Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia as well as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country. It has been the capital since 1918, the twelvethin the history of Armenia and the seventh located in or around the Ararat plain. The city also serves as the seat of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese; the largest diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church and one of the oldest dioceses in the world.
The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni by king Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Erebuni was “designed as a great administrative and religious centre, a fully royal capital.” Soldiers, 6600 in number, were the first dwellers of the town. Cuneiform record left by Argishti I tell the following: “In the greatness of the god Khald, Argishti, Menua’s son, has built this impregnable fortress and called it Erebuni for the power of the country of Biaini and to enemies’ horror. Argisti says… The land was unpopulated, and here I have done great work. In the greatness of the god Khald, Argishti, Menua’s son, powerful king, the king of the country of Biaini, the ruler of the city of Tushpa”.
This remained historical record gave an opportunity to scientists to make more accurate the date of birth of Yerevan – 782 B.C. Erebuni-Yerevan was founded 29 years earlier than Rome and has about the same age as Babylon, Nineveh and Persepolis, but unlike them it has become one of prosperous cities of the 21st century. By the late ancient Armenian Kingdom, new capital cities were established and Yerevan declined in importance. During the course of centuries the town had an important role in the economic, social and political life of Armenia. Many caravan routes passed trough that big trade center. Archeological excavations indicate that Erebuni was a big administrative center most powerful in Ararat valley. During centuries the town stayed firm though it underwent many trials and tribulations. The city endured numerous raids of Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols and Turks, but the people continued to create resisting all miseries. A culture was created with valuable culture and developed sciences.
Under Iranian and Russian rule, it was the center of the Erivan Khanate from 1736 to 1828 and the Erivan Governorate from 1850 to 1917, respectively. After World War I, Yerevan became the capital of the First Republic of Armenia as thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire arrived in the area. The city expanded rapidly during the 20th century as Armenia became part of the Soviet Union (1922-1991). In a few decades, Yerevan was transformed from a provincial town within the Russian Empire to Armenia’s principal cultural, artistic, and industrial center, as well as becoming the seat of national government.
Yerevan was the first city in the Soviet Union, for which a General Plan was developed. The General Plan developed by the academician Alexander Tamanyan was approved in 1924: it was designed for 150000. In the course of time the administrative area of the city increased 5 times. Construction of Yerevan started: it was built by basalt, granite and marble. The most widely used construction material was rosy tuff. Since this construction material gave a unique vividness and specific tint to the city, Yerevan was called “Rosy city”. During next 70 years the area of the city was enlarged even more.
On September 21, 1921 Yerevan became not only a capital of the independent Republic of Armenia, but also of all Armenian people spread all over the world.
Excavations of Erebuni fortress
Early excavations began during the 19th century while more systematic excavations were carried out at Erebuni in 1952, under the joint sponsorship of the Armenian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and the Pushkin Museum’s Board for the Preservation and Restoration of Architectural Monuments.
In the autumn of 1950, an archaeological expedition led by Konstantine Hovhannisyan discovered an inscription at Arin Berd dedicated to the city’s founding which was carved during Argishti’s reign. Two other identical inscriptions have been found at the citadel of Erebuni. The inscription reads:
By the greatness of the God Khaldi, Argishti, son of Menua, built this mighty stronghold and proclaimed it Erebuni for the glory of Biainili (Urartu) and to instill fear among the king’s enemies. Argishti says: The land was a desert, before the great works I accomplished upon it. By the greatness of Khaldi, Argishti, son of Menua, is a mighty king, king of Biainili, and ruler of Tushpa.”
The team was led by Konstantine Hovhannisyan and Boris Piotrovsky, who served as an on-site adviser. In the course of the early stage of the excavations (1950–1968), Argishti’s palace, the royal assembly hall, temples and over a hundred rooms were excavated. Dozens of Urartian and Achaemenian artifacts, such as pottery, earthenware, belt-buckles, bracelets, beads, drinking vessels, helmets, arrows and silver coins, were also uncovered. The fragments of murals that were uncovered were found to be decorated with important religious themes, including “processions of gods, sacred animals, and trees of life”, as well as scenes of everyday life, displaying scenes of “hunting, cattle breeding, and agriculture.”
Storage areas for grain, oil, and wine were also uncovered. On the doors of the storage areas inscriptions were placed at the entry doors telling the who built the storage area and the quantity of the items placed in them.
The enormous ceramic jars that held the wine and oil had markings upon them. Smaller ceramic vessels were also found in excavations and are known to have been used in brewing beer made from barley. Other much larger vessels were used for storing foods and wine. Small circular markings on the sides of these containers near the top indicated the amount that could be stored inside. The larger of the vessels were usually buried half-way into the soil which naturally kept the contents cool.
Numerous cuneiform inscriptions carved on basalt have been found around the complex. Some of which are currently displayed in the museum, while others can still be found displayed on the walls.
In 1968 the Erebuni Museum of History was established. Its opening was timed to coincide with the 2750th anniversary of Yerevan. The museum houses items uncovered during the excavations at Arin Berd and Karmir Blur and gives a history of the site.
Erebuni Yerevan celebrations
The first official celebration of “Erebuni-Yerevan” was held in October 1968: the 2750th anniversary of the foundation of our capital was marked. In the approach to the festival, in June 1968 stamps “Erebuni”, “David of Sasun” were issued, colorful souvenirs, greeting cards “Yerevan is 2750” with addition of 850 000 samples were issued as well. In July the publishing house «Hayastan» issued decorative posters dedicated to the 2740th anniversary of Yerevan. In September paper-cases and wallets “Yerevan-Erebuni-2750” were produced in accounting-production haberdashery factory after S. Shahumyan. The industrial complex of painting of the Art Foundation started production of various souvenirs such as badges, necklaces with the portrait of Tigran the Great, medals dedicated to Matenadaran. On the occasion of Yerevan’s jubilee the industrial complex of the Armenian Choir Company produced medal “David of Sasun”,”Argisti I”, :Komitas”, “Geghard”, badges.
On the event of the 2750 anniversary of Yerevan copper bas-relief of Kh. Abovyan was placed on the wall of the Armenian Philharmonic building. In Matenadaran a scientific session was organized, at the corner of Nalbandyan and Melik-Adamyan streets the cuneiform record of Erebuni foundation was placed. Two new envelopes were issued with the pictures of the statue of soldier found in Arin Berd and of the Government building. At the industrial factory of pastry and macaroni collections “Yerevan”, “David of Sasun”, “Hobelyanakan” and “Assorti” were produced.
On October 17 at Erebuni hill the first ceremony of the series of events dedicated to 2750th jubilee of Yerevan was started. It was the Festival of Flowers: 2750 trees were planted. Erebuni street was opened.
On October 18 in the square after Lenin for the first time the emblem of Yerevan was raised, the monument “Seven fountains” was opened, a celebration was held at “Nairi” stadium.
A citywide festival of song was held in “Haghtanak” park, the choir of 2750 singers had sung for the first time the song by Edgar Hovhannisyan “Erebuni-Yerevan. On this day 2750 flowers decorated the front entry of “Haghtanak” park and in the square adjacent to Lenin statue 2750 fountains were put into operation.
A solemn procession took place on October 20 at Republic stadium. On October 22 the Erebuni museum was opened.
In October the new films called “Yerevan sketches”, “Yerevan is 2750” were made. Published H. Khachaturian’s novel “Erebuni”, the books “Yerevan-2750” by M. Hakobyan and A. Simonyan, “Yerevan” by A. Simonyan, “Yerevan” by N. Harityunyan, “Yerevan” guidebook were published, as well as “Yerevan lyre” set, a jubilee calendar were launched, the book “Yerevan” was published in Moscow.
On September 27 1986 a special tram-cafe called «Erebuni-Yerevan» started moving along the streets of the capital. On October 10 within the frames of the program of celebration of “Erebuni-Yerevan” an art exhibition “Yerevan and ite residents” was opened in the House of Artists of Yerevan . And on October 12 the traditional festival was marked with big solemnity.
After a long lasting pause, on October 1 2003 the 2785th anniversary of Yerevan was celebrated. In the city squares, avenues, parks and streets, on special stages the concerts of art groups were going on for a few years running.
On September 23 2004, in the threshold of the festival the results of the competition for Yerevan hymn were summarized. The first place was occupied by the song “Erebuni-Yerevan” the music of which was composed by Edgar Hovhannisyan and the lyrics by Paruyr Sevak.
The first performance of this song during the celebration of the festival in “Haghtanak” park in 1968 was unprecedented and with its exclusiveness it left an unforgettable track on the new pages of the history of our ancient city: a choir of 2750 singers performed it symbolizing the 275oth anniversary of the capital. On October 13 of the same year, at the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet after A. Spendiaryan the solemn session dedicated to the 2786th anniversary called “Yerevan’s day” was held. And during this session the symbols of Yerevan, the flag and the anthem “Erebuni-Yerevan” were officially accepted which were passed for permanent preservation to the Yerevan History Museum. On the same day concerts dedicated to the event were held in different parts of the city.
Within the framework of the events dedicated to “Erebuni-Yerevan-2786” on October 13-16 sport events were held in the area adjacent to V. Mamikonyan statue, at the National Academic Theater after G. Sundukyan the beauty and grace contest “Miss Yerevan 2004” was held. In the area adjacent to “Erebuni” museum a festive concert was organized. A display of harvest, treatment and concert were held in Republic square, and in Cascade complex the festival-contest “Yerevan in songs” was organized. In Charles Aznavour square a photo-exhibition titled “Yerevan with my eyes” was opened, the festivals of flowers and wine were celebrated. The festive events were finished with a gala-concert at “Hrazdan” stadium.
In the following years the list of celebrations dedicated to “Erebuni-Yerevan” was replenished with various events. Before starting the events dedicated to the city anniversary, since very morning all the main and secondary streets in the administrative districts are cleaned and washed with sprinkling trucks. The latter form a special procession especially in central streets. In different higher educational establishments of Yerevan volunteer students participate in washing of a number of statues and monuments in Yerevan. The festive race also belongs to the series of events during which the pupils of sport schools of the capital and the amateur runners celebrate the regular anniversary of the capital in a special way. Among the events the exhibition of retro cars has its own place. On 26 stages placed in different parts of the city concerts of classical, rock, jazz music are held. Festive events are also arranged in North avenue where children’s, drama, circus, fashion, ceramics, carpet weaving, woodcraft and other exhibitions are held. The festive measurements are traditionally finished with the main celebration in Republic square followed by bright fireworks.