By Ruzanna Stepanian
A census of the population has been launched in Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, with authorities saying that fresh data will help them draft social and economic programs for the country more effectively.
An ad hoc commission has been set up for the purpose.
Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Danielian, who heads the commission, told RFE/RL that Nagorno-Karabakh has had no reliable statistical data about the number of its citizens since the end of military operations in 1994.
The last census of the population was conducted in Nagorno-Karabakh still during the Soviet times in 1989.
According to the data officially published then, Nagorno-Karabakh had a population of 189,000, of whom 149,000 were Armenians and 40,000 Azerbaijanis.
Danielian said that by an approximate estimate Nagorno-Karabakh’s population makes 146,000 to 150,000 people today, meaning that no essential differences in the strength of the population are expected as compared to the 1989 census data.
The deputy prime minister said no drastic changes in the number of people living in Karabakh have been observed over the last decade and a half. According to the official, no appreciable emigration is registered in Karabakh, while on the contrary, people who once left their homes start returning.
“A difficult military-political and socioeconomic situation emerged in the country in the wake of hostilities, and now there is again a need to conduct a census of the population,” Danielian told RFE/RL. “To know the number of the population is not an end in itself for us. The summary of the data of this census will enable us to have more reliable and objective data for drafting social and economic programs for the country.”
Danielian also said that the data obtained through the census will be helpful in forming electoral districts.
“The census will be conducted on the whole territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic where there is population. Kashatagh [Lachin] is also included,” Danielian added.
The questionnaires issued to people will bear a special point for persons who are temporarily on a business trip, study abroad, or are outside Nagorno-Karabakh for some other reasons.
But Danielian avoided giving a clear answer to RFE/RL’s question whether people holding different positions within Armenia’s government circles will be included in the census or not.