Autonomous region of Azerbaijan; area 4,400 sq km/1,700 sq mi; population (2006 est) 137,750 (95% Armenian, 5% minorities), the Christian Armenians forming an enclave within the predominantly Shiite Muslim Azerbaijan. The capital is Xankändi. The region lies on the eastern slopes of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, partly covered with oak and beech forests. Main agricultural products include cotton, grapes, wheat, silk, and livestock (sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses). Since 1989 the region has experienced conflict between local Armenian troops and Azeri forces. By 1998, Nagorno-Karabakh was effectively an independent state.
History The region formed part of Armenia until the 7th century, but was subsequently taken by the Arabs, and ruled by them for 300 years. In the 11th century, the region came under the rule of the Bagratid kings of Georgia, who held the area until the Mongol invasion. After a century of Mongol rule, Karabakh fell into Turkish hands. In the early 1600s, Persia gained control of the region, and Abbās I allowed the local khan to rule in Karabakh. This line of khans was overthrown in 1805 by the Russians, who created a province of the region in 1822.
An autonomous protectorate following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Nagorno-Karabakh subsequently saw heavy fighting in the Civil War (1918–20), and was annexed to Azerbaijan in 1923 against the wishes of the largely
Christian-Armenian population. From 1989, when the local council declared its intention to transfer control of the region to Armenia, the enclave was racked by fighting between local Armenian troops (reputedly backed by Armenia) and Azeri forces, both attempting to assert control.
After a declaration of independence on 6 January 1992 by the region's parliament (following a referendum in 1991), the conflict intensified. In May 1994 a ceasefire was agreed between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Border fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia continued through 1997 and, in November 1998, the Azerbaijan government announced the rejection of the OSCE peace plan for the Nagoro-Karabakh dispute.
Growing conflict The conflict was rooted in many centuries of Christian Armenian and Shiite Muslim Azeri enmity. In 1920, inter-ethnic clashes in the Karabakh town of Shusha resulted in the deaths of 30,000 Armenians and 15,000 Azeris. Tensions rose in 1988, and the region thereafter became a subject of dispute between Azerbaijan and neighbouring Armenia, and the area was placed under direct rule from Moscow in 1989. The conflict then escalated, with Azerbaijan first imposing an economic blockade on Armenia, and then descending into civil war and threatening secession from the USSR, which resulted in 17,000 Soviet troops being sent to the republic in January 1990.
Declaration of independence A ceasefire, brokered by the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan and signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan in September 1991, broke down in November when the Azeri parliament voted to annul Nagorno-Karabakh's autonomous status. Following a referendum and elections in early December 1991, and the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence. This was not recognized by Azerbaijan and conflict within the enclave worsened.
From 1992 to 2000 In May 1992 Armenian troops made significant advances in the enclave, only to be repulsed by a surprise Azeri counter-offensive in June, which left hundreds of Armenian troops dead. On 15 August, the ethnic Armenian government resigned. Another Armenian offensive began in March 1993, and by June virtually all of Nagorno-Karabakh was under Armenian control. By February 1994, 18,000 Armenians and 5,000 Azeri were reported to have been killed in the conflict and 1 million people made refugees. After eight years of independence from Azerbaijan by 1998, Nagorno-Karabakh was in practice an independent state. Its former president Robert Kocharyan became president of Armenia in February 1998. This followed the resignation of president Levon Ter-Petrossian, who controversially supported a step-by-step peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh.
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