The history of man is full of blood and brutality. On one hand he wants to shake hands with peace meanwhile also wanting to destroy the harmony of others. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an ethnic and territorial conflict between the state of Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts, which are de facto controlled by the self-declared Republic of Artsakh but are internationally recognized as de jure part of Azerbaijan.
Though Armenia claims this region as their integral part due to its demographic majority of Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh since the census of 1832. But the present-day conflict has roots in the decisions of Joseph Stalin and his team during the Sovietization of the trans-caucus’s region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) after the fall of Ottoman Empire in early 1920. The Bolsheviks took control of Azerbaijan in the same year and later in Georgia and Armenia in 1921. Due to public support, Bolsheviks promised Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia but to placate Turkey, the Soviet Union agreed that the division of Karabakh would be under the control of Azerbaijan. This decision was opposed by Karabakh Armenians while the national council preliminary agreed with Azerbaijani jurisdiction. Armenians rose in open revolt and launched a fight against the Azerbaijan army and clashes erupt in Karabakh Kenneth. After firm soviet efforts, conflict was put on the back burner for decades but re-emerged during the phase of Soviet dissolution. In early 1988, the local population of Armenia started demonstrations with ideological and material support from Armenia SSR. Within the first wave of clashes, many villages were burnt into chaos and violence.
Soviet Direct rule was abolished in November 1989 and the region was handed over to Azerbaijani administration. A referendum for the creation of the independent state was held, but the population of Karabakh boycotted it, later things escalated in a full-scale war between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh supported by Armenia. The struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh further intensified after both Armenia and Azerbaijan attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In the post-Soviet power vacuum, military action between Azerbaijan and Armenia was heavily influenced by the Russian military. Furthermore, both the Armenian and Azerbaijani military employed many mercenaries (Former soldiers) from Ukraine and Russia. As many as one thousand Afghan mujahideen also participated in the fighting on Azerbaijan’s side. There were also fighters from Chechnya fighting on the side of Azerbaijan, as well as heavy artillery and tanks provided to Armenia by Russia. Many survivors from the Azerbaijani side found shelter in 12 emergency camps set up in other parts of Azerbaijan to cope with the growing number of internally displaced people due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. By the end of 1994, both sides faced thousands of casualties and heavy losses. At that point, the Azerbaijan government recognized Karabakh as 3rd party, started negotiations with Karabakh authorities, and agreed on a truce. But this ceasefire was violated by both sides many times afterwards in 2005, 2010, 2016.
During a fresh episode of the faceoff, Armenia attacked the 2nd largest city of Azerbaijan, Ganja, killed civilians violating the ceasefire agreement. Though Azerbaijan responded with full force and liberated its captured areas. After Russian diplomatic intervention, the conflict resulted in the reaffirmation by all sides of the peace process which implies the eventual execution of four UNSC resolutions demanding Armenia’s immediate, unconditional, and full withdrawal from Azerbaijani territories that it illegally occupies. Armenian Prime Minister, Pashinyan, was under severe pressure at home, as radical nationalists were against this ceasefire and considered this truce as a direct hit to their separatist movement. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan not only exposed Armenians at almost all fronts but also pointed out how intentionally targeting of innocent civilians was carried out by Armenian forces. Currently Armenia is trying to cash its position in Nagorno-Karabakh in the worst way.
Looking at the larger picture, this present escalation heated up in name of Nagorno Karabakh has the potential to draw in regional and extra-regional powers in particular Russia and Turkey (also a NATO member). Turkey has good diplomatic and cultural ties with Azerbaijan while sharing a long history of tensions with Armenia. Meanwhile, Russia’s stand is quite vague by maintaining economic ties and providing weapons and other military-related assistance to Armenia. However, this conflict is also crucial for other regional actors including the European Union. Since this is not just an issue between christening Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan on the name of land anymore but leaning towards natural resources and economic oriented engagements as well. Currently, both sides are on the negotiation table to resolve the matter peacefully, and they will most likely agree on some agenda. But still, in this complex and tangled mess of interests of nations, things will turn shabby and more drastic in the future if not handle amicably. In any case chances of future engagement of lethal faceoff are higher than ever before.
Author: Mamoona Batool Zaidi
About Author: Mamoona Batool Zaidi is freelance writer. Her interests comprised all about Pakistan, geostrategy and security.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.