I. INTRODUCTION. THE LEVELS OF THE KARABAKH CONFLICT: FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL SCALE

Since the time of entering 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 Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia for NK. According to the statistics, Armenians made up 70-75 % of NK’s population (150-160 thousand people), living in an enclave inside Azerbaijan. As a result of this confrontation the “freedom” of Karabakh Armenians cost the lives of tens of thousands of people on both sides, a forced resettlement of 250,000 Azeris from Armenia and 400,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan, a seizure of seven more regions of Azerbaijan outside the enclave of NK, which caused the emergence of 800,000 refugees and forcibly displaced persons in their own country. The Azerbaijan Republic claims that 20% of its territory is occupied by the Republic of Armenia1.

  Armenia deems that it was the result of the struggle of the Defense Army of the unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) against the 7-million Azerbaijani Republic and, consequently, it is Azerbaijan’s internal affair, although the enclave of NK turned into a territory united with the Republic of Armenia almost all along the state frontier between the two countries2.

For the further presentation of the material it useful to get an idea of what can conventionally be called “the levels” of the conflict. Their importance arises from the fact that transitions from one level to another substantially changed the nature of the confrontation and ways of solving the problem3. Chronologically, the dynamics of the Karabakh conflict can be presented by the following scheme.

1.Ethnic-confessional level:Azeris – Armenians.

2.Regional level:Azerbaijan – Karabakh – Armenia.

3.Soviet – post-Soviet level:Azerbaijan – USSR (Russia, RF) – Armenia

4.International level:Azerbaijan – Armenia and others states (the most important of them are the United States, Russia, EU countries, Turkey, Iran).

We think it necessary to analyze these levels separately before passing on to the analysis of possible variants of stabilization, and then to address the ways of solving the conflict.

1. The ethnic level of the conflict

The radical distinction of ethnic-confessional self-identification of the Azeris and the Armenians is obvious, although sometimes, whoever paradoxical it may sound, it turns into likeness. The Azeris refer themselves to the large community of Muslims and to the smaller, but still considerable community of Turks. The Azeris consider themselves to be a large nation and are practically not concerned over the problem of ethnic survival and its possible extinction. The Azeris are mostly Shi’ites, which puts them in a special position in the Muslim world in general and in an almost exceptional position in the Turkic world. Armenians, belonging to the large community of Christians, due to their confessional specificity hold a special place among them (and they conceive the fact). They 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 a constant threat of extinction as “a small ethnic group in conditions of hostile surroundings”. It seems that this element of Armenian mentality played an important role in the development of this conflict, and, furthermore, it plays a significant role at the present stage. In particular, it adds to the distrust towards the assurances of the Azeri side about providing guaranties of security to the 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 everyday religion. Nevertheless, the Armenians retained their perception of religion as a factor of consolidation of the people, and of the church as an institution of self-government and social organization (the Armenian Apostolic Church indeed played this role during the centuries when Armenia held no statehood).

At the same time, the closeness of these two people appears to have much deeper roots than the 70 years of life in approximately similar conditions of the Soviet regime (let alone the earlier historical periods). Thus, the historical situation has repeatedly promoted in both cases the de-ethnisization of some strata of these peoples. The “ethnic-genetic material” of native Albanians was mainly shared by these two ethnos. After all, the long period of habitation side by side resulted in a great number of mixed marriages leading to a marginalization of both ethnos. It is a striking fact that the closeness of the Georgians and the Armenians by all accounts should have been greater than that of the Armenians and the Azeris, but a great many of historical-cultural facts and regularities prove the opposite. This fact found its most vivid reflection in places, usually in provinces, where representatives of the two peoples lived together and formed a peculiar symbiosis. The Azeris always distinguished “our” and “foreign” Armenians, and “our” Armenians (“from Karabakh”) (from the Azeris’ point of view) always opposed themselves to “Yerevanians”. That is why it was possible to speak about several “Azeri” (“Baku”, “Armenian”, “Georgian”, etc.) and “Armenian” (“Karabakh”, “Yerevanian”, “Diasporan”) mentality towards “neighbors” and “history”. The inverted comas in either case mean that all these spheres are quite mythologized, saturated with unconscious and subconscious motives and saturated with “facts”. The historical myths and the shift of responsibility from one ethnic group (people) to the other never lost ground.

However, the experience of conflict in the inter-relations between the Armenians and the Azeris in the region had begun approximately since the middle of the 19th century. It continued with bloody confrontations of 1905, 1918 and the following years up until the contemporary events, when the sides again showed a tendency toward mutual annihilation, and crossed the threshold of humanity, like the Serbs and Croats did at their time. The attempts to identify the opposing side as “barbarians” were expressed in numerous phobias, in the fright of each other, in the formation of an image of the enemy, and in the conversion of subconscious phantoms into reality. Two components of the forming elite – intellectuals and religious figures, devoid of the experience of democracy, played a negative role, and the decisive role of “revolutionary anarchy” was exercised by the “newly arrived” bellicose elements. It was in that environment that there emerged the idea of a genocide of Azeris, or claims for the so-called Western Azerbaijan (as some Azeri politicians name the modern Republic of Armenia) in response to the Armenian claims for Karabakh and Nakhichevan (Nakhchyvan after changing the writing of the names of a number of cities and towns in Russian in Azerbaijan).

One of the ways out of the deadlocks of consciousness is seen in the modeling in the region those principles of joint Diaspora life of Armenians and Azeris that was formed in Russia and where their cooperation is seldom burdened by “the idols of the past and the present”. The possibilities of destroying the myths also proceed from the processes of democratization that bring transparency into the social, political and economic spheres of public life.

2. The regional level of the conflict

The Karabakh conflict became a factor in the (early or late) formation of the new national elites claiming political power in Azerbaijan, Armenia and even in the NK. The path to power was possible only by riding the wave of nationalism. It is a mistake to think that the Baltic states witnessed a democratic, liberal breakthrough, however. There, too, everything was happening on the wave of nationalism, but that was consolidated by the Baltic republics and targeted with solidarity directed against the outside, 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 reference-point, their constant shifts from position to position, and Georgia’s and the Azerbaijan Republic’s late accession to the CIS moved apart their expectations and results.

The leaders of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Republic of Armenia have forever become hostages to the nationalist slogan and sentiments, and not only because of necessity, but also proceeding from the fact that the prolongation of the conflict was, and is, an indispensable condition of retaining personal power. (The only exception, the case with the first President of the Republic of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, only confirms what was said above). The fact that the politically active masses and leaders were mainly mobilised from the peasantry led to a modification of the psychology and logic of the political situation and its analysis. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Robert Kocharyan and Heydar Aliyev, relied on certain forces (of a “Diasporan” character) and had to curry their favor and support. Meanwhile, the hard and cruel period of the primary accumulation of capital had already ended in the republics and brought the capital under the control of narrow groups (“clans”) of people tied to each other. In such a situation, an urgent need for a certain “new way of thinking” appeared among the political elites of Azerbaijan and Armenia, but there was not enough time for that. Time will show if the formation of such a new approach may demand a change in the present political elites and their leaders (Ilham Aliyev, who replaced his father in 2003, still declares the need for a continuation of the policy and trust toward the team of his father, which, however, is unlikely at least because of the changed situation in the region4). The following question first of all arises: may a change of elites in the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic destabilize the situation in the region even more? The events in Georgia in late 2003 showed that these processes may begin in an absolutely “unexpected” way. 

Georgia, which could have assumed the task of consolidating the region (and forming that very “new way of thinking”), itself has been buried under the burden of its own problems, including ethnic conflicts. The impossibility of a Tripartite Alliance in the South Caucasus today bears a striking resemblance to the situation that existed at the beginning of the 20th century when all three republics obtained short-lived independence. Also the sentiments of the NK population should not be underestimated. For more than 10 years the Armenians of the NK, like the Abkhazians, have de facto lived without any submission to another state, and this fact reflects on their mentality and turns them into a separate factor in the political situation of the region – something that outside forces5often make use of.

It is obvious that the development of civil societies and institutions, and the strengthening of democracy in general, are a necessary (but not sufficient) precondition for an ultimate resolution of the conflict and reconciliation between the two peoples. The formation of civil unions and structures directing their activities at the consolidation of democratic processes in the three republics and the formation of an intellectual forum of the South-Caucasian countries are major factors in these processes. The search for a common model to resolve the numerous conflicts in the republics of the region, the analysis of the problem of ethnic homogeneity and its different representations in the republics of the South Caucasus, setting up Russian, American and European forums of the peoples of the South Caucasus (as a significant part of population has migrated to all countries worldwide), for example, and coordination of their actions are potentially important activities in reducing the level of tension in the region. 

3. The Soviet-post-Soviet level of the conflict

The Karabakh conflict is not the first ethnic conflict in the dying agonies of the USSR, but it is both the first long-term and most fierce such armed conflict. One tendency was observed at those times – growing tensions in the area that was later called the “southern underbelly” of the USSR (Russia). Here there were concentrated conservative regimes that considered communism as a suitable form of medieval rule. It is in this region that “perestroika” failed to find support in government structures. There is an opinion that inter-ethnic confrontations, uncharacteristic for the Soviet regime, had been provoked by the “Center” with the only goal of undermining the prestige of the local conservative authorities and replacing the leaders of the old type with new “reformist” ones, although still from the communist nomenclature. If it is so, then these processes were not thoroughly thought over, nor were they supported by any efforts aimed at containing the consequences of the conflicts and removing third party agents and actors that were inevitably involved in such events that had a good prospect in terms of realisation of their political ambitions6. By changing the elite, the Center was faced with qualitatively new problems that it could never control as fully as it had done before. The hypocritical slogans of “perestroika” were seized at the early stage by the emerging national elites, but then, however, they again passed to the arsenal of the regenerated nomenclature that tasted pure initial capital and was deprived of any, except verbal, support for liberalism, freedom, democracy, market relations and human rights.

For new elites, ethnic conflicts were gradually turning into a method for:

a) political mobilization;

b) putting pressure on the government;

c) seizure of power;

d) retention of power;

e) creation of “black holes” on the territory of what was still a single state for smuggling abroad great amounts of money, raw material, narcotics, “human commodities”, weapons, etc.

This suited everyone “running from the sinking ship of the USSR”, except the inhabitants of these “black holes” who were forced to ensure these channels were kept open at the price of the escalation of military confrontation and a sharp fall in living standards, a weakening of security and chaos in law, and a paralysis of the human rights protection mechanisms on the territories in conflict. The formation of significant capital helped the new elites to “lobby” their interests with the Center that was also passing into the hands of the new nomenclature.

The sudden collapse of the USSR, performed by the scenario of the “Belovezhie agreements” provided a favorable moment to end the conflicts in the South Caucasus, but it was missed because of the dependence of the stability of the authorities in the region on successes and failures in conflicts. And the course of the conflicts largely depended on the deliveries of Russian weapons and even the participation of Russian military instructors. The post-Soviet victories and defeats of the countries of the region, especially the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic, relied heavily on “donations” from the Russian Federation. The Azerbaijan Republic and Georgia, which had not joined the CIS, gradually became the targets of Russia’s political, economic and military pressure and eventually changed both their governments and, temporarily, their political orientation. Nevertheless, Russia failed to propose any sensible variant of solving the conflicts in the region, to render any economic assistance or to offer a way for integration (although Russia played a decisive role in the achievement of the ceasefire in the Karabakh and other conflicts of the region). No one can foresee the dynamics of the economic development of this country. And the fatal frustrations and failures of reforms arouse stable scepticism even in relation to such an active figure as President Putin. Out of necessity, Russia is being guided by the priorities of its political interests and, in the aspect of these interests, the conflicts of the South Caucasus have to remain suspended for an indefinite time. It is quite predictable what attitude Russia will manifest in case of an achievement of a hypothetical agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic and their reorientation to the West, excluding Moscow from partnership in the region7.

History again presents such a chance to the countries of the region, however strange it might seem. But what will be the actions of the authorities and the public? The Republic of Armenia holds the key role in this matter. But again, there is no common center in this country to take a history-making decision. It can not be ruled out, though, that these countries of the region may make a decision in favor of the Russian Federation, that is, to return to the political umbrella of Moscow. In this case it is necessary to consider variants for political and especially economic development and the rate of the Russian Federation’s integration into the European community. The point is that this rate will determine the degree of the United States’ “withdrawal” from European affairs. But for the time being, we can observe a polarization of the political orientation of the countries which is on the whole negative for the region: Azerbaijan – USA, Georgia – Western Europe (and lately the USA) and Armenia – Russia. True, the involvement of all the three countries of the South Caucasus in the EU program (known as “The New Neighborhood”) in June 2004 has raised hopes that integration tendencies in the South Caucasus will finally prevail over the prolonged “disintegration.”

Anyway, there may again be a historical chance for the countries of the region to come to terms on the differences that have been rending them apart. It seems, however, that their political elites are not yet mature enough to make unpopular, but eventually necessary decisions capable of putting an end to conflicts and restoring mutual trust in the region. However, it is already a positive phenomenon that the growing understanding holds that there is no real alternative to peaceful negotiations and only in this way can the conflicting sides enter a system of mutual guarantees of security, stability and cooperation in the region.

Considering what was stated above, the intellectual and political elites must assume the task of mulling over variants of uniting and elaborating a common political orientation for the countries of the region. It does not at all mean that this, as many people think, will be a new, one-sided and strict orientation to one country. It means a tripartite, complex of vision of the political future of the South Caucasus.

4. The international aspects of the conflict

Owing to the conflicts, the processes of globalization embraced the South Caucasus region sooner than other parts of the post-Soviet space. The presence of oil aggravated the conflicts turning them into an international problem. The consequences of these processes have barely been studied and hereby we endeavour to outline the scope of problems that emerged in consequence of this.

Since May 1994, a fragile armistice has been preserved in the region. In the course of this armistice the sides have failed to find acceptable variants of solving the inter-ethnic conflict. Had the region been faced with other geopolitical conditions and had Azerbaijan not had the strategic resources of energy (oil and natural gas), the conflict would have probably been settled long ago. However, several large countries and the world superpower, the United States, see the region as in their “vitally important, strategic” interests, entangled in a complex web of contradictions and not always clearly stated8. On the other hand, Russia, which has been trying to determine its political priorities in the South Caucasus for years, does its best to recover the influence that the USSR had in the region. Iran, worried by a possible entry of the US and NATO into the region more than by anything else, resists in every possible way the inflow of Western investments and the formation of a new center of world economic development, which implies connecting Western Europe with the Far East by means of communications and oil-gas pipelines. Despite several quite real contradictions, the Russian Federation and Iran at the present moment have to become tactical allies, striving to oppose the grandiose ambitions of the West to include the vast regions of the South Caucasus and Central Asia (CA) into its sphere of political and economic influence. The three recognized republics of the South Caucasus are assigned different roles by these opposing countries, but it is clear that a full-scale realization of anybody’s ambitions in the region is possible only if these republics are included in a common geopolitical space.

It may seem paradoxical that Armenia, which has the most significant Diaspora in the West, became an ally of Russia and, as a matter of fact, a conductor of its political interests in the region. Despite the fact that it was on the insistence of the Armenian Diaspora that the US introduced in 1992 sanctions against Azerbaijan set forth in Section 907 of the “Freedom Support Act” (making Azerbaijan the only country in the CIS deprived of US government assistance until the 9/11 events), the Republic of Armenia continues to believe that it can realize its goals only through its alliance with Russia. The grounds for such a choice centers on the coincidence of interests of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Armenia: the former strives to turn the Republic of Armenia into a military-strategic outpost of its influence; the latter sees in the Russian Federation a protector from its traditional foe – Turkey, which unequivocally defends the position of the Azerbaijan Republic in the Karabakh conflict. The Azeri side contends that in the mid-90s the Russian Federation granted to the Republic of Armenia heavy armaments worth 1 billion US dollars (including missiles capable of reaching Baku). There is a fear in Azerbaijan that all this military power is intended to deliver a new blow against Azerbaijan to seize new territories having strategic importance for the functioning of the Baku-Supsa (Georgia) pipeline and the new Baku-Ceyhan (Turkey) oil pipeline. Those in Armenia say that one can hardly agree with such a contention, as close by, there is an equally strong army of another country concerned – Turkey.

Generally, Turkey’s relations with the countries of the region are an important aspect in the international “dimension” of the situation in the South Caucasus. Turkey itself, as a large and powerful regional state, is naturally seeking to strengthen its influence in the newly independent countries of the region. Besides, as both a NATO member and the main regional ally of the US, Turkey is objectively taking part in the competition (albeit somewhat weakened and indistinct lately) between Russia and the West for influence in the South Caucasus. However, the positions of Turkey in the region are being consolidated more slowly than it might be expected on the face of it. The reason is the existence of the Karabakh conflict. Having common ethnic characteristics with Azerbaijan, Turkey took a tough pro-Azeri position in this conflict. The matter is not in the material or military aid. More important is the psychological aspect of such support consolidated by internal political realities in both Turkey and Azerbaijan. All too often, the media (Armenian and foreign) have expressed the opinion that but for the factor of Turkey, the political elite of the Azerbaijan Republic would probably have been more inclined to compromises. One way or another, Turkey factually imposed economic sanctions on the Republic of Armenia: closed the common border and refused to trade directly with it. This was done in the interests of a third country – Azerbaijan, and became quite a rare case in the history of the last decade. Perhaps the only comparison it bears is with Iraq’s unilateral embargo in April 2002 on oil exports in support of the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Add to it such a factor as the traditional mutual wariness of the Armenians and Turkey constantly fuelled by the problem of qualifying the events of 1915. The Armenians presume that, in essence, the problem is whether these events should be called “genocide”, for nobody in Turkey itself denies that hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished at that time. Those in Turkey consider that the Armenian estimation of 1.5 million victims to be exaggerated and stress that no less Turks and Kurds than Armenians perished at those times. As a result, the border between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey became the second line of tension after the border dividing the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic (however, let us make it clearer and say that in the latter case it would be more appropriate to speak not about the borders, but about the lines of opposition, at least for the simple reason that as a result of the military operations those lines became different from the official borders).

Meanwhile, the Republic of Armenia is going through another stage of its attempts to limit the influence of the Russian Federation or at least to find a parity with the influence of the West (the USA). This is largely promoted by the foreign political concept that Armenia adopted, the so-called “complementarism”, presupposing a possible removal of discrepancies between the interests of Russia and the West in the region. It is typical that these efforts are undertaken by the forces that came to power on the wave of criticism of the position of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who was removed from power in 1998 after his attempts to solve the NK problem in accordance with the statement of the OSCE Chairman at the Lisbon Summit9.

Even official sources in the Republic of Armenia acknowledge that about one million people left the country as emigrants and in search of work, although some independent experts think that this number is understated10. The number of Armenians who left NK is also considerable. So, the vast territories including the occupied ones are practically desolate. But in the neighboring countries – the Azerbaijan Republic (about 2 million people left the country) and Georgia (about 1.5 million left) – the situation is just as sorrowful, so it is time to speak about a demographic disaster in the region, since the majority of those leaving their countries are young men of reproductive age. The economic stagnation of the Republic of Armenia, lacking vast raw materials and energy resources, prods its political leadership towards solving the conflict and joining the strategic projects on reforming the region, which, possibly, contradicts the interests of the Russian Federation (if it is possible to speak about a fully developed concept of the Russian policy in the South Caucasus at all).

On the other hand, during recent years, the OSCE Minsk Group (MG) has been more and more actively putting forth a thesis in favor of developing economic cooperation between Armenia and Azerbaijan before a political solution to the problem is found. Obviously, the West sees not only the possibility of removing tension in the region and expanding its investment programs in this way, but also a certain decrease in the military-political influence of the Russian Federation in the region. However, similar proposals are always discarded by Azerbaijan which thinks that any cooperation with the country occupying its territory is impossible prior to the settlement of the conflict. This will be dealt with in more detail below.

Under the circumstances, Georgia, which could assume an intermediary mission between the two countries of the South Caucasus, has itself, not without Russia’s involvement, been plunged into the depths of inter-ethnic conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and by the latent confrontations in Ajaria and Javakheti. It should be noted that unlike the Azerbaijan Republic, which is consistently advised to seek a solution to its problem only by peaceful negotiations, in the case of Georgia, the West silently admits the possibility of a military solution to the problem of its territorial integrity (nevertheless, the attempt of Georgia to reach a military solution of the South Ossetia conflict was condemned by the West). In any event, Georgia and the Azerbaijan Republic today are strategic allies and strive to jointly reduce the presence and influence of Russia in the region. (Time will show if this aim remains unchanged after the change of the two countries’ leaders.) The formation of the GUUAM Union (comprising Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, though recently Uzbekistan announced its quitting this organization) has thus become one of the forms of such activities clearly directed against Moscow’s military-economic dictate. The recent decision of the US to invest $45 million into this organization may give it a fresh impetus for development.

The last two years have been marked by expectations over the consequences of the “color” revolutions in Georgia in November 2003 and in the Ukraine in January 2005 and what changes may come in the geopolitical situation in the post-Soviet area. It is considered that these two revolutions should lead to the greater reorientation of these countries from Russia to the West. Although this process is far from being so unequivocal and besides, it is far from being complete, but the following events draw attention. Even before the “color revolutions” in Georgia and the Ukraine, the United States made a decision to allocate financial assistance to GUAM. At a summit of this organization in Chisinau, Moldova in the spring of 2005, appeals for a large-scale offensive of “color revolutions” in the post-Soviet area were made. In August 2005 the Presidents of Georgia and the Ukraine, Mikhail Saakashvili and Viktor Yuschenko, initiated the establishment of a new interstate union called “the Democratic Choice”, including the Baltic states and some states of the Black Sea Coast. Overcoming the authoritarianism of the post-Soviet area was one of the stated purposes of the future organization, a sort of “Arches of Democracy” from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan had been invited to join the new structure). On the other hand, Russia was also invited (at the CIS summit in Kazan at the end of August 2005) which makes the contours of this yet emerging organization not quite clear). Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan scheduled for November 2005 should give the answer to the question: which way – revolutionary or evolutionary – will prevail in the post-Soviet area?

 Moscow’s direct military-technical collaboration with Teheran and the formation of a sort of alliance by Russia, Iran and Armenia are intended as a response to the West’s challenge. Islamic Iran renders support to the Republic of Armenia and has cool relations with the Azerbaijan Republic. Iran has consistently opposed the US policy of penetrating the regions of the South Caucasus and Central Asia and, unlike the Russian Federation, is not burdened with the rhetoric of recognising the democratic values of the West. The dragging out of the solution of the status of the Caspian Sea also contributes to the efforts of Moscow and Tehran to oust the US from the region1112. They are periodically confirmed by Iran’s declarations about its non-recognition of the oil contracts of the Azerbaijan Republic with the West. The latest example was in the summer of 2001 when the Iranian navy forced Azeri geological survey ships and representatives of the British Petorleum oil firm to stop working in the disputed Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea that Iran claims. Iran’s tough position towards the Azerbaijan Republic is also explained by another factor – the presence of a considerable number of ethnic Turks-Azeris in northern Iran (according to different estimates, they number as many as about 20 million, or about 30% of the population of Iran), who can be provoked by external forces to secede. Iran, not least due to a special position of Western Europe countries, is skillfully balancing on the verge of having global sanctions imposed on it. The US initiated the subject of the “nuclear programme” of Iran, which it earlier used in Iraq, as another stage of pressure on this country. Against the background of a sharp rise in oil prices, the intrigue surrounding the existing and planned pipelines has reached its climax. Iran, deprived of participation in the extraction of Azeri oil through US efforts, does its best to develop cooperation with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, thereby, trying to direct their oil and gas pipelines to Western Europe and the Far East via its territory.

Mass media extensively cover the possibility of a planned military invasion of Iran by the US with the purpose of establishing a friendly, Western-type democracy in this country and, naturally, for control over its oil potential. In this connection, discussions about the creation of US military bases in Georgia and Azerbaijan under the pretext of protection of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and communications became more active. Meanwhile, most recently officials of both the US government and the AR leadership have unambiguously emphasized that no negotiations for military bases are being conducted.

Traditionally, exports of Azerbaijani oil, except for the low-capacity Baku-Batumi pipeline, have gone to the European market via the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline. The new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, whose cost was estimated at about $3 billion (in reality it proved to exceed $4 billion), will pump Caspian oil bypassing the Russian Federation. It is clear that the “pipeline war” that broke out will substantially determine the course of political events in the region. It has become especially true in the wake of 9/11 that placed the regions of the South Caucasus and Central Asia in the very center of modern geopolitical processes. The semi-velvet revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the brutal events in Uzbekistan have precisely designated the vector of these processes, and Kazakhstan has confronted a strong necessity of rationally (from the point of view of politics) filling all existing oil pipelines of the region with its hydrocarbon resources.

It is worth mentioning that according to media reports, the widely advertised meeting of the presidents of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Republic of Armenia in Key West (Florida) in April 2001 was, as a matter of fact, an attempt at “specification of relations” between Russia and the US regarding their influence in the region, and not between the parties to the conflict around NK13.

The situation in the South Caucasus, as we have already pointed out, paradoxically bears comparison with the beginning of the 20th century, when Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia gained independence for a short period. Just like it was then, the republics are involved in an inter-ethnic confrontation accompanied by frequent military operations between them and within their borders. Will the outcome of the modern confrontation be any different from the sad experience of that time that deprived the countries of the South Caucasus of independence and furthered, with the tacit consent of the West, the establishment of the Soviet regime in the region? The answer to this question not least depends on the degree of understanding by the political elites of the South Caucasus of the lessons of the past experience. Will the elites of the three countries be able to overcome their political ambitions and irrepressible lust for personal enrichment to find an opportunity for the integration of the region into the global political and economic system which is currently going through the processes of formation of a new order? Of course, it is not the early 20th century today, but to deprive independence of its real contents, to turn the republics of the South Caucasus into vassals and hostages of alien political ambitions and interests is quite possible.

And for the time being, the region is united by the common phenomena of hopelessness, neediness and despair among the population, as unemployment, mass emigration, monstrous corruption, clanship and authoritarian methods of government revived by former Soviet party functionaries who crammed during short-term courses the western slogans of democracy and free market. These are the real results of the ethnic confrontation, and they are not final either, because the desert sands are already spreading across the whole South Caucasus territory, which was abandoned by between three to five million people in search of work and a peaceful life. And the economic growth observed in Armenia and Azerbaijan during the last several years has little impact on the well-being of the population of both countries, but has only generated new stereotypes which are adverse for the cause of peace. In Armenia, it is that it is possible to develop successfully without establishing peace along the borders with Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan, it is that petrodollars will make it possible to strengthen the army and to win back Nagorno Karabakh.  

The seemingly transient conflict may last for decades, becoming latent, swallowing more and more victims. The genuine democratic education of the population and protection of democratic values in the region is the only possible means for reviving it in the third millennium. It is another matter who is going to do that and how it will be done!

Still, before the coming of the 21st century began, mankind has little by little begun to profess the philosophy and culture of peace and that was not because of good life. The first shoots of this culture are too weak to find their way to the sunlight through a thick centuries-old forest of the cult of war and violence. It is hard to say when and how this symbiotic existence will reach its outcome, but the fact that the only path to survival is in the rationalism of culture of peace as opposed to the irrational culture of war is out of the question. Those who have not realized it, those who profess the surgery of war very soon themselves become victims of its sharp and ruthless scalpel.


1A favorite aspect of the Azeri propaganda – the “rounding up” of figures for the sake of exaggeration. Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region made up 5% of the territory of the Azerbaijani SSR, but not all of it is under control of the Armenians now. Outside it the Armenians have occupied about 9% of the territory of Azerbaijan. Together it makes less than 14% (and even if they round up this figure then 15 or 10 is much nearer to the truth than 20). The number of displaced persons in Azerbaijan is enormous (about 800,000 people), but propaganda all the time “rounds up” thefigure to one million. Regular overstating of reliable data (rather impressive as they are!) as a result only undermines trust towards Baku. (V.K.) Back to text
2The Armenians, in their turn, even though inertly but still try to deny the participation of regular troops of the Republic of Armenia in the military operations, covering it by the participation of volunteers and the like. For serious investigations of the Karabakh conflict this fact is indisputable. Another bend of the Armenian propaganda is the unwillingness to admit that territories outside Karabakh are occupied, seized or taken by them during battles, and obtrusive attempts to represent them even as “liberated” (V.K.)Back to text
3The co-authors here and then use almost as synonyms the words “conflict” and “problem” whereas they are different notions. For example, the problem of NK might not have ended in an armed conflict. The escalation of the parameters of this conflict (“levels”) engaged new actors to its settlement and, no doubt, had an influence on its course, but not so much on the ways of solving the conflict. (V.K.)Back to text
4In October 2005, just before the publication of this edition, Ilham Aliyev, apparently, initiated steps to change the team he inherited from his late father (comment of the 3rd edition).Back to text
5By external forces the authors obviously imply Russia as well. It is important to emphasize that the pro-Russian orientation of the Karabakh Armenians has long historical roots and does not only result from the last decade. Besides, a natural inclination of the Karabakh people to Russia is, undoubtedly, stronger than the inverse vector.Back to text
6As it was already mentioned in the foreword, the authors’ hypothesis that the Center pursued this policy is very doubtful (V.K.).Back to text
7The extremity of the authors’ judgements regarding Russia’s policy towards the conflicts in the Trans-Caucasus causes bewilderment. The real feeding of the conflicts from inside and outside: bloody hostilities and increased animosity, division and seizure of Soviet armament in the Trans-Caucasus, recruiting of mercenaries, breaking of armistices, support of the conflicts from the West first to weaken the USSR and after its collapse to penetrate the Trans-Caucasus are pushed to the background. The authors are not always logical: they ascribe to Russia multiform interest in the three Trans-Caucasian conflicts and have to acknowledge Russia’s decisive role in the discontinuance of bloodshed in all three conflicts. (V.K.)`Back to text
8Pay attention to this calm assertion by the authors: there is not a shadow of condemnation of the West’s proclamation of the region of “newly independent states” as an object of its claims. (V.K.)Back to text
9The wording is not quite exact. But the thing is that Levon Ter-Petrosyan intended to seek a compromise with Azerbaijan at the cost of concessions and by stages, assuming the Armenians’ pullout from some of the occupied regions of the Azerbaijan Republic before the question about the NK status was solved. (V.K.)Back to text
10According to the data of the October 2002 census, the number of those who left Armenia was between 800,000 to 900,000.Back to text
11Russia has already signed bilateral agreements with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan about the principles of division of the Caspian Sea. But there are still disagreements with the two other coastal states – Iran and Turkmenistan.Back to text
12The very fact that Russia reached the agreements on the division of the Caspian Sea with both of its neighbors – Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan shows as groundless the ascription of Moscow to those that delay the resolution of the question about the status of the Caspian Sea. And Teheran doesn’t oust the US from the region either, rather it tries to prevent it from penetrating there. The vocabulary is in itself revealing here. (V.K.)Back to text
13The co-authors see in everything the clash of interests of Russia and the USA as an axiom. Mutual understanding and cooperation on the Karabakh settlement among the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group before and during the meetings in Key West were quite normal. (V.K.)Back to text

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