Facts about country
Armenia (Armenian: Hayastan), officially the Republic of Armenia (Armenian: Hayastani Hanrapetut’yun), is a landlocked, mountainous country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the south.
On a map of the world today, the country of Armenia looks very small. It is about the size of Belgium, or the North American state of Maryland.
Comparisons can be deceptive, however. This tiny nation in the Caucasus Mountains looms very large in the hearts of Armenians, both the three million living within the country and the eight million who are part of the world's Armenian Diaspora. For the Armenian people, who have existed for five thousand years, sometimes without a country to call their own, the modern borders are simply artificial lines drawn by larger foreign powers in the early twentieth century. Geography is much less important than what it means to be Armenian—to have created a proud culture, to have passed it down to one's children, and, most importantly, to have survived in tragic circumstances against almost unbelievable odds.
For the traveler to Armenia, some knowledge about the history and culture of the country is essential to appreciating its people. Culture Smart! Armenia provides a concise historical survey from ancient to modern times. More importantly, however, it addresses the way in which thousands of years of struggle have created a cultural memory that continues to define the Armenian people today.
Today's Armenia, like that of the past, is a place of challenge and triumph. Still emerging from economic hardship, it faces unemployment, environmental concerns, political unrest, closed borders, corruption, a wavering economy, and widespread emigration. Yet there are signs of change and a new era—construction, revival of the arts, and easing of tensions with the Turkish neighbors. You can also see the "new Armenia" by observing everyday life, from the lavish weddings and other celebrations that take place almost daily, to the attitude of its young people, who are determined to work hard, have fun, and contribute to their country.
Armenia is a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation-state with an ancient cultural heritage. The Kingdom of Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its religion, in the early years of the 4th century (the traditional date is 301 AD). The modern Republic of Armenia recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church, the world's oldest national church, as the country's primary religious establishment. Armenians have their own unique alphabet invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD.
A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is an emerging democracy and as of 2011 was negotiating with the European Union to become an associate member. It has the right to be an EU member provided it meets necessary standards and criteria. The Government of Armenia holds European integration as a key priority in its foreign policy.
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