The Defence Forces of Artsakh

The Defence Forces of Artsakh

The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Artsakh is a republican body of executive authority, which implements the policies of the Republic of Artsakh Government in the defence sector.

The Defence Army of the Republic of Artsakh (also called the Armed Forces of the Republic of Artsakh, the Defence Army of Artsakh and formerly the Self-Defence Forces of Artsakh) is the Armed Forces of the Republic of Artsakh, constitutional purpose of which is to ensure the defense, security, territorial integrity, and inviolability of the borders of the Republic of Artsakh. The Defence Army of Artsakh was established through restructuring self-defence units. It operates in close cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia and with their support. 

It became obvious soon after the national-liberation struggle in Artsakh (Mountainous Karabakh) began in 1988 that it would transform into a large-scale confrontation. Azerbaijan adopted a new military-political course, which indicated that the factor of power would play a crucial role in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Hence, the people of Artsakh needed an army which would operate under a unified command.   

As the events unfolded quickly they left no time for implementing the idea of forming a regular, centralized army. There was also an acute shortage of supplies, but everyone firmly believed that the importance of organized self-defence was paramount. The first volunteer squads started to form and a growing number of people joined them. Villagers formed self-defence groups to prevent the attacks of Azerbaijanis located in neighboring settlements. Such self-defence unites were formed in several villages, but it happened faster in Stepanakert, the regional centre. The process was voluntary and every freedom-fighter was free to choose their unit. Groups of friends would usually get together to form a unit. In the rural areas the formation of defence groups was mainly based on the settlements. For more efficiency the headquarters of Artsakh Region Self-Defence Forces were established, which brought together all the commanders of self-defence groups. 

The over ten platoons and companies formed in Artsakh at the end of 1991 and at the beginning of 1992 combined around 1000 volunteers. This was one of the first steps in the formation of the regular and centralized army, which happened concurrently with the ongoing military operations. The sequence of events was determined by events unfolding on the ground. Initiatives evolved from practice.

On March 10, 1992, Moscow issued an order to withdraw the 366 motorized infantry battalion from Stepanakert. That signaled that the Kremlin took the protection of the people living on the southern border of ''the united homeland'' off its agenda. 

Proceeding from the challenging military situation and in accordance with Article 24 of law of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic ''On the NKR Council of Ministers", the Defense Committee of the Council of Ministers was formed on March 26, 1992 before the Ministry of Defense of Nagorno-Karabakh would be established. As stipulated by Clause 1 of Article 2 of the above- mentioned law, the Council of Ministers was to ensure the security and defence of the Republic and to plan and take urgent measures to that end.

Military parade in Stepanakert on May 8th, 2020, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Liberation of Shushi and the formation of the Defence Army of NKR. 

The formation of a state authority in the military sphere naturally positively affected the establishment of the NKR Defence Army and its further development. Bringing the activities of fedayi (volunteer freedom-fighters) groups -  previously operating separately -  under a central command became one of the factors shaping success in the evolving war. 

May 9, 1992 is considered the official day of the establishment of the Defence Army of the Republic of Artsakh (de facto it was established on September 2, 1991). On May 9, 1992, the defence forces liberated Shushi following their first written military plan. 

The military headquarters of the Defence Army has been situated in the city of Stepanakert since the day of its establishment.