made Armenia a client-state.   Its Kings survived until 428, and had to balance between the rival pressures of Rome and Persia.   In 303 Armenia was the first state officially to adopt Christianity as the state religion;  the majority of its people have remained Christian – of the Monophysite variety – since.   From 428 Byzantium and Persia contended for domination, though often local Armenian governors were appointed, until 717, when the Arabs gained control of Armenia.   By the 9th century the Bagration family were acting as governors for the Arabs, and in 885 the Bagratid governor became King, though parts of Armenia remained separate from their rule.

By the 11th century the Kingdom was breaking up, and in 1048 Byzantium took control.  In 1071 the Seljuk Turks devastated the Byzantine army at Manzikert and Byzantine Armenia fell to them.   By 1116 the last of the separate Armenian lands had lost independence and the region was ruled by several Moslem dynasties until the Mongol invasions of the 13th century brought Armenia under the control of the Ilkhanate, one of the Mongol states.   The Ilkhanate began to disintegrate in the mid-14th century, and later the region became one of the lands attacked, held and plundered by Tamerlane.   Eventually the Ottomans established their authority over much of Armenia in the 16th century though in the east Persia pursued its own claims, and in 1620 the Ottoman government acknowledged Persian rights there.

The Russian government began its advance into and beyond the Caucasus in the later 18th century and in 1801 took control of Georgia.   In 1828 Persia ceded much of its Armenian territory to Russia and it became the province of Erivan.   In 1878 the Ottoman government ceded northeastern Armenia around Kars and Ardihan to Russia.

In the Ottoman Empire the Armenians had been becoming increasingly nationalistic during the 19th century.   They were spread through much of the Empire, for they were a commercial and financial people.   In 1894 there began the series of massacres that continued on and off until the First World War, massacres that were encouraged by some government officials.   In 1915, with the threat of Russian invasion, the Ottoman authorities allowed the massacre and mass deportation of the Armenians in Turkish Armenia.

With the military collapse of Russia and the overthrow of the Tsarists regime in 1917 a Trans-Caucasian Republic was proclaimed, but it faced immense problems, including the revival of Ottoman power, for with Russian defeat the Turks retook the lands they had lost to the Russians and advanced into Transcaucasia.   The Transcaucasian Republic fell apart in May 1918 and in Russian Armenia a new Armenian Republic was proclaimed.   Turkish power was restrained by the advance of its enemies and eventually it was obliged to make an armistice and withdraw.   The British had already intervened in the region..   In 1920 the Ottoman government was obliged in the Treaty of Sèvres to acknowledge an extensive and independent Armenia.

Thus in 1920 there was the possibility of an united Armenia emerging from Russian civil war and Ottoman defeat, but in Russia the Bolsheviks won their war while in Turkey a new nationalist regime left the Ottoman government in Constantinople high and dry.   Neither of the new regimes wanted an independent Armenia and they cooperated diplomatically in 1920 and 1921 to thwart the Allies and the Armenians.   In 1920 Turkish troops began to recover territory in Armenia and in late 1920 the Armenian Republic collapsed as Soviet troops advanced from Azerbaijan.   In the following year the Soviet government ceded many of the 1878 gains back to the new Turkish government, as well as the Mount Ararat region.

By the time the peace settlement with Turkey was renegotiated at Lausanne in 1923 there was no question of anyone seeking to breathe life into an independent Armenia that had never actually existed.   Perhaps the massacres of the 1890s and the war years, and the consequent diaspora of the Armenian survivors, had done their work so well there was no real chance of it.

In the new Soviet Union that was created in 1922/3, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic formed part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, and when that disappeared in 1936, the Armenian SSR became a full member of the Soviet Union.


Coat_of_arms_of_Armenian_SSR.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The southeast of the old province of Erivan had been separated from Armenia during the days of Soviet-Turkish cooperation and had become part of the Azerbaijani SSR.   As the Soviet Union began to collapse in 1988 a bitter dispute came into the open between Azerbaijan and Armenia.   To the east of Armenia, but separated from it by a strip of land peopled by Moslems, was Nagorno Karabakh, a mountainous district whose population was mainly Armenian and which formed an autonomous region within the Azerbaijani SSR.   Armenian demands that it should be united with the Armenian SSR were not met and the dispute was still continuing as the Soviet Union fell apart.

Armenia then became an independent republic, but the war with Azerbaijan continued.  Armenia occupied Nagorno Karabakh and nearby Azeri districts in 1993.   A ceasefire was arranged in 1994 but the dispute is still unresolved.

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