The Issue of the Security Zone in the Context of the Artsakh Conflict: Part 1

The Republic of Armenia has proclaimed the peaceful and fair solution of the Karabakh issue on the basis of self-determination of Artsakh people, as one of the supremacies of its foreign policy. However, it is obvious that today the peaceful regulation of the Artsakh conflict first of all has an importance of national security, hence, it is not contingently in the focus of political research. This problem is a complex of a range of separate components that include problems concerning the status of Nagorno Karabakh, refugees, the lands beyond Nagorno Karabakh territory, establishment of a humanitarian passageway, the prospect of allocating international peacekeeping forces, etc. Negotiations on the issue of Artsakh, currently, are being conducted within the scope of the “Madrid Principles”, which generally refer to the above mentioned problems. Therefore, each of those problems needs a comprehensive observation.

The objective of the current analysis is to present the issue of the status of the security zone within the 20th century, to clarify the contradictions upon those in the current stage of negotiations through the succession of cause and effect relations, as well as to reveal the objective argumentations underlain the opposing opinions.

Since the declaration of independence of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, cumulative political map of the two independent states has been circulating, which often do not precisely picture the current borders of the RNK, including the “security zone”, the lands beyond Nagorno Karabakh territory, in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The “security zone: refers to those regions of Nagorno Karabakh which were incorporated to the Azerbaijan SSR according to the decree of 5 July, 1921, which, however, the latter did not include in the Autonomous Region of NK created in 1923. Those regions are Kalbajar, Lachin, Kubuntu Zengilan, Jabrayil and the western parts of Fizuli and Aghdam, which Armenians often call “liberated territories” in response to the “occupied territories” called by Azeris. Discussions on the vision of the future of these very regions have an important part in the negotiations carried on in the frameworks of the Minsk Group. While the “Madrid Principles” directly assume to surrender some part of those regions to Azerbaijan and to establish a passageway between the NKR and the AR only on some piece of the “security zone”. Disagreements about the problem of the “surrender of the territories” are characteristic among political and public sections. Some are inclined to believe that right from the start a control has been established over those regions in anticipation of “exchanging” those regions with the NKR’s recognition by Azerbaijan in the course of negotiations. Hence, taking into account the pragmatism and the logic of compromising negotiations, those regions should be surrendered to Azerbaijan, to finally solve the Artsakh conflict. The opponents of this viewpoint argue that those regions are not only historically Armenian territories that have been devastated and isolated from the NKAR by Azerbaijan tyranny, but also have a great strategic importance in frontier-defense of the NKR and the AR. Moreover, Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly announced that even in the case of surrendering those territories the future of Nagorno Karabakh is possible only within the borders of the AR.

In fact, to understand the essence of the problem of the security zone, it is necessary to observe the conflict not from the 1980s onwards, but since the situation developed in the region in the 1910s. Study of the situation of those lands during the 20th century will give a possibility to conceive the essence of the problem and make logical deductions about their future in the 21th century. Therefore, the review of the security zone gives an opportunity to realize one of the most important problems of the Artsakh conflict, round which the existing disagreements often create obstacles in searching compromising options.

The Establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region

The territory of Nagorno Karabakh nowadays includes the Middle-land of Artsakh region of Greater Armenia, i.e. the territory between Syunik and Kura. Though during the 16-18thcenturies Turkish nomadic tribes had invaded Artsakh from the North, Melikdoms of Karabakh preserved their independence for a long time. The treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay asserted the entrance of Artsakh into the possession of Russia in the 19th century. As a result of administrative reforms carried out in the Tsardom of Russia in the 19th century, Karabakh became a part of Yelizavetpol province, moreover, Gulistan entered the district of Yelizavetpol, Jraberd entered the district of Jevanshir, Varanda and Khachen entered Shushi district, Dizak the districts of Shushi and Karyagino. All in all, in 1917, historically and geographically Karabakh included Yelizavetpol, Ghazakh, Shushi, Karyagino and Javanshir districts, where Armenians made up the 75,46% of the whole population. This situation was maintained till February and October revolutions in 1917. Following events brought to a continuous change of authorities, however, Karabakh was considered in the unity with the lands beyond Nagorno Karabakh territory.

After the October revolution the danger of seclusion, confronting the Musavat-Turkish attacks and the establishment of local governmental bodies were priorities for Armenians living in Artsakh. On May, 1918, with the dissolution of the Democratic Federal Republic of Transcaucasia and the declaration of independence of three republics, a territorial fight began between the states that had newly achieved independence. Karabakh became the apple of discord of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. To visualize the borders of Karabakh in 1918, let us view the reference formed by compatriotic union of Karabakh in Tiflis on 10 July, wherein Karabakh included Yelizavetpol, Javanshir, Shushi, Karyagino and Zangezur mountainous districts. After the Armistice of Mudros English position was established in the territory. The general-prefecture created by the latter included the regions of Zangezur, Shushi, Javanshir and Karyagino(Jabrayil). At the 4th conference of Karabakh-Armenians carried out in Shushi on 10 February, 1919, the draft of provisional governance was adopted, wherein, particularly, was mentioned, “The mountainous areas of Shushi, Karyagino, Javanashir (Jraberd) and Yelizavetpol(Gulistan) regions are called Armenian Karabakh”.

With sovietization of Azerbaijan on April, 1920, territorial demands from Armenia became more rigorous, and with sovietization of Armenia the Armenian-Azerbaijani fight restarted.

So far Zangezur was independent, the solution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict seemed to be in favour of Armenia. According to the resolution of the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party of Russia, on 3 June, it was ordered to announce that “Nagorno Karabakh belonged to Armenia”. The issue was brought up to discussion in the session of the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party of Russia, on 4 July, 1921, where it was decided to make the mountainous area of Karabakh a part of Armenia and to carry out a referendum there. The resolution was objected by the head of Azerbaijani delegation, Narimanov, and as a result the discussion of the issue was carried to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russia. According to the resolution passed on 5 July, Nagorno Karabakh had to be included in the Azerbaijan SSR on condition to provide it with a regional self-government and the borders of the autonomous region would be decided by the Central Committee of Azerbaijan.

However, the authorities of Azerbaijan had been delaying the creation of the autonomous region continuously for 2 years. During that time there were serious oppositions between Armenian and Islamic population of Nagorno Karabakh and Lower Karabakh. From the letters addressed to the Center it was obvious that Azerbaijani authorities could not manage to establish order and the inhabitants of Nagorno Karabakh were continuously complaining against the ruling authorities and asking for making Nagorno Karabakh a part of Armenia. On its turn Armenian authorities were addressing the Transcaucasian Committee to demand the creation of the autonomous region from Azerbaijan. There were disagreements about the borders of the autonomous region. Armenians offered to separate the areas populated by Armenians by solving the problem of borders on the basis of ethnicity. However, Azerbaijani authorities solving the problem of borders simultaneously were giving a solution to other problems. The town of Shushi was planned to make a part of Nagorno Karabakh, to formulate two regions from Lower Karabakh and Kurdistan region from the areas populated by Kurds. As a result, according to the decree of the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan on 7 July, 1923, Karabakh was divided into three parts: Nagorno Karabakh, center – Khankendi (Stepanakert), Lower Karabakh and Kurdistan. Azerbaijani authorities isolated Nagorno Karabakh from Armenia on purpose, creating in between those the so called “Red Kurdistan”. From lowlands of Karabakh the regions of Aghdam and Jabrayil were formulated.

The idea of the creation of the “Red Kurdistan” became the basis for separating Dashkens (Karhat), Kalbajar (Karavajar), Shahumyan, Khanlar (historical Gulistan), Kubatli, Zengilan, Fizuli, Horadiz and other regions (in some regions Armenians were the majority) from Nagorno Karabakh. And by the separation of Lachin the autonomous region populated by Armenians was deprived of the land communication with Armenia. During the war the enemy has used these very regions to fire upon Armenian villages and to isolate Artsakh.

In fact, the lands beyond Nagorno Karabakh territory on 7 July, 1923, still were an inseparable part of Karabakh and only by the obstinate efforts of Azerbaijani authorities those were separated and put into the subjection of the Central authority, with the purpose of isolating the areas of Artsakh, inhabited by Armenians, from Armenia to weaken Artsakh-Armenians’ striving for uniting with their homeland.

In the succeeding analyses the issue of the “security zone” during the war of 1991-1994 in the context of ongoing negotiations will be presented, as well as the importance of those lands for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh will be analyzed.

[i] Melikdoms of Gulistan (former regions of Shahumyan and Khanlar of the Azerbaijan SSR), Jraberd (northern and central parts of the NKR Martakert region), Varanda (the NKR Askeran, Shushi and Martuni regions), Khachen (central districts of the NKR) and Dizak (the regions of Hadrut, Fizuli, Zangelan up to the Araks river).


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  14. ԱՀ նախագահի պաշտոնական կայքէջ՝
  15. Արմեդիա՝
  16. ԵԱՀԿ պաշտոնական կայքէջ՝
  17. «Եվրոպական ինտեգրացիա» ՀԿ կայքէջ՝
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  19. ՀՀ արտգործնախարարության պաշտոնական կայքէջ՝
  20. ՀՀ Նախագահի պաշտոնական կայքէջ ՝
  21. ՄԱԿ-ի պաշտոնական կայքէջ՝
  22. Վիքիպեդիա՝ ազատ հանրագիտարան՝
  23. “Conciliation Resources” NGO web page `
  24. az օնլայն թերթ՝
  25. Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty`

Author: Viktorya Aydinyan: © All rights are reserved

Translated by Tamara Sargsyan

Read also

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  2. The Issue of the Security Zone in the Context of the Artsakh Conflict: Part 3
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