When an armed conflict broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh between Artsakh Armenian forces and Azerbaijani forces on 27 September, few expected that this conflict, which concerns a small area of the Caucasus, would become the first war scenario to be decided by drones rather than directly by humans within 44 days. It is not known how the armed clash began, Yerevan and Baku having exchanged accusations to that effect. 

However, it is fair to recall that this war, which has gone down in history as the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, resulted in a considerable victory for Azerbaijan over the Artsakh region, which was conspicuously reduced in geographical terms; but above all it saw a major role for Russia in the ceasefire and the long negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which finally led to a solution to the conflict with the creation of a Russian-controlled corridor between Artsakh and Armenia

The conflict between the two sides, which arose amidst inter-ethnic tensions in the region, is certainly not a recent one: it is the result of mistaken policies that can be attributed to the mismanagement of the ethnic conflict during the Soviet period: in fact, after a short period in which Nagorno-Karabakh effectively belonged to Armenia, in 1921 Stalin decided to assign the region, with an Armenian majority, to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic.

Soviet policy, centered on valuing the different nationalities of the republics associated with Moscow, established an ethnic-primordial understanding of nationhood, and thus attached great importance to nationality within the relations between the republics of the union. 

The Soviet structure of government, however, far from being equal among all the republics, saw a strong hierarchical connotation to the national-federal reality of the state, resulting in top-down decisions taken by Moscow which, in an entirely arbitrary manner, assigned territories to the different republics that were sometimes different from it precisely because of their ethnicity and majority nationality. The case of Nagorno-Karabakh is perhaps one of the clearest examples of how an error dictated by this kind of policy of allocating territories to ‘sister’ republics has subsequently caused difficult-to-resolve war and diplomatic conflicts.

Indeed, there have been numerous attempts by Armenia to change the status of the region: the first can be traced back to the 1930s, while subsequent demands were made in the 1960s and 1970s. However, despite the friction and friction, which led to the region suffering a major crisis due to its isolation, it was only in 1988 that a real political crisis broke out, leading to massive demonstrations in both the NKAO and Yerevan, and ultimately resulting in a harsh Soviet reaction, where Moscow was forced to declare a state of emergency and deploy the army to prevent the escalation of violence.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, and the attainment of independence, the first Nagorno-Karabakh war finally broke out, when, in 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh, by referendum, self-proclaimed its independence from Azerbaijan. The confrontation began in early 1992, with Azerbaijani bombardment, and only ended in 1994, with considerable losses suffered by Azerbaijan both in terms of men and districts lost. 

However, despite the end of the conflict through the 1994 Bishkek Agreement, the situation remained uncertain, with no unequivocal international recognition of the Artsakh Republic.

Precisely for this reason, precisely the impossibility of having a definitive negotiation on the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh, makes this clash difficult to solve and almost completely intractable. The two main actors, Armenia and Azerbaijan, oppose diametrically opposed interests within a strategic territory: in a region like the South Caucasus, made important by geopolitical interests, several powers such as Turkey, Iran, Russia, China, United States and European Union have interests in the region, which represents a real bridge between East and West.

Considering the origin of the conflict and the latest developments, the future does not look very bright or peaceful unless the stakeholders decide to push Armenia and Artsakh towards a genuine legal recognition of the NK’s autonomy, which unfortunately has not yet happened. 

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