Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), is one of three ancient provinces of Armenia located in the eastern end of the Armenian Plateau and has been an integral part of historic Armenia, as far back as 9th century BC.
In 1921, responding to economic blackmail from oil-producing Azerbaijan and threats from Turkey, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin forcibly placed Artsakh under the Azerbaijani rule, as the world's only Christian territorial autonomy inside a largely Muslim nation.
For the next 70 years, Azerbaijan bombarded Artsakh with various forms of ethno-religious discrimination, economic mistreatment, and intentional demographic abuse, in an attempt to eliminate its Armenian Christian majority and replace it with Azerbaijani Muslim settlers.
After decades of intermittent protests, the dissolution of the Soviet Union finally allowed Artsakh to break away from Baku's rule, in 1988, and, in 1991, re-establish itself as a free and sovereign nation.
Important Facts about the Republic of Artsakh
Republic of Artsakh, a de-facto independent state proclaimed originally under the name of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), three months before the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
NKR’s declaration of independence was underwritten by a referendum that adhered to the letter and spirit of the USSR’s legislation on the secession of autonomous territories from union republics.
In the beginning of the 1920s, Russian Bolsheviks initially declared Artsakh as part of Armenia due to its overwhelmingly Armenian character. Later, however, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin arbitrarily placed it under the tutelage of a newly-created and Muslim-controlled Soviet Socialist Republic that became known as “Azerbaijan” – a term unceremoniously borrowed from the neighboring province of Iran despite complaints from Tehran. The Armenian majority of the region (95% of the population) protested about this decision since it preferred to be part of Armenia instead. From 1923 to 1991, the region chugged along as one of the USSR’s autonomous territories – Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR), giving birth to the journalistic cliché “Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Artsakh: struggle for freedom
In 1988, a popular movement, initiated in NKAR and supported in Yerevan, renewed a campaign to petition Moscow to transfer NKAR from Azerbaijan to Armenia. Azerbaijan’s responded to the peaceful rallies by resurrecting its tradition of anti-Armenian violence that goes back to the 1905 pogroms in Baku.
The Baku authorities tried to recapture Artsakh in a war that lasted from 1991 to 1994, but Artsakh, with the help of Armenia, suppressed Azerbaijan’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, and the three parties to the conflict agreed to a ceasefire that lasted without peacekeepers for 26 years. During this time, Azerbaijan developed as a hereditary oil dictatorship ruled by the Aliyev family since the mid-1960s, whereas Artsakh evolved into a quasi-democracy that held competitive elections.
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