What is Nagorno-Karabakh and why is there an ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

They are often heard in the media Nagorno-Karabakh and the war Between Armenia And Azerbaijan. But what area of ​​the world are we talking about? And why are these two countries fighting each other? The Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the Armenian language referred to as Artsakh and in the Azeri language like Dağlıq Qarabağ (with the meaning of “mountainous black garden”), geographically belongs to the Armenian plateau and is part of the Southern Caucasus. The territory is at the center of a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan: the latter wants to take possession of the region, annexing it to the state, and is currently succeeding in its aim. In September 2023, after an Azerbaijani military intervention, more than 100,000 people of Armenian origin were forced to move to Armenia.

Why there is war in Nagorno-Karabakh: the origins of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

The region of Karabakh it has always been at the center of domination and conquests and was proclaimed part of the Russian empire in 1813; after the Russian Revolution of 1917 it became part of a federation, called Transcaucasian Federationand was claimed both by Armenia, since 98% of the population was made up of Armenians, and by Azerbaijan, to which it was then assigned by Stalin in 1921.

nagorno karabakh map

Following the collapse and dissolution of theSoviet Union, in the 1990s the territorial dispute of Nagorno Karabakh returned to the fore: the Armenian majority, with the logistical support of the neighboring Armenian state, began to claim theindependence from Azerbaijan and reunification with Armenia.

The lack of an agreement and the growing tension between the two sides led to the outbreak of the First Nagorno Karabakh WarThat from 1992 to 1994 caused more than 30,000 victims. At the end of the war, with the ceasefire, the Armenian majority in the region proclaimed the birth of Republic of Artsakhwhich however has never been formally recognized by the international community and by Azerbaijan: in fact the latter country claims Nagorno-Karabakh as part of its territory.


The situation today: the latest events

In the September 2020 hostilities have restarted, with an attack by Azerbaijan on the region. After a few days of clashes, the country occupied the southern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, under Armenian control. After various appeals from the UN and with the mediation of the Russiain November 2020 a truce was proclaimed between the two states, with the creation of a peace zone on the border, presided over by Russia as guarantor.

The September 19, 2023however, Azerbaijan again militarily attacked the Armenian-majority region and, after the victory, gained surrender of the Republic of Artsakh, causing the‘exodus of thousands of Armenians (more than 100,000 people) across the Hakari Bridge. The Azerbaijani army had in fact blocked the so-called corridor Lachinalong the border with Armenia, through which the population received most of its basic necessities.

This exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia has been defined by numerous international observers and by the European Union as a ethnic cleansing in the region by Azerbaijan: with one resolution of 5 October 2023 the European Parliament thus asked to sanction those responsible for the Azerbaijani government who implemented the offensive, causing the exodus of thousands of people. The primary result of the offensive by Azerbaijan, however, was the dissolution of the Republic of Artsakh from 1 January 2024.


Possible future scenarios

Following Azerbaijan’s victory in September 2023, the dissolution of the governing bodies of the Republic of Artsakh was declared and a phase of repopulation or, as defined by the Azerbaijani government, “return” to Nagorno Karabakh of Azerbaijani citizens who had left or been expelled from the region in the early 1990s. In this sense, the Azerbaijani government is also implementing policies to donate abandoned apartments to citizens who want to move to the territory.

On the Armenian front there have been some proposals relating to future: some former deputies of the Republic of Artsakh have called for the creation of a sort of provisional government in exile, an option that appears unlikely and even risky for a peaceful resolution of the conflict; other political exponents try to follow the path of negotiations with Baku.

On the other hand, a peace agreement could be beneficial for both sides: on the one hand, Armenia would like to keep its own territorial integrityallowing the reopening of borders and railway lines and areas strategically important for the commercial traffic. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, aspires to expand its influence in the Southern Caucasus by also becoming closer to its neighbor Georgiaconsidering the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh now acquired.

The international community has not intervened decisively in the matter nor has it done so Russian Federation, guarantor of peace between the two parties. Russia, in fact, is currently engaged in the war against Ukraine and is linked to Azerbaijan by commercial and economic interests. The future of the region therefore still appears uncertain.