Armenian People Share Their Culture

| | Updated: April 22, 2022

Armenian People Offer Backstories of Their Home, Culture and Identity

Armenian people are proud of their culture, one of the world’s oldest. In 2018, its capital of Yerevan celebrated its founding 2800 years ago. The fortress of Erebuni is its predecessor site, and was founded about 30 years before Rome. Today, its ruins sit high above modern-day Yerevan, an evocative and peaceful place to contemplate the history and future of the country. After a long period of tumult, Armenia underwent a peaceful “Velvet Revolution” in 2018 that ousted a corrupt oligarchy.

In 2020 the country suffered both a devastating war and the loss of thousands from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, in the resilient Armenian spirit that has endured the ups and downs of history for over 3,000 years, the people of this small nation, and their much larger diaspora around the globe, are full of hope for the future. The Armenian government has started a program to repatriate Armenians from the diaspora in the hope of increasing the country's population from under three million to at least five million.

Through the eyes and voices of Armenian people, immerse yourself in the culture of this ancient nation and former Soviet republic, located in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe.

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A key feature of Armenian culture is its history as the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion, which it did in 301 A.D. Scattered across the country are dozens of ancient and magnificent churches and monasteries, each with extraordinarily colorful histories. For example, to single out just one, Geghard Monastery, founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator on the site of a spring inside a cave. With the arrival of Christianity in Armenia, and continuing up to the 17th century, kings, bishops and noblemen chose to be buried in tombs at the entrances of churches & monasteries so people would have to step on their graves to enter; these luminaries wanted to bear the weight of their people's worries.

The Armenian people are keenly aware of their history and it is a palpable presence in their everyday lives today. As a result of a series of invasions in ancient times and a holocaust by the Ottoman Turks between 1915 - 1917, millions of Armenians have lived in diaspora. This displacement is etched upon the identity of the people of Armenia.

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Music is also huge part of Armenian culture, with a wide range of folk songs and sacred pieces that transmit the spectrum of emotions and messages that range from tributes to traditional food dishes, pleas to the diaspora to return home, sweet lullabies, rousing dance tunes, ancient chants, and iconic epics. The duduk is the Armenian oboe and the country's national instrument, which was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008. Komitas, a priest who lived from 1869 - 1935, is considered the founder of Armenia's national school of music and one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology--in his lifetime, he collected and transcribed over 3,000 pieces of Armenian folk music. The Komitas Museum offers fascinating insights into his life, times, music and methodology for preserving Armenia's musical heritage.

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The Armenian people have a history of innovation, no doubt inspired by the amount of change and upheaval they have experienced as a people. The world's oldest winery was discovered in an Armenian cave, leading to claims to have invented this age-old beverage. More contemporary Armenian inventions include the MRI, color TV, ATM and plastic surgery! Today, the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies is a free-of-charge educational program that puts teens in charge of their own learning. Led by Marie Lou Papazion, the innovative enterprise was founded in 2011 and now has six locations in Armenia as well as in centers in Paris, Beirut, Moscow, Tirana, Berlin, and Kiev.

Armenia's endurance as a culture is testimony to the spirit of perseverance of its people, who have faced many oppressors over the centuries, the most horrific being the Genocide by the Turks from 1915 - 1923. As a result, since antiquity, Armenians have left their Motherland to create communities around the world. Today there are seven million Armenians in diaspora, and three million living in their native land. The majority of visitors to Armenia today are members of the diaspora--but expect that to change, as non-Armenians wake up to all the country has to offer visitors.

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