The Armenian culture has a history of millenniums. It has played a very special role in Armenian people‘s lives. For centuries, together with national religion, the culture is what has saved the Armenian ethnos. Gradually, the Armenian national cultural traditions also appeared.
This helped to improve and emphasize some of the most characteristic traits of that culture and pass to the generations.
The diverse culture of Armenian is a complex and flexible system. It accurately reflects the essential elements of the era, responding to the requirements of time and the environment.
Armenia, due to its geographical position, has been the link between Asia and Europe (East and West). Consequently, the Armenian national culture has always been in the interaction of different peoples and nations. Meanwhile, it has maintained its originality and uniqueness.
Armenian culture is also a remarkable phenomenon from the point of view of the world culture. This is because the Armenians have always taken care of their culture and have kept it rich. Therefore, throughout the centuries, the Armenian people have made a worthy contribution to the cultural treasury of the other nations of the world.
The desire to preserve the original and unique national cultural values and the inherit it to the next generations has always been dominant in the Armenian nation.
THE ARMENIAN CULTURE HAS ALWAYS BEEN OPEN!
While adapting to the changing external conditions, the Armenian culture has played an extremely important role in improving the mechanisms of ethnic-protection in general.
After adapting cultural innovations to the Armenian environment and deeply embracing them, they have deservedly occupied the status of traditional cultural heritage.
Consequently, Armenia cannot be compared with, for example, the East countries (such as China, Japan). They preserved their cultural peculiarities (especially in the late Middle Ages) through separation from the rest of the world.
The Armenian national culture has never avoided the substitution of material and spiritual values with the surrounding and even remote countries. These changes not only ensured the continuous progress of Armenian culture but also contributed to the updating of the cultural system and making it more flexible.
Here are the Top 10 most interesting facts about Armenian culture. There are a lot more, we included the ones which you may find interesting. So, keep reading.
10 Most Interesting Facts About Armenian Culture
The Armenian Khachkars (Cross-stones)
Each culture has a certain unique element which becomes the symbol of their national culture. For Armenians, that symbol is “khachkar” (crosses-stones). They are special monuments in Armenia which you can hardly ever find anywhere else in the world.
The word “khachkar” consists of two Armenian root words: “khach” (meaning cross) and “kar(qar)” (meaning stone). Hence the English name, cross-stone.
Khachkars are pieces of art. They have a variety of shapes. These masterpieces originated at the beginning of the 4th century. This was the time when Armenians adopted Christianity(301 AD).
In the places of the pagan altars and in the places, there were wooden crosses.However, wood was not very durable, therefore, the khachkar makers or Varpets (meaning master) made stone ones.
Armenians used khachkars for various occasions: to commemorate a victory or sometimes completion of another temple or bridge. Another reason was to thank God for a plot of land. The cross-stones served as landmarks and sepulchral monuments.
The central symbol of all khachkars is the cross, which is the symbol of new eternal life. Right under the cross, there is a circle. This circle with the cross on it symbolizes the celebration of Christian faith.
Above the cross, there is usually placed common symbols representing Christian faiths: an eagle, a lion, a bull and an angel. For Armenians, these symbols were four beginnings of the universe, presenting fire, water, earth, and air.
There are never 2 Khachkars which look the same. Each of them is unique. Khachkars keep the spirit of the Armenian nation, the entire deity of Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Stone Country
Armenia is a mountainous country. The landscape, consequently, has made an impact on the architecture.
Temple, churches, monasteries and so on reflect the traditional architecture of Armenia. The architecture of the early Middle Age (5th – 6th centuries) is represented by basilicas. A basilica is a structure which has a rectangular shape. The shape usually consists of three parts with rows of columns. The central part towers over the other parts.
Later, however, the temple shapes changed. Simple and strict architecture of churches became more elegant and complex. New elements appeared. Such as domical drum. However, the traditional temple structures still have common basic features.
There are many feudal castles across Armenia. That is fortresses, palaces, castles, caravanserais, and bridges. People, including foreigners, often call Armenia as “the open-air museum”.
The magnificent Hellenistic building Garni, the Sun Temple (3rd – 2nd BC), Echmiadzin Cathedral (4th century), Zvartnotz (7th century), as well as Gegard (4th – 13th centuries) are famous all over the world.
Armenia has such national and cultural treasures like the Karahunj and the Alphabet monument. Karahunj or the Armenian Stonehenge has over 220 standing stones (menhirs). This site is very famous and important part of the culture.
The Alphabet monument includes sculptures of all 39 letters of the Armenian alphabet. Also, there are monuments of the great Armenian intellectuals and thinkers. All of the letters and statues are made of Armenian tufa.
The Armenian Alphabet Is Perfect
Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of the Armenian Alphabet, was born in 361 in Hatsek or Hatsekats village of Taron province. He was the most intelligent man of his time, enriching his knowledge by self-education.
After becoming a clergyman, together with his disciples, he goes to preach in Goghtan Province. Soon, he becomes convinced that despite Christianity being an 80-year-old official religion, it is incomprehensible to the masses of the population. Hence, paganism continued to hold strong positions among them.
The oral speech was not enough. It was necessary to translate the Bible into Armenian, together with various kinds of Christian literature. This would make Christianity accessible to the whole nation. And creating the Armenian alphabet was what would make it possible.
The creation of the Armenian alphabet, besides preaching Christian beliefs, was necessary for writing the treasures of Armenian centuries-old folklore, folk novels and songs, and other compositions.
Mesrop Mashtots created the alphabet in 405-406. Key to the creation of the alphabet was the old Armenian, which had 28 letters. However, it did not correspond to the Armenian sounds and pronunciation. Mashtots’ alphabet consists of 36 letters: 7 vowels and 29 consonants.
After the 12th century, the alphabet became richer, with two more letters. In 1940, The merger of the two letters appeared as well. It, however, does not have a capital letter.
Scientists consider the Armenian alphabet one of the most perfect together with the Georgian and Korean alphabet.
Mesrop Mashtots also created Georgian and Algerian alphabets. Over a thousand and six hundred years, the Armenian alphabet has experienced almost no change at all.
Areni Winery – The Oldest Winery In The World
The Areni village is located on the shores of the Arpa River. There, in the Areni-1 cave, a few years ago, archeologists found an ancient winery.
These archaeological excavations took place in 2007-2008 in the first hall of the cave and on the slopes of the entrance. They found remnants of the material culture of different periods of the Stone and Copper Ages. According to research, the winery is dated to 4100 BC.
Near the entrance of the first hall, there was also a residential part. There were remnants of houses, fortified floors and pits for household purposes. At the end of the hall, there were clay structures of different sizes and shapes.
The presence of various vessels for storing products, jugs and wine presses for winemaking means that the complex had an industrial and economic purpose. As a proof, archeologists found remains of grapes, plums, apricots, wheat, barley.
There were also other wild and cultivated seeds, plant stems and vine scraps. All of these were perfectly preserved inside the vessels and near them.
The cave, thanks to its internal peculiar and stable microclimate, was an ideal place for the production and storage of foodstuffs. This part of the cave, which had an economic purpose, also had religious purposes.
Some scholars, however, believe the roots of the winery draws back to even more ancient times. Scientists believe that the grape, which Armenians made wine with about 6,000 years ago was the oldest known species – Pinot Noir. Now France is making expensive wines from this type of grape.
People still carefully preserve the tradition of winemaking in Armenia. Currently, Armenia is a big wine producing country. Armenian climate is very suitable for winemaking.
in addition, there is a Wine Festival in Areni village, which takes place every year in the autumn.
The Oldest Shoe In The World
Archaeologists have discovered a 5,500-year-old footwear in Armenia, which is the oldest leather shoe in the world.
The shoe is for the right foot and there is grass inside it. It is quite small, corresponds to the 37 size of modern European shoe.
The archaeologist who discovered it, Ron Pinhasi thinks that the grass found in for keeping its form in shape. As the laboratory examination suggests, the old shoe is about 5637-5387 years old.
The Armenian shoe is made of a whole piece of cow leather. There are strings attached to the front and end to connect with the foot. Archaeologists discovered the shoe during excavations at the “Bird’s Cave” in Vayots Dzor, Areni Village.
“This is unique in its old age and preservation,” said Pavel Avetisyan, director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, in an interview with Freedom radio station. “In this Eurasian continent, practically, we have not met such an antiquity, with this kind of preservation.
This does not mean that in other places there is no such thing. It’s that the leather cannot be preserved in the soil. There are some special conditions to keep any leather. ”
Avetisyan also explained why the findings were so well preserved, including the footwear that a person wore in our region 5500 years ago. – “[Birds] Cave has such a microclimate that all the organic compounds present in it are well-preserved.”
The 5500-year-old shoe will find its place at the Museum of History of Armenia later, but before that, the shoe needs to be preserved.
Together with the shoe, there were goat horns in a 45 cm deep and 44 cm diameter pit. The shoe, in addition, was well preserved not only due to the special microclimate. The thickness of the sheep’s stool served as a solid protective coat.
Armenian Bread (Lavash) In UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List
Armenians have been baking bread in the Armenian Highland still in the 3-2 millennium BC. The proofs are the tandoors found in a number of ancient sites. During the excavations in Artashat city, they discovered an underground tandoor.
For thousands of years, Armenians have used the lavash bread. They have baked it on special pans, and later in tandoors made of clay and brick.
Other than Armenians, other nations have also baked lavash. This is why this type of bread does not have an ethnicity. It has been distinguished by the methods of cooking and using it.
Lavash is up to 60-70 cm long, 30-40 cm wide and 1.5-3 mm thick oval flatbread. According to tradition, lavash dough is made of wheat flour, lukewarm water, and salt. One should knead the dough and put in a warm place for fermentation.
Like many other flatbreads, lavash also has an ancient origin and has not changed even after several thousand years. This is why today we can safely enjoy the bread taste and quality which our ancestors passed to us.
Unlike many other types of bread, Armenian lavash does not contain yeast. And that’s also the reason why lavash is healthy and suitable for any diet. Another important feature of lavash is the multi-functionality. It allows it to be used as a spoon, as a plate or even a napkin.
The Armenian lavash is included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage: still in 2013. The application that Armenia present passed all the necessary stages and received a positive conclusion.
The decision was made on November 26, at the 9th session of the intergovernmental committee of the convention on the protection of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
Armenia Is The Homeland Of Apricot
The sacred land of Armenia has given humanity one of the most delicious and useful fruits of the world – apricot. Armenians grow apricots over 3,000 years. Its evidence is the apricot core discovered during excavations at Garni temple.
The word “Apricot” has an ancient history. The Romans called the apricot an “Armenian apple”. That name has been preserved in botany. In Latin, apricot is called Prunus armeniaca or Armeniaca vulgaris.
About 2,000 years ago, Europe had no idea of the existence of apricot. Apricot entered European countries from the plains of Armenia thanks to the apricot tree plantings which Armenians took to Greece and Rome. Hence, Apricot cultivation in Armenia has an ancient history.
Because the apricot fruit contains many useful substances, people often call them “the fruits of health”. Apricot can give people a “golden ratio” status. The “Golden ratio” is the harmony of positive and negative emotions, feelings, thoughts, abilities, and energy.
And today, just like millenniums ago, apricot still remains as the most important and widespread fruit tree in Armenia.
Apricot is one of the symbols of Armenia, it has a special place in national culture. The evidence for this is the many references to the apricot tree and its fruits in Armenian poetry, literature, drama, music, art.
Apricot is a unique visiting card of our country, which significantly increases the culinary appeal of Armenia among the foreigners and the Diaspora.
This fruit boosts hemoglobin levels, which contributes to the strengthening of immunity. Apricot also has a beneficial effect on the blood-forming process, which is especially important for people with anemia. Regular use of apricots helps to improve memory and make brain function more effectively.
The Chess Superpower
Armenia became the 4th country after Russia (USSR), Hungary and the United States, which managed to win the World Chess Olympiad for more than once and in a row.
The country has participated 9 times in the Chess Olympiads, in five of which the country was in the top three. Armenia is on the 4th place in the final table of the 38th Olympiad, leaving ahead only Russia (USSR), US and Hungary.
BBC journalist Emma Levin arrived in Armenia, wishing to disclose what’s behind the success of Armenian chess players.
The journalist of the most prestigious British journal first met with 11-year-old Michael, who won the title of champion in the chess Olympiad among schoolchildren a few days ago.
Emma Levin also paid special attention to the fact that Armenia became the first country in the world in 2011, which made chess as a compulsory education subject in schools.
“Chess for Armenians is like what football is for Latin America, and it’s even included in a compulsory school program,” said Garry Kasparov. (Armenian-Jewish chess player, grandmaster)
After the independence, the men’s chess team of Armenia won the European Team Championship (1999), the World Championship (2011) and the Chess Olympiad (2006, 2008, 2012).
Women’s team won the European Championship in 2003. As of September 2015, Armenia is the seventh in the world with the average eco rankings of the top 10 chess players. Armenia’s highest ranked chess player Levon Aronyan occupies the 11th place in FIDE rankings as of September 2015.
Biblical Mount Ararat Is The Symbol Of Armenia
There are many sights in Armenia. However, every single foreigner’s memory holds the scene of one of the most dreamlike and noble views of the world – the magnificent view of Mount Ararat.
The Bible says that during the Flood, on the 150th day of the sailing, the ark of Noah stopped at Mount Ararat. On that day, mankind lived its second birthday in Armenia, on Mount Ararat.
This sanctified the Armenian land, and thanks to that, Armenia became Holy Land, and Mount Ararat became a Holy Mountain.
Ararat is the symbol of the Homeland of every Armenian living in different corners of the world. For centuries, Armenia has been a pilgrimage destination for many peoples of the world.
Foreigners, as pilgrims, have come to Armenia in ancient times, when the snow still had not covered the mountain, and when the huge Noah’s Ark was visible.
Later, as a result of the temperature fall of the earth, the ark remained under the snow. Many scientists and researchers have tried to find the ark. For that purpose, they have shot the Mount Ararat from satellite cameras. There are many fascinating facts that indirectly confirm the existence of the ark.
One cannot separate Mount Ararat from the everyday life of Armenians. Ararat is the name of Armenian hotels, restaurants, football clubs, drinks. For the people of Armenia, Ararat is a symbol and the state identity.
Ararat, with the height of 5,165 meters, unfortunately, is not in the territory of Armenia but is now in Turkey.
The Holy Mount Ararat, which is the highest point in Turkey, was in the Armenian territory until the 1915 Armenian Genocide when Turkey occupied the area.
Even without being in Armenia, it is an inseparable part of Armenia’s identity, and historically and culturally it belongs to Armenia.
The First Christian Country
In the 1st century, Thaddeus and Bartholomew of Christ’s disciples started preaching Christianity in the Armenian World. At this time, however, paganism was very widespread. The kings of Armenia also practiced it.
Pagan practices, though, never prevented to spread the word of God to Armenians. Among the preachers was Gregory. He was the great apostle of Armenia and lived in Cappadocia. It is where he started to form and strengthen his Christian faith. In 261, he returned to Armenia.
In the II-III centuries, because of preaching Christianity, King Trdat III detained Gregory the Illuminator in a prison, where he stayed for 13 years. He survived there thanks to a kind woman who secretly brought him food and water.
Meanwhile, Trdat fell in love with a Christian nun Hripsime. She, however, refused his proposal of marriage. Afterward, the king put her and the other nuns to death. Because of this, the king soon almost went insane. At that time, St. Gregory offered his help and said that he would cure him.
Gregory baptized King Trdat and prayed for him. The king became healthy. After that, the king converted his entire kingdom to Christianity in 301 AD. This afterward led Armenia to become the first nation ever to accept Christianity as its state religion
Armenia is an open-air museum of Christianity. There are thousands of Christian monuments such as monasteries, churches, chapels etc. One can find them in secluded gorges, on the peaks of towering mountains, hidden in forests and nestled in valleys.