Indo-European language of the Armenian people. It is spoken by some 6.7 million individuals worldwide. Its long history of contact with Iranian languages has resulted in the adoption of many Persian loanwords. According to tradition, the unique Armenian alphabet was created in AD 405 by the cleric Mesrop Mashtots, who based some letters on those in the Greek alphabet. Armenian of the 5th–7th centuries (Grabar, sometimes called Classical or Old Armenian) was employed as the literary language into modern times. A 19th-century cultural revival led to the formation of two new literary languages: Western Armenian, based on the speech of Istanbul Armenians, and Eastern Armenian, based on the speech of Transcaucasian Armenians. Because of a long tradition of emigration and the massacres and expulsions during the last decades of Ottoman rule, most speakers of Western Armenian live outside of Anatolia. Eastern Armenian is the language of the present-day Republic of Armenia.
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Member of an Indo-European people first recognized in the early 7th century BC when they moved into areas of Transcaucasia, Anatolia, and the Middle East that came to be known as Armenia. Armenian history has been one of nearly constant struggles for independence from foreign domination, first from the Medes and Persians, the Seleucid dynasty, and the Roman Republic and Empire and later from the Byzantine Empire, the Seljūq dynasty, the Ottoman Empire, the Ssubdotafavid dynasty, and tsarist Russia. At the beginning of the 20th century most Armenians were driven from Anatolia or killed by Ottoman forces during the Armenian massacres. The Republic of Armenia was declared in 1990 after being part of the Soviet Union since 1922. More than 3.5 million Armenians live there, and there is an appreciable diaspora in other countries of Transcaucasia, in parts of the Middle East, and in the West. Armenian culture reached an apex in the 14th century, producing highly regarded sculpture, architecture, and fine art. Until the 20th century, Armenians were primarily agricultural; now they are highly urbanized. Traditionally they are either Orthodox or Roman Catholic Christians; Armenia was considered the first Christian state.
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