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Religion in Armenia

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Title: Religion in Armenia  
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Religion in Armenia

Religion in Armenia (2011

  Other Christians (2%)
  Yazidism (1%)
  Other (5%)

Up to 95% of Armenians follow Christianity. Armenia has its own church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which most Armenians follow. It was founded in the 1st century AD, and in 301 AD became the first branch of Christianity to become a state religion. The largest religious minority is composed of new converts to Protestant and Non-Trinitarian Christianity which combined total up to 38,949 (1.3%). Due to the country's large ethnic homogeneity, non-Christian religions such as Yazidism and Islam are small, particularly since the Nagorno-Karabakh War.


  • Religious demography 1
  • Freedom of religion 2
  • Armenian Apostolics (Oriental Orthodox) 3
  • Other denominations and sects 4
    • Armenian Catholic Church 4.1
    • Baháí Faith 4.2
    • Islam 4.3
    • Judaism 4.4
    • Neopaganism 4.5
    • Protestantism 4.6
    • Nontrinitarianism 4.7
    • Roman Catholicism 4.8
    • Yazidism 4.9
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Religious demography

The country has an area of 11,500 square miles (30,000 km2) and a population of 3 million. Approximately 98 percent of the population is ethnic Armenian. As a result of Soviet-era policies, the number of active religious practitioners is relatively low, but the link between Armenian ethnicity and the Armenian Apostolic Church is strong. About 92.5% of citizens belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Eastern Christian denomination in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Armenian Apostolic Church has its spiritual center at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral. The head of the church is Catholicos Karekin II.

According to the Census of 2011 the religion in Armenia is the following: Christianity 2,862,366 (94.8%) of whom 2,797,187 Armenian Apostolic (92.5%), 29,280 Evangelical, 13,996 Armenian and Roman (Latin) Catholic, 8,695 Jehovah's Witness, 8,587 Eastern Orthodox (Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Greek), 2,874 Molokan (non-Orthodox Russians), 1,733 Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian), 733 Protestant, 241 Mormon, Yazidism (0.8%), Paganism (0.2%), 812 Islam, 5,299 Other Religion (0.2%), 121,587 No Response (4%). [1]
Baptism of Tiridates III

Yazidis are concentrated primarily in agricultural areas around Mount Aragats, northwest of the capital Yerevan, they live in 19 villages in the Aragatsotn Province, 2 villages in the Armavir Province, and 1 village in the Ararat Province. Armenian Catholics live mainly in the northern region, in 7 villages in the Shirak Province and 6 villages in the Lori Province. Most Jews, Mormons, Baha'is, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Western Catholic (Latin Rite) Christians reside in Yerevan. In Yerevan there is also a small community of Muslims, including Kurds, Iranians, and temporary residents from the Middle East. Molokans live in 10 villages in the Lori Province, 2 villages in the Shirak Province, and 2 villages in the Gegharkunik Province.

Foreign missionary groups are active in the country.

Freedom of religion

The Constitution as amended in 2005 provides for freedom of religion and the right to practice, choose, or change religious belief. It recognizes "the exclusive mission of the Armenian Church as a national church in the spiritual life, development of the national culture, and preservation of the national identity of the people of Armenia." The law places some restrictions on the religious freedom of religious groups other than the Armenian Church. The Law on Freedom of Conscience establishes the separation of church and state but grants the Armenian Church official status as the national church.

Armenian Apostolics (Oriental Orthodox)

Procession of Armenian Apostolic priests.

Christianity was first introduced by the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century AD. Armenia became the first country to establish Christianity as its state religion when, in an event traditionally dated to 301 AD, St. Gregory the Illuminator convinced Tiridates III, the king of Armenia, to convert to Christianity. Before this, the dominant religion was Zoroastrianism and to a smaller degree paganism.

Other denominations and sects

Armenian Catholic Church

The Armenian Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with Rome) formed a diocese within Armenia in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It claimed about 200,000 adherents in the "Ordinariate for Eastern Europe" (based in Gyumri) in 2000, and 490,000 in 2008.

Baháí Faith

The Bahá'í Faith in Armenia begins with some involvements in the banishments and execution of the Báb,[2] the Founder of the Bábí Faith, viewed by Bahá'ís as a precursor religion. The same year of the execution of the Báb the religion was introduced into Armenia.[3] During the period of Soviet policy of religious oppression, the Bahá'ís in Armenia lost contact with the Bahá'ís elsewhere.[4] However in 1963 communities were identified[5] in Yerevan and Artez.[6] Following Perestroika the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies of Armenia form in 1991[7] and Armenian Bahá'ís elected their first National Spiritual Assembly in 1995.[6] As of 2004 the Bahá'ís claim about 200 members in Armenia[8] but as of 2001 Operation World estimated about 1,400.[9]


Azeris and Kurds living in Armenia traditionally practised Islam, but most Azeris have fled the country due to the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Approximately 1,000 Muslims live in Yerevan, and one 18th century Mosque remains open for Friday prayers. In 2009, the Pew Research Center estimated that less than 0.1% of the population, or about 1,000 people, were Muslims.

Minaret of the Urban Mosque in Erivan

Armenians did not convert to Islam in large numbers. During the Arabic conquest, Islam came to the Armenians; however, not all Armenians converted to Islam, since Christians were not required to convert by Muslim law, and the absence of heavy taxation also hindered this. There is, however, a minority of ethnic Armenian Muslims, known as Hamshenis. But the vast majority live outside of Armenia mostly in Turkey and Russia. The story was similar in the Ottoman Empire.

During 1988-1991 the overwhelming majority of Muslim people consisting of Azeris and Muslim Kurds fled the country as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War and the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There is also a significant community of Yazidi Kurds (50-70,000 people), who were not affected by this conflict. Since the early 1990s, Armenia has also attracted diverse esoteric and sectarian groups.

Armenia continues to be one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in Europe. Armenian 97.9%, Russian 0.5%, Kurds 1.3%, other 0.3% (2001) [10]


Jews have a historic presence in Armenia. During the Soviet years, Armenia was considered to be one of the most tolerant republics for Jews in the Soviet Union. Currently there are an estimated 750 Jews in the country, a remnant of a once larger community. Most left Armenia for Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union because of inadequate services. Still, despite the small numbers, a high intermarriage rate and relative isolation, a lot of enthusiasm exists to help the community meet its needs.[11]


The works of Armenian nationalist philosopher Garegin Nzhdeh inspired the reconstruction of Armenian paganism in the 20th century.

There is a reconstructionist Neopagan movement in Armenia. Adherents call themselves Hetans or Hetanos (հեթանոս, the Old Armenian biblical term loaned from Greek ἐθνικός "gentile"), and their religion is called Hetanism (Հեթանոսություն, Hetanosutyun). The movement traces its origins in the work of the early 20th century political philosopher and revolutionary Garegin Nzhdeh and his doctrine of Tseghakron. In 1991 it was institutionalised by the armenologist Slak Kakosyan into the "Order of the Children of Ari". The doctrine and mythology of the new Pagan movement is codified into a book, the Ukhtagirk, written by Kakosyan himself. The movement is strongly associated to Armenian nationalism. It finds some support from nationalist political parties of Armenia, particularly the Armenian Republican Party and the Union of Armenian Aryans. Ashot Navasardyan, the founder of the Republican Party of Armenia, which is also the currently leading party of the country, was a Pagan himself, as many other members of the party are.[12]

Due to the early Christianization of Armenia, very little is known about the historical pre-Christian religion of Armenia. Armenian Neopagans worship the gods of a reconstructed Armenian pantheon: Haik, Aray, Barsamin, Aralez, Anahit, Mihr, Astghik, Nuneh, Tir, Tsovinar, Amanor, Spandaramet, Gissaneh, with a particular emphasis on the cult of the solar god Vahagn. They have re-consecrated the Temple of Garni (a Hellenistic-style temple rebuilt in 1975), originally a temple to Mihr, to Vahagn, and they use it for regular worship and as a center of activity.[12]


There are small communities of Protestant Armenians of various denominations, as missionaries converted a number of Armenians.


The Jehovah's Witnesses have estimated their membership at 11,500. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims approximately 3,000 adherents in Armenia at the end of 2011.[13]

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church claims about 100,000 adherents in Armenia.


About 2% of Armenia's population, mostly ethnic Georgia during the 19th and early 20th centuries to escape religious persecution.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Quinn, Sholeh A. (2009). "Aqasi, Haji Mirza (‘Abbas Iravani)(c. 1783–1849)". In Morrison, Gayle. the Bahá’í Encyclopedia Project. Online. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. 
  3. ^ Balci, Bayram; Jafarov, Azer (2007-02-21), "The Baha’is of the Caucasus: From Russian Tolerance to Soviet Repression {2/3}", 
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Monakhova, Elena (2000). "From Islam to Feminism via Baha'i Faith". Women Plus… 2000 (03). 
  6. ^ a b Hassall, Graham. "Notes on Research on National Spiritual Assemblies". Research notes. Asia Pacific Bahá'í Studies. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  7. ^ Ahmadi, Dr. (2003). "Major events of the Century of Light". homepage for an online course on the book “Century of Light”. Association for Bahá’í Studies in Southern Africa. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  8. ^ U.S. State Department (2005). "Armenia International Religious Freedom Report 2004". U.S. State Department Bureau of Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  9. ^ "Republic of Armenia, Hayastan". Operation World. Paternoster Lifestyle. 2001. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  10. ^ - Ethnicity and Race by Countries
  11. ^ Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States, and Eurasia: Armenia and Jews
  12. ^ a b Yulia Antonyan. Re-creation of a Religion: Neopaganism in Armenia. Yerevan State University. This and other papers about Armenian Hetanism are available here.
  13. ^ Summary information on church in Armenia

Further reading

  • Guroian, Vigen. "Armenia." In The Encyclopedia of Christianity, edited by Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, 125-126. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999. ISBN 0802824137

External links

  • Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church Library
  • Charles, Robia: "Religiosity in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan" in the Caucasus Analytical Digest No. 20
  • Harutyunyan, Harutyun: "The Role of the Armenian Church During Military Conflicts" in the Caucasus Analytical Digest No. 20
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