Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia as well as one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. It is situated on the Hrazdan River, 14 miles from the Turkish frontier. Though first historically recorded in 607 ce, Yerevan dates by archaeological evidence to a settlement on the site in the 6th–3rd millennia bce and subsequently to the fortress of Yerbuni in 783 bce. From the 6th century bce it formed part of the Armenian kingdom. Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country. It has been the capital since 1918, the fourteenth in the history of Armenia and the seventh located in or around the Ararat plain. The city also serves as the seat of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese; the largest diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church and one of the oldest dioceses in the world.The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by king Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Erebuni was «designed as a great administrative and religious centre, a fully royal capital.» By the late ancient Armenian Kingdom, new capital cities were established and Yerevan declined in importance. Under Iranian and Russian rule, it was the center of the Erivan Khanate from 1736 to 1828 and the Erivan Governorate from 1850 to 1917, respectively. After World War I, Yerevan became the capital of the First Republic of Armenia as thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire arrived in the area.
The city expanded rapidly during the 20th century as Armenia became part of the Soviet Union. In a few decades, Yerevan was transformed from a provincial town within the Russian Empire to Armenia's principal cultural, artistic, and industrial center, as well as becoming the seat of national government. With the growth of the Armenian economy, Yerevan has undergone major transformation. Much construction has been done throughout the city since the early 2000s, and retail outlets such as restaurants, shops, and street cafés, which were rare during Soviet times, have multiplied. As of 2011, the population of Yerevan was 1,060,138, just over 35% of the Republic of Armenia's total population. According to the official estimate of 2016, the current population of the city is 1,073,700.
Yerevan was named the 2012 World Book Capital by UNESCO. Yerevan is an associate member of Eurocities.Of the notable landmarks of Yerevan, Erebuni Fortress is considered to be the birthplace of the city, the Katoghike Tsiranavor church is the oldest surviving church of Yerevan and Saint Gregory Cathedral is the largest Armenian cathedral in the world, Tsitsernakaberd is the official memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and several opera houses, theatres, museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions. Yerevan Opera Theatre is the main spectacle hall of the Armenian capital, the National Gallery of Armenia is the largest art museum in Armenia and shares a building with the History Museum of Armenia, and the Matenadaran repository contains one of the largest depositories of ancient books and manuscripts in the world.
Data and Facts
- The total land area of Yerevan is 86 square miles (223 square kilometres)
- Yerevan’s population was 1,075,000 in 2016 which gives it a population density of around 12,400 residents per square mile
- It is located 3,246 ft above sea level
- It enjoys a semi-arid climate with long, hot summers, followed by short and cold winters, a high temperature range and an average annual temperature of 12.4°C
- Yerevan is known as the ‘pink city’. This is due to the wonderful natural colour of the historic buildings which were made from naturally coloured volcanic rock
- Armenia welcomed 1,204,000 tourists into the country in 2014, many of whom visited Yerevan for its wonderful mix of tradition and modern prosperity which is evident in every area of life
Yerevan has been the capital of Armenia since the independence of the First Republic in 1918. Situated in the Ararat plain, the historic lands of Armenia, it served as the best logical choice for capital of the young republic at the time. When Armenia became a republic of the Soviet Union, Yerevan remained as capital and accommodated all the political and diplomatic institutions in the republic. In 1991 with the independence of Armenia, Yerevan continued with its status as the political and cultural centre of the country, being home to all the national institutions: the Government House, the National Assembly, the Presidential Palace, the Central Bank, the Constitutional Court, all ministries, judicial bodies and other government organizations.
The first city council formed was headed by Hovhannes Ghorghanyan, who became the first mayor of Yerevan. The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia adopted on 5 July 1995, granted Yerevan the status of a marz .
Therefore, Yerevan functions similarly to the provinces of Armenia with a few specifications.
The mayor, appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister, alongside a group of four deputy mayors heading eleven ministries , the Yerevan City Council, regrouping the Heads of community districts under the authority of the mayor, twelve “community districts”, with each having its own leader and their elected councils.Yerevan has a principal city hall and twelve deputy mayors of districts.
The first election of the Yerevan City Council took place in 2009 and won by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia.In addition to the national police and road police, Yerevan has its own municipal police. All three bodies cooperate to maintain law in the city. Yerevan is divided into twelve «administrative districts» each with an elected leader.
As of 2013, the share of Yerevan in the annual total industrial product of Armenia is 41%.The industry of Yerevan is quite diversified including chemicals, primary metals and steel products, machinery, rubber products, plastics, rugs and carpets, textiles, clothing and footwear, jewellery, wood products and furniture, building materials and stone-processing, alcoholic beverages, mineral water, dairy product and processed food. Even though the economic crisis of the '90s ravaged the industry of the country, several factories remain always in service, notably in the petrochemical and the aluminium sectors. Armenian beverages, especially Armenian cognac and beer, have a worldwide fame. Hence, Yerevan is home to many leading enterprises of Armenia and the Caucasus for the production of alcoholic beverages, such as the Yerevan Ararat Brandy Factory, Yerevan Brandy Company, Yerevan Champagne Wines Factory, «Beer of Yerevan» brewery, Armco Brandy Factory, Proshyan Brandy Factory and Astafian Wine-Brandy Factory. The 2 tobacco producers in Yerevan are the «Cigaronne» and «Grand Tabak» companies.Carpet industry in Armenia has a deeply rooted history with ancient traditions, therefore, carpet production is rather developed in Yerevan with three major factories that also produce hand-made rugs.The «Megerian Carpet» factory is the leading in this sector.
Other major plants in the city include the «Nairit» chemical and rubber plant, Rusal Armenal aluminum foil mill, «Grand Candy» Armenian-Canadian confectionery manufacturers, «Arcolad» chocolate factory, «Marianna» factory for dairy products, «Talgrig Group» for wheat and flour products, «Shant» ice cream factory, «Crown Chemicals» for paints, «ATMC» travertine mining company, Yerevan Watch Factory «AWI watches», Yerevan Jewellry Plant, and the mineral water factories of «Arzni», «Sil», and «Dilijan Frolova». As an attractive outsourcing location for Western European, Russian and American multinationals, Yerevan headquarters many international companies. It is Armenia's financial hub, being home to the Central Bank of Armenia, the Armenian Stock Exchange , as well as the majority of the country's largest commercial banks.
As of 2013, the city dominates over 85% of the annual total services in Armenia, as well as over 84% of the annual total retail trade. Many subsidiaries of Russian service companies and banks operate in Yerevan, including Gazprom, Ingo Armenia, Rosgosstrakh and VTB Bank. The ACBA-Credit Agricole is a subsidiary of the French Crédit Agricole, while the HSBC Bank Armenia is also operating in Yerevan.
The construction sector has experienced a significant growth during the 1st decade of the 21st century. Many major construction projects has been conducted in Yerevan, such as the Northern Avenue and the rehabilitation of Old Yerevan on Aram Street. The Northern Avenue is completed and was opened in 2007, while the Old Yerevan project is still under development. In the past few years, the city centre has also witnessed major road reconstruction, as well as the renovation of the Republic square, funded by the American-Armenian billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. On the other hand, the Argentina-based Armenian businessman Eduardo Eurnekian took over the airport, while the cascade development project was funded by the US based Armenian millionaire Gerard L. Cafesjian.
However, the sector has significantly dropped by the end of the 1st decade of the 21st century, as a result of the global real estate crisis in 2007–09. In 2013, Yerevan dominated over 58% of the annual total construction sector of Armenia.
In February 2017, the urban development committee of the government revealed its plans for the upcoming major construction projects in the city.
Situated at the very edge of Europe, the city’s local flavour has been shaped by its traditional role as a cultural crossroads. The list of competing regional empires which have continuously fought over this historic city include the Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Persians, Mongols, Ottomans, Russians and most recently, the Soviets.While the collapse of the Soviet Union spelt economic uncertainty for Armenia, it also played a hand in reshaping the capital city as a modern startup hub. Ties between the ex-soviet «Silicon Valley», and its Californian namesake were firmly established as ethnic-Armenian executives in Palo Alto helped establish R&D centres for firms such as Oracle, Microsoft, Synopsis, National Instruments, Synergy Systems, Mentor Graphics, Cisco, and more in Yerevan, making good use of the country’s software talent.Currently, this tiny European capital of about a million inhabitants, nestled in the Caucasus Mountains, is witnessing the progression of a very unique and vibrant startup scene, invigorated by extremely low living costs, ease of starting a business, access to resources, and proactive government policies designed to embrace this new movement. Parliament recently passed a tax exemption bill for Armenian newly established technology startups. The cityscape, which has been marked by successive changes in urban planning philosophies is characterised by 19th-century neoclassical structures interspersed between large, modern tree-lined boulevards, while the distant suburbs feature the famously bland Brezhnev-era residential blocks typical of the Comintern.
Though Armenia is quickly building a reputation for itself as an easy place to start a business, thanks in part to the lobbying work done by the Union of Information Technology Enterprises independent resources are also available to make the process as easy as possible. Entrepreneurs can always use the considerable resources of the Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development National centre at their disposal.
Armenia facilitates the process of doing business through improved e-government programmes. Additional legal help with starting or running a business in Armenia can be provided by the partners at the LegalLab Law Boutique, or the Margarian Law firm. Locals are very proud of the Made in Armenia brand. As such, startups and tech companies with over 50% of their code written in Armenia can be found listed on madeinarmenia.org. The Armenian startup community is globally connected and can count on a number of tech heavyweights the likes of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian to offer mentorship and advice for newly established startups. Yerevan is witnessing an exciting explosion in entrepreneurial activity, with a vibrant startup scene, a lot to do, and many challenges.
Yerevan is served by the Zvartnots International Airport, located 12 kilometres west of the city center. It is the primary airport of the country. Inaugurated in 1961 during the Soviet era, Zvartnots airport was renovated for the first time in 1985 and a second time in 2002 in order to adapt to international norms. It went through a facelift starting in 2004 with the construction of a new terminal. The first phase of the construction ended in September 2006 with the opening of the arrivals zone. A second section designated for departures was inaugurated in May 2007. The departure terminal is anticipated, October 2011 housing state of the art facilities and technology. This will make Yerevan Zvartnots International Airport, the largest, busiest and most modern airport in the entire Caucasus. Currently there are no national airlines operating in Armenia. The entire project costs more than US$100 million.
A second airport, Erebuni Airport, is located just south of the city. Since the independence, «Erebuni» is mainly used for military or private flights. The Armenian Air Force has equally installed its base there and there are several MiG-29s stationed on Erebuni's tarmac. Public transport in Yerevan is heavily privatized and mostly handled by around 60 private operators. But the 50.4% of public transit is still served by «public vans», locally known as marshrutka. These are about 1210 Russian-made GAZelle vans with 13 seats, that operate same way as buses, having 79 different lines with certain routes and same stops. According to Yerevan Municipality office, in future, marshrutkas should be replaced by ordinary larger buses. Despite having about 13 seats, the limit of passengers is not controlled, so usually these vans carry many more people who stand inside.
The Yerevan trolleybus system has been operating since 1949. Some old Soviet-era trolleybuses have been replaced with comparably new ones. As of May 2017, only 5 trolleybus lines are in operation , with around 45 units in service. The trolleybus system is owned and operated by the municipality.
The tram network that operated in Yerevan since 1906 was decommissioned in January 2004. Its operation had a cost 2.4 times higher than the generated profits, which pushed the municipality to shut down the network, despite a last-ditch effort to save it towards the end of 2003. Since the closure, the rails have been dismantled and sold.
Due to being dispersed among dozens of private operators, the transportation is barely regulated, with only trip fee is being a subject of regulation. Thus, the quality of vehicles is often inadequate, with no certain regulations for safety. Unlike the majority of world capitals, there is no established ticketing system in Yerevan's public transportation. The central station in Nor Kilikia neighborhood serves as bus terminal for inter-city transport, serving outbound routes towards practically all the cities of Armenia as well as abroad, notably Tbilisi and Tabriz.
The Yerevan Metro named after Karen Demirchyan, is a rapid transit system that serves the capital city since 1981. It has a single line of 12.1 km length with 10 active stations and 45 units in service. The interiors of the stations resemble that of the former western Soviet nations, with chandeliers hanging from the corridors. The metro stations had most of their names changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Republic of Armenia. A northeastern extension of the line with two new stations is currently being developed. The construction of the first station and of the one-kilometre tunnel linking it to the rest of the network will cost US$18 million. The time of the end of the project has not yet been defined. Another long-term project is the construction of two new lines, but these have been suspended due to lack of finance. The system transports more than 60,000 people on a daily basis.
Yerevan has a single central railway station that is connected to the metro via the Sasuntsi Davit station. The railway station is made in Soviet-style architecture with its long point on the building roof, representing the symbols of communism: red star, hammer and sickle. Due to the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades of Armenia, there is only one international train that passes by once every two days, with neighboring Georgia being its destination. For example, for a sum of 9 000 to 18 000 dram, it is possible to take the night train to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
This train then continues to its destination of Batumi, on the shores of the Black sea in the summer season. The only railway that goes to Iran to the south passes by the closed border of Nakhichevan.
Under the Soviet rule, Yerevan has turned into a major centre for science and research. The Armenian National Academy of Sciences is the pioneer of scientific research in Armenia. It was founded in 1943 as the Armenian Branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences to become the primary body that conducts research and coordinates activities in the fields of science in Armenia. It has many divisions, including Mathematical and Technical Sciences, Physics and Astrophysics, Natural Sciences, Chemistry and Earth Sciences, Armenology and Social Sciences.After the independence, many new research centres were opened in the city, such as the CANDLE Synchrotron Research Institute , Tumo Center for Creative Technologies , and Nerses Mets Medical Research and Education Center .
The location of the city on the shores of Hrazdan river has enabled the production of hydroelectricity. As part of the Sevan–Hrazdan Cascade, three hydroelectric power plants are established within the administrative territory of Yerevan: Kanaker HPP, Yerevan-1 HPP, and Yerevan-3 HPP. The entire plant was privatized in 2003, and is currently owned by RusHydro.The city is also home to the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant, a unique facility in the region for its quality and high technology, situated in the southern part of the city. Originally opened in 1961, a modern plant was built in 2007, furnished with a new gas-steam combined cycled turbine, to generate electric power. In March 2017, the construction of a new thermal power plant was launched with an initial investment of US$258 million and an envisaged capacity of 250 megawatts. The power station will be in service in 2019.
Armenia was once the center of IT innovation for the USSR. A turbulent history has stifled the economy, but things are starting to look up for the Caucasus republic. Armenia’s tech scene is at a real turning point. The Silicon Valley of the former Soviet Union has morphed into a thriving tech startup hub, attracting global recognition.In the days of the Soviet Union, Armenia designed and manufactured 40 percent of the mainframe computers for the military. The Yerevan Computer Research Institute, a secret building in the capital city, employed 5,000 highly skilled workers, but later fell to ruin. This is just a small portion of the «several hundred thousand specialists» that worked behind the scenes at the heart of IT innovation, according to the Union of Information Technology Enterprises in Yerevan.This history, combined with Soviet academia’s celebration for the sciences and great Armenian determination, have provided the foundation to kick-start a resurgence of tech innovation. As tech revenues continue to rise, the largest foreign investment, according to the Armenian government, is going into «telecommunications, mining, energy, air transportation and financial sectors».
Online gaming and sports betting software company BetConstruct, an investor in my company UCRAFT, launched in Yerevan in 2003 and today has offices worldwide. Many of the largest IT companies operating in Armenia, such as Microsoft, Google and Oracle, are internationally headquartered with development teams based in the country. The government encourages expansion from these corporates with the implementation of its «open door» policy, designed to encourage foreign business owners and investment, with legal regimes that protect foreign capital.
In 2012, Intel announced the launch of a new research center during the ArmTech Congress. US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern reported the potential for IT growth, «The creative mind is the key to the future of Armenia. The U.S. Department of Commerce has issued a report based on UNESCO data, according to which Armenia is the first among CIS member states with the number of inventions per capita,» he said.Synopsys, the largest global company in electronic design automation , with an annual revenue of over $2 billion USD, launched offices in Armenia in 2004. Today it is one of the largest IT companies in the country, with over 650 employees. It is also heavily involved in schemes to support rising talent. Synopsys collaborates with Armenia’s Polytechnic University to provide educational programs for students, and also hiring a large number of graduates.Recent legislation has made founding, operating and growing a tech startup in Armenia much simpler. Triada Studios launched in 1993 as a computer graphics and animation studio. Cofounder and CEO Ara Aghamyan described the «huge intellectual potential» in Armenia.In April, photo-editing app PicsArt raised an additional $20M in VC, bringing its total funding to $45M and enabling the Armenia-born startup to grow its presence in China and Japan. In 2015, PicsArt’s CEO Hovhannes Avoyan relocated to join the company’s Chief Revenue Officer in San Francisco, helping to further solidify PicsArt’s recognition in the U.S. tech scene. PicsArt was later that year included on Forbes’s list of «Hottest Startups of 2015».Influencers in the tech world are making efforts to strengthen ties between Armenia and the US. In March Triada Studios’ Ara Aghamyan wrote to President Obama explaining the tech community’s role in developing US-Armenian commerce. He drew attention to the issue of double taxation that deters foreign investment and restricts growth for businesses that are based in Armenia.
Armenia’s enormous diaspora means that there are actually more Armenians living outside of the country: There are between seven to 10 million Armenians concentrated in Russia, the US and France, in contrast to just three million within the country. Second generations Armenians today also add to this global network actively working to support Armenia’s future growth. Cofounder of Inet Technologies, Sam Simonian and his wife Sylva founded TUMO Center for Creative Technologies; a free digital learning center in Yerevan, that provides classes for around 5,000 12 to 18 year olds working with new technologies. Armenia boasts a number of innovative centers such as TUMO, launched as a result of international advocates, and big partnerships.
In 2011, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Innovation Center Armenia in partnership with the US Agency for International Development and Enterprise Incubator Foundation . The center aims to enable IT growth by supporting students and startups.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
Originally a small town, Yerevan became the capital of Armenia and a large city with over one million inhabitants. Until the fall of the Soviet Union, the majority of the population of Yerevan were Armenians with minorities of Russians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis and Iranians present as well. However, with the breakout of the Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988 to 1994, the Azerbaijani minority diminished in the country in what was part of population exchanges between Armenia and Azerbaijan. A big part of the Russian minority also fled the country during the 1990s economic crisis in the country. Today, the population of Yerevan is overwhelmingly Armenian.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, due to economic crises, thousands fled Armenia, mostly to Russia, North America and Europe. The population of Yerevan fell from 1,250,000 in 1989 to 1,103,488 in 2001 and to 1,091,235 in 2003. However, the population of Yerevan has been increasing since. In 2007, the capital had 1,107,800 inhabitants. Yerevantsis in general use the Yerevan dialect, an Eastern Armenian dialect most probably formed during the 13th century. It is currently spoken in and around Yerevan, including the towns of Vagharshapat and Ashtarak. Classical Armenian words compose a significant part of the dialect's vocabulary.
Throughout the history, it was influenced by several languages, especially Russian and Persian and loan words have significant presence in it today. It is currently the most widespread Armenian dialect.
Yerevan was inhabited first by Armenians and remained homogeneous until the 15th century. During the 1720s Ottoman–Persian War] its absolute majority were Armenians. The demographics of the region changed because of a series of wars between the Ottoman Empire, Iran and Russia. By the early 19th century, Yerevan had a Muslim majority.
Until the Sovietization of Armenia, Yerevan was a multicultural city, mainly with an Armenian and «Caucasian Tatar» population. After the Armenian Genocide, many refugees from what Armenians call Western Armenia escaped to Eastern Armenia. In 1919, about 75,000 Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire arrived in Yerevan, mostly from the Vaspurakan region . A significant part of these refugees died of typhus and other diseases.
From 1921 to 1936, about 42,000 ethnic Armenians from Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Greece, Syria, France, Bulgaria etc. went to Soviet Armenia, with most of them settling in Yerevan. The second wave of repatriation occurred from 1946 to 1948, when about 100,000 ethnic Armenians from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, France, United States etc. moved to Soviet Armenia, again most of whom settled in Yerevan. Thus, the ethnic makeup of Yerevan became more monoethnic during the first 3 decades in the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the remaining 2,000 Azeris left the city, because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenian Apostolic Christianity is the predominant religion in Armenia. The 5th-century Saint Paul and Peter Church demolished in November 1930 by the Soviets, was among the earliest churches ever built in Erebuni-Yerevan. Many of the ancient Armenian and medieval churches of the city were destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s during the Great Purge. The regulating body of the Armenian Church in Yerevan is the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, with the Surp Sarkis Cathedral being the seat of the diocese. As of 2017, Yerevan has 17 active Armenian churches as well as four chapels.
After the capture of Yerevan by the Russians as a result of the Russo-Persian War of 1826–28, many Russian Orthodox churches were built in the city under the orders of the Russian commander General Ivan Paskevich. The Saint Nikolai Cathedral opened during the second half of the 19th century, was the largest Russian church in the city. The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God was opened in 1916 in Kanaker-Zeytun.However, most of the churches were either closed or demolished by the Soviets during the 1930s. The Saint Nikolai Cathedral was entirely destroyed in 1931, while the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God was closed and converted first into a warehouse and later into a club for the military personnel. Religious services resumed in the church it in 1991, and in 2004 a cupola and a belfry were added to the building. In 2010, the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Holy Cross Russian Orthodox church took place with the presence of Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow. The church was eventually consecrated on 7 October 2017, with the presence of Catholicos Karekin II, Russian bishops and the church benefactor Ara Abramyan.According to Ivan Chopin, there were eight mosques in Yerevan in the middle of the 19th century.
The 18th-century Blue Mosque of Yerevan was restored and reopened in the 1990s, with Iranian funding, and is currently the only active mosque in Armenia, mainly serving the Iranian Shia visitors. Yerevan is home to tiny Yezidi, Molokan, Neopagan, Bahai and Jewish communities, with the Jewish community being represented by the Jewish Council of Armenia. A variety of nontrinitarian communities, considered dangerous sects by the Armenian Apostolic Church, are also found in the city, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Word of Life.
Medical services in Armenia – except from maternity – are not subsidized by the government. However, the government annually allocates a certain amount from the state budget for the medical needs of the socially vulnerable groups.
Yerevan is a major healthcare and medical service centre in the region. Several hospitals of Yerevan refurbished with modern technologies, provide healthcare and medical researches, such as Shengavit Medical Center, Erebouni Medical Center, Izmirlian Medical Center, Saint Gregory the Illuminator Medical Center, Nork-Marash Medical Center, Armenia Republican Medical Center, Astghik Medical Centre, Armenian American Wellness Center, and Mkhitar Heratsi Hospital Complex of the Yerevan State Medical University. The municipality runs 39 polyclinics/medical centres throughout the city.