Armenia Table of Contents
Figure 7. Transportation System of Armenia, 1994
Armenia's mountainous topography, landlocked location, and antagonistic neighbors have made movement of goods and maintenance of a transportation system difficult. Despite these problems, however, the country's air, rail, and highway networks serve the nation's needs adequately. Domestic movement of goods is occasionally hampered by poor maintenance of roads. In addition, since independence in 1991, movement of goods across international borders has frequently been disrupted because many of the country's important rail and highway links with the outside world pass through Azerbaijan. Beginning in 1989, complete stoppage of international trade across this border led to escalating food and fuel shortages in Armenia.
In 1991 Armenia had 11,300 kilometers of roads, of which about 10,500 kilometers were paved. Most roads radiate from Erevan, and in the western part of the country four-lane highways connect major cities (see fig. 7). The main route for international travel of passengers and goods before the start of the conflict with Azerbaijan was Route M24, which leads northeast out of Erevan to connect with Route M27, the principal east-west highway across the Caucasus Mountains. Other major highways extend southeast from the capital to southern Armenia, southeast to Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, and west to the populated areas of western Armenia and to the Turkish border.
In 1992 Armenia had about 100,000 state-owned vehicles (automobiles, trucks, taxis, and buses). Observers noted, however, that at any given time about one-third of these vehicles were inoperable because of poor maintenance and unavailability of spare parts. Average vehicle age in 1992 was 6.5 years.
Armenia had 825 kilometers of mainline railroad track in 1992, excluding several small industrial lines. Most lines are 1.520-meter broad gauge, and the principal routes are electrified. The rail system is roughly configured like a "Y" and has lines radiating from a central point just south of Erevan. The northeast branch roughly parallels Route M24 to Azerbaijan. About 85 percent of all goods used in Armenia are imported by rail, and before the conflict with Azerbaijan, most came via this rail line. Closure of the line at the international border during the early 1990s has caused severe disruption to the Armenian economy. The southern branch of the line extends south toward the Turkish border, where it turns southeast into Nakhichevan. The war with Azerbaijan has stopped service on this segment of the rail system as well.
In 1994 the last operative portion of the country's rail lines was the northwest branch of the "Y," which winds through the populated areas of northwestern Armenia before crossing into Georgia. A short spur of this line at Gyumri connects with the Turkish rail system. However, a difference in gauge with the Turkish system means that goods crossing the Turkish border must undergo a time-consuming reloading process.
In 1991 Armenia Railways, the state-owned rail system, operated with 100 electric and eighty diesel locomotives. Delays in the delivery of spare parts from Russia have been a nagging problem in the maintenance of the system. Cannibalization of rolling stock to obtain parts has severely reduced service.
Erevan's new subway system was still largely under construction in the early 1990s. In 1994 nine stations had opened on the first ten-kilometer section of heavy-rail line. This first line connected Erevan's industrial area with the downtown area and the main rail station. Work on an additional four kilometers was slowed by the 1988 earthquake. Plans called for an eventual system of forty-seven kilometers organized into three lines.
Armenia's principal airport, Zvartnots, is about seven kilometers from downtown Erevan. With a runway approximately 2,700 kilometers long, the airport can handle airplanes as large as the Russian Tu-154 and IL-86 or the Boeing 727. In 1993 the airport handled about 34,000 tons of freight. The State Airlines Company of Armenia, the new state-run airline, provides direct or nonstop service to about a dozen cities of the former Soviet Union, as well as to Paris. The Russian and Romanian national airlines also provide regular international air service into Erevan. Since the beginning of the war with Azerbaijan, fuel shortages have curtailed expansion of passenger and cargo service, however. Several other airports elsewhere in Armenia have paved runways, but most are used for minor freight transport. Although air cargo has the potential to relieve the effects of the Azerbaijani blockade of land routes, efforts to fly in aviation kerosene were frustrated in 1993 by corruption in the Main Administration for Aviation and by high prices charged by Russian suppliers.
Armenia's one major natural gas pipeline branches off the main Transcaucasian line that runs from Russia through Georgia to Baku. The Armenian spur begins in western Azerbaijan and reaches its main terminus in Erevan. In all, Armenia has 900 kilometers of natural-gas pipeline. Armenia imports most of its fuel and, before the war with Azerbaijan, imported 80 percent of its fuel from Azerbaijan via the pipeline or in rail tanker cars. Like Armenia's rail and highway links, the pipeline from Azerbaijan has been closed by the Azerbaijani blockade.
In 1991 the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) installed 200 long-distance circuits in Armenia, which gave the republic the capacity, available elsewhere in the former Soviet Union only in Moscow, to receive direct-dial international calls. Radio and television are controlled by the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting. Ten AM and three FM radio stations broadcast from Erevan, Kamo, and Sisian. Broadcasts are in Armenian, Kurdish, and Russian to points within Armenia, and in those languages plus Arabic, English, French, Persian, Spanish, and Turkish to points outside the country. The single television station broadcasts in Armenian and Russian. According to Soviet statistics of the late 1980s, between 90 and 95 percent of Armenian homes had radios or televisions. No statistics are available for the blockade years, but experts believe that under blockade conditions substantially fewer Armenians have had regular access to broadcast information.
Data as of March 1994
Armenia Table of Contents