The Nagorno-Karabakh War, was an armed conflict that took place from February 1988 to May 1994, in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. As the war progressed, Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet Republics , entangledthemselves in a protracted, undeclared war in the mountainous heights of Karabakh as Azerbaijan attempted to curb the secessionist movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. The enclave's parliament had voted in favor of uniting itself with Armenia and a referendum, boycotted by the Azerbaijanian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, was held, whereby the vast majority of the voters voted in favor of independence. Thedemand to unify with Armenia, which proliferated in the late 1980s, began in a relatively peaceful manner; however, in the following months, as the Soviet Union's disintegration neared, it gradually grew into an increasingly violent conflict between ethnic Armenians and ethnic Azerbaijanis, resulting in claims of ethnic cleansing by all sides.
Inter-ethnic fighting between the two broke outshortly after the parliament of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) in Azerbaijan, voted to unify the region with Armenia on February 20, 1988. The circumstances of the dissolution of the Soviet Union facilitated an Armenian separatist movement in Azerbaijan and the declaration of secession from Azerbaijan was the final result of a territorial conflict regarding the land. As Azerbaijandeclared its independence from the Soviet Union and removed the powers held by the enclave's government, the Armenian majority voted to secede from Azerbaijan and in the process proclaimed the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabak .
Full-scale fighting erupted in the late winter of 1992. International mediation by several groups including Europe's (OSCE) failed to bring an end resolution that bothsides could work with. In the spring of 1993, Armenian forces captured regions outside the enclave itself, threatening the involvement of other countries in the region. By the end of the war in 1994, the Armenians were in full control of most of the enclave and also held and currently control approximately 9% of Azerbaijan's territory outside the enclave.
As the newgeneral secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, came to power in 1985, he began implementing his plans to reform the Soviet Union. These were encapsulated in two policies, perestroika and glasnost. While perestroika had more to do with economic reform, glasnost or "openness" granted limited freedom to Soviet citizens to express grievances about the Soviet system itself and its leaders.Capitalizing on this, the leaders of the Regional Soviet of Karabakh decided to vote in favor of unifying the autonomous region with Armenia on February 20, 1988. Karabakh Armenian leaders complained that the region had neither Armenian language textbooks in schools nor in television broadcasting, and that Azerbaijan's communist increased the influence and the number of Azeris living inNagorno-Karabakh, while at the same time reducing its Armenian population (in 1987, Aliyev would step down as General Secretary of Azerbaijan's Politburo). By 1988, the Armenian population of Karabakh had dwindled to nearly three-quarters of the total population.
On February 22, 1988, a direct confrontation between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, near the town of Askeran (located on the road between Stepanakert andAgdam) in Nagorno-Karabakh, degenerated into a skirmish. The Askeran clash was the prelude to pogroms in Sumgait, where emotions, already heightened by news about the Karabakh crisis, turned even uglier in a series of protests starting February 27, 1988.
Inter-ethnic strife began to take a toll on both countries' populations, forcing most of the Armenians in Azerbaijan to fly back to Armenia...