Urbanism and Infrastructure as Military Weapons in Artsakh



As claimed many times in the pages of The Funambulist, architecture and urban design are essential means of materialization of settler colonialism. In this text and through the maps she created, Melsida Babayan describes the various processes of weaponization of the built environment in the context of Artsakh, three years after the Azeri invasion, as well as the Armenian resistance to it.

Babayan Funambulist 1
The Resistance. / Two-sided Map (sewn by hand on paper), by Melsida Babayan (2023).

The destructive capacities of war and its targeting of architecture are a fairly obvious reality. However, architecture and construction too have the potential to embody a destructive force. In this text, I discuss how the reconstruction of new settlements, urbanism, technology, and infrastructure were used as weapons of war and colonization in the Republic of Artsakh (the Nagorno Karabakh Republic), both throughout and after the war. Artsakh is a disputed, unrecognized de facto republic in the South Caucasus inhabited by mainly Armenians—a place that has been for centuries a center of conflict between Armenians and Azeris. 

Artsakh, like Armenia and Azerbaijan, was a part of the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1991. It has suffered from various low- and high-intensity clashes during and after the collapse of the Union—the consequence of imperialist political regimes in the region and their colonizing ambitions. The last clash occurred on September 27, 2020, and ended with the trilateral cease-fire agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 9 of the same year. A bloody forty-four day war that took thousands of people’s lives from both sides, and turned the region into a territorial prison. After the war, Azerbaijan got hold of the so-called seven regions of Artsakh, occupying most of the territory and leaving only a small part of the territory free, landlocked inside Azerbaijan and disconnected from Armenia due to the Lachin Corridor being blocked.