The region's area is 4400 km², 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 Stepanakert in Armenian, Xankendi or Xankəndi in Azeri. The other major city is Shushi, parts of which today lie in ruins.
Nagorno-Karabakh (Russian Нагорный Карабах; Azeri-Persian Qarabağ قرهباغ (Bagh means Garden in Persian); official Armenian name Lernayin Gharabagh [Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ], though many Armenians call it Artsakh [Արցախ]; in English the name means "Mountainous Black Garden") is a disputed area in the Caucasus. It is claimed by Azerbaijan but is controlled by its ethnic Armenian inhabitants as a de facto independent republic (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic - NKR). The NKR's sovereign status is not recognized.
Nagorno-Karabakh comprises one of the historical parts of Alwania, or Caucasian Albania. In 95 BC it was conquered by Tigranes II, ruler of the Kingdom of Armenia that called the region Artzakh, and was ruled by local lords. 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 many Alwanians adopted Christianity from the Armenian Church and established close cultural ties.
In the 7th and 8th century the region was invaded by Arabs, who pillaged it and converted a small portion of the population to Islam. Since the 8th century Alwania diminished in size and came to exist only as a principality of Khachen in Artsakh. In the 11th century Turks destroyed the kingdom of Armenia, but the mountainous regions remained relatively unharmed.
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 respublic was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia and Moscow hoped Turkey would, with a little help of Russia, develop more 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.
With the fall of the USSR in the early 1990s, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh reemerged. Nagorno-Karabakh had never been a part of an independent Azerbaijan and was only ceded to the Azerbaijani SSR by Stalin in the 1920s. 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 Nagarno-Karabakh government held a December 10, 1991 referendum in which the overwhelming majority of the population voted for outright independence.
These events led to violent reprisals against Armenians living in Sumgait, Baku and elsewhere in Azerbaijan, and then to a land war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Armenian forces eventually drove the Azeris out of much of the region and seized a strip of land (called the Lachin corridor) linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the so-called security zone--strips of territory along the Nagorno-Karabakh borders but inside Azerbaijan which had been used by Azerbaijan artillery during the war. An unofficial cease-fire was reached on May 12th, 1994 through Russian negotiation, and continues today.
Today Nagorno-Karabakh is a de-facto independent state calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, with its own democratically elected government and a market economy. 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).
Meanwhile, negotiation continues. In the latest episode, representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, France, Russia and the United States met in Paris and Florida in the spring of 2001. The mediating countries proposed a plan to formally incorporate Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia, in exchange for a transport corridor between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. Armenia claims that this agreement was nearly reached, but that former Azeri president Heydar Aliyev reversed his position. Azerbaijan holds that such an understanding was never reached.
In addition there is the Shahumian Region in the north that was detached from Karabakh during Soviet times.
The current borders of Karabakh, established in Soviet times, resemble a kidney bean. The bean, whose indentation is on the right side, has very tall mountain ridges along the northern edge, along the west, and the south is just plain mountainous. This makes options for getting to Karabakh from Armenia limited, with a windy mountainous road through Lachin being the primary route, and a dirt road through northern Kelbajar the only real alternative without driving all the way around Karabakh. The part near the indentation of the kidney bean itself is a relatively flat valley, with the two edges of the bean (Mardtakert and Martuni) having flat lands as well. Other flatter valleys exist around the Sarsang reservoir, Hadrut, and the south. Much of Karabakh is forested, especially the mountains.
The Republic of Mountainous Karabakh will hold its first census on October 18-27 2005.
The first ever census in Karabakh was carried out in 1926. According to its results, there were 125,300 people living in the autonomous region; 111,700 Armenians and 12,600 Azeris. Censuses have also been organized in 1939, 1959, 1970, and 1989 which was the last one.
Today, according to statistics, there are 144.6 thousand people living in Karabakh. The Karabakh Government has allotted 120 million AMD to the organization of the census according to karabakh-online.com
Timeline of Conflict and Peace Talks
Agency WPS DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia) November 3, 2004, Wednesday
HOW DID THE LANDS AROUND KARABAKH COME TO BE OCCUPIED?
SOURCE: Vremya Novostei, November 1, 2004, p. 5
by Vladimir Kazimirov
VLADIMIR KAZIMIROV, EX-HEAD OF THE RUSSIAN MEDIATORSHIP MISSION IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH: LEADERSHIP OF AZERBAIJAN ALSO SHARES RESPONSIBILITY FOR ESCALATION OF THE HOSTILITIES
Acting on Azerbaijan's initiative, the UN General Assembly will discuss the situation in the Azerbaijani districts beyond Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by Armenian and Karabakh troops. Official Baku claims that the occupiers have been into mischief and atrocities there.
Full occupation of 5 districts of Azerbaijan and partial of 2 more became a result of vicious fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and around it between 1992 and 1994.
Azerbaijani diplomacy is now trying to switch the attention from the cause (status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the problem it is loath to try and tackle) to an effect (occupied territories). Hence the traditional figure juggling - over 1,000,000 resettlers (are the bona fide 700,000 to 750,000 too few?) and 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan occupied (instead of 9%; in fact, even if Nagorno-Karabakh is counted - and it cannot be regarded as "occupied" - the figure does not amount to 14%). The problem of the occupied territories has never been solved. Both sides are uncompromising. No progress at all has been made in a decade of cease-fire. These days, Baku presents the occupation only as an outcome of Armenian aggression even though there is more to it than Azerbaijan admits.
Suspension of hostilities and a transition to peaceful discussion of moot points would have prevented expansion of the aggression. Not a single square kilometer of land has occupied been occupied since the cease-fire accord arranged with Russia's help in May 1994. I remember how the conflict raged between 1992 and 1994 and how go-betweens were doing their best to put out the fire. Russia pestered the warring sides - directly and via the OSCE Minsk Group - with the proposal of negotiations. Baku and Yerevan were given a lot of chances to put an end to the hostilities. It was usually Baku that dismissed the chance and even went against the already made accords.
A lot of hopes were pinned on the OSCE Minsk Conference. Were it not for the official Baku's demand of withdrawal of the Armenians from the overrun Shusha and Lachin, the conference would have taken place in June 1992.
Instead of the conference, the OSCE Minsk Group was formed. The one Baku regularly criticizes nowadays. On Russia's initiative, the OSCE Minsk Group urged the warring sides to suspend hostilities for 30 days in July 1992 and for 60 days two months later. All to no avail. Yerevan and Stepanakert gave their consent, but it took time to get Baku's cooperation. The Armenians overrun the Kelbadzhar district in April 1993. Resolution 822 of the UN Security Council demanded an immediate suspension of hostilities and withdrawal of all occupiers. Needless to say, Baku supported Armenian pullout from the occupied districts - but not at the cost of suspension of hostilities.
With Russia's help, accords to restrict the hostilities were reached in June 1993. Moscow suggested an extension of the accord by a month on July 3. Stepanakert did not object, but acting defense minister of Azerbaijan Safar Abiyev never bothered to respond to the suggestion. Battle was joined again, and Agdam fell on July 23. A 5-day cease-fire was agreed upon with Russia's help on August 18. When the accord was broken, Azerbaijanis lost Fizuli and Dzhebrail. The then President of Azerbaijan Heidar Aliyev admitted that his regular army had regularly broken the cease-fire accords.
The truce (for 10 days this time) was only resumed on August 31, when the Armenian troops overrun Kubatly. The Kremlin succeeded in extending the truce. It lasted 50 days but the Azerbaijanis wrecked it again and gave the Armenians an excuse to seize all of south-western Azerbaijan.
Russia's attempts to stop the bloodshed in late 1993 failed. I was present when Aliyev and Karabakh leader Robert Kocharjan agreed on a cease-fire as of December 17. Both leaders promised to have the accord officially enacted, but the documents came from Stepanakert alone - Baku clearly stalled for time. I managed to persuade Kocharjan to order an unilateral cease-fire - on the basis of a "gentlemen's accord" (after all, everything had been agreed on the level of the president of Azerbaijan!) - without waiting for the text from Baku. The text from the capital of Azerbaijan came three days later - absolutely unacceptable. Everything had to be cancelled. As it turned out later, Baku used the breathing space to prepare an offensive on a large scale. On December 30, Stepanakert accepted our suggestion of a truce for the New Year festivities but Baku did not even respond to it.
Only in May 1994, after murderous losses and facing the threat of a frontal collapse in the environs of Bardy and Yelakh, the leadership of Azerbaijan suggested a cease-fire. It ended in the truce that has already lasted for more than a decade.
This is not a complete list, in fact. Even this abridged version shows, however, that Baku always relied on sheer strength of arms, overestimating its capacities and using what breathing space occurred only to regroup. Neglect of cease-fire accords and peace initiatives on its part merely extended the war and enabled the Armenians to expand the occupied territory. It means that at least a part of the blame for the escalation of hostilities and, therefore, on the expansion of the occupied territories rests on the authorities of Azerbaijan. The Armenians are not lily-white either, they should have withdrawn, but it is not they who are particularly prone to negativism in the attitude towards peace initiatives.
Unfortunately, Armenian and Azerbaijani young diplomatic services are way too inexperienced yet, unable to avoid half-truths. It has been long since Baku began campaigning for an "unconditional" release of the territories allegedly in accordance with four resolutions of the UN Security Council dated 1993. In fact, however, the term "unconditional" is only used in Resolution 853. Resolutions 822, 874, and 884 do not use the term at all.
And this is why Resolution 884 did not use the term "unconditional". The text of the document makes it plain who broke the cease-fire demand (the major demand in the hostilities and the major demand in all four resolutions) through the war. It was a must for the release of the territories in the first place. So, it was transformed from a must into a matter for bargaining. Neither is Baku worried by its failure to meet other demands of resolutions of the UN Security Council.
These selective approach cannot be missed. Only whoever does not know the first thing about the conflict will take Baku's propagandistic tricks for real concerns. In fact, settlement of the conflict demands efforts on both warring sides.
Vladimir Kazimirov, an ambassador, between 1992 and 1996 - head of the Russian mediator mission, Russian presidential plenipotentiary representative for Nagorno-Karabakh, participant and co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group.