ARMENIA (old Persian Armina, Armenian Hayasdan, or Hayq), the popular modern name of a district south of the Caucasus and Black Sea, which formed part of the ancient Armenian kingdom. The name, which first occurs in the cuneiform inscriptions of Darius Hystaspis, supplanted the earlier Urardhu, or Ararat, but its origin is unknown. In its widest extent Armenia stretched from 37° to 49° E. long., and from 37½° to 41½° N. lat.; but this area was never, or only for a brief period, united under one king. Armenia is now divided between Persia, Russia and Turkey, and the three boundaries have a common point on Little Ararat.
Geographically, Armenia is a continuation westward of the great Iranian plateau. On the north it descends abruptly to the Black Sea; on the south it breaks down in rugged terraces to the lowlands of Mesopotamia; and on the east and west it sinks more gradually to the lower plateaus of Persia and Asia Minor. Above the general level of the plateau, 6000 ft., rise bare ranges of mountains, which run from north-east to south-west at an altitude of 8000-12,000 ft., and culminate in Ararat, 17,000 ft. Between the ranges are broad elevated valleys, through which the rivers of the plateau flow before entering the rugged gorges that convey their waters to lower levels. Geologically, Armenia consists of archaic rocks upon which, towards the north, are superimposed Palaeozoic, and towards the south later sedimentary rocks. The last have been pierced by volcanic outbursts that extend southward to Lake Van. Amongst the higher mountains are the two Ararats; Ala-geuz Dagh, north of the Aras; Bingeul Dagh, south of Erzerum; and the peaks near Lake Van. The rivers are the Euphrates, Tigris, Aras, Churuk Su (Chorokh) and Kelkit Irmak, all rising on the plateau. The more important lakes are Van, 5100 ft., about twice the size of the Lake of Geneva, and Urmia, 4000 ft., both salt; Gokcha or Sevan, 5870 ft., discharging into the Aras; and Chaldir, into the Kars Chai. The aspect of the plateau is dreary and monotonous. The valleys are wide expanses of arable land, and the hills are for the most part grass-covered and treeless. But the gorges of the Euphrates and Tigris, and their tributaries, cannot be surpassed in wildness and grandeur. The climate is varied. In the higher districts the winter is long and the cold severe; whilst the summer is short, dry and hot. In Erzerum the temperature ranges from −22° to 84° F., and snow sometimes falls in June. In the valley of the Aras, and in the western and southern districts, the climate is more moderate. Most of the towns lie high, from 4000 to 6000 ft. The villages are usually built on gentle slopes, in which the houses are partially excavated as a protection against the severity of the weather. Many of the early towns were on or near the Araxes, and amongst their ruins are the remains of churches which throw light on the history of Christian architecture in the East. Armenia is rich in mineral wealth, and there are many hot and cold mineral springs. The vegetation varies according to the locality. Cereals and hardy fruits grow on the higher ground, whilst rice is cultivated in the hot, well-watered valley of the Araxes. The summer is so hot that the vine grows at much higher altitudes than it does in western Europe, and the cotton tree and all southern fruit trees are cultivated in the deeper valleys. On the fine pasture lands which now support the flocks of the Kurds, the horses and mules, so celebrated in ancient times, were reared. Trout are found in the rivers, and a small herring in Lake Van. The country abounds in romantic scenery; that of the district of Ararat especially has been celebrated by patriotic historians like Moses of Chorene and Lazarus of Pharb.
Population.—Accurate statistics cannot be obtained; but it is estimated that in the nine vilayets, which include Turkish Armenia, there are 925,000 Gregorian, Roman Catholic and Protestant Armenians, 645,000 other Christians, 100,000 Jews, Gypsies, &c., and 4,460,000 Moslems. The Armenians, taking the most favourable estimate, are in a majority in nine kazas or sub-districts only (seven near Van, and two near Mush) out of 159. In Russian Armenia there are 960,000 Armenians, and in Persian Armenia 130,000. According to an estimate made by General Zelenyi for the Caucasus Geographical Society (Zapiski, vol. xviii., Tiflis, 1896, with map), the population of the nine Turkish vilayets, Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, Kharput (Mamuret-el-Aziz). Diarbekr, Sivas, Aleppo, Adana and Trebizond, was 6,000,000 (Armenians, 913,875, or 15%; other Christians, 632,875, or 11%; and Moslems, 4,453,250, or 74%). In the first five vilayets which contain most of the Armenians, the population was 2,642,000 (Armenians, 633,250, or 24%; other Christians, 179,875, or 7%; and Moslems, 1,828,875, or 69%); and in the seven Armenian kazas the population was 282,375 (Armenians, 184,875, or 65%; other Christians, 1000, or 0.3%; and Moslems, 96,500, or 34.7%). In 1897 there were 970,656 Armenians in Russia, of whom 827,634 were in the provinces of Erivan, Elisavetpol and Tiflis.
The total number of Armenians is estimated at 2,900,000 (in Turkey, 1,500,000; Russia, 1,000,000; Persia, 150,000; Europe, America and East Indies, 250,000).
History.—The history of Armenia has been largely influenced by its physical features. The isolation of the valleys, especially in winter, encouraged a tendency to separation, which invariably showed itself when the central power was weak. The rugged mountains have always been the home of hardy mountaineers impatient of control, and the sanctuary to which the lowlanders fled for safety in times of invasion. The country stands as an open doorway between the East and the West. Through its long valleys run the roads that connect the Iranian plateau with the fertile lands and protected harbours of Asia Minor, and for its possession nations have contended from the remotest past.
The original inhabitants of Armenia are unknown, but, about the middle of the 9th century B.C., the mass of the people belonged to that great family of tribes which seems to have been spread over western Asia and to have had a common Ethnology. non-Aryan language. Mixed with these proto-Armenians, there was an important Semitic element of Assyrian and Hebrew origin. In the 7th century B.C., between 640 and 600, the country was conquered by an Aryan people, who imposed their language, and possibly their name, upon the vanquished, and formed a military aristocracy that was constantly recruited from Persia and Parthia. Politically the two races soon amalgamated, but, except in the towns, there was apparently little intermarriage, for the peasants in certain districts closely resemble the proto-Armenians, as depicted on their monuments. After the Arab and Seljuk invasions, there was a large emigration of Aryan and Semitic Armenians to Constantinople and Cilicia; and all that remained of the aristocracy was swept away by the Mongols and Tatars. This perhaps explains the diversity of type and characteristics amongst the modern Armenians. In the recesses of Mount Taurus the peasants are tall, handsome, though somewhat sharp-featured, agile and brave. In Armenia and Asia Minor they are robust, thick-set and coarse-featured, with straight black hair and large hooked noses. They are good cultivators of the soil, but are poor, superstitious, ignorant and unambitious, and they live in semi-subterranean houses as their ancestors did 800 years B.C. The townsmen, especially in the large towns, have more regular features—often of the Persian type. They are skilled artisans, bankers and merchants, and are remarkable for their industry, their quick intelligence, their aptitude for business, and for that enterprising spirit which led their ancestors, in Roman times, to trade with Scythia, China and India. The upper classes are polished and well educated, and many have occupied high positions in the public service in Turkey, Russia, Persia and Egypt. The Armenians are essentially an Oriental people, possessing, like the Jews, whom they resemble in their exclusiveness and widespread dispersion, a remarkable tenacity of race and faculty of adaptation to circumstances. They are frugal, sober, industrious and intelligent, and their sturdiness of character has enabled them to preserve their nationality and religion under the sorest trials. They are strongly attached to old manners and customs, but have also a real desire for progress which is full of promise. On the other hand they are greedy of gain, quarrelsome in small matters, self-seeking and wanting in stability; and they are gifted with a tendency to exaggeration and a love of intrigue which has had an unfortunate influence on their history. They are deeply separated by religious differences, and their mutual jealousies, their inordinate vanity