Transcaucasia and Ararat,, 1877 by James Bryce, 4th ed. 1896, p.188:|
Erivan [now Yerevan], the capital of Russian Armenia, which next morning stood basking in a sun that made it dangerous to go out except under an umbrella, is a thoroughly Eastern town, with just a little Russian varnish in one or two of its streets. It is Eastern of the Persian type, which is very different from the Arab Orientalism of Cairo or Tangier, or the half French, half Osmanli Orientalism of Stamboul.
Lying in a hollow at the foot of the plateau which extends northward towards the Goktcha lake, yet a little above the level of the Aras plain to the south, it covers with its 30,000 people an area nearly as large as that of Brussels or Sheffield. The streets are wide, the houses, except a few modern Russian ones, of one story only, built of clay or plastered brick, round an open courtyard, with no windows toward the street. Many of them, especially in the outskirts, open off narrow lanes between high mud walls, and are surrounded by groves and vineyards.
There are no shops, for all the buying and selling goes on in the bazaar, a complex of long straight brick arcades, in which the dealers and the handicraftsmen sit upon divans behind their wares, sipping tea, or smoking out of their kalians or long flexible water pipes, and scarcely condescend to answer you when you ask the price of an article.
Each trade has an arcade or two to itself; the bakers are in one, the fruit-sellers in a second, the shoemakers in a third; in a fourth, carpets; in a fifth, leather goods, and so forth. Persians, Tartars, and Armenians are all represented, the last being decidedly more anxious to do business than the other two.
The bazaar begins to be crowded about 5 A. M., and thins off in the forenoon, reviving a little in the quarters where food is sold toward the time of the evening meal.
In front of it lies the great Meidan, a sort of square or open space, where the road to Persia meets the road to Tiflis and Europe. Standing here at 6 A. M., when the bazaar is at its height, one sees the life of an Eastern town in its picturesque simplicity. The busy parti-coloured crowd is vibrating in and out of the mouths of these arcades; men in sheepskin hats, shuffling along in their loose, low-heeled slippers, and women, covered from head to foot with a blue checked robe, are flocking hither to buy food from every part of the city, and clustering like bees round the stalls which bakers and fruit-sellers have set up here and there through the Meridan, and where heaps of huge green and golden melons, plums, apples, and, above all, grapes of the richest hue and flavor, lie piled up.
Hard by stand the rude country carts or pack-horses that have brought the fruit, with the Armenian peasant in his loose gray cotton frock; while strings of camels from Persia or the Caspian coast file in, lead by sturdy Tatars, daggers stuck in their belts, and old matchlock slung behind, and a huge sheepskin cap overshadowing the whole body. Sometimes a swarthy, fierce-eyed Kurd from the mountains appears; sometimes a slim and stealthy son of Iran, with his tall black hat and yellow robe. It is a perfectly Eastern scene, just such as any city beyond the frontiers would present, save that in Persia one might see men crucified along the wall, and both there and in Turkey might hear the shrieks of wretches writhing under the bastinado.
One forgets Russia till a mounted Cossack is seen galloping past with despatches for Alexandropol, where the Grand Duke, attended by the governor of Erivan, is now holding a great review. It is just such a scene as Ararat, whose snowy cone rises behind in incomparable majesty, may have looked down upon any day for these three thousand years.
As noon approaches, the babbling rills of life that flow hither and thither in the bazaar are stilled; the heat has sent every one home to slumber, or at least to rest and shade; the fruit-sellers have moved their stalls, the peasants have returned to the country; Ararat, too, has hid his silvery head in a mantle of clouds. Only the impatient Western traveller braves the arrows of the sun, and tries to worry his Armenian driver into a start across the scorching plain.
The population of Erivan is greatly mixed, and, of course, no one knows the proportions of the various elements. Till 1827, when Paskievitch captured it, and won for himself the title of Erivanski, it belonged to Persia, and a good many Persians still remain in it, fully a quarter of the whole number of inhabitants. Nearly as many more may be Tartars, less than a half Armenians; the balance consists of Russian officials and troops, with a few Greeks and other nondescript foreigners, including, of course, several Germans.
Go where you will in the world, as a friend said to me who has traversed nearly every part of it, you will always find a German; they are more ubiquitous than the English themselves.
Although it is the capital of a government which includes nearly all Russian Armenia, it is a stagnant sort of place, with little trade and hardly any manufactures. Life flows on in the old channels, little affected either by Russian conquests or by the reviving hopes of the Armenian nation.
Like most towns in a country which has been so often the theatre of destructive wars, it has few antiquities, though it claims to have been founded by Noah, and appeals to its name, which in Armenian is said to mean "the Apparent," as evidence that it was the first dry land the patriarch saw. Another tradition goes farther back, holding that it was Noah's dwelling before the Flood took place.
Be that as it may, it has now no sights to show except the mosques and the ancient palace of the Shah, or rather of his lieutenant, the Sardar of Erivan. This palace is included within the citadel, a Persian fortress, strong by its situation on the top of a basaltic cliff, which rises over the river Zenga; strong also, according to Asiatic ideas, in its high brick walls running along the top of the cliff, although I do not suppose they could resist modern artillery for a day.
Part of the fortress is now occupied by barracks, part is in ruins, but two or three chambers have been carefully kept up, and even to some extent restored in genuine Persian style, and give one a lively idea of the architectural style and taste of the only Eastern nation among which art can still be said to live, if indeed it lives even there. The roof, as well as the floors inside, are covered with bright blue, green, or yellow tiles, the older ones of which--you may pick them anywhere out of the ruins--are wonderfully vivid in colour.
The walls and ceiling of the principal chamber, which is supposed to have been the audience chamber of the Sardar, are decorated with a profusion of small mirrors, or rather pieces of looking-glass, stuck together in a kind of mosaic, arranged alternately with paintings in excessively bright colours, representing the Shah chasing the lion and the stag, together with various emblematic devices, and patterns of roses and other flowers and shrubs, repeated all around. A sort of stalactite ornament in coloured plaster is in a style similar to that of the ceilings in the Alhambra; indeed, it is supposed that some of the work there bears traces of a Persian hand. The drawing is stiff and conventional; and though the tints are well harmonised, they are almost too bright; the effect is rather gaudy than gorgeous.
One is glad to refresh the sated eye by looking through the one window which opens to the south upon the stream foaming down its rocky bed below, the women washing clothes along its banks, Tartar carriers driving their teams over the bridge, and beyond it the well-watered banks of the Aras, an oasis of delicious green in this parched and dusty land, with the two cloud-girt peaks of Ararat rising five-and-thirty miles beyond.
The principal mosque lies behind the bazaar in a maze of lanes separated by gardens and courtyards. It forms one side of a square enclosure planted with orange and other trees, with a tank in the middle, over which four tall elm-trees bend, the whole not unlike in arrangement to, although smaller than, the famous garden of that masterpiece of Mohammedan art, the mosque at Cordova. Here, however, the mosque itself, so far from being a vast and complicated structure, is more like what would be called in Italy a loggia, open on one side to the garden, with a deep and lofty horseshoe-shaped recess (the mosque proper), much like a large round apse, or the half of a dome, in the middle of this gallery, part of the interior of which is covered with handsome tiles and adorned with texts from the Koran. The floor is bare and open; there is, however, a small wooden pulpit, whence the officiating mollahs read or preach.
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All of Armenia is
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DST from March-October.
Armenia prides itself on being the first nation to formally adopt Christianity (early 4th century). Despite periods of autonomy, over the centuries Armenia came under the sway of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, and Ottoman. It was incorporated into Russia in 1828 and the USSR in 1920.
Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by the long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a trilateral cease-fire between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh took hold, ethnic Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also seven surrounding regions - approximately 14 percent of Azerbaijanís territory. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution.
Turkey closed the common border with Armenia in 1993 in support of Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, further hampering Armenian economic growth. In 2009, Armenia and Turkey signed Protocols normalizing relations between the two countries, but neither country ratified the Protocols, and Armenia officially withdrew from the Protocols in March 2018. In January 2015, Armenia joined Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. In November 2017, Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU. In spring 2018, Serzh SARGSIAN of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) stepped down and Civil Contract party leader Nikol PASHINYAN became prime minister.
CIA World Factbook: Armenia
Area of Armenia:
29,800 sq km
slightly smaller than Maryland
Population of Armenia:
July 2008 estimate
Languages of Armenia:
Armenian 96%, Russian 2%, other 2%
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