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Armenia Central and Eastern Europe Europe

Artsakh

Stories and Photos from my travels to a country that doesn’t exists.

Destination 》EuropeCentral and Eastern Europe  》Artsakh

Year Visited: 2018 – July

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During my backpacking trip through Central and Eastern European countries, from Yerevan, Armenia, I joined a three days organized tour to unrecognized Republic of Artshakh.

Warning: Every government in the world issue travel warning against visiting Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) region as it can be extremely dangerous, it is a conflict zone and war can occur at any moment between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Nagorno-Karabakh as U.S. government employees are restricted from traveling there.

Artsakh, formerly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a self-proclaimed republic of the former Soviet Union, recognized by NO country in the world. It is located in the south of Caucasus region, laying between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is located within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders but run by ethnic Armenians.

This landlocked enclave is the subject of a territorial and ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and was subject of a devastating war during 1991 to 1994, which cost around 30,000 lives and displaced a million people, that is more than 5 times current population of Artsakh which is less than 200,000.

At present, Azerbaijan maintains its claim on this conflicted region, though Artsakh has kept its de facto autonomy. As a matter of fact, Artsakh can only be accessed through Armenia, and it is considered illegal entry into Azerbaijani territory by Azerbaijani authorities.

I will keep my focus on Photos and will not go in detail about politics and war, though I highly recommend that anyone planning to visit this unrecognized country should read the history and about it’s conflict. 

Artsakh is a mountainous region with average altitude being 1,100 m (3,600 ft).
Gates to Artsakh, a monument in the mountains near Kornidzor, on the border between contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
The first view of Artsakh, as the road emerges from the mountain pass in Armenia. You can see Artsakh border post in the distance.
Artsakh Border Post.
Welcome to Artsakh, a country that doesn’t exist, as NO country in the world, Including Armenia, willing to recognize its existence.
In the Artsakh Territory, at the border with Armenia, an Armenian flag on the left and Artsakh flag on the right.

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Stepanakert (Armenian) or Khankendi (Azerbaijani), originally called Vararakn, is the capital and the largest city of the de facto Republic of Artsakh. As of 2015, the population of Stepanakert is 55,200, one third of the total population of Artsakh.

The Presidential Palace in the Renaissance Square known commonly as Veratsnound, the main square in Stepanakert. The square has open-air park, plenty of restaurants and clubs. The square was very busy in the evening with many families and kids.
The Coat of Arms and a National Flag of Republic of Artsakh on top of the Presidential Palace.
The National Bank of Artsakh, also has a branch in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
A very impressive door of Artsakh State Museum of Local History.

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“We Are Our Mountains” locally known as “Tatik-Papik” (Grandma and Grandpa), is a large monument north of Stepanakert, the capital city of Artsakh. The sculpture, completed in 1967, is widely regarded as a symbol of the Armenian heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh. The monument is made from volcanic tufa and depicts an old man and woman hewn from rock, representing the mountain people of Karabakh. The sculpture is prominent in Artsakh’s coat of arms.

Souvenir vendors around Tatik-Ppapik monument.
Every street light pole of the capital city of Stepanakert had the Coat of Arms and the National Flag of Artsakh.
The main agricultural fair (Shooka or Bazar) of Artsakh.
A vendor selling hundreds of types of pickles; Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh is famous for its picklings. Seems like they can pickle almost anything! These pickles are very much in demand all over Armenia.
The famous Artsakhian dish, Zhengyalov Hats (flatbread with greens), which is baked with 21 different greens, some of these greens are found only in Artsakh.
At the Renaissance Square in front of The Presidential Palace.

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Photos below are of many interesting places we visited during next two days in Artsakh.

Stepanakert Airport, a non-functioning airport near Stepanakert. As the airport lies within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan, and the current government is unrecognized by the world, there is no code for this airport in the official IATA list.
Askeran fortress, glorious walls of this 18th century fortress are visible from the road leading to Tigranakert Reserve, 14 km east of Stepanakert.
One of the watchtower of Askeran fortress
Abandoned Tank near Askeran fortress, a war relics leftover from the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
Shahbulag Castle, an 18th-century fortress near the war-torn city of Aghdam.
The Shahbulag castle remains an important historic and cultural remnant of the Karabakh Khanate period. The castle has been restored and a small museum is opened inside the castle, storing artifacts found during ongoing excavation efforts at the adjacent archaeological site of Tigranakert from 2nd-1st century B.C.
Gagik Avsharyan’s restored T-72 tank stands as a memorial commemorating the Liberation of Shushi. It was the first significant military victory by Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Shushi was the most important military stronghold that Azerbaijan held in Nagorno-Karabakh – its loss marked a turning point in the war, and led to a series of military victories by Armenian forces in the course of the conflict.
Holy Savior Cathedral, commonly referred to as Ghazanchetsots is an Armenian Apostolic cathedral in Shushi. The cathedral was originally built between 1868 and 1887 and was damaged during the 1920 conflict. During the Nagorno-Karabakh War Azerbaijan used the cathedral as an armory to store hundreds of missiles. The cathedral was restored and reconsecrated in 1998. Standing 35 metres (115 ft) high, Ghazanchetsots is one of the largest Armenian churches in the world.
Breathtaking view of the Hunot Gorge near Shoushi.

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Amaras is one of most important monastery of The Armenian Apostolic Church; it was founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator at the start of the fourth century. It is the burial place of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s grandson, St. Grigoris. At the beginning of the fifth century Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian Alphabet, established here the first-ever school that used his script.

Defensive walls of Amaras Monastery.
Entrance gate of Amaras Monastery.
This new church, dedicated to St. Grigoris, was built in 1858 and paid for by the Armenians of the city of Shusha.
Resident kittens of the Monastery.

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Gandzasar is a 13th-century Armenian Apostolic cathedral near the village of Vank. It has historically been the region’s most important church. One of the best pieces of Armenian architecture of the mid-1200s.

When we arrived, a local was performing for tourist out side of the monastery.
Gandzasar contains the largest amount of sculpted decor compared to other architectural ensembles of Armenia. Two Lions at the door, a symbol of the Vakhtangian princes.
Inside the church; I like that single narrow window.
Inside the church.

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During our visit to the church, we witnessed some local religious celebration.

breathtaking view surrounding the ancient Gandzasar monastery

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Many of 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts are on display in the museum that is part of Gandzasar Monastery.

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The magnificent Dadivank is one of the beautiful churches of Artsakh. It was built in the 9th-13th centuries. The church is located on the slopes of Dadivan Mountain near the village of Dadivank. According to a legend, the monastery was founded by St. Dadi – one of the followers of Apostle Thaddeus who spread Christianity in Armenia during the 1st century.

St Dadi’s church
Inside the main church.
The monk who take cares of this monastery.

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Agdam is a ghost town in South West Azerbaijan and part of the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the war of 1993, the town was captured by Armenian forces and the residents forced to flee, leaving it as a ghost town. At Present, the area is abandoned and used as a buffer zone between Azeri and Armenian forces. As the area is considered part of a war zone it is officially off-limits for tourists.

The mosque in the historic center was, and still is, considered the main sight in Agdam, also appearing on Azerbaijani stamps.

Virtually all the buildings of Agdam are destroyed, and driving through the ruins is a surrealistic experience.

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Few pictures below are of military weapon storage and/or maintenance facility.

My Favorite Soviet Era Truck

After 3 days in this self-proclaimed republic of Artsakh, we drove back to Yerevan, Armenia. To continue my journey through the Central and Eastern European countries, I flew to Minsk, Belarus.

By Window on The World

In May 2017, 23 days before I was going to complete 50 years, grabbed an opportunity and took an early retirement.. Picked up a backpack and traveling ever since.. Love to travel around the world, experience different culture, local cuisine & drinks .. and take pictures.. so far been to 108 countries and still counting...

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