Nagorno-Karabakh – still an open wound in the Caucasus

The anniversary of the tragedy of Khojaly reminds us of a genocide sunk into oblivion until these days


Death struck the peaceful inhabitants of Khojaly 22 years ago. The most tragic event of ethnical cleansing that had been going on for 22 years, is a national mourning day in Azerbaijan. The remembrance of the innocent victims of the slaughtered city keeps reminding us from year to year: those who commited the genocide had never to answer for their criminal deeds. The occupied cities and villages are still territories under occupation, the close to one million refugees could not return to their homes until these days. The people of Azerbaijan sheds tears for 20 thousands victims.

As for Armenia, in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh it refers to an ancient territory, to an ancient population justified to take back its historical legacy. However it is a misleading argumentation. Although as a fact there existed in the antiquity a state named Armenia, but with a changing territory and a changing status quo as well. After it lost their independent state Armenians were forced to live in Diaspora scattered in the world. The ancestors of the Azerbaijani people, the Oguz Turks ruled the region till the first third of the 19th century organized in Khanates, assuring in the Caucasus the Muslim Turk dominancy until the Russian expansions.

The status quo changed dramatically with the beginning of the conquest of the Russian Empire. After long and bloody wars Russia annexed the Caucasian Khanates of Jerevan, Nahichevan and Talis, being under a loose Persian supremacy until that time. With this annexations became complete the Russian supremacy over the territory of today Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Subsequently the Russians launched a massive colonization policy. There arrived from the Diaspora to the South-West part of the Caucasus a huge number of Christian Armenian dividing thus the territories inhabited by Turkic population and abolishing the common border between the Caucasian Turks and the Ottoman Empire (current Azerbaijan and Turkey). As a result of this Jerevan and Karabakh became regions with Armenian majority. While in the beginning of the 19th century there was only a scarce Armenian presence in the Caucasus, to the end of the same century their estimated number is already 1,3 million of settled Armenian inhabitant.

Despite of the forced settlement policy there was a peaceful coexistence between the Armenian and the native Turk population. However the fall of the Russian Empire and the communist revolution unleashed the fire of the nation conflicts in the Caucasus. In 1918, the people of Azerbaijan proclaimed the independence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, thus establishing the first Muslim democracy. Two years later the Russian communists overthrew the government and created the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1923, Armenian nationalists allied with the Soviet Union, in the interest of the 100 000 Armenian living in Azerbaijani territory, created Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. In 1948, Armenia deported 100 000 Azerbaijani and from 1988 to 1989 attempted to realize the secession of Nagorno-Karabakh.

From 1988 Armenia began with the deployment of its armed forces the displacement of Azerbaijani population from ancestral territories. The Armenian armed forces occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other Azerbaijani oblasts, taking control over almost twenty percent of the country. The military occupation did not cease until these days. The number of forcibly deported Azerbaijani refugees from Armenian territory are close to 250 000. The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes and with international terminology so called ‘internally displaced person’ (IDP) is approximately 660 000. Thus, Armenia is guilty of acts contrary to international law for committing ethnic cleansing.

The most tragic event of the conflict took place at night from February 25 to 26 when the Armenian armed forces attacked and occupied the town Khojaly and  killed 613 people, among them 106 women, 63 children and 70 old men, often with a bestial brutality. The fate of 150 of them is still unknown.

Many countries expressed their solidarity with Azerbaijan in the last years. The Armenian aggression justified the need for the Security Council of the United Nations to address the conflict and condemn the persistent acts of violation in numerous resolutions. The Security Council of the UN adopted four resolutions in the interest of an urgent and peaceful settlement, in which The Council ordered the Armenian armed forces to pull out from the occupied territories, requested the determination of the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the resolution for refugees to return to their homes. Other important resolutions were issued by: The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the NATO, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the CSCE/OSCE. The declarations of international condemnations share the same demands:

- The withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied Azerbaijani territories

- The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Armenia;

- Determination of the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan with a guaranteed high level of autonomy;

- To ensure the safe return of refugees

The anniversary of the tragedy of Khojaly is a national mourning day in Azerbaijan. Due to the still present Armenian military occupation and to the since more than two decades ongoing displacement of the refugees Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories are still bleeding wounds in the Caucasus.



Tamás Hegedűs, MP