What were the overall casualties and damages of the First Karabakh War for Azerbaijan?

The amount of damage suffered by Azerbaijan during the First Karabakh War was immense. From 1988 to 1994, Armenian military forces looted and destroyed approximately 900 Azerbaijan villages, occupied 20% of Azerbaijan territory, killed more than 20,000, and wounded or injured over 50,000 Azerbaijanis who became permanently disabled and crippled. Several thousand Azerbaijanis are still missing. During those years, beatings, torture and cruel, inhuman treatment of war prisoners and civilians were the norms, as was the forced use of Azerbaijanis in the most difficult jobs in Armenia and the occupied territories.[1]

Armenian aggression also damaged the socioeconomic fabric of Azerbaijan. According to Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the socioeconomic damage caused by the war is as follows:

  • 6 cities, 12 urban settlements, 830 provinces, and 700 hospitals and medical institutions were destroyed by Armenian forces in the occupied territories;
  • More than 150,000 dwelling houses and apartments were looted and destroyed, which together covered an area of about 9.1 square mile area;
  • 4,366 public and medical service buildings were destroyed, including 693 secondary schools, 855 pre-school institutions, 4 health centers, and several other health services;
  • 927 libraries were plundered, and 4.6 million books and invaluable manuscripts were destroyed;
  • 6 state theatres, 368 clubs, and 85 music schools were destroyed;
  • 6,000 industrial, agricultural, and other businesses were plundered;
  • 1,200 km. of irrigation systems were obliterated;
  • 244,000 sheep and 69,000 heads of horned cattle were taken from the occupied territories;
  • 70% of Azerbaijan’s summer pasture was located in the occupied area;
  • Telephone stations for 35,000 subscribers, 2,500 transformer substations, and 15,000 km. of electric lines were pillaged;
  • In 1993 alone, 206,600 cubic meters of valuable species of timber were taken to Armenia.[2] It should be mentioned that Armenia’s timber production is booming because of the deforestation and destruction of Azerbaijani forests by Armenians in the occupied territories.[3]

The scale of damage to Azerbaijan’s cultural property was also massive. During the aggression, Armenians destroyed Azerbaijani cultural heritage objects in occupied territories. They plundered a large number of historical, cultural, humanitarian, and religious monuments and masterpieces, which were then sold by auction and in shops in different countries. Armenian aggressors also looted and destroyed various historical museums in the region, such as the Museum of History in the Kalbajar region, which possessed unique collections of antique coins, gold and silverware, rare and precious stones, carpets, and various handmade goods, the Museum of History in the city of Shusha, a unique Museum of Bread in the city of Aghdam, and the Museum of Stone Monuments. In addition to museums, more than 500 historical and architectural monuments, 100 archeological sites, 22 museums with 40,000 artifacts on display, 9 palaces, 44 temples, 10 mosques, 4 art galleries, and hundreds of ancient mausoleums and strongholds were either damaged or destroyed during the Armenian offensive. The famous Govhar Aga Mosque in the Shusha region, which was built in the eighteenth century, and other mosques in the territory that is under Armenian control, were destroyed, burnt down, or used as storehouses and depots. The Armenian armed forces and separatists also plundered unique Bronze Age sites – more than 10 barrows on the Khojaly barrow field, which covers an area of 50 hectares. The occupiers also transformed Azikh cave, one of humankind’s most ancient pre-historic homesteads, located in the occupied Fuzuli region of Azerbaijan, into a depot.[4]

The sheer size of the ecological disaster was enormous. As a result of the Armenian occupation, the irrigation and water supply system in the region and surrounding areas has been disrupted. The Armenian forces also seized 280,000 hectares of forests, which amounted to 25% of Azerbaijan’s forested area, 2 national parks, and 4 national nature reserves. Additionally, 200 natural fossils, fauna, and geological monuments were under the control of Armenian forces. 800 km. of railway and road communications and 15 km. of electricity and gas lines were destroyed. Armenians also destroyed the 1,203-kilometer irrigation and water communications system, including five reservoirs with a total capacity of 674 million cubic meters, 7,296 hydraulic facilities, 36 pumping stations, and 26 irrigation systems. Additionally, they blew up 160 bridges with a total length of 3,834 meters. 800 km. of road, 2,300 km. of water pipes, and 2,000 km. of sewers were destroyed.[5]

Armenia also damaged Azerbaijan’s water resources. Hence, circa “2.1 million m3 of polluted water is thrown down without preliminary purification in the Aras, first of all in its tributaries, running on the territory of Armenia and Azerbaijan occupied territories every day.”[6]

The occupied lands also possess various rich mineral deposits: 2 of gold, 4 of mercury, 2 of chromite, 1 of lead-zinc, 1 of copper, and 1 of antimony. Armenians illegally exploited these deposits, which was a clear breach of international norms and principles. One illegal act by Armenia in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan was the signing of a deal with Canadian company First Dynasty Mines to jointly exploit the Soyudlu gold deposit in the Kalbajar region. Armenia received about 13 tons of gold from this field annually until the liberation of the occupied territories as a result of the Second Karabakh War.[7]

Consequently, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the total material cost and economic damage caused by Armenian aggression are estimated to be around USD 53.5 billion.[8] Because of this economic loss in the occupied region of Azerbaijan, nearly 7,000 establishments closed, which together were providing 24% of Azerbaijan’s grain revenues, 41% of its liqueur production, 46% of the potato harvest, 18% of meat production, and 34% of milk production.[9]

[1] Mustafayeva, Aytan and Garayev, Rauf, “Legal Aspects of Reparation for Damage Caused to Azerbaijan as a Result of Armenian Aggression,” IRS Heritage, No. 14, 2013, p. 54.

[2] “Aggression against Azerbaijanis the Appeal to the World Community,” IRS Наследие (IRS Heritage), Vol. 2, No. 10, 2004, p. 8.

[3] Mustafayeva, Aytan and Garayev, Rauf, “Legal Aspects of Reparation for Damage Caused to Azerbaijan as a Result of Armenian Aggression,” IRS Heritage, No. 14, 2013, p. 56.

[4] “Aggression against Azerbaijanis the Appeal to the World Community,” IRS Наследие (IRS Heritage), Vol. 2, No. 10, 2004, pp. 9-10.

[5] Mustafayeva and Garayev, “Legal Aspects of Reparation for Damage,” pp. 58-59.

[6] “Aggression against Azerbaijanis the Appeal to the World Community,” p. 9.

[7] Mustafayeva and Garayev, “Legal Aspects of Reparation for Damage,” pp. 57-58.

[8] “Azerbaijan Human Development Report 2000,” p. 52. See also: “Letter dated October 25, 1996 from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General”.

[9] Abilov, Shamkhal and Isayev, Ismayil, “The Consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh War for Azerbaijan and the Undeniable Reality of Khojaly Massacre: A View from Azerbaijan,” Polish Political Science Yearbook, Vol. 45, 2016, p. 295.