The government of Armenia said late yesterday evening, Sunday, that 1,050 people had crossed into the country from Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan inhabited by a majority of Armenians.
The government added in a statement, “As of 22:00 (1800 GMT), 1,050 people had entered Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Armenians in Karabakh began a mass exodus in cars yesterday, Sunday, towards Armenia after Azerbaijan defeated the fighters of the separatist region in a conflict dating back to the Soviet era.
For its part, the leadership of the separatist region told Reuters earlier yesterday that the 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh will leave for Armenia because they do not want to live under the sovereignty of Azerbaijan and fear ethnic cleansing.
Meanwhile, a Reuters correspondent in the capital of Karabakh, known as Stepanakert to Armenians and Khankendi to Azerbaijan, said that those with fuel headed in their cars through the Lachin Corridor towards the border with Armenia.
Reuters pictures showed dozens of cars leaving the capital at night towards the mountain pass full of curves.
The Armenians in Karabakh, a region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but previously outside Baku’s control, were forced to declare a ceasefire on September 20 after a lightning military operation carried out by Azerbaijan’s more numerous and powerful army within 24 hours.
While Azerbaijan says it will guarantee their rights and integrate the region into the rest of the country, Armenians say they fear repression.
A mass exodus could change the delicate balance of power in the South Caucasus region, which is inhabited by a mix of ethnicities and has oil and gas pipelines running through it, and Russia, the United States, Turkey and Iran are fighting for influence there.
Displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh (Reuters)
It is noteworthy that the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Armenians know as Artsakh, is in an area controlled for centuries by the Persians, Turks, Russians, Ottomans, and Soviets. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia claimed sovereignty over it after the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917. During the Soviet era, it was classified as an autonomous region within Azerbaijan.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenians there shook off Azerbaijan’s nominal control and seized neighboring territories in what is now known as the First Karabakh War. About 30,000 were killed and more than a million were displaced, most of them from Azerbaijan, in the period from 1988 to 1994.
After decades-long skirmishes, Azerbaijan won in 2020, with the support of Turkey, the decisive 44-day Second Karabakh War and regained control over areas in and around Karabakh. That war ended with a Russian-brokered peace agreement, and Armenians accuse Moscow of failing to ensure its implementation.