With all the hullabaloo around Ukraine and now Israel you might have missed an extremely important event, namely the destruction of an independent democracy at the hands of a larger neighbour that wanted to take its land, sound familiar?
Semi-independent since the fall of the Russian Empire, the area which comprises a majority Armenian population was turned into the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.
This made it dejure part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, but with huge degree of autonomy afforded to it by the Soviet Union. Sadly it was to follow the fate of many other unrecognized states when the fall of the USSR came.
Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh
Officially the Republic of Artsakh the region and its Armenian populace decided it did not want to become part of the Muslim majority Azerbaijan, with memories of the Armenian genocide no doubt still in peoples minds.
Initially they tried to get transferred to Armenia via the laws of the Soviet Union, but fearing the inevitable snowball effect that this would have, it was never put into place.
Following the failure of the New Union Treaty Azerbaijan formally declared its independence following a referendum on September 21, 1991. Azerbaijan then unilaterally took away the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karbach promoting local leaders to hold their own referendum, in which 99 percent of people voted for independence.
This eventually led to war between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on one side against Azerbaijan, not yet rich from fossil fuels on the other. The war would result in the defacto independence of the region, largely supported by Armenia from 1994 to 2020.
The slow end to independence of Nagorno-Karabakh
Despite the area being Armenian, Azerbaijan never gave up hope of taking the area “back” and in 2020 seized large swaths of the area and turning it onto a trapped area that could be blockaded, which is exactly what happened.
After this Nagorno-Karabakh was simply on borrowed time, being not only cut off from its aid, but also Azerbaijan essentially trying to gain diplomatic legitimacy from the wider world.
This even included their tourism ministry emailing me over posts I had made about how to visit the region. I was told under no uncertain terms that it was “illegal;” to visit. I politely told them where to go.
Seeing on Russian weakness
Technically Armenia is a member of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which means that if anyone attacks it Russia has its back. Alas Armenia never annexed Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia have tended to stay out of the issue.
While some view this as a weakness of the CSTO many still believe that Russia might have at least thrown some diplomatic weight behind Nagorno-Karabakh, but with the ear raging in Ukraine could ill afford either a second front, or another enemy.
Thus in September of 2023 Azerbaijan moved in to finish the job they had started 3 years ago, with the undermanned and underfunded military of Nagorno-Karabakh being easily crushed. After over 30 years of independence the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Result of the end of Nagorno-Karabakh
Rightly fearing ethic cleansing, something that has happened in the past the over 100,000 ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have largely fled the homes they have had for centuries to go to Armenia. Again unlike Ukraine you will not see western countries opening their borders, or helping Armenia cope with this.
Realising the dire situation President Samvel Shahramanyan of Nagorno-Karakach has agreed to “end all state institutions” by January 1st, but for all intents the country is already gone.
And the western response?
While the west trumpets arms and funds Ukraine in its war against Russia voices have remained all but silent about Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), despite the fact they were too fighting for their nationality, culture and homes against a larger energy rich neighbour.
And the reason? Sheer hypocrisy and hypocrisy that the world, particularly those in Africa and the Middle-East are quickly waking up to. Why are some freedoms and lives worth more than others? Quite simply because it is never about doing the right thing, but about who profits from what. Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) had no resources we needed, while Azerbaijan has the ability to flex its gas muscles, as well as playing itself off against Russia.
Sadly and indeed once again it is Armenians that suffer, as the world simply watches on.