Historical Perspective of the Karabakh Conflict and the Identities

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Historical Perspective of the Karabakh Conflict and the Identities

In the last couple of weeks, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which is called ‘frozen
conflict’ in terms of International Relations has come to the international and regional agenda
once more again. The future of the Nagorno-Karabakh is being asked repeatedly. However,
there is more than the future, the past. It is significant how the Nagorno-Karabakh is
perceived by both sides in this conflict. Also, it is unlikely unforeseen that any
agreements or compromise without the consent of two ‘publics’. Since Karabakh is perceived
as a constituent of public identity for both Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Armenians blame the
refusing of the Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state by the Azerbaijani government.
Yet most of the people misunderstood Azerbaijan’s vision towards Karabakh and
significance of Karabakh for the Azerbaijani people as well, historically.
Karabakh is a longstanding and ideational element of the Azerbaijani identity.
Karabakh means as traditionally and culturally birthplace of many Azerbaijani
composers, writers and intellectuals. The historical capital of Karabakh is called as ‘St. Petersburg
of Azerbaijan’.

Azerbaijani people, in the matter of Karabakh, have their origins in 1987. First attempt
to kill and evict the Azerbaijani people held in 1987 by the Armenians. Following that, one of
the heartbreaking massacre ‘Khojaly Massacre’ , where hundreds of Azerbaijanis people
were killed, occurred in 1992. For the Azerbaijani people, massacres and their bereavements
are not forgettable moments. In addition to massacres, the Karabakh War, which was in between
1988-1994, caused approximately 600.000 internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan. Before
the occupation of Karabakh by the Armenian forces, almost all the people in Karabakh was
Azerbaijani people. However, along with the occupation, numerous Azerbaijanis's population
nearly bottomed out. Internally displaced persons still have some problems such as finding
jobs in big cities due to their agricultural past.

All of these have effects on the Azerbaijani people and policy-makers in Azerbaijan
politics. Sensitivity attitude of Azerbaijani people limits the range of policies for policy-
makers. For instance, many of the leaders such as Mutalibov and Elchibey resigned due to the
public pressure. Another example is that President Heydar Aliyev saw as favorable to the
Goble Plan aims to united Nagorno-Karabakh. However, President Aliyev faced
negative reactions from his advisers as well as the public. As a result of these negative
reactions, negotiations have failed.

On the other side of the conflict, the Armenian public is so sensitive towards the
Karabakh, too. Armenian public attitudes and policies of the opposition political parties are no
less radical on the issue of Karabakh. Karabakh is historically important for Armenia and
Armenian identity. Armenian society apply public pressure and raise their voice on the
Nagorno-Karabakh. To illustrate this public pressure, Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan was
eager to reach a common ground in terms of the Karabakh Conflict in the late 1990s. Following
that, he had to resign consequently in 1998. It is clearly proclaimed that any dialogue or
compromise on the Karabakh conflict would be ended with the deposition of government or
deadlock. Furthermore, the rights of the Azerbaijani refugees have rejected by the leaders of
the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. For the Azerbaijani society, recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh without the right of Azerbaijani refugees is unfair and unacceptable.

All of these examples clearly point out that the background of Azerbaijani and
Armenian society who radicalized day by day as well as the significance of understanding of
identity in terms of Karabakh during the compromise process.
From an international perspective on Karabakh Conflict, the international community has
tried to reach a consensus to the actual conflict which started in 1988 and ended in 1994 with the
ceasefire by the assistance of the OSCE Minsk Group. However, any attempt to ‘create’ a
common ground to give an end to the active phase of the war has been ineffective. Nevertheless,
Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to follow some steps which formed under the Madrid
Principles since 2007. It was a general framework on the occupied regions, Azerbaijani
refugees and negotiation through the Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite the numerous United
Nations Security Council resolutions (e.g resolutions.822,853,874,884) and internationally
recognized status of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity by the international community, Madrid
Principles have never put into practice for the reasons of lack of international efforts and
radicalized publics.

The ongoing Karabakh Conflict is like a chicken game that both sides willing to
continue their position until come to a catastrophic end. Nowadays, some of Armenians call
for peace and ceasefire yet neither peace nor ceasefire actualized due to the Azerbaijani
opposition to the continuation of the status quo by the reason of claiming a new status quo in this
region. In addition to that, in spite of the numerous UN Resolutions, which constitute a legal
basis for Azerbaijan’s claims, Azerbaijan has not been able to call attention to this
situation. Thus, the conflict on Karabakh increasingly continues on the field.

This article is written by Evren Gönen

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