Vanadzor (until 1935 was known as Great Gharakilisa, 1935-1992 – Kirovakan, in 1924 was granted with the status of a town) is the administrative, cultural and educational center of Lori region. Vanadzor is the third-largest city in Armenia and during the Soviet era, it was the second industrial city of the republic.
The total area of the town is 25,1km 2 . Vanadzor is situated in the valley between Pambak and Bazum mountains at a height of 1353 metres (4,300 feet) above sea level. The Maymekh Mountain (3000 m) lies on the outskirts of the city. The town is located about 128 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital Yerevan. The local self-governing agency is the municipal council.
Of the January 1 st 2017 census, the population of the town is 80700, which is 36.7% of the total population of the region.
The settlement was called Gharakilisa (meaning the black church in Turkic) by the Seljuks possibly, as early as the 13th century; the name was presumably taken from the black-stoned Armenian church of the Holy Mother of God (XIII).The area of present-day Vanadzor has been settled since the Bronze Age (4th-2 millenniums BC), based on the tombs and other historic remains found on the nearby hills. In 1826, the settlement of Gharakilisa was entirely destroyed by Hasan Khan during the Russo-Persian war. In 1830, several hundred families moved from Western Armenia to settle here.
After the construction of the Dilijan-Gharakilisa-Alexandrapol highway (1870) and the Tbilisi-Alexandrapol railway (1899), the settlement became a village-town; economic and political life became more active. In the 19th century, there were only two churches built in the town: the first church established in 1831 (an ancient church destroyed by the earthquake in 1828) and the second one in 1895 (the Russian church).
In May 1918 Turkish troops had conquered the city. The Battle of Gharakilisa took place on May 24-26, and about 5,000 Armenians were killed. From January 1 1919 to February 16 1921 Vanadzor was a part of "Neutral zone" of Lori.
The first city development plan for Gharakilisa (later – Kirovakan, then – Vanadzor), initiated by architects Karo Halabyan, Mikayel Mazmanyan and Gevork Kochar, was adopted in 1929–1930.The plan intended to expand the area of the city in the western and eastern
directions, in the district of Dimats. In 1939 the main remodeling plan (architects – N. Zargaryan and A. Minasyan) helped to create a certain image of the city and establish the significant goals, such as: building an industrial district and a summer-resort area. In 1949, a new remodeling plan for the city was introduced (created by architects H Davtyan and R. Grigoryan). In the 1950s was built the Kirov Square (now Hayk Square). It is the city’s administrative center. The remarkable examples of the ensemble building-style structures are – the Tigran Mets Avenue,
the Tumanyan Street, the Shahumyan square with its artificial lake, and lastly, the city’s central park.
The economy of Vanadzor has evolved rapidly since the 1940s, due to the electricity generated by the Dzoraget’s hydroelectric power plant. During these years, new branches of economy have begun to develop and large enterprises in the mechanical engineering, chemicaland light industry, as well as food industry have been built. Vanadzor thermal power plant was built in 1961. Its production fullycovers the energy needs of the city, but moreover, it ensures the needs of many settlements in the region.The town has metallurgical factories, mechanical and electrical equipment factories, sewing and knitting factories, footwear, furniture, meat factories, bakeries, a dairy products factory, and a factory of canned products. There are also stone processing enterprises and many small plants for the production of building materials located in Vanadzor.
The role of the city is important for the country, especially with its production of various chemical products. Formerly, the town had a strong economy because of its chemical, metallurgical and machinery productions, but currently, there are only 2 large and approximately 60 manufacturing SMEs in the city with more than 2,000 service and retail outlets. The share of Vanadzor in total production of the region is only 4.9%, though the population is 36.5%.
The M-6 Motorway that connects the capital Yerevan with the Georgian capital Tbilisi passes through Vanadzor. In addition, the town is located on the north side of the Spitak-Vanadzor highway.
In the pre-Soviet period, the town had a parish church school (founded in 1853), Oriordats school (a school for women) (1879), double-classed Russian school (1897) and a school for the children of Russian officials (1908).
Vanadzor has 20 kindergartens, 29 public schools (6 boarding schools), 6 music and art schools, 8 sport schools, “Vanadzor” State Educational Complex, Pedagogical Institutes, SEUA branch, Mkhitar Gosh State University, Hovhannes Abelian’s Dramatic, Puppet Theaters, an Orchestra, Choir and Hayfilharmonia departments, Stepan Zoryan’s House-Museum (since 1988) where the writer lived from 1964-67. The town also has as a botanical garden.