Geographer Stepan Lisitsian(1865-1947) prepared the earliest known survey of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) shortly after its establishment. Entitled “Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh: An Ethnographic Overview” it was based on his field work in the 1920s and the 1930s.
The Russian language manuscript, originally due to be released in 1936 for decades remained in the archives of Azerbaijan’s Academy of Sciences, unpublished. In the 1970s, an earlier draft of the Lisitsian monograph was found in his archives in Yerevan. It finally saw print in 1992 and more recently made available online.
Lisitsian was born in Tiflis, son of a prominent administrator and military doctor Daniil Khristoforovich Lisitsev. After graduating from the University of Warsaw, Lisitsian worked in the Echmiadzin seminary, but was fired in 1889 for “promoting anti-church ideas.” He next taught at the Nersisian school of Tiflis and published works on Armenian language and culture. In 1924 he began working at the Yerevan State University and subsequently founded the Armenian Geographic Society.
Lisitsian’s work on Karabakh includes a review of the Oblast’s geography, population centers and, perhaps most importantly, the local traditions and beliefs as still practiced in Karabakh at the time.