May Russians Armenians


Harutyun Grigoryan

To person

Harutyun Grigoryan is a lawyer. He was born in Yerevan in 1978, studied law in Nagorno-Karabakh and at the Yerevan State University. He later studied at the Law Faculty of the University of Cologne (2006 - 2008). He is currently working as a legal advisor for Armenian law and, in parallel, is working on his doctorate at the University of Potsdam on the territoriality of the state and the right of peoples to self-determination.

Almost 300 treaties and agreements have been signed by Armenia and Russia in their long history together. What is their close relationship based on? How do they benefit from each other? And how is the cooperation between the two states shaped?

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands at a meeting in Moscow in December 2018. (& copy picture alliance / Sergey Guneev / Sputnik / dpa)


The Armenian-Russian relations are based primarily on historically determined interests, geostrategic for Russia and existential for Armenia, and in the 21st century are described as strategic and partnership-based. The geopolitical goals of Russia, acting as a world power, do not always coincide with the goals of the Armenian nation. Nevertheless, the two capitals Moscow and Yerevan remain closely linked. The reasons for this are diverse.


The history of Armenian-Russian relations goes back centuries. Historical Eastern Armenia, the territory of which partly coincides with that of the present Republic of Armenia, became part of the Russian Empire in 1828.

After the fall of the tsarist empire, Armenia and Russia were, apart from the brief phase of the first Republic of Armenia from 1918 to 1920, together part of a Russian-dominated state. Only after the collapse of the USSR did Armenian-Russian relations become bilateral.

On April 3, 1992 diplomatic relations between the two countries were established. Since then, the collaboration has been continuously deepened. The most important legal bases for this are the "Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Security between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Armenia", signed on December 29th, 1991, but not ratified and later replaced by the Treaty "On Collective Security of the CIS" of May 15th, 1992 "(which was signed again on 08/29/1997), as well as the" Declaration on allied cooperation between Russia and Armenia, oriented towards the 21st century "of 09/26/2000. In addition, there are almost 300 different treaties and agreements between the two countries.

Relations between states can also be deepened through the supra-regional integration processes initiated by Russia, such as the Eurasian Economic Union or the organization of the Treaty on Collective Security.

Security Relations

Some of the units of the Soviet Army stationed in the Armenian SSR fell to Russia as the successor to the USSR, but did not leave the now independent Republic of Armenia. They stayed, among other things. in the military base in the city of Gyumri, which was set up at the time of the tsarist empire and later modernized several times. The Russian military presence in Armenia was legally secured by numerous contracts signed between 1992 and 2017. The main task of the Russian military in Armenia officially remains the protection of Armenian sovereignty, as well as increasing the stability of the south-eastern borders of Russia. In 2015-2016, the merger of the air defense systems and troops of certain units of the Armenian Army and the Russian units stationed in Armenia was agreed. These joint units have been in operation since 2017 and "in the event of aggression" can also be under the command of the Russian Military District South, which includes the Black Sea Fleet and the Crimean Peninsula.

Units that are officially part of the Russian Domestic Intelligence Service (FSB) monitor the Armenian border with Turkey (approx. 310 km) and Iran (approx. 45 km). In addition, Russian FSB members, together with their Armenian colleagues, carry out passenger controls at the airports of Yerevan and Gyumri. In the "Treaty between the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation on the Status and Function of the Border Troops of the Russian Federation stationed on the territory of the Republic of Armenia" of 09/30/1992, it is stated that the Republic of Armenia in the interests of ensuring its own security and the Security of the Russian Federation the protection of the state border with Turkey and Iran on their own territory has been delegated to the border troops of the Russian Federation. Although the Russian border troops stationed in Armenia coordinate their steps to protect the state border of the Republic of Armenia with the government of the Republic of Armenia, they are also orienting themselves "on the intergovernmental treaties of the former USSR with Turkey and Iran and the Soviet law on the state border the USSR. " The text of the treaty makes it clear that Armenia is concerned with the security of its own republic and that of its allies. For Moscow, apart from simply guaranteeing Armenia's border security, it is a question of maintaining the Soviet treaties, which in turn makes Russia's geopolitical goals clear. In the treaties that regulate military cooperation between the two countries, there are also noteworthy formulations according to which Russian troops in Armenia are also supposed to "ensure the security of the Russian Federation", although the Republic of Armenia does not share a common border with Russia Has.

As part of military security cooperation, the Armenian Ministry of Defense is allowed to order Russian weapons and ammunition at "internal" prices that apply to the Russian army. If the necessary money is not available, Moscow grants loans to Yerevan. Many Armenian military personnel are trained in various programs in Russia.

In parallel with bilateral military cooperation, cooperation within the framework of the organization of the Treaty on Collective Security (CSTO) is constantly being expanded. Here, too, Russia dominates; Moscow is trying to integrate the bilateral cooperation with Armenia into the CSTO format as much as possible. Additional challenges and perspectives are emerging here for Armenian security and foreign policy. However, all of this seems to be in Russia's geopolitical interest: all CSTO members use Russian (and in some cases Belarusian) weapons and communicate with one another in Russian.

Military cooperation also helps the Armenian economy: small arms are manufactured in Armenia under a Russian license. The start of production of modern Kalashnikov brand machine guns in Armenia was recently announced.

Economic relations and energy cooperation

Among the post-Soviet republics, Armenia suffered the most economically: the earthquake of December 1988 devastated northern Armenia, there were borders with the other post-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia, which were caused by the chaos and war in Georgia and the Georgian North at the time - or the northeast regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were unsafe, there was the loss of orders for the Armenian industry oriented towards the Soviet market, the energy supply crisis and finally the war with Azerbaijan.

Among the countries investing in Armenia's economy, Russia ranks first. The total volume of investment from Russia is $ 4 billion (40 percent of all foreign investment in Armenia). There are around 1,300 Russian companies operating in the republic.

The largest investment projects include the construction of gas and energy plants with the participation of the Russian state giant "Gazprom", the acquisition of one of the country's leading credit institutions, the "Armsberbank", by the Russian "VTB Bank" (the new name has been since 2006 " VTB-Armenia ") as well as the" Rusal-Armenal "bought and modernized by the Russian aluminum group" RUSAL "in 2006. By the way, this factory is one of the largest industrial companies in Armenia and the only manufacturer of aluminum foil in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Cooperation in the field of nuclear energy is also important. The "Metsamor" nuclear power plant, the only one in the South Caucasus, was commissioned in 1980 not far from Yerevan. In 2014 it was agreed to extend its term by a further ten years. The modernizations required for this are financed by Russian loans. The Russian state company "Rosatom" fulfills the order.

The most important pillar of bilateral economic cooperation is energy: around 80 percent of the energy sources required are provided by Russia. Russian companies own almost all of Armenia's fuel and energy complexes, such as the Sevan-Hrasdan Cascade (seven hydropower plants on the Hrasdan River), distribution networks and the Hrasdan thermal power plant. In 2006 the Russian company "Inter RAO JeES" bought all shares in the electricity supplier and monopoly "Electricity Networks Armenia" with a total network of approx. 36,000 km and in 2017 sold 70 percent of the shares to the Russian "Tashir Capital".

The monopoly supplier of natural gas on the Armenian domestic market is "Gazprom Armenia" (a wholly-owned subsidiary of "Gazprom") founded in December 1997. The company organizes gas supplies for the Armenian domestic market and is also active in the transportation, storage, distribution and sale of fuels, reconstruction and expansion of the country's gas transport system and underground gas storage facilities. "Gazprom" invested a total of around 550 million US dollars in gas and energy projects in Armenia. "Gazprom" participated in the construction of the Armenian section of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline (commissioned in 2008) and thus also controls gas supplies from Iran.

For the period 2014-2018, "Gazprom" anticipates gas deliveries to Armenia of up to 2.5 billion cubic meters per year and 189 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters. Over time, however, not only the delivery volume (1.87 billion cubic meters in 2016), but also the prices (150 US dollars for 2017-2018). The gas price rose again for the first time in 2019, to 165 US dollars for 1,000 cubic meters.

Russian companies - almost like in energy cooperation - also have the absolute upper hand in the telecommunications sector. The "Vimpel Com" (today VEON, behind which Russian capital can be assumed) bought all the assets of the Armenian national telecommunications provider "Armentel" and operates it under the name "Beeline". In 2007 the Russian company "Mobilnyje Telesistemy" (MTS) bought 80 percent of the "VivaCell" founded in 2004 by the Lebanese "Fattouch Group" and renamed it "VivaCell MTS-Armenia". "UCOM", founded with Russian capital, bought all shares in the French telecommunications operator "Orange Armenia" in 2016.

Russia is also interested in Armenia's ailing economic infrastructure and has invested in economically unprofitable projects, obviously for geopolitical interests. In this context, the takeover of the "circled" and hopeless "Railway of Armenia" for another 30 years should be mentioned in 2008. The subsidiary "South Caucasian Railways", which belongs to the state "Russian Railways", has invested almost 230 million US dollars there over the past 10 years.

In 2017, trade between the two countries Russia and Armenia was around 1.75 billion US dollars (in 2016 it was around 1.33 billion US dollars). Of this, 1.23 billion dollars are Russian exports to the Republic of Armenia (approx. 19 percent of Armenia's imports) and 514 million dollars are Armenian exports to the Russian Federation (approx. 23 percent of all exports from Armenia). The share of Armenian goods exports to Russia in 2017 was around 0.22 percent of all Russian imports, and Russian exports to Armenia only made up around 0.35 percent of all Russian exports in 2017.

The trade between the two countries continues to grow year after year. In the first half of 2018, it was around $ 925 million.

While these numbers are central to the Armenian economy, they play a political rather than a purely economic role for the Russian economy.

Tourism also has a leading place in economic cooperation. Of the approximately one and a half million visitors to Armenia, around 410,000 were Russian citizens. Russian citizens no longer need a passport to enter Armenia; an identity card is sufficient.

The Eurasian Economic Union is undoubtedly making a significant contribution to deepening economic cooperation. The Russian "Mir" card payment system has been operating in Armenia since July 2017, and in return the Armenian "ArCa" cards were introduced in the Russian Federation. This was the first such project within the Eurasian Economic Union.

Political cooperation is also in good shape - in the sense of mutual visits by high-ranking representatives of the executive branch and close parliamentary cooperation. Since May 2018 alone, the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has met five times with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Interparliamentary Commission for Cooperation between the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia meets twice a year.

Russian Soft power [The attractiveness and influence of a state, which is mostly exercised by cultural factors. - Note d. Red.] Remains comparatively weak in Armenia. However, Russia is also making efforts in this direction. In addition to the Slavic Humanities University founded in Yerevan, there are branches of six other universities in Russia in Armenia, at which over 3,500 students study various subjects in Russian. Russian state TV channels, as well as many private ones, are available in Armenia. Every year hundreds of Armenian citizens study at Russian universities and colleges at Russia's expense. Russia wants the Russian language to spread further in Armenia. A significant proportion of the print news and commercial books in Armenia are in Russian. The Russian language enjoys the rank of the first foreign language in Armenian comprehensive schools. On several occasions, Russian officials have expressed their wish that Russian be given the status of a second state language in Armenia.

Over a million Armenians live in Russia, making them the largest Armenian diaspora in the world. There are also Russian citizens with Armenian roots, around one and a half million people. The number is increasing every year: in 2017 alone, 25,144 Armenians received Russian citizenship, 13,320 received a residence permit and around 650,000 were registered with the Russian migration authorities for short-term stays.

The Russian part of the population of Armenia consists mainly of family members of the military stationed in the country and of numerous Russian citizens with Armenian roots. As of December 31, 2017, the number of Russian citizens permanently resident in Armenia was 21,609.


Even a brief overview shows that the basis of cooperation between these two countries is based on the legacy of their common past, but also on mutual interests. Although the relationships are established on an official level on an equal footing, the lack of balance in the cooperation is noticeable. Russian state corporations and companies with Russian capital have the upper hand in almost all important areas of Armenia's economic system. Russia, whose territory is around 570 times larger and which has around 50 times more inhabitants than Armenia - not to mention all the advantages of a nuclear superpower - is pursuing various goals and has to face challenges of various dimensions from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad.

On the other hand, this huge superpower is heavily dependent on the loyalty of the small South Caucasian republic. Armenia is the only country in the region that has remained loyal to Russia to this day. It is also the only country in the South Caucasus that allows Moscow to station its own military in the region and makes a small but important contribution to Russian interests on the international stage. It voted against the UN resolutions on the Crimea peninsula that were directed against Russia, sent a small humanitarian military mission to Syria, etc. The weakness of Russia Soft power can be compensated for by a growing Armenian diaspora in Russia or the naturalization of Armenians in the short or medium term.

The loyalty to Moscow has its historical and political causes: The Armenian nation is facing serious challenges.The Republic of Turkey, which is around 26 times larger than Armenia both in terms of territory and population, denies the genocide committed at the beginning of the 20th century, continues to keep the border with Armenia closed and is theoretically capable of attacking the small republic from the west . The West cannot or does not want to offer protection. For this reason, Armenia seems to have little alternative to Russia. Even the prime minister, who came to power at the beginning of May 2018 and, as an opposition politician, had constantly and sharply criticized the close cooperation with Russia, admitted in an interview with journalists at the end of April 2018: "Armenia has an inadequate army, which unfortunately cannot properly protect all of its borders and this is a reality that every Armenian government should take into account ". And as the former President of Armenia, Armen Sargsyan, put it, serving the interests of your own people means serving the friendship between the Russian and Armenian people.

Added to this is the conflict with Azerbaijan, which is at least three times the size, in which Armenia represents the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia plays a central role in a peaceful settlement of this conflict. In this case, however, not everything goes so quickly and smoothly; There is still a certain degree of suspicion on both sides, in the Armenian public especially because of Russian deliveries of modern offensive weapons to Azerbaijan, which are used against Armenians. For the Armenian public, a reality in which a strategic partner calls arms deliveries to the enemy "business" and "creating a balance of power in the South Caucasus" is unacceptable.

Despite all the differences of opinion between the capitals and regardless of which political force will come to power in Armenia and Russia in the future, Armenian-Russian relations will be further expanded and deepened in favor of Russian geopolitics and in the interests of the existential interests of the Armenian nation, especially in the areas of energy, security and military cooperation. The relatively weak Russian Soft power Over time this is compensated for by the growing and Russian-speaking Armenian diaspora and the increase in the number of naturalized Armenians who are thus integrated into everyday Russian life. These people will serve as a bridge for civil society understanding between Moscow and Yerevan.

Reading tips

  • Grigoryan, Harutyun: Possibilities and obstacles to reconciliation using the example of Nagorno-Karabakh, in: Ost-West, Europäische Perspektiven, 2018, No. 2, pp. 117–124;
  • Russian Analytical Digest 232, Russia’s Relations with the South Caucasus, (in preparation, publication date expected March 5, 2019)

The Russia analyzes are jointly published by the Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen, the German Society for Eastern European Studies, the German Poland Institute, the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transition Economies, the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Research and the Center for Eastern European and International Studies (ZOiS) gGmbH. The bpb publishes them as a licensed edition.