The Republic of Armenia (or simply Armenia) is a country located in the south part of the Caucasus, between the Caspian and Black Seas. In north, it shares a border with Georgia, in south – with Iran, in east – with Azerbaijan, in west – with Turkey. Now, the territory of Armenia is just a little piece left from the ancient great empire of Armenia that expanded between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
The area of Armenia’s territory is 29 800 km², it is the only country in Caucasus that has no access to the sea. It is located in the north-east part of the Armenian Highlands. The Lesser Caucasus Mountain Range, which surrounds Armenia, is located between the Lake Sevan and Azerbaijani border (from north to south-east) and stretches up till Iran (to the south).
Armenia is the most mountainous country in the Caucasus. More than 90% of the territory is located 1000 metres above the sea level. Country’s highest point is Mount Aragats (4095 m), the lowest points are in the valleys of the Araks River and the Debet River (380 and 430 metres).
The temperature in Armenia depends from how high above the sea level the specific territory is located. In Armenia, the climate is mainly continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The average temperature in Armenian Highlands during winter is approximately 0°C, during summers it exceeds +25°C. The climate conditions differ in various regions of Armenia – rough conditions in the Highlands and always sunny subtropical conditions in the south (where, in the valley of the Araks River, tobacco, grapes, fruit and vegetables are cultivated).
Armenia has approximately 9480 large and small rivers, from which, 379 are 10 and over kilometres long. Armenia has more than 100 lakes, largest of them is Lake Sevan (its length is 376 km and width – 72.5 km).
15% of the territory are covered by forests.
Armenia is located in a seismically active area – in 7 December 1988, an earthquake completely destroyed the city Spitak. Considerable damages were done also to other populated areas.
According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Armenia's population by 2020 was 3.068 million, of which 46.5% were men and 53.5% women.
The Armenian government is focusing on the demographic situation. The country is implementing programs aimed at increasing the population of Armenia. One of the significant factors influencing the changes in the amount of the country's population is emigration, which is mainly to Russia.
Armenia is the only former USSR country with an almost mono-ethnic population – 98% of the country's population is Armenian. Armenia's largest ethnic minorities together make up about 2% of the population and include the Yazidis, Russians, Assyrians, Kurds, Ukrainians, Greeks and others.
According to religious affiliation (according to the 2011 census), there is an absolute majority of supporters of the Armenian Apostolic Church (92.63% of the total population), the second largest are evangelical Christians (mainly Baptists and Pentecostal churches; 0.97% of the population), third followers of Jesuitism (0.83% of the population), followed by Catholics (0.46%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.29%), Orthodox (0.25%) and other denominations.
From October 18 to October 27, 2020, the next census is planned in Armenia.
In 2 June 2016, Armenian government accepted changes in the law regarding the Administrative Divisions of Armenia.
Armenia is divided in ten provinces (Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Lori, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, Vayots Dzor) and the capital of Armenia – Yerevan.
The information available on the Armenian economy is quite controversial, depending by whom and in what way it is presented.
On January 6, 2020, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that in 2019, Armenia had overtaken both Georgia ($ 4,630) and Azerbaijan ($ 4,720) in terms of GDP per capita, becoming the leading country in the South Caucasus. However, in Armenia itself, this statement raised many questions and discussions about the degree of adequacy of this statement.
According to the International Monetary Fund data, per capita GDP in 2019 was $ 4,530 in Armenia, $ 4,290 in Georgia and $ 4,690 in Azerbaijan.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Economy, Armenia's economic growth in 2019 was 7.5%. The growth rate of industry in 2019 was 9.3%, the growth rate of services – 15%, the turnover of local trade increased by 9.2%, construction – by 4.5% and exports – by 9%.
According to the World Bank report on the Global Economic Prospects, Armenia will have the highest economic growth in the South Caucasus over the next three years. According to the bank data, Armenia closed 2019 with economic growth of 6.9%, in 2020 it will be 5.1%, but in 2021 and 2022 – 5.2%.
According to the Ministry of Economy of Armenia, in the first 9 months of 2019, the number of people employed in the private sector increased by about 40,000.
At the same time assessement with the main macroeconomic indicators in 2019 Armenia's gross domestic product in USD terms was USD 13 billion (Azerbaijan – USD 47.6 billion). Foreign exchange reserves – 2 billion USD (for Azerbaijan 51 billion USD). Foreign trade turnover – 7.4 billion USD (Azerbaijan – 33.6 billion USD). In 2019, USD 900 million was invested in Armenia (USD 13.5 billion in Azerbaijan).
As for the data on salaries and pensions, in December 2019 the average salary in Armenia was 369 USD (in Azerbaijan – 425 USD). The average pension in Armenia was 84 USD (in Azerbaijan – 154 USD). The poverty rate in Armenia is 24% (4.8% in Azerbaijan).
In accordance with the new draft constitution adopted by referendum on December 6, 2015, in 2018 Armenia fully switched to a form of parliamentary state administration and reduction of the powers of the president.
Under the current constitution, the President of Armenia is elected by parliament vote for a single term of 7 years.
President Armen Sarkissian
On April 9, 2018, the then Ambassador of Armenia to Great Britain, Armen Sarkissian (born in 1953), who is also a well-known businessman, took office as the President of Armenia. At the beginning of the century, A.Sarkissian founded the Knightsbridge Group holding company alongside various kinds of business initiatives and was the chairman of its board of directors. The holding Knightsbridge Group consists of more than 15 industrial companies working in industry and involved in various projects in Europe, Russia, China, Mongolia, India and Kazakhstan. The Knightsbridge Group is active in the fields of telecommunications, technology, multimedia, real estate and agriculture. The Board of Directors of the Knightsbridge Group is composed of representatives of international financial organizations and banks and has offices and representative offices in Vienna, London, Paris, Budapest, Warsaw, Moscow and Almaty. One of Knightsbridge Cybersystems' projects is the company's involvement in the development of oil fields in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous district, Yugra (Tyumen region).
The advantage of the President of Armenia A. Sarkisyan can be considered his international contacts, which he has managed to establish by actively working in various public organizations, advising on "business heavyweights" and being a long-time Ambassador of Armenia to Great Britain. A. Sarkosyan's personality is also assessed positively in Armenian society.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan
Following the so-called "velvet revolution" in Armenia in 2018, protest leader Nikol Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister of Armenia with the support of a parliamentary majority (59 in favor; 42 against).
N.Pashinyan was born in 1975. In 1991 he entered the Department of Journalism of the Faculty of Philology of Yerevan State University, from which he was expelled in 1995. From 1994 to 1998, N.Pashinyan was a correspondent for several newspapers, then the editor-in-chief of the newspapers Oragir and Aikakan Zhamanak. In 2006, N.Pashinyan was one of the founders of the socio-political initiative "Alternative", in 2007 he was included in the list of the political bloc "Impeachment", while in 2008 he was a representative of the headquarters for the presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosyan's pre-election campaign. In 2012, N. Pasinyan was elected to the parliament from the party bloc of the Armenian National Congress. In May 2015 N.Pashinyan founded the party "Civil Agreement". In the parliamentary elections of April 2, 2017, the political force represented by N.Pashinyan in the party bloc "Jelk" ("Exit") were wlwcted in the parliament, winning 9 seats. N.Pashinyan is married and has four children.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (born 1966) was confirmed as Foreign Minister on March 12, 2018. Z.Mnatsakanyan graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and graduated from the Department of Political Science of the University of Manchester with a Master's degree in Western European politics.
Minister of Defence David Tonoyan
David Tonoyan (born in 1967) was confirmed as the Minister of Defense on May 11, 2018. Tonoyan is a graduate of the Yerevan State University and the Military Diplomatic Academy of Russia.
After the so-called "velvet revolution" in Armenia in 2018, parliamentary elections took place in the republic on December 10 of the same year, and three political forces entered the new term – the My Way Party, the Prospering Armenia party and the Illuminated Armenia party.
70.43% of voters supported the "My Way" bloc in the parliamentary elections led by the Prime Minister of Armenia N.Pashinyan, 8.27% of the "Prospering Armenia " party led by the Armenian tycoon Gagik Tsarukyan and 6.37% of the electorate supported the party "The Illuminated Armenia" represented by Edmon Marukyan. The other eight political forces did not pass the threshold for parties and blocs in the Armenian Electoral Code (5% for parties and 7% for blocs).
Armenia's former ruling Republican party won 4.7% of the vote support, excluding it from entering the new parliament. Voter activity was 48.63%.
In the face of protests on the way to the Prime Minister post N.Pashinyan's active pre-election campaign, the funds invested in it and the populism expressed, the low turnout (48.63%) indicates that although Pashinyan has gained a large advantage over his political competitors and won the Prime Minister’s post, the support of the population for him is declining.
N.Pashinyan must keep in mind a number of challenges in his political work: the socio-economic situation in the country, the country's external debt (Armenia has to make $ 900 million in external payments over the next two years) and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is the most difficult issue to resolve.
Following the change of power in Armenia, when protest leader Nikol Pashinyan took office, no significant changes have taken place in the chosen foreign policy course of the country – Armenia continues to be loyal to its strategic partner Russia.
On May 13, 2018, Pashinyan paid his first foreign visit to Russia, where he attended a Russian-sponsored meeting of the Supreme Council of the Eurasian Economic Union in Sochi, met President of Russia Vladimir Putin, and announced that Russian-Armenian relations would be "much more fraternal."
With regard to the Russian factor, the previous trends are to be observed that without it (Russia) no progress is possible, because any "friction" in Yerevan-Moscow relations will not go unnoticed, as evidenced by the decision of the Russian gas extraction and transportation monopoly Gazprom from 2019 to increase the price of natural gas by 10% for Armenia – 165 USD per 1000 m³.
At the same time, N.Pashinyan seeks to develop relations with Euro-Atlantic structures as well. This is confirmed by N.Pashinyan's visit to Brussels within the framework of the NATO summit in 2018. July 11 and 12.
On July 3, 2018, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan visited the US Embassy in Armenia and met with the US Ambassador in Armenia Richard Mill. During the conversation, N.Pashinyan emphasized that the Armenian leadership considers cooperation with the United States important in all areas of mutual interest. "We are ready to give new impetus to our mutual cooperation with the aim of expanding trade and economic relations," said N.Pashinyan. For his part, the US ambassador stated that the US is ready to work more closely with Armenia, providing it with the necessary consultation, technical and financial assistance. "Armenia is a good friend and partner of the United States, and I look forward our further cooperation in the spirit of our common democratic values," Mills said.
The two sides also discussed issues related to the strengthening of democracy in Armenia, the protection of human rights, the fight against corruption, the development of civil society, the attraction of US investment and the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
At the same time, Yerevan's complicated relations with Baku, the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the economic blockade of Azerbaijan and Turkey against Armenia, Armenia's dependence on the Russian economy and domestic social risks make it impossible to change the direction of the vector of Armenia's pro-Russian foreign policy.