The conflict is an offshoot of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Like the other member states, Armenia and Azerbaijan then declared independence. Immediately there was dispute about the Nagorno-Karabakh area, a region that lies within Azerbaijan, but is mainly inhabited by Armenians. It came to a war with thousands of deaths that allowed Armenia to conquer Nagorno-Karabakh and a corridor to Armenia.
Two years ago, the army of Azerbaijan – lavishly equipped with oil and gas exports – overran much of Nagorno-Karabakh. Under Russian mediation, after six weeks of war and 6,500 deaths, a ceasefire was concluded, allowing Armenia to keep about half of Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, that area has been connected to Armenia only by a narrow corridor controlled by Russian troops.
Armenians are a local people from the Caucasus with their own language. Most are Christian and the country considers itself culturally European, even though it is geographically located in Asia. Azerbaijan is mainly populated by Shia Muslims related to Turks. The country has good relations with Turkey.
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