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Case Study in Ethnic Strife: Without Rules or Pity

Courtesy Reuters

The austere beauty of the mountains surrounding Stepanakert does little to relieve the morose atmosphere. Long a provincial town with an ethnic Armenian majority deep in western Azerbaijan, Stepanakert now styles itself the capital of the independent Armenian Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. But not even Armenia, which urged Nagorno-Karabakh's secession and supported it in the subsequent war with Azerbaijan, recognizes the enclave as a state. After almost seven years of violence and another two under a shaky cease-fire, the enclave's economy is deteriorating and the population is declining. This has done little to mitigate the sense of ethnic grievance and nationalism that prevails in the mountain fastness of High Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenians had agitated for autonomy for decades before declaring independence in July 1988 as the Kremlin's hold over the Soviet Union slipped. (The 1989 Soviet census in the enclave showed a population about three-quarters Armenian and one-quarter Azeri.) That February, some 30 ethnic

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