Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and by far the largest city in the country. Indeed with over 1 million inhabitants it has more than half the total population of Armenia. It is situated in the middle of the best agricultural land in Armenia, at the foot of Mount Ararat and very near the border with Turkey.
Yerevan expanded enormously in the Soviet era, particularly in the 1950s as the Soviets encourage the building of large cities and many people flocked to the big city. It benefited from the central part being redesigned by one of the world’s greatest architects, Alexander Tamanian, who was able to work the Soviet ideals of centralised planning to his advantage, and the benefit of Yerevan.
The city has a very European feel to it– far more so than many towns in Turkey or in Middle East and it is a mile away from Moslem countries such as Jordan or Pakistan.
Tamanian laid out the town around a central square known originally as Lenin Square, but it has now been redesignated somewhat unimaginatively as Republic Square. This has two design elements, a circular part to the south with a rectangular addition to the North. At the apex of Northern side of the lies the State History Museum: originally it was the Museum of the Bolshevik Revolution, but now it has a fine display of Armenia archaeology, though unfortunately one cannot take photos, so I cannot illustrate it.
On the eastern side is the impressive parliament building often considered to be one of Tamanian’s masterpieces.
Fronting the State History Museum is a series of pools and fountains. At night the Fountains dance to music in a computer controlled display. Here we see the fountains dancing the Ride of the Valkyries.
Roads radiate out from the public square, cutting across the otherwise orthogonal layout.
To the north a broad avenue lined with modern shops leads to the Opera House, considered to be one of Tamanian’s masterpieces. It is not perhaps to everyone’s taste – it is built in a somewhat uninspiring gray stone biut it is surrounded by a large open area.
Beyond it a wide ceremonial avenue leads up to the Cascade. This is one of the grandest examples of Soviet spectacle, designed in the 1960s to mark the 50th anniversary of Soviet Armenia in 1973. However in 1990 before it was completed, Soviet rule came to an end, but it has now been resurrected and makes an impressive terminal to Tamanian’s grand design.
The avenue leading up to the cascade is a dramatic statement, slightly marred by the fact that it is lined with workers dwellings. There are however a number of statues. Here is a statue by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero of a Woman smoking, with an Armenian family proudly posing before it.
And here is a piece of statuary by the British architect Lynn Chadwick.