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.
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.
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).