Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenian Exodus


René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

6 Oct 2023 – After the 19 September 2023 attacks of the Azari military on the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and the 20 September surrender of the Armenian forces in the enclave, called by the Armenians the Republic of Artsakh, a chapter of the conflict begun in 1988 as the Soviet Union was disintegrating was closed.

In 1988, the human rights defenders in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia were playing an increasing positive and self-disciplined role.  They had become not only defenders of the rights of Armenians, but also a vanguard force in the struggle for perestroika and therefore an example to other republics within the USSR.  The Nagorno-Karabakh activists became the forefront of a coherent grassroots movement for constitutional rights, meaningful elections, freedom of the press, and other democratic structures.  As their work became more effective, there was repression against them until the disintegration of the USSR.

Now, nearly all the 120,000 Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh have fled to Armenia and are likely to be replaced in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azaris, some of whom had lived there and fled early fighting, especially the fighting in 1992.

In opening my file on Nagorno-Karabakh, I found my 1992 Appeal to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (as it was then) “deploring the loss of life and calling on the parties concerned to permit international human rights non-governmental organizations to conduct a full investigation of the situation as well as for the immediate intervention of U.N. forces to monitor a ceasefire.” I went on ” The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is extremely dangerous, not only for the people immediately involved but for the whole area.  The problem has deep historical roots, yet we are not prisoners of history.

There are ethnic and national aspects to the conflict, but we are not prisoners of our ethnic identities.  New forms of cooperation among people living in the area need to be found, but a search for such cooperation cannot be undertaken in a situation of war.  The latest aggravation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh underscores the important role that the international community could assume in the search for a peaceful solution and the respect for human rights.

The turn of events also underscores the missed opportunities by the international community, including this Commission.  When, during the past four years, early warnings of violence were loud and clear, the international community simply chose to ignore the warnings.”

The warnings continued to be ignored.  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) created the Minsk Group to facilitate negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan but no visible progress was made.  The Association of World Citizens encouraged Track Two informal meetings.  However, there have been few, and those individuals who had participated often had a difficult time within their home community.  Popular opinion has been so manipulated by political leaders that it is difficult to advocate a compromise solution.

Now, attention needs to be focused on what may develop concerning Nakhitghevan, an Azari enclave in Armenia near Iran with a possible link to Turkey.  The international community must stay on alert.


René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Oct 2023.

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