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Gyumri City landmarks

Panoramic view of Gyumri
Gyumri skyline with Mount Aragats • Mother Armenia statue
Sev Ghul Fortress
the Independence Square • Memorial to the Battle of Avarayr
Gyumri City Hall • Vardanants Square

Location of Gyumri in Armenia

Coordinates: 40°47′22″N 43°50′51″E / 40.78944°N 43.84750°E / 40.78944; 43.84750

Country  Armenia
Marz Shirak
Founded 5th century BC as Kumayri
rebuilt in 1837 as Alexandropol
 • Mayor Samvel Balasanyan
 • Total
Elevation 1,509.3696 m (4,952.0000 ft)
Population (2009 est.)
 • Total 146,400
 • Density 2,700/km2 (7,000/sq mi)
Time zone GMT (UTC+4)
Sources: Population [1]

Coordinates: 40°47′22″N 43°50′51″E / 40.78944°N 43.84750°E / 40.78944; 43.84750 Gyumri (Armenian: Գյումրի) is the second largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country. It is around 126 km north of the capital Yerevan. As of the 2009 official estimate, the city had a population of 146,400, down from 150,917 reported at the 2001 official census.

Its name has been changed several times. It was first known as Kumayri and later Gyumri, then Alexandropol (Russian: Александрополь; Armenian: Ալեքսանդրապոլ) between 1837 and 1924, then Leninakan (Armenian: Լենինական; Russian: Ленинакан) between 1924 and 1990, then again as Gyumri.


The region of Gyumri is mentioned as Kumayri in Urartian inscriptions since the 8th century BC.[2] The first settlement at the location occupied by today's city of Gyumri is believed to have been founded some time in the 5th century BC, perhaps ca. 401 BC, by Greek colonists.[1] An alternative theory suggests that the city was founded by Cimmerians, based on the fact that Cimmerians conquered the region in 720 BC and that the original name of the city was Kumayri, which bears phonetic resemblance to the word used by ancient Armenian in reference to Cimmerians.[2] Historians believe that Xenophon passed through Gyumri during his return to the Black Sea, a journey immortalized in his Anabasis.[3]

During the Middle Ages Gyumri was known as a large and important settlement[2] and a centre of Armenian rebellion against the Islamic Arab Caliphate between 733 and 755.

19th century

Gyumri continued to develop in the 19th century, when, with its surroundings, it became part of Russia after the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813). Gyumri came under Russian control in 1804 around 25 years earlier than the rest of Eastern Armenia. During this period it was one of the best-known cities of the Transcaucasus region. In 1829, in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War there was a big influx of Armenian population as about 3000 families, who had migrated from territories in the Ottoman Empire, in particular from the towns of Kars, Erzurum, and Doğubeyazıt, settled in and around Gyumri.

The Russian poet Alexander Pushkin visited Gyumri during his journey to Erzurum in 1829.

In 1837 Russian Tsar Nicholas I arrived in Gyumri and renamed the town Alexandropol. The name was chosen in honour of Tsar Nicholas I's wife, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, who had changed her name to Alexandra Fyodorovna after converting to Orthodox Christianity.

A major Russian fortress was built on the site in 1837. Alexandropol became a town in 1840 and experienced rapid growth during its first decade. The town was an important outpost for the Imperial Russian armed forces in the Transcaucasus where their military barracks were established (e.g., at Poligons, Severski, Kazachi Post).

During the brief independence 1918-1920, the town kept its Russian name as Alexandrapol.

Armenia fell under the Soviet rule in December 1920. In 1924, Gyumri was renamed Leninakan after the Soviet Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

20th century and beyond

Ottoman forces captured Gyumri on May 11, 1918 during the Caucasus Campaign in World War I but withdrew from it on December 24, 1918 after being required to be under the Armistice of Mudros. During the Turkish-Armenian War, Turkey attacked Gyumri and occupied the city on November 7, 1920, after winning the Battle of Alexandropol. After the battle, the Turkish forces were headquartered in Gyumri. From this city the Turks presented the Armenian republic with an ultimatum that Armenia was forced to accept—otherwise Turkey would have invaded Yerevan, Armenia's capital, from their headquarters in Gyumri. Armenia was forced to sign the Treaty of Alexandropol to stop the Turkish advance towards Yerevan, the capital of the First Republic of Armenia, thus ending the Turkish-Armenian War. Turkish forces withdrew from Alexandropol after the Treaty of Kars.[4]

In 1924 the name was changed to Leninakan after the deceased Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. Leninakan was a major industrial center for the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and its second largest city, after Yerevan, the capital. The city suffered major damage during the 1988 Spitak earthquake, which devastated many parts of the country. The earthquake occurred along a known thrust fault with a length of 60 kilometers (37 mi). Its strike was parallel to the Caucasus range and dipped to the north-northeast. Bruce Bolt, a seismologist and a professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, walked the fault scarp in 1992 and found that the vertical displacement measured 1 m (3 ft 3 in) along most of the length with the southwest end reaching 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in).[5]

The earthquake had a disastrous impact on the city, as many buildings are still not recovered. According to Armenian government sources, around 3,500 residents of Gyumri remain homeless.

The current name was adopted in 1990, at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Russian 102nd Military Base is in the city. Nowadays, Gyumri is Armenia's second largest city.

Geography and climate

Gyumri is 126 km north of the capital Yerevan at the central part of the Shirak Highland. It has an approximate height of 1550 meters above sea level. The Akhurian River passes through the western suburbs.

Gyumri has a semi-arid climate, characterized with extremely cold winters where the minimum temperature could fall down to −41 °C (−42 °F). On the other hand, summertime in Gyumri is relatively hot with temperatures could reach up to 36 °C (97 °F). The annual precipitation averages 500 millimetres (20 in).

Climate data for Gyumri
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 9.2
Average high °C (°F) −3
Daily mean °C (°F) −9
Average low °C (°F) −14
- 5
Record low °C (°F) −36.0
Precipitation mm (inches) 23.7
Source: Weatherbase [6]

Main sites

As an old town, Gyumri has a rich history and a unique style of architecture. Unfortunately, the city lost many of its historical and cultural buildings after the disastrous earthquake in December 1988.

Throughout the centuries Gyumri was labelled as the "city of trades and arts", famous for its schools, theaters, and gusans. In 1912, Gyumri was home to the first opera show ever staged in Armenia. It is also home to the first Armenian opera theatre opened in 1923.[7]

Kumayri historic district

With more than a thousand buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, the historic district of Kumayri represents the old part of Gyumri. The district is one of few places in the Republic of Armenia with an authentic historical urban Armenian architecture. Almost all the structures of the Kumayri district have survived two major earthquakes, in 1926 and 1988.

Kumayri district occupies the central part of modern-day Gyumri.

The archaeological excavations during the 20th century have shown that the area has been populated since at least the third millennium BC. Many graveyards and dwellings have been found. The first recorded mention of Kumayri is from 773 and describes the revolt against Arab domination led by prince Artavazd Mamikonian that resulted in the revival of Armenian statehood one century later.

During the reign of the Bagratuni kings of Armenia in the 10th century, Kumayri has developed into a well-built modern town to become a centre of trade for the entire region.

Sev Ghul fortress

Sev Ghul (meaning "Black Sentry") is a Russian fortress in Gyumri dating to the 1830s. It is built on a hill, heavily armed and, in case of a siege, the site could accommodate 15,000 soldiers and officers. The monumental statue of "Mother Armenia of Gyumri" stands on an adjacent hill. The 102nd military division of the Russian Federation is stationed near another old Russian fortress known as Red Fort.

Other sites

  • Vardanants Square, the central town square of Gyumri.
  • Independence Square, the second-largest square of the city.
  • Aslamazyan Sisters House-Museum built in the 1880s: home to more than 700 drawings, paintings and other works of the Soviet-era artists "Aslamazyan sisters".
  • Dzitoghtsyan House-Museum or the Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life of Gyumri: an old mansion, housing collections related to both history and everyday life of Gyumri, as well as paintings and other works of art.
  • Sergey Merkurov House-Museum.
  • House-Museum of Avetik Isahakyan.
  • House-Museum of Hovhannes Shiraz.
  • House-Museum of Mher Mkrtchyan.
  • Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God: also known as Seven Wounds of the Holy Mother of God, built in the 17th century.
  • Church of the Holy Saviour or Surb Amenaprkich, constructed between 1859-1873: designed to resemble the Cathedral of Ani. The church was heavily damaged by the 1988 Spitak earthquake and is currently under reconstruction.
  • Surb Nshan or Holy Sign Church: built in 1870.
  • Saint Nikolai the Wondeworker Russian Orthodox church: also known as "Plplan Zham" (the Shimmering Chapel), built in 1879-1880.
  • Saint Gregory the Illuminator's Church of Gyumri.
  • Saint Jacob of Nisibis Church: or Surb Hakob Mtsbinetsi Church built in 2005.
  • Gyumri's Central Park, founded during the 1920s on the site of the old town cemetery.
  • Marmashen Monastery of the 10th century: located 6 km northwest of Gyumri.

The restoration project of the damaged buildings of Gyumri has been spearheaded by Earthwatch to preserve the city's unique architecture.[8]


During the pre-Soviet era, Alexandropol was considered the third largest trade and cultural centre in Transcaucasia after Tiflis and Baku (Yerevan would not rise to prominence until being proclaimed as the capital of independent Armenia in 1918 and Armenian SSR in 1920).[9] At the end of the 19th century, the population of Alexandropol has grown up to 32,100 inhabitants, with a majority of Armenians.

The economy of Gyumri is mostly depended on construction sector, tourism and banking services. Industry has a big share in the domestic product as well. The most important industrial activities are the production of building materials (tufa and basalt), yarn and textile manufacturing and food industries. Gyumri is home to the beer manufacturers 'Gyumri Brewerey owned by the Sovrano company. The factory produces lager beers under the brands Gyumri, Ararat and Aleksandrapol.[10]


Air transportation

Gyumri is served by the international Shirak Airport, about 5 km to the southeast of the city centre. It was inaugurated in 1961 and is the second largest airport in Armenia. It has scheduled flights to Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

At the beginning of 2006, the government of Armenia felt the importance of having a second international airport, when adverse weather conditions meant that many flights had to be diverted from Yerevan's Zvartnots International Airport into Gyumri's Shirak Airport. New air traffic control equipment allowed airport workers to identify planes in a 400 km radius.[11]

Since 2007, the airport is operated by the Armenia International Airports CJSC, a company owned by the Argentine investor Eduardo Eurnekian's "Corporacion America". According to Artem Movsisian, head of the General Department of Civil Aviation of Armenia, "Corporacion America" will turn the Shirak Airport into a first-class facility. He said that the company has pledged to invest $10 million in 2007 to start modernization programme. In the upcoming years it will invest more to make the airport comply with international standards.

Being on top of high mountains, Shirak Airport is not a preferred destination for most air carriers.


The railway junction of Gyumri is the oldest and the largest one in Armenia. It was formed in 1898 and the first railway link to Alexandropol that connected the city with Tiflis was completed in 1899. The rail line was then extended from Alexandropol to Yerevan (in 1902), Kars (in 1902), Jolfa (in 1906), and Tabriz. As a result, Alexandropol became an important rail hub.

As of 2013, the Gyumri Railway Station operates regular trips to Yerevan and Batumi. The South Caucasus Railway CJSC, is the current operator of the railway sector in Armenia.

Education and religion

Gyumri has a large number of educational institutions. It is considered the main cultural and educational centre of northern Armenia. The city has the following higher educational centers:

The city is home to 47 public education schools, 23 nursery schools and 7 special schools for music regularly operating in the city.

Almost the entire population of Gyumri belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Gyumri is the home of the Diocese of Shirak with the Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God. The Armenian Catholic Church has a tiny community in Armenia headed by the Eparchy of Armenia and Eastern Europe which is based in Gyumri.[12] The presence of the small Russian Orthodox community is marked with the church of Saint Nikolai the Wonderworker.[13]


Gyumri has a major contribution in the sports life of Armenia. Many Olympic and world champion wrestlers, weightlifters and boxers are from Gyumri. The city is notable for its worldwide champions in individual sports, such as Robert Emmiyan in long jump, Yurik Vardanyan and Nazik Avdalyan in weightlifting and Ara Abrahamian in Greco-Roman wrestling.

The city is home to the Armenian football club Shirak F.C.. They play their home games at the Gyumri City Stadium, the oldest football stadium in Armenia, dating to 1924. Shirak are one of the most popular football teams in Armenia, having won the championship of the Armenian Premier League four times, with the most recent one in the 2012-13 season. Shirak have also won the Armenian Independence Cup once. The native of Gyumri and former Shirak player Artur Petrosyan is the all-time leading scorer for the Armenia national football team.

Aragats FC was the second football club that represented the city. However, the club was dissolved in 2002 due to financial difficulties.

The new football academy of Gyumri is under construction. It is being financed by the Football Federation of Armenia. It will house seven regular-size football training pitches, including two with artificial turf. The academy will become ready by the end of 2013.[14]

Many special sport schools are serving the young generation of Gyumri such as the School of Gymnastics, the School of Athletics named after Robert Emmiyan, the School of Football named after Levon Ishtoyan and other special schools of boxing, weightlifting, wrestling, martial arts and chess.

Gyumri is home to many former and current world, Olympic and European champions in several types of sports such as:


The population of Gyumri has gradually grown since 1840 after gaining the status of town. A huge decline of the population was due to the disastrous earthquake of 1988. The residents here have a distinct look and style, and a boundless pride in their city. Their own dialect is very close to Western Armenian.

Population and ethnic groups chart of Gyumri throughout the history:[15]

Year Population Armenians (%) Russians (%) Azerbaijanis (%) a Others (%)
1897 [16]
21,771 (71.1%)
5,157 (16.8%)
1,090 (3.6%)
2,598 (8.5%)
1926 [17]
37,520 (88.7%)
3,634 (8.6%)
54 (0.1%)
1105 (2.6%)
62,159 (91.8%)
4,249 (6.3%)
161 (0.2%)
1,160 (1.7%)
1959 [18]
100,960 (93.1%)
5,630 (5.2%)
103 (0.1%)
1,753 (1.6%)
^a Called Tatars prior to 1918


Gyumri is known as the 'city of crafts and arts'.[19][20] It is the home town of popular Armenian poets and gusans Jivani, Avetik Isahakyan, Sheram and Hovhannes Shiraz.

The first opera performance in Armenia (Anoush by Armen Tigranian) took place in Alexandropol in 1912.

In 1865, an amateur theatre group in Gyumri performed H. Karinyan's "Shushanik". Vardan Ajemian State Drama Theatre was founded in 1928 in Gyumri. Prominent directors Ruben Simonov and Vardan Ajemian, actors Mher Mkrtchyan, Azat Sherents and Varduhi Varderesyan worked in theatre. The theatre's new building was opened in 1972. The artistic director is Nikolay Tsaturyan.

The people of Gyumri (gyumretsis) are famous for their sense of humor. Many of them, like Poloz Mukuch and Dzitro Alek are popular folklore characters.[21]

Gyumri is known for its 19th century architecture and urban constructions.[22]

The first printing house of Gyumri was founded in 1876 by G. Sanoyan and operated until 1918. It published literary works (including Avetik Isahakyan's first book), calendars, textbooks. Another printing house, Ayg (founded 1892), published historical books and the first periodical of Gyumri, Akhuryan.[23]

Gyumri is home to the Gyumri Biennial, organized by the artist Azat Sargsyan and the Gyumri Centre of Contemporary Art (GCCA).[24] Gyumri was officially declared Commonwealth of Independent States cultural capital in 2013.[25]

Famous natives

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Gyumri is twinned with:


See also



  • Encyclopædia Britannica
  • Adrian Room, Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for Over 5000 Natural Features, Countries, Capitals, Territories, Cities and Historical Sites, McFarland, 1997, ISBN 978-0-7864-1814-5 (pbk) p. 192

External links

  • Official municipality website
  • Surp Amenaprkich cathedral in Gyumri
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