Tigran Sargsyan

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Posted by bender 02/27/2009 @ 21:04

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RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan met today with President of the ... - A1plus
The Armenian PM attached importance to the steps taken by the governments of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh aimed at bilateral cooperation and mitigating the effects of the financial-economic crisis. During the meeting, the sides exchanged views on the...
PM Tigran Sargsyan meets Russian Deputy Premier - Public Radio of Armenia
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan received the delegation headed by the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Sergey Ivanov. At the beginning of the meeting Sergey Ivanov extended condolences on the blast at Nairit Plant and expressed willingness to render...
A1+ held an interview with Armenia's Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan. - A1plus
Mr. Sargsyan, some women distributing fliers, were beaten up the other day. The atmosphere in the capital is rather tense. Don't you feel fear regarding the May 31 election? We must try to reduce the reverse effects of the election to the minimum....
Tigran Sargsyan: Armenian-Italian collaboration can serve as a ... - PanARMENIAN.Net
Net/ RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan participated in the opening ceremony of Litokol Armenian-Italian Factory, RA Government Press Service reported. The company was founded in 2007 and is engaged in glue and gluing putty manufacturing....
Explosion Rocks One of Largest Plants in Armenia - HULIQ
Just on April 28 the prime minister of Armenia Mr. Tigran Sargsyan visited "Nairit factory," got acquainted with the ongoing processes of the production and the perspectives of developments the factory has got. Tigran Sargsyan stressed that the real...
Tigran Sargsyan congratulated Armenians on Victory Day - PanARMENIAN.Net
Net/ RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan has congratulated the Armenian people on Victory Day and Shushi Liberation Day, RA Government Press Service reports. “Every year on this day, our souls are filled with a sense of unity and national dignity....
Deputy Ministers dismissed - A1plus
On May 4 Armenia's Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan signed a decree on relieving Bagrat Yesayan of the post of Deputy Minister of Science and Education. Under another decree Manuk Mkrtchyan was appointed to the position. On the same day, David Yeritsyan...
RA government takes action to prevent swine flu penetration - PanARMENIAN.Net
Net/ The Armenian government is taking all possible measures to prevent penetration of swine flu into the republic, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said. For his part, Healthcare Minister Harutyun Kushkyan, said that essential measures are being taken...
Choose the date - Public Radio of Armenia
Armen Ashotyan was appointed RA Minister of Education and Science. Gerasim Alaverdyan was appointed RA Minister of Agriculture. Today Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan introduced the newly appointed Ministers to the staffs of corresponding Ministries....
NAGORNO-KARABAKH: BAKU AND YEREVAN DOWNBEAT ON A POSSIBLE SOLUTION - EurasiaNet
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balaian, responding to Bryza's Ekho Moskvy comments, said that "during the May 8 meeting in Prague, the issue of taking Armenian troops out of the disputed [occupied] territories was not discussed at all....

Tigran Sargsyan

Tigran Sargsyan (Armenian: Տիգրան Սարգսյան, born January 29, 1960) has been the Prime Minister of Armenia since 9 April 2008. He is of no relation to the current President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan.

Tigran Sargsyan was born in Kirovakan, Armenian SSR (present-day Vanadzor, Armenia). From 1980 to 1983, he attended Leningrad's Voznesenski Financial and Economic Institute. From 1983 to 1987 his postgraduate education ended in obtaining PhD degree. From 1987 to 1990 he worked as the Chief of Department for Foreign Economic Relations of Scientific Researches Institute of Economic Planning in Armenia. From 1988 to 1993 he worked at the post of Chairman of republican Council of Young Specialists and Scientists. From 1990 to 1995 he was a member of Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia and the Chair of Standing Commission for Financial, Credit and Budget Affairs. From 1995 to 1998 he was the Director of Scientific Researches Institute of Social Reforms. From 1995 to 1998 he was the Chairman of Armenian Banks Association. Sargsyan occupied the post of CBA Chairman from March 3, 1998 and was reelected by the Armenian National Assembly as CBA Chairman for a second seven-year term on March 2, 2005. As many as 92 MPs participated in the vote, of which 86 cast their vote for his candidacy.

He was CBA Chairman until April 9, 2008, when he was appointed as Prime Minister of Armenia by President Serzh Sargsyan upon the latter's inauguration.

Sargsyan is married and has three children.

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Corruption in Armenia

Coat of arms of Armenia

Political corruption in Armenia is a widespread and growing problem in Armenian society. In 2008, Transparency International reduced its Corruption Perceptions Index for Armenia from 3.0 in 2007 to 2.9 out of 10 (a lower score means more perceived corruption); Armenia slipped from 99th place in 2007 to 109th out of 180 countries surveyed (on a par with Argentina, Belize, Moldova, Solomon Islands , and Vanuatu). Despite legislative revisions in relation to elections and party financing, corruption either persists or has re-emerged in new forms.

The main anti-corruption institutions of the Armenian government are an Anti-Corruption Council – headed by the prime minister – and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Monitoring Commission, established in June 2004 to strengthen the implementation of anticorruption policy. However, these institutions scarcely functioned in 2006-2007, even though they were supposed to meet twice-quarterly and monthly, respectively.

The late Prime Minister Andranik Margarian launched Armenia’s first post-Soviet campaign against corruption in 2003. The initiative, however, has been widely disparaged for being short on results. Current Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan has acknowledged that corruption is Armenia’s "number one problem that obstructs all our reforms." The government has recently launched an anti-graft campaign which has been accompanied by changes in customs regulations, reported tax police inspections of companies owned by pro-government businesspeople and numerous high-profile firings of people in the tax department, customs service and police. The recent crackdown on corruption has received mixed reactions.

In March 2004, an ad hoc commission of the Armenian parliament investigating the use of a $30 million World Bank loan concluded that mismanagement and corruption among government officials and private firms was the reason of the failure of the program to upgrade Yerevan's battered water infrastructure. The World Bank issued the loan in 1999 in order to improve Yerevan residents' access to drinking water. The government promised to ensure around-the-clock water supplies to the vast majority of households by 2004, but as of 2008, most city residents continue to have running water for only several hours a day. Veolia Environnement, the French utility giant that took over Yerevan's loss-making water and sewerage network in 2006, has said that it will need a decade to end water rationing. In August 2007, Bruce Tasker, a Yerevan-based British engineer who had participated in the parliamentary inquiry as an expert, publicly implicated not only Armenian officials and businessmen but also World Bank representatives in Yerevan in the alleged misuse of the loan. In an October 4, 2007 news conference, the World Bank Yerevan office head Aristomene Varoudakis denyied the allegations, claiming that the World Bank disclosed fully all information available on the project to the parliamentary commission and that based on this information there was no evidence of fraud or mismanagement in the project.

Eminent domain laws have been used to forcefully remove residents, business owners, and land owners from their property. The projects that finally are built on the site are not of state interest, but rather are privately owned by the same authorities who have executed the eminent domain clause. A prominent example is the development of Yerevan's central Northern Avenue area. Another involves an ongoing project (as of November 2008) to construct a trade center near Yerevan's botanical garden. The new land owners are non other than Yerevan's mayor Yervand Zakharyan and Deputy Mayor Karen Davtyan, who was at one time Director of the Armenian Development Agency and successfully executed the eviction of residents on Northern Avenue.

In 2007, World Bank economists pointed to serious problems with rule of law and widespread corruption in the Armenian tax and customs agencies.

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Armenia

Coat of arms of Armenia

Armenia /ɑrˈmiːniə/ (help·info) (Armenian: Հայաստան, transliterated: Hayastan, Armenian pronunciation: ), officially the Republic of Armenia (Հայաստանի Հանրապետություն, Hayastani Hanrapetut῾yun, ), is a landlocked mountainous country in South Caucasus between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Located at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it borders Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan to the south.

A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is a unitary, multiparty, democratic nation-state with an ancient and historic cultural heritage. The Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion in the early years of the 4th century (the traditional date is 301). The modern Republic of Armenia recognizes the exclusive historical mission of the Armenian Apostolic Church as a national church, although the modern Republic of Armenia has separation of church and state.

Armenia is a member of more than 40 international organisations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Asian Development Bank, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, and La Francophonie. It is a member of the CSTO military alliance, and also participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. In 2004 its forces joined KFOR, a NATO-led international force in Kosovo. It is also an observer member of the Eurasian Economic Community and the Non-Aligned Movement.

The country is an emerging democracy and, because of its strategic location, lies among both the Russian and Western spheres of influence.

The native Armenian name for the country is Hayk‘. The name in the Middle Ages was extended to Hayastan, by addition of the Iranian suffix -stan (land). The name has traditionally been derived from Hayk (Հայկ), the legendary patriarch of the Armenians and a great-great-grandson of Noah, who according to Moses of Chorene defeated the Babylonian king Bel in 2492 BC, and established his nation in the Ararat region. The further origin of the name is uncertain.

The exonym Armenia is first attested in the Old Persian Behistun inscription (515 BC) as Armina. Greek Ἀρμένιοι "Armenians" is attested from about the same time, perhaps the earliest reference being a fragment attributed to Hecataeus of Miletus (476 BC). Herodotus (440 BC) has Ἀρμένιοι δὲ κατά περ Φρύγες ἐσεσάχατο, ἐόντες Φρυγῶν ἄποικοι. "the Armenians were equipped like Phrygians, being Phrygian colonists" (7.73). Some decades later, Xenophon, a Greek general waging war against the Persians, describes many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality. He relates that the people spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians. According to the histories of both Moses of Chorene and Michael Chamich, Armenia derives from the name of Aram, a lineal descendent of Hayk, son of Harma and father of Ara the Beautiful, who ruled around 900 BC and became widely acclaimed by the peoples of the region for his exploits.

Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which, according to Judeo-Christian history, Noah's Ark came to rest after the flood. (Gen. 8:4). In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power), Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and Hayasa-Azzi (1500-1200 BC). Then, the Nairi people (twelfth to ninth centuries BC) and the Kingdom of Urartu (1000-600 BC) successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people. Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, was founded in 782 BC by the Urartian king Argishti I.

Around 600 BC, the Kingdom of Armenia was established under the Orontid Dynasty. The kingdom reached its height between 95 - 66 BC under Tigranes the Great, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of its time within the region. Throughout its history, the kingdom of Armenia enjoyed periods of independence intermitted with periods of autonomy subject to contemporary empires. Armenia's strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks and Russians.

In 301, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official state religion, while a number of Christian communities have been established in Armenia since 40 AD. There had been various pagan communities before Christianity, but they were converted by an influx of Christian missionaries. Tiridates III (238-314 AD) was the first ruler to officially Christianise his people, his conversion occurring ten years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity an official toleration under Galerius, and 36 years before Constantine the Great was baptised.

After the fall of the Armenian kingdom in 428 AD, most of Armenia was incorporated as a marzpanate within the Sassanid Empire. Following an Armenian rebellion in 451 AD, Christian Armenians maintained their religious freedom, while Armenia gained autonomy.

After the Marzpanate period (428-636), Armenia emerged as the Emirate of Armenia, an autonomous principality within the Arabic Empire, reuniting Armenian lands previously taken by the Byzantine Empire as well. The principality was ruled by the Prince of Armenia, recognised by the Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor. It was part of the administrative division/emirate Arminiyya created by the Arabs, which also included parts of Georgia and Caucasian Albania, and had its center in the Armenian city Dvin. The Principality of Armenia lasted until 884, when it regained its independence from the weakened Arabic Empire.

The re-emergent Armenian kingdom was ruled by the Bagratuni dynasty, and lasted until 1045. In time, several areas of the Bagratid Armenia separated as independent kingdoms and principalities such as the Kingdom of Vaspurakan ruled by the House of Artsruni, while still recognizing the supremacy of the Bagratid kings.

In 1045, the Byzantine Empire conquered Bagratid Armenia. Soon, the other Armenian states fell under Byzantine control as well. The Byzantine rule was short lived, as in 1071 Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantines and conquered Armenia at the Battle of Manzikert, establishing the Seljuk Empire. To escape death or servitude at the hands of those who had assassinated his relative, Gagik II, King of Ani, an Armenian named Roupen went with some of his countrymen into the gorges of the Taurus Mountains and then into Tarsus of Cilicia. The Byzantine governor of the palace gave them shelter where the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was eventually established.

The Seljuk Empire soon started to collapse. In the early 1100s, Armenian princes of the Zakarid noble family established a semi-independent Armenian principality in Northern and Eastern Armenia, known as Zakarid Armenia, lasted under patronages of Seljuks, Georgian Kingdom, Atabegs of Azerbaijan and Khwarezmid Empire. The noble family of Orbelians shared control with the Zakarids in various parts of the country, especially in Syunik and Vayots Dzor.

During the 1230s, the Mongol Empire conquered the Zakaryan Principality, as well as the rest of Armenia. Armenian soldiers formed an important part of the military of the Ilkhanate. The Mongolian invasions were soon followed by those of other Central Asian tribes (Kara Koyunlu, Timurid and Ak Koyunlu), which continued from the 1200s until the 1400s. After incessant invasions, each bringing destruction to the country, Armenia in time became weakened. During the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia divided Armenia among themselves. The Russian Empire later incorporated Eastern Armenia (consisting of the Erivan and Karabakh khanates within Persia) in 1813 and 1828.

Under Ottoman rule, the Armenians were granted considerable autonomy within their own enclaves and lived in relative harmony with other groups in the empire (including the ruling Turks). However, as Christians under a strict Muslim social system, Armenians faced pervasive discrimination. When they began pushing for more rights within the Ottoman Empire, Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Hamid II, in response, organised state-sponsored massacres against the Armenians between 1894 and 1896, resulting in an estimated death toll of 80,000 to 300,000 people. The Hamidian massacres, as they came to be known, gave Hamid international infamy as the "Red Sultan" or "Bloody Sultan".

As the Ottoman Empire began to collapse, the Young Turk Revolution (1908) overthrew the government of Sultan Hamid. Armenians living in the empire hoped that the Committee of Union and Progress would change their second-class status. Armenian reform package (1914) was presented as a solution by appointing an inspector general over Armenian issues.

When World War I broke out leading to confrontation of the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire in the Caucasus and Persian Campaigns, the new government in Constantinople began to look on the Armenians with distrust and suspicion. This was due to the fact that the Russian army contained a contingent of Armenian volunteers. On April 24, 1915, Armenian intellectuals were arrested by Ottoman authorities and, with the Tehcir Law (29 May 1915), eventually a large proportion of Armenians living in Anatolia perished in what has become known as the Armenian Genocide. There was local Armenian resistance in the region, developed against the activities of the Ottoman Empire. The events of 1915 to 1917 are regarded by Armenians and the vast majority of Western historians to have been state-sponsored mass killings, or genocide. However as Turkey is an ally of the West and holds a strategic position near to the Middle East, both the United States and the United Kingdom governments continue to maintain that there is a lack of unequivocal evidence to categorise the events as genocide. Turkish authorities maintain that the deaths were the result of a civil war coupled with disease and famine, with casualties incurred by both sides. Most estimates for the number of Armenians killed range from 650,000 to 1.5 million. Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have been campaigning for official recognition of the events as genocide for over 30 years. These events are traditionally commemorated yearly on April 24, the Armenian Martyr Day, or the Day of the Armenian Genocide.

Although the Russian army succeeded in gaining most of Ottoman Armenia during World War I, their gains were lost with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. At the time, Russian-controlled Eastern Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan attempted to bond together in the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. This federation, however, only lasted from February to May 1918, when all three parties decided to dissolve it. As a result, Eastern Armenia became independent as the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA) on May 28.

Unfortunately, the DRA's short-lived independence was fraught with war, territorial disputes, a mass influx of refugees from Ottoman Armenia, spreading disease, and starvation. Still, the Entente Powers, appalled by the actions of the Ottoman government, sought to help the newly-found Armenian state through relief funds and other forms of support.

At the end of the war, the victorious Entente powers sought to divide up the Ottoman Empire. Signed between the Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres on August 10, 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres promised to maintain the existence of the DRA and to attach the former territories of Ottoman Armenia to it. Because the new borders of Armenia were to be drawn by United States President Woodrow Wilson, Ottoman Armenia is also referred to as "Wilsonian Armenia." There was even consideration of possibly making Armenia a mandate under the protection of the United States. The treaty, however, was rejected by the Turkish National Movement, and never came into effect. The movement, under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, used the treaty as the occasion to declare itself the rightful government of Turkey, replacing the monarchy based in Istanbul with a republic based in Ankara.

In 1920, Turkish nationalist forces invaded the fledgling Armenian republic from the east and the Turkish-Armenian War began. Turkish forces under the command of Kazım Karabekir captured Armenian territories that Russia annexed in the aftermath of the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War and occupied the old city of Alexandropol (present-day Gyumri). The violent conflict finally concluded with the Treaty of Alexandropol (December 2, 1920). The treaty forced Armenia to disarm most of its military forces, cede more than 50% of its pre-war territory, and to give up all the "Wilsonian Armenia" granted to it at the Sèvres treaty. Simultaneously, the Soviet Eleventh Army under the command of Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze, invaded Armenia at Karavansarai (present-day Ijevan) on November 29. By December 4, Ordzhonikidze's forces entered Yerevan and the short-lived Armenian republic collapsed.

Armenia was annexed by Bolshevist Russia and along with Georgia and Azerbaijan, it was incorporated into the Soviet Union as part of the Transcaucasian SFSR on March 4, 1922. With this annexation, the Treaty of Alexandropol was superseded by the Turkish-Soviet Treaty of Kars. In the agreement, Turkey allowed the Soviet Union to assume control over Adjara with the port city of Batumi in return for sovereignty over the cities of Kars, Ardahan, and Iğdır, all of which were part of Russian Armenia.

The TSFR existed from 1922 to 1936, when it was divided up into three separate entities (Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Georgian SSR). Armenians enjoyed a period of relative stability under Soviet rule. They received medicine, food, and other provisions from Moscow, and communist rule proved to be a soothing balm in contrast to the turbulent final years of the Ottoman Empire. The situation was difficult for the church, which struggled under Soviet rule. After the death of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin took the reins of power and began an era of renewed fear and terror for Armenians. As with various other ethnic minorities who lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin's Great Purge, tens of thousands of Armenians were either executed or deported.

Fears decreased when Stalin died in 1953 and Nikita Khruschev emerged as the Soviet Union's new leader. Soon, life in Soviet Armenia began to see rapid improvement. The church which suffered greatly under Stalin was revived when Catholicos Vazgen I assumed the duties of his office in 1955. In 1967, a memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide was built at the Tsitsernakaberd hill above the Hrazdan gorge in Yerevan. This occurred after mass demonstrations took place on the tragic event's fiftieth anniversary in 1965.

During the Gorbachev era of the 1980s with the reforms of Glasnost and Perestroika, Armenians began to demand better environmental care for their country, opposing the pollution that Soviet-built factories brought. Tensions also developed between Soviet Azerbaijan and its autonomous district of Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority-Armenian region separated by Stalin from Armenia in 1923. The Armenians of Karabakh demanded unification with Soviet Armenia. Peaceful protests in Yerevan supporting the Karabakh Armenians were met with anti-Armenian pogroms in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. Compounding Armenia's problems was a devastating earthquake in 1988 with a moment magnitude of 7.2.

Gorbachev's inability to solve Armenia's problems (especially Karabakh) created disillusionment among the Armenians and only fed a growing hunger for independence. In May 1990, the New Armenian Army (NAA) was established, serving as a defence force separate from the Soviet Red Army. Clashes soon broke out between the NAA and Soviet Internal Security Forces (MVD) troops based in Yerevan when Armenians decided to commemorate the establishment of the 1918 Democratic Republic of Armenia. The violence resulted in the deaths of five Armenians killed in a shootout with the MVD at the railway station. Witnesses there claimed that the MVD used excessive force and that they had instigated the fighting. Further firefights between Armenian militiamen and Soviet troops occurred in Sovetashen, near the capital and resulted in the deaths of over 26 people, mostly Armenians. On March 17, 1991, Armenia, along with the Baltic states, Georgia and Moldova, boycotted a union-wide referendum in which 78% of all voters voted for the retention of the Soviet Union in a reformed form.

In 1991, the Soviet Union broke apart and Armenia re-established its independence. Declaring independence on August 23, it was the first non-Baltic republic to secede. However, the initial post-Soviet years were marred by economic difficulties as well as the break-out of a full-scale armed confrontation between the Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijan. The economic problems had their roots early in the Karabakh conflict when the Azerbaijani Popular Front managed to pressure the Azerbaijan SSR to instigate a railway and air blockade against Armenia. This move effectively crippled Armenia's economy as 85% of its cargo and goods arrived through rail traffic. In 1993, Turkey joined the blockade against Armenia in support of Azerbaijan.

The Karabakh war ended after a Russian-brokered cease-fire was put in place in 1994. The war was a success for the Karabakh Armenian forces who managed to secure 14% of Azerbaijan's internationally recognised territory including Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Since then, Armenia and Azerbaijan have held peace talks, mediated by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The status over Karabakh has yet to be determined. The economies of both countries have been hurt in the absence of a complete resolution and Armenia's borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed.

As it enters the twenty-first century, Armenia faces many hardships. Still, it has managed to make some improvements. It has made a full switch to a market economy and as of 2008, is the 28th most economically free nation in the world. Its relations with Europe, the Middle East, and the Commonwealth of Independent States have allowed Armenia to increase trade. Gas, oil, and other supplies come through two vital routes: Iran and Georgia. Armenia maintains cordial relations with both countries.

Politics of Armenia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic. According to the Constitution of Armenia, the President is the head of government and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The unicameral parliament (also called the Azgayin Zhoghov or National Assembly) is controlled by a coalition of four political parties: the conservative Republican party, the Prosperous Armenia party, the Rule of Law party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The main opposition party is Raffi Hovannisian's Heritage party, which favors eventual Armenian membership in the European Union and NATO.

The Armenian government's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. It has universal suffrage above the age of eighteen.

International observers of Council of Europe and U.S. Department of State have questioned the fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referendum since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the Electoral Commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. Freedom House categorized Armenia in its 2008 report as a "Semi-consolidated Authoritarian Regime" (along with Moldova, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia) and ranked Armenia 20th among 29 nations in transition, with a Democracy Score of 5.21 out of 7 (7 represents the lowest democratic progress). Since 1999, Freedom House's Democracy Score for Armenia has been steadily on the decline (from 4.79 to 5.21). Furthermore, Freedom House ranked Armenia as "partly free" in its 2007 report, though it did not categorise Armenia as an "electoral democracy", indicating an absence of relatively free and competitive elections. However, significant progress seems to have been made and the 2008 Armenian presidential election was hailed as largely democratic by OSCE and Western monitors.

Armenia presently maintains good relations with almost every country in the world, with two major exceptions being its immediate neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Tensions were running high between Armenians and Azerbaijanis during the final years of the Soviet Union. The Nagorno-Karabakh War dominated the region's politics throughout the 1990s. The border between the two rival countries remains closed up to this day, and a permanent solution for the conflict has not been reached despite the mediation provided by organisations such as the OSCE.

Turkey also has a long history of poor relations with Armenia over its refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The Karabakh conflict became an excuse for Turkey to close its land border with Armenia in 1993. It has not lifted its blockade despite pressure from the powerful Turkish business lobby interested in Armenian markets. Since 2001, however, the Armenian airline company Armavia regularly flies between the Zvartnots International Airport of Yerevan and Atatürk International Airport of Istanbul.

Due to its position between two unfriendly neighbours, Armenia has close security ties with Russia. At the request of the Armenian government, Russia maintains a military base in the northwestern Armenian city of Gyumri as a deterrent against Turkey. Despite this, Armenia has also been looking toward Euro-Atlantic structures in recent years. It maintains good relations with the United States especially through its Armenian diaspora. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 427,822 Armenians living in the country.

Armenia is also a member of the Council of Europe, maintaining friendly relations with the European Union, especially with its member states such as France and Greece. A 2005 survey reported that 64% of Armenia's population would be in favor of joining the EU. Several Armenian officials have also expressed the desire for their country to eventually become an EU member state, some predicting that it will make an official bid for membership in a few years.

Eduard Nalbandyan currently serves as the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Armenian Army, Air Force, Air Defence, and Border Guard comprise the four branches of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia. The Armenian military was formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and with the establishment of the Ministry of Defence in 1992. The Commander-in-Chief of the military is the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan. The Ministry of Defence is in charge of political leadership, currently headed by Colonel-General Mikael Harutyunyan, while military command remains in the hands of the General Staff, headed by the Chief of Staff, who is currently Lieutenant-General Seyran Ohanian.

Active forces now number about 60,000 soldiers, with an additional reserve of 32,000, and a "reserve of the reserve" of 350,000 troops. Armenian border guards are in charge of patrolling the country's borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan, while Russian troops continue to monitor its borders with Iran and Turkey. In the case of an attack, Armenia is able to mobilise every able-bodied man between the age of 15 and 59, with military preparedness.

The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which establishes comprehensive limits on key categories of military equipment, was ratified by the Armenian parliament in July 1992. In March 1993, Armenia signed the multilateral Chemical Weapons Convention, which calls for the eventual elimination of chemical weapons. Armenia acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapons state in July 1993. Armenia is member of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) along with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PiP) program and is in a NATO organisation called Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). Armenia has engaged in a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo as part of non-NATO KFOR troops under Greek command. Armenia also had 46 members of its military peacekeeping forces as a part of the Coalition Forces in Iraq War until October 2008.

Armenia is divided into ten provinces (marzer, singular marz), with the city (kaghak) of Yerevan (Երևան) having special administrative status as the country's capital. The chief executive in each of then ten provinces is the marzpet (marz governor), appointed by the government of Armenia. In Yerevan, the chief executive is the mayor, appointed by the president.

Within each province are communities (hamaynkner, singular hamaynk). Each community is self-governing and consists of one or more settlements (bnakavayrer, singular bnakavayr). Settlements are classified as either towns (kaghakner, singular kaghak) or villages (gyugher, singular gyugh). As of 2007, Armenia includes 915 communities, of which 49 are considered urban and 866 are considered rural. The capital, Yerevan, also has the status of a community. Additionally, Yerevan is divided into twelve semi-autonomous districts.

Armenia is landlocked in the southern Caucasus. Located between the Black and Caspian Seas, the country is bordered on the north and east by Georgia and Azerbaijan, and on the south and west by Iran and Turkey.

The Republic of Armenia, covering an area of 30 000 square kilometres (11,600 sq. mi), is located in the north-east of the Armenian Highland (covering 400 000 km² or 154,000 sq. mi), otherwise known as historical Armenia and considered as the original homeland of Armenians. The terrain is mostly mountainous, with fast flowing rivers and few forests. The climate is highland continental, which means that the country is subjected to hot summers and cold winters. The land rises to 4090 metres (13,420 ft) above sea-level at Mount Aragats, and no point is below 390 metres (1,280 ft) above sea level.

Mount Ararat, which was historically part of Armenia, is the highest mountain in the region. Now located in Turkey, but clearly visible in Armenia, it is regarded by the Armenians as a symbol of their land. Because of this, the mountain is present on the Armenian national emblem today.

Armenia has established a Ministry of Nature Protection and introduced taxes for air and water pollution and solid waste disposal, whose revenues are used for environmental protection activities. Waste management in Armenia is underdeveloped as no waste sorting or recycling takes place at Armenia's 60 landfills.

Despite the availability of abundant renewable energy sources in Armenia (especially hydroelectric and wind power) the Armenian Government is working toward building a new Nuclear Power Plant at Medzamor near Yerevan.

The climate in Armenia is markedly continental. Summers are dry and sunny, lasting from June to mid-September. The temperature fluctuates between 22° and 36 °C/71-97 °F. However, the low humidity level mitigates the effect of high temperatures. Evening breezes blowing down the mountains provide a welcome refreshing and cooling effect. Springs are short, while falls are long. Autumns are known for their vibrant and colorful foliage. Winters are quite cold with plenty of snow, with temperatures ranging between -10° and -5 °C/14-23 °F. Winter sports enthusiasts enjoy skiing down the hills of Tsakhkadzor, located thirty minutes outside Yerevan. Lake Sevan nestled up in the Armenian highlands, is the second largest lake in the world relative to its altitude, 1,900 metres above sea level.

The Armenian economy heavily relies on investment and support from Armenians abroad. Before independence, Armenia's economy was largely industry-based – chemicals, electronics, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, and textile – and highly dependent on outside resources. The republic had developed a modern industrial sector, supplying machine tools, textiles, and other manufactured goods to sister republics in exchange for raw materials and energy. Agriculture accounted for less than 20% of both net material product and total employment before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. After independence, the importance of agriculture in the economy increased markedly, its share at the end of the 1990s rising to more than 30% of GDP and more than 40% of total employment. This increase in agriculture's share was attributable to food security needs of the population in the face of uncertainty during the first phases of transition and the collapse of the non-agricultural sectors of the economy in the early 1990s. As the economic situation stabilized and growth resumed, the share of agriculture in GDP dropped to slightly over 20% (2006 data), although the share of agriculture in employment remained more than 40%.

Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead. The vast majority of energy is produced with fuel imported from Russia, including gas and nuclear fuel (for its one nuclear power plant); the main domestic energy source is hydroelectric. Small amounts of coal, gas, and petroleum have not yet been developed.

Like other newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, Armenia's economy suffers from the legacy of a centrally planned economy and the breakdown of former Soviet trading patterns. Soviet investment in and support of Armenian industry has virtually disappeared, so that few major enterprises are still able to function. In addition, the effects of the 1988 Spitak Earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 people and made 500,000 homeless, are still being felt. The conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved. The closure of Azerbaijani and Turkish borders has devastated the economy, because Armenia depends on outside supplies of energy and most raw materials. Land routes through Georgia and Iran are inadequate or unreliable. GDP fell nearly 60% from 1989 until 1993, and then resumed its robust growth. The national currency, the dram, suffered hyperinflation for the first years after its introduction in 1993.

Nevertheless, the government was able to make wide-ranging economic reforms that paid off in dramatically lower inflation and steady growth. The 1994 cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also helped the economy. Armenia has had strong economic growth since 1995, building on the turnaround that began the previous year, and inflation has been negligible for the past several years. New sectors, such as precious stone processing and jewellery making, information and communication technology, and even tourism are beginning to supplement more traditional sectors in the economy, such as agriculture.

This steady economic progress has earned Armenia increasing support from international institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and other international financial institutions (IFIs) and foreign countries are extending considerable grants and loans. Loans to Armenia since 1993 exceed $1.1 billion. These loans are targeted at reducing the budget deficit, stabilizing the currency; developing private businesses; energy; the agriculture, food processing, transportation, and health and education sectors; and ongoing rehabilitation in the earthquake zone. The government joined the World Trade Organization on February 5, 2003. But one of the main sources of foreign direct investments remains the Armenian diaspora, which finances major parts of the reconstruction of infrastructure and other public projects. Being a growing democratic state, Armenia also hopes to get more financial aid from the Western World.

A liberal foreign investment law was approved in June 1994, and a Law on Privatisation was adopted in 1997, as well as a program on state property privatisation. Continued progress will depend on the ability of the government to strengthen its macroeconomic management, including increasing revenue collection, improving the investment climate, and making strides against corruption. However unemployment still remains a major problem due to the influx of thousands of refugees from the Karabakh conflict, which currently stands at around 15%.

Armenia ranked 83rd on the 2007 UNDP Human Development Index, the highest among the Transcaucasian republics. In the 2007 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Armenia ranked 99 of 179 countries. In the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia ranked 28th, ahead of countries like Austria, France, Portugal and Italy.

Armenia has a population of 3,215,800 (April 2006 est.) and is the second most densely populated of the former Soviet republics. There has been a problem of population decline due to elevated levels of emigration after the break-up of the USSR. The rates of emigration and population decline, however, have decreased drastically in the recent years, and a moderate influx of Armenians returning to Armenia have been the main reasons for the trend, which is expected to continue. In fact Armenia is expected to resume its positive population growth by 2010.

Ethnic Armenians make up 97.9% of the population. Yazidis make up 1.3%, and Russians 0.5%. Other minorities include Assyrians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Kurds, Georgians, and Belarusians. There are also smaller communities of Vlachs, Mordvins, Ossetians, Udis, and Tats. Minorities of Poles and Caucasus Germans also exist though they are heavily Russified. During the Soviet era, Azerbaijanis were historically the second largest population in the country (forming about 2.5% in 1989). However, due to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh virtually all of them emigrated from Armenia to Azerbaijan. Conversely, Armenia received a large influx of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan, thus giving Armenia a more homogeneous character.

Armenia has a relatively large diaspora (8 million by some estimates, greatly exceeding the 3 million population of Armenia itself), with communities existing across the globe. The largest Armenian communities outside of Armenia can be found in Russia, France, Iran, the United States, Georgia, Syria, Lebanon, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Poland and Ukraine. 40,000 to 70,000 Armenians still live in Turkey (mostly in and around Istanbul). Also, about 1,000 Armenians reside in the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel, a remnant of a once-larger community. Italy is home to the San Lazzaro degli Armeni, an island located in the Venetian Lagoon, which is completely occupied by a monastery run by the Mechitarists, an Armenian Catholic congregation. In addition, approximately 139,000 Armenians live in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh where they form a majority.

The predominant religion in Armenia is Christianity. The roots of the Armenian Church go back to the first century. According to tradition, the Armenian Church was founded by two of Jesus' twelve apostles -- Thaddaeus and Bartholomew -- who preached Christianity in Armenia between 40-60 AD. Because of these two founding apostles, the official name of the Armenian Church is Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, an event traditionally dated to 301 A.D. Over 93% of Armenian Christians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a form of Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodoxy, which is a very ritualistic, conservative church, roughly comparable to the Coptic and Syriac churches. Armenian Apostolic Church is in communion only with a group of churches within Oriental Orthodoxy. Armenia also has a population of Catholics (both Roman and Mekhitarist - Armenian Uniate (180,000)), evangelical Protestants and followers of the Armenian traditional religion. The Yazidi Kurds, who live in the western part of the country, practice Yazidism. The Armenian Catholic Church is headquartered in Bzoummar, Lebanon. The non-Yazidi Kurds practice Sunni Islam. The Jewish community in Armenia has diminished to 750 persons since independence due to Armenia's economic difficulties, with most emigrants leaving for Israel. There are currently two synagogues operating in Armenia - in the capital, Yerevan, and in the city of Sevan located near Lake Sevan. Intermarriage with Christian Armenians is frequent. Still, despite these difficulties, a lot of enthusiasm exists to help the community meet its needs.

Armenians have their own distinctive alphabet and language. The alphabet was invented in 405 AD by Saint Mesrob Mashtots and consists of thirty-eight letters, two of which were added during the Cilician period. 96% of the people in the country speak Armenian, while 75.8% of the population additionally speaks Russian although English is becoming increasingly popular.

The National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages. The Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening each year. They feature rotating exhibitions and sales.

The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the refurbished city Opera House. In addition, several chamber ensembles are highly regarded for their musicianship, including the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra. Classical music can also be heard at one of several smaller venues, including the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory and the Chamber Orchestra Hall. Jazz is popular, especially in the summer when live performances are a regular occurrence at one of the city’s many outdoor cafés.

Yerevan's Vernisage (arts and crafts market), close to Republic Square, bustles with hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts on weekends and Wednesdays (though the selection is much reduced mid-week). The market offers woodcarving, antiques, fine lace, and the hand-knotted wool carpets and kilims that are a Caucasus specialty. Obsidian, which is found locally, is crafted into assortment of jewellery and ornamental objects. Armenian gold smithery enjoys a long tradition, populating one corner of the market with a selection of gold items. Soviet relics and souvenirs of recent Russian manufacture—nesting dolls, watches, enamel boxes and so on, are also available at the Vernisage. Across from the Opera House, a popular art market fills another city park on the weekends. Armenia’s long history as a crossroads of the ancient world has resulted in a landscape with innumerable fascinating archaeological sites to explore. Medieval, Iron Age, Bronze Age and even Stone Age sites are all within a few hours drive from the city. All but the most spectacular remain virtually undiscovered, allowing visitors to view churches and fortresses in their original settings.

The American University of Armenia has graduate programs in Business and Law, among others. The institution owes its existence to the combined efforts of the Government of Armenia, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the University of California. The extension programs and the library at AUA form a new focal point for English-language intellectual life in the city.

Many famous names in the music world are of Armenian descent including classical composer Aram Khachaturian and French singer Charles Aznavour. The members of the alternative metal band System of a Down all have Armenian backgrounds as well, although only bassist Shavo Odadjian was born in the country.

Hospitality is well-known in Armenia and stems from ancient tradition. Social gatherings focused around sumptuous presentations of course after course of elaborately prepared and well-seasoned food. The hosts will often put morsels on a guest's plate whenever it is empty or fill his or her glass when it gets low. After a helping or two it is acceptable to refuse politely or, more simply, just leave a little uneaten food. Alcohol such as cognac, vodka, and red wine are usually served during meals and gatherings. It is rare and unusual for one to go inside an Armenian household and not be offered coffee, pastry, food, or even water.

The elaborate Armenian wedding process begins when the man and woman get engaged. The man's immediate family (parents, grandparents, and often uncles and aunts) go over to the woman's house to ask for permission from the woman's father for the relationship to continue and hopefully prosper. Once permission is granted by the father, the man gives the woman an engagement ring to make it official. To celebrate the mutual family agreement, the woman's family opens a bottle of Armenian cognac. After getting engaged, most families elect to have a semi-large engagement party as well. The girl's family is the one who plans, organizes and pays for the party. There is very little involvement by the man's family. At the party, a priest is summoned to pray for the soon-to-be husband and wife and give his blessings. Once the words of prayer have concluded, the couple slide wedding bands on each other's left hands (the ring is moved to the right hand once a formal marriage ceremony is conducted by the Armenian church). The customary time to wait for the marriage is about one year. Unlike other cultures, where bride's family pays for the wedding, in Armenia the man and his family pay for the wedding. The planning and organization process is usually done by the bride and groom to be.

Armenia is active in the international sporting community, with full membership in the International Olympic Committee, Union of European Football Associations and International Ice Hockey Federation.

1 Has part of its territory outside Europe.  2 Entirely in West Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe.  3 Has dependencies or similar territories outside Europe. 4 Name disputed by Greece; see Macedonia naming dispute. 5 Declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and is recognised by 55 United Nations member states.

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State Engineering University of Armenia

The State Engineering University of Armenia (SEUA) (Armenian: Հայաստանի Պետական Ճարտարագիտական Համալսարան) is a technical university located in Yerevan, Armenia. Established as the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute in 1933, it provides educational and research programs in various fields of technology and science related to engineering. Currently there are more than 10,000 students and more than 1,000 faculty members.

State Engineering University of Armenia is the legal successor of Yerevan Polytechnic Institute named by Karl Marx which was founded in 1933 having only 2 departments and 107 students. The Institute grew along with the Republic’s industrialization pace and in 1980 – 1985 reached its peak with about 25000 students and more than 66 majors, becoming the largest higher education institution in Armenia and one of the most advanced engineering schools in the USSR. On November 29, 1991, the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute was reorganized and renamed State Engineering University of Armenia (SEUA).

The Central Campus of the University is located in Yerevan and the Branch Campuses - in Gyumri, Vanadzor and Kapan. There are divisions, departments and chairs operating within the Campuses. The governance bodies of the University are the University Council, the Academic Council, the Rectorate and the Student Council.

The University has affiliated high schools in Yerevan and Regional Campuses, aimed at recruiting future gifted engineering students from schools and providing their profound training in the University environment before their admission to the University.

The University accomplishes 5 study programs of vocational, higher and post-higher professional education, conferring the qualification degrees of junior engineer, bachelor, diplomaed specialist , master and researcher. Besides the degree programs, the University also offers extended education courses by means of its departments and a network of continuing education structures. The specialization scope of the University includes all the main areas of engineering and technologies represented by 39 Bachelor’s and 23 Master’s specializations in Engineering, Industrial Economics, Engineering Management, Applied Mathematics and Sociology. During 75 years of its existence, the University has given over 100 thousand graduates who have contributed greatly to the development of industry forming once powerful engineering manpower and technology base of Armenia.

Apart from the academic units, the University has a number of support services such as the Computer Centre, Scientific Library with more than 1 million books, Printing House, Faculty Development Centre, Industrial Liaison and Students Carrier Support Centre, as well as cultural, sports and other social facilities and summer recreation camps.

The information infrastructure of the University is well developed: today the University has a contemporary computer network with more than 1200 units, a number of technologically enabled classrooms and specialized computer labs.

Thousands of the University alumni are united today in YPI-SEUA Alumni Association committed to support the progress of their Alma Mater. At present SEUA has over 10 thousand students following 5 degree programs, among them over 500 foreign students studying in English language. The number of the regular academic staff of the University exceeds 1000, most of them with Degrees of Candidate or Doctor of Science. With its developed research system and infrastructure the University is nationally recognized as the leading center in technical sciences.

The University has a leading role in the reformations of the higher education system of Armenia. SEUA was the first HEI in RA that introduced two and three level higher and post-higher education systems, implemented experimentally the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) in harmony with the developments of the Bologna Process. During the last decade, the University has also developed an extended network of international cooperation including many leading Universities and research centers of the world. The University is a member of European University Association (EUA), involved in many European and other international academic and research programs (TEMPUS, TACIS, USAID, INTAS, NATO, NISCUPP etc.).

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Armenia national korfball team

The Armenia national korfball team is managed by the Korfball Federation of Armenia (KFA), representing Armenia in korfball international competitions.

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Politics of Armenia

National Assembly of Armenia in Yerevan

Politics of Armenia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of government, and of a platform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

The population of Armenia voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum, followed by a presidential election in October 1991 that gave 83% of the vote to Levon Ter-Petrossian. Ter-Petrossian had been elected head of government in 1990, when the National Democratic Union party defeated the Armenian Communist Party. Ter-Petrossian was re-elected in 1996. Following public demonstrations against Ter-Petrossian's policies on Nagorno-Karabakh, the President resigned in January 1998 and was replaced by Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, who was elected President in March 1998. Following the assassination in Parliament of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and parliament Speaker Karen Demirchyan and six other officials, on October 27, 1999, a period of political instability ensued during which an opposition headed by elements of the former Armenian National Movement government attempted unsuccessfully to force Kocharyan to resign. Kocharyan was successful in riding out the unrest. In May 2000, Andranik Margaryan replaced Aram Sargsyan as Prime Minister.

Kocharyan's re-election as president in 2003 was followed by widespread allegations of ballot-rigging. He went on to propose controversial constitutional amendments on the role of parliament. These were rejected in a referendum the following May at the same time as parliamentary elections which left Kocharyan's party in a very powerful position in parliament. There were mounting calls for the President's resignation in early 2004 with thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets in support of demands for a referendum of confidence in him.

The unicameral parliament (also called the National Assembly) is dominated by a coalition, called "Unity" (Miasnutyun), between the Republican and Peoples Parties and the Agro-Technical Peoples Union, aided by numerous independents. Dashnaksutyun, which was outlawed by Ter-Petrosian in 1995-96 but legalized again after Ter-Petrosian resigned, also usually supports the government. A new party, the Republic Party, is headed by ex-Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan, brother of the late Vazgen Sargsyan, and has become the primary voice of the opposition, which also includes the Armenian Communist Party, the National Unity party of Artashes Geghamyan, and elements of the former Ter-Petrossian government.

The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have questioned the fairness of Armenia's parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referendum since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the Electoral Commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. For the most part however, Armenia is considered one of the more pro-democratic nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Observers noted, though, that opposition parties and candidates have been able to mount credible campaigns and proper polling procedures have been generally followed. Elections since 1998 have represented an improvement in terms of both fairness and efficiency, although they are still considered to have fallen short of international standards. The new constitution of 1995 greatly expanded the powers of the executive branch and gives it much more influence over the judiciary and municipal officials.

The observance of human rights in Armenia is uneven and is marked by shortcomings. Police brutality allegedly still goes largely unreported, while observers note that defendants are often beaten to extract confessions and are denied visits from relatives and lawyers. Public demonstrations usually take place without government interference, though one rally in November 2000 by an opposition party was followed by the arrest and imprisonment for a month of its organizer. Freedom of religion is not always protected under existing law. Nontraditional churches, especially the Jehovah's Witnesses, have been subjected to harassment, sometimes violently. All churches apart from the Armenian Apostolic Church must register with the government, and proselytizing was forbidden by law, though since 1997 the government has pursued more moderate policies. The government's policy toward conscientious objection is in transition, as part of Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe. Most of Armenia's ethnic Azeri population was deported in 1988-1989 and remain refugees, largely in Azerbaijan. Armenia's record on discrimination toward the few remaining national minorities is generally good. The government does not restrict internal or international travel. Although freedom of the press and speech are guaranteed, the government maintains its monopoly over television and radio broadcasting.

Armenia became independent from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic on May 28, 1918 as the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA). After the DRA collapsed on December 2, 1920, it was absorbed into the Soviet Union and became part of the Transcaucasian SFSR. The TSFSR dissolved in 1936 and Armenia became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union known as the Armenian SSR. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, beginning on September 23, 1991 the official name of the nation has been the Republic of Armenia (Armenian: Hayastani Hanrapetut'yun). The data code for the country is AM.

The capital and largest city is Yerevan. In addition to the Yerevan administrative region, Armenia is split into ten administrative divisions, know as marzer (singular: marz); these are Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Lori, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, and Vayots Dzor.

The flag of Armenia consists of three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, and orange.

The president is elected for a five year term by the people (absolute majority with 2nd round if necessary).

The Azgayin Zhoghov (or National Assembly) is the legislative branch of the government of Armenia. It is a unicameral body of 131 members, elected for four-year terms: 56 members in single-seat constituencies and 75 by proportional representation. The proportional-representation seats in the National Assembly are assigned on a party-list basis amongst those parties that receive at least 5% of the total of the number of the votes. The unicameral parliament is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party , the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Country of Law party. The main opposition is composed of several smaller parties joined in the Justice Bloc.

19 February 2008 Presidential Elections Although the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitored the Presidential election and concluded the that it was "mostly in line with international standards," Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian protested the election results. Protesters supporting Ter-Petrosian began demonstrating in the capital city of Yerevan shortly after the results were announced. So far nine deaths have been reported as a result of conflicts between police and demonstrators in the streets of Yerevan. On Saturday, 1 March 2008, President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency for the city and Ter-Petrosian recorded a message that was played over loudspeakers through the city of Yerevan the next day. In the message, Ter-Petrosian urged his supporters to return to their homes to avoid conflict with police and vowed to pursue the election results through legal channels. A constitutional court is expected to hear the case on Tuesday, 4 March 2008.

Although the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitored the Presidential elections and concluded that they were "mostly in line with international standards," Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian protested the election results. Protesters supporting Ter-Petrosian began demonstrating in the capital city of Yerevan shortly after the results were announced. So far nine deaths have been reported as a result of conflicts between the police, the army, and the demonstrators in the streets of Yerevan.

According to the governmental hearings in Washington, DC, the Armenian government is to blame for the oppression and massarcre against its own people. According to Russian sources, Robert Kocharian and the president-elect Serge Sargsyan (the birthplace of both of them is Nagorno Karabakh) view Armenians as their enemies. On Saturday, 1 March 2008, the outgoing president Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency for the city and Levon Ter-Petrosian (who was in home arrest) recorded a message that was played over loudspeakers through the city of Yerevan the next day. In the message, Ter-Petrosian urged his supporters to return to their homes to avoid conflicts with the army and police and vowed to pursue the election results through legal channels. A constitutional court heard and rejected the case on March 8, 2008 because of the state of constitutional emergency. The Centre for the Popular Movement (CPM) convened a sitting on 25 April. The Centre is going to challenge the outcome of the February 19 Presidential election at the European Court of Human Rights. An experts’ panel including Armenian and foreign lawyers will be set up to elaborate the lawsuit, the pre-election headquarters for Levon Ter-Petrossian reports.

According to the RA law on criminal legislation article 225.3 and article 300 first part the RA police started investigation on the following RA citizens to be sentenced: Sasun Mekhaki Mikaelyan (born in 07.11.1957, c. Hrazdan, Vanatur, 76ap) and Khachatur Alberti Sukiasyan (born in 15.09.1961, c Yerevan, Zavaryan str. 6) and according to the RA law on criminal legislation Nikol Vovayi Pashinyan (born in 01.06.1975, registered in c. Idjevan, Metaghagortsneri str. 3; but living in c. Yerevan, G. Nzhdeh str. 29, fl 15) is under investigation. Overall, there are 135 political prisoners in RA.

According to the police, they are accused in the following organizing mass disorder on 1 March 2008 in Opera square, Yerevan by the former RA president Levon Ter-Petrosyan and his confidents, breaking the law, for organizing public disorder and conducting it, for getting, keeping illegal weapons, for carrying out violation towards the police officers, on 1 March 2008 organizing mass disorder in the central part of the capital and the municipality building which was held by using weapons, murders, breaking and injuring properties, violation, firing and opposing the police officers.

In the message spread by the police, it is particularly mentioned those who have any information about the people under investigation should call the police central department 52-02-02, 53-02-02, or 56-02-02 or else, apply to their nearby police station.

On 23 April, 2008, a day before the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian journalist Gayane Arustamian held a protest action near the Matenadaran. She was accompanied by RA citizen Lala Aslikian. The protesters voiced complaint against genocides and murders. Over ten policemen watched the women’s action at the head of Ruben Melkonian. The protesters were holding a poster with an English inscription, "How can you prevent genocide?" At first, the policemen didn’t interfere with them as they didn’t understand the English sentence. Soon they got indignant seeing the second poster with an Armenian inscription, "What is the cost of the ten murdered people?" They finally flew into a rage after the protesters raised the third poster: "April 24, 1915: Taliat, Jemal, Enver. March 1, 2008: Robert, Serzh, Artur. "How dare you instill hatred? Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself, you are my daughter’s age," said one of the policemen. The moment the protesters were answering journalists’ questions, the policemen grasped the posters and tore them off. "You can tear off the posters but you cannot uproot my tongue," said Gayane Arustamian. She left the site in triumph.

Since morning April 24 (the Armenian Genocide day), Azatutyan Square, i.e., Liberty Square had been surrounded by policemen grouped on the sidewalks or walking to and fro. Police buses and cars rested right in the square center. The reason was the march to be conducted by opposition leaders from Azatutyan Square to Tsitsernakaberd at 3pm. In reply to the question why there were so many policemen in the square, one of the policemen answered humorously: "You can peacefully walk in here. Nothing is going to happen." Another policeman seriously advised: "You’d better not show yourself at the neighborhoods around 3pm." The doctors in police clinic were to be alert and ready to overwork.

On the Genocide commemoration day, thousands of people, accompanied by opposition leaders, made for Tsitsernakaberd from Northern Avenue'. The police closed Baghramian Avenue allowing the marchers only to walk along the sidewalk. Chairman of People’s Party Stepan Demirchian, Chairman of Hanrapetutyun (Republic) Party Aram Sargisian, Leader of the Social Democratic Henchak Party Lyudmila Sarkissian, former spokesman of Levon Ter-Petrossian Levon Zurabian, and Davit Shahnazarian conducted the march. However hard the policemen tried to persuade people to walk along the sidewalk, they failed. In the end the police yielded and opened one side of the avenue. New groups of people joined the marchers on the way to Tsitsernakaberd. Roads have not been closed and there are no traffic problems recorded. Anyway, there are water-pumping and razor wire cars on Demirchian Street.

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Source : Wikipedia