Latest:

Tigranakert, Artsakh: Story and Photos by Matthew Karanian

Layer by layer, the excavated ruins of one of the ancient Armenian cities of Tigranakert is revealing evidence of a once-thriving Armenian settlement that dates back to before the time of Christ.

The ruins of Tigranakert of Artsakh (foreground) and the recently reconstructed castle. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

The ruins of Tigranakert of Artsakh (foreground) and the recently reconstructed castle. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

This Tigranakert is located in Artsakh, and the uncovering of precious Armenian artifacts, khatchkars, and foundation stones here has fueled excitement about both the cultural and political significance of the site.

This isn’t the Tigranakert that you studied in Armenian school.

The fabled Tigranakert that most Armenians are familiar with is the one that’s trapped inside the borders of modern Turkey, in historic Western Armenia.

The unheralded Tigranakert of Artsakh is a world away, and just a short drive from Karabagh’s capital and largest town, Stepanakert.

Unlike its more famous counterpart in historic Armenia, this Tigranakert had become largely forgotten until about a decade ago. The site is located in the Askeran region and, as with most places in Artsakh, the lands nearby were the scene of heavy fighting during Karabagh’s war of independence.

The medieval castle of Tigranakert, in Artsakh. The ancient Armenian ruins of Tigranakert, located just beyond the castle, date back to the first century BC. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

The medieval castle of Tigranakert, in Artsakh. The ancient Armenian ruins of Tigranakert, located just beyond the castle, date back to the first century BC. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

A handful of rusted tanks still litter the nearby hills. Aghdam, a now-abandoned community that had been used by the enemy as a base from which to attack Armenian towns and villages, lies a short distance away, opposite a narrow highway.

The international community identifies the sovereignty of the region as disputed. Azerbaijan, which had laid siege to the region until shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and which didn’t permit excavations here during the Soviet era, claims the site for itself.

This territorial dispute lends added significance to the antiquity of the Armenian settlement, since its existence is an overwhelming counterweight to the Azeri contention that Armenians are new arrivals to the region.

The excavated ruins of Tigranakert lie at the base of the mountaintop monastery of Vankasar, in the Askeran region of Artsakh. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

The excavated ruins of Tigranakert lie at the base of the mountaintop monastery of Vankasar, in the Askeran region of Artsakh. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

The ruins of Artsakh’s Tigranakert are evident today to any visitor. But the archaeologist Hamlet Petrosyan, Ph.D., recalls the time, not so long ago, when their existence was little more than a hypothesis.

Petrosyan is the head of the department of cultural studies at Yerevan State University, and the director of the Archaeological Expedition of Artsakh. His studies of ancient Armenian history, and of archaeology, had led him to believe that there might be significant ruins in this area north of Askeran, and at the base of the mountain where the Armenian church Vankasar stands. He believed the site might be one of the lost Tigranakerts. Others weren’t so sure. And prior to Karabagh’s independence, scant resources were committed to finding out.

Tigranakert is named for Tigran the Great, a leader revered in Armenian history for presiding over Armenia’s greatest expansion in ancient time, from 95-55 BC. In Tigran’s honor, at least four settlements are known to have been built and named for him. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. He was, after all, Great.

The mountaintop monastery of Vankasar stands vigil high above the ruins of Tigranakert, in the Askeran region of Artsakh. The ruins of the Tigranakert of Artsakh date back to the first century BC. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

The mountaintop monastery of Vankasar stands vigil high above the ruins of Tigranakert, in the Askeran region of Artsakh. The ruins of the Tigranakert of Artsakh date back to the first century BC. Photo © 2013 Matthew Karanian

The possibility of a Tigranakert in Artsakh intrigued many, including Petrosyan. I met with Petrosyan in Artsakh while I was researching and writing my book, Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide. He walked the site with me and explained how, years earlier, he had seen what he believed were remnants of walls.

Even as we hiked amid the ruins and the remnants of the fortress walls, Petrosyan was scanning the fields for further hints that something else man-made might lay beneath the soil. He saw large depressions in the topography that didn’t appear to be natural. “We can suppose that here we will find something,” he told me, while pointing to a field that appeared to be just a field—except for a modest depression that might hide the long-buried foundations of civic buildings.

Petrosyan and his team of archaeologists from the Armenian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology began excavating the site in 2005. They discovered that this Tigranakert had a citadel, a central business district, churches, suburbs, and cemeteries.

Petrosyan and I walked amid the ruins of one of the Armenian churches that he had uncovered. The church had been built in the 5th century, but by the 18th century its stones had been used as a quarry for materials for the nearby castle. All that remains of the church structure today is its massive foundation, now exposed, at several feet below ground level.

The church foundation reveals a structure that was 29 meters long—one of the largest churches of the Caucasus from this era. Excavations have revealed Armenian inscriptions on the church, as well as a primitive khatchkars (Armenian stone cross).

The city was built entirely from the local white limestone, and Petrosyan’s research suggests that it was occupied until the 14th century. He and his team of archaeologists also determined that the site was founded in the first century B.C.

The excavation of the site thus presents evidence of a continuous Armenian civilization here for more than 2,000 years.

In 2008, the area was designated the Tigranakert Historical-Cultural Reserve by the government of Karabagh. Vast areas of the 2,136 hectare site remain unexcavated, however, because of limited funding for the project.

A medieval-style castle is located within the fortified area of Tigranakert, and was restored several years ago. Today this castle is the most prominent part of Tigranakert, and houses the Tigranakert Museum of Archaeology.

To be sure, the most famous Tigranakert is the one that’s located in historic Western Armenia. But the 2,000-year-old Tigranakert of Artsakh might just prove to be more significant to the future of the Armenians, since it demonstrates their ancient and continuous history here. And if you are already traveling in Yerevan this year, then the Tigranakert that you’ll want to add to your itinerary is the one that’s in nearby Artsakh.

About the Museum

The State Archaeological Museum of Tigranakert is located within the walls of the castle (open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily). To learn more, visit www.tigranakert.am. Check at the museum for information about walking the site and viewing the ruins.

To get there, travel about 35 kilometers north of Stepanakert on the road that leads past Aghdam. The castle of Tigranakert is on the west (left) side of the highway. Tigranakert is best visited as a half-day excursion from either Stepanakert or Shushi, which are the two towns that have the best selection of tourist-class hotels and which draw most of Artsakh’s overnight visitors.

‘Stone Garden Travel Guide’

Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide (Stone Garden Productions, $24.95) was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times, which calls the book “a fresh view on ancient Armenia.” This 320-page guide includes essays on nature and conservation, archaeology, Armenian history, and the cultural sites of Armenia and Artsakh, as well as comprehensive travel information.

The book is the winner of three national book awards, including an award for Best Travel Guide by the Independent Publishers Association, and is available for purchase in Watertown, Mass., from the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA).

 

Matthew Karanian practices law in Pasadena, Calif. He is the author of Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide, the best-selling English-language guide to Armenia. The third edition of this book was published this year. 

26 Comments on Tigranakert, Artsakh: Story and Photos by Matthew Karanian

  1. avatar DR. JOHN MANUELIAN // July 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm // Reply

    these articles should be forwarded to U.S.government circles by ANC so that the case that KARABAGH has been home to ARMENIANS can become known to the AMERICAN negotiators.—john manuelian

  2. As if they don’t know. The question is; Do we have oil…

  3. One-sided presentation of incomplete sets of facts … That is all this is. You can be sure that Karabak will never be internationally recognized as not being part of Azerbaijan, and we will restore it a de-facto as well. Here is our plan:
    – FOR NOW, Russia will not let Azerbaijan take any military steps (see Georgia 2008).
    – So, we will engage in arms-race, we have the money, you don’t. So:
    —-> We will bankrupt you; or

    —-> We will not bankrupt you, but your funds, left after the arms race, will be so little that Armenian becomes even a worse place for living, thereby accelerating your emigration (lower tax bases, skills outflow, etc). It is like a snowball effect. And time is on our side. Each day Azb gets stronger, Arm weaker. You do the extrapolation.; or

    —–> You will keep up with the race thanks to Russian handouts, but you lose your independence in the process (nothing is free in this world). See the recent gas price increase. Russia, realizing that you have no choice but stick with them, will suck your blood dry. And, thanks to being enemies with Azb and Turkey, you will have no choice but ask for more.

    – Even if take another 20 years, we will wait until Armenia is so weak that (a) Even Russia would be like, why do we bother with this shell of a country, and aggravate the more useful Azerbaijan, (b) or we will just negotiate with Russia over the Karabak or even Armenia itself. E.g., if we were to offer them a base (and I think we should), you are kaput. Or something like that.

    The truth is Armenia in its current form is not a sustainable country. 1000+ years ago, yes, you may have been somebody, but the modern Armenia is an artificial entity set up and sustained by Russia as a buffer against Iran/Turkey. And the relationship between the trio has been improving. Eventually they won’t need a buffer at all or need it less enough to negotiate a deal with Azerbaijan. Remember: everything has its price. From the way Russian treat Armenians in Moscow, you know that they are not in love with you unconditionally.

    Some Armenians think that we will soon run out of oil. Maybe. But you will run out of Armenians first. And even if no, before the oil is run out and (if we don’t discover new sources, which we do almost every other year), by then our infrastructure will have been built and multiple engines of economy will be in place. E.g., do you know how many engineers the governments sends abroad each year to prestigious schools? Doctors, scientists? The educational, professional know-how of the Azeris who are gaining experience from the multinationals that have flocked to the Azeri oil boom. Just one thought for food… While Armenia was busy selling itself to Gazprom, Azerbaijan was in Greece buying their gas company.

    So, I say to our government. Why bother with a war? Spare the innocent lives and hassle. Just wait. We will win this war while sipping cognac at the Seaside Boulevard. Relax and enjoy watching Armenia implode. As the recent bus-fare protest showed there, the poor people over there cannot even afford paying 10 cents more for buses. The next big wave, much bigger in fact, will come when all the commodities and produce skyrocket in response to the gas price increases. People will revolt against Sarkissian (as if he has any power to do anything against Russia), political instability, and further weakening. We can wait. Take care.

    • So to recap Kerim’s post: Armenia is a weak nation because it relies heavily on Russia and will only increase its dependence on Russia. Azerbaijan should collaborate with Russia, improve its relations, and allow Russia to build a base in Azerbaijan- which apparently does not then make Azerbaijan dependent on Russia, but makes it stronger.
      .
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDgNc-qKb3sR
      .
      The truth about Azerbaijan

    • Go on Kiva and see how many Azeris are begging for loans. Aliyev doesn’t care about his country or his people. He’s just keeping them hungry so he can take the money and blame someone else.

    • Dream on Karim; Over 30 years ago Saddam Hussain fired his missiles towards Tehran, wreaking havoc and destruction. The distance from Baghdad to Tehran is much, much, longer than the distance from Stepanakert to Baku, and after 30 years we’ve got more sophisticated and powerful missiles flying longer distances. Your folks make a wrong move, we will flatten Baku, Ganjah, and Yevlakh together with good portion of your oil pipelines in just one day.

  4. Hey karim// what are you smoking? I thought Armenians are newcomers to the Caucuses! Now you are saying Armenians were there 1000 years ago. Wow what a revelation. Do me a favor, tell that to Sultan Aliev. Maybe not, he will put you in prison for the rest of your life.
    As for the arms race, we don’t need to buy more arms, you are doing it for us. You see, we will use your arms against you when you start running away from the battlefield just like you did in the first War.

  5. Mr. karim, how about this scenario, in few years time, there will be an independent Kurdistan which will include parts of Turkey, Syria Iraq and maybe Iran, Azerbaijan will be divided among it’s indigenous peoples like lezgis, Avars, Talish and udis and the new border of Armenia with these entities will be the Kura river.

  6. Karim, your hypotheses is so outlandish that it is truly absurd.
    But I will respond to some of them. First I am shocked that an Azerbaijani is admitting that Armenians have been living in the Caucuses for at least a 1000 years. Please don’t tell that to sultan Aliev, he will throw you in prison for the rest of your life. second, Armenians don’t need to spend billions of dollars worth of arms. You see, we will use these arms against you when you abandon them and ran away from the battlefield as you did in the first war.

  7. To: Karim and all Azeri’s , Remember Agdam ? Baku is next .

  8. Karim
    I saw some traces of “logic” in your comment which is good. Logic, as twisted as it can be, is normally absent in comments made by Azeris.
    Do you seriously believe that Azerbaijan is getting stronger?! Azerbaijan is one of the most corrupt states in the world, its ruling system is similar to a medieval monarchy and its economy is totally reliant on oil. You probably don’t know that in the last few years your government has been struggling to maintain less than 1% positive economic growth, in the last few years Azerbaijan has injected billions of dollars of its reserve funds in construction and service sector to avoid recession. The heyday for Azerbaijan is over, the days of 30 percent economic growth are gone, Azerbaijan is a country which squanders its oil revenue, which is not going to last for ever, on ridiculous projects. In the last few years, billions of dollars have been spent to find new oil fields but to no avail. Azerbaijan has already passed its peak oil production and it is not a secret that your government is cutting back on oil production to avoid a sharp and sudden decline in a few years. Overall, your future, believe it or not, is much bleaker than that of Armenia. In a few years, Azerbaijan will be a country with some 12 to 13 million population with very little oil and gas revenue, lack of hard currency will bring about hyperinflation and rampant unemployment.
    I can see the day when your hubris will turn to regret.

  9. RVDV, really? That open about lacking logical skills? What exactly in post claimed that having a foreign military base on your soil is a sufficient condition for lacking independence? Look, Germany has a US base, and it thrives. So can Azerbaijan with a Russian base. In the case of Armenia, the presence of the base is not a sufficient condition either, but is a simptom of Armenian weakness, which then in turn gets and will get exploted by Russia for maximum benefits to themselves.

    @Mardi, as for your logical fallacy, and yes, you have one too, you take the past to be a infallible predictor of the fututure. Here are two facts. When you took Agdam, during the total chaos of Azeri political system, our military budget was $192m. Do you know this number today? $3-4 BILLION dollars! Now, by virtue of already having taken our lands by force, you already demonstrate the desire to do more. So I am sure if you could, you would have tried to do so. But let’s not waste our time with hearsy. Let’s wait. And my point above, is we can.

    @Jack, about us abandoning weapons. That is a child’s tale. We didn’t have much weapons to abandon back then. I guess that is the tale that makes you sleep at night knowing how much scary weapons we have been building up … “Oh, yes, they will drop it and run.” Go and read Thomad De Wall’s books, or read the reports of International Crisis Group, etc. They all agree: the next round of the war will be nothing like the first. ANd dont be too proud of the 1st round. Do you know why Armenia stopped its advance back then? And yes, they could have tried to come all the way to Baku back then. By didn’t they then? Because your master, Russia, pulled your leash. They had helped you get that far, and it was deemed enought back then. As for now, we are just wating for Russia to change its mind about your. And history is the witness that they have already done that once … to your great detriment. So if you are going to rely on history to repeat itself, then, fine, it goes both ways though…

    • Karim, it is not the amount or the quality of weapons that a country has it is the soldier behind it…The arabs had more weapons and more soldiers then Israel and they couldn’t do a thing with it..same with the Azeris, they had the money, the soldiers and the armaments but the one thing they didn’t have was the quality the brains and the determination of the Armenian soldier. History is the witness since the dark ages. (Spartans against the Persians come to mind)..think about it.

    • To: Karim and all Azeri’s , Remember Agdam ? Baku is next .

  10. Minas, I am glad to hear that you are interested in logical discussion. Of course, I am biased. So are you. The trick is to salvage at least some form of a genuine exchange of opinions. Now, about the Azeri oil. To offer a counterintuitive read on it, ironically the Azeri oil is actually a good thing for Armenia. Because it plays a stabilizing force, discouraging Azerbaijan from taking a risky campaign of restarting the war. (“Why risk what we have built over some farmlands we have lost?”). If Russia was not part of the picture, we would have ventured something. But Russia is a wild card. I mean it is known that it will take Armenia’s side, but we don’t know to what extent. E.g., will Russian use the occasion to put Azerbaijan under their own control? At the leadership level in Azb, oil plays even more of a deterrent role. If things go wrong at a new war, Aliyev will get thrown out of the office, either by opposition or Russia, his family losing their villas. Why bother? So, instead ALiyev just barks, stages silly parades wasting public money — since he cannot and will not do anything else. So, if I were Armenian, I would hope the oil continues flowing in Baku. The day it stops, the Azeri leadership may try to divert public’s attention to Karabak.

    Is our government corrupt? Of course. Is it more corrupt than yours? Sure. But mostly because there is more to steal for a corrupt leader in Baku than there is in Yerevan.

    To end it in a somewhat positive tone … Another reason why Azeri oil is good boom for Armenia. Sooner or later, there will be stable peace between the two countries. By then, the oil may have built infrastructure in Caucasus to which Armenia could then join, be it the railway connecting Caucasus to Europe thru Turkey, or some other projects.

    • Karim, your reply to Minas is completely different from your first comment. Are you now abandoning the idea that Aliev will start a new war to reclaim Artsakh (Karabagh)? All those billions of dollars worth of arms, what a waist! He could have used that money to build homes and feed those poor refugees who are living in shacks for the past 20 years. Now I will tell you a secret. There will be no other war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Because Aliev knows very well that if he starts a new war, Baku will be the only city left in Azerbaijan.

    • the BS never ends with your type does it?

      The manufacture of BS for propaganda, not the oil, is the true “wealth” of your fake “azerbajian”. You will NEVER run out of them.

  11. Jack, my two posts are not mutually contradictory but rather mutually complementary. Azeri oil wealth is a deterrent to us starting a rematch war. At the same time, that same oil helps us fund a cold war, draining Armenians coffers thru arms race and forcing it into Russia’s suffocating arms. My overall point is that the second path is better than the first. And frankly, Aliyev has been doing an outstanding job at that. Look at results. Could Sarkissian ever do anything Putin dislikes strongly? “Jack up the price down there, Dima, would you?” And look at the latest massive mistake Armenia is making by concluding a trade agreement with EU (instead of Putin’s alternative customs union). I am looking forward to Russia’s response once the deal with EU is officially signed. The Russian delivery of $1B arms to Azerbaijan was just a warning to Armenia, which ignored it and went ahead with EU. And why this trade deal? I don’t get it. What, so that France can dump its subsidized cheese in Armenian with low tariff and kill the local producers? I tell you why. Like Azerbaijan and Georgia, Armenia too has an inferiority complex with regards to Europe. We are so close and yet so still not in Europe! It is like a dogma, a prestige to be associated with Europe. But at what cost? See, Aliyev plays a great international game; he is fully aware of Russia’s might and influence, and does not cross it more than he has to. But Sarkissian does. And unnecessarily so. And for that, a punishment is forthcoming. If you prefer West to Russia, fine, great. But don’t then have the latter have a 50-year leased base there, plus with hands on your gas tap. You cannot have it both ways.

    • Karim, as far as energy is concerned, Armenia is quickly diversifying its sources of energy. We are already extracting gas from our landfills, importing gas from Iran while exporting some of our surplus electricity in return, and new technology like fracking has already caused several companies to start gas/oil exploration projects in Armenia. So we not are as dependent on Russia as you think. As far as Aliyev playing a great international game and Sarkissian overstepping his boundaries, you are wrong. The world views Aliyev as a leader who is tightening its grip on Azerbaijan at the expense of human rights, free speech, and privacy. Azerbaijan is becoming a police state and the international community is beginning to take notice. As for Sarkissian, I am not a supporter of him, however I must note that he is doing an excellent job maintaining a balanced approach between the east and west. Name another country in the world which has excellent relations with Iran, USA, and Russia while not jeopardizing the development of relations with either one of these 3 parties. Finally, if Russia’s delivery was of $1 billion dollars in weaponry was a warning to Armenia, then explain why a few days later, Russia signed a deal to fully expand and modernize it’s air force by providing them with Mig jets, radar systems, etc. Also important to note is that a day after providing Azerbaijan with $1 billion in weapons (at market prices) Russia signed a new defense deal with Armenia providing these weapons at cut rate discounts and in most cases for free.

  12. Vic, yes, quality vs quantity is relevant, but you should not read too much into the Stage 1 of the war to call your guys super-brave. Here is the quick anatomy of the Stage 1:

    – Neither side had advanced weapons. The war was essentially decided by who had more of Grad rocket launching trucks and who had 20 old tanks versus 15.

    – These were used by both sides to terrorize the civilians on the other side – but from afar. The game changed after the Khojali, when the Azeri civilians saw that Armenians meant business by actually coming and taking over civilians centers. Till then, as your president Sarkissian himself admitted to Thomas de Wall, the Azeris had thought that they were safe from such things. Panic spread after that.

    – Next, the big town of Shusha fell AFTER civilians fled upon indications of an Armenian attack, having seen what Armenians were capable of doing in Khoali. If Azerbaijan had a functioning government to assure them that the town would be defended, they would have stayed. But there was total chaos and unlawfulness in the Soviet Union disintegration mess. And they fled. Whatever military the Azeris had was then re-directed to escorting them out. After Susha, it was just a dominos game, one town falling after another. You did not really win big battles, but walked into mostly vacated districts.

    So, when you imply that Armenians had better soldiers, I challenge you to name one major battle where two arms actually engaged in the traditional sense. There were no such battles , until … the Azeri general Surat Huseynov, buying weapons from the Russian base in Ganja, liberated nearly 1/3 of Karabak in a matter of weeks, and killing your Monte Melkonian in the process. So I am sure the bravery of Armenian soldiers did not change that much overnight (what had changed was the change in who had a few more tanks and grads). And it was not their bravery that fought back Huseynov. Instead, the latter took his troops towards Baku to cease power, and those lands were then quickly reclaimed by Armenia.

    You don’t take my word for the above. Go and read Thomas De Wall, and read independent observers. All agree that the first stage of the war is nothing like the second one were it to occur. So, if I were an Armenian, I would not rest on my laurels too much because of the first round. And it is not just the better weapons we have … The past 20 years, the Azeri youth have been brought up burning with the desire to take back our land. If you think we are going to forget … look, you cannot even forget what happened 100 years ago.

    What will happen next? True, I think there are strong incentives for the Azeri leadership not to start anything while Russia says no. But, as the International Crisis Group, and others, have pointed out … an accidental flare up can very well escalate into a full scale war. And if Armenians think that they can bomb Baku, and yes they can … Azeris have such weapons too. Armenians think that Russia’s presence will discourage such a response. But you forget … what would we have to lose if the war escalates like that, threatening our existence? Yes, our oil fields will burn. But have you forgotten your nuclear plant Metsamor? And I am not a huge fan of Turkey, but I don’t think Turkey will stand by and let Azerbaijan be completely destroyed (if not anything else, it will endanger their pan-turkic expansion politics and push them out of Caucasus+Central Asia). So in this sense, actually, I think it will be Russia who will stop you (they control you): they will not let you strike Baku, and if the war starts (which they will discourage at all costs), it will be a local war. Why else do you think Russia has sold us S300 anti-missile systems? To discourage the Armenian thought-process whereby they think, having S300 themswelves, they can bomb Baku with impunity. We have those same weapons too. We bought it with our money, you with your independence.

    See, at the end of the day, Russia can afford to let you lose Karabak, but cannot afford a massive regional war involving Turkey and potentially Iran, and even NATO. Will you be pissed off at Russia? Of course. But Putin knows: where else is Armenia going to go? You are stuck with Russia, with or without Karaba. And it is your policies vis-à-vis Turkey that has firmly planted you in their arms. Forget Azerbaijan, you need Russia against Turkey.

    So in a nutshell, Russia is the gurantor of peace in the region, as counter-intuitive as it stands. And I think it is a good thing. War is a bad thing even if it means liberating our lands. Hopefully somehow they can come up with a compromise, but I am not optimistic.

  13. Karim, there are several things I would like to address in this post. I don’t usually debate with Azeris because most are not capable of having an intellectual debate without issuing threats, thumping their chest, promising to finish what the Turks couldn’t in 1915, etc. However you are attempting to use some logic in your arguments so I thought it might be worth it to reply.

    First, as far as Armenia’s energy dependence on Russia is concerned, yes it is true that Armenia is dependent on Russia for natural gas. However, Armenia has made great strides in an attempt to diversify its sources of energy. We have completed a gas pipeline with Iran which allows us to import 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas from Iran (per year) in exchange for Armenia’s surplus electricity. We are currently importing only a third of this amount because Iran presently lacks the high-voltage transmission lines to support the transmission of Armenian electricity in large amounts. Iran will finish the transmission lines in early 2014 and we will be even less dependent on Russia for natural gas. Let me also note that Armenia’s total gas consumption in 2012 was 2.45 billion cubic meters of gas. This means that once Iran finishes their transmission lines next year, Armenia will have the capacity to import 45 percent of its natural gas from Iran. Moreover, talks are currently underway to build a second Iran-Armenia gas pipeline. Basically this will alleviate the risk that Russia will use gas prices as a weapon against Armenia. Also, with new technology such as “fracking” numerous gas and oil exploration companies have applied for permits to operate in Armenia whose known gas and oil reserves are hidden deep beneath rock formations. Armenia has also diversified its sources of electricity. There is an agreement underway to build a new nuclear power plant. We also have new thermal power plants, wind farms, hydroelectric power plants, a small waste to energy plant, and presently we are building the Jermaghbyur geothermal power plant. There are plans for several solar farms, however the deals have not been finalized yet. Basically, Armenia in a few years will become one of the biggest energy exporters in that region.

    A second thing I would like to address is your claim that the Russian delivery of $1B arms to Azerbaijan was just a warning to Armenia for concluding a trade agreement with the EU. If that is the case, can you please provide an explanation as to why a few days after selling those arms to Azerbaijan (at steep market prices which slapped on a very high premium over the cost of production) did Russia then turn around and make a deal with Armenia to expand Armenia’s Air Force in 2014. The deal is to include new Russian military helicopters, airplanes, and radar systems. Air defense systems will also be “modernized and re-equipped.” Furthermore, a few days after announcing the deal to expand Armenia’s Air Force, Russia and Armenia signed a second defense deal which will facilitate continued Russian arms supplies to the Armenian army at cut rate prices, and in most cases free. Finally, just a few days ago the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh armed forces received huge arms acquisitions. The arms acquisitions have been so large that the Karabakh military has “difficulty storing them and plans to build a new arms depot for that purpose.” So where do you think these arms came from, and do you think the timing of these three occurrences is a coincidence? I think not.

    Karim there are several more topics you touched upon which I would like to address. However this post is already long and I will refrain from talking about your claims on Armenia’s economy and Aliyev’s “international game” versus Sarkissian’s until you have replied to the two points I have made. Also, if you doubt any of the claims I have made here and would like me to reveal my sources, feel free to ask. I will gladly share them with you.

  14. Fedor, thank you for your thoughtful response to my post. Sorry if you have had bad experiences with Azeri interlocutors. But, I’d be surprised if you believed that this does not go both ways (just read some of the response to me here). And I think it is ok … any two peoples who are at war will naturally gravitate towards hatred. But some of us, who are interested more in intellectual conversation than chest-thumping, should transcended that. Anyways … about your points.

    Yes, I did not know these facts and do not question their veracity. But at best, they would mean Russia’s influence is reduced, and not that the reduction is material. Cooperation with Iran … the sanctions plus the possible future war will eliminate this option for you. And also, why would Russia, now that it already TODAY, not tomorrow, has the influence allow you to reduce your dependence on them? As soon as they sense that Iran alternative is anything material, they will squash that option for you. And I doubt that Iran will ever have a military base there. As for wind, fracking, etc … these are pies in the sky. Still good for you that you are trying these things, but that does not detract from Azerbaijan’s success in having already pushed you inescapably into Russia’s orbit. You know, in space, when a smaller object gets too close to the big object, it gets captured in its orbit, and can never escape. I think Armenia vis-à-vis Russia is that object. It is too late for you to break free. You can mitigate that dependence, but not to any meaningful extent.

    Put yourself in Putin’s shoes. He has to utter only a couple of sentences to Sarkissian to get him to do whatever he wants: “You are on your own against Azerbaijan and Turkey, and, oh yeah, I am raising the gas price 100% tomorrow.” What is your guy to say? “Fine! We have wind and the rocks under which we might or might not have gas! Fine! I will air my territorial claims against the largest NATA army in the continent on my own! And I will hold on my own against an enemy that spends twice more on arms than my entire state budget!” Russia owns you! As I have said before, we Azeris may have lost Karabak (nothing more than farmland), but you have lost Armenia, your only hope for an independent country. And yes, you have lost independence, if a foreign country has over you the kind of leverage that Russia does over you. And from thence, it is going to get even worse.

    What would I do if I was Sarkissian? Well, the way the pieces are already set on the chess-board, I’d have no other options but do as he does. And that is the tragedy of Armenia’s situation. It is stuck, with few options. The only thing is perhaps this, and I thought Sarkissian was already doing that brilliantly in 2008-2009, which is this: Draw Turkey away from Azerbaijan. It is easier than you think. The truth is Turkey does not care about Azerbaijan too much, and would sell us, but for the right price … giving up all talks about territorial claims, give up genocide claims (see, you can bring it up later after Azb and Turkey have been pulled apart). The thing is, Aliyev was very smart about this chess move … he moved very quickly to plug that strategic hole by signing the big gas deal with Turkey. I think he is a better chess-player than Sarkissian, who seems to let emptions take over. Why else, would he aggrevate Turkey unnecessarily? What is the point of saying aloud what you think, if you don’t have to?

  15. Is there even one posting amongst the above which is on topic and a legitimate response to an article about an archaeological site?

    My response is “what credibility can an entity titled ‘Tigranakert Historical-Cultural Reserve’ be when it contains embarassements like the medieval Vankasar church and the medieval castle?” Both these structures have been so rebuilt (or “restored”, a practice is still used in Armenia as if it were a good thing) that they are now completely worthless as historical monuments. The Azeris were responsible for the church, but Armenians did the castle. What protection will the Tigranakert site have to prevent it suffering the same fate, perhaps at the hands of some rich “benefactor” with bad taste and an ego complex?

  16. Karim, thank you for your response. The only thing that I agree with in your response is that the oil pipeline with Iran will reduce not eliminate Russia’s influence on Armenia. As far as Iran having a military base in Armenia, we will never even entertain the idea of it. I do not know why you brought that up in your argument in the first place.

    Now there are several things in your post which I would like to bring up. First your idea of Russia will or will not do is purely hypothetical and cannot be used to solidify your argument. In actuality, the geopolitical interests involved in Russia’s and Armenia’s relationship is much more complex than some gas pipelines. There are other factors involved here (such as common a border with a NATO country) which complicates things. Secondly, I was disappointed that you did not reply to the second part of my initial post which was concerning the two military deals signed by Russia and Armenia a few days AFTER Russia sold you military equipment at inflated retail price, as well as the massive arms acquisition by the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh a few days after this transaction. I suppose you ignored this part on purpose because it would reveal the fallacy of your argument.

    In any case, thank you for your response. As Steve mentioned in the comment above this, this is an article about an archaeological site. If you wish to continue this debate about geopolitics please provide me with your contact information in your response, and I will happily continue this debate.

  17. avatar joe van hanovnikian // October 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm // Reply

    gorgeous photos

  18. “And look at the latest massive mistake Armenia is making by concluding a trade agreement with EU (instead of Putin’s alternative customs union). I am looking forward to Russia’s response once the deal with EU is officially signed. The Russian delivery of $1B arms to Azerbaijan was just a warning to Armenia, which ignored it and went ahead with EU. And why this trade deal? I don’t get it. What, so that France can dump its subsidized cheese in Armenian with low tariff and kill the local producers?”

    LOL, no deal with EU. That ought to have shut your mouth up?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*