Ali Abasov (AREAT, Baku),
VARIANTS FOR A SOLUTION OF THE KARABAKH CONFLICT: CONCEPTS AND REALITY
(c)AREAT, Baku, Azerbaijan
This research is devoted to the consideration of the history and levels of the Karabakh conflict, to the analysis of possible variants and means for its solution and to the description of the social-political atmosphere in the two countries involved in the conflict. The work is simultaneously published in the Azeri, Armenian, Russian and English languages.
The present investigation is the first attempt made jointly by the researchers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and has been brought into being with the moral and financial assistance of the Embassies of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Baku and Yerevan
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FROM THE AUTHORS
The Nagorno Karabakh (NK) conflict, one of the earliest and largest scale conflicts on the territory of the former USSR, is increasingly assuming the shape of a long drawn out interstate and international problem with vague signs of progress. Having emerged in the 1980s, still in the political area of the USSR, it automatically turned after the collapse of the Union into an interstate problem of the two independent states - the Azerbaijan Republic and the Republic of Armenia. Moreover, both these newly formed states have got involved in a bloody armed conflict from the first days of their independence. The military actions costing 50 thousand casualties (according to the official statistics) were brought to an end in 1994. However, despite the efforts of the conflicting sides and assistance of many international intermediaries, the cease-fire wasn't followed by a political solution of the conflict.
The consequence was a situation of "neither war nor peace" between these states, a situation devoid of any diplomatic relations with the borders between the two countries resembling military fronts. All transport and other communications connecting these countries - and partially connecting these countries with third ones - have been blocked. Due to the fact that the key countries of the region hold different positions in relation to the Karabakh conflict, it became an essential factor of tension in the region, turning at times into a toy of geopolitical and economic interests of world powers, and, first and foremost the USA and Russia.
The state of "neither war nor peace" is quite dangerous, for it is fraught with a permanent threat of resumption of military actions. Even if the probability of such a turn of events is insignificant (and, in the opinion of most politicians and experts, it is really like that for at least a certain predicted time) there are many reasons left for anxieties. Firstly, both the states that have suffered great losses because of the conflict are still suffering significant economic losses due to the moth-balling of the conflict for an indefinite period. For all this, the Azerbaijan Republic and the Republic of Armenia, like all former Soviet republics, were tied with close economic relations, the disruption of which caused a large scale fall of the living standards of both the states. To say more, every new day of their mutual isolation is a day of new lost possibilities - the potential partners have to turn to other countries. A great number of regional projects have come to standstill owing to the unresolved conflict.
But most disturbing is that the delay in finding a solution to the conflict or the absence of at least a little progress in the matter of its settlement potentially still more aggravates the search for ways to reconciliation and - eventually - to a settlement. Unfortunately, both the countries have developed rather a stable "image of the enemy" in relation to the opposite side, and most political forces of both countries including the structures of power in Baku and in Yerevan encourage to different degrees the consolidation of this "image". But such a situation leads, first of all, to the loss of mutual trust - the basis of any negotiations and of attempts to sincerely join efforts in the search for paths to reconciliation. The hostility provokes the growth of confrontation. In fact, only a few groups of people and some social organizations show their anxiety regarding such a tendency in the regulation of the conflict.
The present project is an attempt to obstruct the progress of this pernicious tendency. Its participants - experts from Azerbaijan and Armenia, intend to create a series of materials, which will lay bare before the public of both countries the viewpoints of each side on hard disputable problems and available variants for overcoming them. We regard this project as an initial stage of cooperation with the aim of at least mitigating the distrust between the two countries and peoples. There is much work both in case the present situation remains for a long time, and in case the process of settlement should find at least a slim chance of escaping from the dead lock. And it's natural that even in case of the most favorable result, the process of recovering mutual trust between our peoples should take a lot of time and effort.
As a matter of fact this project contains three materials - the viewpoints of the two sides on the initial stage and development of the conflict in NK (Monitoring), and also on the concepts of what kind of common economic interests between the two countries and peoples are available at present. These materials are already available on the Internet (the address of the Azeri version is www.dialogueAzArm.com, the Armenian version is at www.dialogueArmAz.nt.am). And finally, the present brochure "Variants for a solution of the Karabakh conflict: concepts and reality" is issued in the Azeri, Armenian, Russian and English languages. The book is presented to the public for their judgement. We think that this first step will serve as an impulse for further steps towards strengthening mutual trust.
Apropos of this, we think it important to note that even for us, the authors of this brochure, people confident in the possibility of a rapprochement and reconciliation of the Azeri and Armenian positions and disposed to work towards this, realising this small work, appeared to be rather difficult. We became really convinced that such an endeavor is a hard search for the ways of achieving mutual concessions far from the stereotypical approach to the problem. We presume that this work will arouse different attitudes and opinions in our countries, but we think it imperative to begin a direct dialogue between the peoples aimed at achieving mutual trust and understanding.
Our work was nearing completion at a time when the process of negotiations had entered their latest "stagnation" period. It is proved by the fact that after three years of contacts at the level of the presidents of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Republic of Armenia there has been a return to negotiations carried out by envoys (deputy ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries) representing the presidents. On the other hand, the joint statement of the presidents of the USA and the Russian Federation (RF) in May 2002 proves that the countries of the South Caucasus will possibly be subjected to a "compulsory reconciliation" in the nearest future which has very little to do with "the principles of law and justice". Therefore we presume that this publication is very important right now when the conflicting sides may take fateful decisions for the region.
The participants in the project express their sincere gratitude to the Embassies of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Azerbaijan Republic and in the Republic of Armenia whose financial and moral support enabled us to bring this project to life.
Since the time of its entrance the USSR the multinational Azerbaijan had already had its own ethnic problems, but only one of them developed into a full-scale war with the Armenian population of Nagorni Karabakh and Armenia for NK. Armenians made up (according to the statistics) 70-75 % of NK population - 150-160 thousand. As a result of this confrontation the "freedom" of Karabakh Armenians cost about 50000 lives of people perished from both sides, forced resettlement of 250 thousand Azeris from Armenia and 400 thousand Armenians from Azerbaijan, seizure of six more regions of Azerbaijan besides the enclave NK, 800 thousand refugees in its own country. The Azerbaijan Republic claims that 20% of its territory is occupied by the Republic of Armenia. The Republic of Armenia assures that it was the result of the struggle of the Defense Army of the unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) against 7-million Azerbaijan and, consequently, it is Azerbaijan's internal affair. Whereas enclave NK turned into a territory united with the Republic of Armenia almost all along the state border between the two countries.
The further presentation of the material requires certain clarification of what can conventionally be called "the levels" of the conflict. Their importance arises from the fact that transitions from one level to another quite substantially modified the character of the confrontation and the ways of solution of the problem. Taken in chronological sequence the dynamics of the Karabakh conflict can be displayed by the following scheme of levels.
1. Ethnic-confessional: Azeris - Armenians
The radical distinction of ethnic-confessional self-identification of Azeris and Armenians is quite obvious although sometimes it, whatever paradoxical it may be, turns into likeness. Azeris refer themselves to a large-scale community of Muslims and to the minor, but still great, community of Turks. Azeris think themselves to be a numerous people and practically are never disturbed by the problem of ethnic survival, of its possible extinction. Azeris are mostly Shi'ites, that distinguishes their position in the Muslim world, in general, and offers them an almost exceptional one in the Turkic world. Armenians belong to the large-scale community of Christians. However, due to their confessional specificity they hold (and they conceive the fact) a particular place among them, regard themselves as a unique ethnic group. Owing to the long period of their life in the surroundings of non-Christian culture and historical collisions Armenians have developed a persistent sense of constant threat of extinction of "a small ethnic group in conditions of hostile surrounding". It seems obvious that this element of Armenian mentality played an important part in the development of this conflict, and more to it, it is playing a significant part at the present stage as well. It is, for instance, one of the reasons of their distrust to the assurances of the Azeri side about ensuring security of Armenians of NK.
During the years of the Soviet system both peoples lost their spirit of religion. As a result, Islam and correspondingly Christianity turned into a form of ordinary religious affairs. Nevertheless, Armenians retained their perception of religion as a factor of consolidation of the people, of the church - as an institution of self-government and social organization (and this part was really carried out by the Armenian Apostolic church during the centuries Armenia was deprived of its own statehood).
For all this, the closeness of these two people seems to have much deeper roots than the seventy years of life in approximately similar conditions of the Soviet regime (let alone the earlier historical periods). For instance, historical situation have repeatedly encouraged in both cases the de-ethnisization of some layers of these peoples. The "ethnic-genetic material" of native Albanians was chiefly shared by these two peoples. And the last is that the long joint habitation brought to a great number of mixed marriages leading to marginalization of both ethnos.
It is really astonishing that closeness of Georgians and Armenians at all accounts should have been greater than that of Armenians and Azeris, but a great many of historical-cultural facts and regularities prove the opposite. This fact found its strikingly vivid reflection in the places, usually in provinces, where representatives of these peoples lived together and formed a peculiar symbiosis.
Azeris always distinguished "our" and "foreign" Armenians, and the "our" Armenians ("from Karabakh") (in the eyes of Azeris) always opposed themselves to "Yerevanians". This is why it is possible to speak about several "Azeri" ("belonging to Bakuvites", "Armenian", "Georgian," etc.) and "Armenian" ("belonging to Karabakh", "Yerevanian", "diaspora") mental attitude in relation to "neighbors" and "history". The inverted comas in one and the other cases mean that all these spheres are mythologized to a sufficient extent, saturated with unconscious and subconscious motives and stuffed with "facts". The historical myths and the shift of responsibility from one ethnic group of the people to the other never lost their grounds.
However, approximately since the middle of the XIX century the proper experience of conflict inter-relations of Armenians and Azeris in the area has begun. It continued with bloody confrontations of 1905, 1918 and the years to follow up till the contemporary events, when the conflicting sides manifested a tendency to mutual annihilation, crossed the thresholds of humanity, like Serbs and Croatians at their time. The attempts to identify the opposing side as "barbarians" were realized in multiple phobias, fright before each other, in the formation of the image of the enemy, in the conversion of subconscious phantoms into reality. Two components of the forming elite - intelligentsia and religious figures, devoid of the experience of democracy, played the negative part, intensified by the decisive role of "revolutionary anarchy" rendered by the "newly arrived" bellicose elements. Just in such surroundings emerges the idea of genocide of Azeris, claims for the so-called Western Azerbaijan in response to the Armenian claims for Karabakh and Nakhchivan.
One of the ways out of the dead-ends of consciousness is seen in modeling in the region those principles of joint Diaspora life of Armenians and Azeris that got formed in Russia, the cooperation of which is seldom burdened by "the idols of the past and the present". The possibilities of destruction of the myths also proceed from the processes of democratization, that make the social, political and economic spheres of public life quite transparent .
2. REGIONAL LEVEL OF THE CONFLICT
The Karabakh conflict became the main factor in the (early or late) formation of the national elites of Azerbaijan, Armenia and even of NK, claiming political power. Coming to power was possible only through an upsurge of nationalism. It is a mistake to think that the Baltic countries witnessed a democratic, liberal break-through. They also experienced an upsurge of nationalism but this was common to the Baltic republics and projected externally against the USSR. This didn't take place in the South Caucasus. The different attitudes of the three republics to the search for an external orientation, their constant shifts in position and later Georgia's and the Azerbaijan Republic 's joining the CIS dissipated their expectations and results.
Ali Abasov (AREAT, Baku),
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