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Stepanakert (Municipality, Nagorno-Karabakh)

Last modified: 2017-04-09 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Stepanakert]         [Flag of Stepanakert]

Flag and arms of Stepanakert - Images by Jens Pattke, 5 May 2013

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Presentation of Stepanakert

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.

Ivan Sache, 5 December 2009

Flag of Stepanakert

The flag of Stepanakert (photo, right) is white with the new coat of arms in the middle. The symbols were adopted on 20 July 2012.

The emblem was selected in a public contest that lasted nearly two years. Presided by Mayor Suren Grigoryan, the jury selected, among some 40 submissions, the design proposed by Armen Mnatsakanyan, who was born in Stepanakert and graduated with the Department of Technical Modelling at the Gyurjyan Institute of Applied Arts.
The designer recognized that designing the town's emblem was not an easy task, since Stepanakert is of recent establishment.

The first quarter portrays King Vachagan the Pious, holding a sword, as a symbol of the struggle of the Armenian people against foreign invaders, and a cross, as a symbol of the Christian faith.
The second quarter features the "We Are Our Mountains" monument, already portrayed on the former flag of Stepanakert.
The third quarter represents the rich, ancient heritage of the Armenian people.
The fourth quarter represents architecture and the construction of the town.
The central emblem is formed of a key shaped like a symbol of eternity.

Vachagan III the Pious, from the Arsacid dynasty, was ruler of Caucasus Albania from 487 to 510. After 30 years of Sassanid Persian domination over the area, Vachagan was permitted by king Valarsh to rule a territory matching more or less today's Nagorny Karabakh / Artsakh. After having overthrown Valarsh in 488, Kavad I (488-531), allowed Vachagan to increase his rule over the whole Albania. A nominal vassal of the Sassanid Empire, Vachagan III established a de facto independent state, restoring the feudal and religious structures disrupted by the Sassanids. This boosted the development of agriculture, craft and trade. To promote the Christian religion and the independence of the Albanian church, Vashgan III built several Christian churches and schools and struggled against Zoroastrians and other pagan religions. In 498, he gathered the Aluen Assembly, which released a codex of laws prescribing the respective duties of the nobles and of the church.
The Arsacid state did not survive Vachagan III. Kavad I took the opportunity of the Hun thread to suppress all the feudal states in Caucasus, which were reincorporated to the Persian Empire.
[Ismail bey Zardabli. The History of Azerbaijan, from ancient times to the present day. 2014]

Vachagan III is a main component of the Armenian historiography; the Aluen codex is often presented as the remote, historical foundation of the present day Constitution of Armenia - and, accordingly, of the territorial claims of Armenia over the region.
Vachagan III restored in 489 the Amaras monastery (description), originally found as a church by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the early 4th century and the site of the tomb of St. Grigoris (d. 338), the founder's grandson. Amaras is of particular significance for the Armenian culture, since Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, established there the first-ever school that used his script.

Jens Pattke & Ivan Sache, 27 November 2016

Former flag of Stepanakert

[Flag of Stepanakert]

Former flag of Stepanakert - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 8 December 2009

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 (photo, left) 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