NEWS CENTER - Stating that Armenia would not easily accept the presence of Azerbaijan in the 7 districts of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian historian Dmitriy Malyshev, about the Armenians who migrated from the region, says "I don't think these people will return as long as the abandoned places remain under Azerbaijani administration."
Since 1988, there has been an ongoing turmoil in Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh. The “hostility” between Armenians and Azerbaijanis of course dates back to a more distant past. It is even claimed that "Red Kurdistan" (1923-1929) was established and considered as a buffer zone to curb the hostilities between both sides. However, this project did not survive for long. The current hostile mood in the region couldn’t be prevented. it has periodically evolved into wars. Thus, the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, which started on September 27, 2020, ended with a ceasefire agreement signed on November 10. While the Aliyev’s administration thinks that the problem has already been solved by this agreement, Pashinyan administration expects the problem to be resolved within the framework of the right to self-determination. We interviewed Dmitry Valeryevich Malyshev, associate professor at the department of World Politics of Lomonosov Moscow State University, about the changes happened in Nagorno-Karabakh after 1 year and the panorama that may occur in the future.
As you know, a year has passed since the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Do you think the problem has been solved for good?
It would clearly be unacceptable for Armenia to establish control by Azerbaijan over the seven regions that adjoin Nagorno-Karabakh and which in Armenia were traditionally called “The Security Belt”.
First of all, it is necessary to start with the fact that today it is not possible to resolve completely the conflict in the unrecognized state – the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR, which has another official name - the Republic of Artsakh). This is explained both by the serious historical contradictions that took place between the Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and by the dissatisfaction of both sides with the results of the so-called 44-day war (Azerbaijanis call it sometimes “The Patriotic War”, and Armenians - “The Second Artsakh War”).
First, the war took a large number of lives on both sides. Only according to official data (and they, as a rule, are greatly underestimated), Armenia lost 3,700 persons. As for Azerbaijan, it lost 2,900. Secondly, it would clearly be unacceptable for Armenia to establish control by Azerbaijan over the seven regions that adjoin Nagorno-Karabakh and which in Armenia were traditionally called “The Security Belt”. Moreover, Azerbaijan has also seized strategically important territories of the unrecognized Karabakh People's Republic (NKR) such as the city of Shusha (the second largest after the capital of the NKR, Stepanakert), the Hadrut region and parts of the Mardakert and Martuni regions. Armenia, most likely, will not put up with these losses. A blow was also dealt to the image of the republic, which had previously positioned itself almost as the militarily strongest state in the South Caucasus.
Thirdly, Azerbaijan has not gained control over entire Nagorno-Karabakh, as it seems to have planned. Azerbaijan agreed to the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the region. They completely control the Lachin corridor, which connects Armenia with Karabakh, but Azerbaijan has never fully gained control over it.
And the fighting that took place in the border areas, particularly in May 2021, especially in the area of the so-called "Black Lake" on Armenian territory, clearly indicates that this conflict is still very far from over.
Do the Armenian forces have a plan to return to the region and fight?
It seems that in the near future Armenia will not undertake any serious military efforts in the Karabakh conflict zone.
It should be noted that within a year since the end of the 44-day war, the balance of power in the region has changed a lot. Particularly, the positions of Turkey have considerably strengthened, the Russian peacekeepers appeared here (I remind that the peacekeeping forces have never entered the conflict zone in Karabakh), and the authority of the OSCE Minsk Group has fallen even more (though it was not very great even before).
At least so far Armenia has not announced any specific plans concerning military actions in Karabakh. The Russian peacekeepers continue to act in the region as a deterrent against mutual clashes. The Armenian leadership did not manage to draw the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) into this conflict, although on May 14, 2021, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on the CSTO to consult on the "Azerbaijani aggression" as soon as possible. It seems that in the near future Armenia will not undertake any serious military efforts in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Nikol Pashinian wants this problem to be solved within the framework of the right of peoples to self-determination. Is this possible?
He has repeatedly stated this, clearly alluding to the fact that the people of Crimea exercised such a right in 2014 during the reunification of the Crimean peninsula with Russia. But at the same time he is aware of the difficulty for Armenia to solve the Karabakh problem in a similar way. I will refer to Pashinyan's own statement. At the beginning of October 2021, during a meeting with the representatives of the Armenian community of Lithuania, he stated literally the following: "The protection of the sovereignty of Armenia, the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, the right to self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh is a priority for Armenia, but we must realize that we are walking on a minefield." I think there is nothing to add to this statement.
Ilham Aliyev said that the name of Nagorno-Karabakh has gone into history. That is, he meant that the problem had already been solved. Does this statement matter to international forces?
It is clear that Azerbaijan considers this problem, if not completely, then almost solved. And so far the international community is in no hurry to refute or correct this position of the Azerbaijani leadership.
Ilham Aliyev made this statement during his speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in late September 2021. He said literally the following: "Azerbaijan no longer has an administrative and territorial unit called Nagorno-Karabakh." Let me quote another thesis of the President of Azerbaijan: “If Armenia continues to have territorial claims against Azerbaijan, it will be difficult for Azerbaijan to refrain from territorial claims against Armenia”.
Thus, it is clear that Azerbaijan considers this problem, if not completely, then almost solved. And so far the international community is in no hurry to refute or correct this position of the Azerbaijani leadership. Some kind of reaction is taking place only in terms of preventing a new war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, while in general the problem only manifests itself in the mutual claims of the two countries against each other.
Although President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke positively about the settlement process and proposed a special format of cooperation in the Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Russia, Iran and Georgia. But here, as we can see, Nagorno-Karabakh is not represented, and to what extent such a format will be implemented is a big question.
What does Russia think about this? Is it possible to implement the model of the referendum in Crimea in Nagorno-Karabakh?
Russia is trying to take a strictly neutral position, and play its role as a peacemaker in the conflict. Despite the fact that Armenia, unlike Azerbaijan, is a member of such important organizations as the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union, Russia did not unequivocally side with Armenia. The statement adopted on the night of November 10, 2020 by the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, which was initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, put an end to the 44-day war. In this document, an attempt was made to take into account the interests of both parties in the conflict as much as possible.
It seems unlikely that the model of the 2014 referendum in Crimea will be implemented in Karabakh. First of all, it is due to the fact that major international actors (first of all, Russia) are not particularly interested in it, and the political weight of Armenia will not be enough to hold such an event.
It is reported that 90,000 Armenians have returned to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. Are they experiencing any pressure?
It should be noted that the main problem of this situation is just the historical distrust and confrontation, which is experienced by both peoples. And, in any case, in the foreseeable future, this kind of mood will not go away.
I come across a figure of just over 50,000 people returning to Karabakh. Many territories where Armenians used to live are divided (like the village of Tagavar in Karabakh). In fact, the residents of such settlements live in the frontline zone. Of course, they experience pressure and discomfort. Many of the residents of the territories under Azerbaijani control burned down their houses before leaving them. So many people went to Armenia or to their relatives in other countries.
They will not return to the territories that have passed to Azerbaijan, as long as these territories remain under the control of Azerbaijan. After all, the Armenians remember, for example, the Sumgait pogrom of 1988, during which a large number of ethnic Armenians who lived in Azerbaijan at that time were killed. Summing up what has been said, it should be noted that the main problem of this situation is just the historical distrust and confrontation, which is experienced by both peoples. And, in any case, in the foreseeable future, this kind of mood will not go away.
MA / Ismet Konak