The Flower of Karabakh

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The Flower of Karabakh is the khari bulbul (Ophrys Caucasica)  which is often associated with the town of Shusha. Legends say that the flower is grown only in Shusha, but ten different species have been found throughout the old Soviet Union territories.

Khari means “bee” and bulbul means “nightingale.” There are two stories behind the name of the flower. Some state the flower is namedkhari bulbul because when looking closely at the flower, one can see a close resemblance to a bee or bird.

Others attribute the name to a legend about how the flower was first created: “Once upon a time there was a nightingale that fell in love with a flower. The nightingale loved and protected the flower and was warbling for her all day. One day a bee saw the flower and wanted to taste her nectar. When the nightingale saw the bee flying toward the flower, he prevented it with his breast. They clashed in the air and the bee stung the nightingale. But the bird did not die. His love and courage changed him into another flower, together with the bee that wanted to sting him.”

Another legend about the flower concerns the Khan of Karabakh and his daughter. After the khan’s daughter was married to an Iranian king, she began to miss her homeland of Karabakh. To help her cope with her yearning for home, the shah built a garden that included all the different flowers of Karabakh. Despite his best intentions, the khari bulbul never grew. It was the only flower that refused to grow in her new home of Iran. This legend is featured in the traditional folk song of “Vatan Bagi,” which translates into “Motherland Garden.”

In Azerbaijan, the flower is still used in traditional medicine. It is a symbol of Azerbaijan, Shusha, and Karabakh. The khari bulbul is featured on the front side of the Azerbaijani 20-manat currency dedicated to Karabakh.

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