What started as an inter-ethnic conflict between ethnic Armenians and ethnic-Azeris soon spilled out to a full fledged war between two former USSR republics. The long standing dispute over who should control the Armenian majority region of Nagorno-Karabakh was the root cause of the conflict. Stalin had awarded the Christian majority region to Muslim dominated Azerbaijan, inviting opposition from Armenians. Armed conflict broke out during the last days of Soviet Union's existence and intensified once the dissolution was complete. Although seriously outnumbered, the Armenian side defeated the Azerbaijanis, capturing some 12% of the total land area of Azerbaijan. Some 35,000+ people were killed in the conflict, in addition to around 500,000 ho were made refugees on both sides.