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About Armenia

Armenia is an interesting country. Here are a few facts about Armenia to give you a feeling of what this country is like.

Armenia was the world's first Christian country, with the Armenian Apostolic Church dating back to the 1st century, and the kingdom itself becoming Christian in the 3rd century. This was before the Roman Empire adopted Christianity.

Armenia is home of the world's oldest evidence of wine production near the town of Areni, in the Areni-1 cave. However during the Soviet era Armenia was designated as the brandy producing republic, while neighbouring Georgia (whose wines are more famous) was the wine producing republic. Both have somewhat restored their reputations in the opposite drinks, which they now both produce again.

Armenian brandy from Ararat was a favourite of Sir Winston Churchill, to whom Stalin served Ararat Dvin at the Yalta conference during World War 2. After the war, cases were shipped from the USSR to Churchill, such was his fondness for this brandy.

Armenia is famous for the quality and abundance of its water. As a mountainous country, numerous springs provide high quality drinking water. A large number of public drinking fountains called pulpulaks can be found, making high quality drinking water widely available when you're out and about exploring.

Armenia's famously good and highly abundant water leads to another tradition, the celebration of Vardavar. Occurring 98 days after Easter in the middle of Armenia's hot summer, this day features a nationwide water fight in the middle of the summer!

Chess is extremely popular in Armenia. The Armenian school curriculum has chess as a required class, as it is considered good for children's cognitive development. Education and intellectual pursuits generally are taken very seriously by Armenians. Owing to the country’s isolation, and it’s blockade, services exports are important.

Armenia is one of the world's most ethnically homogeneous countries, with over 99% of the population being ethnically Armenian. Despite this, there is a small ethnic minority community, the Yazidis who also have their home in Armenia and have long been on friendly terms with Armenians. Yazidis have their own seat in the Armenian parliament, and Armenia was the first country to commemorate the massacre of Yazidis at Mount Sinjar by ISIL.

Consequently those who don't pass as Armenian, like me, may be subject to staring on the metro. However this is not intended to be rude or intimidating, rather it is considered polite and an expression of curiosity in Armenian society. But this takes time to get used to.

The Armenian language uses a unique alphabet. This alphabet was developed when Christianity spread to Armenia in order to write down and hence communicate the gospel to more people. The alphabet has 39 letters, none of which are shared with Latin, and is today only used for the Armenian language.

Armenia has a large diaspora, most of which descends from survivors of the Armenian Genocide. More Armenians live outside Armenia than within, with large populations particularly in France, Russia, California and Argentina.

Armenia has close ties with France, owing to this Armenia is a member of La Francophonie and while I was there Yerevan hosted the La Francophonie summit, attended by heads of government from all the members of La Francophonie. This resulted in the closure of Republic Square and spontaneous public holidays.

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