Nagorno-Karabakh – Strange Normality
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a small mountainous territory, which time and again has been the place of bitter conflicts. Today 140'000 people live on 4'400 square kilometers. In 1920 approx. 90% of the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh were Armenians. However, during the time of the foundation of the Soviet Union the interests of the Islamic, Turkic-speaking ethnic group of the Azeris won over the Christian Armenians: In order not to annoy Turkey who had just closed a peace agreement with Russia, the Caucasian Office of the Communist Party issued a decree in July 1921 that 'based on the necessity of a national peace between Muslims and Armenians ....(....) Nagorno-Karabakh will remain within the frontiers of the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic whereby it will be granted a generous autonomy of territory'. The Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, however, were not satisfied with this decree: Although they were in the majority, their percentage of the population was in continuous decrease and they felt discriminated against the Muslim Azerbaijanis. Until the end of the Soviet Union the Central Committee was able to suppress the tensions more or less. However, when in 1991 Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia declared themselves independent, there escalated a bloody conflict: The Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh no longer wanted to belong to Azerbaijan. On Sept. 2l, 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself an independent nation. Subsequently Armenian troupes and rebels jointly drove back the Azerbaijani army. 30'000 people were killed and one million had to flee. On May 1994, an Armistice Agreement came into force. During the course of the war the troups of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, together with the Armenian army was able to bring large parts of the territories claimed by Nagorno-Karabakh under their control. They further occupied seven Azerbaijani districts, which lie outside the autonomous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Although Nagorno-Karabakh regards itself as an independent nation since 1991, it has not been recognized by anybody. By international law it still belongs to Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is equipped with everything, which makes up a nation: A president, a democratically elected parliament, a capital and an army. It does not have its own currency, though, one pays in Armenian Drams. Looking closely it is clear how tightly knit Nagorno-Karabakh is with Armenia. Without capital flows from Armenia Nagorno-Karabakh would not be able to survive: Armenia contributes approx. 20'000 men for the safeguarding of the present situation, and the current president of Armenia, Sersh Sarkisjan, was born in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Along the cease-fire line, also called front line, the two rival ethnic armies are facing each other.