The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh was claimed by both the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the First Republic of Armenia when both countries became independent in 1918 after the fall of the Russian Empire.
A brief war over the region broke out in 1920. The dispute was largely shelved after the Soviet Union established control over the area, and created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923.
Throughout the Soviet period, Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast were heavily discriminated against.
The Soviet Azerbaijani authorities worked to suppress Armenian culture and identity in Nagorno-Karabakh, pressured Armenians to leave the region and encouraged Azerbaijanis to settle within it, although Armenians remained the majority population.
General view of the capital Stepanakert in 2015
In the leadup to the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In 1991, a referendum held in the NKAO and the neighbouring Shahumyan Province resulted in a declaration of independence. Ethnic conflict led to the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.
Conflict has sporadically broken out since then, most significantly in the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh***. The Lachin corridor linking Artsakh to Armenia was blockaded by Azerbaijan in December 2022.
Following an Azerbaijani offensive on 19 September 2023, the government of the Republic of Artsakh agreed to disarm and enter talks with the Azerbaijani prompting an exodus of ethnic Armenians from the area.
The town of Chartar in 2010
Its topography is mountainous, averaging 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) above sea level. The population is 99.7% ethnic Armenian, and the primary spoken language is Armenian. The population is overwhelmingly Christian, most being affiliated with the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Several historical monasteries are popular with tourists. They come mostly from the Armenian diaspora, as most travel can take place only between Armenia and Artsakh. The Republic of Artsakh is a presidential democracy with a unicameral legislature.
The state is reliant on and closely integrated with Armenia, in many ways functioning as a de facto part of Armenia