Only 1,437 Of More Than 100,000 Ethnic Armenians Who Fled Karabakh Have Applied For Armenian Republic Citizenship – OpEd


After Baku restored Azerbaijani control over Karabakh last fall and the Armenian authorities there announced the dissolution of the breakaway republic of Artsakh, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region and moved to the Republic of Armenia, where nearly 80,000 remain registered with the authorities, the Armenian interior ministry says.

But it adds that only 1437 of them, less than two percent of the total, have applied for Armenian Republic citizenship, the result of fears among this community that if they do, they will lose their claims on property in Karabakh and the right to return there at some future point (

This gap has created a practical and political nightmare not only for those ethnic Armenians who fled from Karabakh last fall but also for the Armenian government as it seeks to integrate the new arrivals lest they be mobilized by domestic or foreign opponents of Nikol Pashinyan’s regime.

The legal status of the Armenians from Karabakh is somewhat confused. For 30 years, Armenians in that breakaway republic had Armenian Republic passports; but Yerevan treated them then and now as travel documents rather than as evidence of citizenship, a fact that allowed the Armenian government to give them refugee status since last fall.

But having accepted the status of refugees from the Armenian government, the Karabakh Armenians lost the opportunity to seek that status in other countries. At least 10,000 of the refugees did not agree to take that status and have moved on; and another 10,000 remain in the Republic of Armenia but haven’t registered with the authorities.

This situation may very well become explosive and soon. According to Armenian activists, the Armenian government is currently planning to make any benefits it is prepared to give ethnic Armenians from Karabakh contingent on their accepting Republic of Armenia citizenship.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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