The Nagorno Karabakh Republic is a de facto legitimate democratic state

par | Juil 6, 2014 | Analyses, Tribunes libres

Institution-bulding in Karabakh: The NKR is a de
facto legitimate democratic state

by Major General Hayk Kotanjian


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© 1998 – 2014 Aravot – News from Armenia


On July 1-2, 2014, an International Strategic Policy Forum “The integration of national and regional peacekeeping capacities into the global system of peace operations based on the principles and standards of the UN” was held in Yerevan. The organizers of the Forum are:
Institute for National Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Armenia (INSS, MOD, RA), Secretariat of the Collective Security
Treaty Organization (CSTO), Joint Staff of the CSTO, Academic-Expert Council of the CSTO, the Center for Euro-Atlantic Security of the Institute of
International Studies MGIMO (University) – MFA, RF, Russian Political Science Association (RPSA), Political Science Association of Armenia (PSAA). The RA President Serzh Sargsyan sent a welcoming address to the participants. The RA Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan and Deputy General Secretary of the CSTO Valery Semerikov participated and made presentations in the Forum. The international experts on peacekeeping from the CSTO Secretariat and the CSTO Academic-Expert Council, the State Duma of the Russian Federation, the UN, the OCSE, the EU, the SCO, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute also made presentations during the Forum. The specialists from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belgium, Israel, Italy, South Africa, the Netherlands, Sweden, and China attended the Forum. See below the presentation delivered during the Forum by Major General Hayk Kotanjian, Doctor of Political Sciences, (RF); Counterterrorism Fellow (National Defense University, US); Elected Full member of the Academy of Military Science, RF; Distinguished Visiting Professor, INSS, NDU, US; Member of the CSTO Academic-Expert Council; Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Minister; Chairman of the Political Science Association of Armenia. 


In contemporary international relations the process of institution-building in conflict and post-conflict regions is an important factor in ensuring peace and security. In his recent welcoming address to the Moscow conference on international security, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon among the security priorities emphasized the importance of strengthening state institutions, including the development of institution-building in the process of peaceful settlement of disputes and resolution of regional conflicts.[1] As the UN Secretary General pointed out, institutions can play an important role in maintaining peace and reducing the risk of recurrence of violence, therefore the institution-building must be central to peacekeeping efforts.[2]

The main task of institution-building performed by international organizations is the capacity building of a state entity to provide it with the opportunity to exercise control over its own territory, as well as to meet the essential needs of the population, including the effective functioning of the judicial system and other governmental and social and public institutions. Ultimately, the consistency of state sovereignty is reflected in the effectiveness of these institutions, which gives opportunity to а subject of power to establish relationships with other actors operating in conflict or post-conflict regions and to share the responsibility for control over the situation, as well as the provision of stability, security and lasting peace. 
The establishment of effective and legitimate institutions is challenging even under the most favorable conditions. This problem becomes even more complicated in the process of peoples’ self-determination, accompanying the disintegration of multinational states, characterized by regime change. As you know, the right to self-determination was recognized following the World War II, first in Article 1 of the UN Charter, which entered into force in  1945, and then in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (adopted by the Resolution 1514 of the UN General Assembly’s 15th Session on December 14, 1960), and in subsequent UN documents. Similar principles are enshrined in the documents of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe – the Helsinki Final Act of 1975,[3] the Concluding Document of the Vienna Meeting of 1986,[4] the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of 1990,[5] and other international legal instruments.
International actors have played and continue to play an important role in the formation of unrecognized or partially recognized states. The process of self-determination of peoples in connection with the dissolution of the Soviet Union is of particular interest to conflict analysis. The interest of political science to the processes of self-determination on the whole post-Soviet space stems from the recent political and legal fact of Crimea’s self-determination. The study of the international organizations’ practice of implementation of the UN principles and norms relating to equal rights and free self-determination of peoples in settling and resolving regional conflicts in Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, and South Ossetia is of special interest.
Commending the efforts of the UN and the OSCE, made with varying success regarding institutional peace-building in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, we will focus on the issues of Nagorno-Karabakh’s self-determination from the standpoint of institution-building’s legality in the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and democratic development of its institutional capacity as a factor of competent and sustainable control over the stable provision of political, economic and social life of society, democratically guaranteeing law-and-order within the NKR, the protection of individual and collective human rights. It should be assessed as a political and legal fact that all of the referenda on self-determination having taken place in the USSR territory and post-Soviet space, only the referenda in Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria were held in compliance with the then-in-force legislation.[6] 
The institution-building process in the NKR began in 1991. In accordance with the requirements of international law and the then-in-force Soviet legislation, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was proclaimed on September 2, 1991, which exercised its right to self-determination through a nation-wide referendum of December 10, 1991. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan – declaring its withdrawal from the Soviet state jurisdiction by the independence act of October 18, 1991, before the referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh according to the USSR Law on the Procedure for Resolving Issues related to the Secession of Union Republics from the USSR of April 3, 1990 – legislatively rejected the necessity to coordinate with it the further fate of Nagorno-Karabakh.[7] There was also no necessity to coordinate the results of the self-determination with the USSR central authorities due to the Alma-Ata Declaration of December 21, 1991, on the dissolution of the USSR.[8] 
At the same time, it is important to note that according to the documents of the Commission for the Referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh the Azerbaijani minority, in accordance with the letter of the UN Charter, was granted equal rights with the Armenian majority to freely express its will, however, on the orders of Baku authorities the Azerbaijanis of Nagorno-Karabakh were forced to abandon the right to participate in the referendum. Thus, the law-governed self-determination and the proclamation of the NKR’s independence occurred in the light of the collapse of the single union state and the establishment of new states in its place, including the very Republic of Azerbaijan.
The process of democratic state-building of the NKR consistently developed in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of power. The state-building in the NKR acquired systemic feature after the adoption in 2006 by direct democracy – a referendum – of the Fundamental Law.
Thus, on the basis of targeted development of democratic institutions of all three branches of power, and adherence to checks and balances between them, since 1991 open democratically competitive presidential and parliamentary elections have been held in the NKR, and since 1998 – through elections local authorities have been formed. According to the assessments of international observers –elections in the NKR are conducted in line with the Electoral Code of the Republic and the universally recognized norms of international law.[9] A symptomatic example of consistent actions of the NKR authorities on the way to reinforce the institution of democratic elections and develop civil society were the fifth presidential elections of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which took place in 2012, with the participation of three candidates, including the opposition ones.[10] 
A priority area of institution-building in Nagorno-Karabakh is the military security building. In response to the military aggression by the Azerbaijani side in 1992 against the lawfully self-determined Nagorno-Karabakh, in conformity with Article 51 of the UN Charter,[11] the NKR launched institution-building in the field of defense, forming an efficient Defense Army of the NKR, currently corresponding to the contemporary international standards.[12]As a modern regular military institution of an unrecognized state, the NKR Defense Army, however, in practice makes a feasible contribution to the efforts of the international community to maintain a balance of power, as well as peace, stability and security in the South Caucasus and the surrounding region. 
The recent successful completion of the monographic thesis Guidelines of National Security Strategy of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh – with the use of the latest methodological achievements of the US and the RF – evidences the NKR’s systemic steps in the institution-building of defense security sphere. The most important landmark achievement of the institutional viability of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be the solution of an extremely difficult task, which is already under development – the interagency elaboration of the NKR National Security Strategy – in terms of its non-recognized status. 
Drawing parallels between Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh, it can be stated that the steps towards the institution-building in Kosovo by such authoritative international organizations as the UN, the OSCE and the EU are also taken in the NKR with no less efficiency, but with a very important difference – in the NKR the institutional promotion of democracy is implemented on its own, with the support of the Republic of Armenia. In particular, with the help of Armenia and the support of the Armenian Diaspora, the recovery of vitally important objects of infrastructure and economy of the NKR is implemented.[13] Thus, summing up the facts of institution-building in Nagorno-Karabakh, it can be concluded that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is the de facto legitimate and democratic state. 
In the context of ensuring international security, the assessment of the existence of unrecognized states in a certain sense is stereotyped and often presented as a security threat. However, the example of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic shows that the systemic institution-building based on the conformity to law – aimed at the democratic strengthening of the state sovereignty and its effective defense – can be considered by the international community as a contributing factor in both national and regional security. 
In concluding my presentation, as the President of the Political Science Association of Armenia, I consider it my duty to appeal to the Heads of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries – Presidents of Russia, the US, and France, in connection with the distortion of the truth by the head of the neighboring
state in his speech at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of June 24, 2014. President Aliyev used the PACE’s floor to once
again, now from the international organization platform, declare territorial claims against the Republic of Armenia, arguing that the Armenian state was
allegedly established on the historical Azerbaijani lands. Without dwelling on the indisputable evidences of the fact of falsification by the Azerbaijani side
of the history and appropriation of historical and cultural heritage of the peoples of the South Caucasus and Iran, carried out under the political and financial sponsorship of the Azerbaijani authorities, we will focus only on the inadmissibility of territorial claims to the neighboring sovereign state.[14] 
Such an overt threat to the inviolability of borders and integrity of the Republic of Armenia contradicts not only the UN objectives and principles of set forth in Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of Chapter I of the UN Charter “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”, but also the status of the presiding official in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The argumentation by the President of Azerbaijan that indigenous Armenians of Karabakh are newcomers – through affiliating the “geographic toponyms” to Azerbaijani people – is, in fact, false.[15] The Armenian side has archival documentary evidences that the Armenian toponyms of Karabakh were turkicized as a result of the resale by Mehdi Quli Khan of the lands of the Armenian Melik of Varanda during 1806-1822 to Muslim Beks of his tribe Jevanshir that moved to Karabakh in the 18th century from Khorasan province of Persia.[16] 
The reasoning of the head of the neighboring state, presiding at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe – about the impossibility of the existence of the two Armenian states, in the case, when as a result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the process of decolonization, the Arab people exercised its right to self-determination in more than 20 states – is beneath criticism. As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, besides Azerbaijan, 5 more kindred Turkic states were self-determined. Moreover, it is well known, that the slogan “one nation – two states” of the neighboring state’s incumbent President’s father regarding Turkey and Azerbaijan, according to the official documents of these countries, continues to be a doctrinal basis for the existence – as two Turkic states – of Azerbaijan and Turkey.[17] Thus, following the logic of his father, the head of the neighboring state could talk about the NKR and the Republic of Armenia as one nation, and two Armenian states, lawfully self-determined as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. 
At present, Nagorno-Karabakh by its pace and the results of the democratic institutional development exceeds Azerbaijan. The undeniable proof of this are the reports of such authoritative international organizations as Freedom House[18] and Reporters without Borders[19]. The reaction of some Azerbaijani politicians on the recent speech of their President at the PACE may serve a unique supplement to the comparative analysis of the real democratic features of institution-building in the NKR and Azerbaijan. The speech of Ilham Aliyev at the PACE session, presenting Azerbaijan as a democratic state, is assessed to be truth-distorting also by a number of Azerbaijani opposition members. As the Head of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) Ali Kerimli notes “The fact that in Azerbaijan the corruption is rampant, there are up to 130 political prisoners in the country, and elections are falsified, is known worldwide. The statements of Aliyev on ensuring freedom of speech and assembly in the country and the absence of political prisoners are completely false”.[20] 
Replacing the existing problems of protection of democratic freedoms and human rights in his own state by cultivating the image of the enemy represented by the Armenian people, the emphases made by the President Aliyev in his speech at the PACE confirm his rejection of democratization in Azerbaijan. The Political Science Association of Armenia considers the publicly proclaimed armenophobic and bellicose rhetoric of the head of the neighboring state as another attempt to refrain from a peaceful constructive dialogue, ignorance of the efforts of international partners, and reluctance to take political responsibility for the establishment of lasting peace between the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples, and those of the region as a whole.
БЕЗОПАСНОСТИ, Москва, 22-24 мая, 2014 года:
[2]SeeВыступление Генерального секретаря ООН Пана
Ги Муна на заседании Совета Безопасности «Постконфликтное миростроительство» 21
января 2011 года:
EUROPE. 29 ИЮНЯ 1990:
[6]See Волкова А. З. Референдумы в контексте
истории становления и развития демократических институтов в Приднестровье
(конец ХХ – начало ХХI вв.). Министерство Иностранных Дел Приднестровской
Молдавской Республики. Дипломатический вестник Приднестровья. Референдумы в
контексте истории становления и развития демократических институтов в
Приднестровье (конец ХХ – начало ХХI вв.): Акт о результатах
референдума о независимости Нагорно-Карабахской Республики. Министерство
Иностранных Дел Нагорно – Карабахской Республики. 10 декабря 1991г. г.
[7]See Закон СССР “О порядке решения вопросов,
связанных с выходом союзной республики из СССР” No 1410-1 от 3 апреля 1990 г.”
Ведомости Съезда народных депутатов СССР, Верховного Совета СССР”, 1990, No 15;
Закон АзР “об упразднении НКАО АзР”, 26 ноября 1991 года. Ведомости ВС АзР,
1991, No 24;. Акт о результатах референдума о независимости Нагорно-Карабахской
Республики, 10 декабря 1991г. г. Степанакерт, Нагорно-Карабахская Республика,
Министерство Иностранных Дел):
[8] Алма-Атинская Декларация, Алма-Ата, 21 декабря
1991 г. Юридическая Россия. Федеральный правововй портал (v.3.2.).,100063824#text
[9]SeeОтчеты международных наблюдателей по выборам
в НКР, 19 июля 2012 г.:
[10]SeeА. Цыганок, Мнение международных
наблюдателей о выборах Президента Нагорно-Карабахской Республики – 19 июля 2012.
28 июля 2012 г.:
[12] See Գ. Հովհաննիսյան, ՊետութենաշինությանևխաղաղաշինությանմիջազգայինփորձըԿոսովոյիօրինակով: «ՀայկականԲանակ», 2012, հմ. 3, էջ 72-73.
[14] See the Speech by the President of Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliyev at the summer session of the PACE, June 24,
[15] See Official website of the Azerbaijani
President: Ильхам Алиев выступил на сессии Парламентской Ассамблеи Совета
[16]SeeП. А. Чобанян. Проблемы легитимности
Карабахских ханов в контексте политической истории Шуши. “Феномен Шуши.
Историко-политологическое исследование (коллективная монография)”. “Рабочие
тетради”, 2013, N 1-2.
[17] See Joint press statements of Presidents of
Azerbaijan and Turkey. Official website of President of Azerbaijan Republic. 15
september 2010:
[18] See «Azerbaijan Sends Pro-Democracy Activists
to Prison». May 4, 2014:;
«Freedom in the world 2013: Azerbaijan»:
[19] «Do you know who Atlético Madrid’s real
sponsor is?» May 22, 2014:,46334.html;
«2014 World Press Freedom Index»:
[20]See”Ильхам Алиев публично показал нетерпимость
критике”, 2014 Июнь 25:
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