Oh my gosh! Did you hear about Armenia and Greece? Okay, it’s not like official, and you didn’t hear it from me, but… I think they’re, like dating now! Oh my god! They’re like so perfect for each other! They’re so cute! I hope they have babies! Yeah, 12 year old girls watch this show too. I gotta appeal to that demographic. ♫ It’s time to learn geography ♫ NOW!!! Welcome to Armenia, today’s episode! I’m your host, Paul Barbato. Let’s dissect the flag! The Armenian flag has three equally long wide bands of red, blue and orange. The official definitions of these colors, according to the Constitution of Armenia, are that the red signifies the Armenian highland, the continuous struggle for survival, the maintenance of the Christian faith, independence, and freedom. The blue means the will of the people, of the Armenians, to live beneath peaceful skies, and the orange means the creative talent and the hard working nature of the people of Armenia. Some people will tell you that the red also represents the blood of the 1.5 million Armenians that were killed during the Armenian genocide, in the early 20th century, and the orange is also the color of apricots, the national fruit. Alright, now let’s talk about the borders. Armenia is a landlocked nation, located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, (by the way, it’s pronounced Caucasus, not Caucus, a caucus is when a ton of politicians make an excuse to get drunk.) bordered by four other countries,only two of which have open borders, we’ll explain more about that in a bit, with the capital of Yerevan in the south, central region, close to Mt. Ararat in Turkey, which is the area that is disputedly claimed to be the historical site that Noah’s Ark landed on! The interesting thing is that Armenia has one enclave and one disputed nation, locked within Azerbaijan. Artsvashen, although considered an Armenian enclave was actually taken over and controlled by Azerbaijan since 1992 as they expelled the Armenians living there. And on that note, Azerbaijan actually has 4 enclaves inside of Armenia: Yukhari Askipara, Yaradullu, Barxudarli, and Karki. Now let’s get back to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This entire region is the center of so much controversy between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The population of this area is almost completely Armenian, and they have expressed their desire to either secede and become a part of Armenia or gain complete recognized statehood, even though Azerbaijan claims that they are still in their land. In the early 90’s, Azerbaijan relinquished official governmental control over this region, however, it is still a huge breeding ground for fighting and conflict. To this day, the Nagorno-Karabakh is kind of an independent nation that runs without Azeri legislation However, the situation gets very complicated. As you’ll soon find out, Armenia actually has a very unique and strategic location in a very dark and complex territory. But first, let’s explain the terrain. Armenia’s landscapes are actually pretty distinct and quite lovely. The land is almost completely mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and green forests, a lot of the farms being mountain terrace farms on the hillside. Armenia enjoys nice warm summers and long autumns and cold, snowy winters. Environmentally and agriculture-wise, Armenia has been taking their land very seriously. Laws have just been passed that heavily tax people and companies for any kind of air, land, or water pollution. All tax revenue goes towards reinvesting in environmental protection activities. With fertile volcanic soil, the land allows them to grow all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and grains. And a huge percentage, about 72% of the land, is used for agriculture, which employs about 46% of the workforce. Armenia went through a huge shift in their agriculture after disbanding from the former Soviet Union, and becoming independent in 1991. Long story short, land privatization was established, and people could freely grow and administer their own crops, without fear of the state control and demand. There’s actually a little bit of controversy, though, because although Armenia has a huge potential for renewable energy sources like hydroelectric power and water power, they actually are more dependent on nuclear power with plants that were built during the Soviet rule. The problem is that these plants are built in earthquake-prone zones, which put them in a precarious position. But even with all this acknowledged, the government seems to favor investing in these sources of power more than alternative brands. Finally, if you ask any Armenian, they’ll tell you that Mount Ararat, although kind of technically in Turkey right now, totally belongs to Armenia and historically, it kind of did belong to the Armenian Empire at one point. Mount Ararat actually plays a huge role in Armenian symbolism and nationalistic pride. To this day, Armenians can see the majestic mountain off in the distance from their border. Speaking of nationalism, let’s talk about the demographics! Armenia has about 3.3 million people and is very racially homogeneous, about 97% of the population is Armenian. With very few minorities like Greeks, Russians, Georgians, and the intriguing enigmatic Yazidi people The interesting thing, though, is that more Armenian people, over twice as much as the entire population of Armenia, lives outside of Armenia. It’s estimated about 8 million Armenians live in diaspora around the world, and the reason for this was primarily because of the Armenian genocide. Long story short, during the time of World War I, the Ottomans tried to ethnically cleanse the region during the last stretches of their falling empire and ended up killing over 1.5 million Armenians. This caused an influx of Armenians to leave Armenia out of fear, and to this day, there are numerous Armenian communities spread throughout the world, mainly in places like Russia, Iran, France and the US. With the largest Armenian community in the US being right here in my home town, Los Angeles. One of the most distinguishable aspects about Armenia, though, would have to be the language and the alphabet. Along with Georgian and Greek, Armenian is one of the only three European languages that uses an alphabet that is not derived from a Latin or a Cyrillic-based writing system. The Armenian alphabet, or the “այբուբեն” has 38 letters, technically 39 or 40 if you include those extra letters that were added during the 1920’s. They even made a monument to the alphabet in 2005 in Byurakan. There are also two distinct dialects, Eastern and Western Armenian, Western being spoken mostly by the Armenians in diaspora around the world. Sometimes it can also be hard for Western Armenian dialect speakers to understand Eastern dialect speakers without consistent practice or hearing it. Armenia also has a long history of Christianity, as historical accounts claim that 2 of Jesus’ disciples, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, preached to the Armenians in the 1st century A.D. and eventually Armenia became the first Christian state in the world at around 300 A.D., just at the end of the persecution period during the Roman Empire. Finally, Armenians have a huge love of wrestling and chess. In fact, when Armenia was under Soviet rule, the Soviets would specifically want to choose Armenian wrestlers, because they always came back at a rate of 90% of the time with medals. Also, with some of the most worldwide-renowned chess players, such as the famous Tigran Petrosian and numerous world championship winners, Armenia is considered one of the strongest chess nations to this day. They love chess. You know what else Armenia loves? These countries we’re about to discuss in “The Friend Zone.” I nailed that transition Here’s a little story. When I was in 6th grade, I was assigned a seat where I literally had to share a desk table facing and staring my worst enemies two feet away from me for the entire school year. And there was nothing I could do. It was torture. That’s kind of what Armenia is like. With this predicament Armenia is located right next to Azerbaijan and Turkey. The two countries they get along with least. Azerbaijan, because of the whole Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Turkey, because of the former oppression that the Ottoman Empire had put on them. To this day, the land borders are closed between the 2 countries and Azerbaijan even prosecutes anyone that tries to enter with an Armenian passport. One of the biggest reasons why things don’t get insane, though, is because of a little friend Armenia has named Russia. You may have heard of him. As a former Soviet state, Armenia has a lot of ties to Russia. However, after the break up of the Soviet Union, they actually decided to maintain friendly relations with Russia. And Russia has been very dedicated to the protection of Armenia. They even have a Russian military base located in Gyumri. This gives Armenia significant backup, should anything cataclysmic arise. They also have close and strategic ties to Iran in the south, as they are Armenia’s only open land border to Asia. Despite the religious differences, the two get along just fine and share a long cultural history that goes back thousands of years. Georgians and Armenians have been sisters since day one and share a heavy history and culture with each other as well. They love each other, however, there’s a little bit of drama because Armenia is still friends with Russia, who recently went to war with Georgia over the South Ossetia region. This puts a huge economic strain on Armenia, because Georgia was the only land access route that Armenia had to Europe. And after the war, Russia put a blockade on Georgia. Apparently, Armenia’s two good friends don’t get along. However, on a side note, when it comes to Greece, Armenia and Greece, they kinda really like each other, like, they REALLY kind of like each other. Greece and Armenia just get along really well. Armenians are welcome in Greece with open arms and likewise Greeks in Armenia. It’s like, “Hey! You have an Orthodox Christian upbringing? So do I!” “Hey! You have a distinct unique language that isn’t based on any Indo-European dialect? So do I!” “Hey! You were persecuted and you hate the Ottomans, too? (gasps) So do I!” “Hey, would you, I don’t know, just like to maybe get some coffee sometime?” To this day, it’s not very uncommon to find lots of couples and families that have one Armenian parent and one Greek parent. It’s like a match made in southeastern European Heaven. In the end, Armenia is kind of like a reality show. There’s a lot of drama, there’s some relationship problems, there’s cute people pairing up. But in the end, they’re honest with who they are, and they trudge on through life one step at a time. Stay tuned. Australia is coming up next!