The Consequences of the War

The Consequences of the 1991-1994 War 

Artsakh is a land that went through recent cruel wars and bears the traces of those atrocities in many senses. After the 1991-1994 war a casual visitor was not likely to witness much physical evidence of the recent battles. The people and government had done, and were doing their best to restore the towns and villages, and improve the quality of life. For a visitor to Stepanakert, it would be difficult to believe the city had been under constant bombardment for a long period of time. The fields in the country looked like fields and the villages looked like villages. The mines once abundant in many parts of the country were almost all gone and so were the signs warning not to wander off the road. Most importantly, people were confident about their future and scorned incessant threats of new aggression from across the border to the east. Yet a deeper look showed that the past was not easily forgotten and the price for freedom had been high.


Damaged armoured vehicles in the Askeran region. A damaged armoured vehicle in the Shahumyan region. 
A damaged armoured vehicle in the Askeran region. An unexploded missile in a church outer wall. Signs about cleared mines in the Martuni region. 

One very serious consequence of the war was that some territories of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic were – and now even more still are - occupied by Azerbaijan. Even after the first war twenty-nine settlements of the Shahumyan region and sizeable areas of the Martuni and Martakert regions were (and sadly still are) under the control of Azerbaijan. The population of these settlements had been killed or deported, some were missing long after the war. The belongings of those who survived had been looted, their homes destroyed. Over seven hundred servicemen and civilians were missing and despite many reports that there were prisoners in Azerbaijan, its authorities denied that. (The situation after the 2020 war is painfully similar to that.) Years after the ceasefire of 1994 people unfortunately continued to die today from sniper fire: Azerbaijanis shot at the Defence Forces and the civilian population alike. Despite multiple calls from several countries and organizations, as well as mediators in the Karabakh conflict settlement negotiations, Azerbaijan refused to withdraw the snipers from the contact line as a confidence-building measure. They said publicly that the war was not over and that they would go on shooting.

  The ruins of the Gyulistan village.

  The village is not accessible to Armenians anymore. It was photographed with the kind permission and assistance of the NKR Defence Army, with a       long telephoto lens under special caution.

Gyulistan is village in the Shahumyan region, (the historical Khachen gavar or region), 10 kilometres from the regional centre, on the left bank of the Inja river. It used to be a seat of the Gyulistan meliks, whose stronghold, the famous 15th century Gyulistan Fortress is 3 kilometres to the south of the village. The village is under Azeri control since the summer of 1992. Twenty-one civilians were killed during the deportation of its population. The Melik-Beglaryan family, who used to be rulers of the Gyulistan principality still lived in the village of Gyulistan in the middle of the 20th century. They had in their possession an old Bible, called the “Old Bible,” cherished by the population of the region. Azerbaijani authorities learned of the “Old Bible” and seized it in 1938. The Melik-Beglaryans managed to tear out St. Mathew’s Gospel and hide it in various places, in caves, and underground. It survived with a lot of damage caused by dampness and fungi. 


Refugees and Displaced Persons

Refugees and internally displaced persons are one of the most unfortunate consequences of military actions. Neither party to the war, Karabakh or Azerbaijan, was left untouched and people suffered on both sides of the border. 


Nagorno Karabakh

As it is known, the territory of the NKR even before the 2020 war did not include all of the considerably larger area which was historically and ethnically considered as Armenian. Moreover, parts of the territory of the former NKAO as well as the Shahumyan region were under Azerbaijani rule after the 1994 ceasefire. After the 2020 aggression the Azeri forces took control of the Shushi and Hadrut regions as well.

In 1918 the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh reached 300,000-330,000. Under consistent economic growth and reliable security in the region, it should have reached 700,000-800,000 by 1988. Even after the 1918-1920 Turkish-Azeri campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Armenians in NK, when 20% of the population was killed (in Shushi alone, the capital at the time, the majority of the 35,000 Armenians were massacred), Armenians still made up 95% of the population of the Autonomous Region (Oblast) of Nagorno Karabakh at the time of its creation in 1923, whereas the Azeris constituted 3%. As a result of systematic discrimination and forced emigration lasting over seventy years, the growth of the Armenian population in Nagorno Karabakh decreased to 77%. The Azeri population increased due to the organized influx of Azeris from Azerbaijan. According to the 1989 USSR census, the population of the NKAO was 189,000, of which 145,500 (76.9%) were Armenians and 40,600 (21.5%) were Azeris. Over 17,000 Armenians (80% of the population) and approximately 3,000 Azeris lived in the Shahumyan region. The census did not include the 23,000 Armenian refugees from Sumgait and other cities, who in January of 1989, actually lived in the NKAO but did not have NKAO “registration” (a stamp in the passports). Thus, the total number of the Armenian population of both the NKAO and the Shahumyan region was 185,500, of which Azeris constituted 44,000, and the Russians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Tatars and others- about 3,500.

In the 1930s, the Azeris redrew the borders of NK to dilute the overwhelming majority of the Armenian population in the northern territories of Nagorno Karabakh (Dashkesan, Shamkhor, Gedabek, and Khanlar regions). Nevertheless, until 1988 Armenians constituted an absolute majority of the population of Northern Karabakh: in 1988, their numbers were 83,400 (14,600 in the Khanlar district, 7,300 in the Dashkesan district, 12,400 in the Shamkhor district, 1,000 in the Gedabek district and 48,100 in the city of Gyanja). 

These figures demonstrate that the Armenian population of Northern Karabakh alone was twice as large as the Azeri population of the former NKAO. In the city of Gyanja alone there were 7,000 more Armenians than Azeris in the whole of the former NKAO, or 4 times the number of Azeris living in the town of Shushi.

Thus, by the end of 1988, the entire Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh (the NKAO, the Shahumyan region and Northern Karabakh) was 268,000.

The deportation of the Armenians of Northern Karabakh started in the autumn of 1988 and came to an end only in 1991. After the first Karabakh war (1991-94), the overwhelming majority of the refugees from Northern NK lived in Armenia, some of them moved to Russia and a some returned to the NKR. During the military actions in the summer and autumn of 1992, the Azerbaijani army took hold of the entire Shahumyan region, and approximately two-thirds of the Martakert region, as well as some parts of Martuni, Askeran and Hadrut regions of the NKR. 66,000 Armenians became refugees or displaced persons. After the liberation of the greater part of the occupied territories (except for the Shahumyan region and parts of the Martakert and Martuni regions) 35,000 refugees returned to the NKR. However, most of these refugees could not return to their homes, since their villages were either completely destroyed or were still under Azeri occupation.

After the war, one-third of the NKR population were refugees or displaced persons. Together with the refugees of Northern NK the total number of refugees and displaced persons reached 144,000, which was 54% of the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh as a whole (NKR and Northern NK), according to 1988 figures. Thus, every other Armenian from Karabakh, had become either a refugee or a displaced person.

(Altogether, more than 350,000 Armenians left Azerbaijan and now live in Armenia, Russia, CIS and other countries)


Occupied territories of the NKR

As a result of military actions between Azerbaijan and the NKR, the Azeri troops occupied and still hold approximately 750 sq. km, or 15%, of NKR territory including the whole of the Shahumyan region (600 sq. km) and some parts of the Martakert and Martuni regions.

After the 2020 war they would occupy significantly larger swathes of territory (covered in the relevant section).


Azerbaijani territories under NK control 

The Azeri authorities and their propaganda machine consistently claimed that 20% of Azerbaijani land was occupied and there were more than 1 million refugees and displaced persons. However, according to the maps issued by the Azerbaijani officials, the total area of the territories under the control of the Defense Army of Nagorno Karabakh allegedly was 8,780 sq. km (in reality it is 7. 059 sq. km), the total area of the Azerbaijani Republic being 86,600sq. km. Simple calculations show that these regions (Lachin, Kelbajar, Koubatli, Zangelan and Jebrail, as well as parts of Agdam and Fizuli) adjacent to Nagorno Karabakh made up only 8% of Azerbaijan’s territory. Even if the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh proper were to be hypothetically considered as an “occupied territory,” as it was officially claimed by the leaders of the Azerbaijani Republic, the inclusion of that area would only bring the total to 13% and not 20%.


Refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan

Between 1988-1989, 168,000 thousand Azeris left Armenia. Most of them, who left Armenia several months after of the pogrom of Armenians in Sumgait and the forced deportation of 350,000 thousand Armenians from the AzSSR, were nevertheless able to exchange or sell their houses, which were built in rural areas. The rest received financial compensation (a total of 72 million rubles or about 100 million USD) from the government of Armenia (to date Armenian refugees have received no compensation). Virtually all of the Azeri population, 40,600 people or 21.5% of the population of the former NKAR (according to the 1989 USSR census) left the former NKAR during the military actions in 1991-1992. The Azeri population of the Shahumyan region remained to live at their homes in all of the four Azeri villages. Azeris living on the territories adjacent to northern Nagorno Karabakh and in the populated areas of northern Nagorno Karabakh did not suffer either; moreover, more than 100,000 Azeri refugees were housed in the abandoned homes and apartments of Armenians.

According to Azerbaijani data, the population of the seven regions that had either entirely or partially come under the control of the Defense Army of Nagorno Karabakh, totaled to 483,900 in 1989. Taking into account that the Aghdam and Fizuly regions were only partially under the control of NK, the total number of displaced persons from these regions constituted about 420,000; of which 45,000, again, according to the Azerbaijani data, returned to their homes in 1997. Thus, of the total number of the inhabitants of the mentioned 7 regions, only 375,000 were refugees and displaced persons (40,000 of these refugees and displaced persons have left for Russia.)

Although the 168,000 Azeris from Armenia, who either exchanged their houses or received compensation for their property do not qualify as “refugees”, if their number and the 40,000 from Nagorno Karabakh were also added to the total number of Azeri refugees and displaced persons, it added up to 583,000 refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan, comprising 7.9% of the officially declared population of Azerbaijan. Claims of “a million refugees in Azerbaijan” were propagandistic falsification just as the claim of “20% occupied territories of Azerbaijan.”


Comparative Data 













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