Ancient Hearts, Modern Minds and a little place called Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia in perspective.

Written by Paul Alex Treadaway.

Modern-day Armenia is a place defined by its extensive history. However, the mountainous Caucasus republic is also a nation that is attempting to assert its identity in the modern political and cultural landscape, after centuries without this luxury. Located in the South Caucasus region, the former Soviet state is surrounded by Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran, with the regional power of Russia to the north, Armenia in the 21st century being somewhat isolated in where it stands.

( A political map of the South Caucasus region, produced by – can be found at: )

A Christian country surrounded by Muslim majority populations with whom it has fought and a fellow Christian republic with whom it has a workable, but notably not a warm relationship, border disputes are scattered around it like pebbles on a beach. Contested frontiers continue to be an issue with all of its immediate neighbours, bar Iran, with the concept of a ‘Greater Armenia’ behind many of the territorial arguments the Armenian state has involved itself in. History has played a great role in forming this concept, with traditional Armenian lands having fluctuated alongside other ethnic groups since the 6th century, leaving a messy and unclear jigsaw puzzle of cultural and linguistic legacies for modern political leaders to at least manage, and just maybe one day crowbar into something akin to settled political boundaries.

Upon arriving in the centre of Yerevan, the nation’s capital and largest city, this outworking of the idea of an ancient Armenian homeland hits you immediately, despite the modern republic only having been established upon the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. The ‘Cascade’, a set of giant stairs whose construction began in the 1970s and has yet to be fully completed dominates the central district, leading you up one of Yerevan’s surprising number of steep hills for a major city. At the zenith of the steps is ‘Victory Park’, known as ‘Հաղթանակի զբոսայգի’ (Armenian) or ‘Парк Победы’ (Russian) depending on your linguistic preference.

(Yerevan’s ‘Cascade’ in early evening, looking towards Mount Ararat and the city centre, 2020. Produced and owned by Paul Alex Treadaway [author], 2020)

( ‘Mother Armenia’, constructed in 1967-68,

situated in ‘Victory Park’ as of 2020. Produced and

owned by Paul Alex Treadaway [author], 2020)

Constructed in Soviet times, it is not the fun fair and amusement rides; wildly active in the summer but ghostly dormant in the winter, which amaze, shock or impact you the most. Instead, a towering armoured figure of stone, rising out of the hillside and gazing across Yerevan below barges its way into your eyeline and sears itself deliberately into your memory. This colossus is ‘Mother Armenia’, built during the ‘Khrushchev thaw’ years that followed the death of Stalin in 1953 and an easing of tension and cultural suppression across the Soviet Union, symbolising the Armenian nation and its defiant linguistic and cultural identity in a strong shield-wielding female warrior.

(Mount Ararat in the distance from the border road on the Armenian side, 2020. Produced and owned by Paul Alex Treadaway [author], 2020)

It’s positionin