Karabakh conflict: terrible tragedy for Azerbaijanis and Armenians
Experts consider strengthening of ethnic separatism to be one of the main factors negatively affecting regional and international security. One of the best example of this in the post-Soviet space for almost three decades is the conflict over Karabakh. Initially, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan was artificially provoked from the outside, and different people had levers that helped them to put pressure on the situation. They needed this confrontation after the collapse of the USSR, and then they needed it so that the Karabakh clan would come to power. In addition, this conflict helped large players who wanted to strengthen their presence in the region. Finally, confrontation made it possible to pressure Baku to sign more profitable oil contracts. According to this scenario, the events began in Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and in Yerevan - Azerbaijanis were fired from work, and people were forced to leave for Azerbaijan. Then there were pogroms in the Armenian districts of Sumgait and in Baku, which, by the way, was the most international city of Transcaucasia.
Political scientist Sergey Kurginyan said that when Armenians were brutally killed in Sumgait, it wasn't done by Azerbaijanians, but by outsiders, hired by representatives of international private structures. "We know these representatives by their names, we know which structures they belonged to and which structures they belong to now: these people killed Armenians, blamed Azerbaijanians for this, and then they killed Azerbaijanis, and blamed Armenians for this. Then they forced confrontation between Armenians and Azerbaijanis: we saw it all, we all saw who was behind it," political scientist said.
According to Kurginyan, at that time "democratic and liberal myths that had nothing to do with this situation were already perceived as ultimate truth, as something self-evident, as something absolutely right. They already controlled everyone's consciousness. All these viruses were already inside people's consciousness, and crowds walked towards the right direction, towards their own end, towards their own misfortune, towards their own ultimate unhappiness." Later, this tactic was used to stir up other conflicts.
Mamikon Babayan, Vestnik Kavkaza's columnist, outlined ways to resolve this conflict.
The Karabakh war became one of the most bloody wars in the post-Soviet space. Nations with close languages and culture, which lived side by side for centuries, were divided into two warring camps. Over a long period of conflict, more than 18,000 people died, and this figure is constantly growing.
Population of both sides lives in constant tension due to frequent shootings, and the danger of resumption of large-scale war still exists. And it's not just about the war with use of firearms. This conflict manifests itself in division of common historical and cultural heritage, including national music, architecture, literature, cuisine.
It's been 25 years since Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed on ceasefire in Karabakh, , and it's becoming increasingly difficult for Azerbaijani leadership to explain to its society why richest country of the region continues to experience difficulties in restoring its territorial integrity. Today there's a real information war unfolding in the region. Although full-scale military operations are no longer being conducted (with the exception of escalation in April of 2016), the war has become a mental phenomenon. Armenia and Karabakh live in constant tension, which is supported by forces interested in destabilization of the region. The atmosphere of militarization can be seen in educational programs of school and preschool institutions in Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Media constantly talk about a threat, which they see in Azerbaijani politicians' statements.
The Karabakh issue divides Armenian society into two camps: those who insist on accepting current situation without any concessions, and those who agree that it's necessary to make painful compromises in order to be able to overcome post-war crisis consequences, including economic blockade of Armenia. It's important to note that veterans of the Karabakh war, who are now in power in Yerevan, don't even consider liberating occupied areas. Armenia's ruling elites understand that an attempt to transfer even some disputed territories under direct control of Baku will lead to rallies in the Armenian capital, and, perhaps, to conflict inside the country. Moreover, many veterans categorically refuse to return "trophy" territories that they managed to occupy in the 1990s.
Despite obvious crisis in relations, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have common awareness about negative consequences of current situation. Until 1987, peaceful coexistence was supported by interethnic marriages. There is no "eternal war" between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, since there were no conditions in Karabakh that made Azerbaijani population leave the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region.
Meanwhile, representatives of Armenian diaspora who were born and grew up in Baku don't hate their friends and acquaintances from Azerbaijan. "Nation can't be the enemy," a phrase often said by older generation of Azerbaijanis when they talk about Karabakh.
Nevertheless, the Karabakh issue is still used to pressure Armenia and Azerbaijan. This problem creates wrong impression among Armenians and Azerbaijanis live outside the South Caucasus, which, in turn, creates negative stereotypes about relations between the two peoples. To put it simply, the Karabakh issue hinders attempts to resolve energy security problems in the region and implement joint transport projects, which would be beneficial for the entire region. But no one can make the first step towards settlement, fearing the end of political career if concessions on the Karabakh issue will be made.
In Baku's understanding, beginning of the peace process means taking specific steps towards liberation of its lands. Azerbaijan considers these territories to be occupied, referring to resolutions of the UN Security Council, adopted at the times of the Karabakh war of 1992-1993. In Armenia, return of these lands is an extremely painful topic, due to the issue of safety of local civilian population. In the post-war years, occupied territories became a "security belt", and that's why liberation of strategic heights and territories is unthinkable for Armenian field commanders. But the most massive expulsion of civilians occurred right after occupation of territories that were not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region. Almost 45% of Azerbaijani refugees come from Agdam and Fizuli districts, and Agdam itself still remains a ghost town.
Whose territory is this? It's impossible to answer this question, since archeology and architectural monuments point out at both Armenian and Turkic presence in the region. This is a common land and common home for many peoples, including those that are in conflict today. For Azerbaijanis, Karabakh is a matter of national importance. For Armenians, Karabakh is a fight for the rights to these lands. It's hard to find a person in Karabakh who is willing to agree to the return of adjacent territories, because this topic is associated with security issue. There are still ethnic tensions in the region, overcoming them won't be possible if the Karabakh issue won't be resolved soon.