KARABAKH AFTER WAR

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Stunning mountainous landscape was dotted with burned out houses in a land that only nine days later would be called Azerbaijan. Locals were forced to leave their homes at short notice, loaded their belongings onto trucks, ripped off rooftops of their houses, chopped down trees and set ablaze whatever else that could not be taken. The insides of slaughtered cattle were piled up in front of the doors of some houses as if to give the nastiest possible welcome to the new residents. A week after the ceasefire agreement had been signed, the city of Stepanakert remained largely abandoned. Solitary figures roamed misty streets still full of broken glass. There was no Internet, water or electricity. What was abundant in post-war Stepanakert, however, were fear and rumours. Many were reluctant to come back worrying Azeris would shell the city from their positions in Shusha, a city perched on a hilltop overlooking Stepanakert just five kilometres away. Some told stories of dogs shot by Azeri snipers to intimidate the returning population. Others spoke of a guerrilla resistance force ready to keep fighting. The disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has sparked three major wars in the last three decades, killing and wounding tens of thousands of people, pitting one new generation of recruits against another. A month after the war, as Armenia and Azerbaijan exchange bodies and calculate their losses, reconciliation seems further than it has ever been.

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