2020 Stamp Programme
- xx January 2020: Churches of Stepankert
The Republic of Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախի Հանրապետություն, Artsakhi Hanrapetut’yun), or simply Artsakh, also known by its second official name, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, is a breakaway de facto state in the South Caucasus that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The region is currently populated mostly by Armenians and the primary spoken language is Armenian. Artsakh controls most of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and some of the surrounding area, giving it a border with Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. Its capital is Stepanakert.
The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the First Republic of Armenia when both countries became independent in 1918 after the fall of the Russian Empire, and a brief war over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1920. The dispute was largely shelved after the Soviet Union established control over the area and created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923. During the fall of the Soviet Union, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1991, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighbouring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence based on its right of self-determination. A large-scale ethnic conflict led to the 1991–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire.
Artsakh is a presidential democracy (in the middle of transforming from a semi-presidential democracy after a 2017 referendum) with a unicameral legislature. Some have said that its reliance on Armenia means that, in many ways, it functions de facto as part of Armenia.
The country is very mountainous, averaging 1,097 metres (3,599 ft) above sea level. The population is overwhelmingly Christian, most being affiliated with the Armenian Apostolic Church. Several historical monasteries are popular with tourists, mostly from the Armenian diaspora, as most travel can take place only between Armenia and Artsakh.