Ethnic Cleansing in Progress: War in Nagorno Karabakh - Preface
Ethnic cleansings
Roots of conflicts
Legal aspects
Press archive
Operation Ring

Sumgait 1988
Baku 1990
Maraghar 1992


Caroline Cox and John Eibner

Ethnic Cleansing in Progress: War in Nagorno Karabakh

[Contents] [Preface] [Introduction] [Basic Facts] [A Conflict of Civilizations] [The Genocide] [The Pincers of Pan-Turkism] [Soviet Rule] [The Karabakh Question Revived] [Operation Ring] [The Post-Soviet Conflict] [The Characteristics of the People of Nagorno Karabakh] [The Prognosis: Continuing Bloodshed] [Conclusions] [Recommendations]



One of the authors of this report, Lady Caroline Cox, has for the last two years concentrated her attention on helping the population of Kara-bakh and refugees from Karabakh and Azerbaijan. In doing so she displays the highest degree of personal courage under gunfire and bombardment, risking her life to deliver humanitarian aid directly to the war zones. It is not from the words of others or from press reports that she knows the misfortunes and suffering of the peaceful inhabitants of this region, women, children and old people: she has seen their suffering with her own eyes, spent nights with them in air-raid shelters and cellars and out in the villages in their homes which might have been destroyed at any moment by a bomb or an artillery shell. She has shared their bread, when they had any, and wept with them for their dead sons and husbands. I do not know anybody in the West who is so deeply acquainted with everything that is happening in this region.

Therefore it is a great honour for me to write a preface to the report, although I do not entirely share its historical perspective: I believe that basically the present tragedy is caused not by the specific religious or cultural features of the two peoples, but by insistence on the priority of the principle of territorial integrity, which is the right of a state, over the principle of national self-determination, which is apart of human rights.

Five years have passed since the beginning of the Karabakh conflict. In response to the peaceful appeal of the full session of the regional soviet of Nagorno Karabakh for the region to be transferred from the administrative jurisdiction of Azerbaijan either directly to the government of the USSR, as it still was, or to Armenia, there began pogroms against Armenians which were provoked by the Azerbaijani authorities (in Sumgait, Gan-ja, Baku etc.). There followed the forcible deportation of the people of Karabakh by armed forces of the Soviet Army and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan. This was accompanied by the destruction of villages and towns, the burning of crops, theft of livestock, murders, rapes and the taking of hostages and their torture in Azerbaijani jails. This ethnic cleansing, which left Azerbaijan virtually devoid of Armenians and which also threatened to turn the entire population of Karabakh into refugees, was ignored by the world community and the UN, despite numerous appeals from the western and Russian public. It was this ethnic cleansing which escalated the conflict to open war.

Furthermore, in the autumn of 1989 Azerbaijan began a blockade of Armenia. At that time Andrei Sakharov appealed to western countries to establish an air bridge. His appeal was based on the obligation of the UN and the European Community to defend international laws, in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1948 which forbid a blockade against a peaceful country. Since then there has been an almost continous blockade. It has completely destroyed the country's economy, bringing 3.5 million Armenians to the brink of national disaster and threatening to kill thousands through cold, hunger and disease. Today Armenia is reminiscent of Leningrad under siege from Hitler's army during the Second World War. There is no electricity; television and radio are not operating; telephone communication has been interrupted; newspapers are not published; there is no heating or water supply; bread is rationed to 200 grams per person per day; refugees are living in cold metal tanks, which were previously used for the transport of petrol; and packs of hungry dogs roam the streets so that when people leave their houses they have to arm themselves with sticks to defend themselves and it is better for people who are weak not to go out at all. It is impossible to send a parcel or transfer money from Moscow because there are no regular flights. The blockade (and also the bombardment and shelling of Armenia's border towns and villages) continues despite the fact that Armenia has declared on numerous occasions that it has no territorial claims on its neighbours.

Western countries, the UN and the CSCE have since February 1988 had a remarkably indifferent attitude to the Karabakh conflict and have done nothing to bring about its peaceful resolution - not even the CSCE commission led by Mario Rafaelli. Nor have they done anything to stop the blockade of Armenia and Karabakh or to help over 350,00 refugees. Adequate use was not made even of diplomatic and political opportunities to compel Azerbaijan to lift the blockade and to oblige Turkey to open up a humanitarian corridor to Armenia.

The Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosian appealed to all the countries of the CIS to exert influence on Azerbaijan. I know that the President of Kirgyzstan, Askar Akayev, responded to his letter by himself appealing to the leaders of these countries and also to President Elchibey of Azerbaijan and the Turkish president Turgut Ozal. But what can a little country like Kirgyzstan do, if countries like the USA and Germany do not understand that the blockade of Armenia is a new form of racism: its people are being subjected to great suffering because they are of the same nationality as the people of Karabakh who are fighting for their independence.

One more aspect of the present policy of western countries should be mentioned: their failure to appreciate the importance of helping those new states whose governments are trying despite all the difficulties to create democratic states, in particular Kirgyzstan, which is in great need of humanitarian aid after last year's natural disasters, but which receives far less than its totalitarian-communist neighbours.

In the past, US international aid was specifically directed to helping countries where human rights were not violated and whose governments acted in accordance with democratic principles. Today the USA under a new president should reaffirm these basic principles.

Armenia does not need US soldiers or their weapons. It has a government and a parliament elected democratically and honestly and without any falsification. Its government is not engaged in a civil war with its own people or any section of it. Nor are American troops needed in Karabakh which established a humanitarian corridor linking it with Armenia at the cost of its own blood. But Karabakh and its people do need diplomatic recognition of its right to exist, which is entirely legitimate following the referendum held there in January 1992. What Armenia needs are diplomatic and political efforts on the part of western countries to end the blockade and temporary, but massive, humanitarian aid.

If western countries, and first and foremost the USA, do not achieve this now and instead retreat into isolationism, mankind will soon not only witness yet another shameful capitulation of democracy to force but will face war, destruction and atrocities on the same scale as in the former Yugoslavia.

Today it is still possible to find a solution to the Karabakh conflict and to save Armenia on the basis of the principles of defending human rights.


Elena Bonner Sakharov
11 March 1993





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