Aturpatakan, also known as Atropatene is the name of an ancient kingdom that has been established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasties. First with Darius III of Persia and later Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Prior to the third century A.D., Iran had more influence on Armenia's culture than any of its other neighbors. Intermarriage among the Iranian and Armenian nobility was common. The two peoples shared many religious, political, and linguistic elements and traditions and, at one time, even shared the same dynasty. Sasanian policies and the Armenian conversion to Christianity, in the fourth century, however, alienated the Armenians from Zoroastrian Iran and oriented them toward the West. The Mongol conquest of Iran in the thirteenth century enabled the Armenians, who were treated favorably by the victors, to play a major role in the international trade among the Caspian, Black, and Mediterranean seas. Armenian merchants and artisans settled in the Iranian cities bordering historic Armenia. Sultanieh, Marand, Khoi, Saimas, Maku, Maraghe, Urmia, and especially Tabriz, the Mongol center in Iranian Azerbaijan, all had, according to Marco Polo, large Armenian populations. By the twentieth century, Iran, like Egypt, was a major center of Armenian life in the Middle East. Although the Islamic Revolution has ended the second golden age of the Armenian community in Iran the community has not lost its prominence altogether. The current government is more accommodating and Armenians, unlike the Kurds and Iranian Azeris, have their own schools, clubs, and maintain most of their churches. The fall of the Soviet Union, the common border with Armenia, and the Armeno-Iranian diplomatic and economic agreements have opened a new era for the Iranian Armenians. Among notable Iranian Armenians are author, prominent figure of the 19th century Armenian literature Raffi, poet Eghishe Charents, writer and philosopher Shahamir Shahamiryan, Vartan Gregorian, and many others.
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