Armenia is the geographical region where the Armenian people were shaped as a nation and lived over centuries to present day, thus creating a vast and rich heritage of unique history and culture. Greek historians named Armenia as such about 3,000 years ago. The culture of Armenia encompasses many elements that are based on the geography, literature, architecture, visual arts, dance, music and cuisine.
Architecture – one of the most interesting art forms in Armenia, as, for example, churches bear artistic illustrations in frescoes and reliefs. Sculpting is everywhere – in nearly every city, town, and village in Armenia. The mountainous landscape of the country defined the lines of its architecture. Powerfully and monumentally, like the mountains surrounding them, stand the monuments of medieval architecture. The stony soil, the jags of surrounding ridges and the outlines of architectural monuments merge into a uniform image.
Armenia is often referred to as â€śthe open-air museumâ€ť. Magnificent domed Echmiadzin temple (4th century), Zvartnots (7th century), monasteries Haghpat and Sanahin and the medieval jewel â€“ Gegard (4th-13th centuries) are known all over the world and are included in the list of UNESCO heritage. There are some 33,000 historical and cultural monuments in Armenia under state protection, which are included in the State Register of National Heritage.
Music – Sharakans are traditional Armenian liturgical songs, which are experiencing a revival today. Distinctive musical instruments are used to play Armenian folk songs. Sayat Nova, Komitas, and Aram Khachaturian are among Armenia’s best-known musicians and composers. Contemporary music comes in the forms of jazz and pop.
Literature – Early Armenian literature was written by the Â«father of Armenian historyÂ», Movses of Chorene, who authored The History of Armenia. The 19th century, writer Mikael Nalbandian created a new Armenian literary individuality; his poem was the inspiration for the Armenian national anthem, Mer Hayrenik. The creation of Armenian alphabet in 405 by Mesrop Mashtots became a major milestone in the development of culture. The same year the Bible was translated anew and re-written in the new alphabet. The Armenian translation of the Bible, which contains more words than the Hebrew and Greek originals, was so perfect that it soon came to be known as the ‘Queen of Translations’. The new alphabet stimulated an unprecedented boom in literature, and the V century was later called the ‘Golden Age of Armenian Literature’.
The alphabet created by Mesrop Mashtots was so perfect that it has not been almost changed or reformed since 405 AD. The letters used today look as Mesrop Mashtots created them. The Armenian alphabet played an enormous role in the preserving of the national and cultural identity of the Armenian people, and enjoys a very special love and respect.
Painting – Armenian painting blossomed in the 19th century. Artists from that period, such as the portrait painter Hakob Hovnatanian and the seascape artist Ivan Aivazovsky, continue to enjoy international reputation. In the 20th century, Martiros Saryan captured nature’s essence in a new light, and Arshile Gorky greatly influenced a generation of young American artists in New York, while Carzou and Jansem found fame and fortune painting in France.
Cuisine – Armenian cuisine is a combination of different tastes and aromas. Closely related to eastern and Mediterranean culinary art, various spices, vegetables, fish, and fruits combine to present unique dishes. Armenia is also famous for its wine and brandy, in particular, Armenian cognac.
Rug and carpet – The Caucasus region and Armenia in particular have been cited by scholars as the place where rug and carpet weaving originated. Armenians continue this tradition, and one can find many shops specializing in fine new and old rugs and carpets. At the weekend flea market, rug sellers lay out their eye-catching merchandise filled with appealing colors and designs. Visitors to Armenia find handmade crafts, Armenian gold, precious and semi-precious stones which inspire jewelers in many regions. Obsidian stone is used for jewelry, desk accessories, and decorative items. Carpet making is not only a fine art, but Kilim weaving, for example, is applied to clothing items, bags, and home furnishings. Wood carvings replicate the ancient stone crosses (khachkars) found throughout the country, and no two are exactly alike. Armenian crafts couple elegant utility and delightful whimsy in textiles, ceramics, metal and woodworking.