This area of the Caucasus contains peoples who were opposed to each other before the Russians exercised imperial control. The control from Moskva weakened after the break up of the USSR and the hostilities have been freed to be expressed again.

Apart from general cultural hatred the cause of conflict is an enclave (Nagorno- Karabakh - northern Karabakh) inhabited mainly by Armenians but politically part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Stalin defined the frontiers and the recent leadership of the USSR seemed unable to change that decision.

Sensing that there was no will to stop them the Azeris tried to expel the Armenians. Both sides armed themselves.

Both republics were heading for independence outside the Soviet Union even before the final abolition of the USSR. Though both joined the Commonwealth of Independent States there are signs that this grouping has no power to prevent the war which had begun by December 1991.

By February 1992 it had become a quite nasty little hot war with great destruction of cities and villages by both sets of fighters. There have been massacres. It has spread to become a major war between the main republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as both have armed themselves and the former Soviet army has withdrawn. By June 1992 the war had spread to the Azeri enclave of Nakhichevan which is separated from the main part of Azerbaijan by a part of Armenia. Moreover, the Armenians had captured a corridor from Armenia to Karabakh. Azerbaijan may ally itself with Turkey, which would like to control the oil, and has its own traditional enmity to Armenians. There were reports in July 1992 that "retired" Turkish officers are assisting the Azeri forces.

By April 1993 Armenia had occupied large parts of Azerbaijan to incorporate Karabakh. This increased the interest of Turkey and Iran.

In November 2009 the president of Azerbaijan has been making belligerent speeches about regaining the lost territory. Is the war going to revive?


Last revised 18/12/10


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Since 18/12/10

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