|Part of the Nagorno-Karabakh War|
Republic of Artsakh
|Republic of Azerbaijan|
|Commanders and leaders|
"Artziv 9" detachment
"Nikol Duman" detachment
"Zoravar Andranik" detachment
70+ BTRs and BMPs
|Casualties and losses|
20 civilians captured (later all released)|
The entire ethnic Armenian population of Goranboy fled the region
Operation Goranboy was a large-scale military offensive by Azerbaijan in the summer of 1992. Its aims were to take complete control of the entire territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and put a decisive end to the secessionist Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This offensive is regarded as a successful breakthrough by the Azerbaijani Army and marked the peak of Azerbaijani success throughout the entire six-year Nagorno-Karabakh War. It also marked the beginning of a new, more intense phase of that war. Over 8,000 Azeri troops and 4 additional battalions, at least 90 tanks and 70 infantry fighting vehicles, as well as Mi-24 attack-helicopters were used in the offensive.
After Azerbaijan's initial military successes, re-grouped Armenian forces repelled the attack re-capturing most of the seized regions.
Start of offensive
On 12 June 1992, just five days after Abulfaz Elchibey of Popular Front of Azerbaijan was elected the President of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani military first launched a large scale diversionary attack from the east, in the direction of the Askeran region at the center of Nagorno-Karabakh. Two groups of Azeri troops, totaling 4,000 troops, attacked positions to the north and south of Askeran. As a result of fierce fighting the Azeris managed to establish control over several settlements in the Askeran region: Nakhichevanik, Dovşanlı, Pirjamal, Dahraz, and Agbulaq.
On 13 June 1992, Azerbaijan launched the main large-scale three-day offensive against the region of Goranboy (the territory of the former Shahumyan rayon of Azerbaijan SSR) located north of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was defended by just two, small and poorly-equipped, Armenian voluntary detachments. This offensive, code-named Operation Goranboy (named after the rayon that lies to the north of former NKAO) and headed by Suret Huseynov, threw 4,000 troops, 160 armored vehicles (including 90-110 tanks) and attack helicopters at the relatively undefended positions in northern Nagorno-Karabakh. As many as 4 tank battalions and 2 mechanized infantry battalions of the 23rd Division of the former Soviet Union Army, as well as 4 additional battalions of the Azerbaijan Army and various brigades from the neighboring regions, were joined in this operation. After 15 hours of fierce fighting against the Azerbaijani forces, the two Armenian detachments withdrew. Azerbaijan managed to capture several dozen villages in the Goranboy region originally held by the Armenian forces, and the entire Armenian civilian population of this region fled. According to the report of the Memorial human rights society which sent its mission to Goranboy in the aftermath of the operation, there were no civilian casualties, as Armenians had fled the region before the Azerbaijani troops approached them. The population of the neighbouring Azeri and Russian villages remained unaffected.
On June 15, 1992, after the capture of the Goranboy district, Azerbaijan launched an offensive in the direction of Aghdara. Confronted with tough resistance, it took the Azerbaijani forces many days of fierce fighting before Aghdara could be blockaded. 708th Agdam brigade cut the southern route into Aghdara. 703rd brigade blockaded the northern routes. 701st brigade blockaded Aghdara from the direction of Kelbajar, to the west.
Armenian initial counter-offensives
On June 25, 1992, at 10:33 am, various Armenian volunteer detachments (Arabo, Aramo, Artziv 9, Zeytun, Nikol Duman, Zoravar Andranik, Meghradzor) gathered in Yuxarı Oratag village in preparation for a swift counteroffensive. At noon, a section of Arabo detachment (65 men), reinforced with 10 extra volunteers, recaptured Qızıloba village, which was a major boost to the morale of the Armenian detachments and an early psychological blow to the confidence of the Azeri forces. Azerbaijan lost 30 to 40 men in that battle.
Azerbaijan captures Aghdara and pushes forward
On July 4, 1992, after a long siege, Azerbaijani forces captured the largest town in the region - Aghdara. The Armenian forces left the town in panic, abandoning weapons and equipment. The scale of the Azeri offensive prompted the government of Armenia to openly threaten Azerbaijan that it would overtly intervene and assist the separatists fighting in Karabakh. The assault forced Armenian forces to retreat south towards Stepanakert, where Karabakh commanders contemplated destroying a vital hydroelectric dam in the Martakert region if the offensive was not halted. However, as Azerbaijani forces pushed deeper into Karabakh's mountainous terrain they were continuously attacked by the Armenian militia detachments. As a result of this, Azeri forces began to suffer heavy losses.
According to Robert Kocharyan, by this time Azerbaijan had captured more than 48% of the territory of the former NKAO creating a situation of panic among Armenians. Operation Goranboy created 60,000 refugees (an estimated 30,000 of whom fled into the capital Stepanakert), hundreds dead and missing. In order to sustain the momentum of their advance, the President of Azerbaijan issued a decree mobilizing all forces that were demobilized in 1991-1992 and also extended the service of those currently serving in the Azeri army. At one point, Azerbaijani forces were as close as thirty minutes away from Stepanakert, positioning the troops in Sirkhavend village.
The Goranboy offensive comes to a halt
On June 18, 1992, a State of Emergency was announced throughout NKR. On August 15, the Committee for State-Defense of NKR was created, headed by Robert Kocharyan and later by Serzh Sargsyan. Partial mobilization was called for, which covered sergeants and privates in the NKR, NKR men available for military service aged 18–40, officers up to the age of 50 and women with previous military training. The newly conscripted men now numbered 15,000 men. Military reforms swiftly took place consolidating many of the separate fighting Armenian volunteer detachments into a single NKR Defense Army.
The thrust made by the Azeris ground to a halt when their armor was driven off by helicopter gunships. It was claimed that many of the crew members of the armored units in the Azeri-launched assault were Russians from the 104th Guards Airborne Division based out of Ganja and, ironically enough, so were the units who eventually stopped them. According to an Armenian government official, they were able to persuade Russian military units to bombard and effectively halt the advance within a few days. According to Russian General Lev Rokhlin, Russian effectively supplied Armenians with T-72 tanks and fifty BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles from its military base in Mozdok in the summer of 1992. Most of the ammunition was flown to Armenia by Antonov An-124 military cargo planes. This allowed the NKR government to recuperate for the losses and reorganize a counteroffensive towards the original lines of the front.
The Armenians push back
After the reorganization of the NKR Defense Army, the tide of Azeri advances was finally stopped. By September–December 1992 Azerbaijan's army was exhausted and suffered heavy losses. Faced with an imminent defeat, Suret Huseynov moved what was left of his army out of Aghdara and back to Ganja, where it could be recuperated and restocked by the 104th Guards Airborne Division of the Soviet Airborne Troops. However, after recuperating Huseynov did not march on Aghdara, but on Baku, intending to overthrow President Abulfez Elchibey in a military coup. In February 1993, direct evidence of treason by Azerbaijani Minister of Defense Rahim Gaziyev and Suret Huseynov was found in recorded conversation where Gaziyev was telling Huseynov about deliberate abandoning of Azerbaijani soldiers encircled in Hasanriz village by Armenians to their fate. By February 1993 the Armenians took back Aghdara. Later that year they regained not only their original positions, but also pushed forward to establish a security buffer zone around the former territory of NKAO, thus further expanding the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. However, the majority of Goranboy Region, captured by the Azeris in the early stages of the offensive, was not taken back by the Armenians. To this day it remains under the control of Azerbaijan.
In popular culture
The ferocity of the Nagorno-Karabakh War was revealed to the viewers across Russia and CIS countries after the infamous evening prime-time TV show "600 Seconds" aired investigative journalist Alexander Nevzorov's shocking reportage directly from one of the battles of Operation Goranboy. After that display the Nagorno-Karabakh War gained a whole new wave of coverage and debate within Russian mass-media.
- Alexander Cherkasov. Как нам заправляют арапа. Polit.ru. 17 September 2004.
- Alexander Prokhanov. Soldier of the Empire: Local Conflicts in the Soviet Union. 22 March 2010.
- De Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press. pp. 195–211. ISBN 0-8147-1945-7.
- Goldberg, Carey (June 14, 1992). "Azerbaijan Troops Launch Karabakh Offensive Conflict". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-02-17.
- Жирохов М. А. Авиация в Нагорном Карабахе Archived 2010-04-28 at the Wayback Machine