Jan 191990
 

Azerbaijan is no Lithuania. True, resurgent nationalism arouses people in the Caucasus just as it arouses the Baltic republics. But there the comparison ends – and the trouble for Moscow begins.

Nationalists in Lithuania are struggling to wrest independence from Moscow by nonviolent, political means. Nationalists in Azerbaijan also talk of independence, but their protest includes bloody pogroms against their Armenian neighbors. Nor do Azerbaijani nationalists limit their actions to Soviet Azerbaijan. They transgress the border with Iran to make common cause with Azerbaijanis there.

Mikhail Gorbachev seems prepared to bargain with Lithuania’s nationalists. But Azerbaijan’s violent nationalists leave him no choice but to send in the troops.

The nationalism now surging from Omsk to Tomsk is an understandable reaction to decades of forced assimilation. Stalin redrew borders, relocated populations and suppressed cultural and religious differences, all in the name of internationalism. But ancient national aspirations did not dis-appear.

This week’s massacre in Baku, of predominantly Christian Armenians by Muslim Azerbaijanis, shows nationalism at its nastiest. Generations of religious hatred erupted in spasmodic violence two years ago as armed Azerbaijanis rampaged through the town of Sumgait and slaughtered 32 people, mostly Armenians. After the 1988 earthquake that killed 25,000 Armenians, Azerbaijanis blocked railways to Armenia, holding up aid. Now the rivals vie for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave that Stalin incorporated into Azerbaijan in 1923.


The Armenians sought protection from Moscow. Mr. Gorbachev first resisted but renewed strife forced him to intervene. The Azerbaijanis added to his unease by declaring their interest in carving out a state on both sides of the national border. This was a clear threat to Iran’s territorial integrity and its warming relations with the Soviet Union. Teheran asked the Soviets to beef up border patrols.

Mr. Gorbachev and his reformist Kremlin allies are prepared to tolerate, even encourage, moderate nationalists who challenge central control and demand autonomy. But Moscow rightly feels that, in a polyglot country with 104 different nationalities, ethnic violence is beyond the pale.

Azerbaijan dramatizes Mr. Gorbachev’s larger dilemma. To generate economic thrust, he wants to shift power from Moscow’s stodgy bureaucracies to the regional republics. But how can he do this without unleashing nationalist hatreds and irredentism? The problem is illustrated by the struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region as big as Long Island with a population of 160,000.

Putting either Azerbaijanis or Armenians in charge would leave one people at the mercy of the other. Moscow has to assume direct control. But that runs counter to Mr. Gorbachev’s desire for devolution. And the troops, once introduced, will be difficult to extricate. Nothing so challenges Mr. Gorbachev’s resourcefulness, and his fragile coalition of reformists and moderate nationalists, as the flow of blood in the Caucasus.


Source: New York Times

Jan 181990
 

The European Parliament

A. having regard to the resumption of anti-Armenian activities by the Azeris in Baku (an initial estimate talks of numerous victims, some of whom died in particularly horrific circumstances) and the attacks on Armenian villages outside Nagorno-Karabakh, such as Shaumyan and Getashen,

B. whereas there is severe tension on the border between Armenia and Nakhichevan which could lead to serious incidents,

C. whereas the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh has been reinstated by Azerbaijan as harshly as ever,

D. whereas the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan are almost in a state of war,

E. deploring the increased nationalism now evident which can only prejudice justified national pride,

F. whereas the conflict now taking place is largely the result of the dividing up of the territory imposed by Lenin in Transcaucasia, and particularly the forced integration of the Autonomous Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, mainly populated by Armenian Christians, into the Muslim republic of Azerbaijan in 1923.

G. whereas the decision taken by the Supreme Soviet on 28 November 1989 to alter the present status of Nagorno-Karabakh flies in the face of the wishes of the population of that autonomous region, thus creating even more ‘explosive’ conditions,

H. whereas the Fabian tactics of the Soviet authorities over the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh has helped to worsen the situation for which it would have been possible to find a peaceful solution some eighteen months ago,

I. noting with concern that, according to some sources, arms from Iran have been delivered to the Azeris,

J. having regard to the many political, ethnic and economic difficulties facing the Soviet Government,

K. concerned at the consequences that the repeated threats of secession could have on the budding process of democratization in the Soviet Union and on the maintenance and strengthening of peace,

L. having regard to its resolution of 7 July 1988 on the situation in Soviet Armenia (‘),

 

1. Calls on the Commission and Council to make representations to the Soviet authorities with a view to ensuring:

— that they order the full and immediate lifting of the blockade imposed on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,

— that they find a lasting political solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh,

— that they guarantee real protection for the Armenian people living in Azerbaijan by sending forces to intervene,

— that they guarantee freedom of movement and the safety of goods and persons between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,

— that the circumstances surrounding the pogroms perpetrated against the Armenians, in particular in Sumgait and Kirovabad, Azerbaijan, are brought fully to light;

2. Calls on the Commission to grant substantial emergency aid to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the form of basic essentials;

3. Calls on the authorities of the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan to seek the means of achieving a peaceful settlement to the conflict between the two communities;

4. Calls on all countries, in particular the countries bordering on Armenia and Azerbaijan, to avoid all interference;

5. Instructs its Bureau to consider the appropriateness of sending a fact-finding mission to Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to report to the Political Affairs Committee;

6. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and Council, the Governments of Iran, Turkey and the USSR, the Governments of the SSRs of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Secretary General of the UN.


Source: Joint resolution replacing Docs. B3-137, 139, 145, 156, 157 and 162/90 [19.2.90 Official Journal of the European Communities No C 38/81]

File: European Parliament Joint resolution replacing Docs. B3-137, 139, 145, 156, 157 and 162/90