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In Photos: The Disputed Lands of Nagorno-Karabakh

VICE News visited Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave which is part of Azerbaijan, but controlled by Armenia, following the outbreak of fierce fighting there earlier this month.
Photo de Anush Babajanyan

When fighting broke out earlier this month in Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked mountainous enclave in Azerbaijan, a conflict dating back more than a century was reignited.

The region has long been disputed by ethnic Armenians, who form the majority of its population, and Azeris, who see the land as rightfully theirs.

After the Armenians declared independence in 1991 the tensions escalated into all-out war, which killed around 30,000 people and displaced more than a million. Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement in 1994 which put an end to the fighting and left the region in Armenian hands — though its independence was never officially recognized.


Skirmishes along the border have continued for years, but April's violence was much more serious. Around 50 people were killed during four days of fierce fighting, which ended when Moscow brokered another ceasefire.

The ceasefire seems to be holding but the spirit of Nagorno-Karabakh — Nagorno means "mountain" and Karabakh means "Black Garden" — and its people is heavy.

As peace talks take place Azerbaijan says the only outcome of negotiations it will accept is the restoration of its control over Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts that are held by the separatists, while the Armenians say they will never agree to Nagorno-Karabakh being under Baku's control.

"Azerbaijan was created in 1918. And Karabakh — some five thousand years earlier. But it was given away. And now we live here and we want to live on our land without Azerbaijan," said Ribuk Danelyan, a resident of the region's capital Stepanakert.

"We do not want to go anywhere from here," said another Stepanakert resident, Ella. "This is our land, we want peace so that we can live here. And we do not want to leave for anywhere."

All photos by Anush Babajanyan/4Plus.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Remains of a shell dropped on the wall of an old fortress at the entrance to Askeran town more than 20 years ago during the war between Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists.

Nagorno-Karabakh has its own government, though it is not recognized by Azerbaijan. Here, Nagorno-Karabakh Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan talks to his team, ahead of a meeting with volunteer fighters arriving in the regional capital Stepanakert from different locations in Karabakh and Armenia.

Veterans from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which began in 1988 and escalated into all-out war in 1991, arrive in Stepanakert, to volunteer to fight again — alongside younger generations of ethnic Armenians.

Vagharshak Grigoryan,12, was killed in shelling that hit the neighborhood of his school in the Martuni region on April 2, 2016. The child was one of four civilians killed as a result of the reignited conflict earlier this month.

Vagharshak Grigoryan's friends and family walk towards the cemetery in Herher village during his funeral. The village dates back to at least the 12th century.

Armenian Lieutenant Vahe Avanesyan, 27, and soldier Harut Gasparyan,19, follow an order to hide in a trench during military operations on the frontline on April 4.

The remains of a car hit by shell which exploded on a road leading to the village of Talish on the night of April 3, killing several volunteer fighters.

Dirt and dust cover the remnants of furniture and toys in one of the destroyed houses in Talish village. The three-generation Sahakyan family escaped the house the night the shootings began.

The Sahakyan family receive free accommodation and food at a hotel in Nagorno-Karabakh's capital, Stepanakert.

An Armenian soldier arranges guns at a firing position on the frontline.

Nagorno-Karabakh's army was formed in 1992 and now numbers around 20,000 troops, funded by Armenia.

All photos by Anush Babajanyan/4Plus. Follow her on Twitter: @anushbabajanyan. Follow her on Instagram: @anushbabajanyan