Nagorno Karabakh will no longer exist from next year How did

Nagorno-Karabakh will no longer exist from next year. How did that happen? -CNN


The self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh will cease to exist from next year after its president signed a decree dissolving state institutions following its defeat by Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s victory last week sparked a massive exodus of ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh and marked the end of decades of conflict – and potentially the end of centuries of Armenian presence in the region.

President Samvel Shahramanyan’s decree called for the dissolution of all institutions and organizations of the Republic of Artsakh – which is not internationally recognized – from January 1, 2024. “The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) ceases to exist,” the decree said .

Azerbaijan regained control of the breakaway region last week after just a 24-hour offensive.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan’s borders but has operated autonomously for decades and has its own de facto government.

Azerbaijan has long recognized that Karabakh Armenians face a choice: stay and accept Azerbaijani citizenship, or leave. The majority of the population has already voted with their feet: tens of thousands have fled their ancestral homeland rather than submit to Baku’s rule.

Vasily Krestyaninov/AP

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh walk along the road leading from Nagorno-Karabakh to Kornidzor, Armenia, on Tuesday, September 26.

Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

A woman cries in a truck after crossing the border near Kornidzor on Wednesday, September 27.

Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

People from Nagorno-Karabakh board a bus near a Red Cross registration center in Goris, Armenia, on September 27.

Iraqi Gedenidze/Portal

David Harapetyan, an ethnic Armenian and taxi driver who came to Kornidzor from Russia to provide aid, presents food and water to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27.

Maxar Technologies

This satellite image shows a long traffic jam of vehicles along the Lachin corridor as ethnic Armenians flee Nagorno-Karabakh on September 26. Nagorno-Karabakh has been under a blockade since December, when Azerbaijan-backed militants set up a military checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, a road connecting the landlocked enclave with Armenia. The road was only recently opened to allow residents to escape.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Azerbaijani soldiers direct traffic as people wait in their cars to leave for Armenia September 26.

Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

People stay in a hotel room in Goris after crossing the Armenian border on September 26.

Vasily Krestyaninov/AP

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh line up to receive humanitarian aid at a makeshift camp in Goris on September 26.

Vasily Krestyaninov/AP

A girl from Nagorno-Karabakh looks out of a car while traveling to Armenia on September 26.

Astrig Agopian/Getty Images

Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, speaks to the press after visiting the humanitarian center in Kornidzor on September 26. Power said that many of those who arrived suffered from “severe malnutrition,” according to doctors on site. “It is absolutely critical that independent monitors and humanitarian organizations are given access to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh who still need urgent assistance,” she said.

Astrig Agopian/Getty Images

Volunteers in Kornidzor distribute apples to people from Nagorno-Karabakh on September 26.

Iraqi Gedenidze/Portal

Karine Djagaryan, who fled Nagorno-Karabakh, hugs her father Novlet as they meet in Kornidzor on September 26.

Astrig Agopian/Getty Images

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in Kornidzor on September 26.

Astrig Agopian/Getty Images

On Monday, September 25, a family arrives at the Red Cross humanitarian center set up in Kornidzor.

After generations of intermittent wars and fragile ceasefires, the suddenness with which Nagorno-Karabakh fell into the hands of Azerbaijani troops – and with which the ethnic Armenian population rushed to evacuate – is shocking.

Azerbaijan launched its offensive on September 19, firing missiles and drones at the regional capital Stepanakert. This marked the beginning of a third war for control of the region in as many decades.

Under the Soviet Union, of which both Azerbaijan and Armenia were former members, Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region within the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Karabakh officials passed a resolution in 1988 declaring their intention to join the Republic of Armenia. This led to fighting as the Soviet Union began to fall apart, which became the First Karabakh War. About 30,000 people were killed in the six years of violence that ended in 1994 when the Armenian side gained control of the region.

After years of sporadic clashes, the Second Karabakh War began in 2020. Azerbaijan, with the support of its historic ally Turkey, recaptured a third of Karabakh’s territory in just 44 days before both sides agreed to lay down their arms in a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Check out this interactive content on

But the third war was only supposed to last one day. The Karabakh presidency said its army was “many times” superior to Azerbaijani forces and had no choice but to surrender and agree to “the dissolution and complete disarmament of its armed forces,” with Azerbaijan killing at least 200 people at the time many hundreds more were injured. A second ceasefire – also brokered by Russia – came into force on September 20th at 1 p.m.

The speed of Karabakh’s surrender was a measure of its military inferiority. Armed with Turkish drones, Azerbaijan won a crushing victory in 2020, attacking not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also Armenia itself. Unlike in 2020, the Armenian armed forces did not attempt to defend the region in the latest offensive – also out of fear of further Azerbaijani aggression.

“They have such an advantage that they could easily split Armenia in two,” Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group senior analyst for the South Caucasus, told CNN. “Only through a very short military operation. It’ll probably take a day or two for it to happen.”

Karabakh’s desperation was Baku’s triumph. In a speech to the nation on Wednesday evening, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev announced that his armed forces had “appropriately punished the enemy” and that Baku had restored its sovereignty “with an iron fist.”

Shahramanyan, the region’s president, said Thursday he signed the decree “due to the current difficult military-political situation.” The Azerbaijani presidency had previously insisted that the Artsakh government – ​​as well as its armed forces – also dissolve. It warned that if they did not do so, the offensive would continue “until the end.”

The day after the ceasefire, Baku sent representatives to meet with Karabakh officials and discuss “reintegration.” Few details have been released about the talks, but Azerbaijan has long been vocal about the choice facing ethnic Armenians in the region.

In a speech in May, he said Karabakh officials must “bow their necks” and accept full integration with Azerbaijan.

Farid Shafiyev, chairman of the Center for the Analysis of International Relations in Baku – an organization involved in government discussions on “reintegration” – told CNN: “Those who do not want to accept Azerbaijani jurisdiction must leave.” Those who want to stay and the passports If you want to get something, you’re welcome to stay.”

Aliyev claimed that the rights of Karabakh Armenians would be “guaranteed,” but Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and international experts have repeatedly warned of the danger of ethnic cleansing.

Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands have chosen to flee to Armenia rather than live under Azerbaijani rule.

For many Karabakh Armenians, the “choice” that Azerbaijan offered was no choice at all. “I can’t trust them and their false promises,” Siranush Sargsyan, a local journalist from Stepanakert, told CNN.

Anna Ohanyan, a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said she feared what would happen to local residents who chose to stay and tried to be denied Azerbaijani citizenship.

“If the Armenian community didn’t leave but also didn’t accept Azerbaijani passports, I think it would basically be suicide,” Ohanyan told CNN.

Will there be any Armenians left?

More than half of the local population had fled Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia by Thursday morning. Many had no hope of ever returning to their ancestral homeland.

“They changed our flag, our government surrendered. That’s all. Within maybe two weeks, no Armenian will be left here,” Nonna Poghosyan, program coordinator at the American University of Armenia in Stepanakert, told CNN.

Ohanyan said the best-case scenario would be for Azerbaijan to create “a Potemkin village” – a fake settlement designed to give a false image to the outside world, like the one once used to impress Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

“But in the long term, I think there will be a systematic push and continued demographic manipulation to push Armenian communities out of the region,” Ohanyan said.

Images shared with CNN showed long lines of cars along the Lachin corridor – the only road connecting the enclave with Armenia – as thousands of residents tried to flee at the same time.

Maxar Technologies

Lines of cars can be seen around the Lachin corridor as thousands fled Nagorno-Karabakh.

Poghosyan arrived in Armenia on Thursday morning with her husband, twin children, parents and grandmother. She said it took the seven of them 35 hours to complete what would normally be a 45-minute drive, so confusing was the road.

Pashinyan said in a speech on Sunday that his government would “welcome our sisters and brothers of Nagorno-Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia with all care.”

But it remains unclear how well Armenia – a country of around 2.8 million people – is prepared to receive up to 120,000 arrivals from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Many of the refugees ended up in makeshift refugee camps in the border towns of Goris and Kornidzor. During a visit to Armenia, US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power warned those arriving that they were suffering from “severe malnutrition.”

Astrig Agopian/Getty Images

Power warned of the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation during a visit to Kornidzor on September 26, 2023.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under a blockade since December 2022, when Azerbaijan-backed militants set up a military checkpoint on the Lachin corridor.

The blockade prevented food, fuel and medicine from entering Nagorno-Karabakh and raised fears that residents would starve. CNN spoke to residents of Stepanakert, the region’s capital, before the offensive began, who said they had to wait in line for hours every day to receive their daily ration of bread. The blockade was only lifted last week to allow residents to escape.

Analysts told CNN before the evacuations began that they feared Azerbaijan could prevent certain members of the population from leaving.

Crisis Group’s Vartanyan said she was concerned about who would manage the routes to Armenia. “Will it be Russian peacekeepers, the ICRC or will it be the Azerbaijani authorities?” she asked. “Does this mean people have to go through filter camps? And will people then be arrested – for example the local men who took part in the fighting in the past, or those who were part of the local de facto authorities?”

“One of the most important things that the people of Stepanakert did over the weekend was to burn all possible documents that could serve as evidence to the Azerbaijani authorities that they were personally part of the de facto government,” Vartanyan said.

According to the border service, on Wednesday Ruben Vardanyan, a well-known politician and businessman from Karabakh, was arrested at a border checkpoint on the Lachin corridor and taken to Baku. Azerbaijan claimed Vardanyan entered the country illegally, without elaborating. Baku has long claimed that the Artsakh government has operated illegally on its territory.

National Assembly of the Republic of Artsakh/PHOTOLURE/AP/FILE

Shakhramanyan signed the decree on Thursday, agreeing to the dissolution of the Artsakh state starting next year.

In the decree signed on Thursday, President Shahramanyan called on Azerbaijan to allow the “free, unrestricted and unhindered passage of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, including militants who have laid down their arms, with their property and transport through the Lachin Corridor.” .