Thousands died for nothing? Armenia VS Azerbaijan
“After the horror, After the fear, God will take care of your bruised ground, For you Armenia” sang Charles Aznavour, the most famous of the Armenians. The lyrics remain that terrible events that the world witnessed between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the second half of the 20th century: all… for nothing?
If you pay attention to the map, you will notice that Azerbaijan owns a piece of land in Armenia. So the war between these two South Caucasian countries led to the death of thousands of Armenians and Azerbaijani, although it has not been caused by any religious, ethnical or cultural disagreement, but mainly by taking control of that piece of land… in which there is nothing, and in which the strategic stakes are minimal.
A weird reason for fighting
This is one of the most complex conflict of the 20th century through the political History of the international relationships. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan had been handled by the USSR during the Cold War. They are close enough to let think that they get along well. On the contrary, Armenia and Azerbaijan hate each other. Why? Is that a religious matter? A custom matter? Or is that because one of them owns some natural resources? Or at least is that a kind of ideological difference between them? As a matter of fact, no one is the truly reason of the war: it is true that Azerbaijan is majority Muslims although Armenia is Christian, however that deed is not the cause.
The bone of contention is actually quite more surprising: a piece of land located in the West of the country, called Nagorno-Karabakh. You might think this piece of land bears some strategic stakes, or hides natural resources that are the object of lust for neighbouring countries: so it may seem strange that Nagorno-Karabakh – 140.000 people, 90% speaking Armenian – is no more than a large area without main interest. Geopolitically speaking, Armenia claims that land, even though it belongs to Azerbaijan. At that moment, people keep dying for this, then an agreement of peace has appeared in February 2020 at the Munich Security Conference. Eventually, is Peace possible?
A History of war
What country does Nagorno-Karabakh originally belong to? Actually, it depends on who you will ask for so. In the 1920’s South Caucasus was mainly inhabited by Armenians. When Stalin reached Caucasus, the area had been split off into three socialist Republics handled by the USSR: Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Then Stalin arbitrarily decided that Nagorno-Karabakh will belong to Azerbaijan, without consulting the ethnical groups or hearing the nationalist claims through the folks. When the soviet bloc collapsed in 1987, Armenian people settled a referendum on the matter of Nagorno-Karabakh. This event led to the beginning of the war we know between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which come to an end in 1994.
At least, the conflict cost more than 30.000 lives and a million people displaced. Indeed, Armenia won the war, nevertheless Nagorno-Karabakh – also called Republic of Artshak – stays officially Azerbaijani, even if the language, the currency and the banks are the same than in Armenia. More than 800.000 Azerbaijanis who were living here had to leave the place after Armenia won the war. The relations between both got bad, and then speeches turned into racism as Nazis did during the WWII. In 2005 the Mayor of Baku – capital of Azerbaijan – Hajibala Abutalybov, said “Our goal is the complete elimination of Armenians. You, Nazis, already eliminated the Jews in the 1930s and 40s, right? You should be able to understand us.” The current President of Azerbaijan is hardly more moderate in his remarks, he pronounced: “Our main enemies are Armenians of the world and the hypocritical and corrupt politicians under their control.”
How can the conflict be resolved?
Armenia is one of the rare countries in which the amount of citizens inside is lower than the amount of citizens abroad, about 3 million versus 10 million. Corruption – which is very high – and the economic crisis are the reasons of this curious matter in Armenia. So the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, claims to a reunification between his country and Karabakh. If his political position is not so astonishing, he is nevertheless the first PM who was born outside Karabakh, and he looks like a real outsider among the Armenian elite. His fame points the right moment for Peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In February 2020, the Munich Security Conference allowed to pass a step in resolving the conflict. For the first time, the Armenian PM and the President of Azerbaijan met each other at that conference: symbol of new pacifist relations between both countries.
Eventually, the talking had not been as friendly as expected, and then the conflict has not come to an end at that moment. However, here has started new relations in which we might expect Peace instead of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. So, after several decades of confrontation and blood, may we think that the only way for Peace was actually to be seated around the same table, face to face?
Étudiant en CPGE littéraire (Khûbe), études des Relations Internationales/Diplomatie.
Student at Preparatory Classes for Hight Schools, International Relations/Diplomacy studies.