Xankandi (Stepanakert, Khankandy)
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Xankandi / Stepanakert - location mapXankandi is the capital city of the Nagorno-Karabakh region (meaning 'Mountainous Black Garden',  the Armenians prefer the name 'Artsakh'). Formerly an autonomous region within Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh and some adjoining territories are currently outside the control of the Azeri Government (see international disputes), and the former local Azeri population has been deslocated eastwards.

Xankandi / Stepanakert: government buildingXankandi is a recent city, currently with a population of under 30.000 souls, significantly less than in Soviet times. It was founded in 1917 after the October revolution on the site of the village of the same name and was renamed Stepanakert in 1923 for Stepan Shaumyan, a Baku Armenian communist leader. After Azerbaijan gained independence the name was changed back to Xankandi, though the Armenians continue to call the city Stepanakert.

Xankandi / Stepanakert: at the marketDue to the present military situation, to visit Xankandi you need to go via Armenia (this is quite easy, but see the visas section for details on the bureaucracy). The roads have been improved during recent years and new roads were also built. The road distance from Yerevan is about 200 km, so in the Armenian capital simply board a bus, minibus ("marshrutka") or rent a car. The road will take you via Goris, Lachin and Shusha, and plenty of breathtaking landscape.

As a more expensive, but faster, alternative you can get helicopter services between Yerevan and Xankandi (flights operated by Russian built Mi-8s).

Nagorno Karabakh / Daqliq Qarabaq / Artsakh - mapBorn in a nest of mountains, today Xankandi is a large, clean and well kept city that looks totally rebuilt. After Agdam was captured, the people of Xankandi hauled back building materials and whatever they could salvage to rebuild their city. Needless to say, there isn't much left of Agdam, which is now in the buffer zone occupied by Armenian forces (although the mosque with its elaborate wall mosaics has been preserved).


The shops in Nagorno Karbakh's capital are well stocked - you'll notice a lot of Iranian and Turkish goods! Have a walk trough the bustling open market to capture the spirit of the city.

Xankandi / Stepanakert: at the Youth palaceThe city is rather lively, with the valuable contribution of the students of the Artsakh State University which has become a reputable education and research institution. There are musical and medical schools, a football stadium, and a Soviet style Youth Palace. The people are quite friendly, but the nationalist feelings are still very strong, so expect the conversation to drift towards politics.

Being a recent city Xankandi lacks the heritage present all over Nagorno Karabakh, but there are a few places worth visiting: the Veratsnound Sq., the Historical Museum of the Artsakh, the “Vahram Papazian”  Drama Theatre, the monument of the local freedom fighter Ashot Ghulian (Bekor) and the Memorial Monument to the  killed soldiers of Artsakh.

Xankandi / Stepanakert: Tatik Papik monumentNear the road to Shusha lies the monument that has become the symbol of Artsakh -  nicknamed “Tatik Papik” (Grandmother and Grandfather), it was created in Soviet times by sculptor Sarkis Baghdasarian, a named "We Are Our Hills", symbolizing the attachment to the Karabakh land (it was inagurated by then communist leader Heydar Aliyev).

Xankandi has a varied industrial structure and is especialy important for food processing, wine making, and silk weaving. It produces furniture and footware.

(350 km west of Baku)
see also: Nagorno Karabakh, hotels in Xankandi, maps, images, visas, Shusha, Agdam, Lachin, summary
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