The Republic of Armenia is a mountainous, landlocked country located in the southern Caucasus. It shares a border to the west with Turkey, to the north with Georgia, to the east with Azerbaijan and Iran, and to the south with the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan. Former Soviet republic, with a unitary, multi-party and democratic state that has its roots in one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Endowed with a rich cultural heritage, it stood out as the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the early years of the 4th century (the traditional date is 301).
Although it is a secular constitutional state, the Christian faith plays an important role in its history and in the identity of the Armenian people. It occupies 29,800 km2 of the northeastern region of the Armenian plateau. In the configuration of the Armenian physical environment, the presence of Lake Seván (with an area of 1400 km2) stands out, located in the center of the country, at an altitude of 1924 m, surrounded by high mountains among which Mount Aragáts (the top highest in Armenia, an extinct volcano of 4090 m).
The geographical situation of the country, conditioned by the absence of access to the sea, gives rise to a typically continental climate with very cold winters, hot and dry summers, and little rainfall. Due to the aridity of the soil, and its high level of contamination due to the repeated use of insecticides, less than half of the Armenian lands can be used for agriculture. However, the mountains are fed by numerous river currents, including the Kura River and the Araks.
Its population, (according to estimates for 2007), was 2,971,650 residents. With 95% of its composition belonging to the Armenian ethnic group – which has its own tradition, language and art – the country has the highest degree of ethnic homogeneity of the former Soviet republics.
According to andyeducation, there are several national minorities: Kurds, then Russians, and finally Ukrainians, Greeks, and Georgians. The country also has a significant diaspora around the world: in Russia (3.5 million), in North America (2.5 million), in Africa (900,000), in Syriaand Lebanon (900,000), in the European Union (700,000), mainly in France and Latin America, (200,000), essentially settled in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela. Its official language is Armenian, an Indo-European language with its own 38-letter alphabet. Russian is also widely spoken. The vast majority of the population is Christian. The Catholic religion, which is led by the Armenian Apostolic Church, is the most practiced by the population, but there are also Russian Orthodox and Islamic communities.
Government and politics
The politics of Armenia is carried out within the framework of a democratic republic. According to the Constitution of Armenia, the President is elected by direct universal suffrage. Appoints the prime minister, who in turn elects the government ministers. He is the head of government and of a multi-party system. The executive power is exerced by the government. Legislative power resides in the Government and Parliament. The unicameral parliament (also called Azgayin Zhoghov or National Assembly) is controlled by the coalition made up of the Republican Party of Armenia (PRA) and the Prosperous Armenia (AR). The main opposition parties are for the Rule of Law and Heritage Party, which are in favor of Armenia’s entry into the European Union and NATO. Sergzh Sargsyan is the current president of the country.
Armenia’s foreign policy is oriented to seek ways of balance, keeping in mind the global development trends and the traditional interests of the regional powers. The tense relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan pushed Armenia to seek solutions in its regional policy. The Nagorno-Karabakh war (a territory officially recognized by the United Nations as part of Azerbaijan, illegally occupied by Armenia) dominated the politics of the region throughout the 1990s.. The border between the two rival countries remains closed to this day, without a permanent solution to the conflict being reached. Due to its hostile position between its two neighbors, Armenia maintains close security ties with Russia. At the request of the Armenian government, Russia maintains a military base in the northwest of the city of Gyumri as a deterrent against Turkey.
Despite this, Armenia has also moved closer to Euro-Atlantic structures in recent years. However, the privileged relationship with Moscow has not hindered relations with the US. Cooperation with the United States extends to the energy sector, providing technical and financial support to the Armenian nuclear power plant. The Association and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), (signed in 1996 and in force since 1999) serves as the legal framework for bilateral relations between the European Union and Armenia. Since 2004, Armenia and other southern Caucasian states have been part of the European Neighborhood Policy, which encourages closer ties with the EU. For more than ten years, Brussels has preferred to limit its action to financial aid, since it is doubtful about a country located in an extremely complex geopolitical area, where Russian, Turkish, American and Iranian influences overlap. Armenia has always been able to count on supplies from the Russian ally.
Despite this, the rupture of the pipeline to Georgia and Armenia in January 2006 has convinced Yerevan of the need to diversify supplies. As an example of the above, the construction of an oil pipeline between the two countries was concluded with Iran. Instead, it has pledged to supply Iran with the electrical power produced at its nuclear power plant from time to time. Cooperation with Tehran is progressively extending also to the infrastructure (rail) and telecommunications sectors.
Consequently, the task that Armenian foreign policy is determined to accomplish is a choice between practical short-term benefits and developing a solid conceptual foundation that determines its orientation in the region and in the world.