The Republic of Mountainous Karabakh is an independent state with a population of 160,000 mainly ethnic Armenians. The Republic covers a 14,900 km2 region that borders Armenia to its east and Azerbaijan to its west.
Historically Armenian, Mountainous Karabakh constituted a part of larger Armenian political entities as early as the 6th century B.C. until the partition of the Kingdom Armenian by Romans and Sasanid Persians at the beginning of the 5th century A.D.
Thereafter Mountainous Karabakh was no longer in political union with the Armenian lands to the west and subsequently fell under the rule of the Persians, the now extinct Caucasian Albanians, Mongols, Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, the Persians again before being conquered by the Russian Empire in the 19th century A.D. Throughout this period, Mountainous Karabakh remained a bastion of Christendom where Armenia’s culture and civilisation resisted the ruling alien pressures.
With the withdrawal of Russian power following the Russian revolution in 1917, Armenia and the Armenian populated region of Mountainous Karabakh were immediately attacked by Ottoman Turkey and the newly formed Azerbaijani Republic.
The Azerbaijanis, who were trying to organise their own state, contested the Armenians’ right to self-rule in Mountainous Karabakh. With help from the Russian Bolsheviks, the Azeris occupied Mountainous Karabakh even though it remained populated by Armenians.
By 1920, the Soviet Red Army had occupied Azerbaijan, Mountainous Karabakh and Armenia. Both the Armenian SSR and Azerbaijani SSR placed claims on Mountainous Karabakh and for a short time it was returned to Armenia.
However on 5 July 1921, Joseph Stalin reversed the decision. With altered boundaries, so that Mountainous Karabakh was cut off from Armenia and was smaller in size, the Armenian populated region became an autonomous enclave of the Azerbaijani SSR.
The next 70-plus years witnessed Azerbaijani persecution of Mountainous Karabakh Armenians in an attempt to drive them from the region and replace them with Azerbaijanis to appropriate the region ethnically as well as politically.
In the Gorbachev era of glasnost, the Armenians of the Armenian SSR brought the persecution of their brethren to the world’s attention through massive peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, in February 1988.
By openly and bravely protesting Soviet ethnic injustice for the first time, the reform movement in Mountainous Karabakh ignited the independence movements in the Soviet Bloc of Eastern Europe. The “Karabakh Movement” is thus the grandfather of freedom not only in the USSR for Eastern Europe in its entirety.
Following pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait and Kirovabad-Ganja in 1988, joint Soviet-Azerbaijani forces deported Armenians living in towns and villages of Azerbaijan bordering Mountainous Karabakh and in January of 1990 there was a massacre of the Armenians in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.
When the Azerbaijanis began an outright military assault on the Armenians of Mountainous Karabakh, the native Armenians took up arms to defend their homes, their land, and their ancient culture. The Armenians were fighting for self-preservation and for the right of self-determination, while the Azerbaijanis were fighting to expel an ancient people from their historic homeland and to preserve power over a foreign province.
As a result of the Azerbaijani-declared war on Mountainous Karabakh, the native Armenians were forced to resist and subsequently were able to repel the Azerbaijani forces, thus sustaining military control over much of the region. The Armenian forces of Mountainous Karabakh were able to secure Mountainous Karabakh and many bordering provinces which had traditionally been Armenian yet placed within the borders of Azerbaijan proper as a result of Stalin’s border altering. One such Armenian region, Shahumyan, north of Mountainous Karabakh remains under the control of Azerbaijani forces.
On 10 December 1992, the people of Mountainous Karabakh voted to establish an independent republic. Thus the people of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh today live in relative peace as a result of the security fostered by democratic self-determination and the cease-fire that has been in place and holding since 1994.
The people and government of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh remain committed to a peaceful resolution insisting that the only means to a secure outcome is self determination or union with the Republic of Armenia.
The Karabakh conflict continues to be mediated by the OSCE under Russian, United States of America and French leadership.