Armenian Highlands

Armenian Highlands
The Armenian Mountain Range near the Turkey-Iran border
Country Armenia
Region West Asia
Highest point Mount Ararat
 - elevation 5,137 m (16,854 ft)
 - coordinates 39°43′N 44°16′E / 39.717°N 44.267°E / 39.717; 44.267
Area 400,000 km2 (154,441 sq mi)
Satellite image

The Armenian Highlands (Armenian: Հայկական լեռնաշխարհ, translit. Haykakan leṙnašxarh; also known as the Armenian Upland, Armenian plateau, Armenian tableland,[1] or simply Armenia) is the central-most and highest of three land-locked plateaus[1] that together form the northern sector of the Middle East. To its west is the Anatolian plateau which rises slowly from the lowland coast of the Aegean Sea and converges with the Armenian Highlands to the east of Cappadocia. To its southeast is the Iranian plateau, where the elevation drops rapidly by about 600 metres (2,000 ft) to 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) above sea level.[1] The Caucasus extends to the northeast of the Armenian Highlands. To the southwest of the Armenian Highlands is Upper Mesopotamia.

During the Iron Age, the region was known by variations of the name Ararat (Urartu, Uruatri, Urashtu). During Antiquity, it was known as "Armenia Major," a central region to the history of Armenians, and one of the four geo-political regions associated with Armenians, the other three being Armenia Minor, Sophene, and Commagene.[2][3] The highlands are divided into western and eastern regions, defined by the Ararat Valley where Mount Ararat is located. The region to the west of the Ararat Valley, which was conventionally called "Western Armenia", is now officially called "Eastern Anatolia" by Turkey, and the region to the east, which was conventionally called "Eastern Armenia," is now referred to as "Lesser Caucasus" or "Caucasus Minor."

The region was historically mainly inhabited by Armenians, and minorities of Assyrians, Georgians, Jews, Greeks, and Iranians. During the Middle Ages, Arabs and particularly Turkmens and Kurds settled in large numbers in the Armenian Highlands. The Christian population of the western half of the region was exterminated during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and on a smaller scale the Assyrian Genocide.

Today, the eastern half is mainly inhabited by Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Georgians, while the western half is mainly inhabited by Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Turks, and Zazas.


The Armenian Highlands is part of the Alpide belt, forming part of the Asian range that stretches from the Pontic Mountains to the Malay Peninsula. Its total area is about 400,000 km2.[4] Historically, the Armenian Highlands have been the scene of great volcanic activity.[5] Geologically recent volcanism on the area has resulted in large volcanic formations and a series of massifs and tectonic movement has formed the three largest lakes in the Highland, Lake Sevan, Lake Van and Lake Urmia.[6] The Armenian Highlands are rich in water resources.[7]

Most of the Armenian Highlands is in eastern Turkey, and also includes northwestern Iran, all of Armenia, southern Georgia, and western Azerbaijan.[4] Its northeastern parts are also known as Lesser Caucasus, which is a center of Armenian culture.[8]


From 4000 to 1000 BC, tools and trinkets of copper, bronze and iron were commonly produced in this region and traded in neighboring lands where those metals were less abundant. It is also traditionally believed to be one of the possible locations of the Garden of Eden.[9]

The Armenian Plateau has been called the "epicenter of the Iron Age", since it appears to be the location of the first appearance of Iron Age metallurgy in the late 2nd millennium BC.[10] In the Early Iron Age, the Kingdom of Van controlled much of the region, until it was overthrown by the Medes and Orontid dynasty.

In Gilgamesh, the land of Aratta is placed in a geographic space that could be describing the Armenian plateau.[11]

Throughout Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages, during various centuries, the Armenian Highlands was a heavily contested territory of the Iranian Parthian Empire, Sassanid Persian Empire, Byzantine Empire, and the Arab Caliphate.[12] From the early modern era and on, the region came directly under Safavid Iranian rule. Heavily contested for centuries between the Iranian Safavids and its vying archrival the Ottoman Empire with numerous wars raging over the region, large parts of the Highlands comprising Western Armenia were finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the first half of the 17th century following the Ottoman–Safavid War (1623–39) and the outcoming Treaty of Zuhab,[13] while Eastern Armenia, forming another major part of the Highlands, stayed in Iranian hands up to the course of the 19th century, when it was ceded to Imperial Russia. During the later first half of the 19th century, the Ottoman held parts of the Armenian Highlands comprising Western Armenia now formed the boundary of the Ottoman sphere of influence and the Russian sphere of influence, the latter who had just recently completed its conquest of the Caucasus and Eastern Armenia at the expense of its suzerain, Qajar Iran, in about 4 major wars spanning more than two centuries.[14]

According to Richard Hovannisian, the Armenian Genocide was the "physical elimination of the Armenian people and most of the evidence of their ever having lived on the great highland called the Armenian Plateau, to which the perpetrator side soon assigned the new name of Eastern Anatolia".[15] Since the Armenian Genocide and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, it has been the boundary region of Turkey, Iran and the Soviet Union and, since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia, and parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan.[11]

Flora and fauna

The apricot was known by the Romans as the prunus armenicus (the Armenian plum) and was brought to Europe from the Armenian plateau.[1]

Notable peaks

Rank Mountain Prominence Location
1Mount Ararat5,137 m Ağrı Province
2Mount Aragats4,095 m Aragatsotn Province
3Mount Süphan4,058 m Bitlis Province
4Mount Kapudzhukh3,906 m Syunik Province / Ordubad
5Mount Azhdahak3,597 m Gegharkunik Province
6Mount Kezelboghaz3,594 m Syunik Province
7 Mount Artos3,515 m Van Province

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Hewsen, Robert H. "The Geography of Armenia" in The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times Volume I: The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century. Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997, pp. 1-17
  2. Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical dictionary of Armenia (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. pp. 336–8. ISBN 0810874504.
  3. Grierson, Otto Mørkholm ; edited by Philip; Westermark, Ulla (1991). Early Hellenistic coinage : from the accession of Alexander to the Peace of Apamea (336-188 B.C.) (Repr. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 175. ISBN 0521395046.
  4. 1 2 "Armenian Highland." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia
  5. Volcanoes, their structure and significance Thomas George Bonney - 1912 - Page 243
  6. Emerald Network Pilot Project in Armenia Archived May 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., Council of Europe.
  7. Der Völkermord an den Armeniern, Nikolaĭ Oganesovich Oganesian - 2005- Page 6
  8. Barbara A. West (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8160-7109-8. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  9. Mesopotamian Trade. Noah's Flood: The Garden of Eden, W. Willcocks, H. Rassam pp. 459-460
  10. Lang, David M. Armenia: Cradle of Civilization. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970, pp. 50-51, 58-59.
  11. 1 2 Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, By Barbara A. West, 2009, p. 47
  12. "Conflict and Security in Central Asia and the Caucasus". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  13. "Armenia: with Nagorno Karabagh". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  14. "Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond ..." Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  15. The Armenian Genocide: Cultural and Ethical Legacies - Page 3, by Richard G. Hovannisian - 2011

Further reading

Coordinates: 39°17′1″N 43°22′19″E / 39.28361°N 43.37194°E / 39.28361; 43.37194

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