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The ancestors of modern Armenians settled in the
area of Mount Ararat, in the late 3000s BC. Early in the 1st century
BC Armenian King Tigranes the Great formed an empire that stretched
from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. In the 1st century AD
a Parthian-Roman treaty installed the Parthian Arsacid dynasty as
rulers of Armenia, the Arsacid dynasty fell to the Sassanids in
the early 3rd century. The Roman Empire restored the Arsacids to
power, crowning Tiridates III as King of Armenia. Tiridates converted
to Christianity in the early 4th century and established a state
The Byzantine and Persian empires divided Armenia in the late 4th
century, but in the early 7th century all of Armenia came under
Byzantine rule. In 885, Ashot I, became the sovereign of an independent
Armenian kingdom. This period of Armenian independence ended with
the conquests of a resurgent Byzantine Empire under Basil II, who
ruled from 976 until 1025. Invasions by the Seljuk Turks brought
most of Armenia under Turkish control by 1071.
In the 13th century Armenia fell to the Mongols, who ruled until
the early 15th century. The Ottoman Empire conquered most of Armenia
in the 16th century. By the late 1820s the area of present-day Armenia
had become part of the Russian Empire, while the rest of historic
Armenia remained part of the Ottoman Empire.
The worst atrocities against Armenians occurred in the Ottoman Empire
during World War I (1914-1920), when widespread deportations and
massacres eliminated nine-tenths of the Armenians in Anatolia (present-day
In May 1918 the Armenian Republican Federation proclaimed an independent
Armenian State that encompassed most of the Armenian lands included
in the former Russian Empire. In early 1921 the Bolsheviks took
complete control of the government and Armenia became one of the
republics of USSR.
In December 1988 northern Armenia was devastated by an earthquake
that killed 25,000 people and left more than 400,000 homeless.
Toward the end of 1989 the Armenian Supreme Soviet declared Nagorno-Karabakh
to be part of Armenia. The Soviet authorities did not support the
declaration, ruling it was unconstitutional.
In September 1991 Armenian residents voted overwhelmingly to secede
from the USSR, and the Armenian Supreme Soviet declared Armenia's