A three-week strike by the Armenian majority in Nagorno Karabakh has almost paralyzed the enclave in Azerbaijan, and local authorities are no longer in control, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda said Friday.
Pravda's admission of the continuing mass demonstrations in the region closely paralleled recent reports by Armenian nationalists, who said the new unrest had been precipitated by moves perceived as a tightening of control in the Azerbaijan republic."It is the third week that the strike - what an unusual and not customary word for us - is going on," Pravda said. "Every morning tens of thousands of people move in columns along the streets leading to the center of the city with slogans and banners, conducting meetings."
The newspaper said the demonstrators were determined to "stand to the end" to press their demand that Nagorno Karabakh be transferred from the control of Azerbaijan to neighboring Armenia, and that local authorities are no longer in control.
"The Party bodies do not control the existing situation," Pravda said.
Although Nagorno Karabakh has been part of Azerbaijan since 1923, it is now 80 percent Armenian. However, until a series of strikes in February forced cultural concessions, there was no television, newspapers or radio in the Armenian language for residents.
The Nagorno Karabakh is the most troubling of a host of nationality problems facing the Soviet leadership overseeing what was formerly the Russian empire.
With Russians now less than half the population, nationalism is a long-suppressed problem for Soviet authorities in areas from Central Asia to the Baltic states. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has promised to examine the whole question of nationalities policy.
Pravda said in the enclave's capital of Stepanakert and other centers of the region "the majority of industrial enterprises and offices and the public transport are not working."
It said restaurants and cafeterias were nearly all closed, shops were shut and "the sale of food is sharply limited." Economic and other ties to the Azerbaijan capital of Baku are interrupted.
The daily said the demonstrations "are carefully arranged and are directed in a rather skillful way," suggesting that a nationalist group is still operating despite a government ban issued after the first round of protests in February.
It said the latest strikes started on May 23 following a meeting in Baku by the Azerbaijan Communist Party during which the republic's first secretary was fired but Politburo member Yegor Ligachev reiterated that borders would not be changed.