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The Mass Exodus of Ethnic Armenians: Implications and Uncertainties in Nagorno-Karabakh

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The recent military operation conducted by Azerbaijan to recapture the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has resulted in tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians fleeing the region. According to officials, virtually the entire ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh has left, with the last buses carrying refugees departing on Monday.[0] The exodus began after the counter-terrorist operation of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces on September 19-20, leading to an estimated 100,000 people leaving Karabakh.[1]

The self-declared republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been a point of contention between Azerbaijan and Armenia, will cease to exist from next year.[2] The region's president, Samvel Shahramanyan, signed a decree dissolving state institutions following its defeat to Azerbaijan.[2] This marks a significant victory for Azerbaijan and has further fueled the mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the area.[3]

Since September 19, more than 88,000 people have crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh, accounting for over 80% of the Armenian population in the region.[4] The influx of displaced people poses serious challenges for Armenia, which is already struggling to accommodate them.[5] The country, with a population of under 3 million, is receiving the refugees, but there is a lack of knowledge and capacity to integrate such a large number of traumatized individuals.[6]

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has a long and complex history. The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020 resulted in major territorial losses for the region, despite support from Armenia.[7] Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, reclaimed a significant portion of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories. Under a Russia-brokered ceasefire, Armenian troops agreed to leave the region, and Russian peacekeepers were deployed to maintain stability.[6] However, since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, hostilities have periodically erupted along the new front lines between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.[3]

The recent events have raised questions about the future of Russian peacekeepers in the region. Azerbaijan's military operation has led many in Azerbaijan to wonder if the peacekeepers will continue to stay. While the Russian peacekeepers have stated they will monitor the situation, many Armenians do not trust their promises, citing Russia's focus on Ukraine as a potential distraction from the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.[3]

The influx of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh has sparked concerns about the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from the region. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan described the situation as an act of ethnic cleansing. The exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh has led to uncertainty about the future of the region and the residents who remain.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh revolves around the question of the disputed region's independence. Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, seeks to regain control over the area, while Armenia, with its historic ties to the region, has acted as a protective power for the ethnic Armenians living there. The conflict is further complicated by religious and ethnic differences, with Azerbaijan being predominantly Muslim and Armenia being majority Christian.[7]

The recent developments in Nagorno-Karabakh have had significant implications for the region's population and the geopolitical dynamics in the area. The mass exodus of ethnic Armenians and the dissolution of the self-declared republic of Nagorno-Karabakh mark a turning point in the long-standing conflict. The future of the region remains uncertain, with questions surrounding the role of Russian peacekeepers and the fate of the displaced population.

0. “Nagorno-Karabakh enclave emptied after entire ethnic Armenian population flees” ABC News, 2 Oct. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/International/nagorno-karabakh-enclave-emptied-entire-armenian-population-flees/story?id=103655356

1. “What will happen next in Nagorno-Karabakh” JAMnews, 2 Oct. 2023, https://jam-news.net/baku-has-won-armenians-are-leaving-nk-opinions-of-all-sides-of-the-conflict

2. “After Azerbaijan's Victory, Republic Of Karabakh Will Cease To Exist: Report” NDTV, 29 Sep. 2023, https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/after-azerbaijans-victory-republic-of-karabakh-will-cease-to-exist-report-4434136

3. “Armenian Separatists Dissolve Government to End Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict” Foreign Policy, 29 Sep. 2023, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/09/29/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh-refugees-exodus-separatists-russia-peacekeepers

4. “Former official says ‘almost no Armenians left' in Nagorno-Karabakh region” UPI News, 30 Sep. 2023, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2023/09/30/armenia-refugees-flee-nagorno-karabakh-region/1391696092500/

5. “‘It’s a ghost town’: UN arrives in Nagorno-Karabakh to find ethnic Armenians have fled” The Guardian, 3 Oct. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/02/nagorno-karabakh-ghost-town-un-ethnic-armenians-azerbaijan

6. “Responding to the Humanitarian Catastrophe in Nagorno-Karabakh” Crisis Group, 29 Sep. 2023, https://www.crisisgroup.org/responding-humanitarian-catastrophe-nagorno-karabakh

7. “What's behind the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh?” DW (English), 28 Sep. 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/whats-behind-the-conflict-over-nagorno-karabakh/a-66951971

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