Regarding Azerbaijan’s bogus claims concerning Stepanakert

On December 21, 2023, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan declared at the Stepanakert stadium, a city currently under occupation, that 'Khankendi (Stepanakert) is an ancient Azerbaijani region. Established by the Khan of Karabakh, it later evolved into a significant city, thanks to Azerbaijani architects and builders, supported by funds from the Republic of Azerbaijan (

The President of Azerbaijan's speech reflects clear distortions and falsifications of historical facts, notably in the attempt to 'Azerbaijanize' the identity and history of numerous Artsakh settlements, including the city of Stepanakert. This agenda appears to align with an anti-Armenian sentiment and policy pursued by the Azerbaijani regime.

Numerous Armenian sources from the 19th century, along with official documents of the Russian Empire, provide extensive information on the establishment, growth, and construction of the city of Stepanakert. These historical records delve into various aspects, including the ethnic composition of the population, occupation, landlord relations, taxes, and more.

According to Armenian sources, the administrative territory of the modern city of Stepanakert encompassed several Armenian villages, including Vararakn, Pahlul, and Krkzhan, among others. In the late 18th century, the winter residence of the Shushi Khans was established on the northeastern side of present-day Stepanakert, known as Khaninbagh, denoting the khan's garden. These territories were designated as the personal estates of the Shushi Khans and their family members. Among them was the Armenian settlement of Vararakn, which transformed into a khan's estate and village, eventually earning the name Khankendi, literally translated as a khan's village. In the 1820s, the population of Vararakn had significantly declined. Official Russian documents from that period only mention 40 Armenian families along with their priests. Subsequently, the village was abandoned, as the residents relocated to Shushi (Barkhutareants, 1895, 152-153). In 1835, the Russian military established one of its main military stations on the eastern edge of Vararakn, which led to the formation of a new military station. The inhabitants of the surrounding Armenian villages were gradually transferred there. In 1847, Utsmiyev, chief of staff of the Mingrelian regiment of the Russian army, constructed new and more spacious barracks, which was a significant development in the establishment of the current Stepanakert. After that, several more barracks were built in the area (Balayan, 2020, 13-16).

In light of the extensive construction projects carried out by the Russian army, the descendants of the Shushi Khan chose to transfer and donate their land estates to the state. A substantial number of references documenting these transactions have been preserved in official Russian documents, employing the feudal borders of the Karabakh Khanate region. The territories under consideration are identified in these documents as a khanate village and estate, with clear mention of their respective owners. Of significant importance, official Russian documents also provide information about the ethnic affiliation of the population residing in these estates. In the case of the estate and village known as Khankendi, the records specify that the inhabitants are Armenians, comprising both native residents and individuals transferred from other villages (Description of the Karabagh province, 1866, 291).

Following the relocation of the Russian army to alternative locations in 1847, a new settlement took shape around the Russian barracks in the Khankendi area, attracting a substantial influx of Armenian residents. Makar Barkhudaryants provides a detailed account of these processes: "Subsequently, the military presence diminished, leaving behind only married Russian families and a handful of military personnel and Kazakhs. In the aftermath, sixty Armenian families relocated from villages including Shushut, Karkazhan, Khanatsakh, Paluchai, and Pahlul to settle in Khankeand (Khankendi).”  Describing the foundation of Khankendi, Barkhudaryants notes that it was initially established on a hill in 1847 by the Russians as a barracks. The area of Taparak, originally belonging to the residents of Vararakn village who had been transferred to Shushi, retains the ruins of the village, a stone church, and a cemetery on the left slope of the northern gorge of Khankiand, near the Vararakn spring” (Barkhutareants 1895, 152-153). The Armenian press, specifically periodicals such as 'Nor-dar,' 'Ardzagank,' and 'Pailak,' extensively covers detailed information about the emerging settlement, including population size, ethnicity, and other relevant aspects. Notably, the information provided by these sources aligns seamlessly with the facts reported in official Russian documents ((Balayan, 1999, 16-20).

In light of historical evidence, it becomes evident that Khankendi, which the Azerbaijani side claims is exclusively Azerbaijani, has roots in the Armenian village of Vararakn. Originally an estate of the Shushi Khans, Vararakn was later abandoned. The formation of a new settlement, Khankendi, occurred in proximity to the Russian barracks within the former khanate estates, a fact substantiated by Armenian sources. The name Khankendi reflected the historical feudal ownership of the territories rather than the ethnicity of its population. The inhabitants of this new settlement included Russians, Armenians who had been transferred from local and neighboring Armenian villages, and a small number of Tatars.

In 1923, the settlement was renamed Stepanakert in honor of Stepan Shahumyan. Throughout the Soviet era, it was always referred to as Stepanakert in official documents, certificates, and maps. However, after the military operations that led to the depopulation and complete occupation of Artsakh on September 19-21, 2023, the Azerbaijani side dismantled the statue of Shahumyan in November of the same year. According to Azerbaijani news media, this was to restore the city to its "identity". See more details:

Ilham Aliyev's claim that Stepanakert was constructed by Azerbaijani architects and builders contrasts with historical records. The initial project for the central part of Stepanakert, including the square and surrounding streets, was designed by Alexander Tamanyan, as documented in Zoryan (1978, 35). The subsequent and principal project for the entire city was formulated in 1938 at the State Design Institute of Azerbaijan under the leadership of Slobotyanik. Moreover, a new city development project was established in 1968. The design and engineering of the Stepanakert project were led by architect B. Dadashyan, with co-authors including M. Datiyev and other State Design Institute of Azerbaijan employees (Papukhyan 1972, 25, 27). It's noteworthy that the majority of authors involved in designing key administrative structures in Stepanakert were Armenians. While Azerbaijani and Russian architects also contributed, this was a natural outcome since the design work was commissioned through the state project of Azerbaijan. This is in line with the administrative structure during that period, where Nagorno-Karabakh and its capital, Stepanakert, were part of the Azerbaijan SSR. The assertion that Nagorno-Karabakh was solely built with the financial contributions of Azerbaijanis is not accurate. The Soviet economic system operated with funds allocated from central and republican budgets to local administrative units. To claim that the development of Nagorno-Karabakh occurred solely through the financial contributions of Azerbaijanis overlooks the centralized economic planning of the USSR, where decisions and budget allocations were documented and archived in accordance with established procedures.

During his speeches, President Ilham Aliyev makes baseless statements about the past. However, a cursory inspection proves that Azerbaijan continues its anti-Armenian policy.

Used sources

  1. Barkhutareants 1895 - M. Barkhutareants, Artsakh, Baku.
  2. Balayan 2020 - Balayan V., Outlines of the History of Settlements of the Republic of Artsakh, Yerevan.
  3. Papukhyan 1972 - Papukhyan N., Features of the development of Stepanakert, LHG(News of social sciences) magazine, Yerevan, No. 5, pp. 24-34.
  4. Zoryan 1978 - Zoryan S., Alexander Tamanyan, Historical-Philological Journal, 1978, No. 2, pp. 29-44.
  5. Description of the Karabagh province 1866 - Description of the Karabagh province, compiled in 1823 by Ermolov, Tiflis.
  6. Azerbaijanis Vandalized Statue of Stepan Shahumyan in Stepanakert,