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The Republic of Armenia is in the South Caucasus region of what is known as Eurasia, in West Asia, where Europe meets Asia. It is bounded by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Turkey. It is also bordered, to the southwest, by Nakhchivan, an enclave of Azerbaijan.

Armenia is an ancient land. According to Bible tradition, Armenians are the descendants of Hayk, the great-great-grandson of Noah, and the original name for the country was Hayk, which became Hayastan in the Middle Ages. Because Armenia was involved in frequent wars with Persia and various Mediterranean powers, there was a mingling of cultures, as Greek and Roman influences mixed with Persian angel worship and Zoroastrianism.

Christian missionaries came to Armenia as early as 40 AD, the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus among them. Christianity became the state religion in 301 AD and was the first to do so. The Arabs arrived in 645, bringing pressure to convert to Islam. When the Arminians resisted, they were taxed heavily. Many left for Roman controlled regions, contributing to what would become a large Arminian diaspora. By the 1600s, there were Armenians spread across the Ottoman Empire, Persia, India, and Poland. The Armenians had rarely known a unified empire, existing in mountain provinces.

Today, Armenia remains Christian, with nearly 95% of its population belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a communion of Orthodox churches within Oriental Orthodoxy, that has its roots in the 1st Century. The seat of the Armenian Church moved with its population, and currently has two Holy Sees, one in Armenia and another in Lebanon.

Russia's victory over the Persian Empire in 1828 brought the region of what is now Armenia back under Christian rule, encouraging Armenians in the diaspora to return. Although the Russian tsars tried to break the Armenian Church's independence from government, conditions were still better in Armenia than in Turkey, which was still part of the Ottoman Empire, where a lot of Armenians were living. When Armenians in Turkey pushed for more rights, up to 300,000 of them were massacred in 1896.

During World War I, several Ottoman Armenians took sides with Russia, hoping to be able to establish an independent nation. In response, the ruling party in Turkey, known as the Young Turks, ordered the forfeiture of property and immediate expulsion of Arminians living in Turkey. Although Turkish officials have repeatedly argued that genocide is an inappropriate word to use, what followed is known as the Armenian Holocaust. Between 1915 and 1917, approximately 1.5 million Armenians were murdered in Ottoman Turkey, or forced into the desert where they subsequently died.

Armenia first became an independent republic in 1918, when the 1917 Russian Revolution prompted Russian troops to lead the parts of Armenia that it had controlled. The new republic was immediately faced with starving refugees, an influenza epidemic, and wars with Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Armenia fought off the Turks in 1918, who later regrouped and overran part of the South Caucasus. Seeking help from the United States, President Wilson's government helped that draw a boundary map but did not offer any troops or international support.

Meanwhile, the Turks allied themselves with the Bolsheviks in Russia, and Armenia was forced to surrender to the new Soviet government so as to salvage the last provinces of ancient Armenia. The Soviets gave Karabakh and Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan, then absorbed it and Armenia into the Soviet Union. Armenia became a manufacturing and technology center for the USSR.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenians voted for independence, and was immediately faced with a war with Azerbaijan over disputed territories. Russia helped to broker a peace agreement between the two countries in 1994, which gave a portion of the disputed territories back to Armenia, while other territories remain in dispute.

Currently, Armenia maintains diplomatic relations with nearly every country in the world, with the exception of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Its borders with these two countries are closed, although its government is in talks with Turkey over normalization of relations. Its closest relations are with Russia.

Ethnic Armenians make up about 98% of the population. During the Soviet era, Armenia had a large population of Azerbaijanis, and there were also a significant number of ethnic Armenians living in Azerbaijan but, during its boundary wars and subsequent disputes, nearly all of these populations have returned to their own countries.

Armenian is the only official language, as well as the language spoken by nearly everyone in the country. Given its long relationship with Russia, most Armenians can speak Russian, and about 40% can speak English. Since the 1960s, Armenia has reported a literacy rate of 100%.



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