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 191989
 

The European Parliament,

A. having regard to the earthquake which recently shook Soviet Armenia,

B. whereas the Soviet authorities have arrested all the leaders of the Kharabakh Committee,

C. whereas this committee requested the reattachment of the autonomous region of Upper Kharabakh to Soviet Armenia, it having been arbitrarily given by Stalin to Azerbaïdjan,

D. whereas this committee is also demanding that Soviet Armenia should be able to exercise its sovereign rights as a republic within the framework of the USSR and that its citizens should enjoy the basic freedoms and human rights,

1. Condemns the arrest of leaders of the Kharabakh Committee and calls for their immediate release;

2. Welcomes the decision by the Supreme Soviet of 12 January 1989 of the creation of a special status for the Nagorno-Kharabakh autonomous region with a view to preventing renewed outbreaks of unrest resulting from tensions between the nationalities and to stabilize the situation in the region;

3. Hopes that the Kharabakh Committee will be able to carry out its activities freely and calls on the Soviet authorities to accord it full recognition as an interlocutor;

4. Expresses the hope that the development of national legislations will provide a genuine guarantee that the fundamental rights and freedoms of all will be respected and that all religions may be freely exercised as a civil and social right;

5. Asks the Soviet Government also to ensure the effective protection of Armenians living in Azerbaïdjan, where further acts of violence against the Armenians have occurred despite the earthquake;

6. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council and the Soviet Armenian and Azerbaïdjan authorities.


Source: Joint resolution replacing Docs. B2-1262, 1296 and 1304/88 [27.2.82 Official Journal of the European Communities No C 47/130]

File: European Parliament Joint resolution replacing Docs. B2-1262, 1296 and 1304/88

Jul 071988
 

The European Parliament,

A. having regard to the recent public demonstrations in Soviet Armenia demanding that the Nagorno-Karabakh region be reunited with the Republic of Armenia,

B. having regard to the historic status of the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh (80 % of whose present population is Armenian) as part of Armenia, to the arbitrary inclusion of this area within Azerbaijan in 1923 and to the massacre of Armenians in the Azerbaijani town of Sumgait in February 1988,

C. whereas the deteriorating political situation, which has led to anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait and serious acts of violence in Baku, is in itself a threat to the safety of the Armenians living in Azerbaijan,

1. Condemns the violence employed against Armenian demonstrators in Azerbaijan;

2. Supports the demand of the Armenian minority for reunification with the Socialist Republic of Armenia;

3. Calls on the Supreme Soviet to study the compromise proposals from the Armenian delegates in Moscow suggesting that Nagorno-Karabakh be temporarily governed by the central administration in Moscow, temporarily united to the Federation of Russia or temporarily placed under the authority of a ‘presidential regional government’;

4. Calls also upon the Soviet authorities to ensure the safety of the 500 000 Armenians currently living in Soviet Azerbaijan and to ensure that those found guilty of having incited or taken part in the pogroms against the Armenians are punished according to Soviet law;

5. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Government of the Soviet Union.


Source: Joint resolution replacing Docs. B2-538 and 587/88 [12.9.88 Official Journal of the European Communities No C 235/106]

File: European Parliament Joint resolution replacing Docs. B2-538 and 587/88