Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

"NKR" redirects here. For other uses, see NKR (disambiguation).
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի Հանրապետություն
Lernayin Gharabaghi Hanrapetut'yun
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Ազատ ու Անկախ Արցախ (Armenian)
Azat u Ankakh Artsakh  (transliteration)
Free and Independent Artsakh
and largest city
39°52′N 46°43′E / 39.867°N 46.717°E / 39.867; 46.717
Official languages Armeniana
Government Semi-presidential republic
   President Bako Sahakyan
   Chairman of the Assembly Ashot Ghulian
   Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan
Legislature National Assembly
Independence from the Soviet Union
   Declaration 2 September 1991[1] 
   Recognition 3 non-UN members 
   Total 11,458 km2
4,424 sq mi
   2015 census 150,932[2]
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
   Total $1.6 billion (n/a)
   Per capita $2,581 (2011 est.) (n/a)
Currency Armenian dram (de facto)  (AMD)
Time zone AMT (UTC+4)
   Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC+4)
Calling code +374 47b
Internet TLD .am, .հայ (de facto)
a. The constitution guarantees "the free use of other languages spread among the population".
b. +374 97 for mobile phones.

Nagorno-Karabakh, officially the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR; Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի Հանրապետություն Lernayin Gharabaghi Hanrapetut'yun), Artsakh Republic or Republic of Artsakh (Armenian: Արցախի Հանրապետություն Arts'akhi Hanrapetut'yun),[3] is an unrecognised republic in the South Caucasus. The region is considered by the UN to be part of Azerbaijan, but is under the control of ethnic Armenian separatists. The NKR controls most of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and some of the surrounding area, giving it a border with Armenia to the west, Iran to the south, and the uncontested territory of Azerbaijan to the north and east.[4]

The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the First Republic of Armenia when both countries became independent in 1918 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and a brief war over Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in 1920. The dispute was largely shelved after the Soviet Union established control over the area and created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923. During the fall of the Soviet Union, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1991, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighbouring Shahumian region resulted in a declaration of independence. Large-scale ethnic conflict led to the 1991–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire that left the current borders.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a semi-presidential democracy with a unicameral legislature. Its reliance on Armenia means that in many ways it functions de facto as part of Armenia. The country is very mountainous, averaging 1,097 metres (3,599 ft) above sea level. The population is predominantly Christian, most being affiliated with the Armenian Apostolic Church. Several historical monasteries are popular with tourists, mostly from the Armenian diaspora, as most travel can take place only between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.


See also: Artsakh

Government and politics

The NKR National Assembly in Stepanakert

Nagorno-Karabakh is a semi-presidential democracy, whereby the executive power resides with both the President and the Prime Minister. The president is directly elected for a maximum of two-consecutive five-year terms.[3] The current President is Bako Sahakyan.[5] In the most recent presidential elections, held on 19 July 2012, Sahakyan was reelected to a second term.[6]

The President appoints a potential Prime Minister who is then approved by a majority vote in the National Assembly.[3] The National Assembly is a unicameral legislature. It has 33 members who are elected for 5-year terms.[7] Elections take place within a multi-party system; in 2009, the American NGO Freedom House ranked the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic above the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan with respect to civil and political rights.[8][9][10] Three organisations have members in the parliament: the Democratic Party of Artsakh has 18 members, Free Motherland has 8 members, and the Movement 88 alliance has 3 members.[7] A number of non-partisan candidates have also taken part in the elections, with some success; in 2005, eight of the 33 members to the National Assembly took their seats without running under the banner of any of the established political parties in the republic. Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh are not recognised by international bodies such as the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, as well as numerous individual countries, who called them a source of increased tensions.[11][12][13]

Nagorno-Karabakh is heavily dependent on Armenia, and in many ways de facto functions and is administered as part of Armenia.[14][15]


The NKR Presidential Palace

On 3 November 2006, the then-President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadi Ghukasyan, signed a decree to hold a referendum on a draft Nagorno-Karabakh constitution.[16] It was held on 10 December of the same year[17] and voters overwhelmingly approved the new constitution.[18] According to official preliminary results, with a turnout of 87.2%, as many as 98.6 percent of voters approved the constitution.[17] The First article of the document describes the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as "a sovereign, democratic legal and social state". More than 100 non-governmental international observers and journalists who monitored the poll evaluated it positively, stating that it was held to a high international standard.[19]

However, the vote was criticised harshly by inter-governmental organisations such as the European Union, OSCE and GUAM, which rejected the referendum, deeming it illegitimate[19][20] The EU announced it was "aware that a 'constitutional referendum' has taken place," but emphasised its stance that only a negotiated settlement between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenians could bring a lasting solution.[21] Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis asserted that the poll "will not be recognized... and is therefore of no consequence".[19] In a statement, the OSCE chairman in office Karel De Gucht voiced his concern that the vote would prove harmful to the ongoing conflict settlement process, which, he said, had shown "visible progress" and was at a "promising juncture".[17]

The outcome was also criticised by Turkey, which traditionally supports Azerbaijan because of common ethnic Turkic roots, and has historically had severe tensions with Armenia.[22][23]

Foreign relations

The NKR Ministry of foreign affairs in Stepanakert

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is based in Stepanakert. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic operates five permanent Missions and one Bureau of Social-Politic Information in France. The NKR Permanent Missions exist in Armenia, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, and one for Middle East countries based in Beirut.[24] The goals of the offices are to present the Republic's positions on various issues, to provide information and to facilitate the peace process.

In his 2015 speech, the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan stated that he considered Nagorno-Karabakh "an inseparable part of Armenia".[25]

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a member of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations, commonly known as the "Commonwealth of Unrecognized States".


A T-72 tank standing as a memorial commemorating the Capture of Shusha.

According to the NKR Constitution the army is under the civilian command of the government.[26] The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army was officially established on 9 May 1992 as a defense against Azerbaijan. It fought the Azerbaijani army to a ceasefire on 12 May 1994.[27] Currently the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army consists of around 18,000–20,000 officers and soldiers. However, only 8,500 citizens from Nagorno-Karabakh serve in the NK army; some 10,000 come from Armenia. There are also 177–316 tanks, 256–324 additional fighting vehicles, and 291–322 guns and mortars. Armenia supplies arms and other military necessities to Karabakh. Several battalions of Armenia's army are deployed directly in the Karabakh zone on occupied Azerbaijani territory.[28]

The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army fought in Shusha in 1992, opening the Lachin corridor between The Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (1992), and staged the defense of the Martakert front from 1992–1994.

Land mines

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered to be one of the most heavily mined regions of the former Soviet Union. Mines were laid from 1991 to 1994 by both conflicting parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. The United Nations and the U.S. have estimated the number of mines in Nagorno-Karabakh at 100,000. There have been many civilian casualties resulting from the land mines. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) claims that 123 people have been killed and over 300 injured by landmines near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh since a 1994 truce ended a six-year conflict between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.[29] The HALO Trust – UK based demining NGO, is the only other organisation conducting demining in Nagorno Karabakh.[30]

Current situation

Nagorno-Karabakh status process

  Territory controlled by Nagorno-Karabakh.
  Claimed by Nagorno-Karabakh but controlled by Azerbaijan.

Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto independent state, calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It has close relations with the Republic of Armenia and uses the same currency, the dram. According to Human Rights Watch, "from the beginning of the Karabakh conflict, Armenia provided aid, weapons, and volunteers. Armenian involvement in Karabakh escalated after a December 1993 Azerbaijani offensive. The Republic of Armenia began sending conscripts and regular Army and Interior Ministry troops to fight in Karabakh."[31] The politics of Armenia and the de facto NKR are so intertwined that a former president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Robert Kocharyan, first became the prime minister (from 1994 to 1997), and then the President of Armenia (from 1998 to 2008).

However, Armenian governments have repeatedly resisted internal pressure to unite the two, due to ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. In his case study of Eurasia, Dov Lynch of the Institute for Security Studies of WEU believes that "Karabakh's independence allows the new Armenian state to avoid the international stigma of aggression, despite the fact that Armenian troops fought in the war between 1991–94 and continue to man the Line of Contact between Karabakh and Azerbaijan." Lynch also cites that the "strength of the Armenian armed forces, and Armenia's strategic alliance with Russia, are seen as key shields protecting the Karabakh state by the authorities in Stepanakert."[32] Some sources consider Nagorno-Karabakh as functioning de facto as part of Armenia.[33][34][35][36][37]

General view of the capital Stepanakert

At present, the mediation process is at a standstill, with the most recent discussions in Rambouillet, France, yielding no agreement. Azerbaijan has officially requested Armenian troops to withdraw from all disputed areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh, and that all displaced persons be allowed to return to their homes before the status of Karabakh can be discussed. Armenia does not recognise Azerbaijani claims to Nagorno-Karabakh, and believes the territory should have self-determination.[38] Both the Armenian and Karabakh governments note that the independence of the NKR was declared around the time the Soviet Union dissolved and its members became independent.[39][40] The Armenian government insists that the government of Nagorno-Karabakh be part of any discussions on the region's future, and rejects ceding occupied territory or allowing refugees to return before talks on the region's status.[41]

Representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Russia and the United States met in Paris and in Key West, Florida, in early 2001.[42] Despite rumours that the parties were close to a solution, the Azerbaijani authorities – both during Heydar Aliyev's period of office, and after the accession of his son Ilham Aliyev in the October 2003 elections – have firmly denied that any agreement was reached in Paris or Key West.

Further talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan, were held in September 2004 in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit. Reportedly, one of the suggestions put forward was the withdrawal of the occupying forces from the Azeri territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh and then holding referendums (plebiscites) in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan proper regarding the future status of the region. On 10 and 11 February 2006, Kocharyan and Aliyev met in Rambouillet, France, to discuss the fundamental principles of a settlement to the conflict. Contrary to the initial optimism, the Rambouillet talks did not produce any agreement, with key issues such as the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and whether Armenian troops would withdraw from Kalbajar still being contentious.[43]

Talks were held at the Polish embassy in Bucharest in June 2006.[44] Again, American, Russian, and French diplomats attended the talks that lasted over 40 minutes.[45] Earlier, Armenian President Kocharyan announced that he was ready to "continue dialogue with Azerbaijan for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and with Turkey on establishing relations without any preconditions."[46]

The town of Shushi

According to Armenian foreign minister, Vardan Oskanyan, no progress was made at this latest meeting. Both presidents failed to reach a consensus on the issues from the earlier Rambouillet conference. He noted that the Kocharyan-Aliyev meeting was held in a normal atmosphere. "Nevertheless," he added, "the foreign ministers of the two countries are commissioned to continue talks over settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and try to find common points before the next meeting of the presidents."[47]

The major disagreement between both sides at the Bucharest conference was the status of Karabakh. Azerbaijan's preferred solution would be to give Karabakh the "highest status of autonomy adopted in the world."[48] Armenia, on the other hand, endorsed a popular vote by the inhabitants of Karabakh to decide their future, a position that was also taken by the international mediators.[49] On 27 June, the Armenian foreign minister said both parties agreed to allow the residents of Karabakh to vote regarding the future status of the region.[50] The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially refuted that statement.[51] According to Azeri opposition leader Isa Gambar, however, Azerbaijan did indeed agree to the referendum. Still, nothing official has confirmed this yet.[52]

The ongoing "Prague Process" overseen by the OSCE Minsk Group was brought into sharp relief in the summer of 2006 with a series of rare public revelations seemingly designed to jump-start the stalled negotiations. After the release in June of a paper outlining its position, which had until then been carefully guarded, U.S. State Department official Matthew Bryza told Radio Free Europe that the Minsk Group favored a referendum in Karabakh that would determine its final status. The referendum, in the view of the OSCE, should take place not in Azerbaijan as a whole, but in Nagorno-Karabakh only. This was a blow to Azerbaijan, and despite talk that their government might eventually seek a more sympathetic forum for future negotiations, this has not yet happened.[53]

The "We Are Our Mountains" monument is widely seen as a symbol of the self-proclaimed republic.

On 10 December 2007 Azerbaijan's deputy foreign minister said Azerbaijan would be prepared to conduct anti-terrorist operations in Nagorno-Karabakh against alleged bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).[54] Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vladimir Karapetian previously rejected the allegations as "fabricated" and suggested the accusations of the PKK presence were a form of provocation.[55]

In 2008, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev stated that "Nagorno Karabakh will never be independent; the position is backed by international mediators as well; Armenia has to accept the reality" and that "in 1918, Yerevan was granted to the Armenians. It was a great mistake. The khanate of Iravan was the Azeri territory, the Armenians were guests here".[56] On the other hand, in 2009 president of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Bako Sahakyan declared that "Artsakh will never be a part of Azerbaijan. NKR security should never be an article of commerce either. As to other issues, we are ready to discuss them with Azerbaijan.".[57] In 2010 president of Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in his speech in the Chatham House of the British Royal Institute of International Affairs declared that "Karabakh was never a part of independent Azerbaijan: it was annexed to Azerbaijan by a decision of the Soviet Union party body. The people of Karabakh never put up with this decision, and upon the first opportunity, seceded from the Soviet Union fully in line with the laws of the Soviet Union and the applicable international law".[58]

On 14 March 2008, the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution by a vote of 39 to 7, with 100 abstentions, reaffirming Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, expressing support for that country's internationally recognised borders and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories there. The resolution was supported mainly by members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and GUAM, Azerbaijan is a member in both groups, as well as other nations facing breakaway regions. The resolution was opposed by all three members of the OSCE Minsk Group.[59]

On 20 May 2010, the European Parliament adopted a resolution "on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus", which states that EU must pursue a strategy to promote stability, prosperity and conflict resolution in the South Caucasus.[60] The resolution "calls on the parties to intensify their peace talk efforts for the purpose of a settlement in the coming months, to show a more constructive attitude and to abandon preferences to perpetuate the status quo created by force and with no international legitimacy, creating in this way instability and prolonging the suffering of the war-affected populations; condemns the idea of a military solution and the heavy consequences of military force already used, and calls on both parties to avoid any further breaches of the 1994 ceasefire". The resolution also calls for withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan, accompanied by deployment of international forces to be organised with respect of the UN Charter in order to provide the necessary security guarantees in a period of transition, which will ensure the security of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and allow the displaced persons to return to their homes and further conflicts caused by homelessness to be prevented; and states that the EU believes that the position according to which Nagorno-Karabakh includes all occupied Azerbaijani lands surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should rapidly be abandoned. It also notes "that an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh could offer a solution until the final status is determined and that it could create a transitional framework for peaceful coexistence and cooperation of Armenian and Azerbaijani populations in the region."[61]

On 26 June 2010, the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group's Co-Chair countries, France, Russia, and United States made a joint statement, reaffirming their "commitment to support the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they finalize the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict".[62]

After Armenia established diplomatic relations with Tuvalu in March 2012, it was speculated in the press that Armenia was attempting to persuade the small island nation to be the first state to recognise Nagorno-Karabakh's independence.[63] Tuvalu recognised two other disputed states in the Caucasus, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the previous year.

Recognition process

Artsakh Street in Watertown, Massachusetts

No UN member states have recognised Nagorno-Karabakh, although some other unrecognised states have done so. Various sub-national administrations have issued calls for recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh by their national governments.

Human rights

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has resulted in the displacement of 528,000 Azerbaijanis from Armenian territories (this figure does not include new born children of these IDPs) including Nagorno Karabakh, and 220,000 Azeris, 18,000 Kurds and 3,500 Russians fled from Armenia to Azerbaijan from 1988 to 1989. The Azerbaijani government has estimated that 63 percent of internally displaced persons (IDPs) lived below the poverty line as compared to 49% of the total population. About 154,000 lived in the capital, Baku. According to the International Organization for Migration, 40,000 IDPs lived in camps, 60,000 in underground dugout shelters, and 20,000 in railway cars. Forty-thousand IDPs lived in EU-funded settlements and UNHCR provided housing for another 40,000. Another 5,000 IDPs lived in abandoned or rapidly deteriorating schools. Others lived in trains, on roadsides in half-constructed buildings, or in public buildings such as tourist and health facilities. Tens of thousands lived in seven tent camps where poor water supply and sanitation caused gastro-intestinal infections, tuberculosis, and malaria.[82]

The government required IDPs to register their place of residence in an attempt to better target the limited and largely inadequate national and international assistance due to the Armenian advocated and US imposed restrictions on humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan. Many IDPs were from rural areas and found it difficult to integrate into the urban labor market. Many international humanitarian agencies reduced or ceased assistance for IDPs citing increasing oil revenues of the country.[83] The infant mortality among displaced Azerbaijani children is 3–4 times higher than in the rest of the population. The rate of stillbirth was 88.2 per 1,000 births among the internally displaced people. The majority of the displaced have lived in difficult conditions for more than 13 years.[84]

280,000 persons—virtually all ethnic Armenians who fled Azerbaijan during the 1988–1993 war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh—were living in refugee-like circumstances in Armenia.[85] Some left the country, principally to Russia. Their children born in Armenia acquire citizenship automatically. Their numbers are thus subject to constant decline due to departure, and de-registration required for naturalization. Of these, about 250,000 fled Azerbaijan-proper (areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh); approximately 30,000 came from Nagorno-Karabakh. All were registered with the government as refugees at year's end.[85]


Mount Mrav, the highest peak in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is mountainous, a feature which has given it its name (from the Russian for "Mountainous/Highland Karabakh"). It is 11,500 km2 (4,440 sq mi) in area, bordering Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The highest peaks in the country are Mount Mrav, 3,340 metres (10,958 ft), and Mount Kirs 2,725 metres (8,940 ft). The largest water body is the Sarsang reservoir, and the major rivers are the Terter and Khachen rivers.[86] The country is on a plateau which slopes downwards towards the east and southeast, with the average altitude being 3,600 ft (1,097 m) above sea level. Most rivers in the country flow towards the Artsakh valley.[87]

The climate is mild and temperate. The average temperature is 11 °C (52 °F), which fluctuates annually between 22 °C (72 °F) in July and −1 °C (30 °F) in January. The average precipitation can reach 71 cm (28 in) in some regions, and it is foggy for over 100 days a year.[87]

Over 2,000 kinds of plants exist in Nagorno-Karabakh, and more than 36% of the country is forested. The plant life on the steppes is mostly semi-desert vegetation, and alpine and tundra environments can be found above the forest in the highlands and mountains.[87]

Administrative divisions

Regions of Nagorno-Karabakh:
1: Shahumyan; 2: Mardakert; 3: Askeran; 4: Martuni; 5: Hadrut; 6: Shushi; 7: Kashatagh. (Stepanakert not shown.)
Main cities and towns in Nagorno-Karabakh

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has eight administrative divisions. Their territories include the five districts of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), the Shahumyan Region in the Azerbaijan SSR which is currently under Azerbaijani control, and the seven districts around the former NKAO that are under the control of the NKR forces.

Following the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's declaration of independence, the Azerbaijani government abolished the NKAO and created Azerbaijani districts in its place. As a result, some of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's divisions correspond with the Azerbaijani districts, while others have different borders. A comparative table of the current divisions of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the corresponding districts of Azerbaijan follows:[88]

# Division Population (2005) Rayon(s) Sahar (city) Former NKAO?
1 Shahumyan Region 2,560 Southern Goranboy, Western Kalbajar Kalbajar (formerly Shahumian) No
2 Martakert Region 18,963 Eastern Kalbajar, Western Tartar, portion of Agdam Martakert Partially
3 Askeran Region 16,979 Khojali, portion of Agdam Askeran Yes
4 Martuni Region 23,157 Northern Khojavend, portion of Agdam Martuni Partially
5 Hadrut Region 12,005 Southern Khojavend, Jabrayil, portion of Fizuli Hadrut Partially
6 Shushi Region 4,324 Shusha Shushi Yes
7 Kashatagh Region 9,763 Lachin, Qubadli, Zangilan Berdzor No
8 Stepanakert (capital) 49,986 Khojali Stepanakert Yes
Nagorno-Karabakh[89] Azerbaijan

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic claims Shahumian, which was not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Representatives from Shahumian declared independence along with Nagorno-Karabakh, and the proclamation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic includes the Shahumian region within its borders.[90] Unlike the rest of Nagorno-Karabakh, Shahumian remains under Azerbaijani control.


Children at Tumo Center Artsakh branch
The Freedom Fighters' Boulevard in Stepanakert
Azokh village
Mountain view in Martakert region

In 2002, the country's population was 145,000, made up of 95% Armenians and 5% others.[86] In March 2007, the local government announced that its population had grown to 138,000. The annual birth rate was recorded at 2,200–2,300 per year, an increase from nearly 1,500 in 1999.

OSCE report, released in March 2011, estimates the population of the "seven occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh" to be 14,000, and states "there has been no significant growth in the population since 2005."[91][92]

Until 2000, the country's net migration was at a negative.[93] For the first half of 2007, 1,010 births and 659 deaths were reported, with a net emigration of 27.[94]

According to age group: 15,700 (0–6), 25,200 (7–17) 75,800 (18–59) and 21,000 (60+)

Population by province (2006):

Population of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (2000–2008)[95][96]

Year Population (000s) Urban (000s) Rural (000s) Birth rate Death rate NGR Net immigration
2000 134.4 68.4 66.0 16.6 8.8 7.7 16.1
2001 135.7 68.7 67.0 17.0 7.9 9.1 11.5
2002 136.6 69.3 67.3 16.0 9.1 6.9 4.9
2003 137.0 69.1 67.9 15.0 9.0 6.0 1.3
2004 137.2 69.8 67.4 15.3 9.5 5.8 −2.6
2005 137.7 70.5 67.2 14.6 9.2 5.4 1.7
2006 137.7 70.8 66.9 15.3 9.0 6.3 −3.2
2007 138.8 71.6 67.2 15.4 8.8 6.6 −1.4
2008 139.9 72.7 67.2 17.3 9.4 7.9 2.6

Ethnic composition

According to the 2005 NKR Census, the country's ethnic composition is:[97]


Most of the Armenian population in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is Christian and belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church which is an Oriental Orthodox Church.

Certain Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical denominations also exist; other religions include Judaism.[86] However, military authorities prohibited any Christian sect activity in Nagorno-Karabakh, for the reason that they would preach pacifism among population.[98]

The Gandzasar monastery ("Գանձասար" in Armenian) is a historical monastery in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic). Another is Dadivank Monastery (Armenian: Դադիվանք) also Khutavank (Armenian: Խութավանք – Monastery on the Hill) that was built between the 9th and 13th century. The Nagorno Karabakh government's aim is to include the Gandzasar Monastery into the directory of the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

Ghazanchetsots Cathedral (built 1868–1888) (Սուրբ Ամենափրկիչ Ղազանչեցոց Եկեղեցի in Armenian), also known as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Shushi Cathedral, is an Armenian church located in Shushi, Nagorno-Karabakh. It is the main cathedral and headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church's "Diocese of Artsakh".

Just uphill from the cathedral in Shushi is the Kanach Zham (Green Church in Armenian) built in 1847.

Amaras Monastery (4th century) was a monastery was established by the foremost Armenian saint, St. Gregory the Enlightener, who baptized Armenia into the world's first Christian state in 301 AD. Amaras also hosted the first school where St. Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, taught the new script to pupils, in the 5th century. The Amaras Monastery's location is in the Martuni District.

Tzitzernavank Monastery (4th century) is the best preserved example of an Armenian basilica with three naves. The monastery is in the Qashatagh District.

Saint Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery (5th–13th centuries) commemorating St. Yeghishe, the famous evangelizer of Armenia's eastern lands. The church serves as a burial ground for the 5th century's King Vachagan II the Pious, the most well-known representative of the Arranshahik line of east Armenian monarchs. The monastery is located in the Martakert District.

Dadivank Monastery (13th century) is one of the most architecturally and culturally significant Monasteries in Nagorno Karabakh. The western façade of Dadivank's Memorial Cathedral bears one of the most extensive Armenian lapidary (inscribed-in-stone) texts, and has one of the largest collection of Medieval Armenian frescoes. Dadivank is named after St. Dadi, a disciple of Apostle Thaddeus who preached the Holy Gospel in Artsakh in the 1st century. St. Dadi's tomb was later discovered by archeologists in 2007. The monastery is in the Shahumian District.

Gtichavank Monastery (13th century) has design features shared with the architectural style of medieval Armenia's capital city of Ani. The monastery is located in the Hadrut District.

Bri Yeghtze Monastery (13th century) that centers on embedded khachkars, unique-to-Armenia stone memorials with engraved crosses. The monastery is located in the Martuni District.

Yerits Mankants Monastery (17th century) (meaning "three infants" in Armenian) is known for hosting the seat of Artsakh's rival clergy to that of the Holy See of Gandzasar. The monastery is located in the Martakert District.

Church of St. Nerses the Great, is located in the city of Martuni, Karabakh. It is dedicated to the famous Armenian Catholicos, St. Nerses the Great.

Post-war resettlement attempts

Following the ceasefire, the Stepanakert-based administration launched various programs aimed at bringing in permanent Armenian settlers to the depopulated lands, including into regions previously populated by Azeris, with those that bordered Armenia – Lachin and Kalbajar – being the priority.[99] Incentives in the form of free housing, access to property, social infrastructure, inexpensive or sometimes free electricity, running water, low taxes or limited tax exemptions were offered to new settlers.

Azerbaijan regards this as a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Armenia became party in 1993, whereby "[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies".[100] The ruling party of Azerbaijan accuses the Armenian side of artificially changing the demographic situation and the ethnic composition of the occupied region so that it can lay future claims to them, comparing this to the 1950s campaign of resettling diaspora Armenians in previously Azeri-populated locales in Soviet Armenia where Azeris were forcibly deported from in 1948–1950.[101]

In 1979, the total Armenian population of the districts of Kalbajar, Lachin, Qubadli, Zangilan, Jabrayil, Fuzuli and Agdam was around 1,400 people.[102] An OSCE fact-finding mission established at Azerbaijan's request visited these regions in February 2005 with the intention to assess the scale of the settlement attempts. The mission's findings showed that these districts had as of 2005 an overall population of 14,000 persons, mostly living in precarious social conditions. It consisted primarily of ethnic Armenians displaced from non-conflict zones of Azerbaijan during the war. It was noted, however, that most of them had settled in the conflict zone after having lived in Armenia for several years and some held Armenian passports and even voted in Armenian elections. A smaller segment of the settlers were originally from the towns of Gyumri and Spitak in Armenia who had lived in temporary shelters following the devastating 1988 earthquake before moving to Karabakh, as well as a small number of natives of Yerevan who moved there for financial reasons.[103] A field assessment mission revisited the region in October 2010, confirming that there had not been much growth in population or change in living conditions of the settlers.[104] The Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group who visited Nagorno-Karabakh, Kalbajar and Lachin in 2014 reported seeing signs of improvements in infrastructure, but could not observe any indications that the size of the population had changed in recent years.[105]

By June 2015, an estimated 17,000 of Syria's once 80,000-strong Armenian population had fled the civil war and sought refuge in Armenia.[106] David Babayan, spokesperson of the Karabakh Armenian leader Bako Sahakyan, confirmed that some of those refugees had been resettled in Nagorno-Karabakh.[107] In December 2014, Armenian media cited local municipal authorities in stating that dozens of Syrian Armenian families had been resettled in the disputed zone, in particular in the city of Lachin and the village of Xanlıq in Qubadli.[108] Azerbaijan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov expressed his concern over Armenia's attempts to change the demographic situation in the region and informed of his intention to raise this issue with the Minsk Group.[109]


A hotel in downtown Stepanakert

The socio-economic situation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was greatly affected by the conflict. Yet, foreign investments are beginning to come. The origin of most venture capital comes from Armenians in Armenia, Russia, United States, France, Australia, Iran, and the Middle East.

Notably the telecommunications sector was developed with Karabakh Telecom[110] investing millions of dollars in mobile telephony, spearheaded by a Lebanese company.

Copper and gold mining has been advancing since 2002 with development and launch of operations at Drmbon deposit.[111] Approximately 27–28 thousand tons (wet weight) of concentrates are produced[112] with average copper content of 19–21% and gold content of 32–34 g/t.[113]

The banking system is administered by Artsakhbank (the state bank) and a number of Armenian banks. The republic uses the Armenian dram.

Wine growing and processing of agricultural products, particularly wine (i.e., storage of wine, wine stuff, cognac alcohol) is one of the prioritized directions of the economic development.[114]


The ruins of Tigranakert.
Section of Janapar trail.

The republic is developing a tourist industry geared to Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. The republic has been showing a major increase in tourists over the last several years, which keeps growing because of Karabakh's many cultural sights. There are eight hotels in Stepanakert. The Artsakh development agency says 4,000 tourists visited Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in 2005. The figures rose to 8,000 in 2010 (excluding visitors from Armenia).[115] The agency cooperates with the Armenia Tourism Development Agency (ATDA) as Armenia is the only way tourists (mainly Armenians) can access Karabakh. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Karabakh informs of continuous expansion NKR visitors' geography.[116]

The Tourism Development Agency of Nagorno-Karabakh was established in Yerevan as a non-governmental organisation in the Republic of Armenia to promote tourism further in Nagorno-Karabakh. It makes preparations for tour operators, travel agencies and journalists covering the region, and arranges for hotel services, shopping, catering, recreation centers.

Tourist attractions include:

Other tourist attractions include:

Janapar is a marked trail through mountains, valleys and villages of Nagorno-Karabakh, with monasteries and fortresses along the way. The trail is broken into day hikes, which will bring tourists to a different village each night.[117] The paths have existed for centuries, but now are marked specifically for hikers. The Himnakan Janapar (backbone trail), marked in 2007, leads from the northwest region of Shahumian to the southern town of Hadrut. Side trails and mini trails take one to additional parts of Karabakh. The important sites passed along this hike include Dadivank Monastery, Gandzasar monastery, Shushi, the Karkar Canyon with its high cliffs, Zontik Waterfall and the ruins of Hunot and Gtichavank monastery.


The transportation system damaged by the conflict has been noticeably improved during the last several years: the North-South Karabakh motorway alone has largely facilitated in the development of the transportation system.[118]

The 169 kilometres (105 mi) Hadrut-Stepanakert-Askeran-Martakert motorway, the locals say, is the lifeline of Karabakh. $25 million donated during the Hayastan All-Armenian Foundation telethons have been allotted for the construction of the road.[118][119]

The route from the Armenian capital Yerevan to the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert now takes around 3 hours instead of the former 8–9 hours.[120]

The sole civilian airport of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, located about 8 kilometres (5 miles) east of the capital, has been closed since the onset of the war more than 20 years ago. However, the government is pressing ahead with plans to reopen the airport by early 2011, and raised about 1 billion drams ($2.8 million) for its reconstruction from unspecified "charitable sources." It began building a new airport terminal and repairing the runway in late 2009. It is expected that Karabakh will have a regular flight service only with Armenia, at least in the near future. Its unresolved status makes direct air communication with other countries all but impossible.[121] The Stepanakert-Yerevan flights will be carried out from the newly renovated Stepanakert Airport by a state-run airline, Artsakh Air, beginning in 2012. Artsakh Air's fleet of aircraft will consist of three Canadian-made CRJ200 passenger jets.[122]


Education in Nagorno-Karabakh is compulsory, and is free up to the age of 18. The education system is inherited from the old system of the Soviet Union.[123]

Nagorno-Karabakh's school system was severely damaged because of the conflict. But the government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with considerable aid from the Republic of Armenia and donations from the Armenian diaspora has rebuilt many of the schools. The republic has around 250 schools of various sizes, with more than 200 lying in the regions. The student population estimated at more than 20,000 study, with almost half in the capital city of Stepanakert.

Artsakh State University was founded by Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian governments' joint efforts, with main campus in Stepanakert. The university opening ceremony took place on 10 May 1992.

Yerevan University of Management also opened a branch in Stepanakert.


The National Gallery of Shushi

"We Are Our Mountains" (Armenian: Մենք ենք մեր սարերը) by Sargis Baghdasaryan is a monument located in Stepanakert.[124] The sculpture is widely regarded as a symbol of the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is a large monument from tuff of an old Armenian man and woman hewn from rock, representing the mountain people of Karabakh. It is also known as "Tatik yev Papik" (Տատիկ և Պապիկ) in Armenian. The sculpture is featured prominently on Nagorno-Karabakh's coat of arms.

Artsakh State Museum is the historical museum of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Located at 4 Sasunstsi David Street, in Stepanakert, the museum offers an assortment of ancient artifacts and Christian manuscripts. There are also more recent items, ranging in date from the 19th century to World War II and from events of the Karabakh Independence War.

Karabakh has its own brand of popular music. As Karabakh question became a pan-Armenian question, Karabakh music was further promoted worldwide.

Many nationalist songs, performed by Karabakh artists, as well as artists from Republic of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, show support for the Karabakh independence movement; videos for the songs incorporate footage of Karabakh military campaigns. These videos are posted to sites such as YouTube, where they often generate conflicting nationalist Armenian and Azerbaijani comments.


Azat Artsakh is the official newspaper of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.


Sports in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are organised by the Artsakh Ministry of Culture and Youth. Due to the non-recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh, sports teams from the country cannot compete in most international tournaments.

Football is the most popular sport in Nagorno-Karabakh. Stepanakert has a well-built football stadium. Since the mid-1990s, football teams from Karabakh started taking part in some domestic competitions in the Republic of Armenia. The Lernayin Artsakh represents the city of Stepanakert. The Artsakh football league was launched in 2009. The Artsakh national football team was formed in 2012 and played their first competitive match against the Abkhazia national football team in Sokhumi, a match that ended with a result of 1–1 draw.[125][126] The return match between the unrecognized teams took place at the Stepanakert Stadium, on 21 October 2012, when the team from Nagorno-Karabakh defeated the Abkhazian team 3–0.

There is also interest in other sports, including basketball and volleyball. Sailing is practiced in the town of Martakert.

Karabakh sports teams and athletes also participate in the Pan-Armenian Games organised in the Republic of Armenia.


Date[86] English name Local name Remarks
31 Dec – 1 Jan New Year's Day
6 Jan Christmas
20 Feb Artsakh Revival Day
8 March Women's Day
7 April Motherhood and Beauty Day
24 April Genocide Remembrance Day
1 May Worker's Solidarity Day
9 May Victory, Armed Forces & Shushi Liberation Day
28 May First Armenian Republic Day
1 June Children's Day
29 June Fallen Soldiers and Missing in Action Memorial Day
2 September Independence Day
7 December Armenian Earthquake Memorial Day
10 December Independence Referendum Day
Constitution Day

See also


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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Nagorno-Karabakh.
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