Introduction

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been happening since both countries were a part of the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin made the autonomous region a part of Soviet Azerbaijan. The conflict began in 1988 when Karabakhi Armenians demanded to become part of Soviet Armenia, which started a war that lasted until the ceasefire in 1994. Since then, there have been violations of the ceasefire; 2016 was the deadliest ceasefire violation until the recent escalation on September 27, 2020. Teaching about the conflict can be a useful way to help students learn about soviet history, how nation-state development oftentimes led to conflict, and how to think critically about war in relation to human rights violations. Not to mention, there are different global actors indirectly involved in the conflict aside from Azerbaijan and Armenia, including Turkey, Russia, and the U.S. 

Resources

There are a variety of resources available to teach about the history of the overall conflict. These resources will provide teachers with background knowledge and further information if they are unfamiliar with the region and the conflict. The articles and other resources are an excellent way to supplement any lesson about war, conflict, the Soviet Union, and human rights. The material is also a terrific way to engage students in discussion about disputed land and territory as well as to analyze the positive and negative consequences of nation states. 

Lesson Plans

  1. Breaking News Lesson Plan: This lesson plan focuses on ESL students, but it could be used for students at a middle school level. There is listening with vocabulary activities and reading comprehension checks. There are also a bunch of links to different grammar, listening, vocabulary, reading, and spelling activities for students to complete. This is an interactive website perfect for virtual learners.
  2. What’s Going on in Nagorno-Karabakh?: NatGeo’s education blog shares a bunch of questions with answers that could be used as a WebQuest for students. It also includes an interactive map as well as links to additional resources.
  3. Lesson plans for ages 15-18 in History: Population Displacement in the Commonwealth of Independent States: The UNHCR has a history and geography based lesson plan for high school students. It focuses on displaced people from former Soviet states. This goal of this lesson is to highlight just how many people have sought refuge due to violent conflicts and economic strife in post-soviet countries.

Articles

  1. Education as a Conflict Promoter: The Nagorno-Karabakh Example: Journal of Conflict Resolution focuses on how education can be used as a divisive tool in conflict stricken regions, such as Nagorno-Karabakh. It also discusses how both Armenia and Azerbaijan use education as a way to disseminate nationalistic propaganda that further promotes the conflict and civic support of it. Portions of this article could be used to facilitate debates between high school students or as a way to critically analyze education and its uses. A connection can be made between the purpose of education in important moments throughout history as well, or be utilized if students are learning about propaganda.
  2. Azerbaijan’s New Direction: Human Rights Challenges and the Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh: This Brookings article written by a former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan covers foreign policy relations between Azerbaijan and the U.S. in regards to human rights violation accountability with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
  3. In Armenia, the Frontline Starts in School: In this Open Democracy article, the author shares examples of schools in Armenia who are challenging nationalistic approaches to teaching history (as well as challenging the narratives published in history books). The article also provides a different perspective than the above article from the Journal of Conflict Resolution. 
  4. Nagorno-Karabakh: Historical Grievances with Dangerous Potential: Al-Jazeera explains in depth the role of Turkey, Russia, and the U.S. in the ongoing conflict and the implications. 

Informational Sites

  1. Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: The Council on Foreign Relations breaks down the recent escalation and the background of the conflict. They also cover details about previous mediation and peace talks, a slideshow of photos from the disputed territory, and links to other background articles.
  2. Nagorno-Karabakh: Timeline of the Long Road to Peace: Radio Free Europe has a  timeline of events related to the ongoing conflict.  
  3. Nagorno-Karabakh: The Geohistory site includes information about Nagorno-Karabakh’s history as well as the conflict over the disputed territory. There are a wide variety of videos that could be shown to students to help them better understand the overall conflict and its geopolitical implications.

Conclusion

Until peace talks and negotiations prove successful between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) will continue. While both countries each have their own perspective and collective historical memory of the conflict, teaching about it can be useful to help students learn about the Soviet Union, human rights during conflict, and history of the Caucasus Region. Students can also think critically about other disputed territories as well as brainstorm ways of mediating conflicts, such as Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as to consider the role of other international State actors within conflicts.

Additional Resources

  1. Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh): Historical and Geographical Perspectives: This site focuses on the role this territory has played throughout history, specifically when it used to be a part of the Kingdom of Armenia before nation states existed. It also goes into detail breaking down the complexities of who governs and finances the territory as well as it’s international recognition as part of Azerbaijan. 
  2. The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Visual Explainer: International Crisis Group has compiled an interactive explanation of the conflict with data, visualizations, photos, and a timeline.