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(Upper Karabakh)

Location and extent of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (lighter color).
Location and extent of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (lighter color).
Religion Christianity: Armenian Apostolic Church
 -  Total 4,400 km2
1,700 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2006 estimate 138,000
 -  Density 29/km2
43/sq mi
Time zone (UTC+4)
 -  Summer (DST) +5 (UTC)
Drives on the right

Nagorno-Karabakh or Mountainous Karabagh 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.

Most of the region is governed by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a de facto independent but unrecognized state established on the basis of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast within the Azerbaijan SSR of the Soviet Union. The conflict concerning this territory is ongoing and while there is no solution yet the old Soviet borders are internationally recognized.[1][2]Azerbaijan has not exercised power over the surrounding regions since the early 1990s. 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).[3][4]


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Antiquity and Early Middle Ages 2.1
    • High Middle Ages 2.2
    • Late Middle Ages 2.3
    • Modern era 2.4
    • Soviet era 2.5
    • War and secession 2.6
    • Contemporary situation (since 1994) 2.7
  • Geography 3
  • Demographics 4
    • 18th century 4.1
    • 19th century 4.2
    • 20th century 4.3
    • 2000s 4.4
  • Transport 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The word Nagorno- is a Russian attributive adjective, derived from the adjective nagorny (нагорный), which means "highland". The Azerbaijani name of the region includes similar adjectives "dağlıq" (mountainous) or "yuxarı" (upper). Such words are not used in the Armenian name, but 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 France is Haut-Karabakh, meaning "Upper Karabakh".

The name

  • Articles and Photography on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) from UK Photojournalist Russell Pollard
  • All UN Security Council resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh, courtesy U.S. State department
  • Nagorno-Karabakh Agreement of 2 November 2008 and country profile from BBC News Online
  • Article on the Dec. 10 Referendum from Russia Profile
  • The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference — Report by rapporteur David Atkinson presented to Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
  • The limits of leadership - Elites and societies in the Nagorny Karabakh peace processConciliation Resources - Accord issue: also key texts & agreements and chronology (in English & Russian)
  • Independence of Kosovo and the Nagorno-Karabakh Issue
  • Interview with Thomas De Waal
  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Nagorno-Karabakh: Timeline Of The Long Road To Peace
  • Resolution #1416 from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
  • USIP — Nagorno-Karabakh Searching for a Solution: Key points, by Patricia Carley, Publication of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
  • USIP — Sovereignty after Empire Self-Determination Movements in the Former Soviet Union. Case Studies: Nagorno-Karabakh. by Galina Starovoitova, Publication of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
  • Photo Series Nagorno Karabakh 2008-2011 - daily life, front line, mine clearance, culture, religion, ...

External links

  1. ^ UN Security Council resolutions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
  2. ^ "Statement of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group".  
  3. ^ Robert H. Hewsen. "The Meliks of Eastern Armenia: A Preliminary Study". Revue des etudes Arméniennes. NS: IX, 1972, pp. 288.
  4. ^ Robert H. Hewsen, Armenia: A Historical Atlas. The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 264. ISBN 978-0-226-33228-4
  5. ^ The BBC World News. Regions and territories: Nagorno-Karabakh, BBC News Online. Last updated October 3, 2007. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  6. ^ a b (Armenian) Ulubabyan, Bagrat. Karabagh (Ղարաբաղ). The Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia, vol. vii, Yerevan, Armenian SSR, 1981 p. 26
  7. ^ C. G. Ellis, "Oriental Carpets", 1988. p133.
  8. ^ Robert H. Hewsen, Armenia: a Historical Atlas. University of Chicago Press, 2001, pp. 119–120.
  9. ^ PanArmenian Network. Artsakh: From Ancient Time to 1918. June 9, 2003. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  10. ^ Strabo (ed. H.C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M.A.) . Geography. The Perseus Digital Library. 11.14.4. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  11. ^ Viviano, Frank (March 2004). "The Rebirth of Armenia". National Geographic Magazine. 
  12. ^ John Noble, Michael Kohn, Danielle Systermans. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Lonely Planet; 3 edition (May 1, 2008), p. 307
  13. ^ a b Hewsen, Robert H. (1982). "Ethno-History and the Armenian Influence upon the Caucasian Albanians". In Samuelian, Thomas J. Classical Armenian Culture. Influences and Creativity. Chicago: Scholars Press. pp. 27–40.  
  14. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. Armenia: a Historical Atlas. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 32–33, map 19 (shows the territory of modern Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the Orontids' Kingdom of Armenia)
  15. ^ R. Schmitt, M. L. Chaumont. Armenia and Iran. Encyclopædia Iranica
  16. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. "The Kingdom of Artsakh", in T. Samuelian & M. Stone, eds. Medieval Armenian Culture. Chico, CA, 1983.
  17. ^ Hewsen. Armenia, pp. 100-103.
  18. ^ History by Sebeos, chapter 26
  19. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica "Azerbaijan"
  20. ^ Walker, Christopher J. Armenia and Karabagh: The Struggle for Unity. Minority Rights Group Publications, 1991, p. 10
  21. ^ Viviano, Frank. "The Rebirth of Armenia", National Geographic Magazine, March 2004, p. 18,
  22. ^ Movses Kalankatuatsi. History of the Land of Aluank, Book I, chapters 27, 28 and 29; Book II, chapter 3.
  23. ^ Н.Адонц. «Дионисий Фракийский и армянские толкователи», Пг., 1915, 181—219
  24. ^ Movses Kalankatuatsi. History of the Land of Aluank, translated from Old Armenian by Sh. V. Smbatian. Yerevan: Matenadaran (Institute of Ancient Manuscripts), 1984, Elegy on the Death of Prince Juansher
  25. ^ a b Agop Jack Hacikyan, Gabriel Basmajian, Edward S. Franchuk. The Heritage of Armenian Literature. Wayne State University Press (December 2002), pp. 94–99
  26. ^ a b c Robert H. Hewsen, Armenia: A Historical Atlas. The University of Chicago Press, 2001, pp. 119, 155, 163, 264–65.
  27. ^ Christopher Walker. The Armenian presence in Mountainous Karabakh, in John F. R. Wright et al.: Transcaucasian Boundaries (SOAS/GRC Geopolitics). 1995, p. 93
  28. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. "The Kingdom of Artsakh", in T. Samuelian & M. Stone, eds. Medieval Armenian Culture. Chico, CA, 1983
  29. ^ Robert H. Hewsen. Russian–Armenian relations, 1700–1828. Society of Armenian Studies, N4, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984, p 37
  30. ^ George A. Bournoutian. A History of Qarabagh: An Annotated Translation of Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's Tarikh-e Qarabagh. Mazda Publishers, 1994. ISBN 1-56859-011-3, 978-1-568-59011-0
  31. ^ Robert H. Hewsen. Russian–Armenian relations, 1700–1828. Society of Armenian Studies, N4, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984, p 37.
  32. ^ Walker, Christopher J. Armenia: Survival of a Nation. London: Routledge, 1990 p. 40 ISBN 0-415-04684-X
  33. ^ Raffi, The History of Karabagh's Meliks, Vienna, 1906, in Armenian
  34. ^ a b c d e f g Cornell, Svante E. The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict PDF (1.05 MB). Uppsala: Department of East European Studies, April 1999.
  35. ^ (Russian) Abbas-gulu Aga Bakikhanov. Golestan-i Iram; according to an 18th-century local Turkic-Muslim writer Mirza Adigezal bey, Nadir shah placed Karabakh under his own control, while a 19th-century local Turkic Muslim writer Abbas-gulu Aga Bakikhanov states that the shah placed Karabakh under the control of the governor of Tabriz.
  36. ^ (Russian) Mirza Adigezal bey. Karabakh-name, p. 48
  37. ^ (Russian) Просительные пункты и клятвенное обещание Ибраим-хана.
  38. ^ Muriel Atkin. The Strange Death of Ibrahim Khalil Khan of Qarabagh. Iranian Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1/2 (Winter – Spring, 1979), pp. 79–107
  39. ^ George A. Bournoutian. A History of Qarabagh: An Annotated Translation of Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's Tarikh-e Qarabagh. Mazda Publishers, 1994. ISBN 1-56859-011-3, 978-1-568-59011-0
  40. ^ Tim Potier. Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2001, p. 2. ISBN 90-411-1477-7.
  41. ^ Leonidas Themistocles Chrysanthopoulos. Caucasus Chronicles: Nation-building and Diplomacy in Armenia, 1993–1994. Gomidas Institute, 2002, p. 8. ISBN 1-884630-05-7.
  42. ^ The British and Foreign Review. J. Ridgeway and sons, 1838, p. 422.
  43. ^ Taru Bahl, M.H. Syed. Encyclopaedia of the Muslim World. Anmol Publications PVT, 2003 p. 34. ISBN 81-261-1419-3.
  44. ^ . 1833, Georgia.The penny cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
  45. ^ a b c The Nagorno-Karabagh Crisis: A Blueprint for Resolution PDF, New England Center for International Law & Policy
  46. ^ Circular by colonel D. I. Shuttleworth of the British Command
  47. ^ Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal by Tim Potier. ISBN 90-411-1477-7
  48. ^ Walker. The Survival of a Nation. pp. 285–90
  49. ^ Service, Robert. Stalin: A Biography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006 p. 204 ISBN 0-674-02258-0
  50. ^ Audrey L. Altstadt. The Azerbaijani Turks: power and identity under Russian rule. Hoover Press, 1992. ISBN 0817991824, 9780817991821
  51. ^ Black Garden, Thomas de Waal, page 292
  52. ^ Elizabeth Fuller, Nagorno-Karabakh: The Death and Casualty Toll to Date, RL 531/88, December 14, 1988, pp. 1–2
  53. ^ a b c d e  
  54. ^ Lieberman, Benjamin (2006). Terrible Fate: Ethnic Cleansing in the Making of Modern Europe. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. pp. 284–92.  
  55. ^ The Encyclopedia of World History. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2001. p. 906. 
  56. ^ a b Miller, Donald E. and Lorna Touryan Miller. Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope. Berkley: University of California Press, 2003 p. 7 ISBN 0-520-23492-8
  57. ^ Roeder, Philip G. (2007). Where nation-states come from: institutional change in the age of nationalism. Princeton University Press. p. 51.  
  58. ^ Human Rights Watch. Playing the "Communal Card". Communal Violence and Human Rights: "By early 1992 full-scale fighting broke out between Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijani authorities." / "...Karabakh Armenian forces—often with the support of forces from the Republic of Armenia—conducted large-scale operations..." / "Because 1993 witnessed unrelenting Karabakh Armenian offensives against the Azerbaijani provinces surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh..." / "Since late 1993, the conflict has also clearly become internationalized: in addition to Azerbaijani and Karabakh Armenian forces, troops from the Republic of Armenia participate on the Karabakh side in fighting inside Azerbaijan and in Nagorno-Karabakh."
  59. ^ Human Rights Watch. The former Soviet Union. Human Rights Developments: "In 1992 the conflict grew far more lethal as both sides—the Azerbaijani National Army and free-lance militias fighting along with it, and ethnic Armenians and mercenaries fighting in the Popular Liberation Army of Artsakh—began."
  60. ^ United States Institute of Peace. . ForewordNagorno-Karabakh Searching for a Solution: "Nagorno-Karabakh’s armed forces have not only fortified their region, but have also occupied a large swath of surrounding Azeri territory in the hopes of linking the enclave to Armenia."
  61. ^ United States Institute of Peace. Sovereignty after Empire. Self-Determination Movements in the Former Soviet Union. Hopes and Disappointments: Case Studies "Meanwhile, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was gradually transforming into a full-scale war between Azeri and Karabakh irregulars, the latter receiving support from Armenia." / "Azerbaijan's objective advantage in terms of human and economic potential has so far been offset by the superior fighting skills and discipline of Nagorno-Karabakh's forces. After a series of offensives, retreats, and counteroffensives, Nagorno-Karabakh now controls a sizable portion of Azerbaijan proper ... including the Lachin corridor."
  62. ^ "By Giving Karabakh Lands to Azerbaijan, Conflict Would Have Ended in ’97, Says Ter-Petrosian". Asbarez. Asbarez. April 19, 2011. 
  63. ^ "Ter-Petrosyan on the BBC: Karabakh conflict could have been resolved by giving certain territories to Azerbaijan". ArmeniaNow. ArmeniaNow. April 19, 2011. 
  64. ^ "Первый президент Армении о распаде СССР и Карабахе". BBC. BBC. April 18, 2011. 
  65. ^ a b Human Rights Watch. Seven Years of Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. December 1994, p. xiii, ISBN 1-56432-142-8, citing: Natsional'nyi Sostav Naseleniya SSSR, po dannym Vsesoyuznyi Perepisi Naseleniya 1989 g., Moskva, "Finansy i Statistika"
  66. ^ Azerbaijan closes last of emergency camps, UNHCR
  67. ^ No End in Sight to Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh by Ivan Watson/National Public Radio. Weekend Edition Sunday, April 23, 2006.
  68. ^ Проект заявления по Нагорному Карабаху ожидает одобрения парламентских сил Армении
  69. ^ Резолюция ПАСЕ по Карабаху: что дальше?. BBC Russian.
  70. ^ Resolutions on Political Affairs. The Thirty-Fourth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.
  71. ^ Resolutions on Political Affairs. Islamic Summit Conference. 13–14 May 2008
  72. ^ The text of the resolution № 62/243
  73. ^ Hakobyan, Tatul (2008-11-21). "Mediators play down prospects of early Karabakh settlement". Armenian Reporter. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  74. ^ "Document: Full text of the declaration adopted by presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia at Meiendorf Castle near Moscow on November 2, 2008". Armenian Reporter. 2008-11-02. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  75. ^ "Armenia, Azerbaijan Satisfied With Fresh Summit". RFE/RL. 2008-06-04. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  76. ^ "Azerbaijan military threat to Armenia." The Daily Telegraph. November 22, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  77. ^ "Defense Ministry: Armenian sniper kills three and wounds one Azerbaijani soldier".  
  78. ^ a b "Withdrawing snipers would not end conflict, says Baku". 27 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  79. ^ "Murder of 9-year-old Azerbaijani civilian, Fariz Badalov".  
  82. ^ "FM: Azerbaijan welcomes resolution 'Need for EU Strategy for South Caucasus' adopted by European Parliament." May 21, 2010.
  83. ^ "EU's Ashton Says Nagorno-Karabakh Elections Illegal." RFE/RL. May 21, 2010.
  84. ^ Bulgarian MEPs Urge EU to Be Proactive in South Caucasus.
  85. ^ "Azerbaijani Drone Reportedly Downed Over Nagorno-Karabakh." RFE/RL. September 14, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
  86. ^ Country Overview
  87. ^ a b Zürcher, Christoph (2007). The post-Soviet wars: rebellion, ethnic conflict, and nationhood in the Caucasus. NYU Press. p. 184.  
  88. ^ DeRouen, Karl R. (ed.) (2007). Civil wars of the world: major conflicts since World War II, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 150.  
  89. ^ "Nagorno-Karabakh".  
  90. ^ Bournoutian, George A. Armenians and Russia, 1626-1796: A Documentary Record. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2001, p. 120–21
  91. ^ Цагарели А. А. Грамота и гругие исторические документы XVIII столетия, относяшиеся к Грузии, Том 1. СПб 1891, ц. 434-435. This book is available online from Google Books
  92. ^ Bournoutian, George A. Armenians and Russia, 1626-1796: A Documentary Record. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2001, page 246
  93. ^ S.M.Bronesvskiy. Historical Notes... St. Petersburg. 1996. Исторические выписки о сношениях России с Персиею, Грузиею и вообще с горскими народами, в Кавказе обитающими, со времён Ивана Васильевича доныне». СПб. 1996, секция "Карабаг"
  94. ^ George A. Bournoutian. The 1823 Russian Survey of the Karabagh Province: A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of Karabagh in the Early 19th Century. Mazda Publishers; Bilingual edition (September 15, 2011). United States of America.
  95. ^ Description of the Karabakh province prepared in 1823 according to the order of the governor in Georgia Yermolov by state advisor Mogilevsky and colonel Yermolov 2nd (Russian: Opisaniye Karabakhskoy provincii sostavlennoye v 1823 g po rasporyazheniyu glavnoupravlyayushego v Gruzii Yermolova deystvitelnim statskim sovetnikom Mogilevskim i polkovnikom Yermolovim 2-m), Tbilisi, 1866.
  96. ^ Bournoutian, George A. A History of Qarabagh: An Annotated Translation of Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's Tarikh-E Qarabagh. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1994, page 18
  97. ^ (Russian) "Гейдар Алиев: 'Государство с оппозицией лучше'." Zerkalo. July 22, 2002.
  98. ^ (Russian) Anon. "Кто на стыке интересов? США, Россия и новая реальность на границе с Ираном" ("Who is at the turn of interests? US, Russia and new reality on the border with Iran"). Regnum. April 4, 2006.
  99. ^ a b Ethnic composition of the region as provided by the government
  100. ^ Regnum News Agency. Nagorno Karabakh prime minister: We need to have at least 300,000 population. Regnum. March 9, 2007. Retrieved March 9, 2007.
  101. ^ Евразийская панорама
  102. ^ "Azerbaijani Party Appeals To OSCE About Armenian Resettlement".  
  103. ^ "Airports in Azerbaijan". Retrieved 2013-08-13. 


See also

Stepanakert UB13 Stepanakert Airport[103]


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.[99]

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."[102]

In 2001, the NKR's reported population was 95% Armenian, with the remaining total including Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds.[99] 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.[100] For the first half of 2007, 1,010 births and 659 deaths were reported, with a net emigration of 27.[101]


Nearing the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast boasted a population of 145,593 Armenians (76.4%), 42,871 Azerbaijanis (22.4%),[65] 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 which is considerably different from that spoken in Armenia.

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.”[97][98]

20th century

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.[94] The survey's more than 260 pages recorded that the district of Khachen had twelve Armenian villages and no Tatar (Muslim) villages; Jalapert (Jraberd) had eight Armenian villages and no Tatar villages; Dizak had fourteen Armenian villages and one Tatar village; Gulistan had twelve Armenian and five Tatar villages; and Varanda had twenty-three Armenian villages and one Tatar village.[95][96]

19th century

When discussing Karabakh and Shusha in the 18th century, the Russian diplomat and historian S. M. Bronevskiy (Russian: С. М. Броневский) indicated in his Historical Notes that Karabakh, which he said "is located in Greater Armenia" had as many as 30–40,000 armed Armenian men in 1796.[93]

In his letter of 1769 to Russia’s Erekle II, in his description of Nagorno Karabakh, suggests: "Seven families rule the region of Khamse. Its population is totally Armenian." [91][92]

Population statistics for Nagorno Karabakh are available from 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 March 14, 1717 that the patriarch of the Gandzasar Monastery, in Nagorno Karabakh, had under his authority 900 Armenian villages.[90]

18th century


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.[88] 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.[89]

Nagorno-Karabakh has a total area of 4,400 square kilometres (1,699 sq mi).[86] Approximately half of Nagorno-Karabakh terrain is over 950 m above sea level.[87] 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.[87] 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.

A view of the forested mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh.


On September 12, 2011, a UAV was reportedly shot down over the airspace of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (near the village of Gülablı in the district of Khojavend).[85] According to the Armenian side the UAV was shot down by the air defense arm of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army.

The Dushanbe, 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 was adopted.[81] On May 20 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, Bulgarian member of the Parliament.[82][83] The resolution states in particular that "the occupied Azerbaijani regions around Nagorno-Karabakh must be cleared as soon as possible".[84]

On November 22, 2009, several world leaders, among them the heads of state from Azerbaijan and Armenia, met in Munich in the hopes of renewing efforts to reach a peaceful settlement on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Prior to the meeting, President Aliyev brought up the possibility to resort to military force to reestablish control over the region if the two sides did not reach an agreeable settlement at the summit.[76]

At the 11th session of the summit of the Dakar, resolution № 10/11-P (IS) was adopted. According to 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."[71] On March 14 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".[72] As of August 2008, the United States, France, and Russia (the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group) are mediating efforts to negotiate a full settlement of the conflict, proposing "a referendum or a plebiscite, at a time to be determined later," to determine the final status of the area, return for some territories under Karabakh's control, and security guarantees.[73] Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sarkisian traveled to Moscow for talks with Dmitry Medvedev on 2 November 2008. The talks ended in the three presidents signing a declaration confirming their commitment to continue talks.[74] The two presidents have met again since then, most recently in Saint Petersburg.[75]

[70] On January 25, 2005 the [67] Despite the ceasefire, fatalities due to armed conflicts between Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers continued.

Ilham Aliyev, Dmitry Medvedev and Serzh Sarkisian in Moscow on 2 November 2008
The final borders of the conflict after the Bishkek Protocol. Armenian forces of Nagorno-Karabakh currently control almost 9% of Azerbaijan's territory outside the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast,[53] while Azerbaijani forces control Shahumian and the eastern parts of Martakert and Martuni.

Contemporary situation (since 1994)

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.[34] As a result, a cease-fire was reached on May 12, 1994 through Russian negotiation.

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.[65] As many as one thousand Afghan mujahideen participated in the fighting on Azerbaijan's side.[53] There were also fighters from Chechnya fighting on the side of Azerbaijan, as well heavy artillery and tanks provided to Armenia by Russia.[53] 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.[66]

On December 10, 1991 in a referendum boycotted by local Azerbaijanis,[53] 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, the latter receiving support from Armenia.[58][59][60][61] According to Armenia's former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian, the Karabakh leadership approach was maximalist and “they thought they could get more.”[62][63][64]

On February 13, 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 February 20 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 February 22, 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.[52][53] Large numbers of refugees left Armenia and Azerbaijan as violence began against the minority populations of the respective countries.[54] On November 29, 1989 direct rule in Nagorno-Karabakh was ended and the region was returned to Azerbaijani administration.[55] 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.[56] The population at that time was 76% Armenian and 23% Azerbaijanis, with Russian and Kurdish minorities.[56] On November 26, 1991 Azerbaijan abolished the status of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, rearranging the administrative division and bringing the territory under direct control of Azerbaijan.[57]

A restored Armenian T-72, knocked out of commission while attacking Azeri positions in Askeran District, serves as a war memorial on the outskirts of Stepanakert.

War and secession

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.[50] In August 1987 Karabakh Armenians sent petition for union with Armenia tens of thousands of signatures to Moscow.[51]

In April 1920, while the Azerbaijani army was locked in Karabakh fighting local Armenian forces, Azerbaijan was taken over by 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 Azerbaijan proper). 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.[49] As a result, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was established within the Azerbaijan SSR on July 7, 1923.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, British troops occupied Karabakh.[34] 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.[46] 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.[34][45] The agreement itself was soon annulled by the Ninth Karabagh Assembly, which declared union with Armenia in April.[34][45][47]

The present-day conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has its roots in the decisions made by 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.[45] Later, Ottoman troops entered Karabakh, meeting armed resistance by Armenians.

Ethnic make-up of Nagorno-Karabakh in the late Soviet era.
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast in the Soviet era.

Soviet era

In 1822, 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 Azerbaijani Muslim families emigrated to Persia, while many Armenians were induced by the Russian government to emigrate from Persia to Karabakh.[44]

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.[37][38][39] However, its new status was only confirmed under the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan (1813), when Persia formally ceded Karabakh to the Russian Empire,[40][41][42][43] before the rest of Transcaucasia was incorporated into the Empire in 1828 by the Treaty of Turkmenchay.

Aftermath of the Shusha massacre: Armenian half of Shusha destroyed by Azerbaijani armed forces in 1920, with the defiled Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Savior on the background.
Palace of the former ruler (khan) of Shusha. Taken from a postcard from the late nineteenth–early twentieth century.

Modern era

The Armenian meliks maintained full control over the region until the mid-18th century.[34] In the early 18th century, Persia'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[35][36] In the mid-18th century, as internal conflicts between the meliks led to their weakening,[34] the Karabakh Khanate was formed.

The Armenian meliks were granted supreme command over neighboring Armenian principalities and Muslim khans in the Caucasus, in return for the meliks' victories over the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1720s.[32] These five principalities in Karabakh were ruled by Armenian families who had received the title Melik (prince) and were the following: the principality of Gulistan, under the leadership of the Melik-Beglarian family, the principality of Jraberd under the leadership of the Melik-Israelian family, the principality of Khachen, under the leadership of the Hasan Jalalyan family, the principality of Varanda, under the leadership of the Melik-Shahnazarian and finally, the principality of Dizak, under the leadership of the Melik-Avanian family.[33]

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 governship 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.[26] 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.[31]

The semi-independent Five Principalities (Armenian: Խամսայի Մելիքություններ) of Karabakh (Gyulistan, Jraberd, Khachen, Varanda, and Dizak), widely considered to be the last relic of Armenian statehood (15th-19th century). [29][30]
The Askeran Fortress, built by the Karabakh Khanate ruler Panah Ali Khan in the 18th century

Late Middle Ages

In the 7th and 8th centuries, the region 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.[26] The name “Khachen” originated from Armenian word “khach,” which means “cross”.[27] By 1000 the House of Khachen proclaimed the Kingdom of Artsakh with John Senecherib as its first ruler.[28] 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, Hasan Jalal Dola, the two states merged into one.[26] Subsequently Artsakh continued to exist as a de facto independent principality.

High Middle Ages

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. Mesrob Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet.[21] St. Mesrob was very active in preaching Gospel in Artsakh and Utik. Overall, Mesrob Mashtots made three trips to Artsakh and Utik, ultimately reaching pagan territories at the foothills of the Greater Caucasus.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24][25] The only comprehensive history of Caucasian Albania was written in Armenian, by the historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi.[25]

In 387 AD, after the partition of Armenia between Byzantium and Sassanid Persia, two Armenian provinces Artsakh and Utik passed to Caucasian Albania, which, in turn, came under strong Armenian religious and cultural influence.[19][20] At the time the population of Artsakh and Utik consisted of Armenians and several Armenized tribes.[13]

In around 180 BC, Artsakh became one of the 15 provinces of the Armenian Kingdom and remained so until the 4th century.[16] 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.[17] Tigran the Great, King of Armenia, (ruled from 95–55 BC), founded in Artsakh one of four cities named “Tigranakert” after himself.[18] The ruins of the ancient Tigranakert, located 30 miles (48 km) north-east of Stepanakert, are being studied by a group of international scholars.

The ancient population of the region consisted of various autochthonous local and migrant tribes who were mostly non-Indo-Europeans.[13] 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.[14] Other scholars suggest that the Armenians settled in the region as early as in the 7th century BC.[15]

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 monastery at Gandzasar was commissioned by the House of Khachen and completed in 1238
The Amaras Monastery, founded in the 4th century by St. Gregory the Illuminator. In the 5th century, Mesrob Mashtots, inventor of the Armenian alphabet, established at Amaras the first school to use his script.[11][12]

Antiquity and Early Middle Ages


Nagorno-Karabakh is often referred to by the Armenians living in the area as Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախ), designating the 10th province of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. In Urartian inscriptions (9th–7th centuries BC), the name Urtekhini is used for the region.[9] Ancient Greek sources called the area Orkhistene.[10]

  • Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ, transliterated Leṙnayin Ġarabaġ (IPA: /lɛrnɑˈjin ʁɑɾɑˈbɑʁ/)
  • Azerbaijani: Dağlıq Qarabağ, Дағлыг Гарабағ (mountainous Karabakh; IPA: /dɑɣˈlɯɣ ɡɑˈɾɑbɑɣ/) or Yuxarı Qarabağ, Јухары Гарабағ (upper Karabakh; IPA: /juxɑˈɾɯ ɡɑˈɾɑbɑɣ/)
  • Russian: Нагорный Карабах, transliterated Nagornyy Karabakh or Nagornyi Karabah (IPA: /nɐˈɡornɨj kərɐˈbax/)

The names for the region in the various local languages all translate to "mountainous Karabakh", or "mountainous black garden":

In 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".[8]

[7] originally produced in the area.rug, and also denotes a kind of patterned Karabakh is an acceptable alternate spelling of Karabagh [6]

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