Artsakh State Museum
This was a small museum in Stepanakert
, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh
, about local history – including the Karabakh war of the early 1990s.
Since all of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the capital, was “recaptured” by Azerbaijan
in their military offensive of September 2023, which triggered the mass exodus of practically the entire Armenian population of the region, this museum will most likely also have been deserted. Maybe some older historical artefacts will be kept – while the museum’s name most certainly will not. The 1990s war parts are also certain to disappear, even if the museum as such may not.
The text below is adapted from the original chapter I had penned after my visit to Nagorno-Karabakh in 2010. It is now only of historical interest and no longer a description of a current dark-tourism site. It’s a lost place
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
What there is to see:
when I stayed in Stepanakert
I wanted to see this museum because I had read that it had many interesting objects relating to the Nagorno-Karabakh
war of the 1990s – and because you allegedly could get a free guided tour in English there.
The latter was indeed the case – a surprisingly young and professional lady greeted me in very good English when I first went there. But unfortunately she had to inform me that because of a power cut, we couldn't go on the tour, or indeed even enter the museum. So I had to come back the next day. Never mind. And not their fault, of course.
The tour started downstairs, in chronological terms at the earliest beginnings, i.e. in prehistoric times. To get to the bits more interesting from a dark-tourism perspective, I had to wait a bit …
First there was some geology, anthropology and culture. Some rather stuffy, musty diorama displays of Neanderthals hunting wild boar and bears had a very old-school Soviet-regional-museum feel, but can potentially at least be regarded as endearing.
It went on in a rather tedious fashion, with artefacts like coins, vases, books, musical instruments, a couple of fine khatchkars, and the like. But the dark tourist's real interest wasn't aroused until the tour got to the communist
-related objects set the scene, soon after a whole section was devoted to WWII
, or rather: the "Great Patriotic War", as it is known in all former Soviet countries. It's a bit dull, just like in most such museums in the former Soviet Union
– all busts of heavily decorated hero generals and flags and other such rather uninteresting pieces. And all the while the guide, despite her initially good English, rattled through her memorized text rather mechanically. So it was not so easy to maintain or feign interest.
Finally, we got to the Karabakh war of the 1990s, so things should have got a bit more captivating. Compared to the Museum of Fallen Soldiers
, however, the artefacts here were, well, rather second rate: a couple of rifles, uniforms and such objects. Otherwise it's all photos, texts and charts … and again more busts of "heroes". In this case e.g. of Monte Melkonian, an ex-US
citizen and Diaspora Armenian who acted as one of the military commanders on the Karabakh side. He had earned much of his militia experience in Lebanon, and in other parts of the world his name is associated with somewhat less heroic deeds, allegedly including terrorism; for which he was imprisoned for a few years in France
Another bust was of Vazgen Sarkisyan, an Armenian military commander in Karabakh who later became defence secretary, and then prime minister, in Armenia
and was assassinated in 1999 in a shooting attack on the Armenian parliament.
Such dramatic stories apart, the Artsakh State Museum's main asset really was the simple fact that, unusually for these parts, it had some English language provision for (non-Armenian and) non-Russian speakers. Not just in the form of the guided tour, also in the texts labelling artefacts and photos – only that the English translations were often a little on the deficient side …
Content-wise, however, the Artsakh State Museum was, for the dark tourist, a much lamer affair than the nearby Museum of Fallen Soldiers
And now it has to be regarded as a lost place
right in the centre of Nagorno-Karabakh
's capital city Stepanakert
, just off the focal point of Shahumian Hraparak roundabout to the east at 4 Davit Sasountsi Poghots. But all these names will now have reverted to some Azeri alternative.
Google maps locator: [39.8175,46.7543
Access and costs: easy and free.
Details: centrally located and thus easy to find – from the bottom end of the Azatamartikneri Poghota main boulevard at the Shahumian Hraparak roundabout just head east. The museum is the first, grand(ish) building to the right, opposite a modern, disproportionately flashy Russian restaurant. There's a sign by the entrance in Russian and English, so it really can't be missed. Opening times: Tuesdays to Sundays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission free – also free is the guided tour in English offered on arrival, which you should take up to get something out of this place. Even if you can read Russian well, much of the significance of the various artefacts would be lost on you without further explanation.
Time required: not long – about half an hour.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: the museum itself can be regarded as one of the very few mainstream "sights" in town – see under Stepanakert and Nagorno-Karabakh for a few further suggestions.
- Artsakh State Museum 1a
- Artsakh State Museum 1b
- Artsakh State Museum 2
- Artsakh State Museum 3
- Artsakh State Museum 4
- Artsakh State Museum 5
- Artsakh State Museum 6
- Artsakh State Museum 7
- Artsakh State Museum 8
- Artsakh State Museum 9
- Artsakh State Museum 9b