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  • Main minority or indigenous communities: Yezidis (1.2 per cent), Russians (0.4 per cent), Assyrians (0.1 per cent), Kurds (0.2 per cent)

    Main languages: Armenian, Yezidi, Russian

    Main religions: Armenian Apostolic (92.6 per cent), Catholic, Yezidi, Russian Orthodox

    Armenia is often described as one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries, especially compared to neighbouring Georgia and Azerbaijan. This trend was reinforced following the collapse of the Soviet Union when ethnic sentiments developed into violent conflicts in the region of the South Caucasus. Subsequently, weak state structures and tense relations between ethnic groups caused instability, political disagreements and conflicts which further developed into discriminatory policies and intolerance towards minority groups in many of the countries in the region.

    According to the recent 2022 Census, more than 98 per cent of the total population is ethnically Armenian. Out of a total population of 2,932,731 persons at the time of the Census, the biggest minorities were Yezidis (31,079), Russians (14,076), Assyrians (2,755), Kurds (1,663), Ukrainians (1,005) and Greeks (364). Armenia’s minorities are scattered across the country, and do not form local majorities in any region or administrative unit. There are other, principally religious minority communities as well, such as Baha’is, Jews, Protestant Christians, Roman Catholics and Muslims. Jewish representatives estimate that their community is comprised of 800 to 1,000 members.

    Prior to the conflict with Azerbaijan, Armenia’s largest minority had been Azerbaijani, accounting for some 186,000 people. Full scale war in 1991 lasted for three years between Armenia and Azerbaijan. After almost three decades of Armenian dominance in Nagorno-Karabakh and further armed conflict, the situation flipped into one of Azerbaijani dominance, resulting in the displacement of around 100,000 ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia in 2023.

    Then, there is emigration of minority community members from Armenia, which is attributable to the severe economic hardship experienced in the republic following independence and war with Azerbaijan.

    Those factors have also encouraged ethnic Armenian emigration. There is a large Armenian diaspora in the United States, and there are also significant communities in Canada, France, the Middle East, Russia and in Georgia. Certainly, diaspora contributions to the Armenian economy have increased in recent years, but depopulation remains a serious concern within Armenia itself, with unofficial estimates of the republic’s population significantly lower than official figures.

  • For over three decades, the situation in Armenia was overshadowed by the repeated conflicts with neighboring Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area that while legally part of Azerbaijan had remained under the effective control of Armenia. The outbreak of conflict in the early 1990s profoundly reshaped Armenia. The Azerbaijani population, at the time numbering more than 180,000 people and until then the largest minority in the country, were displaced almost entirely from Armenia following the outbreak of violence – along with thousands of Kurds.

    As a result of the second large-scale war in 2020 and a ceasefire facilitated by Russian-led efforts, Azerbaijani forces regained all the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh as well as captured one-third of the territories that had been occupied by Armenia during the previous conflict in the early 1990s. Ceasefire violations in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijan border continued following the 2020 fighting. After a months’ long blockade and large-scale military operation by Azerbaijani forces in September 2023, the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities surrendered to Baku to avoid further bloodshed and agreed to start negotiations on the region’s integration into Azerbaijan. Soon after, the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Forces were disarmed and disbanded, the de facto government agreed to dissolve itself and announced that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic would cease to exist in January 2024. Following the capitulation of the local military forces and fearing the consequences of remaining in the region now under Azerbaijani control, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

    This movement occurred very rapidly. According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on average 15,000 people were arriving daily during September 2023, with the peak reaching 40,000 refugees in a single day on 27 September. With new arrivals now comprising one in 30 people in Armenia, the country faced a humanitarian crisis.

    The long-standing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia fueled an increasingly exclusionary form of nationalism that led to the growth of widespread xenophobia not only towards the neighboring country but also minorities within these countries, a development that human rights groups accused respective governments of actively encouraging. In Armenia, hate speech incidents, including calls for violence, occur occasionally in the political and public spheres. However, such incidents can primarily be attributed to political figures, NGO representatives or journalists.

    The International Court of Justice issued provisional measures in 2021 against both Azerbaijan and Armenia regarding claims and counterclaims of violations by both countries of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Court ordered Armenia to ‘take all necessary measures to prevent incitement and promotion of racial hatred, including by organizations and private persons in its territory, targeted at persons of Azerbaijani national or ethnic origin.’

    The biggest challenge that minorities in Armenia face is their sheer invisibility in society. All minorities combined make up less than 2 per cent of the Armenian population. This is exacerbated by the fact that no minority makes up the majority in any part of the country. Instead, they live interspersed throughout Armenia. According to Article 89 of the Constitution, seats in the National Assembly are allocated to representatives of national minorities through the procedure established by the Electoral Code. Representatives of the largest national minorities were granted four mandates during the elections to the National Assembly in 2021. All government business continues to be conducted in Armenian, limiting the political participation of linguistic minorities. Furthermore, there are no legislative or administrative provisions or policy measures encouraging the use of minority languages by local officials, even in those districts which are home to sizeable numbers of people belonging to national minorities. As a result, members of minority communities face obstacles to participating in decision-making that affects their daily lives, at least at the national level.

    Education at all levels takes place in Armenian, including the entrance exam to apply for higher education. Minority languages are taught in primary and secondary education in regions where persons belonging to national minorities live in substantial numbers, and efforts have been made to publish textbooks in Russian, Assyrian, Yezidi and Kurdish. In practice, however, most schools throughout the country do not offer courses in minority languages such as Assyrian, Kurdish or Yezidi. This is mostly due to both a lack of high-quality textbooks and skilled teachers. National minorities, especially the Yezidi community, face educational barriers in terms of high school drop-out rates.

    According to the Law on Audiovisual Media, all broadcasts must be conducted in Armenian, while public television and radio must also provide some level of airtime for broadcasting programs about the life, culture and languages of Armenian national minorities. Thirty minutes a week on public television and two hours per week on the radio programs in minority languages are broadcast in Kurdish, Yezidi, Greek and Russian languages.

  • Environment

    The Republic of Armenia, formerly the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, is situated in the South Caucasus, bordering with Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, Türkiye to the west and Georgia to the north. Nakhichevan, situated between Armenia and Türkiye, is an autonomous republic under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan.

    Armenia provided economic, military and other forms of support to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, legally part of Azerbaijan which was reunited with that country following a large-scale military offensive in 2023. Armenia lost direct transport links with Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin corridor, a strip of Azerbaijani territory currently under the control of a Russian peacekeeping force as per the armistice agreement.


    Contemporary Armenian identity has been shaped by a history of struggle to maintain a cohesive ethnic identity in the face of domination by powerful neighbors. In the modern period most Armenians found themselves living either under imperial rule as part of the Ottoman or Russian empires.

    The Armenian Genocide

    The most important event in modern Armenian history was the series of massacres, forced marches and eradication of Armenian culture in the Ottoman Empire, beginning with the so-called Hamidian massacres in 1895–6 and culminating in the destruction of the Armenian presence in Anatolia in 1915. Armenians state that some 1.5 million Armenians died as a result.

    Controversy has long raged over whether these events should be defined as genocide. Numerous Western European countries, notably France in 2001 and Germany in 2016, have recognized that these events do constitute genocide. In October 2006, the French National Assembly approved a draft law making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide; the bill was passed by the Senate in 2012 but was struck down by the Constitutional Council on free speech grounds shortly afterwards. A similar legislative initiative in 2016 was again blocked by the Constitutional Council in 2017. In 2021, US President Joe Biden issued a statement recognizing the Armenian genocide on the 106th anniversary of its inception; this followed on from US Congressional recognition in 2019.

    Türkiye refuses to define these events as genocide, construing them as a military response to Armenian collaboration with belligerent external powers. Nonetheless, the evidence remains that there are practically no Armenians in Anatolia today.

    There are various demands made by Armenians today relating to the Armenian genocide. International recognition has certainly been a primary focus. Demands for reparations and even territorial revisions are most likely to be heard among the diaspora, many of whom are descendants of survivors. As of 2023, governments and parliaments of 34 countries have formally recognized the Armenian genocide.  At least three countries — Azerbaijan, Türkiye and Pakistan — deny that there was an Armenian genocide.

    The Soviet Union era and Nagorno-Karabakh

    Due to Russia’s comparatively benevolent treatment of Armenians in the post-Soviet era, Russia assumed the role of an external protector in the Armenian consciousness. On the whole, Armenians thrived in the Soviet Union, enjoying high social mobility and occupying prominent positions within leading Soviet political and military institutions. A large proportion of Armenians acquired the Russian language yet maintained their own extremely rich national culture. However, the onset of political liberalization under Mikhail Gorbachev brought the issue of Armenians beyond Armenia to the forefront in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, an autonomous unit under formal Azerbaijani jurisdiction. Conflict over the control of Nagorno-Karabakh had been latent since the establishment of the Soviet Union, when the region was initially given to Armenia and then awarded to Azerbaijan for reasons that to this day remain unclear.

    In February 1988, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh unilaterally issued a resolution declaring their secession from Azerbaijan and union with Armenia. The conflict quickly escalated into violent attacks on Armenians in the Azerbaijani cities of Baku and Sumqayit. The death toll is disputed but reached into the dozens. A process of mass migration of Azerbaijanis from Armenia commenced, following cases of physical intimidation and violence. There was a corresponding inflow of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan proper as well as Nagorno-Karabakh, totaling some 400,000. By 1991, the conflict had become a full-scale war, with each side availing itself of Soviet military hardware. However, post-Soviet military assistance was tilted in favor of Armenia, particularly when anti-Moscow factions were in power in Baku. The war ended in a decisive Armenian victory in 1994, with the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (supported by Armenia) taking control not only of the region itself but also occupying in whole or in part seven regions of Azerbaijan surrounding the region.

    The second large-scale war erupted in November 2020. That round of fighting ended when Russian-led efforts facilitated a ceasefire resulting in Azerbaijani forces regaining all the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh as well as capturing most of the territories (one-third) occupied by Armenia in the previous war in the early 1990s.

    Ceasefire violations in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijan border continued following the 2020 war. Azerbaijan began blockading Nagorno-Karabakh and launched a large-scale military operation in September 2023 resulting in the surrender of the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities. On 20 September 2023, a ceasefire agreement was reached, ending the Azerbaijani military operation against the self-proclaimed ethnic Armenian Republic in Nagorno-Karabakh. Soon after, the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Forces were disarmed and disbanded; the de facto government agreed to dissolve itself. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic ceased to exist in January 2024.


    Until 1994, the political situation in Armenia itself was stable under the leadership of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan of the Armenian National Movement, elected on 17 October 1991 following Armenia’s declaration of independence. However, the country experienced upheavals as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, which destroyed Leninakan and Spitak on 7 December 1988. This left an estimated 25,000 dead and 500,000 homeless, sparking a worldwide relief effort coordinated by diaspora Armenians.

    The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had a serious effect both on the Armenian economy and on the population. From 1989 onward, Armenia was subjected to an economic blockade, imposed first by Azerbaijan and then by Türkiye at the end of 1992, further exacerbating the economic situation in Armenia, which was dependent on Azerbaijan for energy supplies. As a result of the conflict, Armenia lost most of its ethnic diversity, suffered severe economic hardship and saw the supplanting of Armenian political elites by those with Nagorno-Karabakh origins and connections. Armenia was also initially censured by the international community.

    President Ter-Petrosyan was eventually compelled to resign in 1998 after conceding the possibility of compromise on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and following the 1997 elections, which were conducted in a highly disputed manner. Robert Kocharian, an Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh and former combatant in the war, took his place. Kocharian’s position was rooted in the assumption that Armenia, with support from the diaspora, could both survive economic isolation and fulfil its goals in Nagorno-Karabakh.

    In March 2003, Kocharian was re-elected President in a controversial poll. In response to widespread discontent and protest at the conduct of the elections, the Constitutional Court ruled that Kocharian should submit to a public vote of confidence one year later. The vote never took place and in April 2004 demonstrations in central Yerevan were violently dispersed. In November 2005, a number of constitutional amendments advocated by international organizations to improve governance in Armenia were approved in a referendum widely seen as falsified – an example of the paradoxical course of democratization in Armenia.

    This culminated in the killing of demonstrators following the 2008 election, when supporters of Ter-Petrosyan gathered to protest against the election result. Kocharian, though ineligible for a third term in office, supported the candidacy of Serzh Sargsyan and imposed a national state of emergency while he conducted an extensive purge of the opposition. His successor, Sargsyan, took power and was subsequently re-elected in 2013. Sargsyan served as President until 2018 and then attempted to become Prime Minister; massive and peaceful protests led however to his resignation within a matter of days.

    Nikol Pashinyan came to power in 2018 as a revolutionary politician. Massive demonstrations and marches were organized in support of what became known as the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in Armenia. Snap parliamentary elections were held on 9 December 2018. These were the first free and fair elections in Armenia since the early 1990s, according to local and international election observers. The registration procedures for voters, candidates and parties were deemed transparent and fair, the media had good access and the electoral management body proved to be effective and impartial. The election resulted in an overwhelming victory for the My Step Alliance of Prime Minister Pashinyan. He was again able to secure victory for his Civil Contract Party in new elections in 2021.

    The Armenian government lost credibility and authority over the most recent war with Azerbaijan. Numerous political and civil society actors demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan. Despite widespread disappointment over what was perceived as the Pashinyan government’s abandonment of Nagorno-Karabakh and its declining popularity, many Armenians regard the ruling party as the only democratic option. What is more, the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh weakened Armenia’s pro-Kremlin opposition and helped to shape consensus that an alliance with Russia is impossible. Post-war Armenia is now formulating a new foreign policy as most Armenians do not see Russia as an ally.


    A Coordination Council of National Minorities of the Republic of Armenia was established in 2019 under the chief adviser to the Republic’s Prime Minister. The Council aims to provide protection for national minorities, to promote their inter-community relationships, as well as to provide effective solutions to issues of concern such as education and cultural and legal support. The Council is composed of two representatives of each of the eleven national minorities recognized by the government under the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), namely the Assyrian, Belarusian, Georgian, German, Greek, Jewish, Kurdish, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and Yezidi minorities.

    In January 2004, the Division for Ethnic Minorities and Religious Affairs was established as part of the Prime Minister’s office. It is the main governing state body that provides expertise on draft legal texts, summarizing and analyzing information submitted by public agencies and local self-government authorities for the Minister-Chief of Government Staff’s consideration, while  coordinating the work of the National Minorities and Religious Affairs Department. The inefficiency of the Division and its inability to contribute to the fight against discrimination, are regularly highlighted by international human rights monitoring bodies. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to elaborate a law on national minorities by the government. A new Criminal Code was adopted by the National Assembly and entered into force in 2022. The new Code criminalizes discrimination as a distinct offence, providing a detailed definition and including aggravating grounds. However, international treaty bodies note that there is no comprehensive legislative framework prohibiting discrimination. A draft law has been pending since 2016. In its Fifth Opinion (adopted in 2022), the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) noted that Armenian legislation lacks any distinction between discrimination in the private and public sectors and does not clarify where the burden of proof should lie. As explained by the country’s Human Rights Defender (or Ombudsperson), this legislative gap discourages victims of discrimination from bringing cases to the authorities. Lack of reliable data further exacerbates existing inequalities, including those experienced by the country’s minority communities.

    The political participation of Armenia’s minorities took a significant step forward in 2017. Following the elections held in April that year, there were four minority MPs in the country’s parliament: one each from the Assyrian, Kurdish, Russian and Yezidi communities. According to Article 95 of the Electoral Code, the four slots go to each of the national minorities found to be the four largest in the most recent census. The election process was criticized as the four were required to align themselves with one of the existing political parties, raising doubts as to how much of an independent voice they were. Nevertheless, the four seats had been set aside by the 2015 constitutional amendments, becoming the first Caucasus country to have minority electoral quotas for its parliament.

    The same four national minorities were accorded mandates in the 2021 National Assembly elections. In its Fifth Opinion, the FCNM Advisory Committee noted that the Electoral Code, which automatically attributes seats to the four largest minorities, excludes the election of representatives belonging to other national minorities. Moreover, the Advisory Committee recommended that legislative initiatives should be taken to define the unique role of the Members of Parliament representing national minorities and avoid unbalanced and ineffective representation.

Updated May 2024

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