Khachaturian was trained at the Gnesiny State Musical and Pedagogical Institute in Moscow and at the Moscow Conservatory and served as a professor at both schools from 1951. He was influenced as a young composer by contemporary Western music, particularly that of Maurice Ravel. In his First Symphony (1935) and later works, this influence gave way to Khachaturian's interest in his national heritage of Armenian folk music, as well as in other folk traditions of Georgia, Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. His Second Symphony (1943) was written for the 25th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. His other works include a symphonic suite, Masquerade (1944; from incidental music to a play by Mikhail Lermontov); the ballets Happiness (1939) and Spartak (1953; "Spartacus"); a Third Symphony; a violin concerto (1940); a cello concerto (1946); and numerous shorter works. He was twice a recipient of the Stalin Prize, and he composed the music for the Armenian national anthem. He also composed film scores and incidental music.
In 1948, along with Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergey Prokofiev, Khachaturian was accused by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of bourgeois tendencies in his music. He admitted his guilt and was restored to prominence. After Stalin's death in 1953, however, he publicly condemned the Central Committee's accusation. He was named People's Artist of the Soviet Union in 1954 and was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1959.
Khachaturian's family was prominent in Soviet cultural affairs; his wife, Nina
Makarova, and his nephew, Karen Khachaturian, were also composers.