Armenia is located in the South Caucasus, straddling Eastern Europe and West Asia. This mountainous former Soviet republic boasts a growing economy, emerging democracy, and increasing presence in the international arena.
Armenians are proud of their ancient country, which became the first in the world to officially adopt Christianity in 301–79 years before Rome. Several Armenian Kingdoms arose throughout history as the region was absorbed by and split from various polities; by the beginning of the 20th century, the country was largely divided between the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Conflict between these two powers during World War I fueled anti-Armenian sentiment in Turkey, and led to the infamous Armenian Genocide. Although never officially recognized by Turkey and its allies, it remains a major stumbling block in Turko-Armenian relations, and instigated a large-scale diaspora that has created Armenian communities around the globe. Russian Armenia took advantage of the Bolshevik Revolution to declare independence, but was annexed, along with Turkish Armenia, by the USSR in 1920.
Armenia regained its independence in 1991. Since then the country has seen a mixture of successes and challenges. The collapse of the Soviet-era industrial economy resulted in a return to one centered on agriculture; despite consistent growth, Armenia has not entirely recovered from this. Trade is hampered by closed borders with neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan, the latter of whom Armenia has yet to reach a permanent solution with regarding the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, claimed by Azerbaijan but inhabited by ethnic Armenians. Armenia has joined numerous international organizations since its independence, including the WTO, Council of Europe, and the CIS. International observers have often criticized its electoral process since 1995, but this has been changing since the elections of 2008, widely hailed as free and fair. Armenia is also attributed with a considerable degree of economic freedom by the Heritage Foundation.
Armenians abroad have become a tremendous source of investment and skilled labor to Armenia. Returning foreign-born Armenians probably constitute the largest immigrant group in the country, which is experiencing an increasing, though still negative, population growth rate. Numerous programs exist to attract diasporans back to their homeland for work, study, and volunteerism; as a result, there are several organizations working in English who can facilitate a long-term move to Armenia, some of whom are included in the links section below. Armenians have a reputation as warm hosts, and many are only too glad to share their nation’s rich culture and history with visiting foreigners.
Armenian occupies its own branch of the Indo-European language family, and is written with its own distinct alphabet. By far the most commonly spoken language in the country, it is divided into two main dialects and several sub-dialects which might prove difficult for foreigners, although most Armenians can understand them easily enough. Of the few minority languages present, Kurdish is most common. Russian is used as a second language by a large portion of the population, but English has slowly been gaining popularity as well; encouraging this process professionally might be a good way to fund your Armenian adventure.