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Caroline Cox and John Eibner

Ethnic Cleansing in Progress: War in Nagorno Karabakh


[Contents] [Preface] [Introduction] [Basic Facts] [A Conflict of Civilizations] [The Genocide] [The Pincers of Pan-Turkism] [Soviet Rule] [The Karabakh Question Revived] [Operation Ring] [The Post-Soviet Conflict] [The Characteristics of the People of Nagorno Karabakh] [The Prognosis: Continuing Bloodshed] [Conclusions] [Recommendations]


Introduction

 

The collapse of the Soviet Union has given fresh impetus to the long-stifled aspirations of a myriad of repressed nationalities. The five-year-old conflict in Nagorno Karabakh poses great danger. The Commander-in-Chief of CIS troops, Marshal Y. Shaposhnikov, has warned that it has the potential to ignite a major regional conflagration. These warnings have gone largely unheeded by western statesmen.

This tiny, largely Armenian Christian enclave straddles a deep political and religious divide that separates not only the historically Christian world from the Muslim, but also the Turks of Anatolia from their Turkic cousins in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, Turkey's 'secular' Islam from Iran's revolutionary Islamic fundamentalism, and NATO from CIS forces. This divide forms an axis of instability running from the Balkans, through Turkey and Transcaucasia to Central Asia. The security interests of three regional powers - Turkey, Russia and Iran - collide in Nagorno Karabakh. The region is bristling with conventional and possibly chemical weapons. Conflict in the region brings additional danger of a Chernobyl-type catastrophe at Armenia's defective Medzamor nuclear reactor.

Meanwhile the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh has already produced catastrophic results similar to those now taking place at the western end of this axis of instability in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The toll for the 180,000 inhabitants of Nagorno Karabakh, both Armenian and Azeri-Turk, has been heavy: over 2,000 civilians dead, many more grievously injured and tens of thousands homeless. Atrocities abound: massacres, torture, rape, mutilations. The war has driven virtually all of Nagorno Karabakh's 40,000 Azeri-Turks out of the war zone to the relative safety of Azerbaijan. An estimated 90,000 Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh have been displaced. Most have found refuge in Armenia. About 20,000 have been resettled behind Armenian lines inside Nagorno Karabakh. These displaced people plus the remainder of the Armenian community have been trapped in the war zone by Azerbaijan's blockade of the enclave or have chosen not to abandon their native land. Their desperate pleas for humanitarian aid and protection have been largely ignored by the western world. Unless assistance is offered rapidly this community cannot be expected to survive.

The war in Nagorno Karabakh is but an episode in an epic struggle between the traditions and institutions of the Turkic and Armenian nations. This report will present contemporary events in Nagorno Karabakh in a historical context and will focus on the divergent religious, political and cultural traditions of the protagonists which give momentum to the conflict. The sections dealing with contemporary events are based mainly on 13 fact-finding trips to Nagorno Karabakh since 1991, visits to Armenia and Azerbaijan and numerous published documents.

The authors are of course aware that historical analysis is capable of different interpretations and that in a short publication we cannot do full justice to the complexity of all the issues. However, we present this report in the hope that both the historical context and the incontrovertible empirical evidence will provide a useful basis for increasing understanding of the complex tragedy of the people of Nagorno Karabakh and the genocide process that is now under way.

 

Note on names

The authors have tried to use consistently what they believe to be the standard English spelling for place names. They have therefore opted to use 'Nagorno Karabakh' instead of the grammatically correct Russian form 'Nagorny Karabakh'; the Armenian name 'Artsakh', and 'Shusha' instead of the Armenian name 'Shushi'.

Armenian children of Stepanakert: Seeking safety in crowded communal basement shelter during Azerbaijani rocket attack in 1992. (CSI)

A standard English name for the Turkic people of Azerbaijan has not yet emerged. In older works they were generally placed together with all the other Turkic and Muslim peoples of the Russian empire under the heading 'Tatars'. These days they are normally referred to as 'Azeris' or 'Azerbaijanis' in the press. In academic works they are often called 'Azeri-Turks' or 'Azerbaijani Turks'.

 

 

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