Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast

The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast[a] (NKAO) was an autonomous oblast within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic that was created on July 7, 1923. Its capital was the city of Stepanakert. The leader of the oblast was the First Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. The majority of the population were ethnic Armenians.[2][3][4]

Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
Autonomous oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic
Location Nagorno-Karabakh2.png
• 1989
4,388 km2 (1,694 sq mi)
• 1989
 • TypeAutonomous Oblast
• Established
7 July 1923
• Abolished
26 November 1991
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Transcaucasian SFSR
Republic of Artsakh
Population source:[1]


Principal cities of the Oblast

The area was disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan during their short-lived independence from 1918 and 1920. After the Sovietization of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Kavbiuro organization decided to keep the area within the Azerbaijan SSR whilst granting it broad regional autonomy.[5] Initially, the principal city of Karabakh, Shusha, and surrounding villages were to be excluded from the autonomy as they were predominantly Azerbaijani, particularly after the massacre and expulsion of the majority Armenian population of Shusha—this decision was later reversed in 1923 when Shusha was decided to join the NKAO despite protests from Muslim villages who favored its inclusion into the Kurdistansky Uyezd instead.[6]

On July 7, 1923, Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was created and the capital was moved to Stepanakert.[7] At the time of its formation, its area was 4,161 km2 (1,607 sq mi).[7] According to the 1926 census, the population of the region was 125,200 people, among whom the Armenians accounted for 89.2%. However, by 1989, the share of Armenians dropped to 76.9% of the population of the autonomous region.[8] Reasons for this include the policy of Soviet Azerbaijani authorities to settle Azerbaijanis in the region and some out-migration of Karabakh Armenians, as well as the generally higher birthrate among Azerbaijanis than among Armenians.[9]

Although the question of Nagorno-Karabakh's status did not become a major public issue until the mid-1980s, Armenian intellectuals, Soviet Armenian and Karabakh Armenian leadership periodically made appeals to Moscow for the region's transfer to Soviet Armenia.[9] In 1945, the leader of Soviet Armenia Grigory Arutinov appealed to Stalin to attach the region to Soviet Armenia, which was rejected.[9] In 1965, thirteen Karabakh Armenian party officials wrote to Soviet leadership with their grievances about the attitude of Soviet Azerbaijani officials towards the NKAO. Many of these Karabakh Armenian officials were dismissed or moved to Armenia.[9] The rise of Heydar Aliyev to the leadership of the Azerbaijani SSR in 1969 saw increasing attempts to tighten Baku's control over the autonomous region. In 1973–74 Aliyev purged the entire leadership of the NKAO, who were regarded as Armenian nationalists. He appointed Boris Kevorkov, an Armenian from outside Karabakh, as the First Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan.[9]

In 1977, the prominent Armenian author Sero Khanzadyan wrote an open letter to Leonid Brezhnev calling for Nagorno-Karabakh's annexation to Soviet Armenia.[10]

Administrative divisionsEdit

There were five administrative divisions or raions in the NKAO :


According to Edmund Herzig and Marina Kurkchiyan, Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1920s had a population of 131,500 people, 94.4% (124,136) of whom were ethnic Armenians and only 5.6% (7,364) of whom were ethnic Azerbaijanis. In 1933, Nagorno-Karabakh had a population of 147,308, 10,751 (7.30%) of whom were urban dwellers, and 136,557 (92.70%) of whom were rural residents.[11]

Over the course of 68 years, the Armenian share of the population dropped from 94.7 to 76.9 percent, whilst the Azerbaijani share of the population quadrupled from 5.1 to 21.5 percent—indicative of the cultural and economic difficulties local Armenians experienced under Soviet Azerbaijani leadership which led to their expatriation to Armenia and Baku.[12]

Ethnic composition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
Ethnic group 1921 census[13] 1926 census[14] 1939 census[15] 1959 census[16] 1970 census[17] 1979 census[18] 1989 census[19]
Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
Armenians 122,426 94.73 111,694 89.24 132,800 88.04 110,053 84.39 121,068 80.54 123,076 75.89 145,450 76.92
Azerbaijanis[b] 6,550 5.07 12,592 10.06 14,053 9.32 17,995 13.80 27,179 18.08 37,264 22.98 40,688 21.52
Russians 596 0.48 3,174 2.10 1,790 1.37 1,310 0.87 1,265 0.78 1,922 1.02
Ukrainians 35 0.03 436 0.29 238 0.18 193 0.13 140 0.09 416 0.22
Belarusians 12 0.01 11 0.01 32 0.02 35 0.02 37 0.02 79 0.04
Greeks 68 0.05 74 0.05 67 0.05 33 0.02 56 0.03 72 0.04
Tatars 6 0.00 29 0.02 36 0.03 25 0.02 41 0.03 64 0.03
Georgians 5 0.00 25 0.02 16 0.01 22 0.01 17 0.01 57 0.03
Others 267 0.21 151 0.12 235 0.16 179 0.14 448 0.30 285 0.18 337 0.18
TOTAL 129,243 100.00 125,159 100.00 150,837 100.00 130,406 100.00 150,313 100.00 162,181 100.00 189,085 100.00

Military conflictEdit

Location of the Oblast within the area claimed by the Republic of Artsakh.

The conflict between the Armenians in the oblast and the government of the Azerbaijan SSR broke out in 1987. The fighting escalated into the First Nagorno-Karabakh War by the end of 1991. On November 26, 1991, the parliament of the Azerbaijan SSR abolished the autonomous status of the oblast. Its internal administrative divisions were also abolished, and its territory was split up and redistributed amongst the neighboring administrative raions of Khojavend, Tartar, Goranboy, Shusha, and Kalbajar.[20] In response, the majority Armenian population of the oblast declared their independence as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which was supported by Armenia.[21][22] Today, most of the territory of the former oblast is under the control of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. Azerbaijan regained control of the southern part of the former autonomous oblast during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.[23]

Current statusEdit

As of 2022, the central and northern part of the NKAO remains under de facto control of the Republic of Artsakh and the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Republic of Artsakh is not formally recognized by any country as the status of the area of the NKAO has been disputed since the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.[24] Azerbaijan dissolved the NKAO oblast as an administrative division of Azerbaijan on November 26, 1991 through the Law on Abolishment of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Soon after this event, Armenian residents of the NKAO voted in the 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh independence referendum to become independent from Azerbaijan. Since then, the territory of the autonomous oblast has been in dispute, as shown by the decades long efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group before the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Russian: Нагорно-Карабахская автономная область, НКАО; Azerbaijani: Dağlıq Qarabağ Muxtar Vilayəti, DQMV; Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի Ինքնավար Մարզ, ԼՂԻՄ
  2. ^ Until 1936, Azerbaijanis were known as "Turkic peoples" or "Turko-Tatars".


  1. ^ (in Russian) НАГОРНО-КАРАБАХСКАЯ АО (1989 г.)
  2. ^ Ardillier-Carras, Françoise (2006). Sud-Caucase : conflit du Karabagh et nettoyage ethnique [South Caucasus: Nagorny Karabagh conflict and ethnic cleansing] (in French). pp. 409–432.
  3. ^ "UNHCR publication for CIS Conference (Displacement in the CIS) – Conflicts in the Caucasus". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  4. ^ Yamskov, A. N. (1991). Ethnic Conflict in the Transcausasus: The Case of Nagorno-Karabakh. Theory and Society. Vol. 20. p. 659.
  5. ^ "Q&A with Arsène Saparov: No Evidence that Stalin 'Gave' Karabakh to Aхerbaijan". December 10, 2018. Of all the documents I have seen, there is no direct evidence of Stalin doing or saying something in those 12 days in the summer of 1921 that [resulted in this decision on Karabakh]. A lot of people just assume that since Stalin was an evil person, it would be typical of someone evil to take a decision like that.
  6. ^ Həmid, Tural (December 15, 2020). "Dağlıq Qarabağın sərhədləri necə cızılırdı?" [How were the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh drawn?]. Azlogos.
  7. ^ a b Атлас Союза Советских Социалистических Республик [Atlas of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics]. Moscow: Central Executive Committee of the USSR. 1928. The Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of the SSR of Azerbaijan, was formed by the decree of the AzCEC 7 / VI 1923 from Armenian parts of the former Jevanshir, Shulgan, Karyaginsky, and Kubatly uyezds. The territory of the Region is 4.161 sq. km. According to the administrative division on 1 / I of 1927, it is divided into 5 sections or parishes. Its administrative and political center is mountains. Stepanakert (formerly the village of Khankendy). Another city of the Region is Shusha.
  8. ^ "All-Union Population Census of 1926. Ethnic composition of the population by regions of the republics of the USSR". 1926.
  9. ^ a b c d e De Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War. New York and London: New York University Press. pp. 137–140.
  10. ^ Sanjian, Ara (January 6, 2021). "The Armenian Diasporan Press on Mountainous Karabagh, 1923-1985". Entries of the Society for Armenian Studies. Retrieved January 21, 2021. This ‘silence’ was only broken in the Diaspora with the publication of Yerevan-based novelist Sero Khanzadyan’s open letter to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1977, demanding Mountainous Karabagh’s annexation to Soviet Armenia.
  11. ^ Административное деление АССР... 1. Районы, сельсоветы, списки, населенных мест с указанием численности населения, национального состава числа хозяйств по состоянию на 1/1-1933 г. 2. Список колхозов, совхозов, МТС и МТФ. 3. Карты, районов на тюрк. и рус. яз. (отдельно) - Азербайджанская ССР Управление народно-хозяйственного учета (in Russian). 1933.
  12. ^ The Armenians : past and present in the making of national identity. Edmund Herzig, Marina Kurkchiyan. London: RoutledgeCurzon. 2005. p. 121. ISBN 0-203-00493-0. OCLC 229988654.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ "Перепись населения АзССР в 1921 г." May 26, 2011. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2022.
  14. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1926 года. Национальный состав населения по регионам республик СССР Демоскоп
  15. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1939 года. Распределение городского и сельского населения областей союзных республик по национальности и полу Демоскоп
  16. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1959 года. Городское и сельское население областей республик СССР (кроме РСФСР) по полу и национальности Демоскоп
  17. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1970 года. Городское и сельское население областей республик СССР (кроме РСФСР) по полу и национальности Демоскоп
  18. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1979 года. Городское и сельское население областей республик СССР (кроме РСФСР) по полу и национальности Демоскоп
  19. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года.Распределение городского и сельского населения областей республик СССР по полу и национальности Демоскоп
  20. ^ Svante Cornell, Turkey and the Conflict in Nagorno Karabakh: A Delicate Balance Archived June 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, in Middle Eastern Studies Journal Vol 34, No. 1 (London: Frank Cass Publications, January 1998), pp. 51–72
  21. ^ Oskanian, Kevork (September 29, 2020). "Nagorno-Karabakh: are Armenia and Azerbaijan sliding towards all-out war?". The Conversation. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  22. ^ Minasyan, Karen (October 2, 2020). "Why Nagorno-Karabakh? The history (both ancient and modern) that fuels the deadly conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan". Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  23. ^ "Report: The Anatomy of Genocide – Karabakh's Forty-Four Day War". Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  24. ^ Department Of State. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs. "1993 UN Security Council Resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh". Retrieved October 19, 2020.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 39°48′55″N 46°45′07″E / 39.8153°N 46.7519°E / 39.8153; 46.7519