According to the Bible, Noah’s Ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat, and the humankind received a second chance to live. Here, at the foot of the great mountain, he planted the first vine, and after tasting some grape juice – not known as wine yet – got drunk. A splinter from Noah’s Ark is kept in the museum of Etchmiadzin Cathedral.
One of the most powerful states of the ancient world, the Kingdom of Ararat (Urartu), was located in this area. In the 4th century BC, it ceased to exist. Unique findings of that time, unearthed in the excavations of Arin-Berd (Fortress of Blood) and Karmir Blour (Red Hill) hills, can be seen in the History Museum of Armenia and the Erebuni Museum.
The economic growth of the country was largely facilitated by the fact that once most vibrant trading artery, the Great Silk Road, passed through its territory. The “opening” of the road in the 2nd-1st centiries BC coincided with the time when the country was under the reign of the greatest Armenian King, Tigran the Great, reaching its widest prosperity and extension from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The Armenian stretch of the Silk Road with once vivid cities and crowded caravansaries starts from the capital of the Great King’s empire, Tigranakert, recently excavated on the territory of Artsakh.
Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301, thus marking the beginning of the Christian era in the history of mankind and development of a new cross-in-square or cross-dome architectural culture. The pagan heritage vanished almost completely. The only temple that survived was the first-century Temple of Garni.
To a number of geopolitical, cultural and other reasons,owing to which Armenia had always been in the center of interest for its neighbors-invaders, added was another one – religious. As the country had become a life-long stronghold and forefront for the Christian world in the East, it had also become a target for the infidel invaders. Due to numerous devastating attacks, Armenia lost its statehood for a long time. The Anti-Armenian sentiment was crowned by the Armenian Genocide carried out in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, in which more than 1,5 million civilians were savagely murdered. Today a memorial monument stands in Yerevan symbolizing eternal grief over the loss of innocent lives as well as victory over it.
Despite all the historical cataclysms, Armenian people have never lost their ability to create. They created and, with incredible consistency, restored amazing in their spirituality monasteries; they carved lace-like cress-stones; they composed and sung sacred songs called “sharakans” in churches; they opened universities and developed science; and, above their own lives, they cared for their books, decorated in miniature-paintings by renowned artists, telling all about them. Today these manuscripts are collected in Yerevan, in one of the world’s largest repositories of ancient manuscripts – the Matenadaran.
The First Independent Republic of Armenia was established in 1918, which existed for two years only, considering the ongoing circumstances of global re-making of the world. In 1920, Armenia was proclaimed a Soviet republic. A new era for the country was marked by giving a birth to the pink city of Yerevan led by a great architect Alexander Tamanyan. A disproportionately large square named after Lenin emerged in the center of a small garden-city with a two-headed Mount Ararat hovering above it. Tamanyan himself explained this violation of norms by the fact that the square wasn’t meant for a small city but for a nation with a diaspora of million people who found their homeland across the globe. Today it is known as the Republic Square, and even the huge monument to the great leader has long been gone. While the famous Singing Fountains are still a favoriteplace to walk around.
In 1990, Armenia declared its independence. It was a dream come true, which gave wings to the people and helped them to withstand the hardest times during the war in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and the blockade. While Armenians from the Diaspora could finally feel they were part of their historical motherland. This momentum is best materialized in the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Gerard Cafesjian’s sculpture garden and museum, spread in the center of Yerevan. The collection he presented to Yerevan has become the richest and most valuable collection of modern and contemporary art in the region.
With Arites, your visit to Armenia won’t be just another trip but an interesting tour back to the roots of human civilization and forth to a modern country with incredibly talented people, who have managed to preserve their inexhaustible ability to create.