Lesson of the Day: ‘Armenia and Azerbaijan: The Conflict Explained’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Armenia and Azerbaijan: The Conflict Explained’

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until September 2021.

Featured Article: “Armenia and Azerbaijan: The Conflict Explained” by Andrew E. Kramer

“A simmering, decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh erupted in late September into the worst fighting the area had seen since a vicious ethnic war in the 1990s,” Andrew E. Kramer writes.

In this lesson, you’ll learn about the history of Nagorno-Karabakh and why, though skirmishes have been common for years in this region, experts say the conflict this time is different. Then you’ll examine photos to learn more about what life is like for civilians and soldiers in the conflict zone.

How much do you know about Azerbaijan, the country at the center of the conflict you’ll learn about today? Take our short, five-question quiz below to test your knowledge:

How well did you do? Once you’ve completed the quiz, discuss the following questions with a classmate or respond to them in writing:

  • What is one thing you learned about Azerbaijan that you didn’t know before?

  • What is one question you have about the country?

  • Take a look again at the last question about war in Azerbaijan. How did the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region start? How has it evolved since?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. What connections can you make between the introduction of the article and the brief history of the conflict that you read about in the warm-up? Why do analysts and former diplomats say the fighting is different this time?

2. Mr. Kramer, the reporter, describes the region of Nagorno-Karabakh as an “ethnic tinderbox” in the article. What does he mean by that?

3. How might complicated relations between Russia and Turkey influence the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

4. Why does Olesya Vartanyan, a senior Caucasus analyst at the International Crisis Group, say that, for the antagonists in Nagorno-Karabakh, “this is a perfect time” to start a war?

5. Why do the prospects for a broader peace deal “appear dim”? What is the most optimistic outcome at this point?

Take some time to look at the images and read the captions in the article “At Front Lines of a Brutal War: Death and Despair in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Taken together, what do these images tell you about life amid the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Choose one of the images that you find particularly moving, surprising or affecting and reflect in writing on what you see. You can write about anything that feels important, or you might choose one or more of the prompts below:

  • What do you think is going on in this photo? What do you see that makes you say that? What is your reaction to what you see?

  • How is seeing the conflict from the civilians’ and soldiers’ perspectives different from learning facts about it, as you did in the featured article? How does this photograph paint a fuller picture of the conflict?

  • What points of connection and disconnection can you find between the image and your own life? How does this help you better understand what people might be experiencing in Nagorno-Karabakh?

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