Vanadzor is a city located in the northern part of Armenia, in Lori Province, on the point where the rivers of Tandzut and Vanadzor join the Pambak river. It is the third largest city in Armenia.
The oldest traces of settlement in the area of present-day Vanadzor date back to the Bronze Age. By the end of the 10th century, the area became part of the Kingdom of Lori. With the invasion of the Seljuk Turks, the settlement was called Gharakilisa, meaning the black church in Turkic. That name most probably came from the black-stoned Armenian church of the Holy Mother of God, on the nearby hill. In 1801, the entire region of Lori became part of the Russian Empire. In 1826, the settlement of Gharakilisa was entirely destroyed by Hasan Khan during the Russo-Persian war. In 1828, the Russians founded a new town to become a major centre for the deployment of their troops during the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29. After the October Revolution in Russia, Armenia was attacked from the North and East by the Turks. After the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the World War I, the First Republic of Armenia was proclaimed in 1918. In 1920 Turkey occupied most of Armenia’s then territory while the remaining part was incorporated into the Soviet Union by the Bolsheviks and Armenian elite fell victim to Stalin’s purges. The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed and on 12 March 1922 it was included in the newly created Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. It stayed within the TSFSR until 5 December 1936. It was in this period that the city’s name was changed into Kirovakan. After World War II, Armenian economy grew significantly, making Armenia the wealthiest republic of the USSR. In July 1990 Armenia declared its independence and the city was renamed Vanadzor (1992).
The city was once a significant industrial centre with massive chemical factories which were affected by the earthquake and eventually fell apart after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Vanadzor was also home to a plant producing filters for Marlboro cigarettes but the business closed down when Ukraine-based rolling paper plant went bankrupt.
During the 1988 Armenian earthquake Vanadzor was one of the cities that suffered the most. The remnants of the disaster can be seen even today. It is particularly pronounced in the city development and its strings of non-matching buildings. Nevertheless, Vanadzor maintained its charm. The city’s main avenue, i.e. Tigran Mets, is in a top-notch condition and swarms with shops, banks, restaurants and cafés.
Monuments / attractions:
Church of the Holy Mother of God – the church was constructed between 1828 and 1830 and consecrated in 1831, during the reign of tsar Nicholas I of Russia and His Holiness Catholicos John VIII of Armenia. As early as the 13th century, the area of modern-day Vanadzor was called Gharakilisa, meaning the black church in Turkic. This name was derived probably from the black-stoned ancient Armenian church of the Holy Mother of God, probably built in the 13th century. When the original church was ruined during the 1826 Gharakilisa earthquake, the new church was built with orange and black coloured tufa stones. Khachkars dating back to the 13th century are found in the churchyard.
Church of the Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary – constructed in 1895, the church serves the small Orthodox community of the city. Its golden dome is particularly noteworthy.
Lori-Pambak Archaeological Museum – museum presents exhibits found in Lori province. It is divided into three departments: archaeology, ethnography and modern history.
Hayk Square – a central town square. It was opened during the 1950s as the Kirov Square, named after the Bolshevik leader Sergey Kirov. Kirov's statue was standing at the centre of the square until the independence of Armenia.
Botanical Garden - one of the most beautiful places to visit not only in Vanadzor, but also in the whole Armenia. Established in 1935, it covers 12 hectares and includes 600 species of plants.
Education / universities:
Hovhannes Tumanyan Vanadzor State University – established in 1969, this public university has a faculty of philology, history and geography, pedagogy, biology and chemistry as well as a faculty of physics and mathematics. Currently, there are more than 2400 students attending the university.
local branch of National Polytechnic University of Armenia – a technical university located in Yerevan, Armenia. The local branch has been operating since 1959, with the following faculties: faculty of technologies and sectoral economics as well as faculty of natural sciences and communication systems
Mkhitar Gosh Armenian-Russian International University – opened in 1995, the university is currently home to five faculties: law, management, foreign languages, pedagogy, and medicine.
Vanadzor Technology Center, VTC – a technological centre which was opened in 2016 by the Enterprise Incubator Foundation with the support of Government of Armenia and the World Bank. The mission of the centre is to promote Vanadzor's role as a regional and international centre for high technology through the creation of a dynamic environment which shall facilitate new job opportunities, support talented youth and organisations in implementing innovative business ideas. The ultimate goal of the centre is to contribute to the sustainable development of the region.
House-Museum of Stepan Zoryan - the museum is devoted to Stepan Zoryan, an Armenian writer, translator and academic. Creative work of this artist, who was born in the present-day Vanadzor, focused mainly on the life of Armenian village, its social problems and sovietization.
Theatres: „Bohem” Chamber Theatre, Vanadzor Musical Theatre, Hovhannes Abelyan Drama Theatre, Vanadzor Puppet Theatre.
Industry: Vanadzor is the main industrial centre of the province. The industry of the city is quite diversified, with many companies representing chemical, mechanical, food, textile, construction and furniture industry.