Tourism Dream For Southern Enclave Of Nagorno Karabakh


July 14 2008

Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognised republic that proclaimed independence
in 1991, is surrounded by Azerbaijan. Now it survives on subsistence
agriculture and inward investment from Armenians across the world.

Cows, goats and sheep, wheat and potatoes, the odd vineyard sprinkled
through the countryside and the absence of virtually any industry –
that’s the life of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Leonard Grigoryan used to be a bus driver, but now he’s a shepherd. He
lives kilometres away from the nearest village and once a week he
heads there to see his friends and buy some bread.

"I trade in my beef, and I have milk from my cows. Everything I do,
I do it for my family and grandchildren. But of course it’s hard work,"
Leonard says.

But Armenians around the globe are supporting Nagorno-Karabakh,
and this is the main source of income for the republic.

A Russian businessman whose family is Armenian has given money to
build a school in Nagorno-Karabakh and he has a number of other
projects in the area, including a restaurant and swimming pool.

He says his aim is to ignite tourism.

"You know, there are huge prospects for tourism development here. You
can see the beauty of this place, and the ecology is great. No doubt
it’ll be a paradise in the near future," says Sergey, a businessman.

People who have visited Nagorno-Karabakh as tourists agree.

Shane Leahy is a tourist from Dubai, and it’s his second trip to
Karabakh. He says Nagorno-Karabakh has a lot of advantages as a
tourist spot.

"It’s safe, it’s not expensive, and it’s a relatively short trip to
fly here from Dubai and back. And the people here are very friendly
compared to other places of the world," he says.

But it could take a long time before tourists invade in larger numbers,
as Nagorno-Karabakh has no airports or railways.

‘Frozen conflict’

Nagorno-Karabakh is the source of a dispute between two former Soviet
republics, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and is now one of the world’s
‘frozen conflicts’.

The region was devastated by a war fought over its independence at
the beginning of the 1990s. It lasted three years taking the lives of
over 30,000 people. The conflict ended in a ceasefire with Armenian
army units defending the republic’s unofficial borders.