Right now, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Caucuses mountain region, one that has led to suffering and could culminate in the complete genocide of a long-established Indigneous people, the Armenians.
Despite being between the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the region is often unfamiliar to the average American and yet at the center of Eurasia. The people in that area have been under the yoke of many empires over the centuries.
However, the focus of this goes to a conflict between three countries — one barely recognized by the international community, Artsakh and Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
While the Caucuses mountains have a deep history, this conflict can be traced back almost a century to the Armenian Genocide.
Simplifying history, the Armenian Genocide was initiated by the dying Ottoman Empire, which suffering military defeats in World War I and motivated by Pan-Turkish nationalism, targeted various ethno-religious minority groups in the country — not just the Armenians — but also Greeks, Assyrians and Yazidis.
The Ottoman Empire fell and became Turkey, as did the Russian Empire who possessed the Caucuses mountain range. Out of that fallen empire, the countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan also formed.
Motivated by Pan-Turkish nationalism and sitting on oil, Azerbaijan had the backing and power to claim Artsakh, also called Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war over the region, which only halted because of the rise of the USSR.
The Soviets then gave Artsakh to Azerbaijan. As the USSR fell, conflict resumed.
The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence as the Republic of Artsakh, and Azerbaijan has been fighting to take it ever since.
During the pandemic, things changed when Azerbaijan invaded Artsakh again, and took most of Karabakh and destroyed cultural sites. The Armenians living in the region were either killed or fled out of fear.
What was left of Artsakh was only connected by one road to Armenia. Since then, things have only become worse. In December 2022, Azerbaijani “eco-protesters” surrounded Artsakh and blockaded materials, food and gas for people living in the country, eventually being replaced by outright Azerbaijani military leaders.
Azerbaijan’s ambitions expand beyond Artsakh. In Sept. 2022, Azerbaijan invaded Armenia. Azerbaijan has been accused of several atrocities, including the torture of prisoners of war and civilians.
This is all while Azerbaijan and its main ally Turkey deny the Armenian Genocide.
Many other countries are reliant on Azerbaijani oil, and Azerbaijan’s dictatorship is rich from that oil money, spending on it lobbying and influence. One U.S. congressman was raided by the FBI because of his alleged connections to Azerbaijan.
But what can any of us do besides pay attention?