From the standpoint of the political facet of the conflict, one should bear in mind that the Armenia's middle class and local authorities played a key role in bringing up the separatist movement in NKAO. Over the years of Soviet rule, a numerous nationalistic middle class (historians, writers etc) has shaped in both NKAO and Armenia proper that played, especially since post-Stalin times, an important role in aggravating ethnic tensions with Azerbaijani people.
These individuals were stirring up hostilities in their public speeches and academic essays on Armenian history. The request to give NKAO to Armenia was ideologically based, firstly, on the mythical "primordial belonging of Karabakh to Armenians", and, secondly, on thoroughly building these requests into the context of perestroika's ideology.
Notably, they used critical revision of the Stalinist period of Soviet history to try and spread unsubstantiated statements that Stalin supposedly "gave Nagorno-Karabakh away" to Azerbaijan in 1921. Actively discussed throughout the society, the ideas of dismantling the USSR's command-and-control system therefore extended to the national and governance setup of the Soviet Union and were used to justify the revision of NKAO's territorial and legal status.
During perestroika, many Armenians emerged in Gorbachev's close circle as ideological and economic advisors and heads of Communist Party divisions, who openly, without looking back at top government officials (more likely, at the latter's direction) used the pages of both Soviet and foreign media to advocate the separatist movement in Karabakh. That was how the discussion of Karabakh issue was steadily leaving the latent state.
The Karabakh movement, launched in 1988, had an important feature in that it was accompanied by a large-scale resignation of government officials from the Communist Party, who joined newly established public organizations such as Krunk, Karabakh, Pan-Armenian National Movement etc.
High-rank officials were therefore the active participants of provocations that resulted in a strained ethnopolitical situation across both NKAO and Armenia. Arrests, persecution, and sanctions against members of these organizations by Soviet authorities would only popularize these individuals in Armenian society, boosting their influence and promoting their slogans about "Miatsum" (unifying NKAO with Armenia).
Also heavily influencing the conflict genesis was a complex of collisions related to regional demography and the economic development of the region as part of the Azerbaijan SSR.
The change in demographic situation was quite a sensitive subject to the Armenian side, eventually culminating in the interethnic standoff across the region. It was despite the fact that such changes stemmed from post-war activation of migration flows and therefore represented objective factors rather than 'Azerbaijan's deliberate politics' blasted by Armenian propaganda.
Boosted by the Union government-backed party propaganda, the initial phase of the conflict was marked by a widespread and oversimplified opinion that the conflict over NKAO stemmed from predominantly social and economic factors.
The USSR government was trying to trace the cause of the crisis to NKAO's social and economic lags, denying, however, other substantial aspects of a different nature.
Since they viewed economics as a root cause for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Soviet government attempted to neutralize it by increasing budget allocations and deliveries of consumer goods to the region. To that end, the USSR Communist Party Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers adopted on 24 March 1988 the ad hoc regional social and economic development program 
The issue, however, was not at all about the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian community's welfare being lower than that of their Azerbaijani counterparts. On the contrary, the living standard in NKAO was even above the republic's average in terms of some social and economic parameters. If we compare 1965-1987 social and economic development figures between the Azerbaijan SSR in total (including Nakhchivan ASSR) and Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, the autonomous region obviously saw significant improvements in this field over the given period.
In the Soviet period, NKAO's Armenian community enjoyed and actively utilized the right to develop national culture; they were entitled to university and high school lessons in their mother tongue, cultural and educational facilities, TV and radio broadcast, printed media, etc.
The new phase of the conflict was also different in that both Armenia's and NKAO's leadership took specific unilateral steps to bring NKAO under Armenia's umbrella, even in gross violation of both the USSR's and Azerbaijan SSR's constitutions. Baku took legal counteractions, but it could not stop the separatists.
Special session of the USSR Supreme Soviet was even convened in July 1988 to discuss the situation over Nagorno-Karabakh. Further to these discussions, the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium issued on 18 July 1988 the Decree titled "Regarding the Decrees of Supreme Soviets of the Armenian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR on The Issue of Nagorno-Karabakh", which pointed out that, having reviewed the 15 June 1988 request of the Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet concerning the integration of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast with the Armenian SSR, the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium deemed it not possible to revise the borders or introduce any other changes to the constitutionally established national and territorial division of the Azerbaijan SSR or the Armenian SSR. 
It looked like the issue was resolved once and for all.
On 25 July 1988, however, the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium adopted the Decree titled "Practical Implementation of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium Decree on Nagorno-Karabakh Issue" 
, followed by the institution of emergency rule in Nagorno-Karabakh since January next year (under the chairmanship of A.I. Volsky, representative of the two supreme entities). This step was a clear sign of Moscow effectively withdrawing NKAO from the Azerbaijan SSR, thereby raising Armenians' hopes that the region's association with Azerbaijan was henceforth, but a formality and they could completely ignore it and double down on their efforts to turn the region over to the Armenian SSR. Such ambiguous positions exacerbated the conflict and gradually turned it into an armed confrontation, where the parties used light weapons and even missiles.
The 1988 events in Nagorno-Karabakh made Armenian-Azerbaijani relations extremely tense along the entire interface between the two communities in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, especially in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sounded at meetings and demonstrations in Stepanakert (Khankendi) and Yerevan (Irevan), demands for the secession of the autonomous region from Azerbaijan shaped a heated environment and bore hostilities and tension between the two communities; it was happening not only in Nagorno-Karabakh but also in Azerbaijan as a whole. Associating themselves with refugees from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, people here were resolved to stand up to the territorial claims.
The growing inflow of refugees from Armenia, combined with the resentment within Azerbaijani society, was now turning the Armenian population of the republic into hostages of the Karabakh conflict. And Armenian blood spilled outside Nagorno-Karabakh was exactly what nationalists in Yerevan (Irevan) and Stepanakert (Khankendi) were counting for, as it could give them a good reason to launch a propaganda show. Should Armenians have gotten killed, they could easily claim the encroachment of the Armenian community's rights in Azerbaijan and that the two nations cannot live peacefully side by side.
Those who perpetrated the Sumgayit provocation on 28-29 February 1988 were employing namely these tactics. The Sumgayit events aggravated the conflict and heightened tensions between the two nations over Nagorno-Karabakh, sucking more and more people from both sides into its vortex. First Armenian refugees emerged from Azerbaijan, giving initiators and organizers of the Karabakh movement an argument to lead anti-Azerbaijani propaganda by using the image of Azerbaijani pogromists and utilizing the codeword "genocide" to instill fear into masses. Making the best out of the tragedy, the "genocide" enthusiasts besmirched the Azerbaijani nation and gained moral and social support in the country and in the world over, thus trying to turn the tables in their political fight for Nagorno-Karabakh.
A cunningly presented model of the Azerbaijani nation laid the foundation for the universal smear campaign that was advanced across the Soviet Union and all over the world. Exploiting the Sumgayit events, Armenian media persistently advanced the version of allegedly preplanned massacre of Sumgayit Armenians by Azerbaijanis. They accomplished a very important, even strategic, objective to present the Armenian side, which in fact had provoked the explosive national standoff as a victim of the confrontation in the post-Sumgayit environment. On the other hand, they successfully created the image of Azerbaijan as an aggressive, reactionary, and hostile party to the conflict, and it was viewed in no other way since then.
From that time on, the Sumgayit events have become a convenient excuse for any atrocities committed by Armenian militants that eventually provoked Azerbaijani reprisals.
Perpetrators of Sumgayit provocation achieved their goal; the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh became an irreversible and uncompromising process and finally culminated in bloodshed.