Gyumri is an urban municipal community and the second largest city in Armenia, in the distance of 124 km from Yerevan. It was founded by Cimmerians in 720 BC as Kumayri, and was known as a castle for many years. By the end of the 19th century, when the city was known as Alexandropol, its population was as much as it was in Yerevan. It was renamed to Leninakan during the Soviet period. The city's population grew about 240,000 prior to the 1988 Spitak earthquake, when it was devastated, and now it's 120,000. The city is famous for its churches and museums, universities and theatres, monuments and statues. It is totally rebuilt after the earthquake. Gyumri is proud of its inhabitants, who are popular artists and sportsmen, scientists and politicians. It has "Shirak" international airport and a 120-year-old railway station.
Inside Gyumri there is an abandoned Russian imperial fortress, called "Black Fortress". That national cultural heritage in Armenia lies 8 kilometres from the Turkish border. Gyumri became part of the Russian Empire in 1806. It was renamed Alexandropol in 1837 after the visit of Tsar Nicholas I, in honor of his wife, Empress Alexandra. The fortress was built on top of a hill, and the full fortification took a decade after the first stones were laid in 1834. It is a 360-degree round structure made of black stone, from which it gets its name. In 20 years it was upgraded and designated a "first-class" fortress. It never underwent a siege, but was of strategic importance in victories over the Turks. Black fortress was purchased in 2012. and is intended to turn into a tourist attraction.
Gyumri is the administrative center of Shirak historical province, where lots of churches and monastic complexes are. It's due to the former capital of Armenia, Ani (961-1360). One of them is Marmashen monastery, 15 km north of Gyumri. It was the dynastic burial place for the Pahlavouni family, the generals of the king. The complex was built in 984-1029. The complex includes 5 churches: St. Stephanos with a vestry, St. Holy Mother God, St. Petros, the basement of a circular Zvartots-style church and a wall of the ruined chapel. In the 13th century the Eastern Armenia was liberated by the Georgian troops of Queen Tamar, the leaders of which were Zakare and Ivane Zakaryan brothers. The Zakaryans ruled in Armenia for 170 years and were famous in building of churches and castles.
Another monastic complex is Harich monastery, built the in the 7th-13th centuries on the slops of Aragats mountain. It known as one of the most famous monastic centers in Armenia and it was especially renowned for its school and scriptorium. Archaeological excavations indicate that Harich was in existence during the 2nd century BC, and was one of the more well known fortress towns in Armenia. The oldest part of this Armenian monastery is the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator (7th century). During Zakaryan period Harich became richer complex: the Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God, which looks like Gandzasar Monastery, was decorated in the same way. In the second half of the 19th century Harich was made the summer audience of the Katholikos of Echmiadzin. South of the monastery, on a steep cliff, stands the Hermitage Chapel. шаблоны для dle 11.2