The Flag of the Republic of Armenia
The Armenian flag consists of three horizontal bands with 1:2 ratio of the width and the length, red on the top, blue in the middle and orange on the bottom. Its size and colors are the exact copy of the first Armenian Republic flag (1918-1920). Red symbolizes blood of the Armenians shed for their independence, blue is the color of the Armenian sky and the orange is the fertile work of the Armenian people.
The Coat of Arms of the Republic of Armenia
Symbols of the dynasties of the four Armenian kingdoms are depicted on the central part of the shield of the coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia; the Artashesyan’s, Arshakuni’s, Bagratuni’s and Rubinyan’s (the Kilikian kingdom). They surround the biblical mountain Ararat, with an outline of the Noah’s arch on top of it.
An eagle and a lion are depicted on both sides of the shield, symbolizing the power of the soul, authority, independence and braveness. The sword in the bottom symbolizes the struggle of the Armenian people for their freedom and independence, the feather and the spikes are the symbols of the creative talent and peacefulness of the Armenian people.
The law on the coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia was adopted by the Supreme Council of Armenia on April 19th of 1992. The new law on the “RA Coat of Arms” was adopted by the National Assembly January 15th of 2006. The authors of the Armenian coat of arms are artist Hakob Kojoyan and architect Alexandr Tamanyan.
The National Anthem
The national anthem of our motherland was adopted in 1991, January 1st and is based on the anthem of the first republic, with slight amendments of the text. The text of the anthem has been adjusted with the poem written by Mikayel Nalbandyan called “The song of the Italian girl”. Music composer by Barsegh Kanachyan.
Our fatherland, free and independent,
That has lived for centuries
Calls on its children now,
Free independent Armenia.
Here brother, for you a flag,
That I made with my hands
At nights I did not sleep,
I washed it with tears.
Look at it, in three colours
It is our gifted symbol.
Let it shine against the enemy.
Let Armenia always be glorious.
Everywhere death is the same
A man will only die once
But fortunate is he
who dies for the freedom of his nation.
Mountains have always had significant role for Armenia and Ararat (Masis) is considered even more important for all of the Armenians. It is the highest mountain in the Armenian highland (5165 m), and from its relative height (from foot to top - 4300 m) is the highest mountain in the whole world. Starting from 4200m it is covered with everlasting snow. First writing references about Ararat are mentioned back in the 7th century B.C. (Bible, The Book of Birth), as the beginning of new life. Ararat also symbolizes the salvation of humanity of the Christian world. Nowadays, Ararat is located in Turkey, though every Armenian considers the mountain part of their essence and believing that it will for sure be part of Armenia. Ararat is depicted on the coat of arms of all three republics of Armenia.
Aragats is considered the symbol of the modern Republic of Armenia, which is the highest mountain in the RA, 4090m. Traces of ancient culture, irrigation old systems, monuments called “vishap-dragon”, fish shaped figures, symbolizing the worship of water are placed on water sources as well as significant medieval architectural monuments (Amberd, Byurakan etc.).
Many legends are connected with the Aragats Mountain. When Gregory the Illuminator was going up the mountain Aragats to pray during the period when Christianity was being spread in Armenia, an inextinguishable torch lightens up, descending from the sky. According to the legend, the torch lighted up every night though it could be seen only by the illuminated people. That torch is depicted on Gyumri’s coat of arms.
Cross stones are unique manifestations of the Armenian culture. It is a vertical flat rock piece where cross is the major composition element carved on the wide side of the rock. Geometric ornaments are often engraved around the cross, as well as symbols of eternity, figures of plants and animals, as well as people, especially saints. Cross stones as a rule are placed near monasteries and churches, in cemeteries and near the roads. Even though they look symmetric from distance, very often difference can be told between its two sides, if observed closely. It is believed that the cross stones are decided upon the sides of the world.
This vertical stone monument are ancient relicts having worshiping purpose, are numerous in Armenia. Same monuments are the carvings called “vishap-dragon”, huge fish shaped structures that are connected with ancestors of Armenians who worshiped the Goddess of water Astghik Derketoy.
The above mentioned is not directly yet connected with the cross stones, since the Urartian monuments (8-7 centuries B.C.), consisted of a base and four sided column on it, with an inscription that can be view as a pre example of the cross stones territorial composition. These types of cross stones were used during the pre Christian era. They were put on roadside of a city different occasions. Some of them survived till 4-5th century.
There was a tradition in the middle ages to paint stones with red color. Before painting, the stone surface was processed with thin coat of calx since it had many holes on it. Painting cross stones is coming from the depth of time. Some cross stones located in Talin (8-10 centuries), two enclosed cross stones (12-13 centuries), many cross stones located inside the Hovhannavanq gavit, 16-17th century cross stones placed in Hripsime church courtyard are painted red. There are bases to suspect that sometimes the cross stones were painted in different colors; this proofs the Haghpatavanq All Savior’s cross stone (1273), currently one in its kind.
One of the ancient Armenain traditional symbols is the arevakhach- sun cross, which is a unique type of swastika. It is also called hook cross, claw cross, cross wing, Vahagn cross, spire cross, space cross, war cross, Armenian swastika or the Armenian symbol of eternity. The earliest depictions of the Armenian Sun cross date back to the Neolithic period of human culture development (7-5 millennium B.C.).The main meaning of this symbol is the Sun itself, from here the light, the motion of life, eternity, welfare, happiness and luck. This symbol was lettered on shields, household items, clothes, flags and coat of arms, it was also used on temples (first on pagan then on Christian) and on house decoration. This symbol can often been seen carved on stones of the Armenian highland. According to some researches half of the letters of the Armenian alphabet are altered forms of the Sun cross.
The Armenian alphabet
The Armenian alphabet is a systematic arrangement of letters invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405. Mesrop Mashtots took great efforts to convert the pagan people of the Goghtn province and realize that it is impossible to spread the Christianity among people with Greek and Assyrian, even though 100 years have already passed after the adoption of Christianity, when people were still stick to pagan religion and traditions. Mashtots knew that bases of Christianity could be strengthened only then when religious ceremonies were done in the mother tongue; the Armenian language; for that reason the presence of the own alphabet was vital. He shares his ideas with Sahak Partev who was also interested in the creation of the alphabet. They convey a general meeting, where the creation of the Armenian alphabet was unanimously approved. By encouraging their initiation, king Vramshapuh says that an Assyrian bishop named Daniel has found the characters of the Armenian letters that are known as the writings of Daniel. Excited from that fact, Mashtots begins to teach the characters to the Armenian princes, but soon it turns out that they are not complete and do not meet the criteria of the rich Armenian phonetics. That is why he undertakes the creation of the Armenian alphabet.
By taking a group of students, Mashtots sends some of them to Samosat known as the Greek educational centre, takes the rest of the students with him to Edesia. In the rich Edesian archives he studies books written in different languages and their alphabet. For a second he had a vision of a hand (The God’s hand) which writes alphabet from left to right. After the invention Mashtots goes to Samosat, where he assigns a Greek calligraphist to design the letter he created. Here, he translated the first Armenian sentence from “The Book of Fables”; “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding”. The alphabet Mashtots created had 36 letters but today it has been enriched with three more.
The Yerevan Matenadaran named after Mesrop Mashtots is a centre for preserving and studying the ancient texts and documents, which is the world’s biggest collection of manuscripts and medieval books.
Matenadaran was founded in 1921, based on the Echmiadzin matenadaran. This is the first scientific research establishment in Armenia. Originally, it was called Culture-Historic institute.
First evidence on the matenadaran has reached to us from the 5th century. According to Ghazar Parpetsi there was a library next to the Echmiadzin catholicos residence, where Armenian and Greek journals were kept. At the beginning of the 5th century, thousands of handwritten manuscripts were created in Armenia and areas settled by the Armenians. These manuscripts were kept in matenadarans and monasteries.
In the middle ages manuscripts have always been endangered by foreign invaders. According to Stepanos Orbelyan, Seljuk-Turks conquered the Baghaberd fortress in 1170 and looted over 10,000 manuscripts which were collected from Tatev and surrounding monasteries. Kirakos Gandzaketsi writes that the foreign invaders stole many journals from Karin city matenadaran, in 1242. In 1298, because of the Egyptian soldier invasions the Cilician capital Sis’s state treasury was destroyed. According to Nerses E Ashtaraketsi, the Echmiadzin matenadaran was ruined last time in 1804.
During the years of the Armenian genocide not only cultural centers were destroyed but also thousands of handwritten journals were lost. Especially, Ktoots Anapat had a great loss, where over 500 pieces of manuscripts were kept until 1915, however, only 202 of them had been taken to Matenadaran. Many manuscripts were saved with the help of Armenians, who were survived the Armenian genocide. Nevertheless, over 31,000 Armenian manuscripts are kept in Yerevan, Echmiadzin, and other cities around the world such as Jerusalem, Venice, Vienna, New Jugha, Beirut, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tbilisi, Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles etc.
During 1920-30s the Matenadaran collection was enriched with manuscripts brought from Vaspurakan and Taron, USSR Armenian monasteries and churches, Lazaryan Moscow seminary, Tbilisi Armenian ethnographic company, Nersisyan School, Nor Nakhijevan, Nor Bayazet, Karin, Tavriz diocese, Yerevan state museum and other places. In 1939, Matenadaran was moved from Echmiadzin to Yerevan public library. In 1945, the construction of Matenadaran building had begun according to architect Mark Grigoryan’s design. The construction of the building ended in 1957. In 1959 Matenadaran was moved to the new building with Armenian architectural façade and medieval styles and solutions in the interior. In the gaps of the façade partition, basalt statues of Movses Khorenatsi, Anania Shirakatsi, Mkhitar Gosh, Toros Roslin, Frik, Gregory Tatevatsi’s are installed. Mesrop Mashtots’s and Koryun’s statues are in the small square. In 1962, the Matenadaran was named after Mesrop Mashtots.
The Garni temple
The Garni fortress was built in the 2nd B.C., in the middle of the 1st A.D, which was destroyed by the Roman army. In 70s A.D the Garni fortress was restored by king Trdat I, in his Greek inscriptions calls it “the impregnable fortress”. The pagan temple was built during the period when the fortress was being restored (77). After adoption of Christianity it was Trdat III’s sister Khosrovdukht’s summer residence that is why Garni was also called Trdat’s “sunshade”. The 24 columns symbolized the 24 hours of a day. It is supposed that the temple was devoted to the God of Sun Mihr. It was destroyed during the 1679 devastating earthquake, restored in 1976. It is considered one of the most astonishing cultural tangible universal monuments.
The Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral
The Eachmiadzin Mother Cathedral is the most important religious structure for the Armenian Apostolic Church. This is an example of early Christian structures of the Armenian religious architecture, which became the base principle for building various churches around Armenia. The cathedral was built at the beginning of the 4th century, in a place where a pagan temple used to be, right after declaring Christianity as a state religion in Armenia. Originally the Mother Cathedral had the style of a basilica, but around 480, Prince Vasak Mamikonyan altered the structure, by giving it a cross base and domes with 4 free pillars. The cathedral was renovated on the 7th century, by Komitas and Nerses G Catholicos, a bell tower was built in the 17th century and the museum section in the 18th century. There are many religious historic structures that surround the Mother Cathedral, “the Trdat King’s Door”, “Ghazarapat”, Old and New Veharan and the Eremyan Monastic Residence Building. Many art works of the Armenian Church are kept in the museum, manuscripts, embroidery etc. There are also Armenian old coins, carpets, pictures and a collection of other valuable stuff.
The Zvartnots Cathedral
Zvartnots is a unique early medieval architectural monument, which is included in the list of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, in 1989. Zvartnots was built by Nerses G Tayets Catholicos from 643-652. The historian Sebeos called the cathedral Zvartnots, in other sources it was also called Vagharshapat’s St. Gregory, Arapari St. Gregory. The name “Zvartnots” presumably is connected with zvartun angel word. It is supposed that pagan god Tir’s altar was in the area of Zvartnots. According to Sebeos, the Armenian king Trdat III and Gregory the Illuminator met here in 301. There are no historic records on how the cathedral was destroyed (probably from an earthquake), it is known that it had survived until the 10th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the cathedral was covered with earth, the area was excavated during 1901-1907, by Khachik Vardapet Dadyan’s initiation, with Toros Toramanyan’s scientific supervision starting from 1904. According to the excavated artifacts, pagan structures dating back 4-5 centuries existed in this area. The oldest is a 0, 63 m x 2, 7 m size pillar (currently at Zvartnots museum), with Rusa B inscriptions. With the help of excavations it was possible to uncover the cathedral, catholicos palace with the adjacent structures (baths, cells, etc.). The floor of the cathedral had survived as well as the lower tiles in some places, column caps, anchors, sundials, mosaics, frescos and other relicts.
The Armenian architecture had the influence of Zvartnots, it is a unique combination of early medieval construction, sculpting and decorative art. The Armenian architectural monuments that have survived, Zvartnots type structures are considered churches built by Nerses G Nayetsi, Prince and Banak (7th century), Lyakit in Aghvanq (7th century), Gagkashen St. Gregory (11th century) churches.
The carpet weaving is an important and traditional system in the Armenian culture. The excavations from ancient Armenian settlements uncovered textile and means of weaving were the evidence that the rug weaving culture was popular from 4-3 millennium B.C. Later on, it was thriving in the medieval period, particularly from 8-14th centuries. Written records state that centers of the Armenian rug weaving were very famous, such as Bartsr Hayk, Ayrarat, Syuniq, Artsakh, Vaspurakan which maintained their positions until the beginning of the 20th century. Artsakh and Syunik are still famous for this type of art.
According to Arabic sources Armenian carpets were very popular especially for their famous red hue color, made from “vordan karmir”. The other typical uniqueness of the Armenian carpets is the design solutions of individual ornaments.
Carpet is a colorful weaving which has become part of our day; in fact it is an important element of the historic cultural Armenian heritage.
Duduk or tsiranapogh is a brass instrument. According to some records duduk was used in 1200 B.C., and by some studies it has over 1500 year old history. The history of the Armenian duduk has history reaching until the times of the Armenian king Tigran the Great. The Armenian duduk is made exceptionally from apricot tree wood, which has an exclusive nature for resounding. Duduk type instruments are made with different materials (wood of plum and walnut tree), but according to some experts these types of duduks sound quite sharp and rough sound, however Armenian duduk is different with its tender sound.
Apricot is a native fruit, which was spread towards Europe via Armenia. It is supposed that apricot’s homeland is the North-Eastern Armenia (borderline with Russia). Back in the 3rd millennium B.C. Acadians were calling that fruit “armanu” (“armanian” meaning “Armenian”) and Armenia-Armani (“the apricot land”). Returning from battle against the Armenian king Trdat the Great (1st century B.C.), Roman general Lukulos took apricot trees with him to Rome, which were planted and called Armenian plums. One of biggest naturalist Jan Batist Lamark noticed that it is not a plum, but a representative of a new type, and called it Armeniaca Vulgaris.
Apricot and the apricot tree had found their place in painting of many Armenian artists. The word apricot is widely used for coloring our daily speech. Member of the royal Armenian families were wearing gowns with the shades of apricot colors.
Pomagranate is also one of the symbols of Armenia, representing fertility and wealth. Pomegranate grows mostly in Southern Europe and Southern Asia, in particular in the Armenian highlands. Many pomegranate ornaments are used in the Armenian architecture. Ppomegranate wine is very popular.
Grape is also considered one of the Armenia symbols, as well. The homeland of grape is the Eastern Asia. There are many decorative ornaments of grape used in the Armenian architecture. According to Bible, Noah planted a vine of grape after descending from the mountain Ararat, and made wine after the harvest. The climate of Armenia is favorable for growing grape. Armenian grape differs with its high contain of sugar, which is necessary for making high quality wine and brandy.