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Volume 35, Issue 1 (Fall 2012)

Nagorno Karabakh: An Alternative Legal Approach to Its Quest for Legitimacy
by William R. Slomanson



            This article discusses the Nagorno Karabagh-Azerbaijan conflict that—in its contemporary phase, since the demise of the Soviet Union—has simmered and often boiled over.  Nagorno Karabagh (“NK”) took steps to break free from Azerbaijani control, opting to maintain the status quo, whereby it is de facto independent of Azerbaijan, but not part of Armenia.


            The Armenian SSR, knowing that the USSR was not in a position to react militarily, previously announced the reunification of NK with the Armenian SSR.  The USSR’s response to Armenian announcement was to legislate the “Procedure of Solving Issues Related to the Withdrawal of Union Republics from the USSR.”  The NK government embraced that 1990 statute, which seemingly authorized “autonomous entities to independently decide their national status including the right to statehood.”  However, Azerbaijan rejected that interpretation, stating that this statute gave NK the options of remaining somewhere within the former USSR or joining an independent Azerbaijan.


            This article proposes an alternative legal argument to the above Soviet Statute.  Professor Slomanson’s alternative legal argument advocates NK adoption of the three-prong remedial secession approach set forth in the 1998 Canadian Supreme Court’s Secession of Quebeccase.  By adopting this approach, “NK would thereby advance a more viable international basis for legitimacy—thus favorably comparing with the specious validity of other contemporary unilateral successions.”

About the Author

William R. Slomanson is Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
(San Diego), and Visiting Professor, Pristina University School of Law (Kosovo).



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