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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(self-designation, Hay), a nation (natsiia; “nation” in the historical sense). In the USSR, Armenians constitute the basic population of the Armenian SSR—over 88 percent, according to the 1959 census. There are also large concentrations of Armenians in the Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Northern Caucasus. According to the 1959 census, the total number of Armenians in the USSR was 2,787,000; the estimated number at the beginning of 1965 was 3.4 million. Outside the USSR, Armenians live in more than 60 countries, primarily in urban areas. According to data for 1967, a considerable number of Armenians live in the United States (450,000), Iran (200,000), France (200,000), Lebanon (180,000), Turkey (150,000), Syria (150,000), Argentina (60,000), Iraq (25,000), and the United Arab Republic (25,000), as well as in Brazil, Canada, Greece, Uruguay, Australia, Bulgaria, Rumania, India, and other countries. The total number of Armenians living outside the USSR exceeds 1.8 million persons.

Before World War I (1914–18), the great majority of Armenians, who then numbered close to 4 million persons, were concentrated in the territory of historical Armenia. Nearly 1.5 million of these lived in Transcaucasia, within the territory of the Russian Empire; the remainder lived in Turkey. Of the 2.5 million Armenians living in Turkey in 1915–16, more than 1.5 million were exterminated by order of the Turkish authorities and more than 600,000 were forcibly resettled—for the most part in barren regions of Mesopotamia. As a result of genocide, resettlement, and forced emigration, all of Western Armenia was essentially stripped of its indigenous population, and the Armenians were dispersed throughout many countries of the world. More than 300,000 found refuge in Transcaucasia, within the borders of Russia. Since 1920 a process of repatriation of Armenians from other countries to the Armenian SSR has been under way.

Armenians speak the Armenian language. Most believers are Christians of the Monophysite persuasion (Christianity became the official religion of the Armenians in A.D. 301). A small number of Armenians in foreign countries are Catholics or Protestants.

The oldest core of the Armenian people was the population of the northeastern part of Asia Minor. In the Hittite inscriptions of the 16th and 15th centuries B.C. this country was called Armatana, and later—in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C.—Hayasa. From there the predecessors of the Armenians, known by the name of Urumeians, invaded the Assyrian province of Shupria (southwest of Lake Van) in the 12th century B.C. After that Shupria was also referred to by the Assyrians as Urme. In the middle of the eighth century B.C. it was united with the Urartu state under the name of Urme, or Arme. The population of these regions—Hayasa and Arme—spoke an Indo-European, ancient Armenian language that gradually became the language of the major tribal federations of the western part of the Armenian Highland, into which the local Hurrian and Urartian aboriginal tribes were assimilated. The Armenian nationality was founded on the basis of a strengthening of agriculture and its spread, together with livestock-raising, throughout the Armenian Highland. (This was a time of class formation within the tribes forcibly subjugated to the Urartu state.) The process of formation of the Armenian nationality was quite prolonged and was basically completed only by the time of the Greco-Macedonian conquest in the fourth century B.C. Even before that, however, in ancient Persian texts of the sixth century B.C., there is a reference to the vast land of Armina. (“Armenia” is in ancient Greek texts.) The population itself called its country Hayk (Hayastan or Ayastan), and they called themselves Hay. In the centuries that followed, and within the context of slave-owning (pre-fourth century B.C.)and later feudal relationships that had become established on the territory of Armenia and of a constant struggle by the Armenians against various invaders (the Cimmerians, Scythians, Persians, Romans, Parthians, Arabs, Turks, and others), the Armenian nationality strengthened and developed. The incorporation of Eastern Armenia into Russia in 1801—28 furthered the development of capitalist relations and the consolidation of the Armenian people into a nation, a process that was basically completed by the end of the 19th century. This process acquired particularly great scope in the 1850’s and 1860’s. After the establishment of Soviet power in Armenia in November 1920, the Armenians were consolidated into a socialist nation during the course of socialist construction. The Armenian people created a highly developed and unique culture that enjoyed further development in our country after the October Revolution.

The cultural and social distinctions between city and country are disappearing. The old national forms of home structures (the glkhatun, with a hole in the ceiling for smoke and light) and clothing (the arkhaluk, chukha, and fur cap for men and the embroidered blouse, shalvary, and special head coverings for women, and so forth) have been replaced almost everywhere by modern styles. The remnants of patriarchal relations have disappeared, and the age-old inequality of women in the family and in society has been eliminated. The research work of soviet Armenian scholars and the works of authors, artists, and skilled folk craftsmen who have carried on the traditional skilled trades (rug weaving, jewelry making, leather working, and so on) have received widespread recognition.

Most Armenians outside the USSR are employed in commerce and the trades. Intellectuals make up a significant percentage of the population.


Narody Kavkaza, vol. 2. Moscow, 1962. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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