On a hill just outside of Stepanakert, there stands an unusual and striking monument. Called “We Are Our Mountains,” the looming faces of an old man and woman represent the mountain people of Artsahk and their Armenian heritage.
The Republic of Artsakh (previously known as Nagorno-Karabakh) is a disputed micronation in a landlocked region within Azerbaijan. Although internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan, it’s governed as a de facto independent state by its Armenian ethnic majority, which makes up 95 percent of the population. Its original name, Nagorno-Karabakh, means “mountainous black garden.”
We Are Our Mountains is an iconic monument within the unrecognized republic. The image of the monument caused controversy at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, initially due to its appearance in the semi-final introduction and subsequently because it was repeatedly shown by an Armenian spokesperson during the vote following an Azeri request that it be removed.
Its image also features heavily in Artsakh’s coat of arms. Locals sometimes refer to it as “tatik-papik” (“grandma and grandpa”) for its two elderly faces. The sculpture, which was installed in 1967, is made from volcanic tufa.
Know Before You Go
The monument is a short and easy drive from Stepanakert.
Visas are no longer required in advance for the Republic of Artsakh and are available upon arrival and registering in Stepanakert. Be aware, however, that these should be issued on a separate piece of paper rather than in your passport as any sign of having been to the region will deny any possibility of entering Azerbaijan or obtaining an Azeri visa.