Armenian Innovation

Jan 11, 2017

Tiny Armenia at the Pinnacle of Soviet Innovation

Armenians have proven themselves to be at the heart of many great inventions and revolutionary events that have helped the human race to take a step forward. Engineering plays a critical role in this inventive period, and teeny-tiny Armenia has a huge innovation story to share with you.

Despite constituting only 1.5% of the Soviet population, Armenians managed to create about 30% of the Soviet Union’s innovative military equipment. In order to get a better picture of this feat, let’s take a look at some statistics:

  • Benchmarking against the total industrial output of the Soviet Union, Armenia’s industrial output had grown 40 times by 1979.
  • The construction of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant began during the post-war recovery period until 1969. In 1976, the first power unit was launched, followed by a second unit, which was launched in 1979. Moreover, the construction of new hydroelectric and heat power plants has increased energy production by 30.6 times.
  • The production of construction materials has increased by 77.9 times, chemical production by 122.6, light manufacturing by 22.3, and food production by 8.8 times.
  • In 1979, Soviet Armenia produced thrice more machines and twice more transformers than the rest of the Soviet Union combined in 1940.
  • By the 1980s, 22,000 people were working in 130 scientific institutions.
  • In 1967, the biggest electron accelerator in the Soviet Union was activated in Armenia.


It is also worth discussing Soviet Armenia’s Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1943, it quickly became home to some of the most brilliant scientific inventions and innovations. As an example, the Academy’s Byurakan Observatory, one of the biggest observatories in the world, is another step forward inspired by the innovative spirit of the Armenians. Victor Ambartsumian is its founder and one of the founders of theoretical astrophysics.


Let’s also take a look at a few more noteworthy Armenian figures who have made notable contributions to science. During World War II, the Armenian engineer Artem Mikoyan designed and produced a set of fighter aircrafts, the MIG, which in 1953 already featured traveling at the speed of sound as one of its basic characteristics. By 2005, 52 countries were using variations of the MIG planes, numbering 60,000 in total worldwide.


Boris Babayan is recognized as the pioneering creator of supercomputers in the Soviet Union. He was born in Baku to an Armenian family. In particular, he worked on the creation of several supercomputers in the Soviet Elbrus line.


Lev Atamanov (Atamanyan) is one of the greatest Soviet animators. He is known as one of the founders of Soviet animation art. He is the creator of numerous Soviet classics and prize-winning fairy tales.

A scene from "The Snow Queen" by Lev Atamanov

Ivan Knunyants was a Soviet chemist of Armenian origin, an academic at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, a Major General, and an engineer who significantly contributed to the advancement of Soviet chemistry. He registered more than 200 inventions, many of which were used in Soviet industry.

So, this is just part of one big innovation story with Armenians as its main characters. As the famous Armenian writer William Saroyan once said, "It is simply in the nature of Armenians to study, to learn, to question, to speculate, to discover, to invent, to revise, to restore, to preserve, to make, and to give.” 

Cover image credit: TUMO