The Washington PostThe Washington Post

An Armenian exodus raises the specter of 'ethnic cleansing'

By Ishaan Tharoor

26 Sep 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. Thousands of ethnic Armenians are leaving their ancestral homeland in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave within Azerbaijan, due to a blockade. The region had maintained de facto autonomy as the unrecognized republic of Artsakh.

An entire community may be on the verge of abandoning its ancestral homeland. After months of blockade by Azerbaijan, thousands of ethnic Armenians motored out of their highland enclave in Nagorno-Karabakh toward sanctuary in Armenia. They were leaving behind towns and villages that have sat for years within Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory, but which had maintained de facto autonomy in the form of the unrecognized republic of Artsakh, a medieval Armenian name for the contested region.

But what existed for centuries may be about to vanish in days. Last week, a lightning-fast Azerbaijani campaign overwhelmed armed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and compelled Artsakh's authorities to agree to disband their territorial defense forces and enter into negotiations about terms of a de facto surrender. The advances marked the biggest escalation in the conflict since a brief war in 2020 saw the superior Azerbaijani military take back major swaths of land, which had been seized by Armenian forces in earlier rounds of fighting in the 1990s. Now, the autocratic government in Baku may for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union be able to extend full control over the majority-Armenian enclave.

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