Nagorno-Karabakh: Another Ethnic Cleansing in the Works?

Right now — in real time — the images on social media from the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in the southern Caucasus remind us of the resurgence of “might over right”: Thousands of weary families, trapped in their mountainous enclave, are seeking refuge at the airport in their besieged capital of Stepanakert as they attempt to flee the forced integration of their homeland into a hostile Azeri state.

While world leaders gather in the halls of the United Nations, will the Azeri government succeed in flushing out the remains of an ancient Armenian community? Why does this matter to the world outside the peoples directly affected? How did we get here? For more than 30 years, I noted in a blog piece in October 2020, the instability in the Caucasus — where East, West, North and South converge — especially the current crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, may be directly attributed to the protracted death of the Ottoman Turkish state a century ago; World War I, the death of Imperial Tsarist Russia and the rise (and eventual fall) of the Soviet Union.

“As the Soviets consolidated their power, Soviet leaders drew the borders of these republics. Tightening their grip, they awarded some territory to appease certain populations and withdrew it to subdue or punish others. Hence the Soviet incorporation of the historically Armenian Christian region of Nagorno-Karabakh as an autonomous region within the Turkic Shiite-dominated state of Azerbaijan.”

Learn more about the fatal follies of Soviet map-makers and the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Michael J.L. La Civita is CNEWA’s director of communications.

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