The word Karabakh (also spelled Karabagh and Qarabağ) originates from the Azerbaijani Turkish language, and literally means “black garden” (“kara” means black and “bagh” means garden.) The place name is first mentioned in the Georgian Chronicles (Kartlis Tskhovreba), as well in Persian sources from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The name became common after the 1230s, when the region was conquered by the Mongols.

Karabakh is a geographic region in southwestern Azerbaijan, extending from the highlands of the Lesser Caucasus down to the lowlands between the rivers Kura and Aras. It includes two sub-regions, as follows: Mountainous Karabakh (better known as Nagorno-Karabakh) and Lowland Karabakh (the southern Kura plains and mountains, which includes the districts of Aghdam, Aghjabedi, Barda, Fuzuli, Gubadli, Jebrayil, Kelbajar, Lachin, Terter, and Zangilan).
The word Karabagh also refers to a specific rug pattern originally produced in the area. Check out the Karabagh textile featured at the Textile Museum The Karabakh region is an area within Azerbaijan, constituting approximately 3,175 square miles. It has a population of about 600,000, most of whom are displaced. Karabakh’s traditional capital Shusha was founded between 1750-1752 by Panah-Ali khan Javanshir, an Azerbaijani general who was the first ruler of the Karabakh khanate (kingdom).
The Azykh Cave, located in southern Karabakh, is thought to be one of the most ancient sites of Neanderthal habitation in the world. A Neanderthal style bone was found that dated to 300,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest proto-human specimens found in the Caucuses. Stone tools have been found and evidence indicates that the site was occupied by hominids for nearly two million years.
Lowland and Mountainous Karabakh, dating back more than two millennia, were populated with several autochthonous Caucasian tribes that made up the Caucasian Albanian nation. The Caucasian Albanians were the ancestors of modern-day Azerbaijanis and organized as the Artsakh province of the Caucasian Albanian kingdom. Most of the population before Christianity were Fire Worshippers (Zoroastrians).
Karabakh is home to one of the most renowned schools of mugham, a traditional Azerbaijani style of music. Uzeyir bey Hajibeyov introduced the mugham to the Western world through his famous operas. It is also the birth place of the Azerbaijani tar, the national string instrument.


The Karabakh horse is currently the national animal of Azerbaijan and is the official symbol of the Aghdam region in Karabakh. In 2004, a Karabakh horse named Kishmish from the Agdam region set two speed records: he ran 1,000 meters in 1 minute 9 seconds and 1,600 meters in 1 minute 52 seconds. The horse is a cross-breed of Akhal-Teke, Persian, Kabardin, Turkoman, and Arabian horses. Currently, there are less than 1,000 Karabakh horses in existence, meaning they are threatened by extinction. Named after the Azerbaijan region the horse was first developed, it is noted for its good temper, speed, sturdiness, expressive features, and well-developed muscles. The horse is not large, but measures on average between 145-150 centimeters. Characteristically, Karabakh horses are chestnut or bay with a golden tint. Less commonly, Karabakh horses can be gray or have white spots.
It was during the 18th and 19th centuries that the Karabakh horse acquired its current shape and characteristics. Evidence indicates that Khan Ibrahim-Khalil (1763-1806) possessed a large herd of horses numbering between 3,000-4,000, most of which were Karabakh horses. In the 19th century, the horse received growing acclaim in Europe and Russia. In 1823, an English company purchased 60 Karabakh Horses from the current Khan of Karabakh. The horse also received awards at several exhibitions. In 1867, a Karabakh horse received a silver medal at a international show in Paris. Then in 1869, Karabakh horses won the silver and bronze medals at the All-Russian exhibition. Unfortunately, it was also during the 19th century that the number of Karabakh horses began to decline. This first occurred during the Russo-Iranian war in 1826. The population declined again during the 20th century due to civil and ethnic wars in the Caucasus and Karabakh region. Most recently, the numbers have declined due to the Nagorno-Karabakh war. In conjunction with the wars, the Karabakh breed was also inter-breed, decreasing its size and reducing the number of pure Karabakh horses. CNN wrote about the tough, strong, noble and endangered Karabakh horse, with the help of the Chair of the Board Adil Baguirov.


The Flower of Karabakh is the khari bulbul (Ophrys Caucasica)  which is often associated with the town of Shusha. Legends say that the flower is grown only in Shusha, but ten different species have been found throughout the old Soviet Union territories. Khari means “bee” and bulbul means “nightingale.” There are two stories behind the name of the flower. Some state the flower is namedkhari bulbul because when looking closely at the flower, one can see a close resemblance to a bee or bird. Others attribute the name to a legend about how the flower was first created: “Once upon a time there was a nightingale that fell in love with a flower. The nightingale loved and protected the flower and was warbling for her all day. One day a bee saw the flower and wanted to taste her nectar. When the nightingale saw the bee flying toward the flower, he prevented it with his breast. They clashed in the air and the bee stung the nightingale. But the bird did not die. His love and courage changed him into another flower, together with the bee that wanted to sting him.”

Another legend about the flower concerns the Khan of Karabakh and his daughter. After the khan’s daughter was married to an Iranian king, she began to miss her homeland of Karabakh. To help her cope with her yearning for home, the shah built a garden that included all the different flowers of Karabakh. Despite his best intentions, the khari bulbul never grew. It was the only flower that refused to grow in her new home of Iran. This legend is featured in the traditional folk song of “Vatan Bagi,” which translates into “Motherland Garden.”
In Azerbaijan, the flower is still used in traditional medicine. It is a symbol of Azerbaijan, Shusha, and Karabakh. The khari bulbul is featured on the front side of the Azerbaijani 20-manat currency dedicated to Karabakh.