Gyumri is 126 kilometres (78 miles) north of the capital Yerevan at the central part of the Shirak plateau. It has an approximate height of 1,550 metres (5,090 feet) above sea level, the high altitude line being 1,500 metres (4,900 feet). The Akhurian River passes through the western suburbs. The Shirak plateau is surrounded with the Pambak Mountains from the east and Aragats volcanic range from the south. The city of Gyumri is 196 kilometres (122 miles) away from the Black Sea. The surrounding lands near the city are rich in tufa, basalt and clay.
During the pre-Soviet era, Alexandropol was considered the third-largest trade and cultural centre in Transcaucasia after Tiflis and Baku (Yerevan would not rise to prominence until being proclaimed as the capital of independent Armenia in 1918 and Armenian SSR in 1920). At the end of the 19th century, the population of Alexandropol had grown to 32,100 inhabitants, with a majority of Armenians.
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