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Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijani: Dağlıq Qarabağ or Yuxarı Qarabağ, literally "mountainous black garden" or "upper black garden"; Russian: Нагорный Карабах, translit. Nagornyy Karabakh; Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ, translit. Lernayin Gharabagh), referred to by Armenians as Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախ), is a region of Azerbaijan, in southern Caucasia, located about 270 km (about 170 mi) west of the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. The region is now predominantly ethnic Armenian and effectively under Armenian control. The local Armenian separatists declared independence from Azerbaijan on December 10, 1991 and established Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). The NKR's sovereign status is not recognized by any country in the world.
The region's area is 4,400 kmē, and as of 1990 it had a population of 192,000. The population at that time was mainly Armenian (76%) and Azeri (23%), with Russian and Kurdish minorities. The capital is called Stepanakert (Xankəndi in Azeri). The other major city is Shusha, which today lie in ruins.
Nagorno-Karabakh comprises one of the historical parts of Alwania, or Caucasian Albania. In ancient times the region was called Artzakh. In 95 BC it was conquered by Tigranes II, ruler of the Kingdom of Armenia. In the early 4th century AD Alwanians managed to regain Artsakh, and eventually in 387 AD it became a part of Alwania again. In the 5th century Christianity become the official religion in Alwania.
In the 7th and 8th centuries, the region was invaded by Arabs, who pillaged it and converted a portion of the population to Islam. Under Arabs Alwanian church was subordinated to the Armenian Church, which prompted rapid Gregorianization of the local population. Since the 8th century Alwania diminished in size and came to exist only as a principality of Khachen in Artsakh.
In the early 17th century, control of the district passed to Persia, which allowed local autonomy; and in the mid-18th century the Karabakh khanate was formed. Karabakh passed to the Imperial Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, before the rest of Russia-controlled Armenian territories, which were incorporated into the Empire in 1828. In 1822, the Karabakh khanate was dissolved and the area became part of a Russian province which later formed Azerbaijan.
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Karabakh became part of the Transcaucasian Federation, which soon dissolved into separate Armenian, Azeri and Georgian states. Azerbaijan claimed sovereignty over the province and sought to conquer it with help from the Young Turks. Despite the fact that Turkey was defeated in the course of World War I, Karabakh was subdued by Azerbaijan, with approval from the Allies interested in the oilfields nearby Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.
In 1920, Transcaucasia was taken over by the bolsheviks who made promises they would return Karabakh to Armenia. Needing to appease Turkey, however, Moscow never kept this promise. The young Turkish republic was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia and Moscow hoped Turkey would, with a little help from Russia, develop along Communist lines. As a result, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was established as a state within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923 on most of the territory and the rest was directly incorporated into Azerbaijan.
|Ethnic groups of the region in 1995: (See entire map (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/ethnocaucasus.jpg)) |
With the fall of the USSR in the early 1990s, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh reemerged. Complaining about "forced Azerification" of the region, the majority Armenian population started a movement to transfer it to Armenia. In November 1991, seeking to squelch this movement, the Parliament of Azerbaijan abolished the autonomous status of the region. In response the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians held a December 10, 1991 referendum in which the overwhelming majority of the population voted for outright independence. The Azeri community of Nagorno-Karabakh boycotted this referendum.
These events led to violent actions against Armenians living in Sumgait, Baku and elsewhere in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis living in Armenia. As a result, a vast majority of Azerbaijanis in Armenia and Armenians in Azerbaijan (except for Nagorno-Karabakh) were displaced. A land war between Armenia and Azerbaijan followed the events of civil violence. Military actions were heavily influenced by the Russian military inspiring and balancing on the rivalry between the two neighboring nations to keep both under control.
Azerbaijanis were driven out of Nagorno-Karabakh and territories neighboring Nagorno-Karabakh (populated by Azerbaijanis), which are still under control of the Armenian military. An unofficial cease-fire was reached on May 12th, 1994 through Russian negotiation, and continues today. Today Armenians remain in control of the Soviet era autonomous region, a strip of land (called the Lachin corridor) linking it with the Republic of Armenia, as well as the so-called security zone--strips of territory along the region borders which had been used by Azerbaijan artillery during the war.
Today Nagorno-Karabakh is a de-facto independent state calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is closely tied to the Republic of Armenia and uses its currency, the dram. Successive Armenian governments have resisted internal pressure to unite the two, fearing reprisals from Azerbaijan and the international community, which still considers Nagorno-Karabakh part of Azerbaijan. The politics of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are so intermingled that a former president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Robert Kocharian, has become first prime minister (1997) and then the president of Armenia (1998 to the present).
At present, the mediation process is stalled and ongoing as both sides are equally intransigent. Azerbaijan insists that Armenian troops withdraw from all areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh and that all displaced persons be allowed to return to their homes before the status of Karabakh can be discussed. Armenia does not even admit that Nagorno-Karabakh is legally part of Azerbaijan, arguing that because the region declared independence at the same time that Azerbaijan became an independent state, both of them are equally successor states of the Soviet Union. The Armenian government insists that the government of Nagorno-Karabakh be part of any discussions on the region's future and rejects ceding occupied territory or allowing refugees to return prior to talks on the region's status.
In the latest episode, representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Russia and the United States met in Paris and Key-West, Florida in the spring of 2001. The details of the talks have remained largely secret, but reportedly the sides discussed non-hierarchical relationships between the central Azerbaijanian government and the Karabakh Armenian authorities. Despite rumours that the parties were again close to a solution, the Azerbaijanian authorities, both during Heydar Aliyev and after coming into power in October 2003 elections of his son Ilham Aliyev, have firmly denied any agreement has been reached in Paris or Key-West.
Recent round of talks between Azerbaijanian and Armenian presidents, Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan, were held in September 2004 in Astana, Kazakhstan on the sidelines of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit. Reportedly, one of the suggestions put forward was withdrawal of the occupying forces from the Azeri territories adjacent to Mountainous Karabakh and holding referendums in Mountainous Karabakh and in Azerbaijan regarding the future status of the region.
- Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Regions and territories: Nagorno-Karabakh (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/3658938.stm) from BBC
- ArtsakhWorld.com (http://www.artsakhworld.com/) – An Armenian site about Nagorno-Karabakh
- Karabakh.org (http://www.karabakh.org/)– An Azeri site about Nagorno-Karabakh
- The official site of the 'NKR Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (http://www.nkr.am/eng/)
- 'Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the United States' (http://www.nkrusa.org/)
- Karabakh Travel Guide (http://www.cilicia.com/rediscover.pl?Karabakh)
- Special Karabakh on Caucaz.com, Weekly Online about South Caucasus (http://www.caucaz.com/home_uk/pays.php?pays=7)
- Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Briefing (http://www.flashpoints.info/countries-conflicts/Nagorno-Karabakh-web/Nagorno-Karabakh_briefing.html)