Why Armenians and Azeris Are Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh

The Armenian-controlled enclave in the middle of Azerbaijan has been contested since 1994, when a full-scale war killed 30,000 and displaced an estimated 1 million people.

The Associated Press
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The Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan.
The Associated Press

Since 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh, where heavy fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces erupted Saturday, has existed in a tense limbo.

This mountainous region of Azerbaijan, with about 150,00 residents in an area of 12,000 square kilometers (4,400 square miles) — somewhat smaller than the U.S. state of Connecticut — has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military since the end of a full-scale war that killed about 30,000 and displaced an estimated 1 million.

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Long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris began boiling over as the Soviet Union frayed in its final years. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and the republics became independent nations, war broke out.

A 1994 cease-fire left Armenian and Azerbaijani forces facing each other across a demilitarized zone, where clashes were frequently reported. International mediation efforts to determine the region's final status have brought little visible progress. The unresolved conflict has been an economic blow to Armenia because Turkey has closed its border with Armenia, leaving the country with open borders only with Georgia and Iran.