The Liberation Movement Of Nagorno Karabakh

[Congressional Record: February 17, 2005 (Extensions)]
[Page E269]
>>From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

[[Page E269]]




of new jersey

in the house of representatives

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, this Sunday, February 20, 2005 will mark
the 17th anniversary of the modern day liberation movement of the
people of the Nagorno Karabakh (NK). Seventeen years ago the people of
NK petitioned the Soviet government to correct historical injustices
and reunite them with their compatriots in Armenia.
The Armenians of NK were placed within the borders of Azerbaijan in
1921, as one of many ethnic groups there were separated by Joseph
Stalin through his “divide and conquer” strategy. Armenians of NK
were subjected to brutal Soviet Azerbaijani rule for 70 years.
It is imperative that we recognize the fact that NK’s referendum to
secede from Azerbaijan in 1988 was pursuant to Soviet law. NK was
already operating as an autonomous region and therefore had the right
and the power to secede if they chose to.
In fact, during the seven decades of Soviet rule, the Armenians of NK
repeatedly stated to each successive Soviet regime their desire to be
joined again with Armenia. These peaceful and legal maneuvers were met
with violent repression and forced settlement of ethnic Azeris into NK.
In 1988, when the Armenians of NK heard of the Mikhail Gorbachev’s
democratization agenda, they began to again move peacefully for
reunification with Armenia. At this time, the Soviet and Azeri armies
would not stand even to entertain this request and immediately resorted
to violence. Public expressions of determination by the Armenians of NK
were met with a campaign of ethnic cleansing, deporting the Armenians
of NK and Azerbaijan.
In 1991, as Armenia and Azerbaijan followed most soviet states in
succession from the USSR, NK also voted to succeed. In an
internationally monitored referendum, the NK population overwhelmingly
voted to establish an independent Nagorno Karabakh Republic, currently
known as NKR.
Following this referendum in which the country was established, the
Azeri army began a full-scale war on the Armenians of NK, which took
thousands of lives over 3 years, but eventually ended up with NKR
repelling Azeri forces. This victory was gained with an army that was
out-manned and out-gunned, but had desire and guile that proved to be
overwhelming. This conflict had a terrific human cost, leaving 30,000
dead and over one million displaced. Thankfully, although small
skirmishes have broken out from time to time, the peace has been kept
since an agreement ceased hostilities in 1994.
Mr. Speaker, I have repeatedly come to the House floor to speak of
the plight of the Armenians of NKR. I can now speak from personal
experience about NKR, having traveled there. I had the opportunity to
travel to NKR to witness the Presidential elections there, where we
served as official monitors. I am proud to say that all election
observers that participated in this historic event gave an
overwhelmingly positive response. One group in particular, headed by
the Baroness Cox from England stated that, “Our overall conclusion is
one of congratulations to all the people of Artsakh (NKR) for the
spirit in which the elections have been conducted, their commitment to
the democratic process and their pride in their progress towards the
establishment of civil society.”
This process is astounding considering that NKR is not recognized
internationally; that they still must deal every day with Azeri
aggression, and that their economy is still devastated from the war.
The elections were reported to have met, if not exceeded international
standards. All this just 9 short years removed from all-out war.
Congress recognized this consistent move towards democracy, granting
NKR $20 million in humanitarian assistance in FY `97, an additional $5
million in FY `03 and $3 million just last year. This assistance has
not just been crucial for needs of the people of NKR, but has also
fostered the beginnings of an excellent relationship between our two
Mr. Speaker, I would like to end with a final example of what I saw
during my visit to NKR. During the elections, as I visited the capitol
city and small villages alike, everyone I spoke to was incredibly
excited about the prospect of voting. They viewed the vote not only as
a choice of the leader of their country for the next 5 years, but a
statewide referendum on the democratic process and independence of NKR.
I congratulate the people of NKR for the 17th anniversary of the
Nagorno Karabakh Liberation movement and their incredible determination
to establish a free and open democratic society.