The National Womb
IN 2008, the de facto government in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region in the southern Caucasus, introduced a “birth encouragement program,” which distributes cash payments to newlyweds for each newborn, with the aim of repopulating the region more than a decade after a devastating war.
The conflict started in 1988 and escalated into full-scale war when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenians went to war with Azerbaijan, with backing from neighboring Armenia. The war left 65,000 ethnic Armenians and 40,000 ethnic Azeris displaced. The Muslim Azeri population never returned, and neither did many of the Armenians who had fled. While a cease-fire was declared in May 1994 and the violence abated, there has not yet been a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On Sept. 2, Nagorno-Karabakh celebrated 20 years of independence, though it remains unrecognized by the international community. Life is not easy in the republic. Unemployment is high, salaries are low, opportunities are few; the young continue to leave in search of better futures abroad.