Unfrozen Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh

Why Violence Persists

An ethnic Armenian soldier walks in a trench at their position near Nagorno-Karabakh's town of Martuni, April 8, 2016. Reuters

The early April clash between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh was the bloodiest since Russia brokered a cease-fire between the countries to end the fighting in the region in 1994. The fighting in April left some 30 people, soldiers and civilians, dead. And it did nothing to resolve a conflict that has simmered since the Russian intervention.

The dispute’s intractability stems both from present-day complications and from incompatible historical narratives, conceptions of justice, and feelings of victimization on both sides. Emotion-laden issues of land, identity, and honor have made it nearly impossible over the last 20 years for mediators to nudge the adversaries toward the compromises essential for any durable political settlement.

It was Stalin, the Bolsheviks’ chief expert on the regional nationalities, who oversaw the crafting of the borders of the union republics that would eventually make up the Soviet Union. During two years of independence between the collapse of

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