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The People of Armenia, Ethnic Groups and Languages

Armenia was the most ethnically homogeneous republic of the 15 republics that made up the USSR, and the country is still characterized by a high degree of ethnic homogeneity. Ethnic Armenians, or Hay, constitute more than 90 percent of the population. Kurds and Russians are the next two largest ethnic groups in the republic, each making up less than 2 percent of Armenia’s total population. Small numbers of Ukrainians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Georgians also live in Armenia. Azerbaijanis were the largest minority group during the Soviet period, but in the early 1990s nearly the entire Azerbaijani population fled or was forcibly deported from Armenia because of ethnic tension brought on by a secessionist conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region inhabited predominantly by Armenians in western Azerbaijan. In the reverse direction, many Armenian refugees entered Armenia from Azerbaijan during the conflict.

Armenia’s official state language is Armenian, an Indo-European language with no surviving close relatives. It has a unique 38-letter alphabet that dates from the early 5th century. Of its many spoken dialects, the most important are Eastern or Yerevan Armenian (the official language) and Western or Turkish Armenian. Armenia’s ethnic minorities also speak their own native languages, mainly Russian and Kurdish.

 

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