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From top left:Panoramic view of the Renaissance Square T-72 tank memorial of Karabakh War • Artsakh University The Republican Stadium • Stepanakert Skyline Panoramic view of Stepanakert</small>
From top left:
Panoramic view of the Renaissance Square
T-72 tank memorial of Karabakh War • Artsakh University
The Republican Stadium • Stepanakert Skyline
Panoramic view of Stepanakert
Coat of arms of Stepanakert
Coat of arms
Stepanakert is located in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Location of Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Country de facto part of the  Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
de jure part of  Azerbaijan
Province Stepanakert
Founded 2000 BC
City status 1923[1]
 • Type Mayor–Council
 • Body Stepanakert City Council
 • Mayor of Stepanakert Suren Grigoryan
 • Total 29.12 km2 (11.24 sq mi)
Elevation 813 m (2,670 ft)
Population (2013)[2]
 • Total 54,500
 • Density 1,872/km2 (4,850/sq mi)
Time zone GMT+4 (UTC+4)
Area code(s) +374 47
Website .am.stepanakertwww
Sources: Stepanakert city area and population[3]

Stepanakert (Armenian: Ստեփանակերտ Step'anakert) or Khankendi (Azerbaijani: Xankəndi), originally called Vararakn (Armenian: Վարարակն), is the capital and the largest city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a de facto independent republic. As of 2013, the city has a population of 54,500, most of whom are ethnic Armenians.


  • History 1
    • Founding and Soviet era 1.1
    • Nagorno-Karabakh War and independence 1.2
  • Climate 2
  • Economy, education and cultural institutions 3
  • Transportation 4
    • Bus 4.1
    • Air 4.2
    • Railway 4.3
  • Demographics and religion 5
  • Sport 6
  • International relations 7
    • Twin towns – Sister cities 7.1
  • Notable people 8
  • Notes 9
  • External links 10


Founding and Soviet era

Downtown Stepanakert

According to medieval Armenian sources, the settlement was first mentioned as Vararakn (Վարարակն, meaning "rapid spring" in Armenian), a name that remained in use until 1847, when it was renamed Khankendi.[4][5] Azerbaijani sources generally say that the settlement was founded in the late eighteenth century by a Karabakh khan, and was thus called Khankendi (Turkic for "the khan's village").

In 1923 Khankendi was renamed Stepanakert by the Soviet government to honor Stepan Shahumyan, ethnic Armenian leader of the 26 Baku Commissars, and, after the Shusha pogrom had resulted in major destruction at Shusha, the former regional capital, Stepanakert was made the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO). In time, Stepanakert grew to become the region's most important city (a status it received in 1940). Its population rose from 10,459 in 1939 to 33,000 in 1978.[5]

In 1926, municipal authorities adopted a new city layout designed by the prominent Armenian architect Alexander Tamanian; two additional designs for expansion were approved later on in the 1930s and 1960s, both of which retained Tamanian's initial plan.[4] Several schools and two "polyclinics" were established, and an Armenian dramatic theater was founded in 1932 and named after Maxim Gorky.[5] Stepanakert served as Nagorno-Karabakh's main economic hub, and by the mid-1980s there were nineteen production facilities in the city.[4]

Nagorno-Karabakh War and independence

The Liberators' Boulevard

The political and economic reforms that General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev had initiated in 1985 saw a marked decentralization of Soviet authority. Armenians, in both Armenia proper and Nagorno-Karabakh, viewed Gorbachev's reform program as an opportunity to unite the two together. On February 20, 1988, tens of thousands of Armenians gathered to demonstrate in Stepanakert's Lenin (now Renaissance) Square to demand that the region be joined to Armenia. On the same day, the Supreme Soviet of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to join the Armenian SSR, a move staunchly opposed by the Soviet Azerbaijani authorities.[6] Relations between Stepankert's Armenians and Azerbaijanis, who supported the Azerbaijani government's position, deteriorated in the following years and as a result, nearly all of the Azerbaijanis fled the city.

After Azerbaijan declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Stepanakert was renamed by the Azerbaijani government back to Khankendi as part of a campaign against communism and Azerification. Fighting broke out over control of Nagorno-Karabakh which eventually resulted in Armenian control of the region and a connecting corridor to Armenia to the west. Prior to the conflict, Stepanakert was the largest city of the NKAO, with a population of 70,000 out of a total 189,000 (Armenians at the time comprised 75% of the region's total population).[7] By early 1992, that figure had dropped to 50,000.[8]

During the war, the city suffered immense damage from Azeri bombardment, especially in early 1992 when the Azerbaijanis used the town of Shushi as an artillery firebase to fire GRAD missiles against it. So destructive was the damage caused by the incessant bombardment, that a journalist for Time noted in an April 1992 article that "scarcely a single building [had] escaped damage in Stepanakert."[8] The Azerbaijani military staged several ground attacks against the city, which were successfully repulsed by Armenian forces. It was not until May 9, 1992, with the capture of Shusha, that the ground bombardment ceased. The city, nevertheless, continued to suffer aerial bombardment for the remainder of the war.

There has been an unofficial cease-fire observed since 1994.[9]


Stepanakert has a semi-arid climate (BS) according to the Trewartha climate classification system. In the month of January, the average temperature drops to 0.5 °C (33 °F). In August, it averages around 22.6 °C (73 °F).

Climate data for Stepanakert
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 4.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.0
Average low °C (°F) −2.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 19
Average precipitation days 6 6 10 10 14 10 4 4 6 6 5 4 85
Source: NOAA[10]

Economy, education and cultural institutions

Dusk over Stepanakert

Before the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the economy of Stepanakert revolved mainly around food processing, silk weaving, and winemaking.[4] The city's economy was greatly damaged during the war, but in recent years, largely due to the investments of the Armenian diaspora, economic activity and tourism especially, has picked up in Stepanakert and the rest of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Several hotels have been opened by diasporan Armenians, including the Nairi Hotel, which was opened by Jack Abolakian, an Armenian Australian, and John Iskenderian in 2000.[11]

There are five higher educational institutions in Stepanakert: Artsakh State University and four private universities. Artsakh State was originally established in 1969 as a branch of the Baku Pedagogical Institute. In 1973, it was renamed Stepanakert Pedagogical Institute and following the end of the war, in 1995, it received its current name. The university offers courses spread across seven departments and has an attendance level of 4,500.[12]

In September 2010, representatives from the Los Angeles-based Armenia Fund and officials from Armenia and the NKR presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly opened School № 11. The school expects to see an attendance level of 600 students and consists of three buildings, a playground, a gym and other basic amenities such as a computer lab and first aid clinic. Its construction was funded by money gathered by the Armenian Diaspora.[13]

The Artsakh State Museum in Stepanakert, has an important collection of ancient artifacts and Christian manuscripts.



Stepanakert is served by a number of regular mini-bus lines. Old Soviet-era buses have been replaced with new modern buses. Regular trips to other provinces of Nagorno-Karabakh are also operated from the city.


Stepanakert is served by the nearby Stepanakert Airport, north of the city near the town of Ivanyan. In 2009, facilities reconstruction and repair work began.[14] Though originally scheduled to launch the first commercial flights on May 9, 2011, Karabakh officials postponed a new reopening date throughout the whole of 2011.[15] In May 2012, the director of the NKR's Civil Aviation Administration, Tigran Gabrielyan, announced that the airport will begin operations in summer 2012.[16] However, the airport still remains closed due to political reasons. The OSCE Minsk Group, which mediates the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, reaffirmed that the operation of this airport could not be used to support any claim of a change in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and urged the sides to act in accordance with international law and consistent with current practice for flights over their territory.[17]


Stepanakert used to be connected through a railway line with the Yevlakh station on the Baku-Tbilisi railway. However, trips between Azerbaijan and NKR are abandoned since the start of the war between the two sides.

Demographics and religion

Year Armenians Azerbaijanis Others TOTAL
Fountains at the Shahumyan square

During the Soviet era, there were no traditional churches in Stepanakert, although most of the population of the city were members of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The believers attended the church that is in the building of the House of Culture. There is also a church in the city that was built in the eighteenth century, but it is not operating. On September 15, 2006 the foundation stones of St. James Church in Stepanakert were laid. The church's benefactor, Vache Yepremian, from Los Angeles, sponsored the construction of the church and on May 9, 2007, the church of St. James was consecrated in honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the capture of Shushi.[22]


Football is the most popular sport in Nagorno-Karabakh and the city has a well-built football stadium. Since the mid-1990s, football teams from Karabakh started taking part in some domestic competitions in the Republic of Armenia. Lernayin Artsakh is the football club that represents the city of Stepanakert. The Artsakh national football league was launched in 2009.

The unrecognized Artsakh national football team was formed in 2012 and played their first competitive match against the unrecognized Abkhazia national football team in Sukhumi on 17 September 2012. The match ended with a 1-1 draw.[23][24] The following month, on 21 October 2012, Artsakh played the return match at the Stepan Shahumyan Republican Stadium against Abkhazia winning it with a result of 3-0.[25]

There is also interest in other sports, including basketball and volleyball.

Karabakh sportsmen also take part with the representing teams and athletes in the Armenia.

International relations

The Ministry of foreign affairs

Twin towns – Sister cities

Stepanakert is twinned with:

Montebello, United States:

  • On 25 September 2005, Montebello, California and Stepanakert became sister cities. This prompted a complaint by the ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States, Hafiz Pashayev, who sent a letter to California leaders, stating that the decision jeopardized peace talks between his country and Armenia.[26] The letter was sent to then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who deferred the letter to Montebello mayor Bill Molinari since it concerned a local, not a state, issue. Molinari responded to Pashayev that the city would go ahead with its plans to inaugurate Stepanakert under the sister city program.[26] Stepanakert's relationship with Montebello is aimed at revitalizing the capital's economic infrastructure and building cultural and educational ties, as well as developing trade and health care between the two cities. Azerbaijan has described this as a contradictory foreign policy of the United States that purportedly supports the NKR government and Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.[27]

Yerevan, Armenia:

  • Yerevan and Stepanakert, the capitals of the two Armenian republics, became sister cities after a partnership agreement signed on September 28, 2012 between the mayors of the two cities.[28][29]

San Sebastián, Spain:

  • San Sebastián (Donostia) and Stepanakert signed a cooperation agreement on 15 September 2014.[30]

Notable people

Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia


  1. ^ Tourism department of ministry of economy of NKR
  2. ^ Results of 2005 census of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. p. 47.
  3. ^ [5]
  4. ^ a b c d (Armenian) Mkrtchyan, Shahen. «Ստեփանակերտ» [Stepanakert]. Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1985, vol. xi, pp. 124-125.
  5. ^ a b c  
  6. ^ Kaufman, Stuart (2001). Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War. New York: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs. p. 61.  
  7. ^ Lobell, Steven E.; Philip Mauceri (2004). Ethnic Conflict and International Politics: Explaining Diffusion and Escalation. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. p. 58.  
  8. ^ a b Carney, James. "Carnage in Karabakh." Time. April 13, 1992. Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  9. ^ (Armenian) Hakobyan, Tatul. Կանաչ ու Սև: Արցախյան օրագիր [Green and Black: An Artsakh Diary]. Yerevan-Stepanakert: Heghinakayin Publishing, 2008, pp. 506-08, Appendix Documents 38-39.
  10. ^ "Xankandi (Stepanakert) Climate Normals 1961–1990".  
  11. ^ Hayrumyan, Naira. "Recovery and Concern: Regional Unrest Reminds of NKR's Years of Progress While Raising Anxiety." AGBU Magazine. Vol. 18, № 2, November 2008, pp. 34-37.
  12. ^ (Armenian) Anon. "ԱՐՑԱԽԻ ՊԵՏԱԿԱՆ ՀԱՄԱԼՍԱՐԱՆ (Artsakh State University)." Azat Artsakh. August 29, 2006. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
  13. ^ "Armenia Fund Opens 600-Student School in Stepanakert." Asbarez. September 14, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  14. ^ "Karabakh To Reopen Stepanakert Airport". Asbarez. 5 October 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  15. ^ "Nagorno-Karabakh Flights On Hold Despite Airport Reconstruction".  
  16. ^ (Armenian) "«Հայկական ժամանակ».Ստեփանակերտի օդանավակայանը վերջապես շահագործման կհանձնվի" [Haykakan Zhamanak: Stepanakert Airport will Finally Become Operational]. Yelaket Lratvakan. May 30, 2012.
  17. ^ Statement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
  18. ^ a b c d e f (Russian) [6]
  19. ^ De facto and De Jure Population by Adminstative Territorial Distribution and Sex Census in NKR, 2005. THE NATIONAL STATISTICAL SERVICE OF NAGORNO-KARABAKH REPUBLIC
  20. ^ [7] Statistics in NKR, 2010. The National Statistical Service of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
  21. ^ [8] Statistics in NKR, 2010. The National Statistical Service of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
  22. ^ Grigorian, Laura. "ST JAMES CHURCH WAS OPENED IN STEPANAKERT." Azat Artsakh. May 10, 2007.
  23. ^ (Armenian) "Աբխազիայի ու Արցախի հավաքականները բաժանվեցին խաղաղությամբ՝ 1:1 [Abkhazia's and Artsakh's Teams Peacefully Part Ways, 1-1." September 25, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  24. ^ "Armenia’s newly formed second national football team to face Abkhazia." September 14, 2012.
  25. ^ " Artsakh Soccer Team Beats Abkhazia 3-0." Asbarez. October 22, 2012.
  26. ^ a b Wright, Pam. "Montebello's newest Sister City program has come under fire from an ambassador for the Republic of Azerbaijan." Whittier Daily News. November 19, 2005. Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  27. ^ "Azeri pressure group appeals to US envoy over twinning reports." BBC News in BBC Monitoring Central Asia. November 24, 2005. Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  28. ^ "Yerevan - Partner Cities". Yerevan Municipality Official Website. © 2005—2013 Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  29. ^ "Երևանի և Ստեփանակերտի քաղաքապետերը բարեկամության համաձայնագիր են ստորագրել." [Mayors of Yerevan and Stepanakert Sign Friendship Agreement]. September 28, 2012.
  30. ^ Stepanakert, Donostia sign cooperation agreement

External links

  • Stepanakert Municipality (hy)
  • 360 Panoramic view of the City Center (en)
  • Karabakh Tourism Office (en)
  • Stepanakert on Lonely Planet (en)
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