Big cities never sleep. Medium-sized cities sleep very little. Small towns and villages almost never wake up.
One difference between a city and a village is that as soon as it gets dark, a city stays awake and people do not lock themselves in their homes sitting in front of the TV.
We decided to explore the nightlife of Stepanakert to find out when Stepanakert falls asleep.
Pitachok. Nightlife Begins in the Evening
All the roads of Stepanakert lead to Pitachok, a circular park known for its musical fountains and a statue of Stepan Shahumyan.
The residents of Stepanakert orientate themselves in the city with the help of Pitachok: above or below Pitachok, and to the right or left of Pitachok. It is a meeting point for people; they walk with kids around Pitachok, relax and discuss the latest political news.
On hot summer days near Pitachok not only will locals watch the musical fountains and listen to the city’s brass band, but some of the bravest will also even dance.
Pitachok is only two steps away from the city’s Renaissance Square.
Almost everyone loves to walk around the square. Stepanakert is one of the few places where you can see the leaders of Artsakh in the evenings walking around the square without bodyguards.
The reasons for coming to the square will vary: some come to meet a girl, girls come to show off their latest looks, and young families take their children out for a walk.
30 year-old Ashot Sargsyan can be seen walking in the square in the evenings with his family, friends or his beloved dog. He says that while walking alone, one can feel the vibe of the city.
In the summer, after sunset, everyone rushes to the town (for residents of Stepanakert going to the town means going to Pitachоk or the square). In the evening, a parade of children’s cars and bicycles begins.
“Seeing a crowded square in the evening gives me energy and raises my spirits,” admits Ashot.
Those who more or less know the town are convinced that Stepanakert is not just buildings and streets, but people and ambiance. In hot weather, the square and surrounding parks come to life after sunset. After 10 or 11 pm, Pitachоk gets ready to sleep.
When the temperature is cold, you can only meet a few people who like such weather around the square and Pitachօk, and Ashot is among them.
The day ends for most people after 10 pm. They hurry home and sit comfortably on the sofa watching TV.
Some young people continue their day at their favourite cafe or at the unique pub of Stepanakert.
The nightlife here lasts until midnight, and sometimes people stay up till sunrise in the pub.
“The Roots”. Night Life Until Midnight
Although everyone acknowledges its Armenian design, residents of Stepanakert believe that The Roots, a café and youth centre, has a French spirit.
In the evenings, the clinking of wine and tea cups mixed with laughter and conversation completely drowns out the background music in the cafe.
Depending on the weather, visitors will come here to cool off or warm up, chat, meet new people, listen to live music or just be part of city life.
31-year-old Karina Petrosova, one of the cafe’s regular customers, comes to The Roots to meet talented and interesting people as well as to have a good time. “Everything here is very dear to me, and sometimes I even want to work here. Even if I am down, I always relax here when I talk with interesting people. And most of all, I like the homemade hot cocoa,” laughs Karina.
During three years in operation, The Roots has become one of the most popular places in the town especially for cultural and intellectual leisure.
Gevorg Sargsyan from Martuni is one of the cafe’s favourite patrons. When 29 year-old Gevorg comes in, they know that they are about to hear some enjoyable piano music and sing along with him.
Gevorg drives 47km from Martuni to Stepanakert for work every day and returns to his hometown in the evenings. However, sometimes he prefers to stay in the capital since unlike his small hometown of only 5,000 people, there are more opportunities for leisure and fun in Stepanakert.
“The interior of The Roots provokes various thoughts. I often invite my friends here, to show them that you don’t need much to be happy in life, and what really matters is that you put your soul into the smallest things,” says Gevorg.
In The Roots, you can often see people sitting at different tables eventually start chatting, move the tables together and then play table games like the “Ayl Kerp”…
The Roots stays open until the last customer leaves. It mainly depends on the day of the week and the nature of the event organized that day.
During live music events, the festive mood and liveliness last until midnight.
Bardak: The Last Burning Light of The City
When the majority of the capital’s population is gradually preparing for the end of the day after dinner, nightlife lovers are just starting to gather in Stepanakert’s only pub, Bardak.
Bardak brought a real revolution to the lives of young people in Artsakh, destroying many stereotypes and taboos. It introduced pub culture to Artsakh, and became a gathering place for free and rebellious youth.
The owner of Bardak and founder of pub culture in Artsakh, 29-year-old bartender and waiter Azat Adamyan, says that only some locals come to the pub. The traditional life of young people is limited to walks in the evening and visits to several popular cafes.
But for those young people who prefer to spend the evening surrounded by active people singing, dancing and drinking a beer or something stronger, there is Bardak․
Before Bardak opened in Stepanakert, 23-year-old TV journalist Erik Hakobyan used to visit the pub districts of Yerevan to satisfy his “pub hunger”.
“Bardak” means “chaos, disorder.” “Many people believe that the name describes the atmosphere of the pub. Yes, it harmonizes, in a good way. In just a few square meters, Azat managed to create an environment that makes you enjoy the moment,” says Eric.
When Bardak opened, Lena Khachatryan, a 25 year-old economist and lecturer at Artsakh’s Grigor Narekatsi University, was in doubt: to go or not to go? How will her presence in the pub be perceived, and what would her relatives and neighbours think about her?
After visiting the pub, she understood that visiting a pub won’t harm the modesty of Artsakh girls.
“Before it opened, we were creating pub atmosphere in our homes. We used to gather with girls and boys, talking, discussing, dreaming, sometimes drinking, singing and dancing, but quiet and barefoot, in order not to disturb the neighbours,” confesses Lena.
Now Lena prefers to go to the pub with her friends. After working hard all week, she enjoys listening to some music, playing table games, and sharing the week’s news.
“I really wish that other girls of my generation will also progress beyond stereotypes and start to breathe freely and deeply,” says Lena Khachatryan, a regular visitor of Bardak.
Usually Bardak is open until 2:00 or 3:00 at night.
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So, the nightlife of Stepanakert mainly depends on two entertainment hubs: Bardak and The Roots. When The Roots closes, Bardak comes alive. Of course there are a few restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious food and stay until midnight. But young people prefer a different type of entertainment.
The nightlife of Stepanakert is not comparable with that of Yerevan. But maybe that’s a good thing.