Why Prevention Fails: Chronicling the Genocide in Artsakh


  • Dr. Elisa von Joeden Forgey Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention




Genocide prevention, Nagorno-Karabakh, responsibility to protect, forced displacement, genocidal intent


Azerbaijan’s September 19, 2023 attack on the Republic of Artsakh resulted in the almost total displacement of the indigenous Armenian population, making it one of the most successful genocides in history. For over a year before Azerbaijan’s attack, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention viewed Artsakh as the “perfect storm” for genocide prevention and was using as many strategies as possible to urge Western leaders to recognize the threat and take effective action. Any leader willing to challenge Azerbaijan diplomatically would have had the work of many genocide scholars and genocide prevention organizations to back them up. We still believe that coordinated pressure from the Western powers could have had a chance of avoiding genocide and may have resulted in finding a secure, and perhaps independent, space for Artsakh Armenians in their ancestral homeland. This article aims to show how the case of genocide in Artsakh is an object lesson in how diplomatic silences, shaped by geopolitical interests, can provide the power framework in which genocide can easily take place, offer diplomatic cover for the state or organization committing the crime, and normalizing the crime within international relations. It proposes that the genocide in Artsakh ushered in a new “New Imperialism”, in which the post-1945 law-based world order is jettisoned for raw power, threatened communities and unwanted peoples are less safe than they were before September 19, 2023, and genocide will become the order of the day – unless we find new mechanisms to prevent it.

Author Biography

Dr. Elisa von Joeden Forgey, Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention

Executive Director of the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention and former Endowed Chair in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College. Her research interests include gender, genocide, and its prevention, as well as the history and present-day realities of colonialism, racism, and fascism.




How to Cite

von Joeden Forgey, E. (2023). Why Prevention Fails: Chronicling the Genocide in Artsakh. International Journal of Armenian Genocide Studies, 8(2), 86–107. https://doi.org/10.51442/ijags.0046