Azerbaijani offensive shatters 33-year effort at nation-building, depopulating majority of enclave from fear of genocide. Despite depression, Bible Society leader says, “God will not abandon us.”
Suddenly, more than 80 percent of people in Nagorno-Karabakh have fled.
Last week the unrecognized Armenian republic, called “Artsakh” by its 120,000 residents, suffered an invasion by Azerbaijan, which is recognized internationally as sovereign over the enclave nestled in the Caucasus Mountains.
At least 32 people were killed in the assault that violated a Russian-backed ceasefire, with at least 68 more killed six days later in a suspicious fuel depot explosion.
But more than the death count, fear of genocide is driving people to flee—more than 97,700 as of 6 p.m. Friday evening, according to Armenian officials [updated]. Though the enclave is home to around 400 holy sites now at risk of erasure, one official stated that 99.9 percent of Artsakh’s Armenians will cross the border to Armenia, the world’s first Christian nation.
The same crossing had been blocked by Azerbaijan since December 2022.
Near-starvation conditions ensued, with humanitarian aid allowed entry one day prior to the Azerbaijani offensive. The Artsakh government issued a decree to dissolve itself as of January 1, ceding control of a territory it declared independent after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Armenians controlled Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994, after a three-year war resulted in the deaths of 30,000 people, displacing an additional 100,000 in mutual exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Peace talks faltered since then, as they continued to fail after 2020, when a 44-day war resulted in Azerbaijan reclaiming much of the enclave. A further 7,000 were killed before the Russian ceasefire.
Azerbaijan has promised that Armenians in the territory will be integrated as full citizens with equal rights, joining other non-Azeri …