Nagorno-Karabakh: The Source of a 30 Year Long War

Armenians waving their flag in front of a mosque to display their national pride. Photo by Harout Arabia. ©

Below is an account of the history leading up to this event. My friend Armen was able to help me.

Maneuvering through the debris of what recently was the primeval streets of Stepanakert, the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, my friend Armen searches for his relatives’ homes, which are now unrecognizable. While delivering food and money to his family in the city, he had encountered thousands of women and children who were desperate to leave the area and take shelter in a less hazardous zone. Armen returned to his residence in Armenia with nine children from different families hoping to protect them from the missiles bombarding their city; most of their parents remained in Stepanakert, helping out medically or fighting in the war itself.

Armen’s family posing for a picture at his home in Armenia with the refugees he has taken in from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries located in Western Asia, were historically under the Soviet Union’s control. While redrawing the regional borders, the Soviet Union was conflicted on where to place the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Although, according to the Global Conflict Tracker, this land is technically 95% Armenian, the Soviet Union gave Azerbaijan the region to appease Turkey as the assumption was that separating this area from Armenia would prevent unified resistance. Armenia and Turkey’s relations are poor; therefore, Turkey, as an ally of Azerbaijan, feared backlash from a strong Armenia. Their relationship dates back about one hundred years to when the Turkish government led the Armenian genocide in an attempt to murder all Armenians because of their Christian heritage. Hence, Turkey plays a significant role in this conflict as strong opposition to Armenia.

The Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, leaving this conflict to be resolved by Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia are united, as they share the same culture, and the Armenian government supplies them with money and military support. Yuliya Talmazan of NBC News stated the region voted to become part of Armenia, which provoked a war in the 1900s, however, the fighting halted when Armenia and Azerbaijan brokered a ceasefire in 1994. An essential aspect of this conflict is making it clear Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto nation, meaning the United Nations has neither identified it as Armenian nor Azerbaijani. In all, which country this region belongs to is still undetermined; thus, fighting has recently flared up. This battle is being fought from two sides: Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh against Azerbaijan.

A map of the Nagorno-Karabakh region in relation to Armenia and Azerbaijan. ©

On July 12, 2020, fighting resumed. The advanced militaries and prolonged rage made this conflict more devastating and dangerous than the past. Armenia is severely disadvantaged in terms of size, as according to the worldometer their population holds 3 million people, whereas Azerbaijan has 10 million people, and Turkey has 80 million people. Turkey has already deployed Syrian mercenaries to aid Azerbaijan, although the Turkish government denies this. Azerbaijan has not ceased bombing Stepanakert as well as sending missiles throughout the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan has also blocked internet access to its people and has not reported all information. However, even though Azerbaijan is militarily stronger, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are thriving because this war stands for the future of their national identity.

The residents of Nagorno-Karabakh mainly desire to become Armenian citizens because the Azerbaijani authorities are preventing their culture. Adrija Roychowdhury from Indian Express reported national educational requirements in Azerbaijan are deterring children from learning about their heritage, especially because children are no longer being taught their ethnic language of Armenian in school. It then falls onto the parents to teach values and keep the children prideful about their ethnicity while living in an Azerbaijani state. Without cultural entertainment such as Armenian art and literature, Nagorno-Karabakh may have difficulty maintaining a robust Armenian presence. The residents of Nagorno-Karabakh feel uniting with Armenia can save their culture and pride.

On top of an atmosphere of diminishing Armenian values, the area has become increasingly dangerous and war-prone. In the 2020 conflict, many innocent citizens have been killed by missiles and drone attacks. Neighborhoods are being shelled, and streets are being turned to ash. Many residents have become refugees seeking a safer environment in Armenian cities. Citizens can no longer find security in their homes, knowing they will face daily possibilities of an invasion until this conflict is resolved. Not only are impartial residents killed, but the Haaretz media publication told us Azerbaijan recently shot down a bus full of journalists who were in the process of progressing news spread. This region has become an unsafe territory for everyone, leaving people with few choices for safe shelter until the fighting halts.

The Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov spoke with authorities from both countries and emphasized their need to follow the truce; on Saturday, October 17th, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to another ceasefire in order to stop the hostility. However, both countries have accused the other of violating the agreement leading to the continuation of fighting. With this raging war, more people like my friend Armen will need to take home unfamiliar women and children to protect them from the present treacherous life in this region. There will be thousands of displaced Armenians and an immense loss of culture in Nagorno-Karabakh if Armenia and Azerbaijan are unable to reach a diplomatic solution in the near future. The help of outside countries to control the fighting is needed immediately.