Armenia - Tips

Armenia Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Armenia

Water reservoir on the Vorotan River
in Armenia. November 1, 2005. [© AP

Flag of Armenia is three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, and


Republic of Armenia

Area: 29,800 sq. km. (11,500 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Maryland.
Cities: Capital--Yerevan.
Terrain: High plateau with mountains, little forest land.
Climate: Highland continental, hot summers, cold winters.

Nationality: Noun--Armenian(s). Adjective--Armenian.
Population (official est.): 3,213,011 de jure (3,002,594 de facto). These
figures represent the final results of the October 2001 census, as announced
in January 2003.
Ethnic groups: Armenian 98%; Yezidi 1.2%; Russian, Greek, and other 0.8%.
Religion: Armenian Apostolic Church (more than 90% nominally affiliated).
Languages: Armenian (96%), Russian, other.
Education: Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--20/1,000. Life expectancy--66.6 years.
Work force (1.24 million; 10.5% unemployed): Industry and
construction--24.5%; agriculture and forestry--24.6%; trade--17.3%;
education--13.4%; other--22.2%.

Type: Republic.
Constitution: Approved in November 2005 referendum.
Independence: 1918 (First Armenian Republic); 1991 (from Soviet Union).
Branches: Executive--president (head of state) with wider powers relative to
other branches, prime minister (head of cabinet), Council of Ministers
(cabinet). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly (parliament).
Judicial--Constitutional Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 10 marzes (provinces) in addition to the city of
Yerevan, which has the status of a province.
Political parties represented in the National Assembly: Republican Party of
Armenia, Prosperous Armenia, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF)
Dashnaktsutyun, Country of Law (Orinats Yerkir), and the Heritage Party.
Other parties include: People's Party of Armenia, National Accord Party,
Republic Party, New Times Party, United Labor Party, Dashink Party, National
Democratic Union, and the Armenian National Movement. In addition, there are
dozens of other registered parties, many of which become active only during
national campaigns, if at all.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy (2005)
GDP: $4.867 billion.
GDP growth rate: 13.9%.
Per capita GDP: $1,514.
Inflation: 0.06%.
Natural resources: Copper, zinc, gold, and lead; hydroelectric power; small
amounts of gas and petroleum.
Agriculture: Products--fruits and vegetables, wines, dairy, some livestock.
Industry: Types--chemicals, electronic products, machinery, processed food,
synthetic rubber, and textiles.
Trade: Exports--$950.4 million: diamonds, scrap metal, machinery and
equipment, brandy, copper ore. Export partners (2004)--Belgium 18%, Israel
15.3%, Russia 12.5%, U.S. 8.1%, Netherlands 7.2%, Iran 5.5%, Georgia 4.3%.
Imports (2004)--$1.767.9 billion: natural gas, petroleum, tobacco products,
foodstuffs, and diamonds. Import partners--Russia 11.3%, Belgium 10.1%,
Israel 8.4%, Iran 7.1%, U.S. 7.6%.

Ethnic groups in Armenia include Armenians (95%), Kurds, Russians, Greeks,
and others. More than 90% of the population is nominally affiliated with the
Armenian Apostolic Church. Languages are Armenian (96%), Russian, and others.

Armenia first emerged into history around 800 BC as part of the Kingdom of
Urartu or Van, which flourished in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor until
600 BC. After the destruction of the Seleucid Empire, the first Armenian
state was founded in 190 BC. At its zenith, from 95 to 65 BC, Armenia
extended its rule over the entire Caucasus and the area that is now eastern
Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. For a time, Armenia was the strongest state in
the Roman East. It became part of the Roman Empire in 64 BC and adopted a
Western political, philosophical, and religious orientation.

In 301 AD, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state
religion, establishing a church that still exists independently of both the
Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. During its later political
eclipses, Armenia depended on the church to preserve and protect its unique
identity. From around 1100 to 1350, the focus of Armenian nationalism moved
south, as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, which had close ties to European
Crusader states, flourished in southeastern Asia Minor until conquered by
Muslim states.

Between the 4th and 19th centuries, Armenia was conquered and ruled by, among
others, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks. For a brief period
from 1918 to 1920, it was an independent republic. In late 1920, the
communists came to power following an invasion of Armenia by the Red Army,
and in 1922, Armenia became part of the Trans-Caucasian Soviet Socialist
Republic. In 1936, it became the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenia
declared its independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 1991.

Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991
referendum, followed by a presidential election in October 1991 that gave 83%
of the vote to Levon Ter-Petrossian. Ter-Petrossian had been elected head of
government in 1990, when the Armenian National Movement defeated the
Communist Party. Ter-Petrossian was re-elected in 1996. Following public
demonstrations against Ter-Petrossian's policies on Nagorno-Karabakh, the
President resigned in January 1998 and was replaced by Prime Minister Robert
Kocharian, who was elected President in March 1998. Following the October 27,
1999 assassination in Parliament of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian,
Parliament Speaker Karen Demirchian, and six other officials, a period of
political instability ensued during which an opposition headed by elements of
the former Armenian National Movement government attempted unsuccessfully to
force Kocharian to resign. Kocharian was successful in riding out the unrest.
Kocharian was reelected in March 2003 in a contentious election that the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the U.S.
Government deemed to fall short of international standards.

As a result of the May 2007 parliamentary elections, 103 seats of the 131 in
the National Assembly (90 elected on a proportional basis and 41 on a
district-by-district majoritarian basis) are members of pro-governmental
parties. The Republican Party and Prosperous Armenia formed a coalition; the
ARF Dashnaksutyun Party signed a cooperation agreement with this coalition.
The Heritage Party and Orinats Yerkir remain opposition parties. While in the
past opposition parties, despite philosophical differences, tended to vote
together on key legislative issues, there has been no agreement among the
opposition parties to date to do so.

The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style
parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However,
international observers have questioned the inherent fairness of
parliamentary and presidential elections during each of the previous
nationwide elections (1995, 1999, and 2003) as well as during the 2005
constitutional referendum, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation
by the electoral commission, poor maintenance of electoral lists, and access
to polling places. The 2007 parliamentary elections, however, demonstrated an
improvement over previous elections. The new constitution in 2005 increased
the power of the legislative branch and allows for more independence of the
judiciary; the executive branch nevertheless retains more power than most
European countries.

The Government's human rights record remained poor in 2006; while there were
some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. Security forces
beat pretrial detainees. Impunity remained a problem. There were reports of
arbitrary arrest and detention. Lengthy pretrial detention remained a
problem. There were some limits on press freedom, due in part to
self-censorship and denial of television broadcast licenses. The law places
some restrictions on religious freedom. Societal violence against women was a
problem. Trafficking of women and children was a problem, which the
government took some steps to address.

Principal Government Officials
President--Robert Kocharian
Prime Minister--Serge Sargsyan
Foreign Minister--Vartan Oskanian
Defense Minister--Mikhael Harutyunian
Ambassador to the U.S.--Tatoul Markarian
Ambassador to the UN--Armen Martirossian

Armenia's embassy in the U.S. is at 2225 R Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20008;
tel: 202-319-1976; fax: 202-319-2984.

Armenia is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics.
It is a landlocked country between the Black and the Caspian Seas, bordered
on the north by Georgia, to the east by Azerbaijan, on the south by Iran, and
to the west by Turkey. Up until independence, Armenia's economy was based
largely on industry--chemicals, electronic products, machinery, processed
food, synthetic rubber, and textiles--and highly dependent on outside
resources. Agriculture accounted for only 20% of net material product and 10%
of employment before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenian mines
produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead. The vast majority of energy is produced
with imported fuel, including gas and nuclear fuel (for its one nuclear power
plant) from Russia; the main domestic energy source is hydroelectric. Small
amounts of coal, gas, and petroleum have not yet been developed.

Like other New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, Armenia's
economy suffers from the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the
breakdown of former Soviet trading patterns. Soviet investment in and support
of Armenian industry has virtually disappeared, so that few major enterprises
are still able to function. In addition, the effects of the 1988 earthquake,
which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 homeless, are still
being felt. Although a cease-fire has held since 1994, the conflict with
Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. The consequent
closure of both the Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has devastated the
economy, because of Armenia's dependence on outside supplies of energy and
most raw materials. Land routes through Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed;
routes through Georgia and Iran are inadequate or unreliable. In 1992-93, GDP
fell nearly 60% from its 1989 level. The national currency, the dram,
suffered hyperinflation for the first few years after its introduction in

Nevertheless, the Government of Armenia, helped by the cease-fire that has
been in effect in Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994, has been able to carry out
wide-ranging economic reforms that paid off in dramatically lower inflation
and steady growth. Armenia has registered strong economic growth since 1995,
building on the turnaround that began the previous year, and inflation has
been negligible for the past several years. New sectors, such as precious
stone processing and jewelry making, information and communication
technology, and even tourism are beginning to supplement more traditional
sectors such as agriculture in the economy.

This steady economic progress has earned Armenia increasing support from
international institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World
Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as
other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign countries are
extending considerable grants and loans. Total loans extended to Armenia
since 1993 exceed $1.1 billion. These loans are targeted at reducing the
budget deficit, stabilizing the local currency; developing private
businesses; energy; the agriculture, food processing, transportation, and
health and education sectors; and ongoing rehabilitation work in the
earthquake zone.

Continued progress will depend on the ability of the government to strengthen
its macroeconomic management, including increasing revenue collection,
improving the investment climate, and making strides against corruption. A
liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994, and a Law on
Privatization was adopted in 1997, as well as a program on state property
privatization. The government joined the World Trade Organization on February
5, 2003.

Environmental Issues
Armenia is trying to address its environmental problems. It has established a
Ministry of Nature Protection and has introduced a pollution fee system by
which taxes are levied on air and water emissions and solid waste disposal,
with the resulting revenues used for environmental protection activities.
Armenia is interested in cooperating with other members of the Commonwealth
of Independent States (CIS--a group of 12 former Soviet republics) and with
members of the international community on environmental issues. The Armenian
Government has committed to decommissioning the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant
as soon as alternate energy sources can be identified.

Armenia established a Ministry of Defense in 1992. Border guards subject to
the National Security Service patrol Armenia's borders with Georgia and
Azerbaijan, while Russian Border Guards continue to monitor its borders with
Iran and Turkey.

The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty was ratified by the
Armenian parliament in July 1992. The treaty establishes comprehensive limits
on key categories of military equipment, such as tanks, artillery, armored
combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and combat helicopters, and provides for
the destruction of weaponry in excess of those limits. Armenian officials
have consistently expressed determination to comply with its provisions.
Armenia has provided data on armaments as required under the CFE Treaty.
There are indications that Armenia is trying to establish mechanisms to
ensure fulfillment of its arms control obligations. Armenia is not a
significant exporter of conventional weapons, but it has provided substantial
support, including materiel, to separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In March 1993, Armenia signed the multilateral Chemical Weapons Convention,
which calls for the eventual elimination of chemical weapons. Armenia acceded
to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state in
July 1993. The U.S. and other Western governments have discussed efforts to
establish effective nuclear export control systems with Armenia.

Armenia is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth
of Independent States, NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic
Partnership Council, the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank
for Reconstruction and Development, and the World Trade Organization.

In 1988, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian
enclave within Azerbaijan, voted to secede and join Armenia. This eventually
developed into a full-scale armed conflict. Armenian support for the
separatists led to an economic embargo by Azerbaijan, which has had a
negative impact on Armenia's foreign trade and made imports of food and fuel
more expensive, three-quarters of which previously transited Azerbaijan under
Soviet rule.

Peace talks in early 1993 were disrupted by the seizure of Azerbaijan's
Kelbajar district by Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian forces and the forced
evacuation of thousands of ethnic Azeris. Turkey in protest then followed
with an embargo of its own against Armenia. A cease-fire was declared between
Azeri and Armenian/Nagorno-Karabakh forces in 1994 and has been maintained by
both sides since then in spite of occasional shooting along the line of
contact. All Armenian governments have thus far resisted domestic pressure to
recognize the self-proclaimed independence of the "Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic," while at the same time announcing they would not accept any peace
accords that returned the enclave to Azerbaijani rule. Approximately 526,000
of the estimated 800,000 ethnic Azeris who fled during the Karabakhi
offensives still live as internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan, while
roughly 235,000 of 360,000 ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan since 1988
remain refugees.

Negotiations to peacefully resolve the conflict have been ongoing since 1992
under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. The Minsk Group is currently
co-chaired by the U.S., France, and Russia. Negotiations have intensified
since 2004.

According to Armenia's Office of the Geographer, Karabakhi Armenians,
supported by the Republic of Armenia, now hold about 11% of Azerbaijan and
have refused to withdraw from occupied territories until an agreement on the
status of Nagorno-Karabakh is reached. Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to
observe the cease-fire that has been in effect since May 1994, and in late
1995 both also agreed to OSCE field representatives being based in Tbilisi,
Georgia, to monitor the cease-fire and facilitate the peace process.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 brought an end to the
Cold War and created the opportunity to build bilateral relations with the
New Independent States (NIS) as they began a political and economic
transformation. The U.S. recognized the independence of Armenia on December
25, 1991, and opened an Embassy in Yerevan in February 1992.

The United States has made a concerted effort to help Armenia and the other
NIS during their difficult transition from totalitarianism and a command
economy to democracy and open markets. The cornerstone of this continuing
partnership has been the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies
and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act, enacted in October 1992. Under this
and other programs, the U.S. to date has provided nearly $1.5 billion in
humanitarian and technical assistance for Armenia. U.S. assistance programs
in Armenia are described in depth on the website at:

On March 27, 2006 Armenia signed a Millennium Challenge Compact with the
United States; the agreement entered into force on September 29, 2006. The
agreement will provide $235 million to Armenia over five years to reduce
rural poverty through the improvement of rural roads and irrigation networks.

U.S.-Armenian Economic Relations
In 1992 Armenia signed three agreements with the U.S. affecting trade between
the two countries. The agreements were ratified by the Armenian parliament in
September 1995 and entered into force in the beginning of 1996. They include
an "Agreement on Trade Relations," an "Investment Incentive Agreement," and a
treaty on the "Reciprocal Encouragement and Protection of Investment"
(generally referred to as the Bilateral Investment Treaty, or BIT). Armenia
does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the U.S. The 1994 Law on
Foreign Investment governs all direct investments in Armenia, including those
from the U.S.

Approximately 70 U.S.-owned firms currently do business in Armenia, including
such multinationals as Procter & Gamble, M&M-Mars, Xerox, Dell, Microsoft,
and IBM. Recent major U.S. investment projects include the Hotel Armenia; the
Hotel Ani Plaza; Tufenkian Holdings (carpet and furnishing production,
hotels, and construction); several subsidiaries of U.S.-based information
technology firms, including Viasphere Technopark, an IT incubator; a
Greek-owned Coca-Cola bottling plant; petroleum exploration by the
American-Armenian Exploration Company; jewelry and textile production
facilities; a large perlite mining and processing plant; and Jermuk Mother
Plant, which produces one of the more popular brands of mineral water in

U.S. Support To Build A Market Economy
The U.S. continues to work closely with international financial institutions
like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help Armenia in
its transition to a free-market economy. Armenia has embarked upon an
ambitious reform program, which has allowed a gradual transition from
humanitarian aid toward more developmental assistance. U.S. economic
assistance programs, primarily under the administration of the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID), have three objectives: to help create
a legal, regulatory, and policy framework for competition and economic growth
in energy, agriculture, housing, and other sectors; to promote fiscal reform;
and to develop a competitive and efficient private financial sector. Other
agencies, including the Departments of State, Agriculture, Treasury, Defense,
Commerce, Energy, Justice, and the Peace Corps sponsor various assistance
projects. The U.S.-Armenia Task Force, established in 2000, is a bilateral
commission that meets every 6 months to review the progress and objectives of
U.S. assistance to Armenia.

Specific USAID programs focus on the development of a private sector and
small and medium-size enterprises, including microcredit programs; energy
sector reform, focusing on efficient management of Armenia's physical
resources; democracy and good governance programs, including the promotion of
a well-informed and active civil society; social sector reform, including
benefits administration for vulnerable populations and targeted vocational
training; health sector reform, including improvement of management and
delivery of primary healthcare services with an emphasis on preventive
medicine; and earthquake zone assistance, which provides housing and economic
reactivation for victims of the 1988 earthquake. Under this program, more
than 4,000 families who lost their homes have participated in a housing
certificate program allowing them to secure permanent and adequate housing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Caucasus Agricultural Development
Initiative provides targeted and sustained technical, financial and marketing
assistance to small and medium-sized agribusinesses and farmer-marketing
associations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cochran Fellowship Program
provides training to Armenian agriculturists. USDA and USAID also have
launched efforts to revive production and export of Armenian vegetables,
fruits, and other agricultural products.

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance
Over the past decade the U.S. has provided over $1.5 billion in assistance to
Armenia, the highest per capita amount in the NIS. Humanitarian aid
originally accounted for up to 85% of this total, reflecting the economic
effects caused by closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan related to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, destruction in northern Armenia left from the
devastating 1988 earthquake, and the virtual paralysis of most of the
country's factories.

As conditions in Armenia have improved, with the stabilization of the economy
and increased energy production--including the restarting of the Armenian
Nuclear Power Plant at Metsamor--U.S. assistance programs have moved away
from humanitarian goals to longer-term development ones.

U.S. Support To Achieve Democracy
Technical assistance and training programs have been provided in municipal
administration, intergovernmental relations, public affairs, foreign policy,
diplomatic training, rule of law, and development of a constitution. Specific
programs are targeted at promoting elections that meet international
standards, strengthening political parties, and promoting the establishment
of an independent judiciary and independent media. This includes financing
for programs that support civil society organizations, local non-governmental
organizations (NGO) capacity building, National Assembly professional
development, and local and community-level governance.

State Department and USAID educational exchange programs play an important
role in supporting democratic and free-market reforms. Assistance in the
translation and publication of printed information also has been provided.
Exchange programs in the U.S. for Armenian lawyers, judges, political party
members, business people, government officials, NGO activists, journalists,
and other public figures focus on a range of topics, including the American
judicial and political system, privatization, specific business sectors, the
media, and civil society. The State Department has funded an ongoing project
to provide Internet connectivity to schools at various levels throughout the
country; these centers provide both educational and community-building

USAID has funded international and domestic groups to monitor national
elections. USAID also has funded programs to educate voters and to strengthen
the role of an array of civic organizations in the democratic process.

[Also see fact sheet on FY 2006 U.S. Assistance to Armenia.]

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Charge d'Affairs a.i.--Anthony Godfrey
Political/Economic Chief--Steve Banks
Assistance Coordinator--Daniel Renna
Consular Officer--Mary Stickles
Management Officer--Lawrence Hess
Regional Security Officer--Peter Ford
USDA Marketing Assistance Project Director--Jeffrey Engels
USAID Director--Karl Fickenscher
Public Affairs Officer--Thomas Mittnacht

The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia is at 1 American Avenue; tel:
374-10-46-47-00; fax: 374-10-46-47-42.

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at For
additional information on international travel, see

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
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