Known by the name Artsakh to its inhabitants and to Armenians, the alternative name Nagorno-Karabakh dates from the Khanate of Karabakh’s formal entry to the Russian Empire in 1813 – Nagorno being Russian for ‘mountainous’. Karabakh is Turkish for ‘black garden’.
Nagorno-Karabakh is inhabited by ethnic Armenians, the language of Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenian and even the currency is Armenian. However, Nagorno-Karabakh is not part of Armenia: it has its own government with its own foreign ministry, its own military, its own flag, its own stamps and its own national anthem. Despite all this, its existence as a state is unrecognized by any other state.
Welcome to another place that doesn’t exist…
The pictures below are presented in chronological order over a visit of about a week. My intent with sharing these landscapes is to provide you with a better feel for what Nagorno-Karabakh looks and feels like. I hope I succeed. And for those pictures taken through the windshield of the car, I do apologize for the occasional smear of the remains of an unfortunate insect that appear in the picture:
From Goris, Armenia the road crosses the so-called Lachin corridor through what had been, since 1929, part of Azerbaijan proper before reaching the sign below…
Welcome to Nagorno-Karabakh:
Nagorno-Karabakh’s pre-1994 boundaries start just before this town shown below… The town is just up the hill from the checkpoint between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh:
The road twisting through the mountains that give Nagorno-Karabakh its name:
A building destroyed in the war… These are so numerous in Nagorno-Karabakh that I will not bore you with repeating such pictures here:
Soldiers working along the road…
One of the main military bases in Nagorno-Karabakh, this is located between Stepanakert and Askeran:
This fortress, known as Mayraberd, is located just before the town of Askeran:
And this is Askeran… Pretty inspiring place, huh?
A restored Armenian T-72, knocked out of commission while attacking Azerbaijani positions in Askeran, serves as a war memorial on the outskirts of the town. The barrel of the gun is pointing toward Azerbaijan:
The grasslands of Nagorno-Karabakh, stretching away to the Azerbaijani border:
This is the town of Martakert which is very close to the front lines:
Another, smaller, military base:
An armored troop carrier destroyed in the war:
This memorial was next to the troop carrier:
Another view of the rolling grasslands in the direction of Azerbaijan:
Contending with land mines keeps a lot of people busy in Nagorno-Karabakh:
Up in the mountains, the forests can be quite lush and thick:
And the roads can be quite terrible:
A view down into a small valley from the mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh:
A freshly harvested field of hay:
This is a view down on to the village of Vank taken from Gandzasar Monastery:
And this is Gandzasar Monastery… This working monastery was founded in 1216 and the church was built between 1232 and 1238:
A number of the graves in the cemetery around the church hold the remains of those killed in the Nagorno-Karabakh War:
Driving through the countryside:
The ubiquitous military presence even in the middle of nowhere:
Interesting that for a place that doesn’t exist, Nagorno-Karabakh could be at the center of future wars which threaten the region and the wider world.