Earlier, in August 1987, Karabakh Armenians sent a petition for reunification with Armenia complete with tens of thousands of signatures to Moscow.
On February 20, 1988 the Karabakh Council of People's Deputies, with the votes 110 to 17, passed a resolution requesting Azerbaijan for secession and Armenia for annexation. The action was in full accordance with the USSR Constitution, specifically the article on the right of secession. The decision brought out tens of thousands of demonstrators, both in Stepanakert and in Yerevan, yet eventually Moscow decided to reject Karabakh's demands for reunification with Armenia.
Every act of democratic expression of the people’s will was followed by economic blockades, demographic expansion and violation of the rights of Armenian population. Mass murders and pogroms in Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad ensued, to be later spread across the country. Hundreds were left dead and injured, with 450 thousand of Armenians abandoning their homes.
On December 10, 1991 an independence referendum was held in Nagorno Karabakh to be approved by 99.89% of voters. The NKR Supreme Council (the parliament) that was formed on December 28, 1991 adopted a Declaration of Independence confirming the results of the referendum and succession of legal documents implementing the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh on self-determination of its political status.
The newly-formed government of Karabakh stated its work in the circumstances of absolute blockade and the ensuing war, unleashed by Azerbaijan. The war which lasted from the fall of 1991 to the spring of 1994, continued with varied success on Armenian side. There were periods when almost 60% of the NKR territory became occupied by Azeris, with the capital city of Stepanakert and other settlements permanently subjected to mass air raids and shelling.
On May 9, 1992, NKR defense forces liberated Shushi, opening a corridor in the region of Lachin, connecting the territories of Karabakh and Armenia to partially eliminate the blockade of NKR.
In June-July 1992, Azeri army's offensive resulted in the occupation of the regions of Shahumyan, Mardakert, and partially those of Martuni, Askeran and Hadrut.
In August, 1992, the U.S. Congress adopted a resolution condemning the actions of Azerbaijan, prohibiting government to government economic assistance to Baku.
In order to resist Azerbaijani aggression, life in the NKR completely focused on the military effort. The NKR State Defense Committee was formed on August 14, 1992. Separate defense detachments were reconfigured forming the Nagorno Karabakh defense army, based on principles of discipline and central command.
The NKR defense army succeeded in liberating the previously captured territories from Azerbaijan and, during military engagements, occupied a few Azeri-adjacent regions that had been used as firing lines against the Armenians. The creation of the security zone precluded the immediate threat facing the peaceful population of the NKR.
Through mediation of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and the CIS Interparliamentary Council Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia signed the Bishkek Document in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, on May 5, 1994. According to that document, parties to the conflict agreed to a cease-fire, effective from May 12th to date.
In 1992, the OSCE Minsk Group was formed to resolve the Karabakh conflict, with the settlement talks launched under its auspices.
Throughout 26 years, none of the people of Karabakh ever allowed the thought of returning under Azeri jurisdiction: none of them will agree to stand back from something won at the cost of all the bloodshed and losses suffered.