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About Yerevan

  • YEREVAN (Population 1.1 m)

    While it's the undeniable cultural, economic and political heart of the nation, Yerevan can at times feel like a city on permanent holiday. All summer long Yerevanites saunter up and down the main boulevards, preening in high fashion and fast cars while occasionally pop-ping into a parkside café to schmooze over a drink or two. It's the most laid-back capital in the Caucasus and it's easy to slide into a torpor for a day or two. The city has some lovely 19th-century Russian edifices in its central core plus rings of parkland and hand-some brick squares. Outer areas maintain an air of Soviet sprawl but these are limited by steep hills and gorges. Yerevan's museums and monuments could keep you busy for a few days but the best thing about the place is the people. Expressive black eyebrows, proud noses and classical Greek and Persian pro-files appear everywhere, in a street culture somewhere between Marseilles, village Armenia and old Beirut. Yerevan is a relaxed and safe place where people live at one pace while the traffic goes at another. The cultural life is intense for a city of its size, including dozens of theatres, concert halls, galleries and live music clubs. At the geographic heart of the country, the city also makes a perfect base to explore other areas. You could even make day trips as far afield as Lake Sevan, Mt Aragats and Vayots Dzor.

    HISTORY

    Yerevan's history dates back to 782 BC, when the Erebuni fortress was built by King Argishti I of Urartu at the place where the Hrazdan River widened onto the fertile Ararat Plains. It was a regional capital of Muslim khanates and Persian governors until the Russian annexation in 1828. The Soviet rebuilding of the tsarist city removed most of its mosques and some of its churches, and hid others away in resi-dential backwaters, but it kept some of the 19th-century buildings on Abovyan Poghots and left the old neighbourhood of Kond more or less alone.