The area of modern-day Gyumri was known as Kumayri during the period of the Kingdom of Urartu. It is likely that the name has been originated from the Cimmerians who conquered the region and probably founded the settlement. Under the domination of the Turkic tribes, Kumayri was turkified as Gümrü.
Until 1840, it was known as Gyumri, then, from 1840 – 1924 it was renamed to Alexandrapol, after Tsar Nikolay 1st wife, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, who had changed her name to Alexandra Fyodorovna after converting to Orthodox Christianity.
Between 1924 and 1990, the city was known as Leninakan in honor of Vladimir Lenin. Following independence(1990), the original name Kumayri was used until 1993, when Gyumri was chosen as the name of the city.
Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia. Gyumri is 126 kilometres (78 miles) north of the capital Yerevan and situated at the central part of the Shirak plateau. It has an approximate height of 1,550 metres (5,090 feet) above sea level. The Akhurian River passes through the western suburbs. The Shirak plateau is surrounded with the Pambak Mountains from the east and Aragats volcanic range from the south.
The total area of the town is 36,26 km². As of the 2017 census, the population of the town is 116000, which is 47.4% of the total population of the region. Being the second largest city of Armenia, it is governed by the Council of Elders, which elects the mayor.
Gyumri is an ancient settlement. In the area were found an archeological monuments (from the 3rd millennium BC to the late Middle Ages). There is information on the so-called Eriakhi (Yeriakhi) country and its settlements, that include the Shirak area, found in the records.
In June 1804, the Russian forces controlled over Shirak region at the beginning of the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813. Kumayri became officially part of the Russian Empire at the Treaty of Gyulistan signed on 1 January 1813 between Russian Empire and Qajar Persia. After the 1828-29 Russian-Turkish War by the Treaty of Adrianapolis (1829), Armenians moved from Kars, Karin and Bayazet to the fortress-city built by the Russians in Gyumri to establish a city where “Kazach Post”, “Seversky” and “Polygons” military settlements had been.
In 1849, Gyumri became the center of Alexandrapol Province in the state of Yerevan. After the construction of the railway (1899), it became an important railway link, strategic, commercial and cultural city. In the 1860s, Gyumri became one of the major centers of not only Armenia but also Transcaucasia.
The city developed especially during the Soviet era, with the population reaching around 230,000 in the 1980s. A diversified industry was created. Leading sectors of the economy were։ light industry (60% of the city’s gross income), food (11.9%) and building materials (0.9%). Large enterprises included textile, sewing, knitting trade unions, socks factory, forging equipment, electro-technical, polishing machines, micro electric motors and other factories. Poultry and vegetable growing were also developed.
In 1988 December 7, at local time 11:41, a devastating earthquake took place in Spitak. The most affected city was Gyumri. The magnitude of the earthquake in Gyumri was 9 points. In just seconds, it destroyed most of the city. Numerous schools, factories and residential buildings collapsed. More than 80% of the total residential area has collapsed.
The earthquake occurred on a workday, causing many schoolchildren and workers to die. Gyumri had more than 17,000 victims. More than 40% of industrial enterprises in Armenia were disrupted because of the fact that Leninakan was one of the industrial centers of Armenia (about 40,000 workers).
The catastrophic earthquake in 1988 completely undermined the economy of Gyumri. All city factories closed or almost entirely stopped their activities. Many former workers remained idle and the city gradually turned into a big market town. Thousands left Gyumri after the earthquake and in the early years of independence.
Currently there are light, food, machine building and tool construction sectors in the economy. There are 15 ambulatory-clinics in Gyumri, 11 hospitals, 6 hotels, city stadium and an indoor swimming pool. The Center for Seismic Protection of the Northern Region of RA, NAS RA Geophysics and the Scientific Research Institute of Engineering Seismology are located in Gyumri.
There are 30 pre-school education institutions, 57 public schools, 9 musical and art, 31 sport schools, 7 state and 1 non-state institutions, M0ikael Nalbandian Pedagogical Institute, YSMU and YSLU branches, non-state 2 Gyumri schools with 15 libraries. There are also the drama theater named after Vardan Atchemyan, the puppet theater named after Aikhanyan, the Museum of Homeland Studies, museums of Avetik Isahakyan, Minas Avetisyan, Sergey Merkurov, Yeransuhi and Mariam Aslamazyan’s Sisters, Hovhannes Shiraz, Mher Mkrtchyan, and Kumayri Historical and Cultural Reserve.
There are some TV and radio companies in the city and cultural entertainment centers of regional significance.”Shirak” magazine, “Kumayri” “Shrjapat”, “Thursday” and other newspapers are published here.
Historical and architectural monuments include the dome-shaped Kumayri church (VII century), the St. Amenaprkich (1858-76), the Church of St. Astvatsatsin (Seven Wounds) and St. Alexander the Great (“Plplan zham”) church (both in the 19th century), monuments of “Mother Armenia” (sculptor Ara Sargsyan) and monuments of Avetik Isahakyan, “Star Square”, Ashot Voghormaz’s horse-monument (2008), “Dying Eagle” Monument, Memorial to the memory of Russian soldiers and Armenian militants, the Memorial to the victims of Spitak’s Earthquake and monuments dedicated to the victims of the Artsakh Liberation War.
Other, also known monuments are; the horse-monument of Zoravar Andranik, “Garegin Nzhdeh” “Charles Aznavour” monuments and the statue dedicated to Fidains memory.
Translated by Kristina Ghahramanyan