Before Russian rule

The original homeland of the Armenian people is not on the territory of the post-Soviet republic of Armenia, but to its south, on the plateau of eastern Anatolia in what is now Turkey. Visible on the horizon from the southern part of the post-Soviet republic, is Mount Ararat—the Armenians’ spiritual symbol and the place whereNoah’s ark is believed to have come aground.

Armenian ancestry

The Armenians developed into a recognizable ethnic group between the 6th and the 2nd centuries B. C. It is thought that their ancestors were partly people indigenous to eastern Anatolia, and partly migrants from the ancient empire of Urartu to the south. During their formative period the Armenians came under Persian domination, and later came into close contact with Greece and Rome. The society, culture, and religion of ancient Armenia reflected both Persian and Greek influences.

Christianity as a state religion

Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion, by proclamation of King Trdat (Tiridates III) in 314 AD. The Armenian Church became the center of a new Armenian literary culture after the monk MesropMashtotsdevised an Armenian alphabet at the beginning of the 5th century. The Church was to play a crucial role in preserving Armenian identity, especially during the long periods when the Armenians lacked a state of their own.

11th century

The last Armenian kingdom in historic Armenia fell in the 11th century. Many Armenians sought refuge further south—in the region of Cilicia, on Anatolia’s Mediterranean coast, where they established another Armenian kingdom that lasted until the 14th century.

16th century

During the 16th century, most Armenian lands came under the rule of Ottoman Turkey, except for a part of eastern Armenia that remained within Persia.

18th century

The beginning of the 18th century was marked by conflict between Russian expansionist and Russification policies in the Caucasus, and the Persian and Ottoman empires desire to maintain their influence in the region. In 1813 Persia was forced to sign the Gulistan Treaty, which confirmed Russia's supremacy over the southern Cacausus. A second Russo-Persian war ended with the khanates of Yerevan and Nakchivan being transferred to Russia. The Russian authorities openly encouraged Muslims to leave the Russian Empire in order to settle Armenians on their lands. Initially three Christian states were to be established: Armenia, Georgia and Albania. Albania was never restored and the Albanian autocephalous church was abolished and the Albanians absorbed into Armenia. This policy encouraged approximately 40,000 Armenians to leave Persia and settle in the Russian Empire.