Republic of Artsakh
|Republic of Artsakh|
Artsakhi Hanrapetut'yun (Armenian)
Recognized by 3 non-UN member states
and largest city
39°52′N 46°43′E / 39.867°N 46.717°E
|Government||Unitary presidential republic|
|Independence from the Soviet Union|
|2 September 1991|
|3 non-UN members|
|11,458 km2 (4,424 sq mi)|
• 2015 census
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|$1.6 billion (n/a)|
• Per capita
|$3,657 (2015 est.) (n/a)|
|Time zone||AMT (UTC+4)|
• Summer (DST)
|Not observed (UTC+4)|
|Drives on the||right|
|Calling code||+374 47c|
|ISO 3166 code||AM|
|Internet TLD||.am, .հայ|
The Republic of Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախի Հանրապետություն Arts'akhi Hanrapetut'yun), or simply Artsakh (//), (commonly known by its second official name of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (/
The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the First Republic of Armenia when both countries became independent in 1918 after the fall of the Russian Empire, and a brief war over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1920. The dispute was largely shelved after the Soviet Union established control over the area and created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923. During the fall of the Soviet Union, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1991, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighbouring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence based on its right of self-determination. Large-scale ethnic conflict led to the 1991–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire that left the current borders.
The Artsakh Republic is a presidential democracy (in the middle of transforming from a semi-presidential one, after the 2017 referendum) with a unicameral legislature. Its reliance on Armenia means that in many ways it functions de facto as part of Armenia. The country is very mountainous, averaging 1,097 metres (3,599 ft) above sea level. The population is predominantly Christian, most being affiliated with the Armenian Apostolic Church. Several historical monasteries are popular with tourists, mostly from the Armenian diaspora, as most travel can take place only between Armenia and Artsakh.
According to Armenian and Western specialists, inscriptions dating to the Urartian period mention the region under a variety of names: "Ardakh", "Urdekhe", and "Atakhuni." In speaking about Armenia in his Geography, the classical historian Strabo refers to an Armenian region which he calls "Orchistene.", which again is believed to be a Greek version of the old name of Artsakh.
According to another hypothesis put forth by David M. Lang, the ancient name of Artsakh possibly derives from the name of King Artaxias I of Armenia (190–159 BC), founder of the Artaxiad Dynasty and the kingdom of Greater Armenia.
Folk etymology holds that the name is derived from "Ar" (Aran) and "tsakh" (woods, garden) (i.e., the gardens of Aran Sisakean, the first nakharar of northeastern Armenia).
The earliest ever record of the region covered by modern-day Artsakh were from Urartian inscriptions referring to the region as Urtekhini. It's unclear if the region was ever ruled by Urartu, but it was in close proximity to other Urartian domains. It may have been inhabited by Caspian tribes and/or by Scythians.
Kingdom of Armenia
After decades of raids by the Cimmerians, Scythians, and the Medes, Urartu finally collapsed with the rise of the Median Empire, and shortly after, the geopolitical region previously ruled as Urartu re-emerged as Armenia. By the 5th century BC, Artsakh was part of Armenia under the Orontid Dynasty. It would continue to be part of the Kingdom of Armenia under the Artaxiad Dynasty, under which Armenia became one of the largest realms in Western Asia. At its greatest extend, the Great King of Armenia, Tigranes II, built several cities named after himself in regions he considered particularly important, one of which was the city he built in Artsakh.
Persian Empire and the Satrapy of Arran
Following wars with the Romans and Persians, Armenia was partitioned between the two empires. Artsakh was removed from Persian Armenia and included into the neighbouring satrapy of Arran. At this time, the population of Artsakh consisted of Armenians and Armenicized aborigines, though many of the latter were still cited as distinct ethnic entities. The dialect of Armenian spoken in Artsakh was among the earliest ever recorded dialects of Armenian, which was described around this time in the 7th century AD by a contemporary named Stephanos Siunetzi.
Artsakh would remain part of Arran throughout Persian rule, during the fall of Iran to the Muslims, and following the Muslim conquest of Armenia. Under the Arabs, most of the South Caucasus and the Armenian Highlands, including Iberia and Arran, would be unified into an emirate called Arminiya, under which Artsakh would continue to remain as part of Arran.
Despite being under Persian and Arab rule, many of the Armenian territories, including Artsakh, were governed by Armenian nobility. Arran would gradually disappear as a geopolitical entity, and its population would be assimilated by neighbouring ethnic groups with whom they shared a common culture and religion. Many Christians from Arran would form part of the ethnic composition of the Armenians living in modern-day Artsakh.
Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia and the Kingdom of Artsakh
Fragmentation of Arab authority provided the opportunity for the resurgence of an Armenian state in the Armenian Highlands. One particular noble dynasty, the Bagratids, began annexing territories from other Armenian nobles, which, in the later half of the 9th century gave rise to a new Armenian kingdom which included Artsakh.
The new Kingdom wouldn't stay united for long, however, due to internal conflicts, civil wars, and external pressures, Armenia would often find itself fragmented between other noble Armenian houses, most notably the Mamikonian and Siunia families, the latter of which would produce a cadet branch known as the House of Khachen, named after their stronghold in Artsakh. The House of Khachen ruled the Kingdom of Artsakh in the 11th century as an independent kingdom under the protectorate of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. Under the House of Khachen, the region historically called Artsakh would become synonymous with the name "Khachen."
Turko-Mongol Rule, the Principality of Khachen, and the Melikdoms of Karabakh
Following wars with the Byzantine Empire, and with the arrival of Seljuk Turks in the later half of the 11th century, the Kingdom of Armenia collapsed, and Artsakh became the autonomous Principality of Khachen, ruled by the House of Hasan-Jalalyan, within the Kingdom of Georgia for a short time until the Mongols would acquire the region. Although the Armenians of Artsakh would not rule the lands as fully sovereign entities, the mountainous geography of the location would allow them to maintain a semi-independent or autonomous status within other realms, such as the Timurid, Kara Koyunlu, and Ak Koyunlu realms.
During this time, the lands to the west of the Kura river up to the eastern slopes of the Zangezur mountain range would become known as Karabakh, with the lands of the Principality of Khachen corresponding to the highlands. During the period of Mongol domination, a great number of Armenians left the lowlands of Karabakh and sought refuge in the mountainous heights of the region.
The Principality of Khachen was eventually divided amongst five Armenian princes, known as meliks, who collectively became known as the Five Melikdoms of Karabakh (literally "five principalities of Karabakh"; also referred to as Khamsa, meaning "five" in Arabic).
Early Modern Age
In the 16th century, Karabakh came under Iranian rule for the first time in almost a millennium with the rise of the Safavid Empire, within which the territory of modern-day Artsakh became part of the Province of Karabakh. The Armenian princes continued to rule autonomously over the highlands of Karabakh during this time.
In the mid-18th century, the whole of Karabakh became a semi-independent khanate called the Karabakh Khanate which lasted for about 75 years until the Russian Empire advanced into the region in 1806 and formally annexed it from Iran in 1813. The Armenian princes lost their status as princes (meliks) in 1822.
War in Transcaucasia
Following the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I, Transcaucasia became the stage of wars between every political entity that emerged in the region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) and their neighbors (Ottoman Empire). The newly formed Republic of Armenia (declared on 28 May 1918) claimed most of the highlands of Karabakh, which was also claimed by the newly formed Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Assistance from the Republic of Armenia to Karabakh was limited as it found itself fighting enemies on all fronts, but the Armenian irregulars in Zangezur and the territories formerly known as Khachen (Artsakh) managed to maintain their control over the lands, consistently fighting off offensives from Azerbaijan and quelling Muslim uprisings from within. Azerbaijan maintained control of the lowlands of Karabakh and some regions between Zangezur and Artsakh.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire established itself in Azerbaijan, and advocated that all of Karabakh (including Zangezur and Artsakh) should be part of Azerbaijan until the boundaries can be decided upon peacefully at the upcoming Paris Peace Conference of 1919, but the battles did not cease until the Red Army from Russia began reclaiming the former territories of the Russian Empire and created Soviet Azerbaijan out of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1920. The Armenians of Zangezur and Artsakh had consistently maintained control of the region and intended to unite with Armenia during the entirety of the two years of chaos, with Azerbaijan only temporarily occupying parts of the regions at certain times. The fall of Azerbaijan gave Armenia the opportunity to properly unite with the Armenian irregulars in Zangezur and Artsakh, but they were taken by the Red Army on 26 May 1920. The rest of Armenia fell to the Red Army shortly after.
The Bolsheviks tried to end the centuries-long rivalry between Russia and Turkey, and in 1921, Joseph Stalin formally transferred the Armenian-populated highlands of Karabakh to Soviet Azerbaijan to try to placate Turkey, though the majority of Zangezur remained within Soviet Armenia. Under these circumstances, Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan were admitted to the Soviet Union on 20 December 1922. The inclusion of Artsakh within Soviet Azerbaijan caused an uproar amongst Armenians, which led to the creation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast within Soviet Azerbaijan on 7 July 1923 (implemented in November 1924). Although the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh continued to desire reunification with Armenia, the conflict was largely dormant during the Soviet era.
During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was revitalized. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh declared their independence as the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh with the intention of reunifying with the newly independent Armenia. The declaration was rejected by the newly independent Azerbaijan, leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh War from 20 February 1988 to 12 May 1994, resulting in an Armenian victory and the establishment of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was renamed the Republic of Artsakh in 2017.
Government and politics
Artsakh is a presidential democracy (in the middle of transforming from a semi-presidential one, after the 2017 referendum). The Prime Minister's post was abolished and the executive power is now residing with the President who is both the head of state and head of government. The president is directly elected for a maximum of two-consecutive five-year terms. The current President is Bako Sahakyan. On 19 July 2012, Sahakyan was re-elected for a second term. He was again re-elected to a third term on 19 July 2017.
The National Assembly is a unicameral legislature. It has 33 members who are elected for 5-year terms. Elections take place within a multi-party system; in 2009, the American NGO Freedom House ranked the Republic of Artsakh above the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan with respect to civil and political rights. Five parties have members in the parliament: the Free Motherland party has 15 members, ARF has 8 members, Democratic Party of Artsakh has 7 members, Movement 88 has 2 members and the National Revival party has one member. A number of non-partisan candidates have also taken part in the elections, with some success; in 2015, two of the 33 members to the National Assembly took their seats without running under the banner of any of the established political parties in the republic. Elections in Artsakh are not recognised by international bodies such as the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, as well as numerous individual countries, who called them a source of increased tensions.
On 3 November 2006, the then-President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadi Ghukasyan, signed a decree to hold a referendum on a draft Nagorno-Karabakh constitution. It was held on 10 December of the same year and voters overwhelmingly approved the new constitution. According to official preliminary results, with a turnout of 87.2%, as many as 98.6 percent of voters approved the constitution. The First article of the document described the then Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as "a sovereign, democratic legal and social state". More than 100 non-governmental international observers and journalists who monitored the poll evaluated it positively, stating that it was held to a high international standard.
However, the vote was criticised harshly by inter-governmental organisations such as the European Union, OSCE and GUAM, which rejected the referendum, deeming it illegitimate. The EU announced it was "aware that a 'constitutional referendum' has taken place," but emphasised its stance that only a negotiated settlement between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians could bring a lasting solution. Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis asserted that the poll "will not be recognized... and is therefore of no consequence". In a statement, the OSCE chairman in office Karel De Gucht voiced his concern that the vote would prove harmful to the ongoing conflict settlement process, which, he said, had shown "visible progress" and was at a "promising juncture".
The outcome was also criticised by Turkey, which traditionally supports Azerbaijan because of common ethnic Turkic roots, and has historically had severe tensions with Armenia.
Another referendum was held on 20 February 2017, with a 87.6% vote in favour on a 76% turnout for instituting a new constitution. This constitution among other changes turned the government from a semi-presidential to a fully presidential model, and changed the official name from the "Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh" to the "Republic of Artsakh"/"Artsakh Republic". The new name implies a claim to the areas controlled beyond the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, and the Presidential system allows for quicker decisions on security matters. The referendum is seen as a response to the 2016 Nagorno-Karabakh clashes.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is based in Stepanakert. Since no UN member or observer currently recognizes Artsakh, none of its foreign relations are of an official diplomatic nature. However, the Republic of Artsakh operates five permanent Missions and one Bureau of Social-Politic Information in France. Artsakh's Permanent Missions exist in Armenia, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, and one for Middle East countries based in Beirut. The goals of the offices are to present the Republic's positions on various issues, to provide information and to facilitate the peace process.
In his 2015 speech, the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan stated that he considered Nagorno-Karabakh "an inseparable part of Armenia".
The Republic of Artsakh is neither a member or observer of the UN or any of is specialized agencies. However, it is a member of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations, commonly known as the "Commonwealth of Unrecognized States".
According to the Constitution of Artsakh the army is under the civilian command of the government. The Artsakh Defense Army was officially established on 9 May 1992 as a defense against Azerbaijan. It fought the Azerbaijani army to a ceasefire on 12 May 1994. Currently the Artsakh Defense Army consists of around 18,000–20,000 officers and soldiers. However, only 8,500 citizens from Artsakh serve in the NK army; some 10,000 come from Armenia. There are also 177–316 tanks, 256–324 additional fighting vehicles, and 291–322 guns and mortars. Armenia supplies arms and other military necessities to Artsakh. Several battalions of Armenia's army are deployed directly in the Artsakh zone on occupied Azerbaijani territory.
The Artsakh Defense Army fought in Shusha in 1992, opening the Lachin corridor between The Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (1992), and staged the defense of the Martakert front from 1992–1994.
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered to be one of the most heavily mined regions of the former Soviet Union. Mines were laid from 1991 to 1994 by both conflicting parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. The United Nations and the U.S. have estimated the number of mines in Nagorno-Karabakh at 100,000. There have been many civilian casualties resulting from the land mines. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) claims that 123 people have been killed and over 300 injured by landmines near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh since a 1994 truce ended a six-year conflict between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. The HALO Trust – UK based demining NGO, is the only other organisation conducting demining in Nagorno Karabakh.
Artsakh status process
Today, Artsakh is a de facto independent state, calling itself the Republic of Artsakh. It has close relations with the Republic of Armenia and uses the same currency, the dram. According to Human Rights Watch, "from the beginning of the Karabakh conflict, Armenia provided aid, weapons, and volunteers. Armenian involvement in Artsakh escalated after a December 1993 Azerbaijani offensive. The Republic of Armenia began sending conscripts and regular Army and Interior Ministry troops to fight in Artsakh." The politics of Armenia and the de facto Artsakh are so intertwined that Robert Kocharyan served as the first President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, from 1994-1997, then as prime minister of Armenia from 1997 to 1998, and then as the second President of Armenia, from 1998 to 2008.
However, Armenian governments have repeatedly resisted internal pressure to unite the two, due to ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. In his case study of Eurasia, Dov Lynch of the Institute for Security Studies of WEU believes that "Karabakh's independence allows the new Armenian state to avoid the international stigma of aggression, despite the fact that Armenian troops fought in the war between 1991–94 and continue to man the Line of Contact between Karabakh and Azerbaijan." Lynch also cites that the "strength of the Armenian armed forces, and Armenia's strategic alliance with Russia, are seen as key shields protecting the Karabakh state by the authorities in Stepanakert." Some sources consider Artsakh as functioning de facto as a part of Armenia.
At present, the mediation process is at a standstill, with the most recent discussions in Rambouillet, France, yielding no agreement. Azerbaijan has officially requested Armenian troops to withdraw from all disputed areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh, and that all displaced persons be allowed to return to their homes before the status of Karabakh can be discussed. Armenia does not recognise Azerbaijani claims to Nagorno-Karabakh, and believes the territory should have self-determination. Both the Armenian and Artsakhi governments note that the independence of Artsakh was declared around the time the Soviet Union dissolved and its members became independent. The Armenian government insists that the government of Artsakh be part of any discussions on the region's future, and rejects ceding occupied territory or allowing refugees to return before talks on the region's status.
Representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Russia and the United States met in Paris and in Key West, Florida, in early 2001. Despite rumours that the parties were close to a solution, the Azerbaijani authorities – both during Heydar Aliyev's period of office, and after the accession of his son Ilham Aliyev in the October 2003 elections – have firmly denied that any agreement was reached in Paris or Key West.
Further talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan, were held in September 2004 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit. Reportedly, one of the suggestions put forward was the withdrawal of the occupying forces from the Azeri territories adjacent to Artsakh and then holding referendums (plebiscites) in Artsakh and Azerbaijan proper regarding the future status of the region. On 10 and 11 February 2006, Kocharyan and Aliyev met in Rambouillet, France, to discuss the fundamental principles of a settlement to the conflict. Contrary to the initial optimism, the Rambouillet talks did not produce any agreement, with key issues such as the status of Artsakh and whether Armenian troops would withdraw from Kalbajar still being contentious.
Talks were held at the Polish embassy in Bucharest in June 2006. Again, American, Russian, and French diplomats attended the talks that lasted over 40 minutes. Earlier, Armenian President Kocharyan announced that he was ready to "continue dialogue with Azerbaijan for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and with Turkey on establishing relations without any preconditions."
According to Armenian foreign minister, Vardan Oskanyan, no progress was made at this latest meeting. Both presidents failed to reach a consensus on the issues from the earlier Rambouillet conference. He noted that the Kocharyan-Aliyev meeting was held in a normal atmosphere. "Nevertheless," he added, "the foreign ministers of the two countries are commissioned to continue talks over settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and try to find common points before the next meeting of the presidents."
The major disagreement between both sides at the Bucharest conference was the status of Artsakh. Azerbaijan's preferred solution would be to give Artsakh the "highest status of autonomy adopted in the world." Armenia, on the other hand, endorsed a popular vote by the inhabitants of Artsakh to decide their future, a position that was also taken by the international mediators. On 27 June, the Armenian foreign minister said both parties agreed to allow the residents of Artsakh to vote regarding the future status of the region. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially refuted that statement. According to Azeri opposition leader Isa Gambar, however, Azerbaijan did indeed agree to the referendum. Still, nothing official has confirmed this yet.
The ongoing "Prague Process" overseen by the OSCE Minsk Group was brought into sharp relief in the summer of 2006 with a series of rare public revelations seemingly designed to jump-start the stalled negotiations. After the release in June of a paper outlining its position, which had until then been carefully guarded, U.S. State Department official Matthew Bryza told Radio Free Europe that the Minsk Group favored a referendum in Karabakh that would determine its final status. The referendum, in the view of the OSCE, should take place not in Azerbaijan as a whole, but in Artsakh only. This was a blow to Azerbaijan, and despite talk that their government might eventually seek a more sympathetic forum for future negotiations, this has not yet happened.
On 10 December 2007 Azerbaijan's deputy foreign minister said Azerbaijan would be prepared to conduct anti-terrorist operations in Nagorno-Karabakh against alleged bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vladimir Karapetian previously rejected the allegations as "fabricated" and suggested the accusations of the PKK presence were a form of provocation.
In 2008, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev stated that "Nagorno-Karabakh will never be independent; the position is backed by international mediators as well; Armenia has to accept the reality" and that "in 1918, Yerevan was granted to the Armenians. It was a great mistake. The khanate of Iravan was the Azeri territory, the Armenians were guests here". On the other hand, in 2009, the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Bako Sahakyan declared that "Artsakh will never be a part of Azerbaijan. Artsakh security should never be an article of commerce either. As to other issues, we are ready to discuss them with Azerbaijan.". In 2010 president of Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in his speech in the Chatham House of the British Royal Institute of International Affairs declared that "Karabakh was never a part of independent Azerbaijan: it was annexed to Azerbaijan by a decision of the Soviet Union party body. The people of Karabakh never put up with this decision, and upon the first opportunity, seceded from the Soviet Union fully in line with the laws of the Soviet Union and the applicable international law".
On 14 March 2008, the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution by a vote of 39 to 7, with 100 abstentions, reaffirming Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, expressing support for that country's internationally recognised borders and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories there. The resolution was supported mainly by members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and GUAM, Azerbaijan is a member in both groups, as well as other nations facing breakaway regions. The resolution was opposed by all three members of the OSCE Minsk Group.
On 20 May 2010, the European Parliament adopted a resolution "on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus", which states that EU must pursue a strategy to promote stability, prosperity and conflict resolution in the South Caucasus. The resolution "calls on the parties to intensify their peace talk efforts for the purpose of a settlement in the coming months, to show a more constructive attitude and to abandon preferences to perpetuate the status quo created by force and with no international legitimacy, creating in this way instability and prolonging the suffering of the war-affected populations; condemns the idea of a military solution and the heavy consequences of military force already used, and calls on both parties to avoid any further breaches of the 1994 ceasefire". The resolution also calls for withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan, accompanied by deployment of international forces to be organised with respect of the UN Charter in order to provide the necessary security guarantees in a period of transition, which will ensure the security of the population of Artsakh and allow the displaced persons to return to their homes and further conflicts caused by homelessness to be prevented; and states that the EU believes that the position according to which Artsakh includes all occupied Azerbaijani lands surrounding Artsakh should rapidly be abandoned. It also notes "that an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh could offer a solution until the final status is determined and that it could create a transitional framework for peaceful coexistence and cooperation of Armenian and Azerbaijani populations in the region."
On 26 June 2010, the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group's Co-Chair countries, France, Russia, and United States made a joint statement, reaffirming their "commitment to support the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they finalize the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict".
After Armenia established diplomatic relations with Tuvalu in March 2012, it was speculated in the press that Armenia was attempting to persuade the small island nation to be the first state to recognise Artsakh's independence. Tuvalu recognised two other disputed states in the Caucasus, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the previous year.
No UN member states have recognised Artsakh, although some other unrecognised states have done so. Various sub-national administrations in the United States of America have issued calls for recognition of Artsakh by their national government.
- In May 2012, the Rhode Island House of Representatives in the United States passed a resolution calling on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to recognise Republic of Artsakh. The resolution, adopted by the state's House of Representatives, encourages Artsakh's "efforts to develop as a free and independent nation."
- In August 2012, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to recognise Republic of Artsakh.
- On 24 October 2012, the New South Wales Legislative Council in Australia adopted a resolution recognising the Republic of Artsakh and the right to self-determination of its Armenian people. The motion acknowledges the 20th anniversary of independence for the Republic of Artsakh, it supports the right to self-determination of its people, and it "calls on the Commonwealth Government [of Australia] to officially recognise the independence of the Republic of Artsakh and strengthen Australia's relationship with the Artsakh and its citizens".
- In April 2013, the Maine House of Representatives in the United States passed a resolution accepting Artsakh's independence and urging President Barack Obama to also accept Artsakh's independence.
- In April 2013, Fresno County in California recognised Nagorno-Karabakh.
- In May 2013, the Louisiana State Senate in the United States passed a resolution accepting Artsakh's independence and expressed support for the Artsakh Republic's efforts to develop as a free and independent nation.
- In November 2013, Highland, California, recognised Artsakh and was twinned with Berdzor.
- In January 2014, Los Angeles recognised Artsakh.
- In May 2014, the California State Assembly passed a measure recognising Artsakh's independence with a 70–1 vote. The measure also calls for President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to recognise Artsakh Republic.
- In May 2014, the Louisiana State Senate adopted a resolution saluting the Artsakh Republic's independence and urging the U.S. President and Congress to "Support Self-Determination and Democratic Independence of the Artsakh Republic".
- On 27 August 2014, the California State Senate voted unanimously (23–0) to pass Assembly Joint Resolution 32, recognising the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh as a sovereign state. The resolution encourages Artsakh's efforts to develop as a free and independent nation and formally calls upon the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Artsakh Republic.
- On 3 March 2016, Georgia became the sixth state of the U.S. to recognize the independence of Artsakh.
- On 30 March 2016, Hawaii became the seventh state to unanimously recognize Artsakh, the Hawaii House of Representatives placed bill H.R. 167 into effect despite pressure from Azerbaijani diplomats and Washington D.C.
- On 30 March 2016, the US Embassy in Azerbaijan issued a declaration that US foreign state policy is determined at a federal government level, and that the United States does not recognize the Artsakh Republic. This statement was delivered shortly after Azerbaijan's president, president Ilham Aliyev, arrived in Washington D.C. for bilateral discussions.
- On 5 May 2016 the Government of Armenia approved the bill on recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh. It was announced, that the recognition of the independence of the Artsakh Republic is "due to the results of discussions between Armenia and Artsakh, [and] considering further developments, including external factors."
- On 28 September 2017 Michigan became the 8th U.S. state to recognize the independent Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh). The bipartisan measure calls upon the U.S. to establish economic and cultural ties with the Artsakh Republic and support peace and stability across the South Caucasus.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has resulted in the displacement of 597,000 Azerbaijanis (this figure includes 230,000 children born to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 54,000 who have returned) including Artsakh, and 220,000 Azeris, 18,000 Kurds and 3,500 Russians fled from Armenia to Azerbaijan from 1988 to 1989. The Azerbaijani government has estimated that 63 percent of IDPs lived below the poverty line as compared to 49% of the total population. About 154,000 lived in the capital, Baku. According to the International Organization for Migration, 40,000 IDPs lived in camps, 60,000 in underground dugout shelters, and 20,000 in railway cars. Forty-thousand IDPs lived in EU-funded settlements and UNHCR provided housing for another 40,000. Another 5,000 IDPs lived in abandoned or rapidly deteriorating schools. Others lived in trains, on roadsides in half-constructed buildings, or in public buildings such as tourist and health facilities. Tens of thousands lived in seven tent camps where poor water supply and sanitation caused gastro-intestinal infections, tuberculosis, and malaria.
The government required IDPs to register their place of residence in an attempt to better target the limited and largely inadequate national and international assistance due to the Armenian advocated and US imposed restrictions on humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan. Many IDPs were from rural areas and found it difficult to integrate into the urban labor market. Many international humanitarian agencies reduced or ceased assistance for IDPs citing increasing oil revenues of the country. The infant mortality among displaced Azerbaijani children is 3–4 times higher than in the rest of the population. The rate of stillbirth was 88.2 per 1,000 births among the internally displaced people. The majority of the displaced have lived in difficult conditions for more than 13 years.
280,000 persons—virtually all ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan during the 1988–1993 war over the disputed region of Artsakh—were living in refugee-like circumstances in Armenia. Some left the country, principally to Russia. Their children born in Armenia acquire citizenship automatically. Their numbers are thus subject to constant decline due to departure, and de-registration required for naturalization. Of these, about 250,000 fled Azerbaijan-proper (areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh); approximately 30,000 came from Nagorno-Karabakh. All were registered with the government as refugees at year's end.
The Artsakh Republic is mountainous, a feature which has given it its former name (from the Russian for "Mountainous/Highland Karabakh"). It is 11,500 km2 (4,440 sq mi) in area, bordering Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The highest peaks in the country are Mount Mrav at 3,340 metres (10,958 ft), and Mount Kirs at 2,725 metres (8,940 ft). The largest water body is the Sarsang reservoir, and the major rivers are the Terter and Khachen rivers. The country is on a plateau which slopes downwards towards the east and southeast, with the average altitude being 3,600 ft (1,097 m) above sea level. Most rivers in the country flow towards the Artsakh Valley.
The climate is mild and temperate. The average temperature is 11 °C (52 °F), which fluctuates annually between 22 °C (72 °F) in July and −1 °C (30 °F) in January. The average precipitation can reach 710 mm (28 in) in some regions, and it is foggy for over 100 days a year.
Over 2,000 kinds of plants exist in Artsakh, and more than 36% of the country is forested. The plant life on the steppes consists mostly of semi-desert vegetation, while subalpine zone and alpine tundra ecosystems can be found above the forest in the highlands and mountains.
The Republic of Artsakh has eight administrative divisions. Their territories include the five districts of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), the Shahumyan Region in the Azerbaijan SSR which is currently under Azerbaijani control, and the seven districts around the former NKAO that are under the control of the Artsakhi forces.
Following the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's declaration of independence, the Azerbaijani government abolished the NKAO and created Azerbaijani districts in its place. As a result, some of the Republic of Artsakh's divisions correspond with the Azerbaijani districts, while others have different borders. A comparative table of the current divisions of Artsakh and the corresponding districts of Azerbaijan follows:
|#||Artsakh Division||Population (2005)||Azerbaijan Rayon(s)||Sahar (city)||Former NKAO?|
|1||Shahumyan Region||2,560||Southern Goranboy, Western Kalbajar||Kalbajar (formerly Shahumian)||No|
|2||Martakert Region||18,963||Eastern Kalbajar, Western Tartar, portion of Agdam||Martakert||Partially|
|3||Askeran Region||16,979||Khojali, portion of Agdam||Askeran||Partially|
|4||Martuni Region||23,157||Northern Khojavend, portion of Agdam||Martuni||Partially|
|5||Hadrut Region||12,005||Southern Khojavend, Jabrayil, portion of Fizuli||Hadrut||Partially|
|7||Kashatagh Region||9,763||Lachin, Qubadli, Zangilan||Berdzor||No|
The Republic of Artsakh claims Shahumian, which was not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Representatives from Shahumian declared independence along with Artsakh, and the proclamation of Artsakh includes the Shahumian region within its borders. Unlike the rest of Artsakh, Shahumian remains under Azerbaijani control.
In 2002, the country's population was 145,000, made up of 95% Armenians and 5% others. In March 2007, the local government announced that its population had grown to 138,000. The annual birth rate was recorded at 2,200–2,300 per year, an increase from nearly 1,500 in 1999.
OSCE report, released in March 2011, estimates the population of the "seven occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh" to be 14,000, and states "there has been no significant growth in the population since 2005."
According to age group: 15,700 (0–6), 25,200 (7–17) 75,800 (18–59) and 21,000 (60+)
Population by province (2006):
- Stepanakert 54,500 (2013)
- Martuni 23,200
- Martakert 19,000
- Askeran 17,400 (2007)
- Hadrut 12,300 (2009)
- Kashatagh 9,800
- Shushi 5,000 (2009)
- Shahumyan 2,800
|Year||Population (000s)||Urban (000s)||Rural (000s)||Birth rate||Death rate||NGR||Net immigration|
Ethnic Groups of the Nagorno-Karabach AO (1926–1989) and the Republic of Artsakh (2015) according to census data
|census 1926||census 1939||census 1959||census 1970||census 1979||census 1989||census 2005||census 2015 1|
|The territorial borders of the Nagorno-Karabakh AO and the Artsakh Republic are different.|
Certain Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical denominations also exist. However, military authorities prohibited any Christian sect activity in Artsakh, for the reason that they would preach pacifism among population.
The Gandzasar monastery ("Գանձասար" in Armenian) is a historical monastery in Artsakh. Another is Dadivank Monastery (Armenian: Դադիվանք) also Khutavank (Armenian: Խութավանք – Monastery on the Hill) that was built between the 9th and 13th century. Artsakhi government's aim is to include the Gandzasar Monastery into the directory of the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
Ghazanchetsots Cathedral (built 1868–1888) (Սուրբ Ամենափրկիչ Ղազանչեցոց Եկեղեցի (Surb Amenap'rkich Ghazanchets'ots' Yekeghets'i) in Armenian), also known as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Shushi Cathedral, is an Armenian church located in Shusha. It is the main cathedral and headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church's "Diocese of Artsakh".
Just uphill from the cathedral in Shushi is the Kanach Zham (Green Church in Armenian) built in 1847.
Amaras Monastery (4th century) was a monastery was established by the foremost Armenian saint, St. Gregory the Enlightener, who baptized Armenia into the world's first Christian state in 301 AD. Amaras also hosted the first school where St. Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, taught the new script to pupils, in the 5th century. The Amaras Monastery's location is in the Martuni District.
Saint Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery (5th–13th centuries) commemorating St. Yeghishe, the famous evangelizer of Armenia's eastern lands. The church serves as a burial ground for the 5th century's King Vachagan II the Pious, the most well-known representative of the Arranshahik line of east Armenian monarchs. The monastery is located in the Martakert District.
Dadivank Monastery (13th century) is one of the most architecturally and culturally significant Monasteries in Artsakh. The western façade of Dadivank's Memorial Cathedral bears one of the most extensive Armenian lapidary (inscribed-in-stone) texts, and has one of the largest collection of Medieval Armenian frescoes. Dadivank is named after St. Dadi, a disciple of Apostle Thaddeus who preached the Holy Gospel in Artsakh in the 1st century. St. Dadi's tomb was later discovered by archeologists in 2007. The monastery is in the Shahumian District.
Bri Yeghtze Monastery (13th century) that centers on embedded khachkars, unique-to-Armenia stone memorials with engraved crosses. The monastery is located in the Martuni District.
Yerits Mankants Monastery (17th century) (meaning "three infants" in Armenian) is known for hosting the seat of Artsakh's rival clergy to that of the Holy See of Gandzasar. The monastery is located in the Martakert District.
Post-war resettlement attempts
Following the ceasefire, the Stepanakert-based administration launched various programs aimed at bringing in permanent Armenian settlers to the depopulated lands, including into regions previously populated by Azeris, with those that bordered Armenia – Lachin and Kalbajar – being the priority. Incentives in the form of free housing, access to property, social infrastructure, inexpensive or sometimes free electricity, running water, low taxes or limited tax exemptions were offered to new settlers.
Azerbaijan regards this as a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Armenia became party in 1993, whereby "[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies". The ruling party of Azerbaijan accuses the Armenian side of artificially changing the demographic situation and the ethnic composition of the occupied region so that it can lay future claims to them, comparing this to the 1950s campaign of resettling diaspora Armenians in previously Azeri-populated locales in Soviet Armenia where Azeris were forcibly deported from in 1948–1950.
In 1979, the total Armenian population of the districts of Kalbajar, Lachin, Qubadli, Zangilan, Jabrayil, Fuzuli and Agdam was around 1,400 people. An OSCE fact-finding mission established at Azerbaijan's request visited these regions in February 2005 with the intention to assess the scale of the settlement attempts. The mission's findings showed that these districts had as of 2005 an overall population of 14,000 persons, mostly living in precarious social conditions. It consisted primarily of ethnic Armenians displaced from non-conflict zones of Azerbaijan during the war. It was noted, however, that most of them had settled in the conflict zone after having lived in Armenia for several years and some held Armenian passports and even voted in Armenian elections. A smaller segment of the settlers were originally from the towns of Gyumri and Spitak in Armenia who had lived in temporary shelters following the devastating 1988 earthquake before moving to Karabakh, as well as a small number of natives of Yerevan who moved there for financial reasons. A field assessment mission revisited the region in October 2010, confirming that there had not been much growth in population or change in living conditions of the settlers. The Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group who visited Artsakh, Kalbajar and Lachin in 2014 reported seeing signs of improvements in infrastructure, but could not observe any indications that the size of the population had changed in recent years.
By June 2015, an estimated 17,000 of Syria's once 80,000-strong Armenian population had fled the civil war and sought refuge in Armenia. David Babayan, spokesperson of the Artsakhi leader Bako Sahakyan, confirmed that some of those refugees had been resettled in Artsakh. The Economist put the number of the resettled families at 30 as of June 2017. In December 2014, Armenian media cited local municipal authorities in stating that dozens of Syrian Armenian families had been resettled in the disputed zone, in particular in the city of Lachin and the village of Xanlıq in Qubadli. Azerbaijan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov expressed his concern over Armenia's attempts to change the demographic situation in the region and informed of his intention to raise this issue with the Minsk Group.
The socio-economic situation of the Republic of Artsakh was greatly affected by the conflict. Yet, foreign investments are beginning to come. The origin of most venture capital comes from Armenians in Armenia, Russia, United States, France, Australia, Iran, and the Middle East.
Copper and gold mining has been advancing since 2002 with development and launch of operations at Drmbon deposit. Approximately 27–28 thousand tons (wet weight) of concentrates are produced with average copper content of 19–21% and gold content of 32–34 g/t.
The republic is developing a tourist industry geared to Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. The republic has been showing a major increase in tourists over the last several years, which keeps growing because of Artsakh's many cultural sights. There are currently nine hotels in Stepanakert. The Artsakh development agency says 4,000 tourists visited Artsakh in 2005. The figures rose to 8,000 in 2010 (excluding visitors from Armenia). The agency cooperates with the Armenia Tourism Development Agency (ATDA) as Armenia is the only way tourists (mainly Armenians) can access Artsakh. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh informs of continuous expansion visitors' geography.
The Tourism Development Agency of Artsakh was established in Yerevan as a non-governmental organisation in the Republic of Armenia to promote tourism further in Artsakh. It makes preparations for tour operators, travel agencies and journalists covering the region, and arranges for hotel services, shopping, catering, recreation centers.
Tourist attractions include:
- Gandzasar monastery, main tourist attraction.
- Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of the Holy Savior.
- Church of the Holy Mother of God "Kanach Zham".
- Amaras Monastery.
- Tzitzernavank Monastery.
- St. Yeghish Arakyal Monastery.
- Dadivank Monastery.
- Gtichavank monastery.
- Bri Yeghtsi monastery.
- Yerits Mankants.
- Katarovank Monastery
Other tourist attractions include:
- The ancient city of Tigranakert, one of four cities that were founded in the 1st century BC in opposite corners of Armenia and named after King Tigran II the Great, ruler of the short-lived Armenian Empire. Tigranakert, which has been undergoing archaeological excavations since 2005, is located in Mardakert District.
- Fort Mayraberd (10th–18th centuries) served as the primary bulwark against Turko-nomadic incursions from the eastern steppe. The fort is found to the east of the region's capital city of Stepanakert.
- Govharagha Mosque (18th century), a mosque located in the city of Shushi.
Janapar Trail is a marked trail through mountains, valleys and villages of Artsakh, with monasteries and fortresses along the way. The trail is broken into day hikes, which will bring tourists to a different village each night. The paths have existed for centuries, but now are marked specifically for hikers. The Himnakan Janapar (backbone trail), marked in 2007, leads from the northwest region of Shahumian to the southern town of Hadrut. Side trails and mini trails take one to additional parts of Artsakh. The important sites passed along this hike include Dadivank Monastery, Gandzasar monastery, Shushi, the Karkar Canyon with its high cliffs, Zontik Waterfall and the ruins of Hunot and Gtichavank monastery.
One of the noteworthy side trails is the Gtichavank Loop Trail. This loop starts from Togh Village.
However, those who travelled to Artsakh without Azerbaijani government's prior consent and permission will be denied entry to Azerbaijan since the country considers Artsakh their territory unlawfully occupied by Armenian army. Azerbaijani government also keeps and publishes online a list of foreign nationals who visited these occupied areas without prior approval. In late 2017 the list contained 699 names with additional details (date, country, profession, purpose of visit). The earliest entry recorded a visit to Artsakh that occurred on an unspecified date sometime between 1993-1996. The list contains many journalists and members of parliaments of foreign countries.
The transportation system damaged by the conflict has been noticeably improved during the last several years: the North-South Artsakh motorway alone has largely facilitated in the development of the transportation system.
The 169 kilometres (105 mi) Hadrut-Stepanakert-Askeran-Martakert motorway, the locals say, is the lifeline of Artsakh. $25 million donated during the Hayastan All-Armenian Foundation telethons have been allotted for the construction of the road.
The route from the Armenian capital Yerevan to Stepanakert is estimated to be reduced from the current 8–9 hours drive once major infrastructures are realized.
Stepanakert Airport, the sole civilian airport of the Republic of Artsakh, located about 8 kilometres (5 miles) east of the capital, has been closed since the onset of the war more than twenty years ago. However, the government was pressing ahead with plans to reopen the airport as of early 2011, and raised about 1 billion drams ($2.8 million) for its reconstruction from unspecified "charitable sources." It began building a new airport terminal and repairing the runway in late 2009. In any case, its unresolved status makes direct air communication with other countries all but impossible according to IATA conventions. Though originally scheduled to launch the first commercial flights on 9 May 2011, Artsakh officials postponed a new reopening date throughout the whole of 2011. In May 2012, the director of the Artsakh Civil Aviation Administration, Tigran Gabrielyan, announced that the airport would begin operations in mid-2012. However the airport still remains closed due to political reasons.
Artsakh's school system was severely damaged because of the conflict. But the government of the Republic of Artsakh with considerable aid from the Republic of Armenia and with donations from the Armenian diaspora, has rebuilt many of the schools. The republic has around 250 schools of various sizes, with more than 200 lying in the regions. The student population estimated at more than 20,000 study, with almost half in the capital city of Stepanakert.
Yerevan University of Management also opened a branch in Stepanakert.
"We Are Our Mountains" (Armenian: Մենք ենք մեր սարերը) by Sargis Baghdasaryan is a monument located in Stepanakert. The sculpture is widely regarded as a symbol of the de facto independent Republic of Artsakh. It is a large monument from tuff of an old Armenian man and woman hewn from rock, representing the mountain people of Artsakh. It is also known as Tatik yev Papik(Տատիկ և Պապիկ) in Armenian. The sculpture is featured prominently on Artsakh's coat of arms.
Artsakh State Museum is the historical museum of the Republic of Artsakh. Located at 4 Sasunstsi David Street, in Stepanakert, the museum offers an assortment of ancient artifacts and Christian manuscripts. There are also more recent items, ranging in date from the 19th century to World War II and from events of the Karabakh Independence War.
Artsakh has its own brand of popular music. As Artsakh question became a pan-Armenian question, Artsakh music was further promoted worldwide.
Many nationalist songs, performed by Artsakhi artists, as well as artists from Republic of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, show support for the Artsakh independence movement; videos for the songs incorporate footage of Artsakhi military campaigns. These videos are posted to sites such as YouTube, where they often generate conflicting nationalist Armenian and Azerbaijani comments.
Azat Artsakh is the official newspaper of the Republic of Artsakh.
Sports in the Republic of Artsakh are organised by the Artsakh Ministry of Culture and Youth. Due to the non-recognition of Artsakh, sports teams from the country cannot compete in most international tournaments.
Football is the most popular sport in Artsakh. Stepanakert has a well-built football stadium. Since the mid-1990s, football teams from Artsakh started taking part in some domestic competitions in the Republic of Armenia. The Lernayin Artsakh represents the city of Stepanakert. The Artsakh football league was launched in 2009. The Artsakh national football team was formed in 2012 and played their first competitive match against the Abkhazia national football team in Sokhumi, a match that ended with a result of 1–1 draw. The return match between the unrecognized teams took place at the Stepanakert Stadium, on 21 October 2012, when the team from Artsakh defeated the Abkhazian team 3–0.
There is also interest in other sports, including basketball and volleyball. Sailing is practiced in the town of Martakert.
Artsakh sports teams and athletes also participate in the Pan-Armenian Games organised in the Republic of Armenia.
|Date||English name||Local name||Remarks|
|31 Dec – 1 Jan||New Year's Day|
|20 Feb||Artsakh Revival Day|
|8 March||Women's Day|
|7 April||Motherhood and Beauty Day|
|24 April||Genocide Remembrance Day|
|1 May||Worker's Solidarity Day|
|9 May||Victory, Armed Forces & Shushi Liberation Day|
|28 May||First Armenian Republic Day|
|1 June||Children's Day|
|29 June||Fallen Soldiers and Missing in Action Memorial Day|
|2 September||Independence Day|
|7 December||Armenian Earthquake Memorial Day|
|10 December||Independence Referendum Day|
- Armenian-controlled territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh
- Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations
- Foreign relations of Artsakh
- Janapar – Multi-section hiking trail going through much of Karabakh
- Outline of Artsakh
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Nagorno-Karabakh.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.|
- Official websites
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
- Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Washington D.C.
- National Statistical Service of NKR
- President of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic
- Articles and Photography on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) from UK Photojournalist Russell Pollard
- Artsakh World portal
- "Azat Artsakh", Artsakh Government's newspaper