On Sept. 27, historic violence flared between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries located near the border of Asia and Europe.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are clashing over a territory known as Nagorno-Karabakh. While Nagorno-Karabakh is formally recognized as Azerbaijan territory, the region is ruled by an Armenian majority.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are disputing who provoked the attacks in the past week. Yet, they continue to use long-range rocket artillery and combat drones, destroying civilian infrastructure, an airport, and historical buildings. So far, more than 400 people have been killed on both sides of the conflict, and hundreds have been wounded.
This mountainous region has been a source of conflict between the two countries since the early 1990s. Let’s take a closer look at this history of this conflict.
History Behind Nagorno-Karabakh
In the early 1900s, the Soviet Union, now Russia, controlled more than 15 countries in Europe and Asia, two of which included Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In 1923, the Soviet Union declared Nagorno-Karabakh to be part of Azerbaijan, despite the region having an Armenian majority. Nagorno-Karabakh developed steadily over the next sixty years.
Starting in 1988, as the Soviet Union gradually loosened control, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh demanded that the region be transferred to Armenia. Azerbaijan strongly denied this, intent on keeping its borders firm. Tensions continued to mount between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Armenia and Azerbaijan gained independence, the two countries went to war. Between 1988 and 1994, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 people were killed and almost one million were forced to flee their homes due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The conflict ended in 1994 with a cease-fire, but no peace treaty was signed. This has left the status of Nagorno-Karabakh uncertain; Armenia and Azerbaijan have had small conflicts over the region ever since.
What’s Happening Now?
It remains unclear who instigated the recent clash, but journalists say that the region has not faced such attacks since the war in 1994. For the tenth day (as of Oct. 6), the two sides have been in conflict.
Turkey has been an ally of Azerbaijan in the past and Armenia’s prime minister said he was confident Russia would help defend Nagorno-Karabakh based on previous treaty agreements. The potential for Turkey and Russia to be on opposite sides of the conflict could be dangerous, according to analysts.
The president of Iran expressed concerns that this situation could turn into a “regional war.” U.S., France, and Russia disapproved of the fighting in the region, and have called for a ceasefire. Many neighboring countries also hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan will enter peace talks soon.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Armenia’s prime minister announced that Armenia is willing to make a compromise if Azerbaijan is ready to do the same.
Sources: CNN, Washington Post, CBS, New York Times, Britannica, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Al Jazeera