54 FOCUS - NOVEMBER 2017 About a week ago I returned from an extremely interesting trip to the Cauca- sus, where I visited several countries, including Armenia. In the event you are unaware of the area, the Caucasus is a region bordered by Iran on the south, Turkey on the west and Russia on the north. The Caspian Sea borders the eastern shores of this spectacular landmass, named for its giant mountain range. Armenia, the most eastern country, is entirely engulfed by the Caucasus Mountain range with 65% of the land made up of mountains. This makes for spectacular scenery, but stressful driv- ing conditions. The majority of Armenians are Chris- tian and 95% of the population belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church, which dates back to the first century. In 301 CE the state accepted the church, making it the oldest Christian religion in the world (The Roman Catholic church began in 380 CE). The people of Armenia have strug- gled for over a century, and continue to do so to this day. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire was trying to establish borders. The area now known as Turkey was settled by Turks and Armenians. The government decided to round up a few hundred Armenian intellectuals living in Constantinople (Istanbul), and transport them to another part of the country. It seems the government was concerned with some of the rhetoric being spoken by the group. Most of this assembly of intellectu- als was killed in transit, and the Otto- man began rounding up Armenian men, women and children living in the area. They were told that they would have to join the Turkish army and fight the op- posing Russians, moving in from the east. The Armenians refused, as they had always had good relations with Russia, and over the next two years, 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered at the hands of the Turks. Interestingly, to this date, only 29 countries and 47 US states have ac- cepted the legitimacy of the genocide. Canada, Russia and most Western European nations are among those. Turkey claims there were only a few hundred ‘casualties’ and due to WWI receiving most of the media coverage, the Armenian genocide was largely ig- nored at the time. There are 3 million people living inAr- menia today and 9 million descendants from people who were able to escape during the turmoil, living throughout the world. When Communism began, Armenia was ruled by the Soviets, and it wasn’t until 1992 that they gained their independence. Since then Russia has split the country in half, giving a portion of land to neighbouring Azerbaijan, in an effort to gain closer access to Tur- key and its NATO partners. As recent as last year, Turkish troops opened fire on Armenians at the border, killing and maiming nearly 150 people. BY JONATHAN VAN BILSEN Khor Virap Monastery and Mount Ararat in the background, the resting place of Noah’s Ark. A HISTORY LIKE NO OTHER