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Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh

Last modified: 2010-04-24 by
Keywords: artsakh | nagorno-karabakh | azerbaijan | armenia | eagle: crowned (brown) | mountains | hammer and sickle: no star (yellow) | sun (yellow) | error | stepanakert | monument |
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[Flag of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)]

Flag of Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh - Image by Ivan Sache, 8 September 2005

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Geography and history of Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh

Artsakh is better known internationally as Nagorno-Karabakh, a former Azerbaijan enclave in Armenia. It is still de jure part of Azerbaijan but de facto under Armenian control.

On 20 February 1988 the Council of People's Deputies of the Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh of Azerbaijan SSR addressed to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and to the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR and to the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR a request for the transfer of the Nagorno-Karabakh's autonomous region from the Azerbaijan SSR to the Armenian SSR.
On 12 January 1989 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted the Decree "About introduction of special forms of management in the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region of Azerbaijan SSR", with effect on 20 January 1989. Powers of the Council of People's Deputies of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and his executive committee were suspended; the Committee of Special Management of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, subordinated directly to the supreme bodies of the Government of USSR and possessing all powers of the former Council of People's Deputies of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and his executive committee, was created. This decree, for the first time in the history of the USSR, established a direct control from Moscow.

On 10 December 1990 the referendum about independence of Nagorno-Karabakh was followed by the self-proclamation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (within the structure of USSR) on 2 September 1991.
After the collapse of the USSR, full independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was proclaimed on 6 January 1992 has been proclaimed.

Now the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not an enclave, since in the mid-1990s the Armenian troops occupied the territory between the former autonomous region and the former Armenian SSR (the so-called corridor of Latchin) and a lot of other adjoining Azerbaijan territory.

Mikhail Revnivtsev, 13 April 2005

Armenia did not officially recognize Artsakh, though it recognized its self-determination right and its Army occupies it, as well as a good part of what is generally considered Azeri territory.

Luc Baronian, 25 May 1998

The Armenian claim to Karabagh dates back to the 19th century. Armenians who fled Turkey were settled in Karabagh, apparently unnoticed by the Armenians in the environment of Yerevan. Armenia for them was Eastern Turkey, dominated by the mighty Süphan Dagh, which you see everywhere in Eastern Turkey around Lake Van. After the genocide of 1915 there wasn't anymore a Turkish Armenia. Only then Armenia sought a Greater Armenia within Russia. It had a war with Georgia about 'Georgian Armenia', which wasn't successful. Before attention was directed towards Karabagh it was incorporated into Azerbaijan. According to The Karabakh File by the Zoryan Institute, the English together with the Azeris repulsed Armenian attacks.

Jarig Bakker, 17 July 1999

Flag of Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh

Artsakh's flag is derived from that of Armenia, which is a red-blue-orange horizontal tricolour. The westwards pointing arrow signifies very graphically Artsakh's current separation from Armenia proper, and its hopes for union with the motherland. The design also recalls that of the world famous (and very expensive) Armenia rugs.

Stuart Notholt, 1995

This flag appears in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #113, with the following caption:

West Azerbaijan

Ivan Sache, 15 September 1999

[Erroneous flag]

Erroneous representation of the flag of Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabagh - Image by Ivan Sache, 8 September 2003

On an administrative map of Armenia published in 2003 in Armenia, and shown by the French magazine Geo (August 2003), Artsakh is called "Republic of Mountainous Karabagh". The flag shown on top of the map is similar in design to the flag we show above, but is mirrored. This is an error.

Ivan Sache, 8 September 2003

Coat of arms of Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh

[Coat of arms of Artsakh]

Coat of arms of Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh - Image by Gevork Nazaryan, 8 September 2005

In the political magazine Globus, there is an image of the Republic's coat of arms. The arms consist of an eagle displayed, crowned with ornamented crown bearing shield. In the chief of the shield is panorama of a mountain range and under it vertically set the flag of Artsakh, over all there are two stone heads. The eagle stands on a bunch of different agricultural products (among which corn and grape). All is surrounded with a golden circular ribbon bearing inscription in Armenian script. From around the crown and eagle's head towards the ribbon there are sun rays emerging.

Željko Heimer, 24 May 1998

The eagle is an old Armenian symbol, present on the 1918 and 1991 coats of arms of Armenia. The crown might by an allusion to the six autonomous principalities that existed there during Iranian ruling. The stone monument is a male head and female head and represents the women and men of Artsakh. Its name is "We are our mountains" (another source I have says "We and our mountains") and it is located in Stepanakert, the capital. The grapevines I believe represent the many vines of the plateau, something illustrated by the Azeri name Gharabagh, which means "Black Vineyard" or close to "black garden" in Turkish Karabakh. (Nagorno or Nagorny is of Russian origin and Artsakh is Armenian (the oldest attested), but I don't know their etymology).The inscription in Eastern Armenian reads Lernayin Gharabaghi Artsakh Hanrapetoutioun, which means "Artsakh Republic of Mountainous Karabakh".

Luc Baronian, 25 May 1998

Nagorny (I believe this is masculine form, Nagorno would be neuter, depending how Russian speaker interprets the grammatical gender of Karabakh) means upper, or mountainous. The same Slavic root appears in the name Crna Gora for Montenegro - Black Mountain.

Željko Heimer, 25 May 1998

Municipal flag of Stepanakert

[Flag of Stepanakert]

Flag of Stepanakert - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 8 December 2009

Stepanakert (in Azeri, Khankendi; c. 40,000 inhabitants) is the capital Nagorno-Karabagh. The town received its modern name in 1923, as a tribute to the Armenian Bolshevik leader Stepan Chahoumian. Unsurprisingly, the earlier history of the town is a matter of dispute. The Azeris claimed that it was founded in the late 18th century by an Azeri ruler, therefore its name of Khankendi, "the Khan's Village". The Armenians answered that medieval Armenian sources mention the settlement of Vararakn, lit., "the rapid creek", a name kept by the village until renamed Khankendi in 1847. After the collapse of Soviet Union, the Azerbaijani administration renamed the town Khankendi. The conflict that broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the control of Nagorny Karabagh caused the nearly total destruction of the town by the Azerbaijani artillery in 1992 and by further aerial bombardment, but the Azeri army could never seize the town. An informal ceasefire, observed since 1994, and the help of the Armenian diaspora have allowed the rebuilding of the town, whose population dropped from 70,000 before the war to 40,000. All Azeris left the town.

The Armenian agency De Facto reported on 13 September 2007 the adoption of the municipal flag of Stepanakert by a Decree signed by Mayor Eduard Aghabekian. The flag is 100 x 170 cm, white with in the middle a circle made of thirteen blue triangles, symbolizing eternity and the thirteen historical capitals of Armenia. The circle surrounds the monument "We Are Our Mountains" (Menk enk mer lernere) sculpted by Sargis Baghdasarian, symbolizing longevity. The circle's colours - red, dark blue and orange - are those of the Nagorno-Karabakh national flag (also the colours of the national flag of Armenia).
"We Are Our Mountains" is a monument made of tufa, showing the old traditional Armenian mountain's characters Tatik and Papik (Mamig and Babig, lit. Grandma and Grandpa), also shown on the coat of arms of Nagorno-Karabakh. The local tradition says that the statue, built under the Communist rule, was built facing Armenia as a hidden symbol of the aspiration to reunification of Nagorno Karabagh with Armenia.

Ivan Sache & Aleksandar Nemet, 5 December 2009

Council of People's Deputies of the Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh (1988-1989)

[Soviet of Nagorno-Karabakh)]

Flag of the Council of People's Deputies of the Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh - Image by Jaume Ollé, 8 September 2005

This flag could exist, informally, until 1989 only and probably since February 1988. During the existence of the Committee of Special Management of Nagorny Karabakh (1989-1991), only the national coat of arms and flag of USSR were used in Nagorny Karabakh.

Mikhail Revnivtsev, 13 April 2005