|Time zone (UTC+4)|
Area 4,400 km²
|Drives on the right|
Population 146,573 (2013)
|Religion Christianity (Armenian Apostolic Church)|
the human rights implications of the nagorno karabakh conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains. The region is mostly mountainous and forested.
- the human rights implications of the nagorno karabakh conflict
- Map of Nagorno Karabakh
- Russia to host talks with leaders of armenia and azerbaijan
- Antiquity and Early Middle Ages
- High Middle Ages
- Late Middle Ages
- Modern era
- Soviet era
- War and secession
- Post 1994 ceasefire
- 18th century
- 19th century
- 20th century
- 21st century
Map of Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but most of the region is governed by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a de facto independent state with Armenian ethnic majority established on the basis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Azerbaijan has not exercised political authority over the region since the advent of the Karabakh movement in 1988. Since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding peace talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group on the region's disputed status.
The region is usually equated with the administrative borders of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast comprising an area of 4,400 square kilometres (1,700 sq mi). The historical area of the region, however, encompasses approximately 8,223 square kilometres (3,175 sq mi).
Russia to host talks with leaders of armenia and azerbaijan
The prefix Nagorno- derives from the Russian attributive adjective nagorny (нагорный), which means "highland". The Azerbaijani names of the region include the similar adjectives "dağlıq" (mountainous) or "yuxarı" (upper). Such words are not used in the Armenian name, but they have appeared in the official name of the region during the Soviet era as Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Other languages apply their own wording for mountainous, upper, or highland; for example, the official name used by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in French is Haut-Karabakh, meaning "Upper Karabakh".
The name Karabakh comprises two words, "kara" (meaning "black" in Turkic) and "bagh" (or "bakh", meaning "garden" in Persian). Thus Karabakh literally means "black garden". The name first appears in Georgian and Persian sources of the 13th and 14th centuries. Karabagh, an acceptable alternate spelling of Karabakh, denotes a kind of patterned rug originally produced in the area.
According to an alternative theory proposed by Bagrat Ulubabyan, the name Karabakh has a Turkic–Armenian origin, meaning "Greater Baghk" (Armenian: Մեծ Բաղք), a reference to Ktish-Baghk (later: Dizak), one of the principalities of Artsakh under the rule of the Aranshahik dynasty, which held the throne of the Kingdom of Syunik in the 11th–13th centuries and called itself the "Kingdom of Baghk".
The names for the region in the various local languages all translate to "mountainous Karabakh", or "mountainous black garden":
The Armenians living in the area often refer to Nagorno-Karabakh as Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախ), using the name of the 10th province of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. Urartian inscriptions (9th–7th centuries BC) use the name Urtekhini for the region. Ancient Greek sources called the area Orkhistene.
Antiquity and Early Middle Ages
Nagorno-Karabakh falls within the lands occupied by peoples known to modern archaeologists as the Kura-Araxes culture, who lived between the two rivers Kura and Araxes.
The ancient population of the region consisted of various autochthonous local and migrant tribes who were mostly non-Indo-Europeans. According to the prevailing western theory, these natives intermarried with Armenians who came to the region after its inclusion into Armenia in the 2nd or, possibly earlier, in 4th century BC. Other scholars suggest that the Armenians settled in the region as early as in the 7th century BC.
In around 180 BC, Artsakh became one of the 15 provinces of the Armenian Kingdom and remained so until the 4th century. While formally having the status of a province (nahang), Artsakh possibly formed a principality on its own — like Armenia's province of Syunik. Other theories suggest that Artsakh was a royal land, belonging to the King of Armenia directly. Tigran the Great, King of Armenia, (ruled from 95–55 BC), founded in Artsakh one of four cities named "Tigranakert" after himself. The ruins of the ancient Tigranakert, located 30 miles (48 km) north-east of Stepanakert, are being studied by a group of international scholars.
In 387 AD, after the partition of Armenia between Byzantium and Sassanid Persia, two Armenian provinces Artsakh and Utik became part of the Sassanid satrapy of Caucasian Albania, which, in turn, came under strong Armenian religious and cultural influence. At the time the population of Artsakh and Utik consisted of Armenians and several Armenized tribes.
Armenian culture and civilization flourished in the early medieval Nagorno-Karabakh. In the 5th century, the first-ever Armenian school was opened on the territory of modern Nagorno-Karabakh—at the Amaras Monastery—by the efforts of St. Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. St. Mesrop was very active in preaching Gospel in Artsakh and Utik. Overall, Mesrop Mashtots made three trips to Artsakh and Utik, ultimately reaching pagan territories at the foothills of the Greater Caucasus. The 7th-century Armenian linguist and grammarian Stephanos Syunetsi stated in his work that Armenians of Artsakh had their own dialect, and encouraged his readers to learn it. In the same 7th century, Armenian poet Davtak Kertogh writes his Elegy on the Death of Grand Prince Juansher, where each passage begins with a letter of Armenian script in alphabetical order. The only comprehensive history of Caucasian Albania was written in Armenian, by the historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi.
High Middle Ages
Around the mid 7th century, the region was conquered by the invading Muslim Arabs through the Muslim conquest of Persia. Subsequently, it was ruled by local governors endorsed by the Caliphate. In 821 the Armenian prince Sahl Smbatian revolted in Artsakh and established the House of Khachen, which ruled Artsakh as a principality until the early 19th century. The name "Khachen" originated from Armenian word "khach," which means "cross". By 1000 the House of Khachen proclaimed the Kingdom of Artsakh with John Senecherib as its first ruler. Initially Dizak, in southern Artsakh, formed also a kingdom ruled by the ancient House of Aranshahik, descended of the earliest Kings of Caucasian Albania. In 1261, after the daughter of the last king of Dizak married the king of Artsakh, Armenian prince Hasan Jalal Dola, the two states merged into one Armenian Principality of Khachen. Subsequently, Artsakh continued to exist as a de facto independent principality.
Late Middle Ages
In the 15th century, the territory of Karabakh was part of the states ruled subsequently by the Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu Turkic tribal confederations. The Turkoman lord Jahan Shah (1437–67) assigned the governorship of upper Karabakh to local Armenian princes, allowing a native Armenian leadership to emerge consisting of five noble families led by princes who held the titles of meliks. These dynasties represented the branches of the earlier House of Khachen and were the descendants of the medieval kings of Artsakh. Their lands were often referred to as the Country of Khamsa (five in Arabic). The Russian Empire recognized the sovereign status of the five princes in their domains by a charter of the Emperor Paul I dated 2 June 1799.
The Armenian meliks were granted supreme command over neighboring Armenian principalities and Muslim khans in the Caucasus by the Iranian king Nader Shah, in return for the meliks' victories over the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1720s. These five principalities in Karabakh were ruled by Armenian families who had received the title Melik (prince) and were the following:
The Armenian meliks maintained full control over the region until the mid-18th century. In the early 18th century, Iran's Nader Shah took Karabakh out of control of the Ganja khans in punishment for their support of the Safavids, and placed it under his own control In the mid-18th century, as internal conflicts between the meliks led to their weakening, the Karabakh Khanate was formed.
Karabakh became a protectorate of the Imperial Russia by the Kurekchay Treaty, signed between Ibrahim Khalil Khan of Karabakh and general Pavel Tsitsianov on behalf of Tsar Alexander I in 1805, according to which the Russian monarch recognized Ibrahim Khalil Khan and his descendants as the sole hereditary rulers of the region. However, its new status was only confirmed following the outcome of the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), when through the loss in the war, Persia formally ceded Karabakh to the Russian Empire per the Treaty of Gulistan (1813), before the rest of Transcaucasia was incorporated into the Empire in 1828 by the Treaty of Turkmenchay, which came as an outcome of the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828).
In 1822, 9 years after passing from Iranian to Russian control, the Karabakh Khanate was dissolved, and the area became part of the Elisabethpol Governorate within the Russian Empire. After the transfer of the Karabakh Khanate to Russia, many Muslim families immigrated to Persia, while many Armenians were induced by the Russian government to emigrate from Persia to Karabakh.
The present-day conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has its roots in the decisions made by Joseph Stalin and the Caucasian Bureau (Kavburo) during the Sovietization of Transcaucasia. Stalin was the acting Commissar of Nationalities for the Soviet Union during the early 1920s, the branch of the government under which the Kavburo was created. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Karabakh became part of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, but this soon dissolved into separate Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian states. Over the next two years (1918–1920), there were a series of short wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan over several regions, including Karabakh. In July 1918, the First Armenian Assembly of Nagorno-Karabakh declared the region self-governing and created a National Council and government. Later, Ottoman troops entered Karabakh, meeting armed resistance by Armenians.
After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, British troops occupied Karabakh. The British command provisionally affirmed Khosrov bey Sultanov (appointed by the Azerbaijani government) as the governor-general of Karabakh and Zangezur, pending final decision by the Paris Peace Conference. The decision was opposed by Karabakh Armenians. In February 1920, the Karabakh National Council preliminarily agreed to Azerbaijani jurisdiction, while Armenians elsewhere in Karabakh continued guerrilla fighting, never accepting the agreement. The agreement itself was soon annulled by the Ninth Karabagh Assembly, which declared union with Armenia in April.
In April 1920, while the Azerbaijani army was locked in Karabakh fighting local Armenian forces, Azerbaijan was taken over by Bolsheviks. On 10 August 1920, Armenia signed a preliminary agreement with the Bolsheviks, agreeing to a temporary Bolshevik occupation of these areas until final settlement would be reached. In 1921, Armenia and Georgia were also taken over by the Bolsheviks who, in order to attract public support, promised they would allot Karabakh to Armenia, along with Nakhchivan and Zangezur (the strip of land separating Nakhchivan from Karabakh). However, the Soviet Union also had far-reaching plans concerning Turkey, hoping that it would, with a little help from them, develop along Communist lines. Needing to placate Turkey, the Soviet Union agreed to a division under which Zangezur would fall under the control of Armenia, while Karabakh and Nakhchivan would be under the control of Azerbaijan. Had Turkey not been an issue, Stalin would likely have left Karabakh under Armenian control. As a result, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was established within the Azerbaijan SSR on 7 July 1923.
With the Soviet Union firmly in control of the region, the conflict over the region died down for several decades. With the beginning of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh re-emerged. Accusing the Azerbaijani SSR government of conducting forced Azerification of the region, the majority Armenian population, with ideological and material support from the Armenian SSR, started a movement to have the autonomous oblast transferred to the Armenian SSR. The oblast's borders were drawn to include Armenian villages and to exclude as much as possible Azerbaijani villages. The resulting district ensured an Armenian majority. In August 1987, Karabakh Armenians sent a petition for union with Armenia with tens of thousands of signatures to Moscow.
War and secession
On 13 February 1988, Karabakh Armenians began demonstrating in their capital, Stepanakert, in favour of unification with the Armenian republic. Six days later they were joined by mass marches in Yerevan. On 20 February, the Soviet of People's Deputies in Karabakh voted 110 to 17 to request the transfer of the region to Armenia. This unprecedented action by a regional soviet brought out tens of thousands of demonstrations both in Stepanakert and Yerevan, but Moscow rejected the Armenians' demands. On 22 February 1988, the first direct confrontation of the conflict occurred as a large group of Azeris marched from Agdam against the Armenian populated town of Askeran, "wreaking destruction en route". The confrontation between the Azeris and the police near Askeran degenerated into the Askeran clash, which left two Azeris dead, one of them reportedly killed by an Azeri police officer, as well as 50 Armenian villagers, and an unknown number of Azeris and police injured. Large numbers of refugees left Armenia and Azerbaijan as violence began against the minority populations of the respective countries.
On 29 November 1989, direct rule in Nagorno-Karabakh was ended and the region was returned to Azerbaijani administration. The Soviet policy backfired, however, when a joint session of the Armenian Supreme Soviet and the National Council, the legislative body of Nagorno-Karabakh, proclaimed the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. In 1989, Nagorno-Karabakh had a population of 192,000. The population at that time was 76 percent Armenian and 23 percent Azerbaijanis, with Russian and Kurdish minorities. On 26 November 1991 Azerbaijan abolished the status of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, rearranging the administrative division and bringing the territory under direct control of Azerbaijan.
On 10 December 1991, in a referendum boycotted by local Azerbaijanis, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh approved the creation of an independent state. A Soviet proposal for enhanced autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan satisfied neither side, and a full-scale war subsequently erupted between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, with the latter receiving support from Armenia. According to Armenia's former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian, the Karabakh leadership approach was maximalist and "they thought they could get more."
The struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh escalated after both Armenia and Azerbaijan attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In the post-Soviet power vacuum, military action between Azerbaijan and Armenia was heavily influenced by the Russian military. Furthermore, both the Armenian and Azerbaijani military employed a large number of mercenaries from Ukraine and Russia. As many as one thousand Afghan mujahideen participated in the fighting on Azerbaijan's side. There were also fighters from Chechnya fighting on the side of Azerbaijan, as well heavy artillery and tanks provided to Armenia by Russia. Many survivors from the Azerbaijani side found shelter in 12 emergency camps set up in other parts of Azerbaijan to cope with the growing number of internally displaced people due to the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
By the end of 1993, the conflict had caused thousands of casualties and created hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides. By May 1994, the Armenians were in control of 14% of the territory of Azerbaijan. At that stage, for the first time during the conflict, the Azerbaijani government recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as a third party in the war, and started direct negotiations with the Karabakh authorities. As a result, a cease-fire was reached on 12 May 1994 through Russian negotiation.
Despite the ceasefire, fatalities due to armed conflicts between Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers continued. On 25 January 2005, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted PACE Resolution 1416, which condemned alleged ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis. On 15–17 May 2007 the 34th session of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Conference adopted resolution № 7/34-P, considering the occupation of Azerbaijani territory as the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and recognizing the actions against Azerbaijani civilians as a crime against humanity, and condemning the destruction of archaeological, cultural and religious monuments in the occupied territories. The 11th session of the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held on 13–14 March 2008 in Dakar adopted resolution No. 10/11-P (IS). In the resolution, OIC member states condemned the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenian forces and Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, alleged ethnic cleansing against the Azeri population, and charged Armenia with the "destruction of cultural monuments in the occupied Azerbaijani territories". On 14 March of the same year the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution № 62/243 which "demands the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan". On 18–20 May 2010, the 37th session of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Dushanbe adopted another resolution condemning the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, recognizing the actions against Azerbaijani civilians as a crime against humanity and condemning the destruction of archaeological, cultural, and religious monuments in occupied territories. On 20 May of the same year, the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the resolution on "The need for an EU Strategy for the South Caucasus" on the basis of the report by Evgeni Kirilov, the Bulgarian member of the Parliament. The resolution states in particular that "the occupied Azerbaijani regions around Nagorno-Karabakh must be cleared as soon as possible". On 26 January 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted Resolution 2085, which deplored the fact that the occupation by Armenia of Nagorno-Karabakh and other adjacent areas of Azerbaijan creates humanitarian and environmental problems for the citizens of Azerbaijan, condemned alleged ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis and Assembly requested immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the region concerned.
Several world leaders have met with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan over the years, but efforts to maintain the ceasefire have failed.
2 April 2016 saw reports of renewed military activities between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces. The Armenian Defense Ministry alleged that Azerbaijan launched an offensive to seize territory in the region. At least 30 soldiers were killed during the fighting and a Mil Mi-24 helicopter and tank were also destroyed, with 12 of the fallen soldiers belonging to the Azerbaijani forces and the other 18 belonging to the Armenian forces, as well as an additional 35 Armenian soldiers reportedly wounded.
Nagorno-Karabakh has a total area of 4,400 square kilometres (1,699 sq mi). Approximately half of Nagorno-Karabakh terrain is over 950 metres (3,120 ft) above sea level. The borders of Nagorno-Karabakh resemble a kidney bean with the indentation on the east side. It has tall mountain ridges along the northern edge and along the west and a mountainous south. The part near the indentation of the kidney bean itself is a relatively flat valley, with the two edges of the bean, the provinces of Martakert and Martuni, having flat lands as well. Other flatter valleys exist around the Sarsang reservoir, Hadrut, and the south. The entire region lies, on average, 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) above sea level. Notable peaks include the border mountain Murovdag and the Great Kirs mountain chain in the junction of Shusha Rayon and Hadrut. The territory of modern Nagorno-Karabakh forms a portion of the historic region of Karabakh, which lies between the rivers Kura and Araxes, and the modern Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Nagorno-Karabakh in its modern borders is part of the larger region of Upper Karabakh.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s environment vary from steppe on the Kura lowland through dense forests of oak, hornbeam, and beech on the lower mountain slopes to birchwood and alpine meadows higher up. The region possesses numerous mineral springs and deposits of zinc, coal, lead, gold, marble, and limestone. The major cities of the region are Stepanakert, which serves as the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Shusha, which lies partially in ruins. Vineyards, orchards, and mulberry groves for silkworms are developed in the valleys.
Population statistics for Nagorno-Karabakh are available from the 18th century. Archimandrite Minas Tigranian, after completing his secret mission to Persian Armenia ordered by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great stated in a report dated 14 March 1717 that the patriarch of the Gandzasar Monastery, in Nagorno-Karabakh, had under his authority 900 Armenian villages.
In his letter of 1769 to Russia’s Count P. Panin, the Georgian King Erekle II, in his description of Nagorno-Karabakh, suggests: "Seven families rule the region of Khamsa. Its population is totally Armenian."
When discussing Karabakh and Shusha in the 18th century, the Russian diplomat and historian Semyon M. Bronevskiy (Russian: Семён Михайлович Броневский) indicated in his Historical Notes that Karabakh, which he said "is located in Greater Armenia" had as many as 30,000–40,000 armed Armenian men in 1796.
A survey prepared by the Russian imperial authorities in 1823, several years before the 1828 Armenian migration from Persia to the newly established Armenian Province, shows that all Armenians of Karabakh compactly resided in its highland portion, i.e. on the territory of the five traditional Armenian principalities in Nagorno-Karabakh, and constituted an absolute demographic majority on those lands. The survey's more than 260 pages recorded that the district of Khachen had 12 Armenian villages and no Tatar (Muslim) villages; Jalapert (Jraberd) had eight Armenian villages and no Tatar villages; Dizak had 14 Armenian villages and one Tatar village; Gulistan had 12 Armenian and five Tatar villages; and Varanda had 23 Armenian villages and one Tatar village.
During the Soviet times, the leaders of the Azerbaijan SSR tried to change demographic balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO) by increasing the number of Azerbaijani residents through opening a university with Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian sectors and a shoe factory, sending Azerbaijanis from other parts of Azerbaijani SSR to the NKAO. "By doing this", Aliyev said in an interview in 2002, "I tried to increase the number of Azeris and to reduce the number of Armenians".
Nearing the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast had a population of 145,593 Armenians (76.4 percent), 42,871 Azerbaijanis (22.4 percent), and several thousand Kurds, Russians, Greeks and Assyrians. Most of the Azerbaijani and Kurdish populations fled the region during the heaviest years of fighting in the war from 1992 to 1993. The main language spoken in Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenian; however, Karabakh Armenians speak a dialect of Armenian that is considerably different from the Yerevan dialect spoken by most in Armenia, but is similar to the dialects of Southern Syunik and even Eastern Tavush, areas that were historically closely linked to Artsakh.
In 2001, the NKR's reported population was 95 percent Armenian, with the remaining total including Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds. In March 2007, the local government announced that its population had grown to 138,000. The annual birth rate was recorded at 2,200–2,300 per year, an increase from nearly 1,500 in 1999. Until 2000, the country's net migration was at a negative. For the first half of 2007, 1,010 births and 659 deaths were reported, with a net emigration of 27.
In 2011, officials from YAP submitted a letter to OSCE which included the statement, "The OSCE fact-finding mission report released last year also found that some 15,000 Armenians have been illegally settled on Azerbaijan's occupied territories." However, the OSCE report, released in March 2011, estimates the population of territories controlled by ethnic Armenians "adjacent to the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh" to be 14,000, and states "there has been no significant growth in the population since 2005."
Most of the Armenian population is Christian and belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Certain Orthodox Christian and Evangelical Christian denominations also exist; other religions include Judaism.
During rule of the Soviet Union, the Yevlax-Ağdam-Xankəndi(Stepanakert) line connected the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region with the main part of Azerbaijan. After the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the abandonment of Ağdam, the line’s service was cut back to service only between Yevlax and Kətəlparaq, without any present section at the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The former railway line between Kətəlparaq and Stepanakert has been almost completely destroyed.
The (Tbilisi-Gyumri-)Yerevan-Naxçıvan-Horadiz-Şirvan(-Bakı) main railway was also dismantled from the NKR between Ordubad and Horadiz, and a by-line from Mincivan to the Armenian city of Kapan. Currently, the Azerbaijani trains only travel to Horadiz. The Ordubad-Horadiz section has been demolished, leaving the NKR with no intact, active railway line in their territory. The railway at the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic still operates, but it is separated from the main Azerbaijani lines, and only has connection to Iran.