The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains to be one of the most controversial issues of the modern history of the South Caucasus. Nagorno-Karabakh has been a historical territory of Azerbaijan and majority of population were ethnic Azerbaijanis for the past several centuries. Armenian population could prevail only during the last two centuries after the settlement of the Armenians in this region as a result of the treaties signed between Russian-Persian and Russian-Ottoman empires at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Although the Versailles Peace Conference recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic of 1918-1920, Armenia did not abandon its demand on the territory. After two years controversies between Azerbaijan and Armenia, when the South Caucasus countries became part of the Soviet Empire at the beginning of 1920s, Nagorno-Karabakh was again flagged as a topic of discussion. Therefore, while referring to pre-existing reality, plenum of Kavbureau CC RCP(b) (Caucasus Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party of the Bolsheviks) decided to leave Nagorno-Karabakh within the territory of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic according to the decree of the July 5, 1921. Further in 1923, it was granted with an autonomous status.

On the eve of the collapse of Soviet Union at the end of 1980s, the Regional Soviet of Nagorno-Karabakh decided to transfer the region to the sovereignty of Armenia, which was rejected not only by Azerbaijan SSR, but also by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Central committee of the CPSU with reference to the Article 78 of the USSR Constitution. The Article 78 clearly signified that territorial alterations were unacceptable without the agreement of the affected union republic. Despite this fact, Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh followed a secessionist policy and began to create their political structures with the direct support of the Armenian SSR. They elected a Congress of Authorized Representatives of the Population of the NKAO in the summer of 1989. The congress was comprised exclusively of Armenian deputies, elected by local soviets or by village councils. On 24 August of 1989, the congress elected National Council, featuring 78 members, and its Presidium became the de facto government of Karabakh.

Furthermore, Armenian side used the Soviet Law of 3 April 1990 “on the Procedures for Resolving Questions Related to the Secession of Union Republics from the USSR” as a legal basis to justify its separatist actions. These endeavors explicitly violated not only above-mentioned article of the Soviet Constitution, but also the 1990 April Law per se.

From that time on, Armenians possessed unconstitutional government over one fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan about 30 years, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts at the result of the First Karabakh War of 1991-1994. However, at the result of the Second Karabakh War that lasted 44 days between 27 September to10 November 2020, Azerbaijan managed to liberate its territories from Armenian occupation and restore its sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. 

However, 30 years occupation had devastating influence over occupied territories of Azerbaijan in all meaning. Having succeeded in realizing its territorial claims militarily, Armenia spares no effort to consolidate the results of the use of force and politically promote its annexationist aspirations. To this end, Armenia undertakes measures to illegally change the demographic, cultural and physical character of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, thus gravely violating the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other applicable norms and principles of international humanitarian law. Over the period passed since the beginning of the conflict, tens of thousands settlers have moved to the occupied areas depopulated of their Azerbaijani inhabitants. Illegal activities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan include also exploitation, plunder and illicit trade of assets, natural resources and other forms of wealth, permanent infrastructure development, extensive exploitation of agricultural and water resources, timber exporting, archaeological excavations, embezzlement of artifacts etc.

The occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan has also had catastrophic consequences for the country’s cultural heritage in the occupied territories. The policy of purposeful destruction of this legacy following the occupation has been an irreparable blow both to Azerbaijani culture and world civilization. As has clearly been demonstrated in the deliberate change of the cultural look of Shusha and other towns and settlements of Karabakh, by destroying the monuments, changing architectural features and making “archaeological” excavations, Armenia pursues far-reaching targets of removing any signs heralding their Azerbaijani origins.

Therefore, this project is intended to introduce the Armenian crimes against the cultural heritage and natural reserves of Azerbaijan during 30 years of occupation of one fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan while violating international norms and principles. Each of the presented materials is substantiated and developed in detail according to local and international sources, public and academic data.