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Template:Vprotected Template:Message box Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijani: Dağlıq Qarabağ or Yuxarı Qarabağ, literally "mountainous black garden" or "upper black garden"; Russian: Нагорный Карабах, translit. Nagornyy Karabakh; Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ, translit. Lernayin Gharabagh), often referred to by Armenians as Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախ), is a region of Azerbaijan, in southern Caucasia, located about 270 km (about 170 mi) west of the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. The region is predominantly ethnic Armenian, and is under Armenian military control. The local Armenian population declared independence from Azerbaijan on December 10, 1991 and declared the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). The NKR's sovereign status is not recognized by any country in the world.

Nagorno-Karabakh / Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի Հանրապետություն / Dağlıq Qarabağ
Flag of the NKR The NKR Coat of Arms
Flag of the NKR The NKR Coat of Arms
Missing image
Map of the region

Map of the region. (Orange area indicates Armenian-controlled territory)
Political status Unrecognized
Languages Hayeren / Armenian
Capital Stepanakert / Xankəndi
President Arkadi Gukasian
 – Declared
 – Celebrated1
 – Recognition
From Azerbaijan
 December 10 1991
 September 2 1991
Area 4,400 km²
Ethnic Composition3
145,000 (est. 2002)
Over 95% Armenian
5% minorities
Currency Dram (AMD) (Armenian)
Time zone UTC +4 (DST +5)
Internet TLD none
Calling Code 374 ???
1,2,3 (


The region has a total area of 4,400 km², and in 1989 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 (Xankəndi in Azeri). Its other major city, today lying in ruins, is Shusha.


Nagorno-Karabakh was one of the historical parts of Aghbania, or Caucasian Albania. In ancient times, the region was called by various names including Arran, Ardan, Urtehini, and Artsakh. In 95 BC it was conquered by Tigranes II, ruler of the Kingdom of Armenia. Following the defeat of Tigranes II at the hands of the Romans in 66 BC, Albanians regained Artsakh. Ancient Albanians and Armenians alternated control over the territory until the early 4th century, when the Albanians managed to reclaim Artsakh; eventually, in 387, it became a part of Aghbania again.

Christianity first came to Aghbania with the mission of St Eliseus in the 1st century. Christianity was widely accepted in the 5th century, after St Gregory the Illuminator converted and baptized Albanian king Urnayr. In 488, following a church assembly near Aluan (situated in present-day Karabakh), Christianity become the official religion in Aghbania.

In the 7th and 8th centuries, the region was invaded by Arabs, who pillaged it and converted a portion of the population to Islam. Under the Arabs, the Albanian church was subordinated to the Armenian Church, resulting in the local Albanian population gradually becoming more like Armenians in terms of religion, culture, and language. After the 8th century, Albania diminished in size, and came to exist only as the Khachin principality in Artsakh.

In the 15th century, the territory of Karabakh was part of the states of Kara Koyunlu and then Ak Koyunlu. In the early 16th century, after the fall of the Ak-Koyunlu state, control of the region passed to the Safavid dynasty of Iran, that created a Ganje-Karabakh province (beglarbekdom, bəylərbəyliyi); and in the mid-18th century, the Karabakh khanate was formed. Karabakh passed to Imperial Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, before the rest of Russian-controlled Armenian territories were incorporated into the Empire in 1828. In 1822, the Karabakh khanate was dissolved, and the area became part of the Russian province that later formed Azerbaijan.

Soviet era

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Karabakh became part of the Transcaucasian Federation, but this soon dissolved into separate Armenian, Azeri, and Georgian states. Azerbaijan claimed sovereignty over the province, and sought to secure its claims with help from the Ottoman Empire. Despite the fact that the Ottomans were defeated in the course of World War I, Karabakh's de facto ownership by Azerbaijan was provisionally recognized in 1919 by the Allies, who recognized Khosrov-bey Sultanov (appointed by the Azerbaijan government) as general-governor of Karabakh. The Allies decided that the ultimate status of Karabakh was not determined and was pending final decision in Paris Peace Conference. Whereas Azerbaijan commended this decision as a recognition of its rights to the territory, the Armenian side criticized it, arguing that this decision was made because of the Allies' economic interests in the oil fields near Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.

In 1920, Transcaucasia was taken over by the Bolsheviks who, in order to attract public support, promised that they would allot Karabakh to Armenia, along with Nakhchivan, and Zangezur (separating Nakhichevan from Azerbaijan proper). However, Moscow also had far-reaching plans concerning Turkey, hoping that it would, with a little help from Russia, develop along Communist lines. Needing to appease Turkey, Moscow agreed to a division that left Zangezur to Armenia, while leaving Karabakh and Nakhchivan in Azerbaijan. As a result, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was established within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923. Most of the decisions on the transfer of the territories, and the establishment of new autonomous entities, were made under pressure from Stalin, who is still blamed by both Azeris and Armenians for arbitrary decisions made against their national interests.

Missing image
Current ethnic settlement pattern

Ethnic groups of the region in 1995: (See entire map (

With the beginning of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 1980's and early 1990's, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh reemerged. Complaining about "forced Azerification" of the region, the majority Armenian population, with ideological and material support from Armenia, started a movement to transfer it to Armenia. In November 1991, following the Karabakh Armenians' declaration of secession from Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan Parliament retaliated by removing the autonomous status of the region. In response, the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians held a referendum on December 10 1991, with the overwhelming majority of the population voting for outright independence. The minority Azeri community of Nagorno-Karabakh boycotted the referendum, however.

The spiralling conflict led to violent actions against Armenians living in Sumgait, Baku, and elsewhere in Azerbaijan, and against Azerbaijanis living in Vardenis, Masis, Ghukark, and other regions of Armenia. As a result, a vast number of Azerbaijanis in Armenia, and Armenians in Azerbaijan (except for Nagorno-Karabakh) were displaced. A land war between Armenia and Azerbaijan followed this civil violence. Military action was heavily influenced by the Russian military, who inspired and manipulated the rivalry between the two neighbouring nations in order to keep both under control.

Extensive Russian military support was exposed by the Head of the Standing Commission of the Russian Duma, General Lev Rokhlin, who was subsequently killed in unknown circumstances. He had claimed that munitions (worth 1 bn US dollars) had been illegally transferred to Armenia during 1992-1994.

Post-Soviet era

Azerbaijanis were driven out of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh that had been populated by Azerbaijanis; and these are still under control of the Armenian military. An unofficial cease-fire was reached on May 12 1994 through Russian negotiation, and continues today. Armenians remain in control of the Soviet-era autonomous region, and a strip of land called the Lachin corridor linking it with the Republic of Armenia, as well as the so-called 'security zone' — strips of territory along the region's borders that had been used by Azerbaijani artillery during the war.

Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto independent state, calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. 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, that 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, became first the prime minister (1997) and then the president of Armenia (1998 to the present).

At present, the mediation process is stalled, as both sides are equally intransigent. Azerbaijan insists that Armenian troops withdraw from all areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh, and that all displaced persons be allowed to return to their homes, before the status of Karabakh can be discussed. Armenia does not admit that Nagorno-Karabakh is legally part of Azerbaijan, arguing that because the region declared independence at the same time that Azerbaijan became an independent state, both of them are equally successor states of the Soviet Union. The Armenian government insists that the government of Nagorno-Karabakh be part of any discussions on the region's future, and rejects ceding occupied territory or allowing refugees to return prior to talks on the region's status.

Representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Russia and the United States met in Paris and Key West, Florida in the Spring of 2001. The details of the talks have remained largely secret, but the parties are reported to have discussed non-hierarchical relationships between the central Azerbaijani government and the Karabakh Armenian authorities. Despite rumours that the parties were again close to a solution, the Azerbaijani authorities, both during Heydar Aliyev's period of office, and after the accession of his son Ilham Aliyev in the October 2003 elections, have firmly denied that any agreement was reached in Paris or Key West.

Further talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan, were held in September 2004 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit. Reportedly, one of the suggestions put forward was the withdrawal of the occupying forces from the Azeri territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, and holding referenda (plebiscites) in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan proper regarding the future status of the region.

External links

ca:Alt Karabagh de:Bergkarabach et:Mägi-Karabahh fa:قره‌باغ fr:Haut-Karabagh hr:Gorski Karabah hy:Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ ka:მთიანი ყარაბაღი nl:Nagorno-Karabach pl:Grski Karabach ru:Нагорный Карабах sl:Gorski Karabah


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