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«Edgar Elbakyan Edgar Elbakyan: Yerevan State University, Armenia. Email: elbakyan.edgar Abstract: The current research aims at proposing a ...»

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International Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3/No. 5/special issue/2014

A New Legal Approach Towards the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Peaceful Resolution

Edgar Elbakyan

Edgar Elbakyan: Yerevan State University, Armenia. Email: elbakyan.edgar@gmail.com


The current research aims at proposing a new approach concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh

conflict between The Republic of Armenia, the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic on one hand and the Azerbaijani Republic on the other.

The conflict emerged with its current embodiment in late 1980s, due to the national movement of the Armenians in Karabakh for self-determination and reunification with the Armenian SSR. The non-violent phase of the conflict lasted no more than half a year and soon after the emergence of the Armenian movement, Azerbaijani then authorities with the help of the Soviet Internal Security Forces and OMON, launched a military attack towards the Armenian population in Karabakh intending to disarm the local Armenian self-defense militia detachments and uproot the Armenian livings in the given region.

The active phase of the conflict, i.e. war of national liberation of Karabakh Armenians against the newly independent Azerbaijani Republic lasted from 1990/1 till 1994. During the war the newly independent Republic of Armenia conducted humanitarian, military and moral support to its compatriots in Karabakh. Azerbaijan in its turn enjoyed the full support of The Republic of Turkey, as well as solidarity of some Muslim states (Pakistan 1, Afghanistan). Russia was amongst the countries conducting a policy of keeping balance between belligerents both by arms supply and diplomatic stance. Generally by the Russian mediation the warring parties signed a truce agreement in May, 1994 which is in force up till now.

The current research presents a thorough investigation of the historical roots of the NagornoKarabakh conflict, the current legal paradigm of the conflict, as well as some basic postulates and theoretical approaches necessary for understanding and dealing with the conflict both on the scientific and academic sphere and on the “realpolitik” level.

As the quintessence of the paper, the author suggests a new approach towards the conflict resolution assuming as a basis both the principles and norms of international law as well as the local conditions and factors peculiar to this single conflict.

Keywords: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, self-determination, Armenia, Azerbaijan Until now (13.08.2014) Pakistan has not recognized Armenia as an independent country mainly because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

International Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3/No. 5/special issue/2014


The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is considered to be one of the so-called frozen conflictsof the South Caucasus region. The conflict is deemed to be unresolved because since the outbreak of the national movement of the Armenians in Karabakh as well as after the truce agreement no ultimate peace agreement has been signed between the conflicting sides.

The legal and philosophic understructure of the current study is – how to provide a permanent peace for the parties – from which the whole structure of the analysis springs up.

The first article of the Charter of the United Nations reads “[The Purpose of the United Nations] … to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”. We can clearly observe that the word “peace” is repeated 5 times in the first clause of the first article of the most important international treaty, to which the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan are parts. It is a well-known axiom that the system of the principles of the international law can be entirely perceived only in the vertical connection with the purposes/goals of the international law. The purposes of the international law are the desired state of the international affairs.

Thus, they are the Alpha and Omega of the lawmaking and law enforcement processes in the international law [Kocharyan, 2002, 85]. The scientific search of the peace is the cornerstone of the current study.

Historical Overview:

1. 18th C. – Formulation of the bilateral balance in Transcaucasia:

Artsakh (Karabakh) is an integral part of historic Armenia. During the Urartian era (9-6th cc. B.C.) Artsakh was known as Urtekhe-Urtekhini. As a part of Armenia, Artsakh is mentioned in the works of Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Claudius Ptolemy, Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and other ancient authors. Armenia’s north-eastern border, according to several ancient sources, was the River Kura, which places Artsakh within the Armenia. In the works of the above mentioned authors, it is noted that the Kura River formed the border between Armenia and Caucasian Albania [Brief History of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), 2013, 2].

After the division of Greater Armenia (387 A.D.), Artsakh became part of the Eastern Armenian kingdom, which soon fell under the Persian rule. At that time, Artsakh was a part of the Armenian marzpanutyun (province). At the end of the 5th century, Artsakh and neighboring Utik were united under the local dynasty of Aranshahiks, led by King Vachagan III (487-510 A.D.), and experienced a period of tangible growth in science and culture [Elbakyan, 2012, 150].

In 16-17th centuries a number of unique state-like administrative-political units were formed in Artsakh, called “melikutiun”, which then led the struggle of the Armenians against the Ottoman and Turkic invasion [Elbakyan, 2012, 151]. During the rule of the Persian Nader Shah, the five Armenian melikdoms were united in a single political composition, called Principalities of Khamse (meaning “Five Principalities” in Arabic). The Principalities of Khamse was comprised of Gulistan, Jraberd, Khachen, Varanda and Dizak Armenian melikdoms.

The subsequent downfall of the Armenian melikdoms came after the disruption of the political unity among the Armenian princes. In the middle of the 18th century for the first time Turkic tribes invaded the International Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3/No. 5/special issue/2014 Eastern Armenia making the stronghold of Shushi their first foothold in the Armenian highland [Croissant, 1998, 11]. Earlier inhabiting the surroundings and the vicinity of Artsakh-Karabakh, Turkic/Muslim tribes began spreading in the mountainous parts of the Armenian land. As a result, thousands of Armenians abandoned the land during the last decade of 18th century [Shnirelman, 2003, 592].

The unification of the Turkic tribes on the territory of the present-day Azerbaijani Republic as well as Artsakh Republic, took place since the 15th century. Formerly nomadic tribes moved to a half-nomadic and sometimes even settled way of life, thus an urgent need for new lands shaped the pivot of the enmity and struggle against the indigenous people of the region, including the Armenians [Melik-Shahnazaryan and Khachatryan, 2007, 17-18].

The aforesaid strategic antagonism stipulated the content of the Armenian-Turkic relations in the Transcaucasian front till the end of the Artsakh liberation war (1994).

2. Armenian-Tatar clashes 1905-1907 – Fight for living space:

The Armenian–Tatar clashes were bloody inter-ethnic/inter-national confrontation between the Armenians and Tatars/Muslims throughout the Caucasus in 1905–1906/7. Mass clashes erupted throughout the whole region – beginning from Baku (February, 1905), spreading to Nakhijevan (May), Shushi (August), Elisabethpol (November), occasionally rocking Tiflis, Genje (Gandzak) and other villages and districts with mixed Armenian and Tatar population.

There are multiple factors causing the quasi war between these sides. Those factors were generated and uphold by the Tsar and Sultan regimes (realism theory) and also stipulated by the interests and national aspirations of the Armenians and Tatars. One of the peculiarities of the Transcaucasian region during the Russian Empire times was that there were no predominantly Russian-populated cities/areas in those times, and that was considerably hampering the russification of the indigenous population. On the other hand, the consequent overrepresentation of the Armenians in the local municipalities as well as industrial establishments became identified and apprehended by the Russian ruling circles as a threat to the Russian domination in the region [Baberovski, 2004, 307-352]. The Armenian aspirations towards strengthening their potential in the Eastern Armenia (i.e. Russian Armenia) and keeping national identity run counter to the Russian policy in the region. Provocation of ethnic clashes between the dominating Armenians and underrepresented non-Christians (Tatars) created an opportune moment for the Russian authorities to rechange the balance of power in the region as well as to check the loyalty of the Transcaucasian Muslims [Ibid.]. In their reports to the Government, British diplomats were stating that the Russian administration had been practicing the divide et impera mechanism against the two main nations of the region instead of keeping the appropriate balance [Bourne and Watt, n.d., 185-186].

Yet, there was another aspect of the Armenian-Tatar feud giving a significant push to the antagonistic moods in the region. The point is that the political socialization and nation-building among the Tatar tribes in Transcaucasia were largely conducted by the Ottoman ideological and administrative circles, which had become regarding the Pan-Turkism as a vigorous ideology that could enhance the influence of the Empire in the neighboring regions. The natural allies of the Anatolian Turks were Transcaucasian Türks. Since that time they regarded Armenians as well as the Russian dominance in Transcaucasia as a natural obstacle on their path. In one of the reports discovered in the Tsar Russia archives the reasons of the Tatar antagonism against the Armenians are enumerated as such, “… the obscurant and fanatic Tatar population deeply loathes the Armenians… The Armenians [comprising the majority of the population in International Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3/No. 5/special issue/2014 Karabakh] have surpassed the Tatars… [The Armenian-Tatar clashes] are ignited by the bulk of Turkish agents, swarming in the region and spreading the plague of the Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism” [Galoyan, 2002, 4].

Because of its geographically dominating position, Artsakh-Karabakh was chosen by the Pan-Turkic agents as the primary stronghold in Transcaucasia. Branches of Pan-Turkic organizations were created in Shushi, Karabakh [Elbakyan, 2012, 131-132]. The center of the anti-Armenian propaganda and military aggression against the defenseless Armenian population was the Pan-Islamic committee in Baku. There are certain evidences that the Transcaucasian Muslims were being supported by the Ottoman Empire. One of the members of the Central Committee of the newly-emerging Committee of Union and Progress, Behaeddin Shakir Bey in one of his letters dispatched to the “Muslim Brothers of Caucasus” wrote, “Armenians are our enemies. Besides, they are the fiercest obstacle on your way to get freedom from Russians. Make a certain plan on weakening them” (March, 1906) [Demoyan, 2006, 29-30]. Thus, during the Armenian-Tatar clashes, the Ottoman Empire gave a comprehensive support to Tatars with an intention to undermine the Russian influence in the region as well as to shake the Armenian rising potential [Ibid.]. As an eyewitness, Luigi Villari states, “Tartar (i.e. Tatar – E.E.) intellectuals are … furiously anti-Armenian, and have not been without Government backing, as an offset to the Armenian and Socialist movements” [Villari, 1906, 169]. Later in 1907 the Russian intelligence services also alarmed that the Sultan was preparing for the war, thus the concentration of the troops at the OttomanRussian border as well as backing up the anti-Russian – anti-Armenian factions were thoroughly prearranged acts [Galoyan, 2002, 1] rather than just “plots” as comprehended then by the Armenian circles (“But there is another view, shared by the bulk of the Armenians, according to which Tartar outbreaks are merely part of a much wider movement of a Pan-Islamic character. It is a vast conspiracy organized in Constantinople and in Teheran, to bring about a union of the whole Mohammedan world, to exterminate the Christians of the Middle East” [Villari, 1906, 173]).

By scrutinizing the seats of war, it is easy to conclude that the clashes were not something sporadic or merely ignited by the central authorities, but an organized fighting with the certain logics around the security and economic interests in terms of the then political reality. For instance in Baku the main target of the Tatars was the oilfields belonging to the Armenians. Especially they were badly damaged in the second phase of the Baku fights in August of 1905. The clashes, burst out in the central areas, signaled to the Muslims in Armenia (in particular Nakhijevan and Artsakh-Karabakh) at the possibility to strengthen the positions in those districts. After the Baku clashes, Muslim communities in Nakhijevan began smuggling consignments of weapons from Persia [Villari, 1906, 270]. On the 25 th of May, acting on a prearranged plan, bands of armed Tatars attacked the market area in the district capital, the town of Nakhijevan, looting and burning Armenian businesses and killing any Armenians they could find. Later, in a revenge attack, Armenians attacked a Tatar village, killing 36 people [Ibid., 270-274]. The Armenian-inhabited parts of Nakhijevan were largely devastated.

In Arstakh-Karabakh the rural districts as well as strategic strongholds were the main area of conflict.

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