History of Armenia

History of Armenia

Two of Jesus' apostles, Saint Thaddeus and Saint Bartholomew introduced Christianity in Armenia in the first century. Despite persecutions, the Church took solid root in that region.

Fourth and fifth century: the founding period

In 301, King Tiridates III converted to Christianity after hearing the predication of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (295-310), a disciple of Origen.


Through Tiridates' decision to make Christianity state religion, Armenia became the first Christian nation in the world.


At the same time the Cathedral of Saint Etchmiadzin was founded (near Yerevan, capital of Armenia); it was and still is the See of the Armenian Apostolic Church, of which Gregory was the first Patriarch or Catholicos.


In 374, due to political disunity of King Pap and the Roman Empire, the Armenian Church separated from the motherchurch of Caesarea, proclaimed its autonomy, adopted its own liturgy, and replaced the Greek with the Armenian language, whose letters were probably invented by Saint Mesrob (361-440).


The Armenians have accepted the first ecumenical councils up to the council of Ephesus.

A Time of wars and persecution

Because of the continual wars which opposed the Byzantines and the Persians, the Armenian Church couldn't take part in the Councils of Ephesus (431) or Chalcedon (451). It had knowledge of it in only about 485, but the translations of the acts of the councils were not very accurate. The Armenians found the contradictions and convened a synod in 491 at Vagarciapat and decided to reject the dogma of Chalcedon. A little later, this position was renewed at the Synod of Dvin (506-507).


In the 10th century, to escape persecution by the Byzantines, the Armenians transferred the See of the Catholicate from Astisat to Ani, then Cis.


The Kingdom the New Armenia lasted from 1071 until 1375, which allowed the Armenians to establish friendly ties with the crusaders of the Principality of Antioch and with other European countries. Armenians were divided into a pro-Catholic camp and a pro-Apostolic camp.


In the 16th century, under the influence of missionaries, parts of the faithful went to Protestantism and Catholicism. The Nestorians united to Rome then formed the Chaldean Church; the others constituted the Gregorian Church (named after Saint Gregory the Illuminator).


At the early 17th century, the Persians conquered a good part of Armenia from the Ottoman Empire. In 1826, another part fell to the empire of the Russian Tsars. But despite all the despoiling and persecution, the Armenians preserved their own national identity.


At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the Armenians suffered a wave of systematic ethnic cleansing launched by the Turks in 1894-1895, 1909, and especially from 1915-1920. On April 24, 1915, the Young Turks government of the Ottoman Empire decided to eliminate the Armenian minority living in Turkey at the time, and organized the deportation and massacre of about one and a half million Armenians, thus committing the first genocide of the 20th century. Western Armenia was emptied of its native Armenian population.


The survivors took refuge in Syria, Lebanon, America, and other Western countries, forming a vast diaspora which continues to this day today.


The Soviet Union put an end to the persecutions to which the Armenians were subjected, and created for them the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, inviting the Armenians of the Diaspora to join the new nation. Those who were brave enough to return experienced a terrible earthquake in 1988.


Armenia obtained its independence on September 21, 1991 - but the new country is only a small part of the old Armenia, namely the territory that had been annexed to the Russian empire (and the Soviet Union). The western part of the old Armenia (in eastern Anatolia) remains within the borders of the Republic of Turkey.


Le monde de la Bible, hors série « Arménie », printemps 2007 et http//www.wikipedia.org