The London Review of Books is a wonderful fortnightly pleasure. I am particularly drawn to articles that have maps and also to any item which elucidates the background to a problem in the world which has escaped my previous attempts to understand it. The problem in this case being the distressing war in Nagorno~Karabbakh. However, in reading this article by Abdul~Ahad, I came across a few lines which I found deeply poetic.
Nagorno~Karabakh Nagorny is Russian for ‘mountainous’;Karabakh Turkish for ‘black garden’~is a region in the South Caucasus with a predominantly Armenian population. It was a province of ancient Armenian kingdoms before coming under the successive suzerainty of Sassanids, Muslim Arabs, Turkmen tribes and the Persian Safavids with pockets controlled by Armenian meliks, prices who used outside powers to bolster their claims to authority. In the mid~18th centuary following the decline of the meliks, a khanate was established with Persian support by the Javanshirs, a Turkic Karabakh clan, who built the city of Shusha. The region was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1813 after the first Prussian war, and Persia ceded the rest of the Transcaucasus to Russia a decade or so later.
Karabakh maintained a strong Armenian religious and cultural identity through the centuries, but like all frontier regions it was a place where cultures and peoples converged. Armenian, Persian, Arabic and Turkic influences produced a unique cultural heritage, manifest in food, music. art and architecture. Armenian churches and monasteries dotted the hills while Azerbaijani composers and writers flourished in Shusha. Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and Kurds both Yazidi and Muslim, lived side by side in towns and villages set among pine and birch forests, orchards, vineyards and highland pastures, Mulberry groves supported thriving silk industries.
Having just typed it in maybe it is not exactly a poem but it reads very elegantly to my ear. This appeared in an article entitled Each rock has two names in the London Review of Books 17th June 2021. You can read more about this prize winning journalist at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghaith_Abdul-Ahad
and besides this informative article the tragic situation is outlined at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU2v38hRRbg&t=331s
The poet/photographer/journalist talks movingly below:~