June 28, 2012

0262 ARMENIA - The map and the flag of the country


My feelings and opinions (subjective, how else, and sometimes started from an insufficient knowledge) related to many nations are mixed, with good and bad, with positive and negative aspects. Towards Armenians, primarily due to their culture and civilization, but also to how they survived for millennia, despite the blows of history and nature, I cherish an unconditional admiration. I hope I will get to talk sometime about the first nation in the world which adopted Christianity as state religion, about the Armenian alphabet, a millennium and a half old (previously of the Arabic script or the Cyrillic one), about Armenian architecture, which offered a number of priorities with worlwide character, spread to remote areas (including the Romanian lands), about Armenian contributions in medicine, philosophy and literature.

Armenia is located in the northern part of Asia Minor, near the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, with the legendary mountain of Ararat (5156m - upon which Noah's Ark is said to have come to rest after The Flood) and its plains stretching until the northern part of Mesopotamia. Armenian people lived for millennia, in its vast majority, on the massive mountains and highlands of Armenia (which doesn't reached down below 700m), although its state formations have migrated to all cardinal points, occupying the largest area around 80BC, when the armies of Tigranes the Great touched the shores of the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean, reaching in north the Kura river and in south the northern Palestine, near the border with Egypt. Its location between Asia and Europa, plus the fact that the Armenian plateau is situated at an altitude higher than neighboring countries, gave it a favorable strategic position, which led to numerous invasions of the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks and Russians.

Because the postcard contains a map (or two?) and two coats of arms, I will limit myself to talk about them. Internationally recognized territory of Armenia stretches east till the red dotted line, beyond it being seven districts belonging de-jure to Azerbaijan, but de-facto being controlled by the military forces of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a country unrecognised by UN-member states, including Armenia.The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh became disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the Bolshevik Revolution, in 1918, when both countries gained independence from the Russian Empire. In 1923, after the Soviet Union established its control over the area, it created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR.

With the Soviet Union controlling Caucasus, the conflict died down for decades, but in 1987 the region re-emerged as a source of dispute, culminating in a large-scale ethnic conflict. In 1989, after the Soviets withdrew, the legislative body of Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed the unification with Armenia, but in 1991, after both Armenia and Azerbaijan declared themselves independent, Azerbaijan abolished the status of NKAO, bringing it under its direct control. As a result, the Armenian majority voted to secede from Azerbaijan and proclaimed the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict turned in the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which lasted until 1994, when the Armenians held the full control of most of the enclave, and also of approximately 9% of Azerbaijan's territory outside the enclave. Situation is the same even today, and the map on the postcard reflected it clearly.

The flag of Armenia (in left), was adopted for the first time in 1918, after gaining independence, but was changed by the soviets in 1922, being adopted again only in 1990, a day after the Armenian Supreme Soviet declared the republic's sovereignty. The Armenian Tricolour (Yeřaguyn) consists of three horizontal bands of equal width, red on the top, blue in the middle, and orange on the bottom. The official definition of the colors, as stated in the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, is: "The Red emblematizes the Armenian Highland, the Armenian people's continued struggle for survival, maintenance of the Christian faith, Armenia's independence and freedom. The Blue emblematizes the will of the people of Armenia to live beneath peaceful skies. The Orange emblematizes the creative talent and hard-working nature of the people of Armenia."

The coat of arms (also in left), adopted in 1992, consists of an eagle and a lion (the ancient Armenian symbols that existed prior to Christ) supporting a shield. In the center of the shield is a depiction of Mount Ararat with Noah's Ark sitting atop it. Surrounding Mount Ararat are symbols of old Armenian dynasties:
- two eagles looking at each other - the Artaxiad Dynasty (1st century BC)
- a lion with a cross - the Bagratid Dynasty (7th and 11th centuries)
- two-headed eagle - the Arsacid Dynasty (1st century to 428
- a lion with a cross - the Rubenid Dynasty (12th and 13th centuries)
A vertically pointed sword breaks the chains of foreign oppression and the shield symbolically represents the guardianship of the Armenian State. The symbol of wheat in the lower part of the coat of arms represents the sacredness of the soil while the olive branches represent the aspiration principles of the Armenian people to goodwill and peace.

The flag of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (in right), adopted in 1992, is derived from the flag of Armenia, with only a white triangular pattern in zigzag added, symbolizing separation of the region of Armenia. The coat of arms (also in right), consists of an eagle, which has on the chest a shield with mountain range, under it being a vertically set flag of Nagorno-Karabakh. Over this are the two stone heads of "Granny and Gramps" from the We Are Our Mountains monument in Stepanakert. The eagle's feet clutch various agricultural products including wheat and, of course, grapes. The outer rim is made up of a golden circular ribbon bearing inscription "Artsakh Republic of Mountainous Karabakh", in Eastern Armenian.

About the stamps
The wonderful stamps are part of a new definitive set, which will contains the Armenian alphabet, so 38 stamps, scheduled to be issued in the next two years, in groups of 5-6 stamps at a time. The first group, issued on May 14, 2012, contains the following letters:

• ayb / ayp (10 AMD)
• ben / pen (25 AMD)
• gim / kim (50 AMD) - it’s on the postcard
• da / ta (70 AMD) - it’s on the postcard
• ech / yech (100 AMD)
• za / za (120 AMD) - it’s on the postcard
• e / pe (280 AMD)

References:
Armenia - Wikipedia
Armenia - Istoria şi cultura poporului armean, by Tigran Grigorian / Ed. Ştiinţifică / Bucureşti / 1993
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic - Wikipedia
Flag of Armenia - Flags of the World
Flag of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic - Flags of the World
Armenian alphabet - Omniglot
Armenian alphabet series - Armenian stamps 

sender: Anahit / Matevosyan (postcrossing)
sent from Yerevan  (Armenia), on 20.06.2012
design by S. Ohanian

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