A 106-year old Armenian woman protecting her home with an AKM, 1990.

A 106-year old Armenian woman protecting her home with an AKM, 1990.

A 106-year-old Armenian woman sits in front of her home guarding it with a rifle, in Degh village, near the city of Goris in southern Armenia. Armed conflicts took place in and around nearby Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory in Azerbaijan also claimed by Armenia. The Nagorno-Karabakh War displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

This is a tough elderly Armenian woman here. At around age 10 she likely lived through the Hamidian massacres of 1894-1896. Then, around age 30, her people went through the second round of Armenian massacres at the hands of the Ottoman government (1915-1923).

Only a few short years later, Armenia was invaded by the Turks and the war ended with Armenia being incorporated into the ever so pleasant Soviet Union. Once that period ended and she was an old lady ready to pass away after a long life full of hardships and violence, Armenia became involved in a very bloody war with her next-door neighbors the Azerbaijanis. It puts all of our “problems” into perspective.

In the 1920s, the Soviet government established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region—where 95 percent of the population is ethnically Armenian—within Azerbaijan. Under Bolshevik rule, fighting between the two countries was kept in check, but as the Soviet Union began to collapse, so did its grip on Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia despite the region’s legal location within Azerbaijan’s borders. As the Soviet Union was dissolving in 1991, the autonomous region officially declared independence. War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region, leaving roughly 30,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

By 1993, Armenia controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 20 percent of the surrounding Azerbaijani territory. In 1994, Russia brokered a cease-fire which has remained in place since. As many as 230,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan and 800,000 Azerbaijanis from Armenia and Karabakh have been displaced as a result of the conflict.

The gun the elderly Armenian lady is carrying is not an AK-47 or AK-74, it’s an AKM. The gas block is slanted, unlike an AK-74’s. The magazine is curved to accept the 7.62x39mm round, not the 5.45x39mm round that the AK-74 fires. The muzzle brake is of the AKM design, not the one the AK-74 used.

Introduced into service with the Soviet Army in 1959, the AKM is the prevalent variant of the entire AK series of firearms and it has found widespread use with most member states of the former Warsaw Pact and its African and Asian allies as well as being widely exported and produced in many other countries.

(Photo credit: Armineh Johannes / United Nations Photo).