A fact little known in the West, and one that was largely unknown during the Soviet period, was that not all was peace, love and grooviness in that gigantic Communist empire. Two republics, Azerbaijan and Armenia, share a long and bloody history that in recent weeks has flared up again enough to make news reports in the West.
Fox News reprinted a piece from the Associated Press which reports that the two nations accused one another of attacks on each other’s territories on Saturday, as fighting of an old conflict took on new life in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Two days of fighting have killed dozens and left scores wounded. The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry reported 84 servicemen killed so far. Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, said Tuesday that 10 civilians were killed on its side and dozens sustained injuries. He didn’t offer any details on the losses among the country’s military.
The heavy fighting broke out Sunday in the region, which lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since 1994 at the end of a separatist war.
Nagorno-Karabakh — a region in the Caucasus Mountains about 4,400 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) or about the size of the U.S. state of Delaware — is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Armenian border. Soldiers backed by Armenia also occupy some Azerbaijani territory outside the region.
The fighting prompted calls to end the hostilities from around the world.
The conflict has already drawn its backers from more powerful nations in the region, with Turkey supporting Muslim Azerbaijan, and France supporting Armenia. Russia and Germany are urging both sides to cut off hostilities and return to negotiations. Of particular note as Al-Jazeera reported, Armenia is part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has a policy similar to that of NATO: an attack on one member is an attack on all members. Russia, therefore could get involved with this.
There is a long, difficult and extremely bloody history surrounding this conflict.
This excerpt from an Azeri website gives some idea of the fury that the two sides feel for one another:
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict arose at the end of the 20th century amidst the political and economic crisis in the USSR which weakened political power in the country and entailed the crisis of the entire political system. This issue was the major trigger for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It is noteworthy that over the past 100 years Armenian separatists have mostly picked up momentum and intensified their territorial claims to Azerbaijan during political crises. This was the case both at the beginning and at the end of the 20th century. The main goal was to expand the territory of the Armenian Republic at the expense of the territory of Azerbaijan. At the beginning of the century, the separatism of the Armenians led to the collapse of the Russian Empire, and, similarly, at the end of the century, to the collapse of the USSR.
This all followed a long ideological effort by the Armenian Church, which, as can be seen from the materials given in the article, was carried out throughout the Soviet period. Echmiadzin crusaders pointedly fostered future rioters in the Armenian church located in the center of Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, forming in their minds the image of the once huge nation called “Great Armenia”, which would dominate Rome and the whole world, demonizing the Azerbaijani people and inciting hatred towards it.
The separatism of Nagorno-Karabakh, where the population mostly consisted of ethnic Armenians, also stemmed from the outreach efforts of Echmiadzin. The separatists flew the banner of the right of nations to self-determination. They claimed that the Azerbaijanis infringed on the rights of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and oppressed them. However, one should remember that the 20th century had already seen a similar episode when Germany used the same arguments to invade and capture the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, inhabited by ethnic Germans, in 1938. But the annexation followed the clashes in the Sudetenland, organized by Hitler’s devotees to justify the invasion of the territory of a neighboring state. We all know the outcomes of that aggression. It spurred the bloodiest war of the twentieth century, which claimed 50 million human lives.
Apparently, the Nagorno-Karabakh events followed the Czechoslovak scenario. Clashes were necessary for the process to pick up steam, and so they were organized by the Armenian special services. In spite of their functions and responsibilities, Soviet security, defense and law enforcement agencies were then inactive, suggesting that the provocation was not solely organized by Armenian special services. What proves that it was a pre-planned operation is that everything was filmed to be shown in Europe as the genocide of Armenians in Azerbaijan. The move was well-orchestrated and proved fruitful, justifying Armenia’s subsequent aggression in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) and the annexation of 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan.
The notion of the right of nations to self-determination, exploited by Armenian politicians, including Pashinyan, is absolutely not valid for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. The reason is simple: How many times can one people self-determine? After all, Armenians already determined themselves as a people and now have their own state, the Armenian Republic, where they have the opportunity to develop independently. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh consider it to be self-determination to join that land to Armenia. Thus, the slogan of self-determination in this particular case acts as a smoke screen for aggressive policies. All subsequent actions, namely the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and the annexation of 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan by Armenia, prove this conclusion is correct.
There will be more as we follow the news of this ongoing tragedy, but it appears that for the Azeri people, this is at least in part a sectarian conflict. The Azeri piece goes on to describe unbelievable brutality. This excerpt just sets the table.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.