قره باغ ، قاراباخ
Karabakh is a geographic region in present-day eastern
Armenia and southwestern
Azerbaijan, extending from the highlands of the Lesser
Caucasus down to the lowlands between the rivers Kura and
Aras. It includes three regions: Highland Karabakh (historical Artsakh, present-day Nagorno-Karabakh), Lowland Karabakh (the southern Kura-steppes), and a part of Syunik.
The word "Karabakh" is generally said to originate from Turkic and
Persian, and literally means "black garden".
The place name is first mentioned in the Georgian Chronicles (Kartlis Tskhovreba), as well in Persian sources from the 13th and 14th centuries. The name became common after the 1230s, when the region was conquered by the Mongols. The first time the name was mentioned in medieval
Armenian sources was in the 15th century, in Tovma Metsop'etsi's History of Tamerlane and His Successors.
Lowland and Highland Karabakh populated with various
Caucasian tribes were conquered by Armenians in the 2nd century BC and organized as the Artsakh province of the Kingdom of Armenia. However, it is possible that the region had earlier been part of Orontid Armenia from the 4th to 2nd centuries BC. After the 387 AD partition of Armenia, it passed to the kingdom of Caucasian
Arab invasions later led to the rise of several Armenian princes who came to establish their dominance in the region.
In the 15th century, the
German traveler Johann Schiltberger toured Lowland Karabakh and described it as a large and beautiful plain in Armenia. Highland Karabakh (
Russian: Nagorno-Karabakh) or Artsakh was from 821 until the early 19th century ruled by the Armenian House of Khachen and its several lines, the latter Melikdoms of Karabakh. In 1747, Panah
Javanshir, a local
Turcoman chieftain, seized control of the region after the death of the Persian ruler
Nader Shah, and both Lower Karabakh and Highland Karabakh comprised the new Karabakh khanate. Nevertheless Highland Karabakh was still ruled by its own hereditary princes, known as meliks, until the Russian annexation of the region in 1805.
Under Russian rule, Karabakh (both Lowland and Highland) was a region with an area of 13,600 km2 (5,250 sq mi), with
Shusha (Shushi) as its most prominent city. Its population consisted of Armenians and Muslims. Highland Karabakh was almost overwhelmingly Armenian in population according to an initial survey carried out by the Russians in 1823 and an official one published in 1836. In 1828 the Karabakh khanate was dissolved and in 1840 it was absorbed into the Kaspijskaya (
Caspian) oblast, and subsequently, in 1846, made a part of Shemakhanskaya (Shamakha) Governorate. In 1876 it was made a part of the Elizavetpol Governorate, an administrative arrangement which remained in place until the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917.
After the dissolution of Russian Empire Karabakh, Zangezur and
Nakhjevan were disputed between newly established republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Fighting between two republics broke out. Following the defeat of the
Ottoman Empire in
World War I,
British troops occupied the South Caucasus. The British command affirmed Khosrov bey Sultanov (an appointee of the Azerbaijani government) as the provisional governor-general of Karabakh and Zangezur, pending a final decision by the
Paris Peace Conference. But in 1920, Azerbaijan and Armenia were
Sovietized and the Karabakh's status was taken up by the Soviet authorities.
In 1923, parts of Karabakh were made a part of the newly-established Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), an administrative entity of the Azerbaijan SSR, leaving it with a population that was 94% Armenian. During the Soviet era a few attempts to unite NKAO with Armenia were made by the Armenian authorities but they were not supported by
In February 1988, within the context of
Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika policies, the Supreme Soviet of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast voted to unite itself with the Armenian SSR. By the summer of 1989 the Armenian-populated areas of the Nagorno-Karabakh Oblast were under blockade by Azerbaijan as a response to Armenia's blockade against Nakhjevan, cutting road and rail links to the outside world. On July 12 the Nagorno-Karabakh Supreme Soviet voted to secede from Azerbaijan, and in response the
Kremlin placed the region under the direct rule of Moscow, installing a special commission to govern the region. In November 1989 the Kremlin returned the oblast to Azerbaijani control. The local government in the region of
Shahumian also declared its independence from the Azerbaijan SSR in 1991.
In late 1991, the Armenian representatives in the local government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast proclaimed the region a republic, independent from the Azerbaijan SSR. Portions of the lowland Karabakh are now under the control of the Karabakh Armenian forces. The region's Azerbaijani and Kurd inhabitants had to leave the territories remaining under the Armenian control.
The Armenian population of the region speaks the Karabakh dialect of Armenian which has been heavily influenced by the Persian, Russian, and Turkish languages. It was the most extensively spoken of all Armenian dialects until the Soviet period when the dialect of
Yerevan became the official tongue of the Armenian SSR.