We Are Our Mountains

The newly restored Tatik and Papik monument in Stepanakert. (Photo by Matthew Karanian)


BY MATTHEW KARANIAN

The famous monument of Tatik and Papik, the grandmother and grandfather of Artsakh, is a top destination for almost everyone’s first visit to Karabakh. The monument was erected in 1967, and an inscription on the back reveals its official name: “We Are Our Mountains.”

This monument generated great controversy when it was first erected. Azerbaijan exercised sovereignty over Karabakh at that time, and the statue was condemned by the Azeris because it expressed the love of Armenians for this land.

The sculpture shows an elderly couple—a grandmother and grandfather—which symbolizes their union with the mountains. Only their heads are visible. Their bodies are said to be in the ground, which symbolizes that the Armenians belong to the land.

Despite all the fuss, however, the monument was built. And today it is cherished as a national landmark. Renovations and a restoration of the monument was completed in 2012.

Getting To—And Around—Artsakh
Getting to Artsakh is a simple matter using the roadway that links Armenia and Karabakh, stretching west to east from Goris to Stepanakert.

A child rides his bicycle through Republic Square in central Stepanakert. (Photo by Matthew Karanian)

This strategically important road has been dubbed the Pan Armenian Highway. The name is appropriate not only because the road links two Armenian states, but also because the road was funded by Armenians from all over the world. The project was organized by a charitable group called the Hayastan All Armenian Fund.

The Pan Armenian Highway project was completed more than a decade ago and spans Berdzor– the area that was once known as the Lachin Corridor.

At the moment, this is the only improved and viable land link between the two countries. The Pan Armenian Highway will soon lose its unique status, however.

Construction began earlier this year on another strategically significant roadway that will link northern Artsakh with Armenia.

This new road will link the town of Vardenis, which is on the southeastern shore of Lake Sevan in Armenia, with Martakert, a town in northeastern Artsakh. Martakert is notorious as the scene of a bloody assault by the enemy during Artsakh’s war of liberation.

The Vardenis-to-Martakert highway will create Artsakh’s second lifeline to Armenia. The new road will facilitate trade, and will make it easier for the farmers of Artsakh to reach markets in urban Yerevan.

For tourism, the benefit of this second road is obvious. Travelers will depart Yerevan and will be able to quickly reach Artsakh as part of a journey past Lake Sevan.

Traveling within Karabakh has gotten a lot easier during the past several years, as well, because of an ambitious road-building project that was funded by Armenians from all over the world.

After completing the highway that links Karabakh to Armenia, Diaspora Armenians and the people of Armenia and Karabakh turned their sights to the road that they call the “North-South Highway.” This North-South highway spans 170 kilometers from the southern Artsakh town of Hadrut to the northern region of Martakert.

The need for this North-South road was the result of a political calculus during Azerbaijan’s administration of this region. During the Soviet era, Azerbaijan had built a network of west-east roads integrating Karabakh into Azerbaijan.

But the Azeris never permitted the construction of north-south roads within Karabakh—roads that would integrate Karabakh internally and permit it to have communications links independent of Azerbaijan.

Thus, to travel from a town in the south of Karabakh to a town in the north, it was necessary to use a road that passed into, and then out of, Azerbaijan. The North-South Highway corrected this problem.

Thus, when the Vardenis to Martakert highway is completed, it will be a rather simple matter to travel from Yerevan, past Lake Sevan, to Martakert, and then all the way to Stepanakert on paved and well-engineered roads.

This new Vardenis to Martakert road doesn’t just make it easier to travel to Artsakh. It also makes it easier for Artsakh to survive.

What’s in a Name?
Nagorno Karabakh is an amalgamation of foreign names that was imposed on this region, and its etymology reflects the ongoing political misfortunes of the region.

Karabakh is widely accepted to be a mixture of Persian and Turkish that means Black Garden. The Russians added the adjective Nagorno, which means mountainous, and dubbed the region Nagorno Karabakh.

Easter Sunday, 2014, at Gandzasar Monastery. (Photo by Matthew Karanian)

The historic Armenian name for the region within which Nagorno Karabakh is located is Artsakh, however.

Since the adoption of a new constitition in 2006, the state has been officially known interchangeably as both the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and the Artsakh Republic. Eventually, say the country’s officials, the name will revert to simply Artsakh.

Traveling to Karabakh (Artsakh)
Karabakh (Artsakh) is land-locked and isolated, and the only point of access is through neighboring Armenia, with which it has close ties. There are no scheduled commercial flights, despite a modern new airport that re-opened in Stepanakert in 2012. There is reliable ground transportation from Yerevan, however, and crossing the frontier from Armenia is a routine matter.

Adapted from ‘Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide,’ by Matthew Karanian (www.ArmeniaTravelGuide.com).

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13 Comments

  1. Armenian said:

    I really hope I get a chance to see Karabagh before the Russians force us to give it to the Azeris for their own political gain.

    • Armenian said:

      It falls perfectly in line with everyone’s interest but Armenia’s. Russia gets a new base in the South Caucasus, and gets to keep its monopoly on the European market by giving Azerbaijan what it will ask for, Karabagh, in an exchange for the Baku’s self-exemption from building pipelines into Europe.

      Azerbaijan wins by once again getting land that doesn’t belong to them, and a precious gift from Moscow, and they will get a chance to repopulate Karabagh like never before, to the point where they severely outnumber the native Armenians. Not only that, but Aliyev will get a blank check for him and his dynasty to rule over the country for life. Not to mention that the CU encourages the type of autocracy that Azerbaijan is and that Armenia will become, Aliyev can do what he wants and answer to absolutely nobody from now until his death.

      Armenia is the biggest loser here. We were a human shield for Russia to use to throw us under the bus so that Moscow could woo Baku into cooperating with it.

  2. mahmouzian said:

    karabatsi will never give a inch of land to no one .just remember that

    • Armenian said:

      It’s not about what the Karabaghtsis want. It’s what Russia wants, and if Azerbaijan agrees to join the CU and stop challenging Russia’s monopoly on supplying Europe with gas, it’s going to ask for Karabagh and Russia will give it to them using their lapdogs, the Republican Party of Armenia to carry out their dirty work.

      • Hratch said:

        After blaming the west for taking Ukraine out of its orbit, Russia has decided to aggressively solidify their control over the Caucasus in particular and eastern Asia in general. It will not matter to them whether they support Armenia or Azerbaijan, the more important thing is to have complete hegemony over the region. Of course, this will not bode well with the west. They’ve been courting the Azeris for nearly two decades. If they lose Azerbaijan, it will spell the end of their designs over the region’s natural resources and their foothold to central Asia. However, this might create an unexpected windfall for Armenia. Armenia might suddenly find itself the object of the west’s affection. This time, the west could court Armenia and use it to stifle Russia’s own designs over the region. This is the time for Armenia to be a savvy player.

  3. Al said:

    I am going in September :) oh and we would never give back an inch of Artsakh land to Ruskis or Azeris especially after so many brave heros of ours were martyred defending Artsakh

    • Armenian said:

      How are you going to ensure that when Russia already owns and controls a very significant chunk of Armenia, to the point where it can significantly debilitate it if need be? There isn’t anybody left in Armenia to make sure that doesn’t happen. They’re all in– surprise, surprise– Siberia, receiving a stipend from the Russian government and breaking their backs to beautify that region of Russia.

  4. mahmouzian said:

    just remember karabatsi are a different breed then yereventsi they will not give one inch.moscow yerevan or anyone for that matter

  5. Fedy said:

    Armenian, don’t worry about Artsakh. Artsakh will never be taken away from Armenia. Instead of lamenting and uttering a dirge about a far fetched scenario, hurry up, pack your bags and go and visit Artsakh now, Remember, if like you state , Russia wants Armenia, she wants Artsakh in Armenia too. Besides Russia will not give up the massive fortifications built in Artsakh by Russia. Hurry up, raid your savings from your Banks and fly post haste to heavenly mountainous Artsakh; spend a month there, soak up the spirit and beauty of its people and the land. It will be the best investment of your life.

    • Armenian said:

      That’s wishful thinking to assume that Russia will do what is in Armenia’s best interest. Azerbaijan has created a scenario in which separating Artsakh from Armenia is in its best interest, and therefore, that is what will be done. These aren’t far-fetched scenarios, anyone with a basic understanding of how international relations works can see that the Azeris clearly have better cards than us, and a lot of that comes from the dismissive, “oh, the Russians won’t hurt us” mentality. Russia hasn’t built anything in Artsakh, that would be the Diaspora (the one the Russophiles are constantly targeting), and from a purely realpolitik perspective, it stands to gain more by removing Artsakh from Armenia than it does from “building in it”.

  6. edward demian said:

    The smart thing to do, is to have an inmigrating policy that would increase the population of both Armenia and Artsachk. Just from Syria and Iraq Armenia and Artsack could gain a significant influx.

    • Armenian said:

      They don’t want that. They want as few people to be in Armenia as possible because the less people there are, the less likely their authority will be challenged. Armenian’s authorities are as much apart of the problem as anyone else.

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