Independence or Reunification?
The modern stage of the Artsakh Liberation Movement has started in 1988 with the idea of reunification with Armenia. Following decades of discrimination and suppression by the Soviet Azerbaijan, Karabakh Armenians initiated a regular attempt to restore the historic injustice of including millennia-old Armenian principality into the newly-created Soviet Azerbaijani republic in 1921.
On February 20, 1988, the extraordinary session of the (Soviet) Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast’s (NKAO) Council of Peoples Deputies made a historic decision. This included an appeal to the Soviet Azerbaijan to secede from the region, an appeal to the Soviet Armenia for unification, and an appeal to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR to recognize this shift based upon legal norms and on precedents in resolving similar disputes in the USSR.
However, Azeri authorities appeared to be incapable for a civilized discussion of this matter, and a wave of anti-Armenian violence took place around the republic. Massacres and pogroms of Armenians were organized in major Azerbaijani cities – Baku, Sumgait, Kirovabad, Shamkhor; hundreds of miles away from the NKAO proper. Atrocities claimed hundreds of innocent lives, around 450,000 were forced out of their houses.
After the failed coup d'etat in 1991 in Moscow, Russia, Soviet republics launched the process of achieving state sovereignty. In this connection on August 30, 1991 the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan adopted the declaration on restoration the state independence, which proclaimed an independent Republic of Azerbaijan - the successor of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 1918-1920.
Here, it worth mentioning that the Azerbaijani Republic of 1918-1920 did not include Nagorno Karabakh, which was recognized as a disputed territory by the League of Nations. Moreover, Azerbaijan has been refused in membership of the organization, due to the aggressive policy by the newly-created Turkish-backed Azerbaijan towards its regional neighbors.
Realizing the necessity of urgent actions to preserve the Nagorno Karabakh Armenians from a complete physical extermination, and taking advantage of then acting Soviet legislation, a joint session of the People's Deputies of the Nagorno Karabakh and Shahumian regional councils, on September 2, 1991 declared the establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) within the borders of the former NKAO and the Shahumian region (Full text of the Declaration: http://nkrusa.org/nk_conflict/declaration_independence.shtml#one). Thus, the Nagorno Karabakh legislature has enjoyed the right, envisaged by the USSR law of April 3, 1990 'Concerning the Procedure of Secession of a Soviet Republic from the USSR'. According to the law, in case of a Soviet Republic’s withdrawal from the USSR, autonomous entities and densely settled minority regions in that republic were given the right to independently determine their political-administrative status (Full text of the law: http://nkrusa.org/nk_conflict/ussr_law.shtml).
Days before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union, on December 10, 1991, a referendum was held in Nagorno Karabakh. Overwhelming majority of Artsakh’s population voted for independence of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. Artsakh citizens of Azerbaijani origin, who formed around 18% of population, were also offered to participate in the referendum. However, Azeri minority in Nagorno Karabakh boycotted the plebiscite
Parliamentary elections of the NKR followed forming the first government.
Since the very first day of the Karabakh movement, Artsakh authorities have been acting in full compliance with the acting legislation and international norms. The Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Artsakh remains determined to continue building a free and democratic state, with effective government and active civil society.