Confidential Agency Studies Acknowledge Nagorno Karabagh as "Armenia's Cultural and Religious Center"

August 12, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC—An analysis of recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents reveals a pattern over the past twenty-five years of official – although confidential—acknowledgement of the fact that Nagorno Karabagh is a historic part of Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The declassified documents – some from as back as the 1970s, confirm that successive U.S. Administrations have known that:

1) Nagorno Karabagh is historically Armenian;

2) Nagorno Karabagh has always maintained a legitimate claim to be reunited with Armenia;

3) Azerbaijani hostility toward Armenians in the late 1980s and early 1990s was not based on an Azerbaijani claim to Nagorno Karabagh, but, rather, was the outlet for growing domestic Azerbaijani frustrations over political, economic and demographic shifts that increased the gap in living standards between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Key excerpts of these reports are provided below:

[View the excerpts in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format by clicking]

* A 1990 CIA chronology of Nagorno Karabagh, prepared in August of 1990, included the following entry: “1921-23: New Soviet Government makes Nagorno Karabakh – historically an Armenian area—an autonomous region within the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.”

* A CIA 1988 study on the Caucasus confirms the historical record of Nagorno Karabagh’s status as “Armenia’s cultural and religious center.” The study specifically noted that, “Karabakh through the centuries remained semiautonomous under the rule of Armenian princes even when the rest of Armenia was under Persian and Turkish tutelage.”

* The same 1988 study, reports that, “Azeri animosity toward the Armenians has been intensified by political, economic, and demographic trends that have adversely affected the political status of Azeris and increased the gap in living standards between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In particular, the rapid expansion of Azerbaijan’s young adult population has put enormous strains on the republic’s capacity to provide adequate jobs, housing, and education. Azeri frustration has found an outlet in attacks on Armenians.”

* A 1978 CIA report on Soviet minorities issues, notes that, “the inhabitants of another turbulent area in the Caucasus, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, are able to make a better argument that their oblast should be transferred from one republic to another. The Karabakh Oblast is part of Azerbaydzhan, yet over 80 percent of its population is Armenian and it lies close to the border of the Armenian Republic. In 1975, according to the Azerbaydzhan Republic newspaper, virtually the entire leadership of the Karabakh Oblast was ousted for supporting a movement to detach the oblast from Azerbaydzhan and join it to Armenia.”

To access images of these and other public CIA documents, visit:


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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