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The Republic of Armenia, or “Armenia” as it is commonly known, is a rugged and mountainous country in the South Caucuses region of Asia.  Bordered by Turkey, Georgia and Iran, the country is completely landlocked and serves as a popular and strategic gateway between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
 
Armenia was once part of the old Soviet Union, but is now a fully democratic nation-state with an ancient and rich cultural history.  It is one of the few countries of the region that practices Christianity almost exclusively rather than Islam, perhaps best evidenced by the Armenian Apostolic Church, the oldest Christian-based church in the world.  Although Armenia is officially an Asian country, the government has recently applied for associate membership status in the European Union, and provided it meets certain requirements as laid out by the EU, most experts believe that membership will be approved.
 
As of the latest census, the population of Armenia was approximately 3.3 million, all living on just over 11,000 square miles of land area, making it the second most densely populated of the former Soviet Bloc countries.  However, the size of Armenia’s population, at least according to demographers, has been shrinking since the break-up of the Soviet Union, as the country has seen mass emigration, due in large part to a prolonged economic slump in the region. 
 
From an ethnic standpoint, Armenia is very homogenous, with ethnic Armenians comprising nearly 98 percent of the population.  Small minority groups of Greeks, Assyrians, Ukrainians, Georgians and Kurds account for the remaining 2 percent of the population.  The official and most widely spoken language in Armenia is Armenian. However, an estimated 60 percent of the population can also speak fluent Russian—a language that is still taught in a minority of Armenian schools.
 
The Armenian culture is very unique.  Since AD 405, and continuing to this day, the country has had its own distinctive alphabet of 38 letters.  Its music features an interesting mix of folk music and light pop, and its art, which is sold at arts and crafts markets throughout the country, is collected throughout the world.  Sports enjoyed in the country include freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, judo, association football, chess and boxing.
 
Education in Armenia
 
As early as 1960, when Armenia was still under Soviet control, the literacy rate was reportedly 100 percent.  In those times, Armenia followed the standard Soviet model of education, in which instruction was centered on Soviet society, politics, culture and the economy.  Today their system is much more diverse and more closely resembles the European system of education, in which a broad curriculum is offered.
 
As it was in the Soviet era, primary and secondary education is free and compulsory for students between the ages of 6 and 17.  Primary education accounts for eight of those eleven years, with instruction in subjects such as mathematics, language arts, science, history, geography, music, art, social sciences and sport.  Secondary schools offer students the option of taking a purely academic curriculum, with primarily university-preparatory courses, or a more career focused track, which concentrates on knowledge and skill development in specific vocational fields.
 
Post-secondary or higher education opportunities are abundant in Armenia.  Public and private universities offer a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate programs in most major academic fields.  Advanced specialty institutions, including an impressive number of medical universities, can also be found in present day Armenia and are highly esteemed throughout the world for the quality of the graduates they produce.

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