Nagorno-Karabakh: Exploring the Unrecognised Republic of Artsakh

Nestled in the mountains between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a tiny breakaway republic is struggling for outside recognition.Nagorno-Karabakh– known also as theArtsakh Republic– is what’s sometimes referred to as a ‘post-Soviet frozen conflict zone’: a disputed region that became a place of heated territorial battles following the break-up of the USSR. Like德涅斯特河沿岸andAbkhazia,it exists today in a state of political limbo.

According to most of the world, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is a part of Azerbaijan. By the 1990s however, this previously autonomous Soviet territory was largely inhabited by ethnic Armenians – so when Soviet borders fell and the land defaulted to Azerbaijan’s control, many local Armenians were none too impressed. Since February 1988, in fact, they had been demonstrating in the streets and calling for a union with Armenia; so when Azerbaijan moved to deny the region its autonomous rights in November 1991, the response was a referendum for complete secession. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh voted overwhelmingly for independence, at which point Azerbaijan boycotted the process and began deploying military troops. The ensuing war continued until May 1994, when Russia entered to help broker a reluctant ceasefire.

That ceasefire (mostly) continues to this day. The entire length of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed, the countries are no longer on speaking terms, and in the Karabakh mountains to the south where a population of some 150,000 ethnic Armenians live in a self-declared republic on the Azeri side of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, tensions tend to run higher than anywhere else.

在2017年八月,我去通过纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫客场之旅的朋友们。这里是什么样子参观。


The first view of Nagorno-Karabakh, as the road emerges from the mountain pass from Armenia.
The first view of Nagorno-Karabakh, as the road emerges from the mountain pass from Armenia.

进入纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫

Starting in Yerevan, Armenia, we drove east and then south along the lake’s edge to get there – from the town of Sevan in the north, where the iconic shape of theLake Sevan Writers’ Resortbuilding juts precariously out from the hillside, and down along the eastern bank where the mountains meet the water. Those same mountains define the geography of Nagorno-Karabakh, its name meaning, literally, “High Karabakh”; and as we left the lake behind, turned east through the first of many dramatic passes, I wondered more than once how difficult a place this much have been to wage a war.

亚美尼亚边境的容易miss. There was a guard hut beside the road but no barrier, nothing but our good judgement to prevent us from driving on by and into the unrecognised republic. At a turn in the road a car had pulled over, and a border guard was leant in one side talking to the driver. We diligently pulled up behind and waited. When our turn came, the guard wanted to know why we were visiting the Republic of Artsakh; “tourism,” we said, and that seemed to be enough. He told us to get our paperwork on arrival in the capital, Stepanakert; he told us not to visit Agdam; and then the guard waved us through and retreated to his hut.


Agdam, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh Republic).
Agdam.

The roads were better here. That’s the first thing I noticed: good roads, smooth tarmac. We would see more being freshly surfaced, later, as we drove through the rest of Artsakh. But all thoughts of infrastructure left my mind when we rounded the first corner on the road, drove out of the pass and the landscape fell away before us. That view through the mountains was breathtaking. We had to stop and take it in, pulling up in gravel at a corner where the tight mountain road broke out to the plateau’s edge to begin its winding descent. There was a small memorial park on the corner. Two tanks watched the road, one lifted up on a pedestal of orange-pink tufa, the other rusting in the gravel nearby. Most likely both were casualties of the war, memorialised where they fell.


被遗弃的坦克纪念纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
Beside the mountain road into Nagorno-Karabakh, two retired tanks have been arranged as a makeshift memorial to the war.

被遗弃的坦克纪念纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。被遗弃的坦克纪念纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。

We drove for the rest of the day through fields of yellowed grass, past more broken tanks, through ridge after ridge of blasted, sun bleached mountains and the smell of asphalt. The road took us close to Agdam – the place we’d been warned to keep away from. The city of Agdam sits right on the border between Azerbaijan and the self-declared Artsakh Republic. Today it is no more than a ghost town, though – the war destroyed it back in 1993. We couldn’t see the city from the main road, only its outskirts: ruined stone buildings disappearing off beyond the ridge, hinting at greater devastation in the valley beyond.


18世纪Askeran要塞遗址。纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
18世纪Askeran要塞遗址。
Young tourists play on a memorialised tank. Nagorno-Karabakh.
Young tourists play on another memorialised tank.

在谈到阿格达姆附近地区地图的印刷足够大过路司机阅读,和关闭,以东部这表明在红色禁入区。后来有人告诉我这些红色区域表明境外里人狙击手的范围。这些红色阴影区域之间,虽然生命去 - 我们通过了一日游的家庭,锯游客探索18世纪Askeran要塞,从卡拉巴赫汗国的时间残余的石塔。在干净的白鞋taxidermied坦克打孩子,而他们的父母遮阳篷下喝啤酒。他们的汽车都有亚美尼亚的车牌号码。

Close by, on the road to the capital, we passed what looked like a military base. An old red star decorated the metal gates, a hangover from past eras, while a sentry watched the gate. Outside, on the road, a simple bus stop had been painted up in military camouflage colours. The sentry gave us one disinterested glance as we drove by and then we were gone, speeding through yellow fields on the last leg to the Artsakh capital.


Mountain view from the highway. Artsakh Republic.
View from the highway.

We Are Our Mountains

By late afternoon we reached Stepanakert. Visitors approaching the city from the north are greeted by an extraordinary sight: two stone heads, vast, orange, and almost cartoonish in their depiction of an elderly couple in traditional local dress. The sculpture – titled ‘We Are Our Mountains’ – was created in 1967 by Sargis Baghdasaryan, and represents the mountain people who populate the Karabakh region. As a symbol of local Armenian identity, the two heads appear on the Artsakh coat of arms and locals sometimes refer to the couple as ‘tatik-papik,’ or ‘grandma-grandpa.’

We stopped to admire the monument for a while. Vendors had set up stalls at the base selling homewares and handicrafts – plates, cups, chess sets – as well as souvenir t-shirts, coins, and wristbands with the slogan: “I Love Armenia.” Even the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh is a love letter to Armenia, the same three colours but here with the addition of a white zigzag representing Artsakh’s separation from Armenia.


We Are Our Mountains: a monumental sculpture by Sargis Baghdasaryan (1967) that celebrates Armenian heritage and identity. Nagorno-Karabakh.
“我们是我们的山”:由萨金斯·巴格达萨里恩(1967年),庆祝当地传统和身份的纪念雕塑。

亚美尼亚s have been living in Nagorno-Karabakh for a very, very long time. Some scholars say they arrived in the 2nd century BC – others, as early as the 7th century BC. Though Karabakh would change over the following centuries in relation to the ever-shifting balance of power in the Caucasus (with the Arabs, the Persians, the Russians, the Turks and others all vying for influence in the region) it would nevertheless remain an亚美尼亚place, predominantly inhabited and typically governed by Armenians. That is, until Britain and the Soviet Union got involved.

British forces briefly occupied Karabakh following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Nagorno-Karabakh is sandwiched between two Turkic nations, with Turkey to the west and Azerbaijan to the east (a former Azeri president, Heydar Aliyev, once described them as “one nation with two states”). In 1920 the British command appointed an Azeri leader as the governor-general in Karabakh, which resulted in protests and armed revolt amongst the Armenian population before the decision was overturned. The Bolsheviks, when they arrived soon after, promised to keep Karabakh with Armenia; however, that promise was broken when Joseph Stalin decided there was more value in placating the Turks than there was in keeping faith with the Armenians. Thus, in July 1923, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was founded as a dependent state of the Azerbaijan SSR. The Azeri population began to grow (there have even been accusations that the Azeri Soviet government was attempting a forcedAzerificationof the region) and by the time new post-Soviet borders were drawn, Azerbaijan got to keep control of the territory.

Today, not even Armenia itself formally recognises Artsakh’s independence – a diplomatic move, perhaps – though culturally, they do continue to celebrate the Armenian history of the region. In 2009 it caused a row at the Eurovision Song Contest, when footage of ‘We Are Our Mountains’ in Stepanakert was spliced into Armenia’s introduction video.


斯捷潘纳克特纪念碑在纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。摊位卖纪念品,手工艺品,和亲亚美尼亚的小饰品。
Beneath the monument stalls sell souvenirs, handicrafts, and pro-Armenian trinkets.

留下的纪念碑和航向进入城市,我们立即跑进我们的住宿问题:也就是说,在制作的Airbnb主机根本没有回答他们的电话。我们建立了营地公寓,看起来出在金属框架儿童游乐场附近的一个咖啡馆,一会儿我劫持了片状的WiFi尝试和电子邮件给我们的主机。但是,他们从来没有回我,经过两次苦,过调制的咖啡,我不认为我们任何人都可能面临另一饮料等我们离开时,打了第一家酒店,我们可以找到。

The hotel was basic, a sterile post-war new-build, and our room for three came with everything we needed but not an iota more. It was cheap, however, it was central, and though communication between us didn’t come easily the staff were nevertheless friendly. I got the impression they didn’t see many Western tourists here.


The Palace of Culture and Youth in downtown Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Palace of Culture and Youth in downtown Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.

许多斯捷潘纳克特车辆都是前一个时代的遗迹。纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
许多斯捷潘纳克特车辆都是前一个时代的遗迹。

我们决定吃晚饭在韩国网路外交使节团那天晚上 - 我们会在路上经过的一个小村庄,一些45公里回来。这并不是说斯捷潘纳克特没有足够的自己的餐馆,但第二天我们计划向南行驶;韩国网路外交使节团是北方,我们就没有机会去,所有账户有一对夫妇的相当奇怪的事情,看看那里。

谷歌地图将其称为50分钟的车程。我们花了更长的时间,当然,但至少在途中对韩国网路外交使节团,我们仍然对我们这边的日光。道路狭窄弯曲,并通过山腰雕刻它的方式,有时会扭曲本身右后卫循环非常严重,他们觉得好像他们无视任何地理逻辑。这是值得的,但一看折衷酒店,疯狂的,后现代主义的船形建筑,从而彻底bamboozling,我完全忘了拍摄它(幸运的是,虽然,this guy did). We ate in the restaurant there – rabbit stew was on the menu, served with dogwood juice and cognac – and after dinner I took a walk to photograph a nearby rockface carved into the likeness of a lion.


Behind the Sea Stone Hotel in Vank, Nagorno-Karabakh, a rocky hillside has been carved into the shape of a lion.
Behind the Sea Stone Hotel in Vank, Nagorno-Karabakh, a rocky hillside has been carved into the shape of a lion.

Vank is not a normal village, but its abnormality is no accident. A local Vank man,Levon Hairapetian,left the village to seek his fortune and went on to amass incredible wealth and influence most notably through his involvement in the privatisation of Russian energy suppliers in the 1990s. Now splitting his time between homes in Russia, Armenia, France and the US, Hairapetian has made the redevelopment of his hometown into a hobby: building quirky hotels and a new hospital, fixing the roads, restoring the cathedral, and yes, carving a lion into a hillside.

Stepanakert

We spent the next day exploring Stepanakert. The atmosphere on the streets was a strange mixture of apathy and subtle tension: like a lazy Sunday afternoon on a military base. Young soldiers smoked cigarettes on corners while a trickle of pedestrians ambled slowly through the streets. More sat in cafes, sheltered from the hot sun. Flowers bloomed in well-tended beds between buildings that ranged from Stalinist-classical townhouses, constructed here from soft orange-pink Armenian stone, to space-age steel and glass creations like the Modernist Palace of Youth and Culture. Overhead, flags and banners fluttered between lampposts, bearing slogans like: “There is no alternative to independence.”


旗帜和横幅政治上面飞一个广告牌葡萄酒和白兰地。Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.
旗帜和横幅政治上面飞一个广告牌葡萄酒和白兰地。(如果我不得不选择只有一个照片总结斯捷潘纳克特,这是它。)

On Google Maps the city is marked as ‘Khankendi’ – its Azeri name – though none of its Azeri citizens are still around to call it that. At a population of roughly 55,000 people, it’s hardly a metropolis: we more or less walked from one end to the other in a few hours, stopping first for our official business at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tourist visas for Nagorno-Karabakh can be acquired either in Yerevan, or on arrival in Stepanakert by visiting the ministry in person. We did the latter and the staff at the Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs (located on the central Azatamartikneri Avenue) were, I think, perhaps the friendliest bureaucrats I’ve ever met in the former Soviet territories. There was no queue – instead, a young, suited man popped his head out when we arrived, and he immediately came over to give us a warm greeting. “Just wait here ten minutes,guys,” he said as he took our passports then disappeared back into the office.


A main street in downtown Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.
A main street in downtown Stepanakert. Note the fuel price: somewhere around 380-400 Armenian Dram (roughly €0.75 EUR) per litre.

The lobby of the ministry building was decorated with panels that showed off the tourism highlights of Nagorno-Karabakh. The standard of written English was excellent, I noted, better even than the English-language brochures produced by some EU member states. We had felt like a novelty at times, when meeting with the people of the region – but it seemed the local government at least was very keen to have us here.

“Okay, they’re ready!” said the ministry man, suddenly returning with our passports. He gave us a thumbs-up as he walked into the lobby. It hadn’t felt like ten minutes, but we paid our fees (amounting to roughly 5 euros each) and we were good to go.


Monument to the Fallen in the Great Patriotic War. Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.
The central obelisk at the Monument to the Fallen in the Great Patriotic War. Located on the edge of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.

在外面的街道上我立刻被一个陌生人搭话。我想她是第一个要钱。她以俄语发言快,有关于她绝望的样子,不停抚摸我的手臂,她说话。bepaly投注世界杯沙巴体育线上娱我明白了一点点 - 足以认识到,第一,她不乞讨。我问她说话慢,当她这样做,我明白,她的哥哥是在乌克兰的分裂控制的卢甘斯克地区的战斗(目前自称“卢甘斯克人民共和国”)。她很害怕他,虽然我努力跟进时,她又开始说话快,我还是做出来的偶尔的话:“死亡”,“狙击手” ......“炸弹”?

She asked me if I spoke German.Not well enough for this conversation,我试图解释 - 德国。我一定是虽然非常屠杀,因为她笑了起来。然后她开始哭泣。女人再最后一次紧紧握住我的胳膊,然后转身走了。我希望她好;“维耶尔格吕克”和“做svidaniya。”

I realised, after she left, that I’d never asked which side her brother was fighting for in Ukraine. But maybe it didn’t matter.


Soviet war memorial in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh.
从火山石雕古好看的脸装饰苏联时期的战争纪念碑。

我还在想着遭遇后,当我们参观了斯捷潘纳克特bepaly投注世界杯沙巴体育线上娱的纪念二战的士兵;或者他们在这里称呼它,“给逝者的纪念碑在伟大的卫国战争。”纪念馆复杂坚持一个类似的公式,因为所有那些亚美尼亚Soviet monumentsI wrote about last year: a generic pro-Soviet message but presented here with just enough local idiosyncrasy as to make it feel personal. The central obelisk with its hammer and sickle crest – still intact – was carved from the iconic local tufa stone. Visitors to the complex pass through a stairwell embossed with the dates “1941-1944” in strong, loud characters, before reaching a plaza decorated with traditional Karabakh-style pitchers, and an arch carved with a series of surprisingly expressive stone faces in an almost Grecian style.

基督教的十字架是一个更近的另外虽然,我猜。在纪念广场的顶端,在排石的正面刻展现苏联士兵,干净,白色的塔矗立在交叉突破了亚美尼亚东正教教堂的风格。几乎可以肯定,苏联解体后,如果这一直是任何其他国家(比如,立陶宛和乌克兰),我会采取它decommunisation的症状:对死者的重新致力于,而且,也许是在以自己的方式有些小的反苏手势。这里虽然在Artsakh,土地最近猛烈地从主要伊斯兰阿塞拜疆控制夺取,基督教符号可以很容易地一直蔑视的手势指着巴库,而不是在莫斯科。


斯捷潘纳克特的二战纪念碑。纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
Stepanakert’s WWII memorial now features a white stone church tower – more than likely a post-Soviet addition.

Agdam

我们在纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫的最后一个早晨我们决定让在阿格达姆一探究竟。我们曾听过这个名字这么多次(通常在上下文“don’t go to Agdam”), that at some point, it became kind of inevitable that we’d try. Whatever else it was, all those warnings gave the distinct impression that Agdam was at leastsignificant

Back along that same stretch of highway, where the red zones to the east marked the range of enemy snipers, we approached the Agdam turn-off very slowly. There was a car behind us so we let it overtake, and we idled until it was out of sight before turning fast down the lane marked on my map, down a dust road flanked in sun-scorched plains. Ahead of us, broken stone structures littered the dead grass. It didn’t look like much from here – the remains of no more than a village, perhaps – but winding deeper into the fields, further from the highway, the ruins grew denser and more numerous until we crested a rise and the city of Agdam appeared before us. Or, what was left of Agdam, at least.


驶入阿格达姆,纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫的被破坏的城市。
Driving into Agdam, a first view of the ruined city.

即使剩下的纳戈尔诺-卡拉巴赫是predominantly Armenian, Agdam was 97% Azeri up until the last Soviet census. During the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the Azeri forces had used Agdam as a staging post for troops, and a base for launching their missiles and bombs to the west. The Azeri army committed heinous acts in Nagorno-Karabakh. In April 1992 they massacred a whole village of Armenian civilians inMaraga;他们有针对性的教堂和其他文化sites in an effort to purge the region of Armenian culture. In 1993, the Armenian army pushed back and captured Agdam from the Azeris. According to a report from Human Rights Watch, the Armenians themselves then violated the rules of war, as they forcibly chased Azeris out of their homes in an act of violent ethnic cleansing. When the Azeris were gone, the Armenian forces destroyed what was left of Agdam; leaving the city, once numbering 24,000 citizens, as a smoking, ruined ghost town.


阿格达姆在其鼎盛时期。纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
阿格达姆在其鼎盛时期。Photographer(s) unknown. More imageshere

被遗弃的建筑物在阿格达姆,纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
Agdam today: and this building is in better condition than most.

The Armenian army did a good job of wiping Agdam from the map. Where once there had been streets and houses, now only scattered frames, doorways and pillars still stood, while young trees filled out the spaces in between. At first glance the ruins might have looked ancient, like the vestiges of some long-gone empire – that’s how little was left of the city today, after war and looting and decay. Here and there amongst the stones though, lay burned-out vehicle chassis, bits of wrought-iron fence and strands of jagged rebar poking out from piles of concrete rubble. Scattered clues hinting at the freshness of the tragedy.

We parked the car on what was presumably once the edge of the city centre: where devastated stone cottages gave way to larger concrete shells. Half hidden by bushes nearby, an Azeri-Cyrillic slogan announced some Soviet-era political sentiment in faded red letters; the words “Party” and “People” were amongst the few still legible. We walked through the rubble, towards the centre of Agdam.


Political slogans on a devastated building. Agdam, Artsakh Republic.
Political slogans on a devastated building. The words “Party” and “People” are still just legible.

Abandoned bus in Agdam, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh Republic).
一个阿格达姆少数车辆尚未拆解报废。

The city was a corpse in the final stages of butchering – metal mostly stripped, a lone digger sat stationary beside a mound of crumbled marble – and we weren’t alone here either. A military-style truck was hidden in a discreet parking space between two dirt piles; while one of the bomb-scarred houses we passed looked distinctly lived-in, with curtains on the windows and a new lock on the door.

Being stealthy isn’t easy on the terrain of a former war zone. We did our best to creep around the backs of buildings, watching out for snakes, while trying not to trip on rocks and rebar… and knowing full well that if our rental car was spotted first, we were already as good as caught. Nevertheless we slowly made our way towards the minarets that rose above the former streets, marking the location of Agdam’s main mosque on the city square.


Archive photo of Agdam's central mosque. Nagorno-Karabakh.
Agdam中央清真寺在更好的时代。同样,越南河粉tographer(s) unknown. More imageshere

Mosque in Agdam, Nagorno-Karabakh.
The mosque today, standing over a field of rubble.
Park and fountains have given way to weeds and ruin. Agdam, Nagorno-Karabakh.
Plazas and fountains have given way to weeds and ruin.

Agdam’s mosque, according to archive photos, used to open onto landscaped gardens with pools and fountains, its twin minarets rising amongst trees over an elegant Persian-style park. Now it’s a wonder those minarets are still standing at all. These brick towers, and the building they’re attached to, stand forlorn in a field of dead grass and building debris.

We crept behind the back of the mosque, out of sight from the city streets, then quickly ducked around, inside, and up the stairs. The interiors were devastated. High, arched ceilings resting on ornate pillars sheltered nothing now but dust and stone, while graffiti – etched in Latin, Armenian and Cyrillic scripts – spread as high up the walls as human arms could reach. Track marks in the walls showed where copper cables had been stripped out by looters.


The interior of Agdam's mosque has been burned, looted and graffitied. Agdam, Nagorno-Karabakh.
阿格达姆的清真寺的内部已被烧毁,抢劫和绘有涂鸦。

阿格达姆,纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫废弃的清真寺。阿格达姆,纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫废弃的清真寺。


Abandoned mosque in Agdam, Republic of Artsakh.
An incredible space destroyed by ethnic conflicts.

A stairwell near the entrance led up onto the roof, where grass had taken root between the mosque’s brick domes. From there the minarets beckoned: an arch led inside to a spiral staircase, a steep stone passage winding up towards what promised to be the best views left over Agdam. I followed it to the top.


On the mosque's domed roof, an entrance to one of the minarets. Agdam, Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the mosque’s domed roof, an entrance to one of the minarets.

The scale of the city – the scale of the tragedy – became more apparent from this vantage point. At ground level the ruins pressed in close, just one row of buildings at a time, while the fear of getting caught made it hard to step out of the present; to reflect on what this place might once have been. Up here in the minaret though Agdam revealed itself. Block after city block of empty houses, devastated parks, overgrown roads… 24,000 people chased out of their homes, an entire city put to the torch.


A view of Agdam from above. Nagorno-Karabakh.
A view of Agdam from above: looking down on the main street from the top of a minaret.

一个孤独的身影漫步阿格达姆了空无一人的街道。纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫。
一个孤独的身影漫步阿格达姆了空无一人的街道。

I saw a movement then, down amongst the hulking blocks that littered the former city square. A young man in camo fatigues was strolling the streets – too confident to be here illicitly, like us, I guessed he was perhaps connected to the nearby military base, either here for some training exercise, or else on security detail. I held my breath for a moment… he hadn’t seen us. Nearby a dog began barking, then another.

访问阿格达姆的处罚似乎取决于谁抓住你改变。一些游客报告严厉的告诉过兵从,有他们的照片删除了,然后被他们的方式发送。其他时候,你可能会付出现金在手费为容易退出。然而,它也完全内侍卫的力量把你通过拘留和审问的官僚地狱,这是东西,我们都不希望看到的。因此,我们在清真寺的圣域等到陌生人就这样过去了,然后我们做了我们以最快的速度和谨慎,我们可以回到车上方式,拍摄回公路尘土飞扬,我们离开了死城的背后。


废墟建筑阿格达姆,纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫(Artsakh共和国)。
不管这个建筑曾经是,只有它的入口仍然有效。

从阿格达姆的道路。Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh Republic).
从阿格达姆的道路。

We left Nagorno-Karabakh that same day; driving back through Stepanakert, south past Shusha and Berdzor on a road signed to Goris, Armenia. The road folded into the mountain pass near a village called Zabux, and there a monument stood on the plateau facing northeast: our last view of the land we were leaving behind. Other cars came and went, passing motorists stopped to admire the view – snap photos on their smartphones and then leave.

纪念碑本身带着花岗岩山,雕有窗和拱门的设计让人联想到亚美尼亚东正教教堂的形式。与全景背后相结合,它给我的印象当地亚美尼亚人的身份一个强有力的象征。这些果断山民俗,仍然强于他们的宗教信仰迫害,甚至数百年之后:似乎整个亚美尼亚的历史呼应,从阿塞拜疆的冲突,回到他们的种族灭绝下的脚垫,和前一个主题。

All the more reason then to keep tourists out of Agdam… because at Agdam, it was the victims of this particular narrative who committed violent ethnic cleansing against the families of their oppressors.


The Gates of Artsakh – a monument near Zabux, on the southern road out of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
The Gates of Artsakh – a monument near Zabux, on the southern road out of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Visiting Nagorno-Karabakh

Before I visited Nagorno-Karabakh, numerous people told me it was impossible – or at least, not safe to try. The more I researched it though, the more accounts I found from people who’d travelled through independently and, for the most part, had very positive experiences. I’m adding my own account to that number.

一些友好的地方我去过were breakaway states with limited recognition. Tourism implies, if not recognition per se, at least an active interest in these places and so local people will very often bend over backwards to ensure that tourists leave with only good things to say about their *region/country* (delete as preferred). Nagorno-Karabakh is no exception. The so-called Artsakh Republic is one of the most welcoming places I’ve seen, and our three-day trip through the Karabakh mountains felt not only safe, but intellectually stimulating too. Certainly, for experienced travellers with an interest in post-Soviet geopolitics – in borders, nationalism and identity – I can’t recommend it highly enough.

It is not a trip that should be taken without caution, however. Too many travel blogs argue a place is safe simply because the author themselves had a safe experience… and I wouldn’t want to be so irresponsible here. Nagorno-Karabakh, however peaceful it may seem,is仍然是一个战区,在这里亚美尼亚(事实上的占用)和阿塞拜疆(法律上的领土功率)之间的矛盾仍然非常远没有解决。这只是三年了自上次发生暴力冲突(the ‘Four-Day War’ of April 2016) saw 350 people killed, and so it’s unwise to visit without first checking the latest news, and then paying close attention to the mood on the ground. At the slightest sign of political disturbance, you’re probably best off making a tactical retreat to Yerevan.

I should also add that if you plan to visit both Nagorno-Karabakh and (*the rest of*) Azerbaijan, then do be sure to visit Azerbaijan first. Travelling from Armenia into Nagorno-Karabakh – as we did – is considered by the Azeri government as an illegal entry to their territory, and so anyone arriving in Baku airport with a Karabakh stamp already in their passport is in for a really rough time.

By the way – Nagorno-Karabakh has some fantastic architecture and monuments, and I have more photographs than I could reasonably squeeze into this post. If you’re interested to see more I’ll be uploading them to my other site,Monumentalism.net


Mountain views on the road from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

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  1. 历史和国际公法是亚美尼亚人的一面。领土完整和主权不是“sancto圣地”的原则。目前已在国际公法与引进“保护责任”(R2P),特别是自20世纪90年代,它允许一些民族的概念的演变(被理解为国际法的国家)在特定条件下与前进一个分裂和独立性。

    But even before the 1990s, the concept of self-determination is well protected within the UN system.
    在原则章“的平等权利和人民自决的原则”规定的联合国2625的1970号决议中指出:

    “By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to RESPECT this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter” […] “bearing in mind that SUBJUGATION of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a violation of the principle, as well as a denial of fundamental human rights, and is contrary to the Charter.”

    “The establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination by that people.” (Artsakh has declared its independence (1991) and wish to unite with Armenia (since early times under the USSR)).

    “Every State has the duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples referred to above in the elaboration of the present principle of their right to self-determination and freedom and independence. In their actions against, and resistance to, such forcible action in pursuit of the exercise of their right to self-determination, such peoples are entitled to seek and to receive support in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter.” (hence, when Azerbaijan acted through usage of force against the right to self-determination of Artsakh, Armenia intervened by all its rights to support Artsakh).

    “前述段落任何规定不得解释为授权或鼓励采取破坏或损害,完全或部分领土完整或主权独立国家的政治统一的行动......(在这里它正是说哪种类型的国家)...在遵从平等权利及自决如上所述,因此POSESSED表示属于上述领土不分种族,信仰或肤色的全体人民的政府的人民的原则CONDUCTING自己。”

    This UN resolution clearly shows how the principle of territorial integrity and self-determination conciliate each other. Territorial integrity depends on the way the State conducts its responsibility to protect ALL its citizens.

    Azerbaijan abolished the status of autonomy of Artsakh in 1991. Azerbaijan has continuously failed this responsibility to protect Armenians, throughout the last century and continues to fail by its state-sponsored anti-Armenian propaganda and brainwashing education, not mentioning its expansionist claims onto the territory of Armenia itself, (blessed by Turkey’s support as we saw during the last Turkic Council) and its official policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide, alongside Turkey (how could Armenians allow themselves to live onto their ancestral lands, under a State which actively denies the Armenian Genocide and justifies the eradication of the Armenian people from their homeland? Denying a genocide, is part of continuing that genocide, because you are justifying that genocide, and by doing so, continuing to deny the right of Armenians to exist in their homeland.

    这是一个违反一个强制法也m of international law condemnable by the international community. A Jus Cogens norm is a norm which is superior to all international norms and treaties, obligates all states to respect no matter what, and the violation of it can automatically justify a war: Jus Cogens norms are the inviolable norms of genocide, torture and slavery. The right to secession and independence can become also a Jus Cogens norm of international law, if the justification for secession and independence is liberation from oppression and danger of annihilation (genocide), which was (and continues to be) the case for the Armenians of Artsakh, whether in the 1990s or nowadays.
    阿塞拜疆有它的机会与一个独立的纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫来证明自己对在苏联统治70岁了什么,我们得到什么?通过对亚美尼亚人精心策划的歧视性政策,如果不减少,导致他们的人口停滞沉默的种族清洗。阿塞拜疆有这样的机会(自治地位),它失败了。马德里原则返回到已被证明失败,这一个选项仍然完全非生产性的和无效的持久解决冲突的计划。

  2. 亚美尼亚方面一直提到关于“在纳戈尔诺 - 卡拉巴赫自决的人”。bepaly投注世界杯沙巴体育线上娱请注意,民族自决的权利是现代国际法的一项基本原则的结合,因此,联合国的宪章的规范权威的解释。好吧,你不能在一天的全民公决,并宣布自己的状态,这属于另一个国家。如果它是那么容易的,想象一下将数百个国家的生活,他们是多数,甚至格鲁吉亚,土耳其,美国南部等东部地区,在俄罗斯只是发生。几乎在每一个多民族的国家也有一些区域,这些区域居住的主要是其他族群。有哪些需要传递,后来被当局如联合国证实,如果我们谈论的自决具体的法规和规章。bepaly投注世界杯沙巴体育线上娱有一次,我与亚美尼亚聊天,他提到“我的曾祖母已经从巴赫,为什么那么卡拉巴赫应该被强迫成为阿塞拜疆”。那么,卡拉巴赫是哪里不同国家的人一起生活的地方,共同的回忆。不过是你的祖母以及其他其他人的亚美尼亚种族不一定给他们宣布他们自决,这是今天的问题是没有一个联合国成员国的承认其为独立国家的权利。亚美尼亚也不能识别它,这可能会导致他们失去他们要么在联合国的席位或其他一些负面影响。 If the question is about the self-determination of what you call “Nagorno Karabakh Republic”, it cannot be done because:
    Nagorno Karabakh (and seven regions around it) is an Azerbaijani territory. Not a single country anywhere in the world says differently. Azerbaijan is an independent country, gained its independence from USSR in 1991. These territories officially recognized as an integral part of Azerbaijan since that time.
    There are four United Nations Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884), one General Assembly Resolution (62/243), one Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution (1416), which calls for the preservation of the ceasefire (during Nagorno Karabakh war), withdrawal of Armenia from recently occupied Azerbaijani Districts. Please note that, all UN Permanent and non-Permanent members voted for these resolutions at that time (Permanent members: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States).
    阿塞拜疆卡拉巴赫一直波形的一个自治状态r Azerbaijan SSR during Soviet Union (and before part of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, 1918). So I hear the same thing from Armenian fellows by saying that “Karabakh was given to Azerbaijan during Soviet period” or “when Bolsheviks came to South Caucasus”. No, it was not. When both of us declared our independence in 1918 (Azerbaijan Democratic Republic & First Republic of Armenia), delegates of Armenia and Azerbaijan attended the meeting of league of Atlanta in Paris conference (Armenian delegates arrived in January, 1919. Azerbaijani side arrived later in March) in order gain a legal status for our (both Armenia and Azerbaijan) independence. As an outcome of the meeting we both got an international recognition for our newly created states, which included Nagorno Karabakh under Azerbaijani territory. If we are going to even a past history, we will not be able to find a solution. Reminding you a point about the “Referendum that was held in Nagorno Karabakh”. So Nagorno Karabakh was an autonomous territory under Azerbaijan SSR during the Soviet Union. It had its own parliament and other legislative organisations, which were ruled under Azerbaijani SSR. In 1988, there was a referendum in Nagorno Karabakh, which were only voted by ethnic Armenian MPs (88 member of Parliament voted to be part of Armenian SSR) of Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous territory under Azerbaijan SSR. Not a single ethnic Azerbaijani MP voted (or attended the meeting of parliament). It is clear that Nagorno Karabakh was/is an ethnic problem, not a religious, not a democratic, not anything else. Voting was only held by ethnic Armenian MPs and it was very clear to see what would be the result of this referendum.
    这种公投并不被认为是合法的oviet Union (we all were part of Soviet Union in 1988). After the referendum was held, Armenians (both in Armenia & Nagorno Karabakh) started to protest and demanded Nagorno Karabakh to be given to Armenian SSR. Starting from 1986 (even before the referendum) the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia became much worse during the Soviets period. Ethnic Azerbaijanis living in the Eastern, Southern, South Eastern part of Armenia started to be deported to Azerbaijan and also after the events of Sumgayit (1988), Armenians started to leave Azerbaijan. In 1991, both Azerbaijan and Armenia declared their independence from Soviet Union and Nagorno Karabakh was recognized as a territory of Azerbaijan. Obviously, Armenians were not happy with this and we went into the war. The war continued till 1994, which ended with the ceasefire signed in Bishkek with the representatives of both sides. As a result of the war, Azerbaijan lost not only Nagorno Karabakh, but also 7 regions surrounding it. Please, note that the agreement of 1994 Bishkek ceasefire was only meant to stop military actions and to start negotiations about the problem, which did not progress since that time.
    So you may ask “what is the end of the issue?” Well, OSCE Minsk Group came up with the compromise proposal called “Madrid Principles” (Madrid, 2007 and Italy, 2009) that was accepted by Azerbaijanis and Armenians (Armenians initially accepted it). However later Armenian representatives walked away from it, which resulted to have a zero progress since that time. OSCE Madrid Principles were co-chaired by the government of Russia, United States and France, which urged Armenia to return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control, an interim status for Nagorno Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance. (For full details: Joint Statement on Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict by U.S. President Obama, Russian President Medvedev and French President Sarkozy at the L’Aquilla Summit of the Eight, July 10, 2009).
    From my objective & perspective points, 7 territories surrounding Nagorno Karabakh must be returned to Azerbaijan in order to be able to talk about the status of Nagorno Karabakh itself. The status quo for Nagorno Karabakh can be an Autonomous Republic under Azerbaijan, which can have its own parliament and other government organisations (both Armenians, Azerbaijanis can be elected). Azerbaijani side must provide the security of Nagorno Karabakh in order Armenians to be able to live there. I believe having military of Azerbaijani government is not a solution in this case. 3rd party should provide the security of this territory in order to make sure there is no threat for each side.
    Finally, Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived together for generations side-by-side in a peace and harmony. We have had bad memories in the past as well as shared good memories together. It is not easy for both of us to forget what happened in the past and simply step to the future. All the time in the history we had problems, went into the war. We have to learn our mistakes from the past and we have to remember that we cannot live with the past. Southern Caucasus region has always been invaded by Persians, Russians and others. Even bolsheviks ended our first democratic republics in the beginning of 20th century. So do we hate Russians today? Do we hate Persians? France had a 100 year war with England, do they hate each other? No. I guess while time passes, we can build relations again with each other.

  3. Ill be going there in September! I cant wait to see everything first hand. Thank you for your information and experience, it was very helpful.

  4. Really interesting once again! The breathtaking landscape mixed with complex history makes for a really interesting article. Good also to read your word of caution at the end…the fotos make it look really peaceful and tempting to go there.

  5. Love the places you visit. Thanks for sharing them with all! This post was particularly interesting.

  6. Well worth the wait. Thank you.

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