The head of government Arajik Harutjunjan (Freedom Motherland Party) of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh would certainly contradict this, and the majority of the 145,000 mostly Armenian inhabitants would also disagree (the Azerbaijanis had to flee). Not even twice as large as the Saarland, it declared itself independent in 1991.
The front lines to Azerbaijan are controlled by Armenia , because internationally the area is still counted to the latter. After Armenia conquered the areas, a ceasefire was negotiated in 1994, but it is extremely fragile - a few days ago there were skirmishes with several deaths on the ceasefire line. The fact that Azerbaijan has increased its military budget thirteen-fold in recent years thanks to sparkling oil profits makes many here quite nervous ...
When I hear about the possibility of visiting the “Republic” in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, there is no going back… who knows how long it will be there? The visa that you get in the foreign ministry in the capital Stepanakert is definitely colorful! The disadvantage: you cannot travel to Azerbaijan afterwards - but that's not on my route anyway. Together with the Taiwanese I-Fan, I set off on the eight-hour journey to a country that doesn't exist ...
In addition to the undeniable “been here” factor, there is also something to see: Aghdam, for example, a completely destroyed, gutted city that formerly had up to 100,000 inhabitants. A ghost town with just a few soldiers hanging around. The description does not sound bad, there is talk of views from the minaret that resemble those of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb!
The little problem: you can't go there. It is not known whether there are still mines or just want to hide the city from someone else's eyes. When issuing the visa, we had to indicate which places we were going to visit, and we were given a permit to do so. The question about Aghdam was answered quite convincingly with “You can NOT go there!”.
The next morning, after some searching, we find a taxi driver to take us to Aghdam.
I cheer inside! That gives great photos, I can already see them in my mind's eye ... The first rather rural ruins appear. The driver points into the distance and says "Aghdam".
But what happens? Damn, why is he turning ??? At that moment, I would have given a lot to speak Russian. However I talk to him, he refuses to go on and crosses his hands as if they were in handcuffs. I can't do anything, we're going back. Shit!
My disappointment is somewhat alleviated in the afternoon when we visit a beautiful monastery (for me the last one, I've seen enough now). And in the evening, as groups of girls, boys, couples, families and the elderly, yes the whole city, strolling on the main square, we both feel like small celebrities - people watch, smile shyly or giggle, sometimes even a quiet dare "Hello!" On the lips ;-) ... nice people.
After two nights in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, we return to Armenia. It could have gone better. But maybe it was a good thing ... who knows ...