YEREVAN: YOUNGER THAN ATHENS, OLDER THAN ROME
Yerevan is the capital city of the Republic of Armenia, the 12th capital of historic Armenia and one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities of the world. It is situated on the shores of river Hrazdan and is the administrative, cultural and economic center of the country.
The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the Fortress of Erebuni (later the name transformed to Yerevan) in 782 BC by King Argishti I in the Ararat plain. Even today, the Armenians live there, where 9 centuries before Christ and 29 centuries before us the foundation of the Armenian statehood was laid. In the 8th century BC on the Armenian Plateau, in the basin of the lake Van a country appeared known as Urartu in Assyrian cuneiform writings, also mentioned in the Bible as the kingdom of Ararat. This story requires no proof as it is embodied in 600 cuneiform texts left on the stone, clay and bronze. In the surviving Urartian alphabets Erebuni is mentioned for 12 times.
Yerevan has a "stone passport", exhibited at the National History Museum of Armenia. It is an ancient basalt slab with an inscription that marks the foundation of the city: "This great fortress is built". The ruins of the Erebuni Fortress, located in Yerevan, retain traces of its former greatness.
One can form an impression on old Yerevan by writings of Armenian (Er. Shahaziz "Old Yerevan", T. Hakobyan "The history of Yerevan") and foreign authors and travelers.
Ancient history of Yerevan and its location in the Ararat valley near the biblical Mount Ararat has always attracted many travelers. French traveler Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who visited Armenia for 6 times in 1632-1662 wrote that "Yerevan is populated exclusively by Armenians". He drew a map of the city and described it as a cozy town with two and three-storey buildings, surrounded by vineyards.
In 1673 a detailed description of Yerevan was made by Persian court jeweler and traveler, Frenchman Jean Chardin. His description of Yerevan fortress is also worth mentioning: "The fortress, which is located in Yerevan, can be considered a city itself, it is egg-shaped, has 4000 steps in a circle and contains about 800 houses". In six years after his visit a strong earthquake destroyed the city.
Travelers who visited Yerevan in the 17th century, describe the Hrazdan Gorge, the fortress, 2 big churches and the city market.
In 1812, Freygan wrote: "The fortress is built masterfully. It can be besieged but not taken".
English traveler, geographer Henry Lynch visited Armenia twice (in 1893 and 1898). He wrote down his impressions in a book of essays "Armenia". English aristocrat describes Yerevan with great warmth: "A city surrounded by trees, a city of gardens, where freshness reigns from early spring to late autumn, supported by sources, fed by river Hrazdan and Krkbulakh springs". In addition to nature, Lynch was impressed with the organized school system of the city, which the author ascribes to Armenian literary culture, founded in the 5th century.
After World War I Yerevan became the capital of the first Democratic Republic of Armenia (1918-1920). On November 29 (1920) the Bolshevik 11th Red Army occupied Yerevan during and on December 2 (1920) Armenia came under the Soviet rule.
New times came for the ancient city and new capital. In 1924 the government approved the new plan of the city. The great architect Alexander Tamanyan united in his city plan the latest European experience and personal conviction that the capital should have a new and unique look, modern and ethnic at the same time.
The city started to expand rapidly. In merely fifty years, Yerevan was transformed from a town of 30.000 thousands of residents into the principal cultural, artistic, political and industrial center with over one million population.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yerevan retained its status as the capital city of the Republic of Armenia that gained independence on September 21, 1991. Independence came with a heavy price – the 1988 earthquake in the regions of Shirak and Lori, claimed over 25,000 lives; the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan (1990-1994) also took thousands of lives. The country faced an energy crisis; the continuing blockade and total decimation of all services and utilities nearly crushed the state, plunging Yerevan into chaos.
Bruised and battered, today the city is on the road to recovery and continues to be the center of education, science, technology, culture and trade.
Yerevan has been undergoing a major transformation; with the appearance of new buildings, roads, restaurants, boutiques and quarters the centuries-old city has started to sprout and gain a new face. It has once again become the heart and soul for 10 million Armenians spread all over the world.
In 2008, the city of Yerevan celebrated its 2790th anniversary.
Currently the City Hall of Yerevan supervises 19 libraries, 5 museums (including Yerevan History Museum), 25 music and art schools, the "Yerevan" brass band and 3 theaters: Drama Theatre after Hrachya Ghaplanyan, Theatre for Young Spectator and "Mher Mkrtchyan” artistic theatre.
In the Yerevan History Museum 87,000 samples are stored, representing the old and new life, history and spiritual culture of the city in different periods of time.
The capital of the Republic of Armenia has its own flag, coat of arms and anthem.