- Artsakh: People of the Forest
- Antiquity & Early Middle Ages
- High Middle Ages
- Late Middle Ages
- 19th Century
- 20th Century
- 21st Century
- Historical timeline
Like the rest of historical Armenia – and the neighboring territories of Iran, Anatolia and Georgia – Artsakh is an unbelievably ancient land. The first references to Artsakh appear in the Bronze Age in form of cuneiform inscriptions engraved on large polished slabs of volcanic rock.
Artsakh and Nagorno Karabakh
Welcome to a country of many superlatives. Artsakh was part of the Kingdom of Armenia, the world’s first Christian state. Already in the 5th Century, Artsakh developed its own Constitution, known as the Constitution of Aghven, which laid the foundations of Armenian legal thought. And Artsakh is also considered as an epicenter of the Armenian schooling system, built around the unique Armenian alphabet that was invented in 405 AD. With roots claimed to go down as deep as the early Bronze Age, Artsakh’s Arranshahik dynasty is, arguably, one of the oldest aristocratic dynasties on the planet, and is the only presently surviving Armenian family that directly relates to the Bagratids – kings of Armenia and Georgia.
Artsakh, including the territory of today’s Republic of Artsakh, has been populated and uninterruptedly governed by Armenians, its autochthonous residents, from Roman times. There were only two historical periods when Armenians were not in full or partial administrative control of the land: first, when the region was officially absorbed into the Russian Empire (1812-1918), and, before that, during the last two decades of the so-called Karabakh Khanate (c. 1782-1805) – a failed attempt of the Turkoman Otuz-Eki tribesmen to monopolize political power in the region after entering Artsakh in the 1750s.
The term Nagorno Karabakh comes from the name of the USSR’s Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region. It is a journalistic cliché put in circulation in the West in the late Soviet period. As of now, Nagorno Karabakh is giving way to the more authentic, native, historically accurate – and shorter-term Artsakh.
The name Karabakh is a Turkic translation of the original Persian exonym Bagh-e-Siah, which means “Black Garden.” It first appeared in written Georgian sources in the 14th Century, designating lowlands of Artsakh and Utik near the River Kura that became home to Turkoman tribesmen arriving from the Central Asia. According to another interpretation, the term Karabakh originated from the name of the Armenian principality of Baghk that included southern portions of Artsakh and Syunik in the High Middle Ages. 
People of the Forest: the origin of the geographical term Artsakh
According to linguists, the term Artsakh derives from two words in Classical Armenian – the written-only language of the 5th century used today by the Armenian Apostolic Church. Think of it as the Armenian equivalent of Latin.
The first word is Ayr (այր), which means man, and the second – Tsakh (ցախ), meaning forest. In combination, the two words mean People [Men] of the Forest. This interpretation is intuitive. The defining feature of the region’s landscape are forested mountains, and similar linguistic constructs are used in the names of other Armenian provinces. For instance, the largest province of the Kingdom of Armenia, Ayrarat – where Armenia’s present-day capital of Yerevan is located – is thought to derive from the nouns Ayr and the adjective Arat (meaning abundant). Since Ayrarat was ancient Armenia’s largest province, it, logically, housed a large population with many men.
Artsakh was also called Lesser Syunik. This refers to a strong generic connection that linked Artsakh with historical Armenia’s ninth province that borders on Artsakh from the west – Syunik, and its hereditary rulers – the Syuni dynasty. The lands of the mountainous core of Syunik are part of the Republic of Armenia’s southernmost province of Syunik.
Another designation of ancient Artsakh in Armenian medieval geographical literature is Armenia Interior or Deep Land of the Armenians (correspondingly, Armenian: Խորին Հայք or Խորին Աշխարհ Հայոց).  These designations feature in several historical texts, such as in the Chronicle by the 12th Century Armenian author Matheos Urhaetsi, known in the West as Matthew of Edessa.
Artsakh’s designation as Lesser Armenia can be found in the works of Russian and European statesmen of the 18th Century. 
- Matheos Urhaetsi (Matthew of Edessa). The Chronicle. Vagharshapat, 1898, pp. 230—231 (in Armenian).
- See the letter of September 14, 1733, by Pavel P. Shafirov (1669-1739), Special Envoy for Oriental Affairs of the Russian Imperial Court, in George A. Bournoutian. Armenians and Russia, 1626-1796: A Documentary Record, Mazda Publishers, CA, USA, 2000.
- Robert H. Hewsen. Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001. p. 120. See also: Armenia & Karabagh (tourist guide). 2nd edition, Stone Garden Productions, Northridge, California, 2004, p. 243