Armenian Highlands is the territories where the Armenian nation started its and history and where their origin dates back. 4500 years changed many things in this area and most of these territories are not populated with Armenians.
As the result of Armenian Genocide, which occurred in the first half of 20th century, most of these territories were emptied from Armenian population and just a small land of this area on the north-eastern side is still populated with Armenians.
In the historical past, the life of the Armenian people proceeded on the territory known in geographical science under the name of the Armenian Highlands. The Republic of Armenia occupies the north-eastern part of this territory.
The Armenian Highlands is known for its numerous mountain ranges, plateaus and extinct volcanoes. It is located between the Asia Minor and Iranian plateaus, in the northwestern part of Asia Minor, occupies an area of 37 ° 30 ’and 40 ° 15’ north latitude and from 38 ° to 47 ° east longitude.
The Highlands have an average height of 1500-1800 meters above sea level and, booths above the surrounding countries, sometimes being called the “mountain island”.
The middle part of the Armenian Highlands represent a vast plateau, rugged by mountains and valleys. Surrounded by a natural wall of numerous mountain ranges and mountains, this middle part of the Highlands in ancient times were known as the Middle World (Midjnashkhar).
Mountain chains and peaks
Starting from the top of Ararat, the mountain range of the Armenian Range extends westward to the Euphrates River, which, together with its continuation mountains, divides the Middle World into the northern and southern parts.
The vast volcanic massif of Mount Ararat (Masis) with its peak – Big Ararat (5165 m) and Small Ararat (3925 m) – is located almost in the center of the Armenian Highlands.
The northern border of the Armenian Highlands are composed of the East Pontic Mountains. Their continuation is the choir system of Lesser Koukasus, which stretches from the shores of the Black Sea to the Meghri Gorge of the Araks River and consists of a number of mountain ranges.
To the west of them stands a huge volcanic massif of Mount Aragats (4090 m). On the wide slopes of Aragats, rich in springs and natural pastures, people have been engaged in cattle breeding and agriculture since time immemorial.
The folded arc of the Armenian Taurus frames the Middle World from the south. The southern marginal regions of ancient Armenia (Akhdznik, Sasun, Mokk, Korduk) extended in the area of the spurs of the Armenian Taurus and covered the valleys of the west and East Tigris.
To the south of the Armenian Range there is a vast plateau with several mountain ranges. These include Byurakn (antiquities of Sermanz, 3650 m) with its pastures, numerous by icy springs and lakes, thanks to which it received the name (Byurak – “Ten Thousand Springs”, Bingel). To the east of it extend the Tsakhkants Mountains with their volcanic peak Tondrak (3542 m).
On the south-west of the Tsaghkants mountains, not far from the northern shore, Lake Van rises the volcanic Sipan (in the ancient times of Neh Masik, its main peak has a height of 4434 m), which in the south-west connects with the peak of Saraki (3050 m), which has a huge crater .
Plains and plateaus of the Armenian Highlands
Between the mountain ranges of Armenia is a series of closed elevated plateaus, fertile valleys and plains. The most famous among them are the Ararat, Taron (Mush), Kharberd, Erzinkai, Bagrevand (AlashKert) and Shirak valleys.
On both sides of the middle course of the Araks River, between the mountains of Ararat (Masis) and Aragats and the mouths of the Akhuryan and Arpa rivers, there is a vast and fertile Ararat plain — the heart of the Armenian Highlands.
The Ararat plain has long been the center of the economic, political, and cultural life of the Armenian people. Here were the capitals of ancient Armenia — Armavir, Yervandashat, Artashat, Vagarshapat, Dvin, and in our time – Yerevan.
To the west and north-east from the foot of Aragats is the fertile Shirak plain, where the capital of medieval Armenia Ani was located.
Surrounded by mountain ranges, the Armenian Highlands receives little moisture. The Continental climate is particularly distinguished by the Middle Country with cold winters and hot, dry summers, but in some of its areas the climate is mild.
The sharp difference between the climatic conditions of lowlands and neighboring high mountains is striking. Rains usually fall in the spring and contribute to the appearance of lush vegetation in the mountains and plains.
The Ararat plain has a dry continental climate: in Yerevan, located at an altitude of about 1000 meters above sea level, the average temperature in January is -6.4 °, in July + 25 °.
The Armenian Highlands is a watershed of a number of large rivers of the Near East. From here originate the Euphrates and the Tiger, flowing into the Persian Gulf, Chorokh and Gailget, flowing into the Black Sea, Chur and Araks, flowing into the Caspian Sea, and their numerous tributaries.
The Euphrates (2700 km long, of which 500 km is within the Armenian Highlands) has two branches: the Western Euphrates, which originates in the Tsakhkavat mountains, north of the city of Karin (Erzurum), and the Eastern Euphrates, or Aratsani, originating in the Tsakhkants mountains.
One of the tributaries of Aratsani is Megraget, flowing through the fertile Taron plain.
The Tigris River (1950 km long, 380 km of them within the Armenian Highlands) also has two branches — the Western Tiger and the Eastern Tiger, the first of which originates from the southwestern and the second from the southeastern slopes of the Armenian Taurus; they unite near the city of Sgerd.
The Araks River (in ancient times Eraskh, 314 km) starts from the northern slopes of the Byuraknsky (Bingolsky) mountains, turns to the east on the Basen plain and flows through the deep Kagzvan Gorge, in ancient times called Eraskhadzor.
Taking the Akhuryan River on the left, Araks then flows along the vast Ararat plain. Here its left tributaries are Kasakh, Hrazdan, Azat, etc.
The canal system connected with Araks and its tributaries irrigates vineyards and orchards, as well as plantations of industrial crops of the Ararat plain. The people often called this river Mather-Araks.
The Armenian Highlands is rich in large and small lakes. Lake Sevan (in ancient times, the Geghama Sea) is the highest mountain among the largest freshwater lakes in the world (located at an altitude of about 1900 m above sea level, the surface is a little less than 1400 sq. Km).
Up to 20 rivers flow into the lake, and only one river flows out of it — the Hrazdan (Zangu). Among the fish that are found in Sevan, the local species of trout, Ishkhan, is very famous.
Lake Van (in ancient times Tosp, or the Bznun Sea) is located at an altitude of 1720 m above sea level. The surface of the lake is 3733 square meters. km The waters of the lake are salty. Since ancient times, they have been engaged in fishing, mining of salt.
Lake Urmia (in ancient times Kaputan) is located in one of the depressions lying between the Armenian Highlands and the Iranian Highlands.
Besides these three large lakes, there are numerous small mountain freshwater lakes. These include Arpi, Archak (in Vaspurakan), Gailat (in Kogovit), Tsovk (now Geljuk), etc.
Fruits and vegetation
The geological structure and climatic diversity gave rise to a variety of soils and vegetation of the highlands: fertile fields are replaced by stony soils with fruit orchards. The middle country is poor in forests.
Deciduous and partly coniferous forests are found mainly in the Gugarka, Agsteva valley, in Syunik, as well as on the southern slopes of East Pontus and the Armenian Taurus.
At an altitude of about 2000 m above sea level, the alpine zone begins – this is the area of the famous pastures of the Armenian Highlands with lush meadow vegetation.
Since ancient times, the main occupation of the population of mountain valleys was the cultivation of cereals, vines, flax, and sesame. That, as well as fruit trees — apricot, peach, cherry, apple tree, etc.
The Armenian Highland is rich in wild animals. Of hoofed mammals, red deer, roe, mountain goat are found here, the Armenian mouflon is also found, and wild boar is found in the reed thickets of the Araks valley.
Of the predators, the usual wolf, fox, bear, hyena; of birds — eagle, vulture, kite, falcon, stork, partridge, duck, bustard, quail, pheasant, etc.
Minerals and mines
The bowels of the highlands are rich in minerals. Since ancient times, copper, iron, lead, silver, gold and rock salt have been mined in the mountains of a number of regions.
Copper mines in Gugark and Syunik, salt mines in Kokhba, Kagzvan and Nakhchavan were especially famous. The highlands construction materials — tuff and marble of various colors, basalt, pumice, etc., have long been known.
There are also reserves of iron, copper, lead, gold, molybdenum, rock salt, etc.
The highlands are known for a variety of healing mineral waters – “jermuks” (hot springs) and acidic waters. On the basis of them, during the years of Soviet power, health resorts Arzni, Jermuk and others arose. The Armenian Highland communicated with the outside world through mountain passages, which were called “gates” in ancient times.
Through the highlands passed two of the most important trade and military routes of the ancient world, which connected the East with the West.
Strategic importance of the area
The military-strategic and commercial significance of the Armenian Highlands were one of the important reasons for many wars between the powers of the Mediterranean and Western Asia. The arena of these wars usually became Armenia and neighboring countries.
The Ararat plain was the hub of the main highways of trade exchange between East and West. Armenia was connected to the north by the roads passing through Georgia and Caucasian Albania (Agvank) along the coast of the Black and Caspian Seas.
Ancient Armenia was divided into fifteen large regions or “lands”. The most famous of them were Ayrarat, Vaspurakan, Syunik, Artsakh, Gugark, Vysoka Armeniya, Turuberan, Aldznik, Tsopk. Each region, under the conditions of subsistence farming and geographical isolation, represented not only a separate economic unit but had its own special customs, dialect, and cultural traditions.