The region of Askeran occupies the central part of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh (RMK). It borders in the north and northwest with Martakert region, and in the west with Kashatagh region. The southern border reaches Hadrout and Martouni regions, and the southeast border also touches Martouni region. The northwest of Askeran reaches the border with Azerbaijan. This region occupies an area of 1222 sq. km., and the population here is 17 400 people. In Askeran there are forty-five settlements, one of which is the city of Askeran, located about fourteen kilometers from the RMK capital of Stepanakert. The territory of the region has varied reliefs: it is mountainous in the southwest but flat in the northwest. The rivers Karkar, Badara and Qolatak flow through the region. As historical sources specify, in the past part of the area of Askeran (right-bank of the river Karkar) was included in Varanda province, and the other part (left-bank) was in Khachen province. Here numerous historic architectural monuments remain, among which a special interest represent Askeran fortress (XVIII century), monuments of the village Avetaranots, a former residence of Shakhnazaryan meliks-princes of Varanda, Bovurkhavank, monastery of Saint Gevorg or Ptkes-Berk, church Pirumashen in the Sarushen village, the house-museum of the well-known figure of the Armenian national-liberation movement of the end of XIX and beginning of XX centuries Nikol Duman in Tsakhkashat village, monuments of a valley of the river Badara, a curative spring near the Aygestan village. In Askeran region there is a historical and cultural reserve "Tigranakert". Near the village of Ivanyan burial places are located.
The city of Askeran arose in place of an ancient military fort after 1920 and received its name which literally means "barracks". Since 1967 Askeran has become a settlement of a city type. The Population is 2 100 (in 2008).
The fort which after connection of East Armenia to Russia long time served as a supporting point for Russian armies has been based in place of the city in the beginning of XVIII century. In the city there is a local historical museum which keeps rare exhibits. Not so long ago a new church Surb Astvatsatsin (the Sacred Virgin) has been constructed in which divine services are on a regular basis.
Askeran fortress, which majestic walls can be seen in fourteen kilometers to the east from Stepanakert, on a way to historical and cultural reserve Tigranakert, has been built in the middle ages. In XVIII century it was subject to serious reconstruction and afterwards acquired its present look. The fortification has walls with thickness up to two and height up to nine meters, the round patrol towers connected by narrow corridors. Within the precincts the loopholes are punched. If moving vertically it is possible to climb the walls. This outpost of Karabakh has played a great role in protection of region against the Tatar thugs during the Armenian-Tatar collisions in 1905-06 and from Turkish aggressors in 1918-20. Protective constructions stretch for more than 1,5 km оn both sides of the river Karkar.
The fortress has been preserved well and represents a great interest for all fans of antiquity. Here since 2008 restoration works has been conducted.
The village Avetaranots is a real open-air museum. In Middle Ages and particularly during the rule of Varanda meliks (governors), the settlement was surrounded by powerful fortifications which fragments have been kept till now. In Avetaranots the residence of Varanda meliks Shahnazaryans was located. As well meliks’ palace complexes have been extant. According to the legend, the king of Aghvank Vache II (V century BC), becoming an eremite, lodged here and devoted himself to studying the Gospel, that is why this district began to refer to Avetaranots (in Armenian “Аvetaran” - the Gospel).
Church Surb Astvatsatsin (the Sacred Virgin) – was constructed in 1651 year and is situated in the center of the village. Ancient manuscripts were being stored in the church, some of which created in this church.
Monastery Kusanats Anapat (the Maiden desert, a monastery) - one of the most significant monuments of the village, is in southwest of Avetaranots.From an inscription on the portal it follows that the church was constructed in 1616 year. The kept traces of ancient basils of V-VII centuries with characteristic architectural elements witness that here in an extreme antiquity there was a cult construction of early Christianity.Researches show, that exactly on this place was based the patrimonial tomb of Shahnazaryan meliks. In the vestibule of the church are buried meliks-princes of Varanda and priests. Khachqars (cross-stones), created in different epochs, are immured into the walls of the church.
In the village Avetaranots it is possible to see traces of remarkable samples of civil architecture. First of all, it is three palaces of meliks, belonged to different Shahnazaryan meliks’ family. In a southern part there is a palace of melik Bug, consisting of several main houses. These rooms have been kept well enough, that gives a valuable material for imagination about the dwellings of that time. In the western part of the village a huge rock is sided with the second palace of a melik. To the north from it – there is a palace of melik Shahnazar, including several main houses and vaulted rooms.
All palaces were constructed in 18 century, but their quite safety statement gives a lot of information about the way of life and a life of the noblemen of Karabakh of that epoch.
The monastic complex is between the villages Nngi and Krasni at a height of 1700 meters above the sea level. The complex is located in a picturesque place, and due to its successful architectural decision it harmoniously fits the virgin nature. The fortress-monastery was based by melik-prince of Varanda Bagr who governed in the beginning of 17 century.
The complex consists of the church, several inhabited and economic constructions surrounded by a fortification with towers. The vaulted room of the prior, a room in a tower and a hall connected with it were all well kept.
This monastery-fortress was not only the spiritual center, a summer residence of the meliks of Varanda, but also a garrison of melik’s armies.
PTKES BERK SAINT GEVORG MONASTERY
The monastery of Saint Gevorg has also got another name - Ulubab, which refers to the name of the village, located in several hundred meters below a complex, on a southern slope of the mountain. The monastery was constructed in 712 year by the Armenian chronology (1263 year) the son of the King Ashot Shahanshakh, but during the different periods of time it was repeatedly reconstructed. The main church of the Monastery – three-aisle basil with three-storeyed east side chapels. The second floor southern side chapel, to where it was possible to get to through an aperture in a ceiling of a ground floor, served as a hiding place.
At the western facade of the church a destroyed building, possibly, the vestibule of the church has been kept. The refectory of the monastery is in the southern part of a complex. According to the kept building inscription, it was constructed in XVI century.
In Armenian study literature there is a well-known memorable record of the manuscript created in the monastery of Ptkes Berk in 1490. In a court yard of the monastery a special gravestone with the aperture punched in the center is established. According to tradition, suffering and ill people crawl through it three times to recover from different illnesses.
Due to this miracle stone as well, the monastery was the largest center of pilgrimage not only in the Middle Ages, but also in XIX century and even during the Soviet times.
Since 2008 restoration works here are carried out.
On a roadside of the North-South route, 22 kilometers north from Stepanakert, nearby the village of Sarushen, there is a thousand-year basilica of Pirumashen.
This church is interesting because of the fact that during its construction process more ancient tombstones with unusual ornaments, remained here from pre-christian heathen temple, were immured in its walls. Next to the church a cemetery with gravestones, concerning the early Middle Ages and representing a great interest for fans of history have been kept. Pirumashen stands independently among other monuments of Artsakh and considered to be the pride of local residents.
HEALING SPRING IN AYGESTAN VILLAGE
The spring located in the vicinities of the village of Aygestan in ten kilometers on a line of Stepanakert - Gandzasar, is well- known for its healing water which treats skin diseases. Thousands of people have got rid of their illness only having made ablution and washing out the affected parts of their bodies by the water of this spring.
Till now many believe in healing force of the water of this spring and in summertime it is possible to see people walking barefoot in vicinities of the spring.
VICINITIES OF BADARA VILLAGE
The village Badara located 22 kilometers far from Stepanakert in the picturesque mountainous district, surrounded by forests - one of the most favorite vacation spots for inhabitants of the capital city of Republic of Mountainous Karabakh and its visitors.
Icy cold springs, beautiful landscapes, Alpine meadows, and small mountain rivers – it is far not the full list of sights of this village. Among all this magnificence there are monastic complexes, churches, khachkars (cross-stones) which make Badara an attractive place also for those who are interested in the Armenian history.
The monastery of Okhty eghtsi (Seven churches), located in 7 kilometers from the village, was constructed in XII-XIII centuries and consists of thirteen various, both cult, and inhabited constructions.
Monastery of Otskavank is located on the top of a picturesque rock, consists of the church, several constructions and an ancient cemetery. In this territory have been kept khachkars of XII-XIV centuries.
Monastery of Amenaprkitch (about 3 km from Badara) raises in a dense wood in the territory of ancient settlement. A church, big cemetery with a set of khachkars (cross-stones) have been kept here.
THE GRAVESTONE OF PYLI-PUGHI
Nearby the village Shosh twelve kilometers north to Stepanakert at the North-South turnpike, a tomb of the well-known hero of uncountable jokes, amusing histories, favorite character of Artsakh folklore, resourceful and witty Pyli-Pughi, the clown of melik Shahnazar, who lived in the middle of XVIII century. Inhabitants of his native village Shosh will tell with pleasure different ridiculous stories about their well-known countryman.