Nagorno - Karabakh

By Maria Suarez

The pressures for independence or at least a greater measure of autonomy that emerged in the Baltic republics created more unrest within the Soviet Union during Gorbachev's period. One example is the nationalist tensions that took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region which had since 1923 formed a part of Azerbaijan republic. Nagorno-Karabakh had originally been assigned to Armenia but had then been transferred to Azerbaijan. By 1979 seventy five per cent of the population was Armenian and only twenty two per cent Azerbaijani1. There had been pressure for some years for its transfer back to Armenia and for a greater degree of autonomy for its predominantly Christian people. In 1988 the conflict opened apparently because of the rejection by the central party authorities of an appeal for Nagorno-Karabakh to be returned to Armenia. The appeal had been signed by 75.000 Karabakh Armenians2 . Demonstrations began on 11 February in Stepanakert, the regional capital; the protestation led to the adoption of a resolution by the regional soviet on February 20 which called for Nagorno-Karabakh to be transferred back to Armenia.

Further demonstrations took place in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, to support Nagornao-Karabakh's reincorporation into the republic. The demonstrations came temporarily to an end after Gorbachev intervened on February 26. The party first secretaries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh were replaced in May 1988; the Central Committee meanwhile promised that steps would be taken to improve housing, schools and hospitals in the region3.

On June 15, after further demonstrations, the Armenian Supreme Soviet voted unanimously in favor of the transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Two days after the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet also voted unanimously in accepting the vote arguing that it violated the Soviet Constitution. In July 18 the Supreme Soviet Presidium adopted a formal ruling which rejected any change in the constitutional status of Nagorno-Karebakh, but called for greater attention to be given to the concerns of the ethnic Armenians living in the region, a program of cultural and economic aid was approved. The situation stabilized temporarily. However, in January 1989 the continuing tensions led to the establishment of direct rule from Moscow, but the situation remained complicated.

The Congress of Peoples Deputies decided to elect an Azerbaijani and an Armenian to represent the region in the new Supreme Soviet. This decision created further hostility. In November 1989 the special status of Nagorno-Karabkh was abolished and in January 1990 Armenia includes Nagorno-Karabakh in its state budget. Violence and riots continued and in January 6 1992 the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh was proclaimed4. However the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued. The Soviet Unions rigid political and economic organization was able to maintain the order in the region, but when the Soviet Union collapsed, old conflicts burst in this and other regions.

  • 1. Sakwa, Richard. Russian Politics and Society. New Fetter Lane. Pg94.

  • 2. Armenia at

  • 3. IBID

  • 4. NKR, Chronology of events. 1996 seanet corporation.




Designed and maintained by Oldrich Kyn . If you want to send

a message to Oldrich Kyn  please click on the  following icon: