Lying in Ararat Valley Yerevan has passed a long way full of invasions and ups and downs. Nevertheless, the city has managed to survive and today with every other day it’s getting more and more beautiful, advanced and up to date.
An inscription discovered in 1950 serves as a proof the city was founded by Argishti I and was first called Erebuni and only in the course of time came to be known as Yerevan. The inscription reads, “By the greatness of the God Khaldi, Argishti, son of Menua, built this mighty stronghold and proclaimed it Erebuni for the glory of Biainili (Urartu) and to instill fear among the king’s enemies. Argishti says: The land was a desert, before the great works I accomplished upon it. By the greatness of Khaldi, Argishti, son of Menua, is a mighty king, king of Biainili, and ruler of Tushpa.”

Yerevan Etymology

Yerevan’s one of the ancient cities in the world. And the naming of the city is interpreted in various interesting ways.

One interpretation refers to Noah and his ark. According to it, Noah’s ark landed on Masis and as he came out of it, he saw the place of the city of Yerevan. In this regard, the name Yerevan has been related to the Armenian word “yereval” (երևալ) meaning “to be seen.”

Another interpretation brought forth in 1893 refers to the Urartian settlement called “Eriani,” which was inhabited by “Eri” people. This assumption was later refused, because it turned out the Eri people lived in the region of Shirak.

A third interpretation takes to the 9th-6th centuries BC, when the Kingdom of Urartu was established, which collapsed in the 6th century BC. Excavations held in Arin-Berd (Blood Fortress) give clearer notion of what the city name might imply. An inscription found in the lower parts of Arin Berd in 1879, which has been kept in the Moscow History Museum since 1894, served as a trace for the scientists, which took them to the place from where it might have fallen down. The studies conducted there revealed that once there used to be a fortress. Further studies showed the word Yerevan has Urartian origins. An inscription carved on a basalt stone stated that King of Urartu Argishti I built Erebuni Fortress city in 782-781 BC. Further studies showed that the name Yerevan comes from Erebuni. Studies of Urartu have discovered that Urartian “b” sounds “v” in Armenian. In the course of time the name underwent changes and acquired the current way of being written and pronounced – Erebuni –>Erevuni/Erevani–>Erevan–>Yerevan.

There is also a fourth way of interpreting the city name. It states that Yerevan is related to the name of the founder of the city. The city was founded by Argishti I, who is thought to be King Ara I. In this regard, it’s accepted the city was named Aravan after Ara I. Aravan meant the city of Ara. This assumption is no surprise considering the fact that Armenian Kings have always named cities after them. The kings of the Kingdom were given the nicknames Eri or Ere, which implies Ara could simply be called Ere or Eri. It means the city’s name could be written Erevan (Erebuni) and be pronounced as Aravan. In this regard, the hill of Arin Berd on which Erebuni Fortress was built is interpreted as the Fortress of Ara.

Yerevan Early History

People have been living in the territory of Yerevan since the 4th millennium BC. Archaeological excavations claim that in 782 BC Urartian King Argishti I (786-764 BC) built a military fortress “Erebuni Fortress” at the site of the present day Yerevan. The purpose of the fortress was to protect against the attacks from the North Caucasus. This archaeological evidence, which very often is being referred to as the “stone passport” of Yerevan, shows and at the same time proves that Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world.

Interestingly, back then, more precisely within the period when the kingdom was at its height, irrigation canals and artificial reservoir were built on the territory. Nevertheless, the glory didn’t last long, because already in the 6th-5th centuries the Kingdom of Urartu was invaded by Persian King Darius I (522-486 BC). To maintain an easier way of ruling and to effectively organize the empire Darius I divided the entire territory of his empire into 20 satrapies. The center of the 18th satrapy was Erebuni-Yerevan.

The period between the 4th century BC and the 3rd century AD is marked with the lack of historical data of Yerevan. In this regard, the period is more known as Yerevan Dark Ages.

First Yerevan Church

Armenians adopted Christianity as their state religion in the beginning of the fourth century, in 301. The first church in Yerevan, however, was built only in the fifth century. It was called Saint Peter and Paul (Սուրբ Պողոս-Պետրոս Եկեղեցի). In 1679 a disastrous earthquake occurred as a result of which together with many significant buildings and churches, this church as well lay in ruins. The eastern section of the church survived, and based on that section the rest was soon rebuilt.

In some sense, it can be said that the earthquake proved to be incapable of destroying the church, but not the Soviet Government. In 1931, the church was destroyed to build a cinema (Moscow Movie Theater). Some fragments and wall paintings serving as a historical proof of the church are today displayed in Yerevan History Museum and History Museum of Armenia.

Yerevan from 7th to 20th Centuries

In 658 AD Yerevan was captured by Arabs and later Seljuk Turks. Since the 7th century it has served as a crossroad for caravan routes between Europe and India. Notably, the city is known to be called Yerevan starting from the 7th century; back then Yerevan was not the capital of Armenia.

In the 9th-11th centuries Armenia was ruled by Bagratuni Armenian royal dynasty. During that period Yerevan was part of the Bagratuni Kingdom. In 1387 Yerevan was taken and pillaged by Tamerlane, Central Asian conqueror who proclaimed himself the Sword of Islam. Yerevan became the administrative center of the Mongol Khanate, known as Ilkhanate. Yerevan bore strategic significance therefore both Persians and Ottomans ceaselessly fought for dominion over the city. During the reign of Shah Abbas I (1587-1619), particularly in 1604, tens of thousands of Armenians were deported to Persia. Among them were the citizens of Yerevan. The deportation caused a radical decrease in the number of Armenian population in Yerevan. As a result, Muslims used to make up the 80 percent of Yerevan population then.

In 1826-1828 the second Russo-Persian war broke out after which the Treaty of Turkmenchay was signed. Yerevan was liberated by Russian forces led by Ukrainian-born military leader Ivan Paskevich. Tsarist Russia supported Armenian resettlement from Persia and Turkey. Due to this sponsorship Armenian population in Yerevan grew with Russians making up 2 percent of the entire Yerevan population, Armenians 48 percent and Azerbaijanis 49 percent. In those years the population of Yerevan made up 29,033.

This period between 1850-1917 was marked with the establishment of a number of institutions, colleges, railways and factories; the first street currently known as Abovyan Street was opened, the first printing House was founded, Yerevan was given a city status, the first brandy company was founded and so on.

Yerevan: Capital of Armenia

Yerevan: Capital of 1918-1920 Independent Armenia

In 1917 the Russian Revolution the goal of which was to destroy Tsarist autocracy started. As a result, Yerevan was controlled by the Transcaucasus interim Government. A year later, on May 28 Yerevan became the capital of the first Republic of Armenia.

Yerevan: Capital of Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic

The 1917 Russian Revolution eventually led to the establishment of the Soviet Union. On November 29, 1920 the 11th Red Army invaded Yerevan. Soviet regime was established and the Soviet Socialist Armenia was built. Yerevan became its capital city.

Notably, Yerevan started blooming during the Soviet Union era. The city was reconstructed and built upon prominent architect Alexander Tamanyan’s design. Among some of the buildings and squares are:

Andrei Sakharov Square
Freedom Square
Republic Square
State Medical University
Children’s Hospital
Opera House
Government House
A lot of significant buildings, among them churches, mosques, baths, were demolished. It should be said that it all led to the creation of a large industrial, scientific and cultural center. Note that Yerevan was completely free from Azerbaijani presence only in 1988-1989.

Modern Yerevan: Capital of Independent Republic of Armenia

On September 21, 1991 Armenia became an independent Republic of Armenia with Yerevan being its capital. Lying in the picturesque Ararat Valley and covering a territory of 300 square kilometers modern Yerevan is a developing city with renovation and reconstruction all over the city, especially in the central parts. Lots of roads, clubs, cafes, restaurants and stores are being built. Recently the Northern Avenue was built with a number of apartment blocks, most of which are yet not inhabited. The city now includes few green areas, and the parts where they prevail are very much loved by locals, among them are Cascade, Tsitsernakaberd as well as the splendid gardens and parks including the English Park and the Tumanyan Park.

There are presently 19 libraries, five museums, and 25 music and art schools in Yerevan.

This year Yerevan will celebrate its 2794th anniversary, once again marking its being one of the ancient cities in world, which is younger than Rome and older than Athens.

Yerevan Chronicles

782 BC – Argishti I founded Erebuni Fortress in the South-Eastern part of present-day Yerevan.

7th century BC – Urartian King Rusa I (685-645 BC) established the Teishebani Fortress.

2-1st centuries BC – A Hellenistic settlement existed in the North-Eastern part of Yerevan

5-6th centuries AD – Saint Paul-Peter Church was built.

643 – Arabs attacked Yerevan Fortress but failed to capture it.

12-13th centuries – Katoghike church was built.

Saint Zoravor Church was built.

1555 – Sultan Suleyman captured Yerevan.

1604 – Shah Abbas captured Yerevan.

1679 – Disastrous earthquake occurred because of which Yerevan’s most significant buildings lay in ruins.

1765 – Hussein Ali Khan built the Blue Mosque.

18th century, 2nd half – Simeon Yerevantsi became the Catholicos of All Armenians.

1809 – Armenian writer and national public figure Khachatur Abovyan was born in Qanaqer. Abovyan who was considered the Father of Modern Armenian Literature mysteriously vanished in 1848.

1828 – The Treaty of Turkmenchay was signed. Eastern Armenia was annexed to Russia. In March Armenian province was established with Yerevan being the center.

1832 – The first state rural male school was founded.

1849 – A decision was passed to form the province of Yerevan comprising Yerevan, Alexandrapol, Nor Bayazet, Nakhijevan and Ordubad. The center of the province was Yerevan. The law came into force in 1850.

1850 – The first female college, St. Hripsime College was opened on January 2.

1857 – The first pharmacy was opened.

1860 – Yerevan was divided into seven districts; Kond, Shahar, Erkataghbyur, Dzoragyugh, Nortagh, Nork and Malakan’s district.

1863 – First Yerevan Street was built. It was named Astafyan/Astafievskaya after Yerevan Governor General, Russian Major-General Astafiev (1864-1869).

1866 – The first parochial school Saint Gayane college was opened. The college was opened on April 10.

1870 – The construction of the Saint Gregory the Illuminator church started on Amiryan Street. Because of lack of funds the construction took 31 years and was completed in 1900.

1874 – Zacharia Gevorgyan established the first printing house. The printing house operated until the beginning of the 20th century.

1877 – Yerevan was given city status.

1878 – The first beer factory was opened.

1887 – Merchant Tairov built the first brandy factory.

1890 – Tairov factory produced its first brandy.

1897 – The national poll claimed Yerevan population made up 29,033.

1901 – Tbilisi-Alexandrapol-Yerevan railway was opened.

1902 – Alexandrapol-Yerevan railway was opened.

1913 – The first car arrived in Yerevan.

The 1500th anniversary of the invention of Armenian Alphabet and the 400th anniversary of book printing were celebrated.

1919 – First kindergarten was opened in Yerevan.

1927 – First radio concert was held.

1933 – Opera House was opened.

1936 – Moscow Movie Theater was opened.

1939 – National poll was conducted, which showed that Yerevan population made up 200,031.

1961 – Republican stadium was built.

1973 – The first colored programs went on TV.

1991 – Parajanov’s House Museum was opened.

2006 – Zoravar Andranik Museum dedicated to the 15th anniversary of Independent Republic of Armenia.

2009 – Armenian poetess Silva Kaputikyan’s House Museum was opened dedicated to her 90th anniversary.