We are our mountains

Read / lees in : Nederlands

We are our mountains monument / Stepanakert / Nagorno-Karabakh
The national symbol of Nagorno-Karabakh: Grandpa, Grandpa & Grandma.

I’ve already been in a country that is only recognised by  just 23 other countries in the world. Extremely exciting I remember. But it can be even more exciting. Between Armenia and Azerbaijan lies the self declared republic of Nagorno-Karabakh that’s not being recognised by any country. Just by some other self declared republics that aren’t recognised by anyone either, like Transnistria (note to self: must visit too). So of course I had to take a look, even more so when I heard that they put a nice shiny visa in your passport. Who wouldn’t want that? An official visa of a country that doesn’t even exist. But they do try the shit out of it; to keep up the appearance that they are a genuine and independent country that is.

Nagorno-Karabakh visa / Stepanakert / Artsakh
My visa for Artsakh as they call Nagorno-Karabakh themselves.

Real Artsakhian

For instance there’s a real border crossing, but you don’t have to do any clearance for your car. Neither will you get your passport stamped, just the request to get the aforementioned visa in the capital from the ‘foreign ministry’. They’ve got their own telecom company ‘Karabakh Telekom’ (yay, another sim card for my collection). Also they have their own flag with a very distinct and original design. Of course the country has a capital, Stepanakert. Named after Stepan Shaumian, a famous Karabakhian Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh Armenia Georgia. Stepanakert by the way is more like a village than a city with a population of just over 50.000 inhabitants. If you ask the people which nationality they have, they’ll shout in unison: ‘the Nagorno-Karabakhian Armenian’. On their cars are license plates on which the letters ‘am’, short for Nagorno-Karabakh Armenia proudly shine. Furthermore you pay for everything with Karabakhian Armenian Drams.

Karabakh tank / Shushi / Nagorno-Karabakh
In my very first night all hell broke lose.

War in Nagorno-Karabakh

It goes without saying that they have an army of their own too, founded by the former presidents and defence minister of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenia. That army was dearly needed in the fight for independence from Azerbaijan in the beginning of the nineties of the last century. That war basically is still going on although there has been a cease fire since 1994. But every few years hostilities flare up again. Last year for example there was some heavy fighting. Of course I hoped that I would be spared from such a disastrous event, but on my first night in the capital, while I was dreaming away, things went sour. I woke up from bright flashes and the staccato sound of artillery and Ak47s. Scared to death I peeked out of the window to see if the Azerbaijanis were advancing in the street. Trembling all over I ascertained that it was just a very loud thunder storm. Like I said, extremely exciting these non recognised countries.

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