In Armenia, poverty has made life a continual struggle. Zarik and her husband had a small store, but every penny they earned went back to support the needs of a growing family.
Read her story
The Republic of Armenia is a small landlocked country that sits between the Black and Caspian Seas on the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Slightly bigger than the state of Hawaii, it is bordered by Georgia to the north, Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and Turkey to the west. Armenia’s continental climate features cold, snowy winters, and hot, dry summers. Natural resources include small deposits of gold, copper, zinc, and bauxite.
Today, 98% of the population is ethnic Armenian. The Yezidi, a Kurdish-speaking people, make up 1.3% of inhabitants, while 0.5% are of Russian descent. Armenian is the official language of the country and is spoken by nearly everyone.
In 1991, Armenia declared independence and seceded from the Soviet Union, joining the United Nations a year later. The next decade saw massive food and energy shortages, which sparked several protests by Armenians.
Prior to independence, a campaign was launched to have Nagorno-Karabakh, a region located inside Azerbaijan and populated by ethnic Armenians, united with Armenia. Azeris refused, and a five-year war broke out, leaving 35,000 people dead and 900,000 displaced.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has affected Armenia’s economy: The borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed because of political difficulties surrounding the situation. Trade and economic development have been stunted, as now the country’s only trade links are via a low-capacity rail system and one passable road through Georgia to ports on the Black Sea. Land routes through Iran are unreliable and often dangerous. As a result of the declining economy, more than 80 percent of the population lives on less than $4 a day. Nearly 1 million Armenians since 1991 have emigrated to Russia, the United States, or other countries seeking employment. Government reforms in the past two years have, however, decreased the inflation rate, and remittances from those abroad have helped family members in Armenia.