Dec 31, 2020
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Nagorno-Karabakh: borders, pipelines, resources

Nagorno-Karabakh: borders, pipelines, resources

The military-political conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan began in 1988.

And all this time, it was Russia that did everything possible to stop the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. On both sides, over the entire period of the conflict, according to a number of data, more than 25 thousand people died and went missing. At least 45 thousand became forced refugees, including Russians, Greeks, Kurds, Tats, who have long lived in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO) and adjacent areas.


The bloody conflict in this region was actually provoked by the fact that the leadership of the USSR, back in the Brezhnev years, washed its hands of social, and from the beginning of the 80s also from the growing political oppression of Armenians – residents of NKAO, the majority of the local population.

In the 1920s, when NKAO was incorporated into Azerbaijan, the share of Armenians in the region was no less than 75%, and by the mid-1980s it decreased to 60%. The share of Azerbaijanis in the same period increased from 20 to almost 40%.

Moscow categorically did not want to interfere in the situation, which by the end of the 1980s had slipped into an almost direct confrontation between Armenians and Azerbaijanis throughout the entire South Caucasus. And Armenian activists in NKAO announced in 1988 about its separation from Baku. But instead of dialogue with opponents, the Baku authorities in 1989 abolished NKAO altogether, with which, of course, its Armenians did not agree, proclaiming the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) in 1991. And its armed forces were able, not without the help of Yerevan, to take control of up to 95% of the region’s territory and almost all the neighboring regions of Azerbaijan.


With the great efforts of our country with the help of international mediation, in 1994 an armistice was concluded between the parties, which, as you know, was observed until September of this year. But there were conflicts here after that.

The involvement of post-Soviet Moscow in the situation is explained by two major factors.

First, back in the mid-90s in the United States, the Massachusetts Institute developed the “Storm over the Caspian” plan – a NATO military operation with the participation of Turkey to establish control over the colossal reserves of Caspian hydrocarbons and the routes of their pumping to the West. That is, to control the entire Transcaucasia, and as a super task – also the North Caucasus. These routes pass from Azerbaijan to the Georgian ports and through Georgia to the ports of Turkey. And these pipelines are located in western Azerbaijan, 30-40 km from the northern border of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Secondly, Armenia is the only military-political ally of the Russian Federation in the south of Transcaucasia, near the Armenian-Turkish border there is a large and only Russian military base in this region, which naturally restrains NATO’s military and political appetites.

At the same time, Armenia, fully supporting the self-proclaimed NKR, and today refuses to officially recognize it. And this initially strengthens Azerbaijan’s desire to regain control of the ex-NKAO and the adjacent regions. Moreover, the UN considers this entire territory to be a part of Azerbaijan.


However, a time bomb was planted here back in 1919-1921, when the RSFSR was looking for a common language with republican Turkey. Moscow was brought closer to Ankara by the parallel aggression of the Entente against both the RSFSR and Turkey.

However, the new Turkish authorities, headed by M. Kemal (Ataturk), retained Ottoman claims to almost the entire territory of South Transcaucasia. The troops of the new Turkey invaded Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1920, and were withdrawn in 1921 after the consent of the RSFSR with the terms of delimitation between Armenia and Azerbaijan put forward by Turkey.

That is, Ankara insisted that the Nakhichevan region of the ex-Erivan province of the Russian Empire, in which Armenians also predominated until the end of the 70s, became part of the Azerbaijan SSR. Since then, this Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is inside Armenia. And Nagorno-Karabakh turned out to be an autonomous region within Soviet Azerbaijan, but, we emphasize, did not border on the Armenian SSR. These conditions are enshrined in the unlimited agreements of 1921 between the RSFSR and Turkey “On Friendship and Brotherhood”, as well as the RSFSR and the Transcaucasian republics with Turkey “On Friendship”.

In addition, the external borders of the NKAO Moscow and Baku were changed three times during the Soviet period. To distance the region from Armenia and Iran …


The struggle for Nagorno-Karabakh is also due to the fact that in the local depths there are very large and high-quality reserves of various raw materials, explored in the 1930s – early 1980s.

But in Baku they considered it unsafe to develop them, given that the Armenian, that is, the prevailing population here, is inclined to withdraw the region from Azerbaijan. Therefore, the railway from Baku to NKAO, although it was built back in 1942, did not work for 25 years: from 1962 to 1978. And in 1989 it was dismantled altogether …

The “general use” economic maps of the Azerbaijan SSR have never indicated the reserves of various raw materials in the bowels of the NKAO. Meanwhile, in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the geological services of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the NKR, there are about 160 raw material deposits, mainly with industrial reserves, including 5 gold ore, 6 mercury, 2 copper, 1 lead, 1 zinc, 14 deposits of semi-precious stones , 9 gypsum, 4 marble-tuff, 10 mineral waters, 7 therapeutic mud.

And according to the data of the NKR Ministry of Industry, which coincides with the data of the administration of the ex-NKAO (1983), deposits and manifestations of zinc, lead, copper, gold, iron, and sulfur pyrite were found in different regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. There are also reserves of granite, basalt, graphite.

In addition, in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Ministry of Energy of Armenia, there are places where oil manifestations come to the surface. Note that the likelihood of considerable oil reserves, including asphalt and shale (heavy, according to industry terminology), in and near the NKAO at the turn of the 50s and 60s. marked by Azerbaijani geological exploration.

In a word, the tough conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is due to a number of serious reasons, and not the last place in this row belongs to the rich resources of this region and the proximity to oil and gas export arteries.

Alexey Chichkin.

Photo: TASS / V. Sharifulin.

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