Gyumri (Armenian: Գյումրի,[a] pronounced [ɡjumˈɾi]) is an urban municipal community and the second-largest city in Armenia, serving as the administrative center of Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country. By the end of the 19th century, when the city was known as Alexandropol,[b] it was one of the largest cities of Russian-ruled Eastern Armenia with a population similar to that of Yerevan. It was renamed to Leninakan[c] during the Soviet period. The city's population grew above 200,000 prior to the 1988 Spitak earthquake, when it was devastated. As of the 2011 census, the city had a population of 121,976, down from 150,917 reported at the 2001 census.
The area of modern-day Gyumri was known as Armenian Kumayri during the period of the Kingdom of Urartu. Under the domination of Turkic tribes, Kumayri was Turkified as Gümrü. In 1837, Kumayri was renamed Alexandropol after Czar Nicholas I's wife, Princess Alexandra Fyodorovna. Between 1924 and 1990, the city was known as Leninakan in honor of Vladimir Lenin. Following independence, the original name Kumayri was used until 1992, when Gyumri was chosen as the name of the city.
Classical antiquity and the ancient Armenian Kingdom
Archaeological excavations conducted throughout the Soviet period have shown that the area of modern-day Gyumri has been populated since at least the third millennium BC. The area was mentioned as Kumayri in the historic Urartian inscriptions dating back to the 8th century BC. Historians believe that Xenophon passed through Kumayri during his return to the Black Sea, a journey immortalized in his Anabasis.
At the decline of the Urartu Kingdom by the second half of the 6th century BC, Kumayri became part of the Achaemenid Empire. The remains of a royal settlement found just to the south of Gyumri near the village of Beniamin dating back to the 5th to 2nd centuries BC, are a great example of the Achemenid influence in the region. However, at the beginning of the 5th century BC, Kumayri became part of the Satrapy of Armenia under the rule of the Orontids. An alternative theory suggests that Kumayri has been formed as an urban settlement in the late 5th century BC, ca. 401 BC, by Greek colonists.
Later in 331 BC, the entire territory was included in the Ayrarat province of Ancient Armenian Kingdom as part of the Shirak canton. Between 190 BC and 1 AD Kumayri was under the rule of the Artaxiad dynasty of Armenia. During the 1st century AD, Shirak was granted to the Kamsarakan family, who ruled over Kumayri during the Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia.