There are only few modern cities in the world which are as old as Yerevan. In 2018 the city will celebrate its 2,800th anniversary. This ancient city was founded in 782 BC by the king of Ancient Urartu, Argishti I, who built a fortress on Arin-Berd Hill and named it Erebuni. That fortress its gave the name to the city that started growing around it. An ancient slab found by archeologists on that hill became the original birth certificate of the city. The cuneiform writing says: “With the help of great God Haldi tasr Argishti, the son of Menua constructed this powerful fortress and named it Erebuni”. It dates to 29 years before the founding of Rome.
Ancient Yerevan played a considerable role in economic and political life of Armenia for many years, as it stood on the crossroads of caravan routes and was a major trading center. However, Yerevan was not the capital of Armenia, though it was a regional center and was an important city for many years.
The invasions of Arab and Seljuk Turk conquerors in the 7th through 11th centuries caused serious damage to the city's development. In the 15th through the 18th centuries, Yerevan suffered from raids by the Ottoman Turks and Persians. Yerevan passed from the control of one empire to another 14 times - each time with considerable destruction. The conquest of Safavid (Persian) Shah Abbas I in 1604 was the most devastating conquest for Yerevan. In 1679, an earthquake destroyed much of the city.
In the 17th through 19th centuries, Yerevan became the subject of disputes between Russia, Turkey and Persia. Having taken Yerevan by storm on October 1st, 1827, Russian armies signed the Treaty of Turkmenchay, according to which Persia ceded the Transcaucasian territories, including the territory around Yerevan. When Yerevan became the capital of the independent First Armenian Republic in 1917, it was mostly comprised of small homes and farms, not the large buildings that are here today.
The architect Alexander Tamanian became the “father” of the modern city. An architect from St Petersburg, he was invited to come and help plan the new capital. He managed to create the unique look of the city that is embodied in the noble classical architecture by skillfully using ancient Armenian builders' architecture elements, such as stone carving, ornamentation and more. Besides, Tamanian began to use tuff, the major natural resource of Armenia in his buildings. Tuff is a stone of volcanic origin, very light, strong and beautiful. The most used in Yerevan was pink tuff, and so the Armenian capital is sometimes called the Pink City.
Modern Yerevan lies in the picturesque Ararat Valley, occupying an area of 300 square km. Yerevan was constructed around a circular center, from which the beams of streets disperse. The idea was to create a sort of amphitheater, with Mount Ararat as the stage. From the north to the west, Yerevan is crossed by the Razdan River gorge with picturesque parks, lakes, waterfalls, cafes and restaurants. You can cross the gorge on the Akhtanak Bridge. If you stop half-way you will enjoy the most beautiful panorama of the city. The houses, built from a colored tuff, give the streets their extraordinary diversity. From a distance the houses look like toys made of colored blocks. Right from Akhtanak Bridge begins Mesrop Mashtots Prospect – the main street of Yerevan, which stretches for 2 kilometers. Mesrop Mashtots Prospect, named after the author of Armenian alphabet, is the centre of all cultural life of the city. There you will find numerous museums, and Opera and Ballet Theater. The treasury of Armenian writing, Matenadaran, stands at the end of the prospect.
Behind the building of Matenadaran there is the monument of Mother Armenia – a figure of a woman with a sword in hand.
The center of town is bordered with a ring of parkways, decorated by Republic Square and surrounded by governmental buildings. The Museum complex (the National Gallery of Armenia, the Historical Museum, Literature and Arts Museum, the Museum of History of Yerevan, the Museum of Russian Arts, and the Modern Arts Museum) and other places of interest are also situated on the square.