Stepanakert is the capital city of Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh. This republic is the de facto independent, but the internationally unrecognized. The population of Stepanakert is around 55.200 people. The modern city is surrounded by the mountains and woods. Fresh air, clean streets, and avenues inspire native people every day, but a lot of foreign travelers don’t yet discover this natural beauty. Let’s explore this unique city together.
HISTORY OF STEPANAKERT IN BRIEF
Modern Stepanakert has an ancient history. According to Armenian sources, its previous name was originally Vararakn (meaning “rapid spring” in Armenian). After 1847 it was renamed Khankendi. Azerbaijani sources insist that the settlement was founded in the late 18 century as a private residence for khans of the Karabakh Khanate.
In 1923 Stepanakert got its present name, by the Soviet government to honor Stepan Shahumyan. He was an Armenian ethnic who lead significant Bolshevik movement in the Baku city. 1923 is also the year Stepanakert became the capital of Karabakh with a mixed Armenian-Russian population, schools, churches, public buildings, hotels, and houses.
Stepanakert is not a large city. The popular Armenian architect Alexander Tamanyan created a plan for the reorganization of this city. Some streets and buildings have kept their historical shape. For example, Toumanyan street is one the first streets of Stepanakert. Another ancient and historical building is the State Drama theatre of Vahram Papazyan, since 1930.
Emblem & Flag
In addition, here are the emblem and the flag of Stepanakert:
During the walk in the city, everyone will quickly notice that the native people are extremely friendly and hospitable towards tourists and willing to help them. They all speak in Armenian and in Russian. The young people also use English.
The main symbol of all Artsakh and Stepanakert is the popular monument “We and Our Mountains“. Armenian and Artsakh people call it also “Papik-Tatik” (the Grandfather and the Grandmother). This sculpture symbolizes an ineradicable dedication of the Artsakh people to life and family values, their patriotism. This national monument is one of the top places you should visit.
TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN STEPANAKERT
Use the following recommendations to plan your travel list when visiting Stepanakert:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Before starting an incredible trip in Stepanakert, everyone should get an entry visa. The is a first thing travelers should do, by visiting the head office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This procedure is very simple and takes generally 5-10 minutes.
Artsakh State Museum
Artsakh State Museum is one of the most popular places in Karabakh. There are more than 50 thousand historical and cultural artifacts here, from ancient times to nowadays.
Fallen Soldiers Museum
The museum of Fallen Soldiers honors those who died in battle during the 1990–94 war with Azerbaijan. This is a small and sad museum but of course worth a visit.
Missing Soldiers Museum
Another military museum honors those soldiers from the Karabakh war who are “missing”. This was a bloody war with a lot of deaths.
Fine Arts Gallery
The Fine Arts gallery of Stepanakert is in the modern building. Due to its ship form, the local people call it “Titanic”. A lot of interesting and modern exhibitions take place here. For art lovers, it is a great place to meet interesting paintings of local and foreign painters and sculptors.
One of the favorite places for travelers and locals is a green park named after Stepan Shahumyan. The park has circle form and 5 entrances. Another name of this park is Pyatachok. The musical fountains of park amuse all visitors every day from 7 p.m. to midnight. The summer evenings are affordable here with live concerts and folk dance classes.
Arts and Crafts shop
All travelers love to buy souvenirs or handworks, something special and unique for your loved ones back home. Armond’s Arts and Crafts shop is a place where visitors can find handicrafts with Armenian themes. Take a piece of Artsakhian memories from this shop.
If you looking for agricultural products from all over Karabakh it’s time to visit the main agricultural fair (Shooka in Armenian), really great place to feel the spirit and colors of Artsakh. Here you will find fruits and vegetables, in addition, all visitors can taste the famous Artsakhian dish – Zhengyalov Hats (flatbread with 21 greens).
The main street of Stepanakert is Azatamartikneri (soldier-liberators) boulevard. All modern apartment buildings, supermarkets, minimarkets, boutiques and souvenir shops are here.
Karabakh is also famous for its handmade carpets. This perfectly reflects the valuable cultural heritage of Artsakhian people. If you visit this factory you will see handmade carpets which are made so delicately and high professionalism. In addition, you will see not only new carpets but also ancient ones in the showroom of the factory. It is definitely worth seeing.
Unfortunately, many ancient buildings destroyed during the years of war. Today Stepanakert continues to develop and it is more beautiful than ever. In conclusion, one thing is clear – you should visit Stepanakert as soon as possible!