As of 12:00 on September 28, 68 thousand 386 people arrived from the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) to Armenia – this is more than half the population of the region. This data is provided by the Armenian government.
Ethnic Armenians are trying to leave Nagorno-Karabakh en masse after Azerbaijan launched an “anti-terrorist operation” in the region last week, forcing the self-proclaimed republic’s authorities to surrender and local armed forces to lay down their arms. On September 28, the head of the NKR Samvel Shahramanyan signed a decree on the termination of the existence of the self-proclaimed republic from January 1, 2024 and the dissolution of all government institutions.
Once control over the region completely passes to Baku, experts believe, almost all ethnic Armenians (more than 120 thousand people) may leave the region. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at a government meeting on Thursday that there will be no Armenians left in Karabakh in the coming days.
The Azerbaijani side, in turn, calls on the Armenian residents of Nagorno-Karabakh “not to leave their places of residence and to be part of the multi-ethnic Azerbaijani society.” In the decree of the head of the NKR Shahramanyan, the population of the region, including those located outside the republic, is invited to familiarize themselves with the conditions of reintegration presented by Baku in order to decide on the possibility of staying in Karabakh.
“There will be very few of them left.” The expert talks about the exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and the future of the minority who decide to live under the rule of Baku:
The territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has been going on since the late 1980s. Populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, with the support of Armenia, declared secession from the Azerbaijan SSR, and in September 1991 announced the creation of the “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”.
During the armed conflict of 1988–1994, 30 thousand people died in the separatist region. Nagorno-Karabakh and several adjacent regions of Azerbaijan came under the de facto control of the Armenian armed forces. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly ethnic Azerbaijanis, became refugees and internally displaced persons.
The “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” is not officially recognized by any UN country, including Armenia. In 1993, the UN adopted four resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the Karabakh region and recognition of the territory as part of Azerbaijan.
After another escalation of the situation at the end of September 2020, Azerbaijan returned to its control the areas around Nagorno-Karabakh and took the ancient and symbolically significant city of Shusha (Shushi in Armenian). The day after the capture of Shushi, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a ceasefire statement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the terms of the agreement, Armenia and Azerbaijan are assigned the territories where troops were located at the time the document was signed. A Russian peacekeeping mission is stationed along the contact line.
After this, Azerbaijan began a blockade of areas of Karabakh populated by ethnic Armenians: checkpoints were set up on the only road that did not allow any cargo, including food and humanitarian aid, to enter the region. Residents of Armenian areas of Karabakh have reported hunger in recent weeks.
On September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched an “anti-terrorist operation” in the areas of Karabakh populated by ethnic Armenians: it ended with the capitulation of the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic.