The Armenian-Azerbaijan War: Explained
In September of 2020, while we were watching the US Presidential Debates, checking the Coronavirus case numbers, surviving through the daily hassles of online work and school, a full-scale war broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a centre of the long-standing and bitter dispute between these countries.
The death toll numbered in the thousands, and after one and a half month of relentless drone strikes and bombardment of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Armenia finally surrendered and Azerbaijan celebrated its victory with involvement from Russia and Turkey.
All that happened in the 2 months that just passed, but there is more to the story than just that.
Nagorno-Karabakh is located in the caucuses, as shown in the map, it is a land located within Azerbaijan, and is internationally recognised as being a part of Azerbaijan, but here is the complication, it is a region backed by Armenia, with a mostly ethnic Armenian population, with the regions surrounding it being Armenian controlled (before war). The countries around Armenia and Azerbaijan are Iran, which borders both the nations, Turkey, an extremely strong ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which supplies weapons to both.
What led to the status quo: The Armenian Perspective
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been one with a majority of ethnic Armenian Population for thousands of years and is dotted with medieval Armenian Churches and has been a fiercely independent Armenian entity. But in the last few hundred years, a lot of Azeri had migrated to the place forming a strong minority. Tensions first rose when, in the 1980s, Soviet Russia gave control of the region to Azerbaijan despite its majority Armenian population. This enticed a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh as the people of the region voted for it to no longer be a part of Azerbaijan. Armenians were enraged at how easily a region that belonged to them and had their population was taken away. The Kara Bagh movement was started in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh which protested and called for the unification.
The War in the 1990s
After the fall of the Soviet Union, both regions declared independence, with Azerbaijan claiming Nagorno-Karabakh, and a brutal and ravenous all-out war broke out. About 30 Thousand people died, and the Azeri people living in Nagorno-Karabakh were displaced from the region. Fighting continued for three more years until finally, Armenia won, and hence a ceasefire was brokered between the two nations by Russia. As a result, Armenia occupied several regions of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh as well. Armenians settled in the towns around it and these towns were renamed in Armenian. Despite all this, Nagorno-Karabakh was still recognised as a part of Azerbaijan, and the tension never died down.
The year where it all seems to be going wrong. After the ceasefire, there had been small aggressions between Armenia and Azerbaijan but never a full-scale war. But that changed in 2020. With the help of Turkey, Azerbaijan had boosted its military prowess and had been preparing for an advance on Armenia for a long time, when finally, in September, on the 27th, it happened. Explosions broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, and in a mostly one-sided conflict, Azerbaijan swept away through Armenian occupied territories in a brutal bombardment which saw thousands of soldiers and civilians losing their lives and Armenia surrendering.
The war ended with a peace deal, hence again brokered by Russia, it saw Azerbaijan gain the areas it captured, as indicated by the colour blue in the map, while the region in red, which has the majority of ethnic Armenians will be taken over by Russian and Turkish Peacekeepers.
The region belonging historically to Armenia was cut off and taken away from it in a brutal display of warfare. Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have burnt their houses and been forced to flee. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. While Azerbaijan is celebrating, and Russia and Turkey get strategic rewards, Armenia is now in complete turmoil.
After the peace deal, protests have broken out in Armenia calling for the Prime Minister to resign. And the peace deal is just that, a deal, not peace. Which means there is more to this conflict.
Let’s not forget, all of this is happening amidst a Global pandemic.