Area 11,500 square mi (29,800 square km)
Population 2.984 million 2014
Highest Point 13,418 ft (4,090 m)
Lowest Point 1,312 ft (400 m)
GDP $10.88 billion 2014
Primary Natural Resources hydroelectric potential.
ARMENIA, LYING SOUTH of the towering CAUCASUS range and on the southwestern edge of Asia, is bounded to the north and east by the republics of GEORGIA and AZERBAIJAN, while landlocked to the southeast and west by IRAN and TURKEY.
There is a disputed exclave of Nagorno-Karabakh surrounded by Muslim Azerbaijan. Modern Armenia, a former republic of the Soviet Union, is a small portion of one of the world’s oldest centers of civilization, which in the 1st century B.C.E. extended from the BLACK and MEDITERRANEAN seas to the CASPIAN SEA and central Iran. Armenians comprise more than 90 percent of the populations, with the rest being Kurds, Azerbaijans, Russians, Ukrainians, and others. In 1995, Armenians established a republic, consisting of an elected president, an appointed prime minister and cabinet, a 131-member national assembly, and a judiciary branch.
Mountains and elevated volcanic plateaus dominate much of the country, with STEPPE or mountain grasslands in the lower elevations. The land is subject to tectonic activity. On December 7, 1988, a strong earthquake in the northwest destroyed towns and killed about 25,000 people. Only 17 percent of the land is arable and irrigation from its rivers and Lake Sevan is used to help with the aridity of the landscape. Its climate is classified as highland continental, with cold winters and hot dry summers, making autumn the most pleasant season. Rainfall is as much as 32 in (81 cm) on mountain slopes, but it decreases into the plains. Altitudinal zonation of climate determines the variety of crops grown on the Lower Caucasus Mountains.
Under the old Soviet central planning, Armenia developed an industrial focus on machine tools, textiles, and other products, but the machinery is now outdated and privatization is only recently improving industry. More than 15 soil types occur in the country but the hilly, rocky nature of the land along with its aridity inhibits a return to small-scale agriculture. Therefore, Armenia is forced to import foodstuffs. Lamb is the staple meat; fruits, beans, chickpeas, eggplant, yogurt, tabbouleh, and other Middle Eastern dishes make up the rest of the diet.
The Muslim economic blockade of Christian Armenia has cut off most of its oil importation, although the Armenian exclave of Nogorno-Karabakh has vast untapped oil reserves. Hydroelectric power is provided from its rivers and it has been forced to reopen its antiquated nuclear power plant at Metasamor.
Geopolitically, Armenia’s conflicted history sheds significant light on cultural development. Once this Indo-European people settled in the region at the beginning of the 6th century, their location on the SILK ROAD and a military corridor drew numerous conquerors and competitors for the land. Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Bzyantines, Mongols, Egyptian Mamluks, Ottoman Turks, and Russians all invaded the area. Armenia’s conversion to Christianity in 300 ultimately brought them into conflict with Muslim neighbors.
In the early 20th century, emerging Turkish nationalism led to the deportation or killing of 600,000 to 2,000,000 Armenians. Expanding Soviet communism created a small republic, but the Soviet Union’s collapse led to a struggle with Muslim Azerbaijan for control of Nagorno-Karabakh. Temporary success produced a crippling blockade by the surrounding Muslim powers. The new government is trying to lift the land out of its economic and political woes.