2021 Photo Contest, World Press Photo of the Year Nominee

Leaving Home in Nagorno-Karabakh

Photographer

Valery Melnikov

Sputnik

28 November, 2020

Azat Gevorkyan and his wife Anaik are pictured before leaving their home in Lachin, Nagorno-Karabakh, the final district to be returned to Azerbaijani control following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. 

Conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh resumed in September, after a lull of 30 years. When the Soviet Union was crumbling at the end of the 1980s, ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, part of Azerbaijan, took advantage of the power vacuum and voted to join Armenia. Fighting intensified after the Soviet Union finally dissolved in 1991, and continued until a ceasefire in 1994. More than 20,000 people died and a million people, both Armenian and Azerbaijani, had to leave their homes. Victorious Armenians declared an independent state, sending hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis into exile. In the intervening 30 years, little has been done to resolve the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and there have been periodic military clashes between the two sides. A July 2020 border clash triggered massive protests in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, with thousands of demonstrators calling for the country to go to war with Armenia. Renewed hostilities, which each side blames the other for starting, began on 27 September in what became known as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. Conflict continued until 9 November, the worst fighting the area had seen since the 1990s. In a settlement brokered by Russia, Azerbaijan regained possession of territory lost in the 1990s, but the regional capital, Stepanakert, was left under Armenian control. Although fighting is over, reconciliation will prove difficult both to Armenians who feel they have lost their homeland and are now displaced, and to Azerbaijanis returning to a region ravaged by war.

About the photographer

Valery Melnikov

Valery Melnikov is a documentary photographer based in Moscow. He studied journalism in Stavropol, Russia and began his photographic career working for The North Caucasus news...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
1/1600
ISO
3200
Camera
Nikon D810

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