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Armenia, Azerbaijan Mark Republic Day

Armenian leaders attend Republic Day celebrations at the Sardarapat memorial.
Armenian leaders attend Republic Day celebrations at the Sardarapat memorial.
YEREVAN -- Armenia today marked the 92nd anniversary of the establishment of the first independent Armenian republic that emerged from the Russian Empire at the end of World War I, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The short-lived state ceased to exist in November 1920 when its leadership in Yerevan, facing an imminent Turkish invasion, was forced to cede sovereignty to Bolshevik Russia.

Armenia regained its independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it had been a part for nearly 70 years.

"Ninety-two years ago, [the] Armenian people declared their independence on a small part of their historical territory," President Serzh Sarkisian said in an address to the country today. "Even in our own day, there are people who do not have the realization of being a citizen of the state, do not feel its strength and responsibility."

Armenia's western neighbor and regional archrival, Azerbaijan, also marked the independence of its 1918-1920 democratic republic today.

In remarks on the eve of the celebration, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev repeated his threats that the Azerbaijani army is capable of restoring his country's territorial integrity "at any time" and "within a short term."

Azerbaijan and Armenia-backed ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fought a bloody war in 1991-1994 as a result of which nearly all of the enclave achieved
de facto independence from Baku. Armenian forces also control considerable amounts of Azerbaijani territory adjoining Nagorno-Karabakh.

Aliyev said Azerbaijan's independence in the early 1990s was endangered by these "Armenian separatists" in Nagorno-Karabakh.