Saturday, March 26, 2005
What's going on in Nagorno-Karabakh?
The roots of the conflict pre-date the creation of the Soviet Union. Violent clashes in 1905 and 1918 evolved into fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over three contested border areas, Nagorno-Karabakh, Nakhichevan and Zangezur. In 1921, Nagorno-Karabakh was incorporated into Soviet Azerbaijan. As both Soviet republics embraced nationalism and political demonstrations turned violent, minority populations within each republic fled ethnic discrimination. Armenia and Azerbaijan witnessed a total population swap of some 1,000,000 inhabitants. In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians voted to secede and join Armenia. Azerbaijan attempted to prevent Nagorno-Karabakh’s secession by force, and when Armenia and Azerbaijan proclaimed independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh’s future escalated into a war between the two states.
Armenian forces invaded Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992 and occupied seven adjoining districts in Azerbaijan, creating a corridor -- the Lachin corridor -- connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia proper. Politically, socially, and economically Nagorno-Karabakh behaves like an autonomous Armenian province. With a growing population of approximately 200,000, Nagorno-Karabakh has become ethnically homogenous: 95 percent of residents are Armenian, and Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds constitute the remaining 5 percent. Armenians rely on free movement and trade between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia proper, and Nagorno-Karabakh’s first elected leader, Robert Kocharian, is now Armenia’s president.