Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, (in Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ, Leṙnayin Ġarabaġ; in Azerbaijan: Dağlıq Qarabağ, in Russian: Нагорно-Карабах) is a South Caucasus mountainous region. The name literally means ‘mountainous Karabakh’.
Most of the region is led by the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, a de facto independent but unrecognized state, created on the basis of the former Autonomous Region of the Karabakh Mountain, which was part of the Azerbaijani RSS Party within the USSR. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, which de facto no longer has control over the region since 1991. Since the end of the 1994 Nagorno-Karabakh war, representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have conducted peace talks mediated by the Group OSCE Minsk over the state of the disputed region.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was established by Soviet leaders in 1923 in the mountainous parts of the historic province of Karabakh. It is noteworthy that a significantly reduced area (4.400 km2), with the highest concentration of the Armenian population, which left outside the autonomous region, large areas inhabited predominantly by the Armenians, was chosen. These outstanding territories have been included in various other raions attributed to Soviet Azerbaijan in order to remove the idea of the Armenian local population from belonging to the same administrative and historical unit and to diminish the electoral and cohesion impact by exposing it to a process of denationalization favored by economic migration.
The outbreak of the conflict
The Armenian-Azero conflict was the first interethnic conflict in the former USSR. Since the end of 1987, the Nagorno-Karabakh population, supported by the countrymen of the Soviet Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia, claimed territories that were part of the historical Armenian territory but were officially attributed to Azerbaijan’s RSS. At the time, both states were republics of the USSR and the frontiers were predominantly motivated by economic motivations. On 19 February 1988, the Armenian majority in the province (population – 186,610 (1989), 138,600 (73,5%) Armenians and 47,500 (25,3%) Azerbaijani) began protests in favor of the region’s joining Armenia, and in 1989 the Soviet Armenian Supreme Court has adopted an attachment law. Immediately after the political preparations, the violent phase of this process followed: the organization of Armenian self-defense units endowed with artillery and tanks from the Russian troops in the nearby military bases, which later merged into a real army. It ended by releasing almost the entire territory of the Azeri troops and establishing a communication corridor with the Republic of Armenia.
Until 1992 Armenians occupied the territories between Armenia and Upper Karabakh while contradictory rumors on both sides prompted the Azeri population to flee to eastern Azerbaijan. In total, approximately 20% of the initial area of R.S.S. Azerbaijan (of which 6-7% represented RANK) were occupied by pro-Armenian troops (14,176 km²), of which 4,400 km² and 7 administrative districts around the autonomous province of Lacin, Kalbadjar, Fuzuli, Agdam, Djabrayil, Qubadli, Zanghilan. Because of the war, Azerbaijan lost over 20,000 people – military and civilians. As a result of the conflict, about 1 million refugees in the busy regions live in extreme conditions, neglected and marginalized by even the Azerbaijani authorities.
The position of the international community and the parties
Although the UN has shown some interest in the conflict (the Security Council adopted four resolutions – 822, 853, 873, 884 – requesting the withdrawal of the Armenian army from the occupied territories), another OSCE institution – its special group in Minsk. The parties involved in the conflict, with such divergent interests and motivations, have consistently sabotaged the exit of this frozen conflict. Azerbaijan insists on maintaining its territorial integrity and Armenia seeks to preserve as many territories as possible from its historical territory, territories still inhabited by Armenians, insisting on the principle of national self-determination.