life through the lens
home destinations a-z the big trips about me world beers newspapers updates/links freestyle top fives street art




Location - Caucasus, Europe; Capital - Stepanakert in Armenian, called Khankendi in Azerbaijani; Population - 150,000; Currency - Armenian Dram & Azerbaijan Manat MORE NAGORNO KARABAKH

It was little over an hour by taxi from Goris in southern Armenia to the Nagorno Karabakh 'border' via the Lachin corridor, and less than two to Shusha - September 2019.

In 1921 the Soviet Union, under Stalin, transferred the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast from Soviet Armenia to Soviet Azerbaijan, despite having a majority ethnic Armenian population (but a significant Azerbaijani minority). Conflict between Nagorno Karabakh, backed by Armenia, and Azerbaijan that began in the 1980s escalated into full-scale war as the Soviet Union collapsed. The size of the modern day region occupies a larger area than the Soviet oblast, including an expansion west to join with Armenia and south to Iran. It declared itself independent as the Republic of Artsakh, though this is recognised by very few countries. Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan remain poor and their borders are closed.

November 2020 update: Following war in late 2020, a peace agreement was signed allowing Azerbaijan to retain areas they had reclaimed, including Shusha (Shushi in Armenian). In addition, the agreement stipulates Armenian withdrawal from the region linking the Karabakh border to Armenia, an area historically not part of Nagorno Karabakh. A link between Armenia and Karabakh will be retained via the Lachin corridor, protected by Russian peacekeeping forces.


armenianote1Nagorno Karabakh uses the Armenian Dram









karabakhnote1This is an old 2 Artsakh Dram note no longer in circulation, featuring Gandzasar Cathedral








azerbaijannote2Areas of Nagorno Karabakh under Azerbaijan control will no doubt use the Azerbaijan Manat from November 2020










karabakh1Does this monument indicate the 'border'? My driver spoke no English and I speak zero Armenian. As of late 2020 I believe this area will still be under Armenian control as it's along the Lachin corridor - Nagorno Karabakh border


karabakh2A welcome sign followed soon after, predominantly in Armenian script - Nagorno Karabakh border


karabakh3It's another 10-15mins drive before arrival at the immigration post. On the left is the Armenian flag, to the right is the 'Republic of Artsakh' - Nagorno Karabakh border













It's now possible to obtain a visa at the immigration post rather than reporting to offices in Stepanakert or Yerevan. Fill out the form indicating dates of stay and tick-box regions to visit. Officials then enter information on the visa sticker and hand it over - it's up to you if it goes in your passport. I was also given some sort of police registration letter to hand to officials when leaving, though no-one seemed too bothered by it. But keep hold of it just in case! November 2020 update: This info has probably gone out of the window..


karabakh6My driver dropped me off at the 19th century Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha, all-in-all less than a 2hr drive from Gori, including immigration formalities. The cathedral was closed by the Soviets in 1920 then used by the Azeris to store missiles during the 1980/90s war


karabakh12A statue of war hero Vazgen Sargsyan, who became Armenian prime minister in 1999 until his assassination a few months later. This will have been destroyed now the town's under Azerbaijan control - Shusha


karabakh14Opposite the statue is the State Museum of Fine Arts, and close by the Money Museum - Shusha














karabakh16Murals adorn a dilapidated building near the cathedral - Shusha
















karabakh18The town came under Armenian control in 1992 but there's still many buildings which are remnants of the war. It then reverted to Azerbaijan control in November 2020 - Shusha


karabakh28Restoration work is ongoing on one of the mosques in town - Shusha


karabakh22Not sure if this is a war ruin or just an unfinished apartment block - Shusha















karabakh21Shusha is set between 1,400-1,800m altitude so I'm sure this stash of logs will come in very useful in winter














karabakh33On some maps this restaurant is shown as Shusha Castle. If it is I'd hazard a guess it's a total reconstruction - Shusha


karabakh36A section of the old town walls surround the castle. Or restaurant, whatever it is - Shusha


karabakh44I went in search of more of the town walls and stumbled across what may be a covered tank in the undergrowth of hills surrounding Shusha











karabakh41The 19th century green church is at the top of one of the many sloped streets on the outskirts of town - Shusha















karabakh42A view of Ghazanchetsots Cathedral from the green church - Shusha


karabakh46The Arts Centre has a collection of old Karabakh carpets. There's a separate Carpet Museum but it was closed when I visited - Shusha


karabakh50The far left flag is that of the 'Republic of Artsakh' - Shusha















karabakh51On the south east of town is Jederduz, a park overlooking the Hunot Gorge - Shusha














karabakh64It's somehow possible to walk along the gorge bottom, following the flow of the Karkar River - Shusha














karabakh65From Jederduz you can see the Karabakh capital below, Stepanakert. Called Khankendi in Azerbaijani, this photo shows how militarily strategic the capturing of Shusha is to Azerbaijan - it's a bird's eye view, standing above the city


A much brighter, warmer day to explore Stepanakert, starting with Tatik yev Papik on the northern outskirts


karabakh74The monument is officially called We Are Our Mountains, highlighting the unity of the people with the mountains, but most translate it as Granny and Gramps - Stepanakert














karabakh76 There's a few souvenir stalls at the base of the monument - Stepanakert















karabakh83Yes that's the Artsakh flag on this guy's taxi - Stepanakert


karabakh178I had a great view from my hotel window, Hotel Sofia, located above a shopping centre and opposite the bazaar. The shopping centre has a good souvenir shop, selling Karabakh wines, brandy, vodka etc plus some local foods, cloths and handicrafts - Stepanakert


karabakh175One of the fruit & vegetable stalls in the bazaar, very much for the locals - Stepanakert














karabakh176But you can see Karabakh speciality jhingalov hats being made, a flatbread with herbs and vegetables - Stepanakert














karabakh85Presumably some military boast/celebration? Translations welcome - Stepanakert


karabakh86A little bit of street art brightening up a residential building - Stepanakert


karabakh89Shaumian Square acts as a roundabout in the centre of town - Stepanakert














karabakh177 There's a good bar-restaurant on the edge of the square with giant beanbags and alfresco dining - Stepanakert














karabakh93Love these information boards! There's several of them but I've chosen the drunken parent one - Stepanakert


karabakh87The Artsakh flag is on show throughout the region - Stepanakert


karabakh95The Stepanakert Republican Stadium - originally Josef Stalin Stadium - is used mainly for football matches - Stepanakert















karabakh180And look at this! Euro 2019 was held here, or the 2019 CONIFA European Cup to be exact, South Ossetia winning the competition - Stepanakert














karabakh97The steps leading down to the stadium (but not the entrance which is on the opposite side) - Stepanakert


karabakh100Not your usual building hoardings! - Stepanakert


karabakh106The photos depict military training/processions, the Karabakh war and Soviet-era demonstrations - Stepanakert














karabakh103Displaying military might outside the Presidential building - Stepanakert















karabakh118The Presidential building itself, on Veratsnund Square- Stepanakert


karabakh120An excellent place for an outside drink and to watch (a little of) the world go by is at the Armenia Hotel, nearly opposite the Presidential building (left) - Stepanakert


karabakh121The National Assembly is the region's parliament - Stepanakert















karabakh124Next to it is another administrative building, though not sure what - Stepanakert















karabakh123This looks like a simplified version of the Artsakh coat of arms set on the Artsakh flag - Stepanakert


karabakh115The park behind the National Assembly, from where steps lead down to the football stadium - Stepanakert


karabakh126At night the fountain illuminates and changes colour - Stepanakert















karabakh128Locals really make use of space! There's clothes lines stretching across streets everywhere in residential Stepanakert














karabakh138The Memorial Museum of Perished Soldiers evokes the poignancy of war, guided by a relative of one of the fallen soldiers - Stepanakert


karabakh135Photos of the dead dominate the museum, here with a defiant weave of Karabakh's sights alongside the Artsakh coat of arms and military weaponry - Stepanakert


karabakh137The musuem also details stories of rapprochment with fellow Azerbaijani families (a ruined Azeri flag is pictured) - Stepanakert














karabakh139 This section is dedicated to the April War of 2016, when Azerbaijan reclaimed 8-20km2 of territory - Stepanakert














karabakh145In the same courtyard is the Museum of Missing Soldiers, where - like its neighbouring museum - relatives with a smattering of English can explain displays - Stepanakert


karabakh142I'm guessing these guys are some of the fallen soldiers - Stepanakert


karabakh146The Artsakh coat of arms - Stepanakert
















karabakh147Vazgen Sarsyan Street, honouring the Armenian miltary commander during the Karabakh war - Stepanakert














karabakh148BH Brandy Co, based in Yerevan, makes Madatoff brandy as well as several wines and Karabakh fruit vodkas - Stepanakert


karabakh149A statue of Stepan Shahumian stands in front of the Artsakh flag - Stepanakert


karabakh152The Artsakh Museum of History covers Karabakh's ancient history through the Soviet era and world wars to the Karabakh war and present day. I don't recollect many informative English labels. Pretty average but the photos are worth a look - Stepanakert













karabakh153Innovative roadside plant pots - Stepanakert
















karabakh155Lightbulb moment - street art in Stepanakert


karabakh156A children's playground in need of some tender loving care - Stepanakert


karabakh157Where else would you find the Sphinx restaurant?! - Stepanakert















karabakh158Again, if you can translate this military reference please contact me - Stepanakert















karabakh160It's got character but not too sure about living there.. - Stepanakert


karabakh161The newly built Holy Mother of God Cathedral - Stepanakert


karabakh162Like Nakhchivan in Azerbaijan the balcony wars become a bit silly, extension upon extension... - Stepanakert














karabakh163A hillside cross overlooks Stepanakert















karabakh166Alternate Armenian and Artsakh flags on Baghramyan Street - Stepanakert


karabakh165The Artsakh flag with a superimposed coat of arms - Stepanakert


karabakh167Baghramyan Street is the location of the Memorial Complex of Stepanakert - Stepanakert
















karabakh169It commemorates the 22,000 Karabakhis who died in WWII, as well as holding graves of those killed in the Karabakh war (pictured) - Stepanakert


















karabakh170I don't know if the Bardak pub is still open for business - Stepanakert


karabakh171It was very closed during the day but I believe it comes alive in the evening - Stepanakert


karabakh173The various sights of Nagorno Karabakh - Stepanakert















karabakh174Trying to make pharmacy mannequins look sexy doesn't quite sit right - Stepanakert















karabakh187More military references that I can't read - Stepanakert


karabakh185This looks to be a mural painting a story or history of Karabakh - Stepanakert



Website and content Copyright © 2008-2020 Mark Wilkinson. All rights reserved.


LINKS - Karabakh and Armenian news, from an Artsakh perspective - Azerbaijan tourism - Artsakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including referral to visa requirements


I am not responsible for the content of external websites.


world beers