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Armenia: Stepanakert Memorial Complex

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Stepanakert Memorial Complex | Armenia | Asia

[Visited: May 2012]

We had just arrived in Stepanakert after a long ride from Martuni in Armenia, had passed the border with our newly acquired visa, and had reached Stepanakert just in time to be able to have a walk in the city. We wandered through the quiet streets, had a chat with curious people, until we reached the other side of town, where we found the memorial complex that we had passed before. The road was sloping upwards here, which made the complex look even bigger than it already is. Originally erected in memory of the inhabitants of Karabagh who died during World War II, the memorial complex now also includes a section where those who died in the Karabagh war in the early 1990s are buried.

Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Remarkable arch with heads sculpted on the left

When we entered the memorial complex, we soon realized we had done so in the latter section. Whenever I visit a cemetery, I cannot help but check the dates of birth and death - so as to see how much time the person had had on our planet. It soon dawned on me that, while calculating the age of the soldiers, that most of them were born around or in my own birth year, but died in the early 1990s - all died too young, all died when their lives should normally just have begun. Such is the cruelty of war. They were born here, and perished; I was born elsewhere, in a more peaceful part of the world (well, in my lifetime, that is), and lived to visit their graves. It was a moment of reflection on the relativity of things, of life. But in any case, it filled me with a sad feeling.

Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): The eternal flame at the feet of the obelisk is the centrepiece of the memorial complex

To underline the Armenian character of Nagorno-Karabagh, there are modern versions of all-time Armenian symbols like khackhars in this part of the memorial complex. We walked the stairs to the main platform. We stood at the foot of the obelisk that towers above the complex, where the eternal flame can be found. I decided to leave the flowers that friendly locals had given us on our walk here, next to other flowers. An old man with his wife approached us, and we tried to have a conversation with them; it turned out he had fought in the Karabagh war, had lost friends, had probably killed others who were laying elsewhere, on another cemetery. He showed us his wounds; and the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes immediately made me realize the impact the war had had on him as a young soldier. We walked around more, seeing the graves for those who died in World War II, when this was still Soviet Union, rows of graves, a common grave on a low hill - right across is a large hospital where wounded soldiers were taken. The skies had been dark all the time, and were only getting darker - an appropriate setting for this impressive monument. When it started to rain, we knew it was time to get going - within ten minutes, thick streams of water would run through Stepanakert.

Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Dark clouds gathering over the memorial complex of Stepanakert
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Khachkar in the modern part of the memorial complex, underlining the Armenian character
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Head sculpted out in the memorial complex
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Dark clouds over the obelisk of the memorial complex
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Tombstone for young soldier in greyscale
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Close-up of the sculpted heads at the memorial complex
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): View of the memorial complex
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): The stairway linking the main platform with the section in which the fallen of the Karabagh war are commemorated
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Corner of the modern part of the memorial complex with khachkar-like carved stones
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Dark clouds over the memorial complex
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Massive Wall of Triumph with bass-reliefs depicting war scenes
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Well maintained graves of soldiers who died during the Karabagh war
Picture of Stepanakert Memorial Complex (Armenia): Plaque with hammer and sickle commemorating the Second World War

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