The Armenian story is a tragic one.
Persecuted by their neighbours for centuries; unfortunate in a violent earth-quaking act of God as recent as 1988; enduring a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh that materialised into a terrible war; and haunted by the massacre of their people in Baku.
The Spirit of Armenia
Despite their sufferings, the Armenian people continue to faithfully keep the flame alight.
Twenty kilometres west of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is the site of the Holy Seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church and residence of the Supreme Catholicos.
The cathedral was built in 301 AD when Armenia became the first country in the world to declare Christianity as its national religion.
On Sundays and religious holidays, the grounds of the cathedral at Etchmiadzin (Yejmiadzin) crowd with families and war veterans.
Spindly thin, orange candles are bought by the handful and lit in groupings for a greater glow. Staring at the flickering light focuses inner thoughts -- to the God who has given them so much suffering, they pray.
As the candles weaken and bend from the heat, they are lovingly caressed together to burn longer, stronger, and brighter as one.
Enterprise flourishes in Yerevan. Much of the dealing is done in basement commissions, where the proprietors are already used to making money, but small tables are also set up by individuals selling cigarettes and beer.
The more agreeable climate in Caucasia helps make for an easy going lifestyle that hides the tragedies of a suffering people; Armenian cafe society continues - strong coffee is drunk from little cups, and art is appreciated in the park.
The flavour is not quite Turkish, and the passing style is of a more open Middle East; a taste perhaps of the Lebanese. Men may cluster, but they are not all old and few prayer beads are fondled.
It is not uncommon for couples to stroll together, but more noticeable is the behaviour of the women. Hemlines are longer than the thigh-high fashions favoured in Kiev; from a respectable Latin knee-length to a full flowing number. Urban Armenian women set off the effect with a pair of dark stockings.
The mysteriousness behind the facade is accentuated in many a young lady by a pair of stylish sun glasses. Mother and daughter promenade arm in arm, and girlfriends cuddle together like the closest of sisters.
Only the uninspired architecture, along the wide and straightened roads, stand as a grim reminder of the Soviet stamp. The old winding streets have disappeared, but the Russians failed to destroy the spirit of the Armenia.
Although the Russians and Armenians once spent a common currency, the spoken word and written script are completely different.
Armenia Travel Notes:
Find out more about Armenia. Includes the Armenian flag, national anthem, and a brief history of Yerevan.
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