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Fighting Over a Soviet Legacy: Nagorno-Karabakh


Dr Can Erimtan
21st Century Wire

In the final decade of the previous century, when the world was going through the “end of history,” according to some, the Southern Caucasus saw the outbreak of war . . . a war that did not really come to an effective end or resolution.

The former Soviet states of Armenia and Azerbaijan were fighting each other over an area known as Nagorno-Karabakh, and “[m]ore than 600,000 Azeris have not been able to return to their homes since the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1994 . . .[and s]ome 400,000 Armenians [have also had to flee] their homes during the war . . . [while] 30,000 people [perished],” reports the BBC. And, on 10 December 2006 the remaining people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted in a referendum, in which close to 75,000 people, or 83% of voters, approved the entity’s first constitution. A document that calls their region a “sovereign democratic” state . . . The International Crisis Group‘s Sabine Freizer says that the “date of [the constitution’s] approval is significant: the poll took place fifteen years to the day after the mountainous Caucasian enclave’s Armenian population voted overwhelmingly for independence.” The Republic of Azerbaijan never recognized this one-sided declaration of independence of this additional Armenian statelet in the region.

When the conflict started, the Republic of Turkey which neighbours Armenia, was still a parliamentary democracy, in some ways continuing the work of the nation’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1880-1938) and his followers known as Kemalists. The dictum ‘Peace at Home, Peace Abroad’ dominated Turkish foreign policy. Since 2002, and the advent of the Justice and Development Party (or AKP) Turkey has been undergoing many changes, changes that have moved the country away from its founding father and his legacy.

Turkey had never been directly involved in the fighting in the Southern Caucasus. But now, more than a quarter of a century later, the Ankara government, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) and his AKP, has clearly changed its stance and seems to be taking actively part in the conflagration melting the previously ‘frozen conflict.’

A Matter of Timing: 1920-2020

Some time ago, the Turkish author of Armenian descent Hovsep Hayreni suggested that the Prez’s timing for intervening in the recent Azeri-Armenian conflict centred on Nagorno-Karabakh (‘Mountainous Karabakh,’ with the latter meaning Black Garden) was highly significant. Hayreni namely argued that the military moves, not coincidentally, started on the centenary of the outset of the Kemalists’ campaign to recover the city of Kars occupied by the short-lived Republic of Armenia (1918-20): on 28 September 1920, the Ankara government’s Eastern Front Army namely commenced its operations. And a hundred years later (minus one day), on “Sunday, September 27, [2020,] the long-simmering conflict in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region flared up, leaving hundreds dead and wounded, and sparking fears of broader regional hostilities.” And, it seems fairly certain that the Azerbaijani government acted only upon tacit instructions given by Turkey’s strongman Tayyip Erdoğan – after all, as the historian Dr Krista Goff, for instance, remarks “[t]here was no immediate trigger in this instance.” Yet, President Ilham Aliyev commenced these latest military operations to ‘liberate’ the area known as Artsakh (or the Republic of Artsakh) by Armenians – in “July [2020] Baku tested new weapons from Turkey, including TB2 drones that are effective in mountainous terrain [and last] August, Turkey and Azerbaijan [even] held joint military exercises,” as explained by Dr Audrey Altstadt. This basically means that Ankara did its best to get Baku ready to act accordingly by the above-mentioned significant date on the calendar.

And if has to be said that AKP-led Ankara is indeed very keen to observe symbolic dates and exploit their significance – for instance, the electoral victory that gave Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP henchmen a veritable ‘Mandate for a Post-Kemalist Century’ was held on 1 November 2015, on the day that the Kemalist Ankara government had abolished the Ottoman Sultanate in 1922. Or, another poignant example is the recent re-conversion of the Ayasofya (or Haghia Sophia) earlier this year. The museum became a mosque once more on the day that, in 1922, the signature of the Treaty of Lausanne had ushered in the way to the foundation of the Republic of Turkey the following year: July, 24th.

Following this apparently joint Turco-Azeri decision to “re-ignite a decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan . . . the [fighting] had escalated beyond the ‘line of contact’ dividing Armenian and Azerbaijani forces [within a week]. Stepanakert, capital of the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has sustained heavy shelling, with Amnesty International condemning the use of cluster munitions. Armenia has struck targets in Azerbaijan beyond the contested Karabakh region and civilians as well as soldiers have lost their lives in the most prolonged violence since the 1994 ceasefire. These events differ from previous flare-ups, not only in intensity, but in the direct Turkish support for Azerbaijan, including the country’s widely reported recruitment of mercenaries from Syria,” as explained by the historian Dr Jo Laycock.

The Karabakh Khanate as a Template

A hundred years ago, the Kemalist troops led by the Commander of the Eastern Front, Kâzım Karabekir (1882-1948), capitalizing on the stipulations of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – signed by the Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central Powers, including the Ottomans, on 3 March 1918, which had secured Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi for the latter – tried to push through and conquer the whole of Eastern Armenia, as explained by Hayreni. For in the spring of the previous year, the newly independent Republic of Armenia had annexed “the region of Kars, Nakhichivan, and in 1920 – Artsakh [or Nagorno-Karabakh]” as well, as related by Dr Ashot Aghasi Melkonyan. Hovsep Hayreni thus reasons that in 1920 the Kemalists’ aim had been to unite Anatolia with “Azerbaijan” in order to create a Turkish homeland stretching from the Aegean to the Caspian Seas. As if the Kemalists wanted to revive Unionist plans of achieving a “territorial continuity,” as worded by the eminent specialist on all things to do with Pan-Turkism Professor Emeritus Jacob Landau, between Anatolian and Azeri Turks. At the end of November 1920, however, the Red Army’s intervention thwarted this supposed design. And the Soviets created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (as an extraneous part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic) in order to pacify the region and keep Armenians from fighting Azerbaijanis. The region had been part of the Safavid realm from the 16th century onward as a so-called beglarbekt. The end of Safavid rule in 1722 led to a short Ottoman occupation under Sultan Ahmed III (1703-30). According to the historian Dr Ercan Karakoç, at the time “the Ottoman policy in the East was aimed at annexing Azerbaijan entirely.” Still, the subsequent death of the initial-saviour-and-ultimate-destroyer of the Safavids, Nadir Shah (1688-1747), led to the formation of an independent yet short-lived Karabakh Khanate, established by a certain “Panah Ali-khan” (ca 1693-1759), a descendant of the 17th-century figure Ibrahim-sultan Budagh-sultan ogly Javanshir. The Khanate also included the mountain districts of Karabakh which were populated by Christians (or Armenians, if you will). Dr Karakoç gives he following physical description of this Azerbaijani Khanate in the region:

Panah Ali Khan expanded the territory of the Karabakh Khanate by subjugating Meghri, Tatev, Karakilise, Karabakh, Kafan in Zangezur and the [adjacent] Nakchivan Khanate. The  borders of the Karabakh Khanate were composed by the Kura River and the Ganja Khanate in the North, the Aras River in the South, the Nakchivan Khanate in the West and  the intersection the Kura and Aras rivers in the East. The lowlands between the Kura and Aras rivers‟ triangle were also included into the Karabakh Khanate. The new ruler of Persia, Adil Shah [1747-8] issued a firman (decree) and recognized Panah Ali as the Khan of Karabakh.

The short-lived interlude of direct Azeri rule in Karabakh was followed by a consequential and long-lasting Russian intervention that took place in the context of the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813: Tsar Alexander I (1801-25)’s armed contest with the Qajar Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834) led to the Russian annexation of large swathes of the Northern Caucasus as well as considerable territories in the Southern Caucasus, solidified in the Treaty of Gulistan (24 October 1813). But long before this agreement, the Russians had already acquired possession of Karabakh by means of the 11-article Treaty of Kurekchay (14 May 1805), signed between ‘Ibrahim Khan of Shusha and Qarabagh and the General of Infantry of All Russia’s Troops, Caucasian Inspection on Infantry and others, Prince Pavel Tsitsianov.’ A document that secured the ‘granting [of] everlasting citizenship of All-Russian Empire to Ibrahim Khan of Shusha and Qarabagh with all family, posterity and possessions of his.’ The treaty’s third article makes plain that the territory shall remain in Russian hands in perpetuity:

To repay the openheartedness of Ibrahim Khan of Shusha and Qarabagh to recognize the supreme and sole power of All Russia’s Emperor over himself and his successors, this article states that he, the Khan and later his elder son and each elder successor when accepting the Khanate has the right to receive the Emperor’s confirmation on the Khanate from the Governor of Georgia.

This really rather strange document probably has to be understood within the framework of Russo-Persian rivalry, yet seems to show quite plainly that the area of Karabakh was effectively in Azerbaijani hands in political terms. In 1920, the Soviets provided a socialist sauce to cover up the taste of Imperial Russia’s lasting legacy in the Southern Caucasus, thereby transforming the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh into a sticky Soviet inheritance to trouble lasting peace in the Southern Caucasus .

The Republic of Azerbaijan clearly utilises this historical precedent to develop its own case – its own case that Nagorno-Karabakh is part and parcel of the territorial body of the Caspian republic. In much the same as Baku accepts Nakhchivan, which is surrounded by  Armenia, and also borders Turkey and Iran, as an integral albeit territorially extraneous part of its broader jurisdiction – in 1991, “Nakhchivan declared itself an autonomous region of Azerbaijan governed by a democratically elected legislature.” And although about “99% of [its] population consists of Azerbaijanis;” there are “some Armenian political groups [that] claim that the territory . . .  should belong to Armenia, as huge Armenian religious and cultural remnants are witness of the historic presence of Armenians in the region.” But, at the moment, this issue is non-extant as the ‘frozen conflict’ surrounding Nagorno- Karabakh has once again flared up and is now claiming many innocent lives.

Reality on the Ground: Artsakh

In contrast to these Azerbaijani claims to historical precedent and precedence, “Armenian sources claim that Karabakh was part of a great Armenian kingdom as far back as the fourth century” BCE, as related by the eminent Swedish scholar Dr Svante Cornell. The Boston-based Armenian scholar Dr Gayane Novikova, insightfully declares that “Armenians and Azerbaijanis [alike] consider the territory of Nagorno Karabakh as their historical land and view the opponents as ‘newcomers’.” By the time of Russian domination, though, the ethno-religious composition had clearly taken a definite shape, as  in “1845 . . . Azerbaijanis . . . were twice as numerous as Armenians” in the area, as asserted by the Russian specialist Dr Anatoly Yamskov. Following the Soviet take-over, the region became the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO), where the “idea of the ‘friendship between peoples,’ which had been imposed and cultivated over the 70 years of Soviet rule, had been effective.” Still, Dr Gayane Novikova, on the other hand, maintains that, in Soviet times (1922-91), the “Armenian minority” made up “75%-90% of the NKAO’s  entire population.”

In spite of her earlier-quoted positive words, Dr Novikova asserts that the seeds of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict nevertheless had deep roots in the Southern Caucasus:

[T]he ethnic clashes of different intensity between Armenians and  Azerbaijanis took place first within the Russian Empire (1905-1908), then during the short existence of Armenia and Azerbaijan as independent republics (1918-1920), and finally, in the Soviet period. The outbreaks of violence continued until the mid-1930, at which time the conflict was transformed, through harsh measures, into a latent phase.

Novikova maintains that the leadership of the NKAO pursued a “type of nationalistic policy” that intensified the “ethnic enmity” on the part of the Armenian ‘minority’ – and as pointed out by Dr Laycock, historically the “majority of [the area’s] population have been Armenians, but [with] deep geographical, cultural and economic connections with the lowlands of Azerbaijan.”

Gayane Novikova, for her part, continues that the Armenian inhabitants of the NKAO were goaded into staging a series of protests. These protests were held in favour of unifying the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast with the Armenian SSR. Proposals to that end were brought to the attention of the USSR leadership in 1945, 1965, 1967, and 1977. But it was only at the very end of the Soviet existence that Comrade Gorbachev (1985-91)’s policies of Glasnost (and to a lesser extent Perestroika) led to a growing Armenian assertiveness, an assertiveness that liberated the conflict from its latency into a full-blown armed confrontation. Somewhat in  parallel to the situation in 1990’s Yugoslavia, the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute is a “distinctly modern conflict, with groundwork laid not in the ancient past, but during the creation of Soviet states in the South Caucasus,” explains Laycock – she point to the “decision in 1921 to incorporate the region into Soviet Azerbaijan rather than Soviet Armenia . . . as pivotal.”

Dr Cornell posits that “[s]ince the beginning of 1988, a conflict endures between the South Caucasian nations of Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed area of Nagorno Karabakh.” In fact, Dr Yamskov suggests that the conflict actually already “emerged at the end of 1987, with the protests and mass meetings of the already well-organized Armenian movement in Nagorno-Karabakh.” The apparently always trustworthy BBC summarises as follows: in 1988, “Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists began a bloody war which left the de facto independent state in the hands of ethnic Armenians when a truce was signed in 1994.” Since then, this ‘frozen conflict’ has seen numerous and repeated clashes, often with deadly consequences. And Laycock rightly points out that “[n]either side has had a monopoly on violence or victimhood. Memories of terrible atrocities – for Armenians the Sumgait pogroms and for Azerbaijanis the massacre of hundreds of civilians at Khojaly in 1992.” As a result, both communities have become increasingly more and more isolated from one another and thus younger Armenians and Azerbaijanis “lack the older generations’ experience of sharing space, if not without tension, then without the descent into violence.”

The violent conflict feeds off narratives of national belonging, with Armenian narratives now focusing on the name Artsakh to supply arguments for ancient precedence and present independence. These stories and words hold that ‘Artsakh’ became part of the Armenian Kingdom ruled by the Artaxiad dynasty at about 180 BCE and remained part of that cultural orbit until the 4th century CE. In fact, but fifteen years ago, in 2005, the city of Tigranakert, founded by Armenian Artaxiad king Tigran II the Great (95-55 BCE) was discovered and subsequently, acheological excavations led by the Artsakh expedition of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia commenced. Whereas, Azerbaijani narratives, in turn, also deftly use the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to feed a growing “national movement and national identity,” in post-Soviet times as argued by Dr Ceylan Tokluoğlu.

Two States, One Nation

In the context of the ongoing Azeri-Armenian conflict, it seems prudent to recall that the Armenians commonly seem to refer to the Azerbaijanis as “Turks.” In fact, Dr Novikova states that Soviet archival documents of the 1920s-1930s, also do not use terms like Azeri or Azerbaijani either, instead the nouns ‘Turk’ and ‘Muslim’ were apparently employed to refer to the non-Christian ‘Socialist inhabitants’ of the Southern Caucaus. After all, the population of Turkey regards Azeris as fellow-Turks and as the Prez oftentimes likes to repeat, Turkey and Azerbaijan are “two states, one nation.” Back in the 11th century, the Seljuks (“a group of nomadic Turkish warriors from central Asia”) migrated into western Asia, these Turkic tribes ended up settling in the Southern Caucasus and Anatolia. Commonly held beliefs refer to these tribes as “Oghuz Turks” (spelt as Oğuz, in Turkish), as a sub-branch of the Turkic peoples originally inhabiting Central Asia or Turan (name of a mythical Turkish homeland) – in 1037, the Seljuks entered Iran, in 1055, they took Baghdad, and in 1071, they entered Anatolia following the victory at Malazgirt (Manzikert). Whereas the AKP-led New Turkey is fast becoming a Sunni Islamic state in all but name, Azerbaijan led by the Aliyev dynasty is nominally still staunchly secular befitting a Soviet successor state. Still, ever since independence in 1991, “popular devotion to Islam [has been] on the rise within Azerbaijan” and consequently, the son and heir of the the Soviet-era leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev (1923-2003), Ilham Aliyev has been cultivating his Islamic image, at home as well as abroad. Five years ago, for instance, he “and his family” made a much-publicized Umrah  pilgrimage to Mecca (a visit to Islam’s holiest site undertaken any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar). Still, in contrast to Anatolian Turkey, Turkic Azerbaijan is a land of believers in the Twelver Shi’ite branch of Islam, the traditional doctrinal arch-enemies of the Ottomans. A fact that shows Tayyip Erdoğan to be either a ruthless political realist or a pious believer striving towards the realization of an oecumenical form of Islam. As such, Erdoğan and Aliyev appear as best of friends during public occasions. The latter wrote the former a somewhat flowery letter on 15 September, to mark “the 102nd anniversary of the capital Baku’s liberation from Armenian and Bolshevik occupation,” by Nuri Pasha (1889-1949, the Young Turk or Unionist Enver Pasha [1881-1922]’s brother). Aliyev’s letter spoke about the good relation between Azerbaijan and “brotherly Turkey.” And 11 days later, Ankara seems to have persuaded Baku to engage in open military action in response to an Armenian violation of the 1994 ceasefire on 12 July, thereby reviving all-out war in the Southern Caucasus – the first real conflagration since the brief Four Day War in April 2016.

The brotherly Turkish support led to the use of “[a]dvanced weapons . . . [by] Azerbaijan against Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Armenia since September 27, 2020,” Dr Gayane Novikova told the world on her Facebook account (31 October 2020). She specifies that “Russian ‘Smerch’ and ‘Solntsepek,’ Turkish T-300 Kasirga; Belarusian Polonez [as well as] Israeli LORA quasiballistic missiles; [and]   Turkish Bayraktar and Israeli ‘Harop’ drones.” In the rest of her post, Dr Novikova alleges that “Azerbaijan [had even] used WMD (weapon of mass destruction): weapons spreading white phosphorus over Nagorno Karabakh [that] have set o[ff] fire forests adjacent to civilian settlements” on 30 October 2020. Sergey Naryshkin, the Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, on the other hand. alleges that Russian intelligence has “accurate information about the presence of terrorists in the combat zone [in the Karabakh region], including from the Middle East, primarily from Syria” (6 November 2020, reported by the website Al-Masdar Al-‘Arabi). Naryshkin next went as far as directly accusing “Turkish intelligence” or the National Intelligence Organization (or MİT, in accronymized Turkish), if you will. In saying these words, Naryshkin actually directly accused the Turkish President of personally selecting Jihadi terrorists to fight against Armenian forces in Karabakh. For, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (or MİT), founded in 1965, and since the adoption of Law No. 2937 (1983), subordinated directly to the Prime Minister. Under AKP tutelage, the MİT’s powers have greatly increased, turning the nation into a veritable surveillance state and with the MİT becoming “​Tayyip’s Praetorian Guard,” as coined by me in 2014. Even though the Republic of Turkey is currently ruled by means of a presidential system (the post of the Prime Minister having been duly abolished), with Tayyip Erdoğan himself now occupying the top spot, it would stand to reason that he still regards and uses Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization as his personal Praetorian Guard. These Russian allegations are equally shared by the Armenians, who even assert that Turkish military personnel has joined Jihadi mercenaries hailing from Syria.

Genocidal Fears

The Republic of Armenia (Hayastan)’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has also made some remarkable statements in this context: “Erdogan is arming Azerbaijanis because he wants another genocide . . . He sent Syrian jihadists here to fight: we have evidence.” While talking to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, he went straight to the point “we have propaganda videos of jihadists geolocated at the site of hostilities [in Nagorno-Karabakh]. There are also dead bodies of some of them. There is no doubt about that. All evidence has already been published.” With some hyperbole, the PM then declared the following: “And the goal is clear: Turks want another genocide of the Armenian people.” Though Pashinyan’s words seem somewhat far-fetched, the issue of the timing of the military operations does point towards some kind premeditated agenda. But rather than ascribing sheer genocidal intentions to the figure of Turkey’s current Islamist strongman, the goal arguably seems far from mysterious: on the one hand, the military adventure in the Caucasus is an excellent ploy to whip up nationalist sentiment at home, where economic woes and continuing severe financial crises have made the public at large more than just restless. These crises seem in no small measure connected to the Prez’s military adventures in Syria and Libya, yet he seems to have imagined that another military adventure next door might just sway his naysayers. Tayyip Erdoğan seems to view the whole world through the prism of domestic policy. In this instance, though, the matter of Turkic solidarity and Islamic brotherhood also may have possibly swayed him to intervene in the Southern Caucasus.

Using alarmist language, Pashinyan is craftily capitalizing on the West’s sympathetic instincts. The West easily condemns Turkey for its continued refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide as an historcal fact. At the same time, the West equally easily sides with the Christian victims of Ottoman policy, more often than not, perceived as yet another example of Turkish barbarity. Though recently, the Prez acted in a way that perpetuates what I have termed the “invented tradition of Turkish denialism.” In the not too faraway past, though, the Islamist strongman had sung a very different tune: in 2014, the year prior to the centenary of the “Shameful Act,” Erdoğan’s much-publicized “prime-ministerial message [actually] fell short of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, but could be seen as a first move towards a more realistic form of coming to terms with the past or Vergangenheitsbewältigung.” Alas, in the following year (2015), “the Turkish government once again pushed its denialist narrative in response to global centenary commemorations of the implementation of the Deportation Act (Tehcir Kanunu), leading to wholesale genocidal consequences in weeks and months to come.”

The Western Edge of Pipelineistan: Money Talks

The recent completion of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (or TAP) last May all but underlines the strong ties linking the Sunni New Turkey with Shi’a Azerbaijan. These ties go way  beyond mere abstract notions of racial or religious affinity, and instead display the sheer power money and its concomittant prestige and influence. The TAP, “designed to export energy from Azerbaijan’s offshore Shah Deniz field to Europe,” is the icing on the Turco-Azeri cake of friendship. Turkey is famously a Middle-Eastern state without significant hydrocabon assets, while its ‘brotherly’ neighbour of Azerbaijan is “one of the world’s oldest oil-producing countries and is a crucial oil and gas supplier in the Caspian Sea region.” On the other hand, the AKP-led New Turkey has now for years been trying to transform itself into an energ hub. As a result, Ankara has been cultivating good relations with oil-and-gas rich capitals like Moscow and Erbil, resulting in pipelines entering Turkey to transport its sticky wealth into the land and beyond. The TAP “is the final stage of Azerbaijan’s [southern gas corridor or] SGC, designed to carry Azeri gas across Turkey to Greece, Albania and Italy from the second-phase development of the BP-led 1.2 trillion m³ offshore Shakh Deniz field.” These lucrative pipes seem to constitute the backbone of the Turco-Azeri relationship. The independent provider of consultancy services relating to global petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries, Argus Media, has recently said that “Azerbaijan has displaced Russia as the top gas supplier to Turkey for the first time this year.”

President Aliyev clearly regards the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh as vital to the political health of Azerbaijan as a nation state. Early last month, he curtly declared that Armenia and its military forces “need to leave our territory, and then, the war will stop and then the conflict will come to an end.” It stands to reason that Tayyip Erdoğan could not but encourage and support his ‘brother’ on this issue, particularly, when taking account of the fact that the veins connecting both nations carry a liquid more valuable than blood, more valuable than blood for the survival of AKP-led Ankara. The economic crises besetting Turkey seem to stem directly from the country’s recently-adopted presidential system that has led to outright nepotism and blatant displays of incompetence. The Prez’s heir apparent (and son-in-law) had been put in charge of the county’s economy . . . yet Berat Albayrak lacked any form of expertise or competence to avail hmself of the job. And over the past weekend, he famously announced his voluntary retirement via his Instagram account: “His resignation comes a day after the head of Turkey’s central bank was replaced. Critics say disastrous economic policies have plunged the country’s economy into a crisis, with the lira tumbling 30 percent this year.” In contrast, Azerbaijan “has benefited from high oil prices and increased gas production, although its non-oil and gas sectors have also shown improvement. Other strengths include a strong sovereign fund, gas abundance in the Caspian Sea, an increase in exports to Turkey and Europe, serving as a geographic liaison between China and Europe, and a positive general business environment.”

Post-Script: All’s Well that Ends Well

In light of these harsh realities, could Turkey really have acted in any other way . . . at the end of the day, money talks, and Armenia as a landlocked nation of about 3 milllion inhabitants may very well occupy the moral high ground in the arena of public opinion but the power of oil and gas will always prevail in the real world. And, more often than not,  strongmen like Erdoğan and Aliyev, will just get away with murder . . .

And as if underlining this, late Monday night (9 November 2020), the Armenian PM took to social media, abandoning his alarmist rhetoric, to announce that a peace deal through Russian mediation had been achieved. A peace deal that seemed to feel like an Azeri victory: No abandoning his flair for hyperbole, Nikol Pashinyan spoke of an “unspeakably painful agreement.” His counterpart, President Ilham Aliyev, was in triumphant mood, indicating that the three signatures on the paper detailing “the deal would “return our territories without any further bloodshed.” In a manner that seems eerily reminiscent of the  Treaty of Kurekchay (1805), Russia’s Vladimir Putin assured that Russian peacekeeping forces will be deployed along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and within the corridor that connects the region with Armenia.

Now that peace seems to have returned to the Southern Caucasus, Turkey and Azerbaijan can continue their ‘brotherly’ relations in further efforts to thwart Russian progress and Armenian assertiveness, efforts that will take place under Putin’s benevolent tutelage in an ironic twist of fate.

***
21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans, the greater Middle East, and the world beyond. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in Today’s Zaman and in Hürriyet Daily News. In the next instance, he became the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire. You can find him on Twitter at @theerimtanangle. Read Can’s archive here.

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