|Land Area:||29,743 km²|
|Time-zone:||UTC + 4|
Armenia is a landlocked country in the Caucasus mountains, bordering Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan. A former Soviet republic, it declared independence on 23 August 1990 and is now a multi-party democracy. Armenia has a long, turbulent history, and was the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion, in 301 AD. The official language is Armenian, but many Armenians speak Russian as a second language. Armenian uses its own unique alphabet, developed in 405 AD.
Yerevan, home to 1,121,000 residents, is the capital of Armenia and the economic, cultural, political and educational centre of the country. It is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The origins of the city date back to 782 BC, when the Urartian king Argishti I founded the fortress of Erebuni. Currently, Yerevan is a vibrant city, featuring many museums, galleries, and other cultural attractions, as well as an active nightlife and countless restaurants and bars. The recently renewed international airport is a convenient gateway to the city and the whole of Armenia.
Armenia is easily reached by air, with direct flights from several major European airports to Zvartnots Internation Airport. Nationals from the EU and many other countries do not require visas to enter Armenia (check the visa information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The national currency of Armenia is the Armenian Dram (AMD). Approximate exchange rates are 1€ = 570 AMD or 1US$ = 480 AMD. At Zvartnots airport, ATMs, currency exchange machines and an exchange office are available upon arrival. ATMs and bank offices are also abundant in central Yerevan. Several providers offer mobile phone network (GSM 900/1800) services and coverage in Yerevan includes 3G connectability. The power grid in Armenia works at 220V/50Hz and uses European plugs.
Mount Ararat is the national symbol of Armenia, although it lies just over the border in Turkey.
Climate and nature
Armenia has a continental climate, with warm and dry summers and quite cold winters with plenty snow. At the time of the conference, at the end of August, the worst of the summer heat will be over. Average highs in Yerevan around this time are around 30 C (85 F), but the low humidity mitigates much of the heat. Located in the Caucasus, most of Armenia is mountainous. The rocky underground prevents forestation in much of the country, and intensive agriculture is only possible in a small fraction of the territory. Lake Sevan, located in the center of the country, is the largest lake in the Caucasus region and one of the largest fresh-water high-altitude lakes in the world. The highest mountain in Armenia is Mount Aragats, reaching 4090 m and always covered with snow.
History and sights
Inscriptions unearthed in the ancient Urartian fortress Erebuni, dating back to 782 BC.
The name Armenia is derived from the ancient Armenian leader Armenak. However, in Armenian the country is called Hayastan, from the older name Hayk, the first legendary leader of the Armenian people in the 3rd millenium BC. In the bronze and iron age, several states ruled the Armenian highland, including the Hittites in their heyday. The Kingdom of Urartu (1000--600 BC) was the first to unite the Armenian highland into one state. With the help of the Medes, the Armenians replaced the Urartian kings by the Orontid dynasty. Following the defeat of the Orontids by Alexander the Great, the Kingdom of Armenia was established in 190 BC. Under King Tigranes II Armenia became one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, but succumbed to the Roman Empire. In 301 AD the Arsacid king of Armenia, then a vassal state of Rome, converted to Christianity, making Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as state religion. During most of the middle ages Armenia was divided and ruled by external powers. For a long time, the territory fell under Byzantine and Persian rule, followed by the Russians and Ottomans. During the First World War the Armenian genocide saw 1.5 million of Armenians killed and many more dispersed throughout the world. Following the demise of the Ottoman and Russian empires during WWO I, Armenia regained independence in 1918. Due to instability in the region and war with Turkey this lasted only a few years and in 1922 Armenia became part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet period saw Armenia become an important industrial and educational center. When the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, Armenia once again became an independent republic. Current-day Armenia is an emerging democracy and negotiating with the European Union to become an associate member.
The Mother Cathedral in Echmiadzin, built and consecrated in 303 AD, is the spiritual center of the world-wide Armenian Apostolic Church.
Historical sights from many different periods in its rich history remain today in Armenia. In Yerevan, the remains of the Erebuni fortress, dating back to 782 BC, can be visited and offer good views over the capital. The Temple of Garni is a restored hellenistic temple first built almost 2000 years ago. Most tourists, however, that come to Armenia visit the countries' many old churches and monasteries, some of which date back to the 4th century. The Mother Cathedral in Echmiadzin contains a rich treasury, with among other items the spear believed to have been used to wound Jesus during the crucifixion. Other typical Armenian monuments are the Khachkars, or cross-stones, memorial steles with crosses and often other motifs, some many centuries old. As part of the social program, a tour to the Temple of Garni and the spectacular Geghard monastery will be organized.