Gyumri is located in the central part of Shirak highland, 1550 m above sea level. The population of the city is over 150,000 people, with a territory of 4429 hectares. Gyumri is the regional center and has history dating back at least five thousand years. Geographically it is situated in the Shirak Valley, on the left bank of the Akhuryan river. Gyumri is just north from the highest mountain in Armenia; Aragats. Four branches of the Akhuryan river flow through the city; Gyumrichay, Ghorghoba, and Boshichay the river of the Cherkez canyon. The climate is very dry.
Gyumri and the surrounding area have been populated since the ancient times. Settlements that have recently been discovered that date back to the beginning of the 3rd millennium B.C.E (the meat factory, Botanical garden, the Alexandrapol fortress, Black Fort, Vardbagh). The oldest mention of a state in the area of Gyumri was in the 8th century in an Urartian inscription and the state was called Irdanuni. It was located not far from the current village of Marmashen, and was identified with the name of “Kumayri”. Kymayri was located in what is now the western part of the city, on the left side of the Cherkez Canyon River.
The settlement named Kumayri first is mentioned in 774, and then again in the 13th century; No further information about the settlement was recorded until the beginning of the 19th century.
At the beginning of the 19th century the name Gyumri was used. (Over the centuries the word Kumayri went through phonetic changes and became Kumri and later distortions turned it into Gumri, and now Gyumri.). According to contemporary experts, at that time, Gyumri had an old church and 50-70 households. In 1804, the Russian General Tsitsanov’s army first invaded Shirak and occupied Gyumri. Soon thereafter a residential district was built for Kazak troops, and a little while later a strong fortification base was established in the same area. Due to the presence of the Russian army Gyumri started to attract Armenians who had to migrate because of wars and hardships.
The economic life of the area started to flourish only after the resettlement of the western Armenians (1829-1830). Gradually, new districts started to appear. Still at the beginning of the century Russian soldiers who settled in the city built their district in the southern part of the city called “Slabotka”. Muslims had found the “Turks district” in the South-East of Gyumri (currently found between the bus station and the cemetery). To the north, Greeks had founded the “Urmnots” or “the Greek district”, “the Dosha district” by the Armenian boshas (currently from Sayat-Nova street to the former department store area), and the Armenian Catholics founded the “Frang’s district” (the area from the Ladies collage to the military). The low class people of the city had built poor dwellings and their district was called “Hogheplan”. The native Gyumri people had settled mainly in the “Dzori district”.
In 1836 the first city plan of Gyumri was established, according to which the city would lie in a grid pattern, with streets merging into each other horizontally and vertically. During the same year the construction of the fort was completed. In 1837, Emperor Nikolas I founded the Russian church in the fort and renamed Gyumri to Alexandrapol. The city coat of arms was confirmed in 1843.
The circumstance of becoming the centre of the new-formed province in 1840 played a big role in Alexandrapol’s further development. From 1840 to1870 the management of Alexandrapol and the province was realized by the head of the province. In 1870 the police administration was formed in the province, and it was charged with the implementation of administrative, management and punishment functions. In 1892, the imperial government announced the national urban constitution, which was applied in Alexandrapol in 1896 (three non class bodies were defined for the city self administration; the elective assembly, council and the administration).
Politics and economics benefited the area starting from 1846 and Alexandrapol turned into a state-leading province which exceeded even the state centre Yerevan.
Starting from the 19th century it was a prosperous city, with straight, wide and well-lit streets, and the population of the city mostly spoke Russian. Simultaneously, starting in mid-1803, Alexandrapol was also the city in the entire Caucasus with the most Armenians living in it. At the end of the century Yerevan became the most densely populated city (according to the consensus taken in the Caucasus in 1886, the population of the city was 24230, of whom 95.5% of them were Armenians).
Alexandrapol continued to flourish until the beginning of the 20th century. On August 1st of 1914, WWI broke out, during which the city became a shelter for thousands of Armenians who survived the genocide. During 1915-1918 over 95000 western Armenians went through Alexandrapol.
From April 1918, because of unfavorable military and political conditions, military activities shifted from Caucasus to the eastern part of Armenia. On May 15th of that year, Alexandrapol was occupied by the Turks and for over six months remained in the blockade. Two years later it happened again. In 1920, at the end of September, as a result of the Turkish-Armenian war, Alexandrapol was taken over by the Turks again for six months. These blockades had devastating consequences for the city. According to the RA ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1918 alone the total number of the people leaving the city and the province was over 45000 people. The Turks left Alexandrapol on April 22, 1921, when the city had already turned into a huge pile ruins.
The renaissance of the city was connected with the establishment of Soviet power. With the intermediacy of the Armenian Communist Party in 1924, the USSR Central Executive Committee renamed the city Leninakan. The new turning point in the life of the city had begun. The first steps in improving city’s economy were taken from 1920-1930. In a city having rich railway traditions, electrical trains were introduced in 1953 and in 1965 the locomotive station was built. Within a short period of time Leninakan turned into a center of light industry. The textile factory was founded in 1924, the paint factory in 1942 and in 1975 the cotton fabric production union called “The May Rebalion”. Simultaneously, “Lenkosh” union was founded.
The food industry also developed in the city. The canned meat factory was created in 1935.
Due to the consistent politics in Leninakan, heavy and machinery industry started to develop in the city. The “Strommash”, Milling, Electrical machinery, “Armelectriccondenser”, Bicycle, “Armelectricaplaciance”, “Galvanometr”, Analytic devices and Refrigerator compressor factories were founded from 1950-1960.
Sufficient amount of work was created in the sphere of transportation and communication. An airport was built in the city in 1931 and in 1960 trolley buses became part of the city’s public transportation system.
In all, during the soviet years over 13 machinery construction enterprises were built in Leninakan. The number of city industrial centers reached 54, employing 48000 workers according to records dated, January 1, 1988.
In 1984, the city was awarded with the medal of “The People’s Friendship”.
Renaming the city from Leninakan into Gyumri is connected with independence, when the city was experiencing the most complicated conditions, carrying the hardships of the devastating earthquake of 1988 and the Artsakh freedom fights (by the city council decision the renaming was united to the September 21, 1992 Independence referendum). The city, from December 1992 existed in extremely difficult conditions losing over 60% of its housing. Because of the ban of gas and energy supply, the city was deprived of the social welfare. Because of the lack of fuel the operation of public transportation stopped. Nevertheless, people of Gyumri showed their active participation in Artsakh fights and for protecting the borders of Armenia. Land keepers volunteering units were formed, supervised by Mikayel Vardanyan, Misha Sahakyan, Vardan Mayilyan, Ashot Zakarian and others.
Positive changes started in the city during 1999-2002, when the government adopted the “Disaster Zone Reconstruction and Development Concept” followed by the “Disaster Zone Complex Project”. During that period “Lincy”, Huntsman and “The Red Cross” started their projects. With John Huntsman’s initiation a micro district was formed on G. Nzhdeh Street. With “Lincy” and “The Red Cross” funds over two dozens of apartment buildings were rebuilt, main roads were paved, the theatre named after V. Achemyan was completely renovated, as was the Aslamazyan sisters’ house museum and other public centers. During the same period essential work was done in the sphere of school, health and sports building construction. Already, in the middle of 2008, with the efforts of the running president S. Sargsyan, “Disaster Zone Housing” a vitally important project began and thanks to this, over 3000 families were provided with apartments. Today Gyumri has become a city with industrial and banking potential, with 12 bank branches, more than 20 large companies and over 500 business entities.
Today, Gyumri is getting ready for a new spiritual flight and the correct organization and the harmonious development of the marvelous traditions of its economic and cultural life are important guarantees in shaping the modern city portrait.