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Modern Armenia » Culture


  •    Culture   


    Armenians have their own distinctive alphabet and language. The alphabet was invented in AD 405 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.

    Mesrop Mashtots by Francesco Maggiotto

    Music and Dance

    Traditional Armenian Dance

    Armenian music is a mix of indigenous folk music, perhaps best-represented by Djivan Gasparyan’s well-known duduk music, as well as light pop, and extensive Christian music.

    Instruments like the duduk, the dhol, the zurna and the kanun are commonly found in Armenian folk music. Artists such as Sayat Nova are famous due to their influence in the development of Armenian folk music. One of the oldest types of Armenian music is the Armenian chant which is the most common kind of religious music in Armenia. Many of these chants are ancient in origin, extending to pre-Christian times, while others are relatively modern, including several composed by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. Whilst under Soviet rule, Armenian classical music composer Aram Khatchaturian became internationally well known for his music, for various ballets and the Sabre Dance from his composition for the ballet Gayaneh.

    The Armenian Genocide caused widespread emigration that led to the settlement of Armenians in various countries in the world. Armenians kept to their traditions and certain diasporans rose to fame with their music. In the post-Genocide Armenian community of the United States, the so called “kef” style Armenian dance music, using Armenian and Middle Eastern folk instruments (often electrified/amplified) and some western instruments, was popular. This style preserved the folk songs and dances of Western Armenia, and many artists also played the contemporary popular songs of Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries from which the Armenians emigrated. Richard Hagopian is perhaps the most famous artist of the traditional “kef” style and the Vosbikian Band was notable in the 40s and 50s for developing their own style of “kef music” heavily influenced by the popular American Big Band Jazz of the time. Later, stemming from the Middle Eastern Armenian diaspora and influenced by Continental European (especially French) pop music, the Armenian pop music genre grew to fame in the 60s and 70s with artists such as Adiss Harmandian and Harout Pamboukjian performing to the Armenian diaspora and Armenia. Also with artists such as Sirusho, performing pop music combined with Armenian folk music in today’s entertainment industry. Other Armenian diasporans that rose to fame in classical or international music circles are world renown French-Armenian singer and composer Charles Aznavour, pianist Sahan Arzruni, prominent opera sopranos such as Hasmik Papian and more recently Isabel Bayrakdarian and Anna Kasyan. Certain Armenians settled to sing non-Armenian tunes such as the heavy metal band System of a Down (which nonetheless often incorporates traditional Armenian instrumentals and styling into their songs) or pop star Cher. In the Armenian diaspora, Armenian revolutionary songs are popular with the youth. These songs encourage Armenian patriotism and are generally about Armenian history and national heroes.


    Ancient Armenian Khachkars (cross-stones)

    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 National Art Gallery in Yerevan has more than 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages, which indicate Armenia’s rich tales and stories of the times. It houses paintings by many European masters as well. The Modern Art Museum, the Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Martiros Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening every year, featuring rotating exhibitions and sales.

    Armenian artists

    Many famous names in the music world are of Armenian descent including Soviet-born classical composer Aram Khachaturian, French-born singer Charles Aznavour, Turkish-born percussionist Arto Tunçboyacıyan, and all the members of the alternative metal band System Of A Down, although only bassist Shavo Odadjian was born in the country.

    Ivan Aivazovsky

    The Ninth Wave. Artist: Ivan Aivazovsky.

    • Alain Mikli – designer
    • Ara Güler – photographer
    • Arshile Gorky – painter
    • Arsinée Khanjian – actress and producer
    • Arthur Sarkissian – painter
    • Arto Chakmakchian – sculptor
    • Atom Egoyan – film maker
    • Cheryl Sarkisian (Cher) – American-born actress, singer, songwriter, and entertainer
    • Daron Malakian – American-born musician
    • Denis Peterson – painter
    • Garegin Khachatryan – ceramic-sculptor, painter
    • Gevorg Bashinjagyan – painter
    • Hovsep Pushman – painter
    • Ivan Aivazovsky – painter
    • John Dolmayan – Lebanese-born musician
    • Larry Gagosian – art collector
    • Malak Karsh – landscape photographer
    • Martiros Saryan – painter
    • Minas Avetisyan – painter
    • Mkrtich Mazmanian – sculptor
    • Rafik Khachatryan – sculptor
    • Ronald Dzerigian – painter
    • Sarkis – sculptor
    • Serj Tankian – Lebanese-born musician
    • Shavarsh Odadjian – musician and painter
    • Sirusho – singer
    • Tigran Avakian, photographer
    • Toros Roslin – medieval painter
    • Vartan Malakian – painter
    • William Saroyan, writer
    • Yousuf Karsh – Canada; Egyptian-born portrait photographer.
    • Haig Mardirosian – American-born organist


    Viktor Ambartsumian – one of the founders of theoretical astrophysics

    Gurgen Askaryan – inventor of light self-focusing and author of pioneering studies of light-matter interactions

    Sergey Mergelyan – the author of major contributions in Approximation Theory

    Leon Orbeli (Orbelian) – founder of the evolutionary physiology

    Andronik Iosifyan – designer of the first meteorological satellites of Earth, father of electromechanics in USSR, one of the founders of missilery

    Edward Keonjian – the father of microelectronics

    Alexander Kemurdzhian – designer of the first rovers to explore another world

    There are many prominent names in the world of science that are of Armenian descent. Some of them include:

    • Hovhannes Adamian – inventor of the color television
    • Sergei Adian – one of the most prominent soviet mathematicians
    • Tateos Agekian – astrophysicist, one of the pioneers of Stellar Dynamics
    • Armen Alchian – economist, one of the most prominent price theorists of the second half of the 20th century, a pioneer of new institutional economics and one of the founding fathers of the “law and economics” school, and in particular what has come to be known as the property rights approach, among the top 20th-century contributors to economic knowledge
    • Artem Alikhanian – one of the founders of experimental nuclear and cosmic-ray physics in USSR
    • Abraham Alikhanov – one of the founders of nuclear physics in USSR, founder of the first nuclear reactor of USSR
    • Sos Alikhanian – founder of the Soviet school of genetics and selection of microorganisms
    • Roger Altounyan – asthma researcher, pharmacologist who pioneered use of cromolyn sodium inhalation therapy for asthma
    • Viktor Ambartsumian – one of the founders of theoretical astrophysics
    • Boris Ananyev – the outstanding psychologist of 20th century, founder of anthropological psychology
    • Apkar Apkarian – pioneer in magnetic resonance spectroscopy research of the brain
    • Stephan Ariyan – reconstructive surgeon, originator of the pectoralis major flap, which has become the most commonly used flap for head and neck reconstruction worldwide
    • Andreas Artsruni – one of the founders of geochemistry
    • Nagush Arutyunyan – mechanic, pioneer of theory of creep, founder of mechanics of accumulating deforming bodies
    • Daron Acemoğlu – among the 20 most cited economists in the world, winner of the 2005 John Bates Clark Medal
    • Gurgen Askaryan – physicist, inventor of light self focusing
    • Iosif Atabekov – virologist, founder of the molecular biology of plant’s viruses (USSR)
    • George Aghajanian – professor of psychiatry, a pioneer in the area of neuropharmacology. He discovered the mechanisms by which LSD produces hallucinations and he has also uncovered how atypical antipsychotic drugs work.
    • Hagop S. Akiskal – psychiatrist best known for his pioneering research on temperament and bipolar disorder (manic depression). Today’s leading conceptual thinker in the area of bipolar subtyping.
    • Boris Babaian – the father of supercomputing in the former Soviet Union and Russia. Second European to hold the Intel Fellow title. Originator of the world’s first superscalar computer.
    • Levon Badalian – founder of the child neurology in the Soviet Union
    • Khristofor Bagdasaryan – author of pioneering works on radical polymerization, founder of a new field of photochemistry, two-quantum photochemistry of organic compounds
    • John Basmajian – a world leader in Rehabilitation Medicine, father of “EMG Biofeedback”, author of pioneering works in electromyography.
    • John P. Bilezikian – one of the world’s leading authorities on bone and bone disorders from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
    • Levon Chailakhyan – physiologist, in 1986 with his soviet colleagues got the world’s first successfully cloned mammal – mice “Masha”, 10 years before famous “Dolly”
    • Mikhail Chailakhyan – founder of hormonal theory of plant development
    • Raymond Damadian – inventor of MRI
    • Ara Darzi – one of the world’s leading surgeons, pioneer in minimally invasive and robot-assisted surgery
    • Richard Donchian – the Father of Trend Following Trading, one of the most outstanding figures of all time in the field of commodity money management
    • Eduard Yegiazaryan – engineer, one of the founders of microsensorics
    • Edward Khantzian – early pioneer in the psychological understanding of addictions, co-originator of the self-medication hypothesis
    • Nikolay Yenikolopov – one of the most outstanding chemists of the former USSR, one of the founders of Russian polymer science
    • Viktor Fanardzhyan – physiologist, formulated an elegant system of concepts of the hierarchy of the nervious processes affording the regulation of movements
    • Grigoriy Garibyan – physicist, discoverer and developer of the theory of X-ray transition radiation
    • Samvel Grigoryan – founder of the modern theory of dynamics of mining minerals and soils
    • Grigor Gurzadyan – founder of space astronomy
    • Spiru Haret – Romanian astronomer of Armenian descent, who made a fundamental contribution to the most celebrated problem of dynamics: the n-body problem, initially aimed at modelling the planetary motions in our Solar System. His works implied that planetary motion is not absolutely stable, and being continued by Poincaré, eventually led to the creation of chaos theory. Haret’s work marked the beginning of the end of an era, that of exclusively quantitative endeavours in mathematics.
    • Paris Herouni – projected and built the world’s first radio-optical telescope
    • Bagrat Ioannisiani – constructor of new astronomical instruments, chief designer of BTA-6 – the largest telescope in the world
    • Andronik Iosifyan – a great scientist and inventor, the father of electromechanics in USSR, designer of the first meteorological satellites of Earth and one of the founders of missilery. Iosifyan was one of the most outstanding figures in the field of military and rocket production. Being the founder and first director of the USSR’s largest scientific research institute of electro-mechanics, Iosifyan for about thirty years was the USSR’s “classified” Chief Constructor of electrical equipment of ballistic rockets, nuclear submarines and spacecrafts. One of his most important inventions, noncontact synchronized transmissions, considered a revolution in technology.
    • Albert Kapikian – virologist, the father of human gastroenteritis virus research, who developed the first licensed vaccine against rotavirus – the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and children, which accounts for more than 500,000 deaths annually
    • Anna Kazanjian Longobardo – author of major contributions to the aerospace engineering field, the first woman to receive the Egleston Medal for Distinguished Engineering achievement
    • Varaztad Kazanjian – founder of the modern practice of plastic surgery
    • John Kebabian – neuroscientist and pioneer in dopamine receptor research
    • Alexander Kemurdzhian – designer of the first rovers to explore another world: first moon rovers and first mars rovers. Founder of the space transport engineering.
    • Hampar Kelikian – orthopedic-surgeon pioneer, was known as one of the USA’s most celebrated and pioneering orthopedic surgeons, who significantly extended the surgical field
    • Edward Keonjian – the father of microelectronics, designer of the world’s first solar-powered, pocket-sized radio transmitter
    • Semyon Kirlian – founder of Kirlian Photography, discovered that living matter is emitting energy fields.
    • Zaven Khachaturian – the world’s foremost researcher on Alzheimer’s, the father of neurobiology of aging research in USA
    • Levon Khachigian – molecular biologist, who manifestly increased the understanding of the fundamental transcriptional mechanisms that lead to the inappropriate expression of harmful genes in cells of blood vessels and pioneered the development of novel strategies targeting key regulatory genes in a variety of vascular disorders
    • Leonid Khachiyan – mathematician, among the world’s most famous computer scientists, who proved the existence of an efficient way to solve linear programming problems thought to be intractable until that time
    • Mihran Kassabian – x-ray pioneer, one of the foremost X-ray operators in the United States
    • Ivan Knuniants – chemist, Major General, four times an awardee of the USSR State Award. In chemical science he introduced historical changes and significantly contributed to the advancement of Soviet Chemistry. Founder of Soviet school of fluorocarbon’s chemistry, one of major developers of Soviet chemical weapons program.
    • Ignacy Łukasiewicz – polish pharmacist of Armenian descent, devised the first method of distilling kerosene from seep oil. One of the pioneers of oil industry in the world.
    • Albert Mehrabian – psychologist, a pioneer behind the understanding of communications, founder of the 7%-38%-55% rule
    • Sergey Mergelyan – an outstanding mathematician, who is the author of major contributions in Approximation Theory. The modern Complex Approximation Theory is based on Mergelyan’s classical work.
    • Alexander Merzhanov – acknowledged leader in the scientific field of combustion and explosion, inventor of the Self-propagating high temperature synthesis (SHS)
    • Artem Mikoyan – designer of MiG aircraft. Mikoyan’s fighters showed 55 world records. The Mikoyan MiG-19 was the first supersonic Soviet jet fighter.
    • John Najarian – one of the world’s greatest surgeons, the organ transplant pioneer, who developed one of the world’s largest transplant programs.
    • Robert Nalbandyan – chemist, the co-discoverer of photosynthetic protein plantacyanin, a pioneer in the field of free radicals. Leader in Sickle Cell Research & Testing Methods.
    • Alexander Narinyani – father of soviet artificial intelligence (AI), author of novel theory involving the conception of sub-defined models, founder of the new scientific field – constraint programming.
    • Yuri Oganessian – one of the founders of heavy ion physics, the author of the discoveries of heaviest elements of the Periodic Table of Mendeleev, including the heaviest atom ever created – element 118. An acknowledged world-leader in the field of syntesizing and exploring new elements.
    • Leon Orbeli – founder of the evolutionary physiology, Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Sciences
    • Yuri Osipyan – physicist, author of fundamental contribution to the physics of movements in solid bodies and inventor of photoplastic effect. Y. A. Osipian for many years was the Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Sciences
    • Artem Sarkisyan – a pioneer scientist in numerical modelling of ocean circulation, one of the world’s leading oceanologists
    • Hrayr Shahinian – a pioneer in microsurgical techniques of the brain
    • Norair Sisakian – one of the founders of space biology, pioneer in biochemistry of sub-cell structures and technical biochemistry. Was one of the first scientists in the mid-1940s to start the studies of plant cell structures. Author of an absolutely new concept of chloroplasts as polyfunctional cell structures. Was the first soviet scientist to work in UNESCO.
    • Armen Takhtajan – botanist, one of the most important figures in 20th century plant evolution
    • Karen Ter-Martirosian – was an outstanding theoretician, who made remarkable contributions to the understanding of high-energy physics phenomena. He also created new trends in the theory of strong interactions, and was one of the founders of theory of strong interactions at high-energies. Author of fundamental contributions to quantum mechanics and quantum field theory.
    • Avadis Tevanian – a recognized pioneer in creating cross-platform development environments used worldwide, the architect of Apple’s OS X
    • Michel (Michael) Ter-Pogossian – inventor of PET scan, which has revolutionized the understanding of how the brain functions

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