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The historic region of Bessarabia used to be the gateway from Russia into the Danube valley

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Nagorno-Karabakh

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SE Azerbaijan region (1990 pop. 192,000), 1,699 mi2 (4,400 km2), between the Caucasus and the Karabakh range. Xankandi (the capital, formerly Stepanakert) and Shusha are the chief towns.

The region has numerous mineral springs as well as deposits of lithographic stone, marble, and limestone. Farming and grazing are important and there are various light industries. The population of the region is mainly Armenian (76%), with Azeri (23%), Russian, and Kurdish minorities.

A part of Caucasian Albania called Artsakh, the area was taken by Armenia in the 1st cent. AD and by the Arabs in the VIIth cent. The region was renamed Karabakh in the 13th cent. In the early XVIIth cent., it passed to the Persians, who permitted local autonomy, and in the mid-XVIIIth cent. the Karabakh khanate was formed.

Karabakh alone was ceded to Russia in 1805; the khanate passed to the Russians by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813. In 1822 the Karabakh khanate was dissolved and the area became a Russian province. The Nagorno-Karabakh (Mountain-Karabakh) Autonomous Region was established in 1923. The autonomous status of the region was abolished in 1989.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the region became a focal point in a war between the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as Armenian nationalists demanded the inclusion of the region in Armenia.

By the end of 1993, Armenians had won control of most of the region; more than a million people were made refugees by the fighting. An unofficial cease-fire was reached in 1994 with Russian negotiation. Nagorno-Karabakh's parliament declared the region independent in 1996.

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