Syunik Province is the southernmost province of Armenia. It is bordered by the Vayots Dzor Province from the north, Nakhchivan exclave from the west, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from the east, and Iran from the south. Its capital and largest city is the town of Kapan. The National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia (ARMSTAT) reported its population was 141,771 in the 2011 census, down from 152,684 at the 2001 census.
Historically, Syunik is supposed to be one of the 15 provinces of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. At various times, the region of present-day Syunik was also known by other names such as Syunia, Sisakan and Zangezur (or Zangadzor). However, the present-name of the province is derived from the ancient Armenian Siunia dynasty, who were the Nakharar (governors) of the historic province of Syunik since the 1st century.
Syunik is located between the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan from the west, and the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from the east. The Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia forms its northern borders, while Aras River at the south separates Syunik from Iran. Syunik covers an area of 4,506 km² (15% of total area of Armenia), making it the second-largest province in Armenia after Gegharkunik in terms of the total area. Historically, the current territory of the province occupies most of the historic Syunik province of Ancient Armenia.
Mountains of Syunik Province
Syunik is a mountainous region, mainly covered with thick green forests. The Zangezur Mountains occupy most of the territories of Syunik. Mount Kaputjugh with a height of 3905 meters and Mount Gazanasar with a height of 3829 meters are the highest peaks of the province. Many of the forests in Syunik are protected by the government, including the Arevik National Park, the Shikahogh State Reserve, the Boghakar Sanctuary, the Goris Sanctuary, the Plane Grove Sanctuary, the Sev Lake Sanctuary, and the Zangezur Sanctuary, Major water basins include the rivers of Vorotan, Voghji, Sisian, Meghri and Vachagan. Summer temperature can reach up to 40 °C, although the average temperature is around 22 °C, while in winter it may reach down to -12.5 °C. Its border with Nakhchivan to the west is defined by the Zangezur Mountains. Meghri mountain ridge at the extreme south of Armenia used to be home to the Endangered Caucasian leopards. However, only one individual of them was camera-trapped between August 2006 to April 2007, and no signs of other leopards were found during track surveys conducted over an area of 296.9 km2 (114.6 sq mi). The local prey base could support 4–10 individuals, but poaching and disturbance caused by livestock breeding, gathering of edible plants and mushrooms, deforestation and human-induced wildfires are so high that they exceed the tolerance limits of leopards. During surveys in 2013–2014, camera traps recorded leopards in 24 locations in southern Armenia, of which 14 are located in the Zangezur Mountains
First Republic of Armenia
Between 1918 and 1920 Syunik was included in the short-lived Republic of Armenia. After the Sovietization of Armenia, Syunik became the main centre of the resistance against the Bolsheviks, thus becoming part of the unrecognized Republic of Mountainous Armenia under the leadership of Garegin Nzhdeh. The town of Goris was the de facto capital of the short-lived unrecognized state. However, the Red Army conducted massive military operations in April 1921, attacking Syunik from the north and east. After months of fierce battles with the Red Army, Mountainous Armenia capitulated in July 1921 following Soviet Russia’s promises to keep the mountainous region as a part of Soviet Armenia. After the conflict, Garegin Nzhdeh, his soldiers, and many prominent Armenian intellectuals, including leaders of the first Independent Republic of Armenia, crossed the border into neighbouring Persian city of Tabriz. Thus, Syunik became part of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in July 1921.
Independence of Armenia
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Syunik has been a constituent part of the Republic of Armenia. After the independence of Armenia, the 4 raions of the Soviet Syunik were merged during the 1995 administrative reform, to form the Syunik Province with the town of Kapan as the provincial capital. Being the republic’s southernmost province, it has gained a strategic and economic importance for Armenia. The border with Iran enhanced the export of vital energy resources from Armenia to Iran and other regions. Recently, a new 140-kilometer-long Armenia-Iran pipeline has been opened, projected to supply Armenia with up to 1.1 billion m³ of gas per year until 2019, when the target of the supply is expected to rise to 2.3 billion m³ annually.” The new pipeline has attracted Armenia’s northern neighbor Georgia, seeking to lessen its dependence on energy from Russia. In 2000, an old cemetery was found between the villages of Kornidzor and Khndzoresk near Goris. It was built by Armenian architects during the Kara Koyunlu rule.
According to the 2011 official census, Syunik has a population of 141,771 (69,836 men and 71,935 women), forming around 4.7% of the entire population of Armenia. The urban population is 95,170 (67.13%) and the rural is 46,601 (32.87%). The province has 7 urban and 102 rural communities. The largest urban community is the provincial center of Kapan, with a population of 43,190. The other urban centres are Goris, Sisian, Kajaran, Meghri, Agarak and Dastakert. With a population of 2,661, the village of Shinuhayr is the largest rural municipality of Syunik.
Photo By: Artur Martirosyan
Hiking Tour to Syunik Province
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