The Exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh: A Complex and Tumultuous History

The recent ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh has prompted the leadership of the breakaway region to make a drastic decision. The 120,000 ethnic Armenians residing in Nagorno-Karabakh have expressed their desire to leave for Armenia, fearing the possibility of ethnic cleansing. Despite the internationally recognized status of the territory as part of Azerbaijan, the Armenians in Karabakh have been beyond the control of Baku since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This unbalanced power dynamic, coupled with the 24-hour military operation conducted by the Azerbaijani military, forced the Armenians to declare a ceasefire on September 20th. Although Azerbaijan promises to guarantee their rights and integrate the region, the leadership of the Armenians in Karabakh remains resolute in their decision to leave.

A Desire for Independence

The underlying reason for the Armenians’ exodus is their aversion to living as part of Azerbaijan. According to David Babayan, an advisor to Samvel Shahramanyan, the president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, the overwhelming majority of the Armenians in Karabakh would rather leave their historic lands than remain under Azerbaijani rule. This sentiment is deeply rooted in their desire for independence and a sense of self-determination. The fate of the Karabakh Armenians is regarded as a disgrace not only for the Armenian people but also for the civilized world. It is a tragic testament to the failure of the international community to protect the rights and security of vulnerable populations.

The exodus of the Armenian population from Karabakh adds yet another twist to the tumultuous history of this mountainous region. Over the centuries, Nagorno-Karabakh has experienced the influence and domination of various powers, including Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans, and Soviets. This continuous struggle for control has shaped the complex dynamics and constant territorial disputes in the region. The departure of the Armenians could potentially alter the delicate balance of power in the South Caucasus, an area characterized by diverse ethnicities and intersecting oil and gas pipelines. Major global players such as Russia, the United States, Turkey, and Iran are currently vying for influence in the region, further complicating the situation.

Religious and Political Differences

The religious and political differences between Azerbaijan and Armenia have also played a significant role in the recent conflict. Azerbaijan, predominantly Muslim, has claimed that the Armenians, who are mainly Christian, are free to leave if they wish. On the other hand, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia has urged the Armenians in Karabakh to remain unless their safety is at risk. These contrasting perspectives highlight the deep-rooted divisions and tensions that have plagued the region for decades.

The ongoing exodus has resulted in a humanitarian crisis for the Armenians remaining in Karabakh. Thousands of people are currently without access to food and basic necessities. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the ethnic Armenian authorities in the region have welcomed humanitarian aid shipments. On Saturday, approximately 150 tons of humanitarian cargo from Russia and an additional 65 tons of flour provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived in Karabakh. While these measures provide some relief, the long-term repercussions of the crisis remain uncertain.

The exodus of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh marks a significant turning point in the history of the region. It reflects the deep-seated desire for independence and self-determination among the Armenian population. The ongoing conflicts and power struggles in Nagorno-Karabakh have resulted in a multifaceted and complex situation, with global players vying for influence in the region. The humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the exodus highlights the urgent need for international assistance and a comprehensive resolution to ensure the safety and well-being of all affected populations. Until then, the fate of the Armenians in Karabakh remains uncertain and serves as a poignant reminder of the failures of diplomacy and human rights protection.


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