Monday, June 18, 2012

Settlements, Destroyed Cities, and Imagery: The Unmapped Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

Long running ethnic rivalries, past genocides and pogroms, declarations of independence, foreign interference, refugees, settlers, and lost homes.  Sounds like the well mapped Israel-Palestinian struggle.  It also refers to the practically unmapped Armenian-Azeri conflict over the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which claims the former autonomous oblast and surrounding areas of Azerbaijan. The war ended in the early 1990s but a tense cease fire keeps the conflict cold.

We have written about this conflict before but now Google Maps imagery allows for some close-ups.  Geographic Travels preliminary work sadly is the leading edge in reporting the geography of this contentious issue. It seems Nagorno-Karabakh lacks the interest certain places in the Middle East get even though Nagorno-Karabakh and the occupied regions of Azerbaijan proper have been completely ethnically cleansed of Azeris.

Google Maps imagery does a great job showing some of the post-war ethnic changes in the region.

Ethnic Armenians from Armenia and around the world have established settlements in places like Lachin.

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Mincivan has been demolished and rebuilt as Mijnavan

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The Azeri city of Agdam has been completely destroyed and remains in ruins.

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Meanwhile there is still no cartographic consistency of whether "Nagorno-Karabakh" refers to the old autonomous oblast or the de facto republic (oblast plus occupied Azerbaijan).  There is no public database of ethnic Armenian settlements or destroyed Azeri locations.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic goes largely unnoticed and unmapped in much of the world.  This conflict is not only frozen geopolitically but geographically as well.  Almost all maps show this region nicely inside Azerbaijan.  This is a classic example of the true geography being publicly unknown because geographers do not report back the truth via maps and other modes of information.

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