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The first Armenians inhabited the territory of the present-day Armenian Republic as early as the seventh century B.C. The first Armenian state, however, came into existence in the second century B.C. At least part of Armenia was able to retain a degree of independence until the beginning of the seventeenth century, when it was divided between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Savafid Empire. The fate of the Armenians was particularly harsh in the Ottoman Empire. Persecution of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks reached its peak in 1915, when the government forcibly deported Armenians to Syria and Mesopotamia. Estimates of Armenians who were killed or otherwise perished at that time range as high as 1.5 million people. Only a small number of Armenians--about 120,000-- remained in Turkey in the 1970s.

The Armenian Republic encompasses the territory of Persian Armenia, which was conquered by Russia in 1828. Here, as elsewhere in the Russian Empire, cultural nationalism of the nineteenth century was an important factor in the development of Armenian national consciousness. With the coming of the Bolshevik Revolution, Armenian nationalists joined the Georgians and the Azerbaydzhanis to form the short-lived Transcaucasian Federated Republic. By May 1918, the union of the three peoples broke up into three independent republics. Armenian independence lasted only until November 1920, when, with the help of the Red Army, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed. In March 1922, the republic joined again with Georgia and Azerbaydzhan to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, which--together with the Russian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian republics--joined to form the Soviet Union in December of that year. In December 1936, the Soviet government broke the federation into three separate union republics.

In the 1920s, the Soviet regime gave Armenians the same opportunity as it gave other nationalities to revitalize their culture and language. The onset of Stalin's rule at the end of the 1920s, however, brought dramatic changes. Together with forced collectivization of agriculture and rapid industrial development, the Soviet regime tightened political controls over the Armenian people and applied to them, as to others, its policy of Russification.

Two-thirds of the more than 4.6 million Armenians living in the Soviet Union resided in the Armenian Republic, the smallest and least populous of the three Caucasian republics. The Armenian Republic was the most ethnically homogeneous of all the Soviet republics. Over 93 percent of the population of the Armenian Republic in 1989 were Armenians. Only the Azerbaydzhanis formed a substantial national minority in Armenia. No other republic, however, had such a large percentage of its nationals living outside its borders. Large numbers of Armenians lived in the Azerbaydzhan, Georgian, and Russian republics.

Armenians speak a unique Indo-European language, which uses an equally unique script. The vast majority of the Armenians living in the Soviet Union and over 99 percent of the Armenians in the Armenian Republic regarded Armenian as their first language.

The citizens of the Armenian Republic rank among the most highly educated people in the Soviet Union. In the 1970s, the republic ranked second among the republics in the number of individuals with higher and secondary education per thousand people. Armenians also ranked second among Soviet nationalities in the number of scientific workers per thousand people.

Armenians were the third most urbanized nationality in 1970s. Some 68 percent of the Armenian Republic's population resided in towns and cities. The major city in the Armenian Republic was Yerevan, the capital, with nearly 1.2 million people in 1989. Two other cities, Leninakan and Kirovakan, had populations of more than 100,000.

Armenian representation in the CPSU has been quite high relative to their share of the Soviet population. Armenians also dominated in the party apparatus of the Armenian Republic.

Data as of May 1989

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