YEREVAN – THE CAPITAL CITY
Armenia has had a dozen capitals throughout the centuries: Van, Armavir, Yervandashat, Artashat (Artaxata), Tigranakert, Vagharshapat (New City, Etchmiadzin), Dvin, Ani, etc. The present capital, Yerevan, is 28 years older than Rome. The birth of the fortress of Erebouni (Yerevan) was proclaimed by the Urartian King Argishti 782 B.C. in a cuneiform inscription still extant. Now the ruins of the citadel are located on the Arin-Berd Hill in the southeast of the city.
With a population of more than 1,000,000, Yerevan stretches along the banks of the River Hrazdan, under the wistful gaze of the biblical Mt. Ararat, guarded by the tremendous statue of Mother Armenia at Haghtanak (Victory) Park, from where the spectacular panorama of the city is seen. Republic Square is the center of Yerevan. With the beautiful buildings of Government, Ministries, Hotel Armenia, Central Post Office and banks, it makes up a unified architectural style. There are choicest museums on the square. The National Historical Museum of Armenia offers a fantastic journey through time, from the Stone Age to the 20th century, to take in a single day. And as you continue your walk through the museum, you will discover the National Gallery of Armenia with its exquisite works by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Vandyke, Goya, Auguste Rodin, Serov, Aivazovsky, Martiros Sarian and many other world-famous painters and sculptors. The Vernissage (arts and crafts market), held each weekend in the park just off the Republic Square, is home to craftsmen, artists and merchants selling works of superb craftsmanship, rugs, used books and other goods.
Mashtots Avenue, one of the main highways of the city, is crowned with the majestic architectural complex of Matenadaran – the famous depository of ancient manuscripts. A flight of steps leads up to the statue of Mesrop Mashtots – the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. The sculptures of the giants of the Armenian culture and science - Thoros Rosslin, Grigor Tatevatsi, Anania Shirakatsi, Movses Khorenatsi, Mekhitar Gosh and Frik - stand in front of the building. Matenadaran is in possession of nearly 17,000 manuscripts and fragments dealing with all branches of knowledge (literature, history, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, law, arts, etc), and written not only in Grabar (old Armenian), but also in Persian, Arabic, Syrian, Ethiopian, Georgian, Greek, Latin and other languages. 300,000 archival documents are kept there as well.
Strolling through vast squares and streets lined with shops, restaurants, outdoor cafes, casinos and nightclubs, you are never far from architectural monuments, museums, art galleries or theatres. Opera and Ballet House on the Theater Square with its regular classical music and ballet seasons performed by local and visiting artists, is one of the best samples of the modern Armenian architecture. This building, along with the above-mentioned Government House, was designed by the great Armenian architect Alexander Tamanian, whose statue stands in the park under the Cascades - white steps leading up to the Victory Park.
There are several churches in Yerevan - St. Astvatsatsin (17th c.), St. Zoravor (17th c.), St. Tsiranavor (18th c.), St. Sargis (19th centuries), etc. The new-built Mother Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, located near the Rossiya Cinema, is an ensemble of 3 churches. The main church seats 1700 people - a symbolic reference to the 1700th anniversary of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. The two chapels have a capacity of 150 to 200 each, and are named after Trdat and Ashkhen - the Armenian king and queen who decreed Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD. The total area of the church (both floors) is 3,200 square meters.
Yerevan has its sanctuaries. Every year on April 24, myriads of people gather at the Genocide Memorial Complex located on the Tsitsernakaberd Hill to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide of 1915. The monument has massive basalt slabs bending in sorrow over the eternal flame, and an obelisk symbolizing the resurrection of the Armenian nation. There is a memorial wall and a genocide museum nearby.
Yerevan has a subway with pretty stations and a railway square with one of the symbols of the city – the statue of Sassountsi Davit, the hero of the Armenian epic.
A new town with typical American interior and exterior, golf fields and picturesque landscape – the private residential community of Hovnanian International’s ‘Vahakni’ – is located southwest of Yerevan. The snowcapped peaks of Ararat and Aragats are visible from every house of the community which is built to the highest standards of western life.