As of January 1, 2024, the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, will cease to exist. This was announced this Thursday, September 28, by the president of the territory, Samvel Shahramanyan. Meanwhile, the mass exodus is growing: more than 68,000 people have fled to Armenia and the Prime Minister of that country, Nikol Pashinian, assured that no Armenian will remain in the enclave in the coming days. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan opened criminal cases against former Nagorno-Karabakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, who was detained on Wednesday.
An independence frustrated after years of conflict. The separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist as a self-proclaimed republic after decades of facing wars, blockades, hunger and suffering.
The enclave, internationally recognized as part of the territory of Azerbaijan, but populated by a majority of ethnic Armenians, It declared itself independent in 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A year later, it called itself the Republic of Artsakh and Stepanakert, its largest city, became its capital.. Since then it has operated under autonomous government, although with the crucial economic, political and military backing of Armenia.
But for years, the region in the Caucasus has been a tinderbox in which tension and violence have periodically returned, as it was disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries that belonged to the USSR.
Now, the autonomy of the region and the existence of an enclave of predominantly Armenian population within the territory of Azerbaijan will be part of the past. Starting January 1, 2024, The self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh will be dissolved.
The president of the disputed territory, Samvel Shahramanyan, announced on September 28 that he signed a decree to dissolve all state institutions as of that date.
This will end the history of a region that, in search of its autonomy, faced two major wars – between 1988 and 1994 and in the fall of 2020 – although more than 30 years of conflict.
A scenario that comes after the surprise 24-hour attack by the Azerbaijan Army, which it launched on September 19, and after which Baku claimed to have “recovered” sovereignty of the area.
Local forces in Nagorno-Karabakh surrendered on September 20 after the operation left at least 200 people dead, according to authorities in the enclave. Days later, Azerbaijan claimed it lost 192 of its military in what it called an “anti-terrorist operation.”
This is one of the darkest pages in Armenian history
The region was already strongly weakened by the blockade imposed by Baku, for nine months, on the only road that connected the separatist region with Armenia, which prevented the transportation of food, medicine and other essential elements for survival and unleashed a humanitarian crisis. Authorities in the separatist enclave reported having been “abandoned” by Armenia, the West and Russia, which mediated in the conflict and since the end of the bloody confrontation in 2020 deployed peacekeeping troops in the area.
The Caucasus, for centuries, has been shaken by ethnic and religious rivalries. And in the background of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, these two factors have been crucial. In addition to being an ethnic Armenian population, The enclave has been inhabited by 120,000 Armenian Orthodox Christians, but located within a Muslim-majority country.
“The overwhelming majority of people here do not want to live as part of Azerbaijan,” said David Babayan, advisor to Samvel Shahramanyan, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, on September 21.
Many of those escaping in cars, trucks, buses, and even tractors with heavy loads said they were hungry and afraid.
“This is one of the darkest pages in Armenian history (…) The entire history of Armenia is full of difficulties,” lamented David, a 33-year-old Armenian priest who arrived at the border to provide spiritual support to those fleeing.
Thousands leave everything behind, as their short but conflictive history of autonomy disappears.
“There will be no Armenians left in Nagorno Karabakh in the coming days”
The lack of identity with Azerbaijan, added to fears of “ethnic cleansing” – as denounced by Yerevan and Nagorno Karabakh after the violent history between the two parties – are among the reasons for the current exodus from the region.
More than 68,000 people have fled until this Thursday, September 28 from the mountainous enclave towards Armenia, local authorities said.
This is more than half of the 120,000 inhabitants of the territory until before the Baku attack last week.
The region would be left without ethnic Armenians. “The analysis of the situation shows that in the coming days there will be no Armenians left in Nagorno Karabakh (…) This is an act of ethnic cleansing,” said the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinian, quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax.
However, the Government of Azerbaijan highlighted that its president Ilham Aliyev assured on Wednesday in a meeting that the rights of ethnic Armenians would be protected by law, like those of other minorities, referring once again to its purpose. to “integrate” the population of the enclave into their nation.
“The president of Azerbaijan noted that the civilian population had not been affected during the anti-terrorist measures, and that only illegal Armenian armed formations and military facilities had been attacked,” said a statement from Baku, cited by Reuters.
But Karabakh Armenians say they do not trust Baku’s promises, aware of a long history of bloodshed between the two sides.
Samantha Power, director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said this week that she had learned of “very disturbing reports of violence against civilians.”
Both Washington and other Western governments, such as Germany, have expressed concern about a humanitarian crisis and continue to urge Baku to allow the entry of a delegation of international observers to monitor the treatment that civilians in the enclave are receiving by the Azerbaijani forces.
Former Minister of State of Nagorno Karabakh would face up to 20 years in prison
Among the thousands of Armenians trying to flee the region was the former Minister of State of Nagorno Karabakh Ruben Vardanyan but he was identified and detained on Wednesday by Azerbaijani forces before he could reach Armenia.
This Thursday, Azerbaijan reported that it opened several criminal cases against him and he was accused of illegally crossing the border with Azerbaijan and financing terrorism. In addition, he was placed in preventive detention.
The charge of financing terrorism would carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Baku points out the alleged creation of illegal armed groups.
Vardanyan is a banker, billionaire and philanthropist, who headed the separatist government of Nagorno Karabakh between November 2022 and February 2023.
His capture also frames the fate faced by those who led an autonomous government that will be extinct and the end of a turbulent history.
With Reuters and EFE
#Nagorno #Karabakh #dissolve #selfproclaimed #republic #turbulent #independence