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20 Things You Need To Know About Armenia

The Kardashian sisters visited their ancestral homeland last week to draw attention to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. But the country has plenty going on, even when it's not being graced by some of the most famous members of its diaspora.

Posted on April 14, 2015, at 10:20 a.m. ET

1. First things first: Armenia is a small, mountainous country in the South Caucasus.

Grigory Gusev CC BY-ND / Via Flickr: gusevg

It borders Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia. (No, not that Georgia β€” this one.)

2. Before gaining independence in 1991, Armenians lived under Ottoman and Russian rule, and the country was part of the Soviet Union.

young shanahan CC BY / Via Flickr: youngshanahan

The Soviet-era Mother Armenia statue that looks over Yerevan, the capital, symbolizes peace through strength, according to Armenian lore.

3. The Kardashian sisters visited to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a defining event in Armenian history and identity.

Karen Minasyan / Getty Images

On Friday, Kim, Khloe and Kanye visited the memorial to the 1915 massacre of more than a million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. Turkey does not acknowledge the tragedy as genocide. Also, the U.S. has yet to publicly commemorate the event.

4. They aren't the only famous diaspora Armenians to stop by.

Chris Pizzello / AP

Cher, whose dad was Armenian-American, traveled to Armenia in 1993.

5. Armenia has a chilly relationship with some of its neighbors.

Karen Minasyan / AFP / Getty Images

Armenia and Turkey aren't on good terms, given the whole not-recognizing-the-genocide thing. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and both sides claim rights to Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-controlled enclave that technically lies within Azerbaijan. Foreign policy experts call this a "frozen conflict," but skirmishes on the border continue to claim lives.

6. It was the first country in the world to officially adopt Christianity back in 301 AD.

Shaun Dunphy CC BY-SA / Via Flickr: sjdunphy

Pope Francis recognized the genocide in remarks Sunday, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador to the Vatican.

7. It has some beautiful centuries-old churches.

...your local connection CC BY-NC-SA / Via Flickr: whltravel

8. Like this gorgeous old monastery.

Oleg Sidorenko CC BY / Via Flickr: oksidor

9. And this one.

Lorenzoclick CC BY-NC / Via Flickr: lorenzoclick

10. Not too shabby, right?

sunriseOdyssey CC BY-SA / Via Flickr: sunriseodyssey

11. But Armenia can do modern, too. Anyone who's been there knows its public fountain game is on point.

my Life, the Universe and Everything CC BY-NC-SA / Via Flickr: beefortytwo

In case Kanye wants to take another dip...

12. Armenians are REALLY into chess.

Bayandur Pogosyan CC BY-NC-SA / Via Flickr: songoffall

It's a required subject in the elementary schools, and tiny Armenia has more grandmasters per capita than most other countries.

13. They've also got a super cool alphabet.

Kayla Sawyer CC BY-NC / Via Flickr: ksawyer

14. So cool there's an actual monument dedicated to it...

Nina StΓΆssinger CC BY-SA / Via Flickr: ninastoessinger

15. ...and they put it on their bread.

DubeFranz CC BY-NC-ND / Via Flickr: dubefranz

16. Armenia is well known throughout the region for its cognac...

Arthur Chapman CC BY / Via Flickr: arthur_chapman

Free idea for the Armenian business community: someone better get a branded Kanye-ak deal out of this trip.

17. ...fresh fruit...

World Bank Photo Collection CC BY-NC-ND / Via Flickr: worldbank

18. ...and its traditional flatbread, called lavash.

ale_speciale CC BY-ND / Via Flickr: alessandrospeciale

19. The Armenian diaspora stretches across the globe.

Scout Tufankjian

Armenian girls in Sanjak Camp, Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon, from photographer Scout Tufankjian's new book There Is Only the Earth: Images from the Armenian Diaspora Project.

20. And now they've embraced a new member of the family.

People here are calling Kanye "pesa" (groom), as in, he's OUR collective family member. What is this life?