Paradoxes of Second Karabakh war
Let's sum up the paradoxical results of the Second Karabakh war. They will write about this event, which has changed the regional geopolitical structure, in books and dissertations. Three of the most striking and obvious moments: Russia's return to the Transcaucasus using the tools of a new "smart power", demythologization in Armenia, national upsurge and consolidation in Azerbaijan. But for now, let's focus on the leaders.
Baku as Yerevan's examiner
Every state, especially those relatively "minor" ones, like our post-Soviet states with 30 years of modern history, with interrupted traditions and deformed heritage, goes through the crucible of realizing reality. Mythology, an unnecessary burden that was considered fundamental are being thrown off. This is an exam of the society's maturity and endurance test for government institutions.
But this historical exam may look like someone's betrayal, wrong calculation, a series of mistakes, crashes until they get to their feet. Until they begin to assess the strength. We went through this crucible in the 1990s. If trials teach, you need to thank fate for them. Russia's tests during the Yeltsin era were completed by Putin. The Georgians learned something during the Saakashvili period, having experienced a shock similar to those experienced by Armenians now. Azerbaijanis have fully mastered their lessons of the early and mid-1990s, this is evident from the large-scale socio-economic development. In fact, they are experiencing a national revival, when the quality of life in most aspects has significantly exceeded the Soviet level, and reached the world average - a rare phenomenon for the post-Soviet space.
And now Armenia is passing the maturity exam. What have they achieved there in thirty years? Of course, one can get into discussions and statistical assessments. The most paradoxical thing is that a political collapse can occur at a completely normal, average economic level. And this is not necessarily a consequence of some colossal collapse. According to various estimates, Armenia's GDP ranges from $14,200 to $15,000 per capita. Considering the gross volume of Azerbaijan's economy, it makes no sense to compare them. As an oil-producing country, Azerbaijan is in the group with Russia and Kazakhstan. But according to the above criteria, the situation in Armenia is much better than in Moldova, and better than in neighboring Georgia, although the population in Armenia is smaller than in Georgia. The paradox is that the economic situation can be quite sane, but state institutions suddenly disappear, evaporate.
Do you know what could be the most striking and dramatic for ordinary Armenians, besides the betrayal of the leadership and the death of soldiers? The unexpected correctness of the most straightforward Azerbaijani "propaganda". Take any speech by former Armenian officials explaining the Karabakh disaster - this is a quote from a daily article by "Baku Worker" of 2005, for example. You can even cite cross-quotes about depopulation, theft, the problems of the occupied territories, real and declarative expectations from allied obligations on the part of Russia, and so on. The list is impressive.
Pashinyan came to power not just on the antithesis to the previous leadership, as a popular idol, he was brought into the chair of the country's leader. However, when I see how quickly (in two years) his transformation from a popular idol to a traitor took place, how quickly enthusiasm was replaced by hatred, Pashinyan reminds me of Gorbachev, so beloved by the Armenian intelligentsia and many other liberals of the post-Soviet space. Hence the feeling of their typological similarity, of course, if we leave out the difference in the scale of the government apparatus and real processes in a superpower and a small country. Nonetheless:
- withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan/Karabakh, and the appearance of refugees from the periphery of the outpost;
- the victory of the conditional "Radio Liberty" (Azerbaijani "propaganda") over the "Armenian" newspaper "Pravda";
- the victory of politicians and reformers over specialists and regular officials;
- the citizens feel betrayed - "they lied us all the time";
- collapse of positive expectations.
As in the case of Gorbachev, one part of the intelligentsia and society will insist on his exclusive rule inscribed in history (maybe Armenia really will be reborn for itself after Pashinyan, like a small cozy country, and not for myths), while another part will insist on immediate exile and trial. Could such a leader become a winner in the war? It's a rhetorical question. Now let's look at another leader.
Long party players
It is difficult to compare Ilham Aliyev with other politicians, given the scale of his personality. This is not an unfounded statement. I am sure he will go down in history as a man-state, as they write in social networks - "Iron Ilham", the strong-willed leader of the Turkic world. It's not only that the state under him did not relax, but strengthened consistently and in succession from his father Heydar Aliyev. The society and the leader overcame the drama of the collapse and humiliation of the lost war, and then found strength and internal reserves in themselves. They have not lost their national consolidation.
The Aliyevs were a reproach to the traditional liberal model of democracy. Heydar Aliyev proved that a powerful and talented leader from the depths of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the KGB can lead a young nation state out of the crucible of war, putting it on the rails of modern modernization. Ilham Aliyev proved that dynastic succession can turn out to be a rare advantage, a way to create a modern, dynamic and efficient state capable of meeting the full range of current challenges. Over the years of his reign, Aliyev has managed to accumulate in the country the best management and growth practices available to Azerbaijan. It is a fact.
Imagine for a second that instead of Aliyev, Azerbaijan is led by a different person. It would be a path from unimportant to worse than any progress. I do not think that with such an alternative leader Azerbaijan would be able to repeat the achieved success. And most importantly, it is unlikely that Vladimir Putin would side with Baku which have a liberal-democratic facade, constant internal political fluctuations and unpredictable external outbursts.
One can quote writer Alexander Prokhanov: "Azerbaijan is not a one-time state, not a one-day state, its traditions are in the depths of world history." You just need to be able to skillfully use these traditions, cutting off detritus.