Reflections on Return and Its Alternatives in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic – Azerbaijani Conflict



This research was dedicated to the following questions: how pressing is the issue of forced displacement in Karabakhi society and in other societies party to the conflict? Can this issue be resolved without being linked into other crucial political issues at stake in the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict, such as the international legitimation of the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), and issues of territory and security? Are the peoples and societies of both parties ready to reach a compromise, or indeed to arrive at any decisions at all?

Forced displacement is one of the most important issues in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Other key issues are usually said to be the determination and recognition of the NKR’s status, questions of territory and borders, of unblocking transport and energy communications and security guarantees for the NKR.

If the desire for freedom and equality, declared by the Armenian majority of NK was the cause of renewed conflict with Azerbaijan, then forced displacement (together with a number of other problems) arose as a consequence of this conflict. Therefore it would be more methodologically correct to resolve the issues connected with the cause of the conflict first, and then to embark on the elimination of its consequences. International recognition of the NKR and the delimitation of its borders with Azerbaijan would clarify the situation for those wishing to return to their former abode. People cannot return to uncertainty, they have the right to know which country’s laws they will be living under. For example, citizens of the NKR can return to Shaumyan district if the NKR’s territorial integrity is restored and if the republic has real jurisdiction over this district.1


The latest peace proposal generated by international mediators in the Minsk Group of the OSCE, known as the Madrid Principles, suggests the deferral of final status determination for NK until the latter stages of the peace process. The mediators apparently see other problems, relating to the consequences of the conflict, as being resolved first. It is evident that this is an attempt by the co-Chairs of the Minsk Group to put the cart before the horse.

Political parties and NGOs in the NKR have assessed the Madrid Principles negatively.2 Azerbaijan has declared that it accepts the Principles with some reservations. According to the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, these ‘reservations’ extend to the majority of the mediators’ proposals.3 In Armenia attitudes towards the Madrid Principles, which suggest unilateral concessions by Yerevan and Stepanakert, are altogether negative.

Forced displacement was the subject of negotiations between delegations from the NKR, Azerbaijan and Armenia under the aegis of the OSCE until April 1997. The Draft Ceasefire Agreement mentioned, inter alia, the need to create conditions for the “guaranteed safe, voluntary and balanced return of the displaced persons and refugees, irrespective of nationality, to their former fixed abode’.4 The subsequent ‘package’ (July 1997), ‘step-by-step’ (December 1997) and ‘common state’ (November 1998) proposals also contained provisions and separate proposals regarding displacement during the conflict.5 A universal right of return for all internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees is also noted in the Madrid Principles. The right of Armenians and the Azeris to return, with some exceptions, is not disputed: the problem lies in the current lack of legal-political conditions for the realisation of this right.

International law and other bodies of law acknowledge a right to restitution for displaced persons or at least mechanisms for compensation for their violated rights; international law and practice therefore make provision for alternative solutions. Of great importance is the determination of responsibility, that is, identification of the party whose actions led to the violation of the rights of the category of people in question.

The problem of forced displacement can be analysed, but the practical implementation of any recommendations arising will be linked to the solution of other key political problems. For example, without mutual recognition of the legal personality of the conflict parties it is impossible even to unequivocally identify the status of a displaced person. Whilst the personal status of each displaced person is presumed to invest them with various rights, those rights are regulated by separate international legal documents.6 For example, according to the laws of the NKR the former Armenian residents of Baku and other cities of the Republic of Azerbaijan, some of whom are now resident in the NKR, are qualified as ‘refugees’; conversely, according to the laws of Azerbaijan they are IDPs. From Baku’s point of view, this category of people did not cross an international state border. The same situation applies to Azeris from the NKR, who today live in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In Karabakh they are considered refugees, in Azerbaijan – IDPs.

2. ‘Demography as a weaponin the Karabakh conflict

The attitude of Karabakhi society to the problem of forced displacement is profoundly ambivalent.

On the one hand, this is an acute social issue for NK and it requires a final resolution. According to official data of the NKR, in the post-war period over 30% of the population in Karabakh are made up of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan and IDPs who left their homes in the NKR as a result of Azerbaijani armed aggression.7 It should be noted that in summer 1992 approximately half of the NKR’s territory was under Azerbaijani control, and civilians in these occupied districts were annihilated or ethnically cleansed.8


In this respect a message from the chair of the CSCE (now OSCE) Minsk Group on NK, Mario Rafaeli, to acting chairman of the CSCE Josef Moravcik dated 23 September 1992 is noteworthy: ‘How can the Minsk Group indifferently continue the negotiations, whilst the subject of the negotiations (NK – M.M.) is gradually disappearing? …If Nagorny Karabakh were again to fall under the control of [Azerbaijan] as a result of the offensive, what will remain of the subject of the negotiations?’9 Azerbaijan still controls 15% of the NKR territories (Shaumyan district, including the sub-district of Getashen in its entirety, and Martakert and Martuni districts in part). These territories are now settled by non-Armenians, and the names of residential areas and administrative boundaries in these occupied districts have been changed.

Government and society in the NKR treated the problem of refugees as a humanitarian issue and for the whole duration of the conflict they tried to ease the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons. Unlike oil-rich Azerbaijan, Karabakh did not create tent cities for show or politicise this problem. The people of Karabakh provided refugees with emergency housing. To this day, without international support, the state continues to build housing for the refugees and those IDPs who came back to former places of residence liberated from occupation.10


On the other hand, there is an understanding in the NKR that the return of refugees to their former homes will create new problems, of both a humanitarian and security nature, for these returnees. According to a social survey carried out in October 2010 in the NKR by the British organisation Populus and the Armenian IPSC11, the population of Karabakh is categorically against the return of IDPs and refugees to the territories surrounding the NKR.12 The return of refugees in conditions of unresolved conflict, international non-recognition of the NKR and a lack of minimum trust between the conflict parties threatens the future security of the NKR and can become a new source of regional destabilisation. The political leadership of Armenia is of a similar opinion.13

These are not random concerns originating in Karabakhi society. Demography has been used as a weapon by Baku since the 1920s, when the Bolsheviks decided to transfer Karabakh to Azerbaijan as an autonomous territory. Attempts on the part of the leadership of Azerbaijan to change the ethnic picture in NK to the advantage of the Azeri minority there continued throughout the years when the Armenian autonomy was part of that Soviet republic.

The Soviet Azerbaijani authorities carried out a deliberate policy to stimulate the artificial growth of the Azeri population in Karabakh. It should be noted that the natural population growth rate of the Azeri population was higher than that of the Armenian population. But in addition to the natural factor, artificial factors were engaged as well: the migration of Azeri labour and students to NK was planned by the leadership of Azerbaijan and was realised under the control of party structures.14


This policy became more intense from the beginning of the 1970s, when Heydar Aliyev became the First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party Central Committee. The Baku newspaper Zerkalo (‘The Mirror’) quoted on 23 July 2002 revelations by Aliyev, now president of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan:

“I am talking of the time, when I was first secretary, and helped the development of Nagorny Karabakh a lot. At the same time I tried to change the demography there. Nagorny Karabakh raised the issue of founding a higher education institute there, a university. Everybody was against it. I had a think about it and decided to found it. However, with a proviso, that there should be three sectors there — Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian. It was founded. We sent Azeris from the neighbouring areas there, and not to Baku. We opened a large shoe factory there. We were sending the Azeris from the neighbouring areas there. By doing this and other things, I tried to increase the number of Azeris there, and reduce the number of the Armenians in Nagorny Karabakh. Those who worked in Nagorny Karabakh at the time know about it”.

Azerbaijani sources hold many other testimonies to the discriminatory policy of Baku towards Karabakh.15 This policy achieved results. During the first 10 years of Heydar Aliyev’s rule, only one in 10 Armenians born in NK remained there.16


Below are some additional statistics:

  • According to the census in agricultural areas in Azerbaijan in 1921, 94.4% of the population resident in the territories which were later in 1923 incorporated into the newly created Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), were Armenian and 5.6% were Azerbaijani Turks17 and other nationalities18;

  • According to the 1926 All-Union census there were 125,300 people in the NKAO, of which Armenians accounted for 111,694 or 89,1%; the Azerbaijani Turks – 12,592 or 9%, and the Russians – 596 people or 0.5%19;

  • The following fact is notable: during the first five years after the transfer of NK to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and three years after the creation of the NKAO, the Armenian population for different reasons decreased by 11-12,000;

  • According to the last USSR census (1989), there were 40,600 Azeris in the NKAO, i.e. 21.5% of the total population;

  • Therefore during the time NK was part of Soviet Azerbaijan, the Azeri population grew from 4.9% to 21.5% (a growth rate of 484%), and the Armenian population decreased from 94.8% to 76.9%.

t of ‘Red Kurdistan’ were further used to turn NK into an enclave. On the same day as the NKAO was created, an autonomous Kurdish district was also announced on 7 July 1923 on part of Karabakh’s territory. But when the Kurdish district was later abolished it was decided that its territory would be assigned as administrative units of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic (AzSSR). At the same time part of the NKAO’s territory bordering Armenia was removed and incorporated into the newly-created Lachin district of the AzSSR. The AzSSR authorities removed part of the territory from the NKAO immediately bordering with the Soviet Socialist Armenian Republic (ArSSR) to the south of the village of Abdallyar. Later on this village, through repopulation with Azeri settlers, turned into the town of Lachin.20 Therefore as a result of manipulations with the Kurdish district (‘Red Kurdistan’), the Kurds lost their short-lived autonomy (1923-1929), and the NKAO lost its border with the Soviet Armenia, i.e. it was turned into an enclave.

Karabakh’s status as an enclave almost proved fatal for the people of the NKR at the beginning of the 1992-94 war. Only thanks to immense efforts over many months was it possible to break the siege and open a humanitarian corridor connecting Karabakh with the outside world. Many thousands of people in the NKR were saved from imminent death.21


Before the military phase of the conflict, parallel to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Armenians from Azerbaijan (from 350,000 to 500,000 people depending on the sources)22, the authorities in Baku settled the Azerbaijani-populated areas of NK with settlers from Azerbaijan and with Meskhetian Turks from the Fergana valley in Uzbekistan.23


All these and other facts are still fresh in the memory of citizens in the NKR. The older generation in Karabakh remembers the discriminatory policy of Azerbaijan24, the de-armenianisation of Nakhichevan25, and the use of demography as a weapon to make the Armenians of Karabakh lose their motherland. It is common knowledge that with the weakening of the Kremlin, Baku unilaterally liquidated Karabakh’s autonomy and, using Azerbaijani Interior Ministry special troops, organised the open deportation of the Armenians from dozens of villages in NK during Operation Ring in spring 1991.26 Previous caution and quiet encroachment on the part of Azerbaijan under Soviet rule gave way to armed aggression and to ethnic cleansing in Karabakh after the disintegration of Soviet power and Azerbaijani independence.27


Whatever the essence of the conflict, it cannot be factually disputed that “the Republic of Azerbaijan is responsible for the blockade of Nagorny Karabakh, armed attacks on civilians, artillery and air bombardments of villages, forcible annexation of territory of the NKR28 and expulsion of its population, as well as other war crimes. At the initial stage of the armed conflict, when international organisations29 responsible for the preservation of peace between nations failed to act, self-defence was the only means to protect the lives and freedoms of the civilians of the NKR”.30


To overcome the blockade, to stop the aggression and to ensure security of civilians, the NKR’s armed forces were forced to take control of territory being used by Azerbaijani armed forces for military and other hostile actions against the NKR. The Republic of Azerbaijan, ignoring the norms of international law and the demands of the UN Security Council, chose the path of escalating armed conflict.31 Joint efforts by the NKR, as the main party to the conflict, and by the Republic of Armenia, as a party drawn into the conflict, forced the Republic of Azerbaijan to stop its aggression and to conclude the existing armistice with the NKR and the Republic of Armenia.

International recognition of the Republic of Azerbaijan took place on terms detrimental to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter for a New Europe and other OSCE documents. This created an opportunity for the Republic of Azerbaijan to ignore its responsibility for reparations for human rights violations32 perpetrated against the Armenian population of the AzSSR, to deny the rights of self-determination and development to the people of the NKR, and to consider lawful the use of military force against the NKR and the occupation of its territory. This situation presents a serious obstacle to conflict resolution under the aegis of the OSCE.

3. The politicisation of a humanitarian problem

The humanitarian problems of refugees and IDPs are highly politicised. Until recently, tent camps for refugees were used for Azerbaijani international propaganda to cultivate the image of a victim. Exaggerated figures of some ‘20%’ of lost territories and one million Azeri refugees and IDPs are used indiscriminately.33 This particular category of citizens is being used in Azerbaijan for the purposes of resolving internal political issues34, and receiving humanitarian aid from international organisations. As a vulnerable part of the community, refugees and IDPs as a rule have no choice during elections but to vote, in their hundreds of thousands, for the party in power. Refugees are purposefully turned into hostages of state policy and they are servicing the needs of the ruling elite of Azerbaijan.

As regards the process of finding a political settlement Azerbaijan is only concerned with the territorial aspect of the issue, and not the issue of compensation for violated rights. Hoping to regain territories lost in the war, tens of thousands of people in Azerbaijan continue to be kept in difficult conditions. In the meantime, according to experts at the Armenian Migration Department, there is sufficient accommodation in Azerbaijan abandoned by Armenians to accommodate Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs.35


The position of Azeris formerly residing in NK and now citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan is contrasted by the authorities in Baku with the lawful position of the NKR citizens, who created and defended their Republic’s independence. At the suggestion of Turkish diplomats the newly independent Azerbaijani state adopted the idea of splitting Karabakh into two communities. The Cyprus scenario was played out and a large Azerbaijani military contingent was introduced into the district of compact Karabakh Azeri settlement. In May 1992, however, these armed groups and the remaining population left the territory of the NKR. If in Cyprus the scenario of introducing troops and partition brought some dividends for Turkey, then after the movement of Azeris out of the NKR to Azerbaijan and their acquisition of the Azerbaijan citizenship the Cyprus scenario lost any relevance. The return to Karabakh of former residents of Azeri origin, now holding Azerbaijan citizenship, under conditions of an unchanged anti-Armenian policy in Azerbaijan, could lead to extremely negative consequences for the NKR. In such an event the ‘Cyprus-isation’ of the Karabakh conflict would be irreversible.

Azerbaijan continues to present to the world an image of the Karabakh nation as if it consisted of two communities. It does this with the purpose of preventing international recognition of the NKR.36 In fact, Azeri refugees from the NKR have become an instrument for solving Azerbaijani foreign policy issues and this very same factor is used by numerous international agencies to justify their position of ignoring the rights of the Armenian population in the NKR.

Introducing the Azeri community from NK into discussion of the right to self-determination of the people of NK invests the Azeri minority, a priori, with a certain status, proceeding from which one might believe that the right to self-determination of the people of NK can only be realized on the basis of consensus between the two communities. This position is legally groundless. The right to self-determination of the people of NK did not depend on the existence or otherwise of consensus between Armenians and Azeris. The choice whether to be part of Azerbaijan, part of Armenia or to be independent, was determined by a majority of the population.

Consensus between majority and minority becomes important when the constitutional foundations of a new state are being created, since non-recognition by a compactly settled national minority of the sovereignty of a new state creates a problem for the territorial integrity of that state. In this scenario, there is a territory populated by people who do not recognise the sovereignty of the new state, and who cannot be forced to acquire citizenship of that state. In this case, this national minority cannot return to be part of the national community from which it was previously expelled, without tangible legal guarantees that its rights as a minority would be respected and that it would be guaranteed self-governance. This problem concerns all parties to the conflict in equal measure. The Azeri community in NK cannot be granted more rights or more favourable conditions for its development than the Armenian community in northern Karabakh or in Baku.37


During the period of Soviet disintegration and the formation of the NKR and Republic of Azerbaijan, the Azeri population of NK had full opportunity to decide on its future. The Azeri minority could, together with the Armenian majority in NK, have participated in the creation of the independent NKR. To that end all the necessary conditions were created: in December 1991 all the independence referendum ballot papers were prepared and provided in three languages, including Azeri; seats for Azeri deputies were provided in the highest authority – the Supreme Council of the NKR.38 The founding documents of the NKR, adopted on 2 September 1991 and 6 January 1992, recognise the primacy of human rights, including the freedoms of expression, conscience, political and public activity and all other civil rights and freedoms recognised by the international community, including the right of national minorities to use their native language, without limitations, in economic, cultural and educational spheres. The NKR’s founding documents refer to respect of the principles laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.39


However, the Azeri community made a conscious choice to ignore their rights. In summer 1988 local Azeris expelled all Armenians from Shushi, they supported Baku’s anti-Armenian policy in every way, including the decision to use force, they participated actively in the military operations against the NKR, then, having suffered military defeat in 1992 they left the NKR together with Azerbaijani armed units and assumed Azerbaijani citizenship.40 The former Azeri population of the NKR therefore had a hand in Azerbaijani aggression against the NKR.

In contrast to the Azeris of the NKR the Armenians in Azerbaijan, despite being an indigenous population of the country, were deprived of the right to participate in the determination of the fate of the republic. They were expelled before Azerbaijan’s referendum on independence took place.

New statistics on the former Azeri populations of NK and Lachin district are noteworthy. As noted above, according to the last Soviet census in 1989 there were approximately 40,000 Azeris in NKAO. According to new Azerbaijani data, the number of people in this category has now reached 65,000.41 Azerbaijani opinion believes that the problem of Lachin (not part of NKAO but now the Kashatag district of the NKR) is similar to the neighbouring Shushi district42, and that these districts can be united. According to this Azerbaijani scenario, at least 72,000 refugees43 must return to Lachin district. According to some Azerbaijani pro-governmental experts, the return of 137,000 Azeris to Karabakh will not only restore the control of Baku over the main Stepanakert-Yerevan highway, but will ensure the results that Baku needs in a vote on the final status of Nagorny Karabakh, as stipulated by Madrid Principles. At the same time the Azerbaijani leadership “generously” agrees to postpone the return of Lachin and Kelbajar, after other districts are transferred back to Azerbaijan.44


Therefore the Azerbaijani leadership intends to use the possible return of the refugees to the conflict zone to its own political ends – as an instrument of ‘drawing’ the blockade circle around the NKR and to predetermine the results of any referendum regarding the status of NK proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group. Azerbaijan’s constant policy, irrespective of the regime in the country, to subjugate Karabakh and unremitting military threats engender mistrust and serious concerns amongst the citizens of the NKR. As a result, the NKR’s security becomes the only prism through which Azerbaijan’s actions and intentions are read.

4. Possible alternatives

Given the impossibility of the return, in the foreseeable future, by Armenians and Azeris to their homes, mediators in the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict must suggest alternatives.

4.1 Population exchange


Population exchange or population transfer became current and popular strategies for the long-term resolution of inter-state conflicts featuring a fundamental component of interethnic antagonism.45


A well-known example is the exchange of Turkish citizens of the Greek Orthodox faith resident in Turkey (“Greeks”), for Greek citizens of Muslim faith resident in Greece (“Turks”) at the end of the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22. According to the Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations, signed at Lausanne on 30 January 1923, approximately 1,400,000 Greeks relocated to Greece while some 400,000 Turks relocated to Turkey. The Convention contained a number of provisions regarding compensation for the property and a ruling to create a mixed commission comprising the Greek, Turkish and neutral representatives to control the implementation of that convention.


A massive formalized exchange of populations also took place between India and Pakistan in 1947. Approximately 14 million people were relocated. The possibility of population exchange was also reviewed by the British Royal Commission headed by Lord Robert Peel as one of the necessary elements for resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict before the creation of the State of Israel.46 Until recently Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister in 2001-2006 was the main ideologist and proponent of the process of land division within the country.

In the Karabakh-Azerbaijan conflict, which also affected Armenia, the exchange of populations, as well as territories, took place de facto, without the signing of a relevant agreement.

The exchange of populations between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place before the military phase of the conflict. In that period there were also cases of Armenian-Azerbaijani property exchange. In addition, in 1989 the government of the Soviet Armenia unilaterally paid 70 million rubles (some $110 million) as compensation to 14,500 Azeri families. By contrast nobody from the more than 400,000 Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan received any compensation, having fled the country under immediate threat to their lives, with all the ensuing material, property and moral losses.47 Some of those Armenians found refuge in NK in 1988-1991. The Armenian population of Shaumyan district and almost all of Martakert district left their homes in 1992. Most of the Azeri population left the NKR in May 1992, and that of the districts neighbouring the NKR in 1993. A massive ethno-territorial delimitation between the NKR and Azerbaijan therefore took place during the course of the 1992-1994 war initiated by Azerbaijan.

The possible signing of an agreement on the exchange of populations must contain principles of mutual lodging of property claims by the parties, leaving room for further negotiation. A mutually acceptable option of formalizing population exchange could ratify de jure objective realities as they exist on the ground de facto.

4.2 Compensation

On 16 December 2005 the UN General Assembly adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.48


Article 15 of Chapter IX of the document notes that, in accordance with its domestic laws and international legal obligations, a State shall provide reparation to victims for acts or omissions which can be attributed to that State, and which constitute gross violations of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law. In cases where a person, a legal person, or other entity is found liable for reparation to a victim, this party should provide reparation to the victim or compensate the State if the State has already provided reparation to the victim.

The Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, as a state initiating a mass forced exodus of its Armenian citizens demonstrated very clearly its position towards this category of people. Neither Soviet Azerbaijan nor its successor, today’s Republic of Azerbaijan, took steps towards recognising political and legal responsibility towards its former citizens, and neither has assumed any moral responsibility for what was done whatsoever.49


According to the above-mentioned Basic Principles, victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law should be provided with full and effective reparation, which can take the following forms: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. Compensation should be paid for any damage which can be economically evaluated, and such compensation should be appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case.

Over the last five to six years, some Armenian pro-governmental and independent researchers 50 conducting applied research on these issues have made a number of pertinent suggestions. According to some authors and representatives of refugee organisations, the NKR must take concrete measures to ensure the protection of and compensation of the breached rights of Soviet Azerbaijan’s Armenians. According to the chairman of the NGO Refugees of the NKR, for example, the development of a strategy to settle the vacant lands [territories surrounding the former NKAO – Ed.] and to transfer these lands to refugees from Azerbaijan as partial compensation is long overdue.51 According to Arman Melikyan, former foreign minister of the NKR, compensation of Armenian refugees must be achieved using Azerbaijani resources.52 The civil society network ‘Refugees and International Law”, which includes a number of NGOs representing the interests of the Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan, is of the same opinion.53


In the view of expert Mikhail Aghajanyan, the NKR can provide Armenian refugees with an opportunity to settle in those territories that it controls, bearing in mind that these people before their expulsion had a stable political and legal connection with the AzSSR, and through that republic – with the USSR. Proceeding from this fact they therefore have the right to settle in territories of the AzSSR as their refugee status is temporary and in itself presumes the possibility of their return to the place of their last citizenship.54 The continuing failure by the Republic of Azerbaijan to provide redress to Armenian refugees and IDPs gives grounds to view the NKR as the only state subject capable of assuming responsibility to reinstate the rights of those people who suffered most from the conflict and to take action to compensate them for property damages.55


The approach, discussed in the societies of the NKR and the Republic of Azerbaijan is in line with Article 16 of the Basic Principles, according to which: “States should endeavour to establish national programmes for reparation and other assistance to victims in the event that the parties liable for the harm suffered are unable or unwilling to meet their obligations”. Therefore the NKR can create mechanisms of redress for the victims of the conflict, since Azerbaijan does not wish to fulfil its commitments.

In international practice there are cases, when a country has lost part of its territory as punishment for aggression. The determination of liability of each conflict party details their obligations to provide resources to resolve the problem. In this way the minimisation of the humanitarian costs caused by the conflict gains real material and legal substance. Each party will be incentivised to take a decision, to provide territorial compensation to the other party and to absolve itself of the responsibility to provide for the expelled national minority or to provide, both financially and legally, the national minority community with all it needs to guarantee its future development.56


The issue of forced displacement will not be fully resolved for as long as discussion encompasses only the right of refugees to return to their homes. This right is self-evident and undeniable. What needs to be discussed is not only the right to return, but the responsibility of the conflict parties before those people who lost the right to live and develop freely in their homeland as a result of the conflict.57


In the event of the renunciation of force to resolve the conflict, the demonstration of good will and mutual respect of rights, the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the NKR, Azerbaijan and Armenia, the conflict parties could, together with other problems central to resolving the conflict, resolve the acute humanitarian problem of refugees and IDPs using, according to each individual case, various forms of redress, such as restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and non-repetition.

1 This reflects the Karabakh Armenian understanding that today’s de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) is distinct from and larger than the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO), since it is claimed to include the Shaumyan district (known to Azeris as Goranboy) – Editor’s Note.

2Nagorny Karabakh NGOs: Madrid principles are adopted to please Azerbaijan”,

3Azerbaijan has more reservations”,

4 For the Draft Ceasefire Agreement, see

6 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,, Guiding principles on Internal Displacement,

7 For data on refugees, IDPs and territories in Nagorny Karabakh and Azerbaijan, occupied during the conflict, see

8 Caroline Cox and John Eibner, Ethnic Cleansing in Progress, War in Nagorno Karabakh (Zurich, London and Washington: Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World, 1993).

9 Archives of the NKR Foreign Ministry, p. МК-02, 1993.

10 The NKR is developing a concept to resolve the refugee housing issue, see

11 The Institute for Political and Sociological Consulting (IPSC) is a research institute in Armenia, specializing in market researches, sociological surveys, public opinion polls, qualitative and quantitative research and consulting.

13 The return of the refugees before time can provoke new outbreaks of the conflict,

14 Armenian Academy of Sciences, “Nagorny Karabakh” (Yerevan, 1988) see

15 Arsen Melik-Shakhnazarov, Nagorny Karabakh: facts against lies, Chapter 2 (Moscow, 2009); see

16 Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1988, “Nagorny Karabakh”.

17 Various terms were used to refer to modern-day Azerbaijanis until 1936: “Turks”,”Azerbaijani Turks”, “Caucasian Tatars”. In 1936 the Turkish spoken in Azerbaijan was redesignated as “Azerbaijani” on Stalin’s orders, and Azerbaijani Turks as “Azerbaijanis”. See Farid Alekperi, “Towards the history of the ethnonym TURK in Azerbaijan, at


18 Nagorny Karabakh during the Soviet years (short statistical book) (Stepanakert, 1969), p. 7.

19 All-Union Census of the Caucasus Socialist Federative Soviet Republic 1926 (Moscow: Central Statistical Division of the USSR, 1929), Volume 14, p.5.

20 Ashot Melik-Shakhnazarov, “Who annexed the land corridor between Nagorny Karabakh and Armenia and when?”, Respublika Armeniya (newspaper) , 5 June 1992.

21 Cox and Eibner, 1993, Ethnic Cleansing in Progress.

22 The 1989 census was carried out one year after the beginning of the Karabakh conflict, after the progroms of Armenians in Sumgait, Kirovobad (Ganja) and other places, which caused the mass out-migration of the Armenian population of Azerbaijan. For this reason the figures of the 1989 census, which give the figure of 390,505 Armenians in Azerbaijan, cannot be considered exact. Azerbaijani sources also acknowledge this. It is indicative that the 1979 census, carried out during more peaceful times, ‘revealed’ an Armenian population of 475,486 in Azerbaijan. See

23 Georgy Deev, “Castles of lies built on human suffering”, at

24Political parties, NGOs and Unions of creative professions of the NKR made an appeal to the Chairman of the OSCE”,

25 According to statistical data, in 1917 there were 53,900 Armenians (approximately 40% of total population), in the ancient Armenian region of Nakhichevan. By 1926 their numbers had fallen almost fivefold; according to the 1979 census, there were 3,400 of them, i.e. 1.4% of total population. Out of 44 Armenian villages which existed before the 1917 Revolution there were only two villages left at the start of Karabakh conflict.
Of those who were saved from the 1918—1921 massacre and left their motherland, the Nakhichevan Armenians were forbidden to return, and they were obstructed from doing so by the decisions of the Central Executive Committees of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. In 1922-1926 Armenian refugees from Nakhichevan sent numerous petitions to the governments of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, stating that their homes were under lock and key and their land abandoned. However, on 24 July 1922 the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of Azerbaijan in his telegram to the Council of the People’s Commissars of Armenia stated, that ‘by the decision of the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan, mass relocation of the population into the boundaries of Azerbaijan is prohibited’. See
Nagorny Karabakh, (Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1988).


 Melik-Shakhnazarov, 2009, Nagorny Karabakh: facts against lies, chapter 17.


 Cox and Eibner, 1993, Ethnic Cleansing in Progress.


 In summer 1992 about half of the territory of the NKR was under Azerbaijani occupation, and Karabakh was effectively disappearing as an entity. Many researchers make the mistake of basing their conclusions exclusively on the basis of the post-war map of the region. If one looks at maps of the situations in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994, the dynamic evolution of the situation becomes evident (movement of territory back and forth between the sides), and it becomes possible to discern the causes and consequences of these developments, i.e. to estblish relations of cause and effect.


 Here it is the United Nations and OSCE which are referred to. The armed phase of the conflict intensified after the collapse of the Soviet Union and new independent republics were formed. In the view of the authors of the Declaration cited in footnote 30 the selective recognition of new republics and their accession to international inter-governmental organizations was a stimulus for violence. It seemed to Azerbaijan that it had carte blanche to opt for a military solution. If in 1991-1992 the NKR had received international recognition, events would have unfolded peacefully.


 From the draft Declaration of the Right of the NKR People to Peace and Free Development, adopted by the NKR NGOs,


 See “Azerbaijan is guilty of thwarting the UN resolutions on Karabakh conflict resolution, according to V.Kazimirov” at


 Statement of authorised representatives of the refugees from Azerbaijan dated 9th December 2010, see


 Speech of Ilham Aliev at the VII OSCE summit, see


 “In Azerbaijan refugees will be included in the electoral roll”, see


 “Refugees”, see


 Elmar Mammadyarov: ‘The Azeri and Armenian communities must determine the status of Nagorny Karabakh within the inviolable territory of Azerbaijan’,


 Author’s interview with the legal expert Andrias Gukasyan, Stepanakert, 13 December 2010.


 Cox and Eibner, 1993, Ethnic Cleansing in Progress.


 Declaration on the Proclamation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, at, Declaration on State Independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, at


 European Convention on Nationality, see


“According to Azerbaijani sources currently there are over 65 thousand Azeris from Nagorny Karabakh living in different regions of Azerbaijan”, at


 Before the massacre of the Armenians in Shushi in March of 1920, the Armenians were the majority in the city, see Kavkazsky kalendar (1917) (Tiflis, 1916), pp. 190-196.


 Demography – a mythical ‘resource’ of Azerbaijan”, see


 Has Baku seen the light at the end of the tunnel?,


 M. Agadzhanyan, “Exchange of populations between states as an element of long-term resolution of ethno-political conflicts”, see


 The Peel Commission Report, see


 M. Agadzhanyan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the light of human rights protection: political and legal aspects (Yerevan, 2009), p.150.


 М. M.Agadzhanyan, “Military phase and humanitarian consequences of the Karabakh conflict: political and legal aspects”, see


 Minasyan S., M. Agadzhanyan and E. Asatryan, Karabakh conflict: refugees, territories, security (Yerevan 2005), Azerbaijan against the people of Karabakh: political-legal consequences of aggression and their influence on the prospects of regional security, (Yerevan, 2006).


 Interview of Sarasar Saryan in the Karabakh Courie’ , April 2010, see


 Interview of Arman Melikyan, Armenian TV – N2, 11 June 2005.


 According to the civil society network ‘Refugees and international law”, a constitutional referendum is in the interests of the Artsakh people,


 M. Agadzhanyan, “Military phase and humanitarian consequences of the Karabakh conflict”.




 Author’s interview with the legal expert Andrias Gukasyan, Stepanakert, 13 December 2010.





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