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The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) ( , ) or Artsakh Republic ( ) is a de facto independent republic located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region (or Artsakh region) of the South Caucasus, bordered by Azerbaijanmarker to the north and east, Iranmarker to the south, and Armeniamarker to the west.

The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh became disputed between Armeniamarker and Azerbaijanmarker when both countries gained independence from the Russian Empiremarker in 1918. After the Soviet Unionmarker established control over the area, in 1923 it formed the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR. In the final years of the Soviet Unionmarker, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armeniamarker and Azerbaijanmarker, culminating in a large ethnic conflict and, eventually, in the Nagorno-Karabakh War that was fought from 1991 to 1994.

On December 10, 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighboring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence from Azerbaijan as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The country remains unrecognized by any international organization or country, including Armenia.

Since the ceasefire in 1994, most of Nagorno-Karabakh and several regions of Azerbaijanmarker around it remain under the joint Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh military control. Representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have since been holding peace talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group.


Government and Politics

Nagorno-Karabakh is a presidential democracy. The executive power rests mainly at the president. The president appoints and dismisses the prime minister. The National Assembly of Nagorno-Karabakh is the parliament, and has 33 members, 22 elected for a five year term in single seat constituencies and 11 by proportional representation.

Political Parties

Nagorno Karabakh Republic has a multi-party system. The votes are divided in such a way that the governments formed are almost always coalitions of various parties. The main parties are: Democratic Party of Artsakh, Free Motherland, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Artsakh section), Movement 88 and Communist Party of Artsakh. A number of non-partisan candidates also take part in elections, and with some success. In 2005, eight of the 33 members to the National Assembly successfully took their seat without officially running under the banner of established political parties in the republic.


On November 3, 2006, the then President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Arkadi Ghukasyan signed a decree to carry out a referendum on a draft Nagorno-Karabakh constitution. This was held on 10 December of the same year among the citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh, which voted overwhelmingly in favour of a 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 1st article of the document describes the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as "a sovereign, democratic legal and social state".

However, the European Union, OSCE and GUAM have rejected the referendum. The EU announced it was "aware that a 'constitutional referendum' has taken place," but reiterated that only a negotiated settlement between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians can bring a lasting solution.

In a statement, the OSCE chairman in office Karel De Gucht called the vote potentially harmful to the ongoing conflict settlement process, which, he said, has shown "visible progress" and is at a "promising juncture". The outcome was also criticised by Turkey, which traditionally sides with Azerbaijan because of ethnic Turkic roots.

Foreign relations

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is based in Stepanakertmarker. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic operates five permanent Missions and one Bureau of Social-Politic Information in France. The goals of the offices are to present the Republic's positions on various issues, provide information and to facilitate the peace process. The NKR Permanent Missions exist in Armeniamarker, Australia, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Russiamarker, the United Statesmarker, and one for Middle East countries based in Beirutmarker.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a member of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations, commonly known as the "Commonwealth of Unrecognized States".


The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army was officially established on May 9, 1992 as the formal defense force of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, uniting previously disorganized self-defense units which were formed in the early 1990s in order to defend the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh from the attacks. Currently Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army is around 15,000-20,000 well-trained and equipped officers and soldiers. It consists of infantry, tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems.

The Army has taken a crucial role in establishing the republic with decisive battles such asBattle of Shusha/Shushi in 1992, the opening of the Lachin corridormarker between The Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (1992), the defense of the Martakertmarker front from 1992-1994.

Land mines

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered to be one of the most heavily mined regions of the former Soviet Unionmarker. Mines were laid from 1991-1994 by both conflicting parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. The United Nations and the U.S.marker had 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) says 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.

Current situation

Map of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto independent state, calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is closely tied to 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 Karabakh escalated after a December 1993 Azerbaijani offensive. The Republic of Armenia began sending conscripts and regular Army and Interior Ministry troops to fight in Karabakh." The politics of Armenia and the de-facto Karabakh republic are so intermingled that a former president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Robert Kocharyan, became first the prime minister (1997) and then the president of Armenia (1998 to 2008).

Still, successive Armenian governments have 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."At present, the mediation process is at a standstill, with the most recent discussions in Rambouilletmarker, France, yielding no agreement. Azerbaijan's position has been that Armenian troops withdraw from all 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 recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as being legally part of Azerbaijan, arguing that because the region declared independence at the same time that Azerbaijan became an independent state, both of them are equally successor states of the Soviet Union. The Armenian government insists that the government of Nagorno-Karabakh 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 Armeniamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, Francemarker, Russiamarker and the United Statesmarker met in Parismarker and in Key Westmarker, Floridamarker, in the Spring of 2001. The details of the talks have remained largely secret, but the parties are reported to have discussed non-hierarchical relationships between the central Azerbaijani government and the Karabakh Armenian authorities. 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, Kazakhstanmarker, 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 Nagorno-Karabakh, and holding referendums (plebiscites) in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan proper regarding the future status of the region. On February 10 and 11, 2006, Kocharyan and Aliyev met in Rambouilletmarker, Francemarker, to discuss the fundamental principles of a settlement to the conflict, including the withdrawal of troops, formation of international peace keeping troops, and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. During the weeks and days before the talks in France, OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen expressed cautious optimism that some form of an agreement was possible. French President Jacques Chirac met with both leaders separately and expressed hope that the talks would be fruitful. Contrary to the initial optimism, the Rambouillet talks did not produce any agreement, with key issues such as the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and whether Armenian troops would withdraw from Kalbajarmarker still being contentious.

The latest talks were held at the Polish embassy in Bucharestmarker. 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."

Unfortunately, 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 Karabakh. Azerbaijan's position was a promise to give Karabakh the "highest status of autonomy adopted in the world." Armenia favored a popular vote by the inhabitants of Karabakh to decide their future, a position that was also taken by the international mediators. The response to the Armenian position from Baku was that of a threat to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. On June 27, the Armenian foreign minister said both parties agreed to allow the residents of Karabakh 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 Nagorno-Karabakh 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 December 10, 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 Worker's 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 declared 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, Yerevanmarker was granted to the Armenians. It was a great mistake. The khanate of Iravan was the Azeri territory, the Armenians were guests here”.

International status

The sovereign status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not recognized by any state, including Armenia. Three United Nations Security Council Resolutions (853, 874, and 884) and United Nations General Assembly resolutions 49/13 and 57/298 refer to Nagorno-Karabakh as a region of Azerbaijan. None of these resolutions were passed under Chapter VII (Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression) of the Charter. Certain politicians and legal scholars have expressed the view that resolutions are only legally binding if they are made under Chapter VII of the Charter. According to a report prepared by British parliamentarian and rapporteur David Atkinson, presented to Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), "the borders of Azerbaijan were internationally recognised at the time of the country being recognised as independent state in 1991," and "the territory of Azerbaijan included the Nagorno-Karabakh region."Mr David Atkinson, United Kingdom, European Democrat Group, (Rapporteur) The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 29 November 2004

The latest resolution, #1416, adopted by PACE, stated that "Considerable parts of the territory of Azerbaijan are still occupied by Armenian forces, and separatist forces are still in control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region." The resolution further stated: "The Assembly reiterates that the occupation of foreign territory by a member state constitutes a grave violation of that state’s obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and reaffirms the right of displaced persons from the area of conflict to return to their homes safely and with dignity." Recalling the Resolutions 822, 853, 874, and 884 (all 1993) of the UN Security Council, PACE urged "the parties concerned to comply with them, in particular by refraining from any armed hostilities and by withdrawing military forces from any occupied territories." The resolution also called on "the Government of Azerbaijan to establish contact, without preconditions, with the political representatives of both communities from the Nagorno-Karabakh region regarding the future status of the region."

The Council of Europe called on the Nagorno-Karabakh de facto authorities to refrain from staging one-sided "local self-government elections" in Nagorno-Karabakh. "These so-called 'elections' cannot be legitimate," stressed Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' Chairman and Liechtensteinmarker Foreign Minister Ernst Walch, Parliamentary Assembly President Lord Russell-Johnston and Secretary General Walter Schwimmer. They recalled that following the 1991–1994 armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a substantial part of the region's population was forced to flee their homes and are still living as displaced persons in those countries or as refugees abroad. This position was reiterated by Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 4 August 2004 with regard to the next elections, staged in the province, and by the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on 12 July 2007 with regard to the presidential elections organised in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Union declared that "The European Union confirms its support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and recalls that it does not recognise the independence of Nagorno Karabakh. The European Union cannot consider legitimate the 'presidential elections' that were scheduled to take place on 11 August 2002 in Nagorno Karabakh". The European Union reiterated this position with regard to the presidential elections, held in the region in 2007.

The US Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006, released on March 6, 2007 stated that "Armenia continues to occupy the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories. During the year incidents along the militarized line of contact separating the sides again resulted in numerous casualties on both sides".

According to an analysis by New England School of Law's Center for International Law & Policy, "Nagorno Karabagh has a right of self-determination, including the attendant right to independence, according to the criteria recognized under international law." As the analysis elaborates, "the principle of self-determination is included in Articles 1, 55, and 73 of the United Nations Charter," and it has been "codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights--which are considered to constitute the international 'Bill of Rights.'" Furthermore, "the right to self-determination has also been repeatedly recognized in a series of resolutions adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, the most important of which is Resolution 2625(XXV) of 1970." As the analysis continues, "the Azerbaijanis argue that political independence for Nagorno Karabagh violates the right of Azerbaijan to territorial integrity. But the claim to territorial integrity can be negated where a state does not conduct itself 'in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples' and does not allow a subject people 'to pursue their economic, social and cultural development' as required by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2625(XXV). Moreover, it should be noted that when Azerbaijan declared independence from the Soviet Union, it claimed to be the successor state to the Azerbaijani Republic of 1918-1920.

The League of Nations, however, did not recognize Azerbaijan's inclusion of Nagorno Karabagh within Azerbaijan's claimed territory." The analysis further states that Nagorno Karabakh's secession was in compliance with the existing Soviet law. Following Soviet Azerbaijan's declaration of independence on August 30, 1991, "Nagorno Karabagh initiated the same process through the joint adoption of the 'Declaration of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh' by the local legislative councils of Nagorno Karabagh and the bordering Armenian-populated Shahumian district. The only difference was that, for Karabagh, independence was declared not from the Soviet Union but from Azerbaijan.

This act fully complied with existing law. Indeed, the 1990 Soviet law titled 'Law of the USSR Concerning the Procedure of Secession of a Soviet Republic from the USSR,' provides that the secession of a Soviet republic from the body of the USSR allows an autonomous region and compactly settled minority regions in the same republic's territory also to trigger its own process of independence." This act, as the analysis continues, was not annulled by the "USSR Constitutional Oversight Committee," as the "declaration was deemed in compliance with the then existing law." Furthermore, "on December 10, 1991, the Nagorno Karabagh Republic held its own referendum on independence in the presence of international observers. The vote overwhelmingly approved Karabagh's sovereignty. This action of Nagorno Karabagh, which at that time was part of a still existent and internationally recognized Soviet Union, corresponded fully with the relevant Soviet law pertaining to leaving the USSR." Finally, on January 6, 1992, the "parliament of Karabagh adopted its Declaration of Independence on the basis of the referendum results."

A background paper prepared by the Directorate General of Political Affairs of the Council of Europe for the seminar "Youth and Conflict Resolution" (Strasbourg, 31 March - 2 April 2003), on the other hand, states, "The Armenian side maintains that the N-K independence referendum was conducted in accordance with the USSR law on the 'Procedure for Solving Issues of Secession of a Soviet Republic from the USSR' of 3 April 1990. Article 3 of this law provided autonomous regions within the Soviet republics with the right to determine independently, by referendum, whether they wished to remain within the USSR or join the republic seceding from the USSR. It would however seem that according to this law N-K would have the choice of two options – to remain within the USSR or to join independent Azerbaijan; N-K independence does not seem possible".Mr David Atkinson, United Kingdom, European Democrat Group, (Rapporteur) The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 29 November 2004. See the section: AS/POL (2004) 24 Appendix IV 8 September 2004: subsection "The legal side of the dispute"

According to the article in "The Journal of Conflict Resolution", the Armenian side "justified its claim by Article 70 of the Soviet Constitution, which affirms the right to self-determination of the peoples of the USSR. In fact, this recognition of the principle of self-determination is only part of a general declaratory statement about the nature of the Soviet federation: “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is an integral, federal, multi-national state formed on the principle of socialist federalism as a result of the free self-determination of nations and the voluntary association of equal Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR embodies the state unity of the Soviet people and draws all its nations and nationalities together for the purpose of jointly building communism.” There is no mechanism, other than the right of the union republics to secede (Article 72 of the constitution), through which to express the right of self-determination".

The actual declaration of establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, issued on September 2, 1991, states that the republic is proclaimed pursuant to the USSR law of secession, and that it "enjoys the authorities given to Republics by the USSR Constitution and legislation and reserves the right to decide independently the issue of its state-legal status based on political consultations and negotiations with the leadership of Union and Republics." The Declaration further states that "the USSR Constitution and legislation, as well as other laws currently in force, which do not contradict the goals and principles of this Declaration and peculiarities of the Republic apply on the territory of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, until the NKR Constitution and laws are adopted."

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan states that "according to this Law, in a Union republic containing autonomous republics, autonomous provinces and autonomous regions, the referendum had to be held separately in each autonomous unit, the people of which retained the right to decide independently the question of staying in the USSR or in the seceding Union republic, as well as to raise the question of their own state-legal status. It is important to emphasize that the secession of a Union republic from the USSR could be regarded valid only after the fulfillment of complicated and multi-staged procedure and, finally, the adoption of the relevant decision by the Congress of the USSR People's Deputies. However, until the Soviet Union ceased to exist as international person the mentioned Law was without legal effect, since no Union republic, including Azerbaijan and Armenia, had used the procedure for secession stipulated in it".

The OSCE Minsk Group has allowed the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (referring to it as the "leadership of Nagorny Karabakh"), as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan, to participate in the peace process as "parties to the conflict," and the Azerbaijani community of the region—as an "interested party". The Chairman of the CSCE Minsk Conference mentioned that "the terms 'party to the conflict' and 'leadership of Nagorny Karabakh' do not imply recognition of any diplomatic or political status under domestic or international law". The Azerbaijani community is led by Bayram Safarov, the head of the executive power of Shusha region.

At a recent press conference in Yerevanmarker, Yuri Merzlyakov, the OSCE Minsk Group Russian Co-Chair stated, "At the press conference in Baku I underlined that Nagorno Karabakh was a part of Azerbaijani SSR and not of Azerbaijan. I perfectly know that till 1917 Nagorno Karabakh was a part of the Russian Empire. The history is necessary in order to settle conflicts, but it is necessary to proceed from international law". Meanwhile, on June 10 2007 after US-Azerbaijani security consultations in Washington D.C.marker with Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov, Deputy Assistant Secretary of US Department of State, US Co-Chairman of OSCE Minsk group Matthew Bryza in a joint press conference announced: "In the circles of international law there is no universal formula for the supremacy of territorial integrity over the right of self-determination of people.".

Also in 2006, Russiamarker published its 63-volume Great Encyclopedia which described Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity that belonged to Armenians historically, in its introduction to the region. Azerbaijan has protested this passage in the Russian encyclopedia. It handed a protest letter to the Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan demanding that the encyclopedia be confiscated and amended.

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 recognized borders and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories there. The resolution was supported mainly by members of the OIC and GUAM, both of which Azerbaijan is a member, as well as other nations facing breakaway regions. The resolution was opposed by all three members of the OSCE Minsk Group.

Human rights

Armenian children standing next to the rubble of a building in Stepanakert after a shelling barrage.
The Nagorno Karabakh conflict has resulted in the displacement of 528,000 (this figure does not include new born children of these IDPs) Azerbaijanis from Armenian territories including Nagorno Karabakh, 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 internally displaced persons (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 Azerbaijani government has been unwilling to integrate the IDP's into the rest of the population as this could be interpreted as acceptance of the permanent loss of Nagorno-Karabakh. 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 Nagorno-Karabakh—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.

Administrative divisions

Map of NKR indicating its provinces.

1: Shahumyan, 2: Mardakert,

3: Askeran, 4: Martuni, 5: Hadrut,

6: Shusha, 7: Qashatagh.

Stepanakert is not shown.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has eight administrative divisions. Their territories include the five districts of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), the Shahumian district in the Azerbaijan SSR which is currently under Azerbaijani control, and the seven rayons around the former NKAO that are under the control of the NKR forces.

Following the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's declaration of independence, the Azerbaijani government abolished the NKAO and created Azerbaijani rayons in its place. As a result, some of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's divisions correspond with the Azerbaijani rayons, while others have different borders. A comparative table of the current divisions of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the corresponding rayons of Azerbaijan follows:

# Division Rayon(s) Sahar (city) Former NKAO
3 Askeran Khojalimarker, portion of Agdammarker Askeranmarker Yes
5 Hadrut Southern Khojavend, Jabrayil, portion of Fizuli Hadrutmarker Partially
2 Martakertmarker Eastern Kalbajar, Western Tartar, portion of Agdam Martakertmarker Partially
4 Martuni Northern Khojavend, portion of Agdam Martunimarker Partially
7 Qashatagh Lachinmarker, Qubadli, Zangilan Berdzormarker No
1 Shahumian Southern Goranboy, Western Kalbajar Shahumianmarker No
6 Shushi Shushamarker Shushimarker Yes
8 Stepanakertmarker (capital) Khojali Stepanakertmarker Yes
Nagorno-Karabakh Azerbaijan
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic claims Shahumian, which was not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Representatives from Shahumian declared independence along with Nagorno-Karabakh, and the proclamation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic includes the Shahumian region within its borders. Unlike the rest of Nagorno-Karabakh, Shahumian remains under Azerbaijani control.

Additional rayons of Azerbaijan are under Karabakh military control and are now part of the NKR: Lachinmarker, Qubadli, Zangilan, Jabrayilmarker, Kalbajarmarker as well as parts of Agdammarker and Fizuli. On the other hand, the eastern ends of Martakert and Martuni are under Azerbaijani control, as is the whole of Shahumian.

Former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
District (Rayon) Area (km2) Under Armenian control (km2)/%
Askeran 928 928
Hadrut 679 679
Martakert 1,705 1,305/76.5
Martuni 792 632/79.8
Shushi 280 280
NKAO 4,384 3,824/87.2
Shahumyan 558 0/0
Kelbajar 1,936 1,936
Lachin 1,835 1,835
Kubatli 802 802
Jebrayil 1,050 1,050
Zangelan 707 707
Aghdam 1,150 842/73.2
Fizuli 1,390 462/33.2
Azerbaijanmarker 8,870 7,634/86.1


In 2001, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's reported population was 95% Armenian, with the remaining total including Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds. 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.

Until 2000, the country's net migration was at a negative. For the first half of 2007, 1,010 births and 659 deaths were reported, with a net emigration of 27.

According to age group: 15,700 (0-6), 25,200 (7-17) 75,800 (18-59) and 21,000 (60+)

Population by province (2006):

The Population of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic:
Year Population (000s) Urban Rural Birth Rate Death Rate NGR Net Immigration
2000 134.4 68.4 66.0 16.6 8.8 7.7 16.1
2001 135.7 68.7 67.0 17.0 7.9 9.1 11.5
2002 136.6 69.3 67.3 16.0 9.1 6.9 4.9
2003 137.0 69.1 67.9 15.0 9.0 6.0 1.3
2004 137.2 69.8 67.4 15.3 9.5 5.8 -2.6
2005 137.7 70.5 67.2 14.6 9.2 5.4 1.7
2006 137.7 70.8 66.9 15.3 9.0 6.3 -3.2


The central office of Artsakh Bank was opened in 2004 in Stepanakert.

The socio-economic situation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic 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.

Notably the telecommunications sector was developed with Karabakh Telecom investing millions of dollars in mobile telephony, spearheaded by a Lebanese company.

Another is the factory Gorna Abakatinieni Combinat (metals and gold), located in the region of Martakertmarker and led by Artur Makartumian. It employs more than 400 local workers.

The banking system is also flourishing with Artsakhbank (the state bank). The republic presently uses the Armenian dram.


The Republic is also keen on developing a tourist industry geared to Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. Hotel Nairi is an example of this strategy. There are 8 hotels in Stepanakert. The Artsakh development agency says 4,000 tourists visited Artsakh in 2005. The figures rose to 4500 in 2006. The agency cooperates with the Armenia Tourism Development Agency (ATDA) as Armenia is the only way tourists (mainly Armenians) can access Karabakh.

The "Tourism Development Agency of Nagorno-Karabakh" was established in Yerevan as a Non-Governmental Organization in Republic of Armenia to promote tourism further in Nagorno-Karabakh. 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:

Other tourist attractions include:

  • Ancient City of Tigranakert (1st century BC) that was one of four cities that were founded in the first century BC in opposite corners of Armenia and named after King Tigran II the Great—ruler of the short-lived Armenian Empire. Tigranakert is located in the Mardakert District.
  • Handaberd Fortress (10th-14th centuries), an impregnable fortress that was the traditional stronghold of the Vahtangian-Dopian princes of Artsakh’s once-dominant Kingdom of Upper Khachen. The castle is located in the Shahumian District.
  • Gyulistan Castle (15th-18th centuries), the hereditary stronghold of the Melik-Beglarians, rulers of Artsakh’s Melikdom of Gyulistan. The castle is located in the Shahumian District.
  • Fort Mayraberd (10th-18th centuries) that 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.
  • Gevgharaga Mosque (19th century), a Persian-built mosque is located in the city of Shushi.

Section of Janapar trail
Janapar is the wandering marked trail through mountains, valleys and villages of Nagorno-Karabakh, with monasteries and fortresses along the way. The trail is broken into day hikes, which will bring you 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 you to additional parts of Karabakh. The important site passed along this hike include Dadivank Monasterymarker, Gandzasar monasterymarker, Shushimarker, the Karkar Canyon with its high cliffs, Zontik Waterfall and ruins of Hunot and Gtichavankmarker monastery.


The transportation system damaged by the conflict has been noticeably improved during the last several years: the North-South Karabakh motorway alone has largely facilitated in the development of the transportation system.

The 169-kilometer Hadrut-Stepanakert-Askeran-Martakert motorway, the locals say is the lifeline of Karabakh. $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 Yerevanmarker to the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakertmarker now takes around 4 hours instead of the former 8–9 hours.


Nagorno-Karabakh's school system was severely damaged because of the conflict. But the government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with considerable aid from the Republic of Armeniamarker and 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.

Artsakh State University was founded by Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian governments’ joint efforts, with main campus in Stepanakertmarker. The university opening ceremony took place on May 10, 1992.

Yerevan University of Management also opened a branch in Stepanakertmarker.


"We Are Our Mountains" ( ) by Sargis Baghdasaryan is a monument located in Stepanakertmarker. The sculpture is widely regarded as a symbol of the de facto independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is a large monument from tuff of an old Armenian man and woman hewn from rock, representing the mountain people of Karabagh. It is also known as "Tatik yev Papik" (Տատիկ և Պապիկ) in Eastern Armenian. The sculpture is featured prominently on Nagorno-Karabakh's coat of arms.

Artsakh State Museum is the historical museum of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Located at 4 Sasunstsi David Street, in Stepanakertmarker, the museum offers an assortment of ancient artifacts and Christian manuscripts. There's also more modern items, from the 19th century to World War II and from events of the Karabakh Independence War.

Karabakh has its own brand of popular music. As Karabakh question became a pan-Armenian question, Karabakh music was further promoted worldwide.

Also as a result of the Karabakh conflict, there has also been a series of nationalistic songs done by Karabakh artists as well as artists from Republic of Armeniamarker and the Armenian diaspora to rally support for Karabakh independence movement accompanied by footage of Karabakh military campaigns. These can be found abundantly in popular online sites such as YouTube etc, with some lively pro and anti-Karabakh discussions that these videos almost always generate.


Azat Artsakh is the official newspaper of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.


Gandzasar Cathedral
Ghazanchetots Cathedral
Dadivank Monastery
Amaras Monastery

Most of the Armenian population in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is Christian and belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Certain Orthodox Christian and Evangelical Christian denominations also exist; other religions include Judaism.

The Gandzasar monasterymarker ("Գանձասար" in Armenian) is a historical monastery in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic). Another is Dadivank Monasterymarker ( ) also Khutavank ( - Monastery on the Hill) that was built between the 9th and 13th century. The Nagorno Karabakh government’s aim is to include the Gandzasar Monastery into the directory of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Ghazanchetsots Cathedralmarker (built 1868-1888) (Սուրբ Ամենափրկիչ Ղազանչեցոց Եկեղեցի in Armenian), also known as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Shushi Cathedral, is an Armenian church located in Shushimarker, Nagorno-Karabakh. 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 Monasterymarker (4th century AD) 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 fifth century. The Amaras Monastery’s location is in the Martuni District.

Tzitzernavank Monasterymarker (4th century AD) is the best preserved example of an Armenian basilica with three naves. The monastery is in the Qashatagh District.

Saint Yeghishe Arakyal Monasterymarker (5th-13th centuries) commemorating St. Yeghishe, the famous evangelizer of Armenia’s eastern lands. The church serves as a burial ground for the fifth 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 Martakertmarker District.

Dadivank Monasterymarker (13th century) is reportedly the largest Armenian monastery in the Caucasus. The western facade of Dadivank’s Memorial Cathedral bears one of the most extensive Armenian lapidary (inscribed-in-stone) texts. Dadivank is named after St. Dadi, a disciple of Apostle Thaddeus who preached Holy Gospel in Artsakh in the first century. St. Dadi’s tomb was discovered by archeologists in 2007. The monastery is in the Shahumian District.

G'Tichavankmarker Monastery (13th century) has design features shared with the architectural style of medieval Armenia’s capital city of Ani. The monastery is located in the Hadrut 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 Monasterymarker (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 Martakertmarker District.

Church of St. Nerses the Great, is located in the city of Martuni, Karabakh. It is dedicated to the famous Armenian Catholicos, St. Nerses the Great.


Sports in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is organized by the Artsakh Ministry of Culture and Youth.

Football (soccer) remains very popular in Nagorno-Karabakh. Stepanakertmarker has its well-built football stadium. Starting in the 1990s, Karabakh teams started taking part in some Armenian leagues in the Republic of Armenia. There is also interest in other sports, including basketball and volleyball. Sailing is practiced in Martakertmarker.

Karabakh sportsmen also take part with representative teams and athletes in the Pan-Armenian Games organized in the Armenian capital Yerevanmarker.

See also


External links

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