The Republic of Armenia is a mountainous country located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe covering 29,743 square kilometres. It is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east and Iran to the south. The climate is continental, typically ranging between -10Cto 36C. The population of 3,018,854 is 98% ethnic Armenian, 1.3% Yazidi and 0.5% Russian. Armenian is the official language, although 95% of Armenians have some knowledge of Russian and is considered the second language. The predominant religion in Armenia is Christianity. 93% of Armenian Christians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are also Catholic and Jewish communities in Armenia.
On 23rd August 1990, Armenia declared independence, becoming the first non-Baltic republic to do so. However, the initial post-soviet years were marred by economic difficulties as well as a full-scale armed conflict with the Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan instigated a rail and air blockade against Armenia which was joined in 1993 by Turkey in support of Azerbaijan, crippling its economy as 85% of Armenia's cargo and goods arrive by rail. The war ended after a Russian-brokered ceasefire was put in place in 1994. since then, despite peace talks, the status of Karabakh remains undetermined and Armenia's boarders with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed.
Education holds particular esteem in Armenian culture, with a literacy rate of 100% being reported as early as 1960. Primary and secondary education in Armenia is free, and completion of secondary school is compulsory. In the early 1990's Armenia made substantial changes to its centralised system and because at least 98% of students in higher education were Armenian, the curricula began to emphasise Armenian history and culture with Armenian becoming the dominant language. Yerevan State Medical University was traditionally seen as a soviet centre of excellence in healthcare and the development of Medical Science. Nowadays YSMU trains staff, not just from Armenia and neighbouring countries, such as Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Georgia, but also many others from around the world, and is highly ranked by the WHO in their World Directory of Medical Schools.
Armenia is a multi-party democratic presidential republic. the President is the head of state and the government and executive powers are exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament which is controlled by a coalition of four parties. It has universal suffrage above the age of eighteen.
Armenia is divided into to ten provinces, with the city of Yerevan having special administrative status as the country's capital. the chief executive of each province is appointed by the government. In Yerevan the chief executive is the Mayor, appointed by the President. Each province has communities, which are self governing and designated as towns or villages. Of Armenia's 915 communities 49 are considered urban. Yerevan also has the status of a community and is itself divided into twelve semi-autonomous districts.
Armenia has good relations with most countries, the two major exceptions being its immediate neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan, due to tensions surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Existing between two unfriendly neighbours has required close relations and security ties with Russia, which maintains a military base in the north-western city of Gyumri; the USA, especially through its Armenian diaspora, and because of the blockades, close economic ties to Iran. Although once a prospective EU member, and is included in the European Union's European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), Armenia has chosen to look eastwards rather than to Europe and is now a member of the Eurasian Union.
Before independence, Armenia had developed a modern industrial sector, supplying machine tools,textiles, and other manufactured goods to neighbouring republics, in exchange for raw materials and energy, but was highly dependent on outside resources. Recent times however, have seen considerable changes and although its agriculture industry still accounts for 20% of GDP and 40% of employment, precious-stone processing, jewellery making, IT and tourism are now beginning to supplement the more traditional sectors of the economy. And along with the increases in technology companies Armenia also mines and produces copper, zinc, gold and lead. It has small deposits of coal, oil and gas although these are largely undeveloped and still relies heavily upon fuel imported from Russia for its energy. Its main domestic energy source is hydroelectric.
This steady economic progress has earned Armenia increasing support from international institutions, aimed predominantly at stabilising the currency and developing the private business sector as well as transportation, health and education. However, the main source of direct foreign investment remains Armenia's diaspora, which finances much of the reconstruction of infrastructure and other public projects.