Armenia

Country of Transcaucasia, lying just south of the great mountain range of the Caucasus and fronting the northwestern extremity of Asia. To the north and east Armenia is bounded by Georgia and Azerbaijan, while its neighbours to the southeast and west are, respectively, Iran and Turkey. Naxçıvan, an exclave of Azerbaijan, borders Armenia to the southwest. The capital is Yerevan (Erevan).

Modern Armenia comprises only a small portion of ancient Armenia, one of the world’s oldest centres of civilization. At its height, Armenia extended from the south-central Black Sea coast to the Caspian Sea and from the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Urmia in present-day Iran. Ancient Armenia was subjected to constant foreign incursions, finally losing its autonomy in the 14th century CE. The centuries-long rule of Ottoman and Persian conquerors imperiled the very existence of the Armenian people. Eastern Armenia was annexed by Russia during the 19th century, while western Armenia remained under Ottoman rule, and in 1894–96 and 1915 the Ottoman government perpetrated systematic massacres and forced deportations of Armenians.

The portion of Armenia lying within the former Russian Empire declared independence on May 28, 1918, but in 1920 it was invaded by forces from Turkey and Soviet Russia. The Soviet Republic of Armenia was established on November 29, 1920; in 1922 Armenia became part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic; and in 1936 this republic was dissolved and Armenia became a constituent (union) republic of the Soviet Union. Armenia declared sovereignty on August 23, 1990, and independence on September 23, 1991.

The status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of 1,700 square miles (4,400 square km) in southwestern Azerbaijan populated primarily by Armenians, was from 1988 the source of bitter conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. By the mid-1990s Karabakh Armenian forces occupied much of southwestern Azerbaijan, but the conflict had caused an economic crisis in Armenia.

Armenia is a mountainous country characterized by a great variety of scenery and geologic instability. The average altitude is 5,900 feet (1,800 metres) above sea level. There are no lowlands: half the territory lies at altitudes of 3,300 to 6,600 feet; only about one-tenth lies below the 3,300-foot mark.

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