Home / Azerbaijan / Terrorism and the Karabakh Conflict

Terrorism and the Karabakh Conflict

Having much in common with the two first Armenian-Azeri conflicts of the beginning of the century, the current one is also distinguished by certain differences. First of all, terrorism, as a new phenomenon unknown to other interethnic conflicts in the former USSR, should be mentioned. As previously stated, before the “official” beginning of the conflict on 17 June 1984, the Vartanyans, father and son, detonated a bomb on a regular Baku bus. This resulted in one woman‟s death and 9 wounded. The following year, two public buildings were burnt as a result of sabotage. However, the Armenians really took in terror acts after the beginning of the active phase of the Karabakh conflict. However, inexperienced terrorists ble w themselves up a number of times due to an inexpert use of explosive devices. Soon foreign Armenians came to help: in the summer of 1989 the first information about guerillas from the famous ASALA, evidence of whose professionalism was immediately apparent, appeared in the press. On 10 August 1989, a regular bus from Tbilisi to Agdam was bombed, killing 29 passengers and wounding 22. Only two years later was it possible to detain and sentence the terrorists: Tatevosov was sentenced to execution by firing squad and his assistant Avanesyan was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.

Meanwhile, buses continued to be bombed as before. At the same time, beginning in October 1989, when a Simferopol to Baku train was bombed, terrorist acts began to be implemented more and more frequently on the railway. The Armenians paid especially keen attention to trains going from Russia to Azerbaijan. Soon terrorist acts began to be implemented on all types of transport. O n 8 January 1992, a bomb was detonated on the ferry Soviet Kalmikiya in the port of Baku and on 19 March and 3 July 1994 bombs exploded in the Baku subway.

In total, during the period from 1986 to 1994 about 100 terrorist acts were committed in Azerbaijan and about 20 were prevented. Not counting the murders of government leaders and high ranking military officials in Nagorny Karabakh, terrorist acts were committed against 6 buses (1984, 1989-1991), 14 civilian helicopters (1991-1992), the ferry (1992) and two attacks in the Baku subway during that period of time. Besides that, there were many terrorist acts targeting different types of transport and bridges. In total, more than 200 people died and about 1800 Azerbaijani civilians, the majority of whom were women, old people and children were wounded as a result of terrorist acts in the period from 1984 to 1994 (129).

Total Losses of the Parties

From time to time casualty figures appear in the press. Official data began to be brought to the public‟s attention only at the end of 1993. First, Grant Bagratyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, while in the USA pointed out that over 6 years the conflict had claimed 15,000 lives from both sides (130). At the end of April 1994, the Armenian agency SNARK distributed information that Deputy Ashot Bleyan had given while appearing in the Armenian parliament. On 26 April 1994, Bleyan declared that about 1,000 Armenians had died since January 1993 alone and that in total about 15,000 Armenians died as a result of the conflict with Azerbaijan.

Azeri information was also controversial. O n 27 October 1993, Azerbaijan‟s president Heydar Aliyev declared during a meeting in Baku with the President of Iran, K h.Rafsandjani, that Azerbaijan had lost the lives of 11,000 people and 25,000 had been injured in that war. A week later while appearing on national TV he brought up other casualty figures: 16,000 people died and 22,000 were wounded and about 1 million of people had become refugees. But on 24 December 1993 in a session of the heads of the CIS countries held in Ashkhabad, Aliyev declared that during the years of the conflict 18,000 Azeris died, about 50,000 were wounded and that 20% of the territory of the republic was under the control of the Armenians. And during official meetings held in May and June of 1994, Aliye v brought the number of Azeris killed in that war up to 21,000 people.

It appears even from this brief list of figures from both parties that they were very controversial and propagandistic in nature. In reality, over the seven years of conflict beginning in February 1988 to April 1994, about 11,000 Azeries and 6,000 Armenians died and about 30,000 Azeries and more than 20,000 Armenians were wounded. According to the official data of the State Commission of Azerbaijan Affairs on Missing Persons, Prisoners and Hostages, about 5 thousand citizens of the republic were registered as lost without information, among them 320 women, 71 children and 358 old people. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of more than 700 people in Armenia and in Nagorny Karabakh were known to t he authorities of Azerbaijan. During the period from 1992 to 2001 about 1086 Azeris were released and returned from Armenian captivity. Among them there were 67 children, 243 women and 246 old people. The death of 176 citizens of Azerbaijan in Armenian cap tivity was documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In turn, the destiny of more than 500 Armenians who were also registered as lost without information is still unknown.

According to the data of the State Statistics Committee of Azerba ijan, by the end of 2001, 219 thousand refugees (from Armenia as well as Meskhetian Turks who escaped in 1989 from Uzbekistan) and 575 thousand internally displaced persons from Nagorny Karabakh were registered. They constitute about 10% of the population of the republic. According to official data of the Armenian authorities, 310,000 refugees (from Azerbaijan, as well as a small number from Aphasia and Chechnya) and internally displaced or about 8% of the population of Armenia were registered in the republic.

By early 1994, the territory of the former NKAA, seven districts and a number of border villages were under the control of the Armenians. According to the Azerbaijan State Statistics Committee, that makes about 12,000 square kilometers or about 14% o f the territory of the republic. More than 870 populated areas of Azerbaijan including 11 cities and 5 settlements of city type were situated on that area. In turn, a small enclave of Armenia (the village Artsvashen or in Azeri -Bashkend) that makes about 50 km is under the control of Azerbaijan.

It is no less important to mention the indirect losses of the parties resulting from the Karabakh conflict. Compared with 1989, the birth rate sharply decreased and the death rate of children increased. During the period from 1989 to 1999, the number of orphans increased three times in Azerbaijan and doubled in Armenia. Meanwhile, most of the orphans were fixed among refugees and IDPs in both republics. As a result of the conflict and of the serious social-economical crisis that followed it about 2.5 million citizens of Azerbaijan (more than 30% of the population of the republic) and about 1 million Armenians (26% of the population of Armenia) left their countries to seek a living. The overwhelming majority of them are men between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. Such a flow of young and able-bodied men sharply and negatively affected the demographic structure of the populations of Azerbaijan and Armenia: it caused a reduction in marriages, a decline in the birth-rate, a reduction of family size and, finally, of the overall population

About oval