Posted on September 21, 2014
Two small nations – nations that are only about 1,700 miles (2,700 km) apart and within 5 degrees latitude of one another – celebrate their Independence Days today.
Malta declared its independence from Britain on this date in 1964. In the early morning hours, the Maltese flag had been raised at Independence Arena, in Floriana—and the watching crowd cheered greatly. However, it took more than a decade for Malta to become really, truly independent when—on March 31, 1979—British troops and the Royal Navy withdrew from Malta.
Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union (USSR) in August of 1990. Although (as is common) the mere declaration did not ensure independence, the Soviet Union was beginning to break apart. In August of 1991, a group of communists tried to take control of the Soviet government and oust then-president Gorbachev, and shortly after that, Armenians held a referendum about whether or not to secede from the USSR. The people voted overwhelmingly to leave the union on this date in 1991, and by December of that year the USSR had entirely dissolved.
Malta and Armenia are very different from one another. Malta is a warm island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. With more than 4,000 people per square mile, it's one of the most densely populated nations on earth.
Malta has a very strategic location between Europe, Asia, and Africa, so it was invaded and ruled by many different powers during its tumultuous past. But it was also a center of trading and, now, tourism.
Armenia, on the other hand, is as far from being an island nation as possible, since it is landlocked and has no direct access to any sea or ocean! It is a mountainous country with dry, sunny summers and cold, snowy winters. It is far less densely populated (only about 260 people per square mile). Armenians, too, have been invaded and absorbed into empires, including the Ottoman, Persian, and Russian empires, and many Armenians were victims of genocide. Today, there are about 8 million Armenians living in the various countries of the world, and there are only about 3 million Armenians still living in Armenia!
Here are a few special things about each nation:
The Megalithic Temples of Malta were considered, until recently, to be the oldest free-standing structures on earth, built between 3000 BCE and 700 BCE. (Now they are the second oldest, I guess...)
The smallest of Malta's three islands is Comino. It is uninhabited other than one hotel, and cars are not allowed. Blue Lagoon is its biggest attraction.
Armenia's Debed Canyon features two monasteries and lots of little villages with old forts and churches. There are khachkars (stone crosses) everywhere.
While visiting Malta, you can scuba dive among the sunken ships from World War II.
Goris, Armenia, has a weird landscape: volcanic tuff columns have eroded into a variety of shapes.
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