Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, Երեւան, is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.  It is the capital of Armenia and its largest city.  Yerevan is home to 1.12 million people which is about 34% of the country's entire population.  UNESCO named Yerevan as the 2012 World Book Capital.

The city was established in 782 BC.  My country isn't even 250 years old and this city has been around since 782 BC.  Wow!  The Soviet Union's first ever city general plan was for Yerevan.  During the Soviet era, the city grew from 150,000 to over a million people and it became a significant scientific and cultural center.

Mount Ararat is Armenia's national symbol, even though today it is in Turkey.  According to the Book of Genesis, this is where Noah's Ark landed.  The snow-capped mountain overlooks Yerevan.

In the center of Yerevan is Republic Square.  Until 1991, it was called Lenin Square.  It is home to government offices including the Foreign Ministry and an art gallery.

Nearby are some beautiful parks with fountains, sculptures and memorials.  This WWII memorial used to have an eternal flame.  Armenia imports its gas from Russia, via Georgia, so I guess it was too expensive to keep the flame lit.

St. Sarkis Church was built from 1691 to 1705.  It is the city's most popular church.

The city's least favorite church seems to be the new St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral.  It was consecrated in 2001 to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of Armenia as a Christian nation.  People that I spoke to didn't care for it because it is too big.  It was built by one of the new oligarchs and a common joke is that the cathedral looks just like him - short and fat.

St. Astvatsatin church was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1679.  Local residents restored it at the end of the 17th century.  The Armenian Society of Historical Monuments Protection has recently restored it.

Yerevan used to have eight mosques.  The 18th century Blue Mosque is not the only mosque in the entire country.  During Soviet times, religious services stopped and, in 1931, the mosque became home to the City of Yerevan Museum.  At the end of the 1990s, the Iranian government funded the mosque's renovation.

The Cascade is a huge white stairway up a hillside in the city.  There is an art museum and the hike up to the top offers a great view of the city.

At the very top is a monument commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory in WWII. 

The Ararat Cognac Factory is the oldest factory in Armenia.  Brandy can only be called cognac if it is produced in the Cognac region of France.  However, in 1900, the Armenian brandy won the Grand-prix award in Paris so Ararat is legally able to call their brandy "cognac".

 In Victory Park, there is the huge Mother Armenia statue which was erected in 1950.  There is another eternal flame but this one remains lit.  Around the statue are displays of Soviet military equipment.

Armenians love chess.  It is considered a sport.  Chess is a mandatory subject taught in every public school. 

In 1965, one million people demonstrated in Yerevan, for 24 hours, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and to demand recognition by the Soviet government.

In 1967, Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide memorial opened on a hill overlooking the city.  There is a 44 meter (144 feet) stele symbolizing Armenia's national rebirth.  There are also 12 slabs in a circle which represent the 12 Armenian provinces lost to Turkey.  In the center is an eternal flame that is 1.5 meters (5 feet) deep that is dedicated to the 1.5 million Armenians killed during the Genocide.  There is a 100 meter (328 feet) wall with the names of towns where massacres took place.  An alley of trees has been planted by world leaders who have visited the site.  In 1995, the Armenian Genocide Museum opened commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Genocide.

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