Thursday, October 09, 2008


"Nagorno" is Russian for "highland" - and is a word that isn't used in either Azeri or Armenian, but was imposed on a region of Azerbaijan during Soviet rule.

"Karabakh" is a word that originated in Turkic and Persian, and means "black garden."

"Nagorno-Karabakh" is a region in the South Caucasus. It encompasses the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, an unrecognised, but de facto independent republic, which under international law is officially part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

It is about 270 kilometers (170 miles) west of the Azeri capital of Baku and close to the border with Armenia.

What's up with that?

Well, it another one of those unresolved messes from the breakup of the Soviet Union that resulted in a brief war between neigboring countries - Azerbaijan and Armenia - over about terrirory and people.

Like the recent was between Russia and Gerorgia of South Osettia, it involves the territory of one country whose inhabitants identify culturally or nationally with another country.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, there was a referendum - boycotted by local Azeris - in which the ethnic Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh area of Azerbaijan approved the creation of an independent state.

A Soviet proposal for enhanced autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan didn't make anyone happy, and a full-scale war erupted between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, the latter receiving support from Armenia.

By the end of 1993, the conflict had caused thousands of casualties and created hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides.

Today, the area is in diplomatic limbo - and because it's disputed territory that is still occuppied by Armenian troops, the OSCE will not be sending election observers there.

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