The University of Michigan-Dearborn

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Historical Overview:

The history of Armenia goes back 2,500 years, and includes a short lived empire under Tigran II the Great (95-55 BC), which was ended by a Roman invasion.

Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity as the state religion, in 301 A.D. It has remained Christian from that time in spite of numerous conquests and persecutions.

Armenia was divided between the Romans and the Iranians in 387 AD, but was revived as an independent state in 885 under the Bagratid dynasty. Armenia was conquered anew, this time by the Byzantine Empire ca. 1064.

As a part of the Byzantine conquest of the Armenian states, Armenian nobles lost their estates in Armenia and were resettled in Cilicia, in southern Asia Minor. Many Armenians, fleeing the Turkish Seljuk invasion of Anatolia after 1073, also fled to Cilicia. Thus a new Armenian state was established in Cilicia by the Rubenid dynasty which survived until 1375. The Armenians of Cilicia were close allies of the Crusaders who came to the Middle East to free the Holy Land.

Modern History:

Armenia was later conquered by the Ottoman Turks. When the Ottoman Empire declined it grew corrupt (and lost territory to many of its neighbors■including Russia, which conquered part of Armenia). In 1908, the Sultan was forced to yield authority (but not his throne) to a loose grouping of Turks called the "Young Turks." From 1908 to 1913, the Young Turks changed in personnel from liberals wanting a reformed multi-ethnic state to an clique wanting a state for Turks alone. The Young Turk Ottoman government carried out a great genocide against the Armenians (the largest minority in the Anatolia except for the Kurds, whom the Young Turks thought could be assimilated) in 1915/1916, which lasted up to 1923. (See FACT SHEET ON THE GENOCIDE)

The Russian part of Armenia was revived as an independent state on May 28, 1918. This state did not last long but became caught between a resurgent Nationalist Turkey and a Bolshevik Russia. Thus Armenia, pressed between Turkish and Bolshevik armies, had to sign away much of its land, and even its independence, and was taken over by the Bolsheviks.

In many ways, Soviet rule was like a deep-freeze. All intellectual and political currents that ran counter to Communism were persecuted and repressed; however, Soviet rule did save Armenia from the Nationalist Turkish armies moving east in 1920, looking to complete what their Ottoman predecessors had done in Ottoman Armenia in 1915-6.

This deep-freeze burst open several years ago after Gorbachev's accession to the leadership of the Soviet Communist Party. Armenians demonstrated over the issues of Soviet misrule in Armenia and of Azeri repression of the civil rights of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabagh. (See FACT SHEET on NAGORNO-KARABAGH)

Finally, the devastating earthquake of December 7, 1988, which killed over 25,000 and left 500,000 homeless, became the focus in the Armenian national revival. While the world■especially the United States■sent in aid following the earthquake, the Soviet government did relatively little.

Current Issues:

April 3, 1996