Celebrating Independence: Artsakh Then and Now

Author Matthew Karanian encountered a platoon of Artsakh soldiers on patrol in central Stepanakert in 1995. Photo (c) 2020 Matthew Karanian

I had just arrived in Artsakh in the summer of 1995, when I heard the distinctive sound of soldiers marching behind me.

As I turned around, a group of fresh-faced soldiers marched past me and toward the center of Stepanakert—Artsakh’s capital city. The soldiers appeared to be training for a chemical weapon attack. But their gas masks didn’t shock me. Instead, I was stunned by their apparent youth.

Author Matthew Karanian (right) with Nora Babayan (center) and Robert Kurkjian in Stepanakert during their research about Armenia and Artsakh in 1995.

I’ve made dozens of trips to Artsakh since then, and I’ve observed a lot of progress in the country.

But after 25 years, there’s still been no improvement in Artsakh’s prospects for a just and lasting peace. Artsakh is still at war against an aggressor that denies Artsakh’s right to exist.

And so it is fitting that each year, the people of Artsakh publicly celebrate their existence, and commemorate another year of self-determination.

These photos show some of the scenes that I have observed, beginning in 1995, when I have joined the people of Artsakh in these commemorations of democracy.

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Matthew Karanian
Matthew Karanian practices law in Pasadena, Calif. He is the author of ‘The Armenian Highland: Western Armenia and the First Armenian Republic of 1918’ (Stone Garden Press, 2019). For more information, visit www.historicarmeniabook.com


  1. I have been to Artsakh three times. The first under glasnost times. Jan and I hope to return in2021. Your Then and Now video is superb.

  2. I have been to Artsakh twice, in 1994 and 1995 to provide the the authorities with medical supplies and funds for the war effort.
    Too bad we didn’t cross paths!

  3. Great work Matthew! You are an outstanding patriot with your publications, updates and presence on the ground. Thank you for your commitment.

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