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。
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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。
The Bohemian Blogis bigger than it looks. In fact, there’s a whole restricted area hidden away behind the public pages… a space where patrons of the site can access exclusive content, book previews and private image galleries. It’s calledThe Exclusion Zone。只是赞助我的等值咖啡为每个新文章后我一杯，我会送你的密码。bepaly平台看看我的网页上Patreon要了解更多的卷入的津贴。bepaly投注世界杯沙巴体育线上娱