After the formal break-up of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the USSR Interior troops, believed by some to have had some mitigating effect on the hostilities, withdrew from Karabakh. Perceiving the imminent demise of any measure of autonomy and the associated threat to their viable existence, Karabakh felt obliged to resort to measures for self-protection and survival. The Autonomous Region hurried to form its own armed forces to face an Azerbaijani attack. But the establishment of the armed forces was possible only on the basis of a firm and stable state structure, which firstly should defend the interests of the region in different international institutions and negotiations and secondly guarantee the protection of the population.

When the leaders of Karabakh perceived that their future as an autonomous enclave was in danger, the only democratic solution they could envisage was to hold a referendum with a view to the possibility of declaring independence from Azerbaijan. The last 2 September 1991 session of the Regional Soviet of the Peoples Deputies of Nagorny Karabakh and the governing council of the Shahumian District announced the establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and declared that it was no longer under Azerbaijani jurisdiction. Of course this was not the first time that Karabakh was trying to establish its statehood (in the Y century, 9-10 centuries, in early XVIII century). In November 1991 Armenian forces in Karabakh were organized under a single command structure into the Popular Liberation Army of Karabakh, which was unswerable to the parliament of the proclaimed Nagorno Karabakh Republic.

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