For every country, the publication of a national atlas constitutes both a scientific and a political event. The history of Armenia’s cartography is ancient and dates back to the Middle Age. The oldest surviving map in Armenian language, which shows over 750 locations of churches, monasteries and catholicosates of the entire area of historical Armenia bears the date 1691 and has been discovered in Bologna. The next known “map of historic lands and counties of Armenia” was printed in Venice in 1751. However, the first attempt of a national atlas is the set of maps (Rapport sur l’unité géographique de l’Arménie: Atlas historique) published by the Armenian Delegation at the 1919 Peace Conference, when the future of an independent Armenian state was on the agenda of the international community. As to the Soviet period, the first republican atlas was published by the Academy of Sciences both in Armenian and in Russian in 1961. Like all the other republican atlases of the Thaw period, it was hailed as a major national realisation. Since the new independence, various projects of a historical or geographical atlas have been achieved, sometimes with foreign grants, such as the World and Armenia, Geographical Atlas (MacMillan, 2004) or the Armenian Historical Atlas (MacMillan, 2005, both in Armenian). We can also remind the superb Historical Atlas of Armenia by Robert Hewsen (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2000), published in the Diaspora.
However the present two major volumes published with government support constitute an encyclopaedic project of sorts, and another step in the assertion of independence and national state building. The first volume is divided into five sections and introduces the nature, the physical geography and resources, the population, the economy and the administrative territorial units of the Republic. The second volume illustrates the history and culture of the Armenian people, and is divided into six main sections: history, religion, culture, the Armenian colonies and the Diaspora, ancient maps, chronological tables. Sixty-five contributors have participated in the elaboration of over 500 high-quality maps, to say nothing the graphs and tables, illustrations and explicative texts elaborated under the supervision of the Academy of Sciences, of the State University of Yerevan, of the Armenian Geographical Society, and of the Editorial House of the Armenian Encyclopaedia. These volumes are definitely of great value for all the information that they contain, and for the historical phase they represent in the creation of a nation-state, as they sum up the various aspects of Armenian national ideology at work.
Claire Mouradian, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris