Behruz Guliyev: "The loyalty of the central authorities to the actions of nationalists led to the brink of disaster"
The Soviet Union referendum took place a quarter century ago on March 17th in 1991, in which 77.85% of citizens of the Soviet republics took part in the voting process in favor of the preservation of the union as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics. However, the process of the collapse of the Union had already begun. The perestroika process conducted by Mikhail Gorbachev led to a sharp deterioration of the domestic political situation and the desire of the Soviet republics for their independence. Ethnic conflicts began to flare up in the late 1980’s in the Soviet Union. The sharpest of them is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani newspaper The Voice, doctor of philosophical sciences Behruz Guliyev, spoke about the background events of those years in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What was the role of mass media, including national ones, in the tragic events during 1980-1990, when separatist movements appeared in the Soviet Union?
- In 1988-1990 the majority of mass media were under the complete control of the Soviet ideology, so they couldn’t be active against separatist movements. Newspapers, which exposed separatism, were censored. The Soviet government deliberately prevented the dissemination of separatist activity in the Republic, which led to the aggravation of inter-ethnic relations, and then to armed clashes.
- What’s the role of nationalist sentiments of the republic in the disintegration of the Soviet Union?
- Many people believe that the process of disintegration of the USSR began with the Armenian separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh. The heart of the Karabakh conflict was the intention of the Armenian chauvinists to separate Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan. They used the support of the USSR leadership and began to unite an integral part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, with Armenia. Moscow didn’t say "stop" to these schismatic destructive actions. Its inaction contributed to the expansion of these activities. Rallies escalated into armed confrontation, and then into a full-scale war. The loyalty of the central authorities to the actions of the nationalists, the support for separatism, the deliberate indifference to those events extended the zone of the conflict, brought it to the brink of disaster.
- Did the representatives of the nationalist intelligentsia manage to capture the minds of the masses and infect entire nations with nationalism?
- Nationalistically minded intellectuals are in any society. It is one thing to love your nation and respect other nations, and another thing to love your nation, and oppress, humiliate and crush others. Everyone should love his people, but not to sow the seeds of hostility in respect of other nations. The fact that the subject of the conflict became the territory of Azerbaijan – Nagorno-Karabakh. Nationalist-chauvinistic speeches of Armenian intellectuals in Russia, Armenia, as well as in other countries of the world played an important role. The logical result was that now the Armenian people cannot save themselves from their own troubles, extreme nationalism has become a national disease.
- Why did nationalist ideas fail to be spread in Azerbaijan, but they have become so popular in Armenia?
- Both during Soviet times and today, Azerbaijan is known as a multi-ethnic country. I would like to emphasize that there are about 30,000 citizens of Armenian nationality in Azerbaijan today. They live, work and participate in elections together with Azerbaijanis and they aren’t subjected to any discrimination. Azerbaijan doesn’t have only Armenians, but also other minorities who have good respect and a tolerant attitude. There are all possibilities for the existence of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and other religions. Azerbaijani nationalism and national discrimination have never risen to the national level. A foundation laid by the national leader Heydar Aliyev. Now the multi-cultural values of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are used in a more modern form and they guarantee that all nations will live in Azerbaijan as friends and brothers. The situation is the other way around in Armenia, as if nationalism is the nation's passport. For a few hundred years they have used this weapon to put pressure on neighboring nations, nationalize their territory and historical monuments of spiritual culture.
- What was the role of the inaction of the central government in fueling and the development and nationalistic conflicts in the republics? Was it just inaction, or did the center create conditions for nationalist propaganda and agitation among the masses?
- The collapse of the USSR wasn’t caused by the republics. Its cause was the inability to replace the outdated ideology of the central government with a new one. Moscow felt that a split would happen sooner or later, but it couldn’t stop the process. It wondered how to slow the process down. It was decided to create internal problems in the republics for this purpose. The ideal project is an ethnic conflict. But the Communist government led by Gorbachev realized too late that the beginning of the conflict between nations became uncontrollable. I believe that the main culprit of the events was Gorbachev and his team. The wrong attitude of the central government made the expansion of people's movements more active.