Armenia Economy and Culture
A mountain region, traditionally isolated and backward until the Second World War, in the decades following the conflict, Armenia experienced an infrastructural development that allowed the start of a modern economy, largely based on industry and stimulated by intense commercial exchanges. with the federated states of the Soviet Union. However, after the dissolution of the USSR, the country’s economy showed its internal weakness, revealing its dependence on foreign countries and the problems deriving from geographical isolation. To aggravate the situation, the state of belligerence with Azerbaijan has also intervened, on the double front of Naxiçivan and Nagorno-Karabah and the critical situation in Georgia, which at the end of the eighties of the twentieth century led to the interruption of the commercial flow EO (whose main axis, which crossed the whole country, was crossed by the T’bilisi – Baku railway) causing the downsizing of all economic activities (with decreases of the order of 10% per year). In the early nineties, industrial production alone suffered a dizzying collapse (with a reduction of almost 60%) leading to the closure of many of the industrial plants and fueling a continuous emigration towards abroad, in particular towards Russia, impoverishing the country also from the point of view of human resources. Since 1992, to cope with this situation, the Armenian government has undertaken a series of measures aimed at rehabilitating the country, including – first among the countries of the former Soviet Union – the privatization of about 90% of the agricultural area., the adoption of a more effective tax system, a financial discipline adequate to the transformations in progress, combined with greater regulation of the banking system and, above all, adherence to a trading system more regulated by the market. The results of these measures in the various sectors have led to results of varying intensity. In the agricultural sector, for example, a relative stabilization has been reached, after the peak of growth that had been recorded in the first years of the crisis in conjunction with the recession of the other sectors. Practiced largely in the valley floor, where numerous water works (of particular importance those along the Razdan river which connects Lake Sevan to the Araks river) make up for the poverty of rainfall, agriculture includes cereals, wheat, sugar beets among the main crops, potatoes, tobacco, cotton, vegetables, fruit and vines, also used for the production of a distillate similar to cognac. The breeding concerns instead cattle, sheep and goats. According to allcountrylist, the industrial sector, supported by the influx of foreign capital, is active in the chemical, textile, mechanical and building materials sectors with a pre-eminence accorded to the agri-food sector, which has taken the place previously occupied by the technological industries. In the country there are also deposits of gold, silver, iron, copper, coal, molybdenum and natural gas. The tertiary sector is growing and contributes a significant share to the formation of the GDP (12,441 mln US $), through an increasing modernization of the insurance and banking system and the increase of the retail trade and catering. Tourism is not yet sufficiently developed to contribute significantly to the wealth of the country, despite the potential offered by the cultural tradition and the territory. In general, although there are still considerable problems of legality (widespread corruption) and the financial system needs even more marked interventions than the policies undertaken, between 2001 and 2006 the GDP per capita has grown 3 times, and in 2009 it was around US $ 2,668, thanks also to foreign investments which marked a strong increase, and in 2018 it reached US $ 4,149; however, the weight of economic remittances from Armenians residing abroad remains constant. International exchanges, traditionally aimed at the Caucasus area, today take place mainly with Russia, Germany, Ukraine and the USA.
The Armenian artistic-cultural traditions have ancient origins and over time have found expression in different forms. For a discussion on the history of Armenian art, literature and music, see the lemma Armenia, region. As far as the contemporary era is concerned, the country’s cultural panorama includes various phenomena and movements which, while not drawing a unitary picture, nevertheless reveal a particular vitality. Among the authors of Armenian origin, many of whom reside or lived abroad, are the writer Wiliam Soroyan (1908-1981) and the poet and writer Peter Balakian (b.1951), author of several poetic collections and of the book The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2004). The current musical panorama is also quite lively: among the composers we remember Aram Ilič Chačaturjan (1903-1978), also author of the Armenian national anthem; among the folk musicians, modern heirs of a surprisingly large and composite popular repertoire, we remember the most famous Armenian artist, Djivan Gasparian (b.1928), master of the duduk, a wind instrument similar to the oboe, collaborator of numerous European artists and American and author of dozens of songs for famous films (such as The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988, by Martin Scorsese or the more recent Syriana, 2005, by Stephen Gaghan); among the contemporary performers stand out the singer-songwriter Lilit Pipoyan (b. 1955) and the folk guitar composer Vahan Artsruni (b. 1965). Among the groups, the music scene is divided between the Armenian Navy Band, Arto Tuncboyaciyan’s twelve-piece jazz band (b. 1957) and Time Report, active in the capital; abroad, System of a Down, a new metal group formed in Los Angeles in 1995, also enjoyed great success. Among the world-famous singers, of Armenian origin, the best known are the famous actress and singer Cher (b. 1946) and Charles Aznavour (1924-2018) and, more recently, Iveta Mukuchyan (b. 1986), who became famous following her participation in Eurovision 2016. We also remember the pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan (b.1987), author who mixes American jazz, progressive rock and sounds derived from traditional Armenian music. Also with regard to the new arts, Armenia has shown excellent evidence: in the cinema, with the films of Sergei Paradjanov (1924-1990), an appreciated filmmaker and point of reference for numerous authors, with the works of the Armenian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan (b. 1960) and with the interpretations of the actor Frunzyk Mkrtcyan (b.1930); in photography, with Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), who became famous for a famous shot of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In Armenia there are also three sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List: the Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries (1996, 2000), the Echmiadzin cathedral and churches, and the archaeological site of Zvartnots (2000); Geghard Monastery and Upper Azat Valley (2000).