Armenia Table of Contents
Armenia is located in southern Transcaucasia, the region southwest of Russia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Modern Armenia occupies part of historical Armenia, whose ancient centers were in the valley of the Aras River and the region around Lake Van in Turkey. Armenia is bordered on the north by Georgia, on the east by Azerbaijan, on the southwest by the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, on the south by Iran, and on the west by Turkey (see fig. 1).
Damage to apartment buildings in Leninakan (present-day
Gyumri) caused by 1988 earthquake
Courtesy John Filson
Twenty-five million years ago, a geological upheaval pushed up the earth's crust to form the Armenian Plateau, creating the complex topography of modern Armenia (see fig. 2). The Lesser Caucasus range extends through northern Armenia, runs southeast between Lake Sevan and Azerbaijan, then passes roughly along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to Iran. Thus situated, the mountains make travel from north to south difficult. Geological turmoil continues in the form of devastating earthquakes, which have plagued Armenia. In December 1988, the second largest city in the republic, Leninakan (now Gyumri), was heavily damaged by a massive quake that killed more than 25,000 people.
About half of Armenia's area of approximately 29,800 square kilometers has an elevation of at least 2,000 meters, and only 3 percent of the country lies below 650 meters. The lowest points are in the valleys of the Aras River and the Debet River in the far north, which have elevations of 380 and 430 meters, respectively. Elevations in the Lesser Caucasus vary between 2,640 and 3,280 meters. To the southwest of the range is the Armenian Plateau, which slopes southwestward toward the Aras River on the Turkish border. The plateau is masked by intermediate mountain ranges and extinct volcanoes. The largest of these, Mount Aragats, 4,430 meters high, is also the highest point in Armenia. Most of the population lives in the western and northwestern parts of the country, where the two major cities, Erevan and Gyumri (which was called Aleksandropol' during the tsarist period), are located.
The valleys of the Debet and Akstafa rivers form the chief routes into Armenia from the north as they pass through the mountains. Lake Sevan, 72.5 kilometers across at its widest point and 376 kilometers long, is by far the largest lake. It lies 2,070 meters above sea level on the plateau. Terrain is most rugged in the extreme southeast, which is drained by the Bargushat River, and most moderate in the Aras River valley to the extreme southwest. Most of Armenia is drained by the Aras or its tributary, the Razdan, which flows from Lake Sevan. The Aras forms most of Armenia's border with Turkey and Iran as well as the border between Azerbaijan's adjacent Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and Iran.
Data as of March 1994