• The Left Chapter

"We are our mountains"



Sergei Bagdasaryan, son of a stonemason, has been sculpting from the age of 12. His first experience in clay-modelling was at the local Pioneer Palace, where he attended an art class after school.


Bagdasaryan's latest work stands atop a lonely hill in the southern Caucasus. A mile and a quarter away is the town of Stepanakert, capital of Nagorny Karabakh, an autonomous region inhabited by Armenians in Soviet Azerbaijan. Unveiled in 1967, this monument, called the "Karabakhians", is strikingly original and yet strangely in harmony with the primeval landscape that surrounds it. Its two giant heads, of rose red tufa rock, 16 and 35 feet tall, rise right out of the earth where they have been set up. There is no fence, no lawn—the sculpture seems to have been there from the beginning of time.


The "Karabakhians", like the mountains that surround them, give the impression of being something out of the distant past. At the same time the monument is very modern. Part of its impressiveness may be due to this inseparable unity of ancient and modern.


The group as a unit has a very clear-cut silhouette. The outline of the stylised woman's headdress repeats the contour of the mountains behind it, while the head of the man stands out in strong contrast to the rounded forms of the nearby hills.


The decorative aspect is emphasized by means of the ornamental designs and the woman's traditional head cloth, an interesting play of textures resulting from the juxtaposition of smooth cut areas of tufa and surfaces roughened by the chisel.


The inscription on Bagdasaryan's "Karabakhians" reads: "We are our mountains". - Excerpted from an article in Decorative Art in the USSR, 1967