Stepanakert is the capital of Artsakh (Karabakh). If you come to Stepanakert on a route connecting Armenia with Artsakh, apparently, you may be pleasantly surprised seeing how the infinite serpentine mountainous road, bent abruptly, suddenly ends with a modern blossoming city arising from behind the mountains.
Stepanakert has an ancient history. The first settlements here already arose in 3-2 thousand B.C. In the end of 19th century archeological excavations conducted here by scientist Emil Resler revealed the richest burial places of that time, and some part of the findings is kept in the largest museums of the world.
In the Middle Ages at the place of the present capital of Karabakh there was a settlement Vararakn, named so in honour of a big spring proceeding through it. Deriving from Armenian the word "Vararakn" means "a full-flowing spring" from which just one coaching inn has been miraculously kept up to now. By the end of the 19th century a smal city with mixed Armenian-Russian population, schools, Armenian and Russian orthodox churches, public buildings, hotels and profitable houses had already existed here.
Also many ancient constructions, representing remarkable samples of the Armenian national dwellings, have been kept in the city. Walking in the silent streets of this old city, where some houses are transformed into shops and some trading stuff tourists may feel colour of the Transcaucasian city of the end of 19th or the beginning of 20th century.
Stepanakert, being surrounded by mountains and woods is really a fine place for vacation. Though the city is not large there are many picturesque places, little green squares and cosy court yards in it. The heart of Stepanakert is the Renaissance square with the Presidential palace, buildings of the Parliament and the Government, the Palace of Youth. The square crosses smoothly with the avenue of Enamoured, with its ladder, decorated by lanterns in the form of sculptures of groom and bride, leading to the stadium. The square ends with a green park with its fountain and benches. In the evenings the Renaissance square with its unique illumination and laser show serves as the main place of promenade for the local residents and the visitors of the capital. Also various concerts and dramatized performances are organized here.
Visitors of the capital of Artsakh can also visit the park of Culture with numerous winter and summer cafes and roundabouts, which function mainly during a warm season. In the center of the capital there is also the state historic and local lore study museum of Artsakh which stores unique ancient exhibits, the museum of victim soldiers (soldiers-liberators), the museum of missing soldiers, the drama theatre, at the place of which there was once an Armenian church, Artsakh state university, as well as numerous restaurants and cafes.
The main street of Stepanakert is the prospectus of Azatamartikneri (soldiers-liberators) with modern apartment houses, supermarkets and minimarkets, boutiques and souvenir shops , where you can make some memorable purchases. One of the most picturesque places of Stepanakert is the central market, which represents an original combination of the fair of industrial goods and agricultural production.
The visitors can feel themselves as in a real noisy and colourful east market. One of the memorable places of the city is the memorial park of lost soldiers. The first burial places here appeared during the Second World War, but in consciousness of the inhabitants of Stepanakert the memorial is associated with the victims-fighters ("Azatamartikner") of the war in Artsakh. The gravestone of Arthur Mkrtchyan, tragically lost first head of the Artsakh, the monument to the victims of Sumgait tragedy (1988) and the sculptural composition symbolizing grief for the victims of the earthquake in Spitak city can also be found in this park. Another place of pilgrimage for tourists has become the square after Ashot Ghulyan (Bekor) - the hero of the war in Artsakh. The Tourist center is located near the square.
The symbol of Stepanakert and Artsakh is the monument "We and our mountains " tenderly called by the inhabitants "The Grandfather and The Grandmother", which is built on a high hill at the entrance of the capital. The product of sculptor Sargis Baghdasaryan and architect Yury Hakobyan symbolizes itself an ineradicable will of the people of Karabakh towards life and adherence to family values. Dressed in national clothes the old man with the old woman, as if they grew on the top of the hill, symbolize the attachment of people to their native ground.
While walking in the city, it is also necessary to visit the single-bay stone bridge called "Mazi", constructed in 17th century, as well as the recently constructed church of St. Virgin Mary.