Gyumri Tour covers the site of Kumayri preserve-museum, allowing you to take a closer look at the historic houses, workshops, taverns, guesthouses and museums that make up Old Gyumri (formerly known as Alexandrapol). During the tour you can savor the 19th century urban atmosphere of Gyumri, a blend of local and European (including Russian) architectural styles which transform the city into a unique spot in Eastern Armenia. Alexandropol. Armenian Belle Époque (late 19th century – early 20th century) The city's diverse ethnic, religious and occupation groups were divided into districts (mahlans), each with its own name. Among them were Frangneri (Catholic), Urumneri (Greek), Boshi (sievers), Geghtsonts (peasants), Slabodka (Russian) and Turki (Turkish). Ostentatious houses were a common feature, regardless of the owners' social strata. Most of the houses had inner and outer yards. Inner yards were used for domestic purposes only and were concealed from the outside world. The building facades featured balconies with wooden embellishments. Overall, Gyumri was remarkable for the diversity of its facade patterns. The combination of red and black tufa was characteristic of the city's architectural style during the 1860-1880s. Pink stone added unique vividness to the city. Though the use of red tufa became less common after the 1880s, the exquisite stone-work was still accentuated with a layer of white. European (Russian) influence became apparent in the 1890s. There remain elegant two and three-storey buildings from this period. Yerevan is one of the oldest cities on earth. Excavated caves at Lake Yerevan (below the US Embassy) uncovered Stone Age artifacts from ca. 250,000 BC; but the city’s history as a continuously settled area probably began around 5000 BC, at the Bronze Age site in Shengavit district, on the lake’s south shore. Urartu The city officially marks its birth at the 782 BC founding of Erebuni fortress (Erebuni district), during the reign of Argishti I, who extended the territories of the Urartian Empire (also called the Kingdom of Van) to the Kur River. The name Yerevan is believed to be a variation of the word Erebuni. Erebuni was burned by invading Scythians and Medians in the 6th century BC. First Persian Empire After the fall of Erebuni, the area became a satrapy of the Persian Empire, locals serving in the armies of Xerxes and Darius during the Greek wars. During the Orontid era (331 - 189 BCE), Erebuni’s fortress was rebuilt by Persian Achaemenids, expanding the outer walls and importing Persian goods (ceramic ware, jewelry and Persian idols have been fond at the site) while the city expanded and Karmir Blur and Shengavit were revived, creating a triangle of cities. The Parthians and Romans When Artashes I established the Artashesian Dynasty (189 - ca. 1 BCE) and moved the capital to Artashat, Yerevan (Erebuni/Karmir Blur/Shengavit) began the slow process of importing a new culture that borrowed from both Near Eastern and Greek philosophies; largely accomplished by the reign of Tigran Mets (r. 95-55 BC). It is around this time that the three settlements could have been considered as one urban area with three districts, with the space overlooking the Hrazdan gorge becoming a central point of focus, sitting as it does at the mouth of the Hrazdan river gorge, a conduit of water and the growing caravan trade. Early Christian Era By the mid 5th century the city had 7 or 8 churches, among the religious centers where early manuscripts in the new Armenian script engineered by Mesrop Mashtots were stored. In the late 5th century the city’s churches were rebuilt, those made of wood (Poghos Petros, Katoghike, Zoravar, S. Sargis, Avan, etc.) rebuilt with finely hewn stone. Several are among the most impressive of their time. The Medieval Period The city was invaded by western Huns in 505 and sacked by Sassanids in 571 when the citizenry killed the Sassanid governor for killing a member of the Mamikonian princely family and erecting a fire altar in the city. The city was taken during the Arab conquest of Armenia in 658, and it is in this period that the name Yerevan became attached to the burgeoning town. Still a second city (Dvin remained the capital), its importance was nonetheless noted as a guard post on the Caravan route connecting India and the Arab Caliphate. Yerevan’s fortunes grew during the Bagratuni period, then fell as Seljuks laid siege to the city in 1042. The Orbeli kings of Georgia freed Yerevan from Seljuk rule in 1201 with armies led by the Armenian generals the Zakarian brothers, who gave the city and surrounding lands to their kinsmen, the Kiurikians. Yerevan, saw a resurgence of construction, sometimes called the Second Golden Age. Churches were enlarged, adding gavits, shrines and magnificent khachkars in their yards. The silk route expanded and wealth poured into the city. The Mongols, Persians and Ottomans Yerevan’s entry into modern times can be traced to the Mongol invasions of the early 13th century, when Yerevan was designated the administrative center of the Ilkhanate (one of the four divisions of the Mongol Empire ca. 1256-1388). The Mongols established a mint in the city, which continued during later Ottoman and Safavid Persian periods. Three waves of Timurid invasions devastated the city and led to widespread famine, but In the 15th c Yerevan’s importance grew again as Iskander, leader of Turkic tribes known as the Black Sheep (Kaya-Koyunlou) assumed the title Shah-Armen (King of Armenia). His brother and successor Jihan-Shah rebuilt Yerevan. The years 1437-1467 saw Yerevan’s importance grow as a provincial capital of the region, which included Azerbaijan, Van, Airarat and Georgia. This is the official beginning of Yerevan as a capital city, of the Airarat Region. The city continued as provincial capital in the succeeding reign of the White Sheep, who were then routed by the Ottoman Turks, who were consolidating their empire after the fall of Constantinople. Ottoman-Safavid Persian Wars The city changed hands fourteen times between 1513 and 1737. In 1514, the city and surrounding countryside were laid waste by retreating Persians and later, in 1585, when the Ottomans ruled the city, the sultan had the children of the city taken into slavery and the fortress rebuilt using material taken from Yerevan’s churches, some of whom were destroyed in the process. A second collapse occurred in the early 17th century, as Shah Abbas I had the city burned to the ground and the citizenry forced into exile in Isfahan. In 1620 Armenia was divided between the two powers, and Yerevan became the capital of one of Persia’s Armenian Meliks, semi-autonomous regions ruled of Armenian nobles. A devastating earthquake struck the area in 1679. The earthquake was so bad it toppled every church in the city and ruined entire districts, as well as monasteries and villages throughout the Airarat region. Imperial Russian Period The Russians entered the scene during the reign of Catherine the Great, who sent her troops against the Persians in 1797, sweeping through the northern Caucasus and Georgia, stopping just shy of the Ararat Plain and Yerevan. In the Treaty of Gulistan, signed in 1813, Persia renounced in favor of Russia all claims over much of its Caucasus region, save the Ararat plain and Yerevan. Yerevan was finally occupied by Russian troops led by Ivan Paskevich on October 1, 1827, during the second Russo-Persian war. The Russians found a dusty settlement of exactly 1,736 single story mud-brick houses, 851 shops, 10 baths, 8 mosques, 6 churches, 7 caravanserais and 6 public squares set within gardens enclosed with mud-brick walls. In 1829, a new quarter was added and the process of rebuilding the city began, as mud brick homes gave way to the new European style that lined the major avenues of the city, especially Astafian (Abovian) Street, which became the heart of the most fashionable quarter of the city. Due in part to its role as administrative center for the Russian Tsars, Yerevan was chosen to be the capital of the new Armenian Republic on May 28, 1918. The Republic was short-lived, but when the Soviets took control of the country, they chose Yerevan as their capital, and in the 1920s a construction boom began; one some say that, with only a pause for World War II and in the early 1990s, has yet to end. The layout for the current center was created by the architect Alexander Tamanian. His city plan was approved in 1924 and in less than 10 years his team forever changed the face of the city, demolishing tenements along with some of Yerevan’s religious icons. Among Tumanian’s personal designs are Republic Square (which follows his general plan and has one building of his own design, the Finance Ministry on the NE side); the huge Opera, completed under direction of this son and colleagues and which opened with a performance of Almast in the still unfinished open-air site on a cold December day in 1933. The city quickly grew beyond its original intent for 150-200,000 citizens, incorporating the nearby communities of Nork, Arabkir, Kanaker and Avan into a large metropolis. A surge of investment beginning in 2000 fueled by a booming construction sector, that continues to today. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the city is making itself anew, with new boulevards, office and apartment towers, and a hunger to emulate the west. The city officially has a population of 1.2 million.