WATCH: Azerbaijan celebrates first anniversary of victory over Armenia

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By Jonny Tickle

Thousands of people from around Azerbaijan marched in a rally in the capital, Baku on Monday, in a celebration of the first anniversary of the defeat of Armenia in last year’s six-week Nagorno-Karabakh war.

In November 2020, Azeri troops took control of Shusha, a city in the Karabakh mountains. The contested city has long been the center point of Azeri-Armenian conflict. Baku lost control of Shusha during a war with its neighbor in the 1990s, and the city become the focus of Azerbaijani revitalization efforts following its recapture last year.

A day after Shusha was retaken, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire, in which Yerevan agreed to end all military operations and signed over control of territory to Baku.

One year on, thousands of soldiers marched through Baku, carrying a 440-meter-long flag. Locals also took part in the celebration, which has been dubbed ‘Victory Day’.

In the evening, after the procession, fireworks lit up the skies of both Baku and Shusha.

8 of November Dancing Fireworks in Shusha and Baku devoted to Victory Day. New Date symbolizing liberation of #Karabakh and particularly #Shusha from Armenia's 30 years long occupation and colonization inscribed into the national calendar of Azerbaijan. pic.twitter.com/z6r7DN2RtY

— Hikmet Hajiyev (@HikmetHajiyev) November 8, 2021

Writing on Twitter in Russian, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev called the celebration a “holiday of courage, a holiday of justice, a holiday of national pride, national dignity.”

The day also saw a march in Armenia, as protesters took to the streets to once again demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over the way the country lost the war.

© Ruptly

The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute is decades old, with both countries believing they have legitimate claims to the territory. The region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is primarily populated by ethnic Armenians. Baku considers the enclave illegally occupied by Yerevan, which still controls a large amount of its land.

Prior to the 2020 conflict, Armenia also had control of seven districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, deemed by Yerevan to be a ‘security belt’ around the region. These areas, which Armenia never claimed to be its rightful territory, are now in Azerbaijan’s control.

In November last year, Pashinyan and Aliyev signed a ceasefire agreement to formally end the conflict. The deal put swaths of territory under Baku’s control and saw Russian peacekeepers deployed to monitor the growing humanitarian crisis.

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