Historic region of northern Ethiopia.

Its dramatic landscape includes plateau regions more than 10,000 ft (3,000 m) high and plains below sea level. Though vegetation is sparse, the population engages in agriculture and stock raising. Tigray contains the core of the ancient Aksum kingdom, as well as Ethiopia's oldest known town, the 3,000-year-old Yeha. It formerly controlled trade routes from the Red Sea to the empire in the south. Its status declined when it lost control of the coast in the 16th century; it was subsequently dominated by the south and was later threatened by the Egyptian, Sudanese, British, and Italian armies. A rebellion begun in 1975 against the Ethiopian government aggravated the effects of a disastrous drought and famine in 1984–85. In 1999 Ethiopia's border war with Eritrea led to the displacement of more than 300,000 people in Tigray, and famine is a persistent threat.

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▪ central Eritrean people
also spelled  Tigrai  or  Tegray 

      people of central Eritrea and of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. The Tigray speak Tigrinya (Tigrinya language), a Semitic language related to Geʿez and to Tigré, the language of a separate people (the Tigre) inhabiting northwestern Eritrea.

      The Tigray are descendants of a Semitic people who intermixed with the Cushitic inhabitants of the region and founded the Christian kingdom of Aksum, which had its capital in the historic region of Tigray. The Tigray are a sedentary agricultural people. Most, along with the neighbouring Amhara people, are adherents of the Ethiopian Orthodox (Coptic) church. Despite the religious and cultural similarities between the Tigray and the Amhara, linguistic differences and political rivalry (often erupting into warfare) have separated the two groups.

      In the late 20th century the Tigray accounted for nearly half of the population of Eritrea and less than one-tenth of the population of Ethiopia. Compare Tigre (people).

▪ historical region, Ethiopia
also spelled  Tegray,  Tigrai , or  Tigre 

      historical region, northern Ethiopia. Its western part rises in high-plateau country where elevations generally range between 5,000 and 11,000 feet (1,500 and 3,300 metres). The region is drained by the Tekeze and Gash (Gash River) (Mareb) rivers. To the east lies the Denakil Plain, including the Kobar Sink (some 380 feet [116 metres] below sea level).

      Tigray contains the core of the ancient Aksumite (Aksum) kingdom and the historic settlements of Aksum, the kingdom's capital; Yeha, a ruined town of great antiquity; and Adwa, the site of a battle in 1896 in which the Italian invading force was defeated.

      Although vegetation is sparse, most of Tigray's population is engaged in agriculture (cereals, legumes, coffee, and cotton) and stock raising. Hides and skins are important exports. Salt and potash from desert deposits are also exported. The region, which has long been home to the Tigray people, also supports the Raya, Azebo, Afar, and Agew peoples.

      By controlling the Red Sea ports of Massawa (Mitsiwa) and Asseb, Tigray became the region through which trading caravans reached the seat of the empire to the south. After it lost the coast to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, the region lost status, and thereafter, with the brief exception of Yohannes IV (reigned 1872–89), its princes were dominated by the rulers of the Gonder and Shewa regions to the south. It was also under constant threat from Egyptian, Sudanese, British, and Italian armies trying to penetrate to the interior. After occupation by Italy (1935–41), it was governed by officials appointed from the national capital in Addis Ababa.

      In 1975 the Tigray (Tigrayan) People's Liberation Front began a protracted rebellion against the military government. This conflict aggravated a disastrous drought and famine between 1984 and 1985, which the government tried to ameliorate by forcibly relocating hundreds of thousands of peasants to well-watered regions in the south and west. An international outcry led to the suspension of this program, but by then it had led to the deaths of some 100,000 people, and hundreds of thousands more sought refuge from civil war and famine in The Sudan and Djibouti. Tigray forces liberated the region in 1989 and supported the overthrow of the Ethiopian national government in 1991. Their victory resulted in the replacement of an Amhara-dominated government with one led by Tigray leaders, a source of continuing conflict throughout the 1990s.

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Universalium. 2010.

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