Armenia and Azerbaijan have become independent countries just like other former Soviet Republics after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some of the Republics were really ready for this “happy ending” whereas for the others the collapse of the Soviet Union was an expected situation which would supposedly never come. In other words, many of them were not ready for independence in economic, political and more importantly in mental terms. Two of these Republics were both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia could not manage to be independent in modern times except the period of first establishment of Armenia (1918-1920). The Armenians in the first Republic had no clue about independence and state administration. Until the World War I, Armenians lived under the Ottoman, Russian and Iranian sovereignty. And the World War I exactly transformed Armenians into a Diaspora nation. Armenians that spread all around the world due to commercial, political and other reasons have become more romantic and idealist after falling apart with Turkey. The difficulties of living in foreign land are reflected on every aspect of the lives of Armenian people. As the conflicts between Turks and Armenians have mostly been exaggerated, the 1915 was idealized and in a way became legendary. The hatred for Turks has become the cement that sticks them together in diaspora. Not being able to found a state, to gain important successes at least to protect the dignity of Armenian nation against the Turks or the lack of unifying successes in other parts, did not allow Armenians to criticize and question themselves. However, the Greeks after founding their state and winning some important battles against Turks have become less romantic and established relatively good relations with the Turks. On the other hand, Armenians unfortunately lived in a world of fantasies. In fact, one of the most important reasons for the first Armenian state to be short-lived this much was their extreme idealism. Armenians chose to conduct assassinations against Turkish diplomats instead of establishing good relations with their newly established neighbor countries. This endeavor, which is called Nemesis campaign in a way alienated Armenia and Armenians from their real problems. However, in the same period, the new Turkish Republic emerging from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire was not infusing its people to attack to the Greeks or Armenians or any other neighbor. The leader of the Young Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was telling its people “We have just come out from a war. However, the real and greater war begins right now. And this is the war of development.” According to him, being independent in real sense could be maintained through the way of economic independence and development. Due to this, Turkey should not waste any time on the previous issues. In this context, Ataturk tried to reestablish relations with Greece and other countries which were subjects of the Ottoman Empire. Armenia was in this list, but they could not approach positively to this brave effort.
PETROSYAN: A FAILED ARMENIAN REVOLUTION ATTEMPT
In this regard, it was so important that Armenia emerged in the scene of history once again in 1991. Having a new state, Armenians could pursue a path which is more realistic. Turkey’s expectation was also in this direction since it was expecting to find a party with whom it could communicate on Armenian issue. Also, the first Armenian President; Levon Ter Petrosyan and some of his advisors believed that they should not repeat the same mistakes. According to Petrosyan, the first and the most crucial mistake of Armenians was to set objectives going well beyond their capacities. Although they had known that they could not be successful with their own power, relying on other countries -especially on the Russians- they rioted against the Ottoman Empire to establish a separate state on the Ottoman territories. In accordance with their point of view, the Russians would support Armenians whereas United Kingdom, USA, France and other Christian countries would put strain upon Turks on the international arena, in order to make them accept the demands of Armenians. Accordingly, the only thing they should do was to keep their demands alive ever more. In this regard, Armenians resorted to terrorist movements, rioting and many other methods during the 20th century. In World War I, even they fought against Ottoman Empire in the French and Russian side. However, in the end it was always the Armenians to lose. They lost their people and their lands on which they had lived for the centuries. It seems so that Armenians did what Russia and even England and France had told to them. In 1915, they rioted against the Ottoman Empire in the east part of the country when the allies had sent the most powerful fleet of the world to the Dardanelles (the Western front). But Armenians could not gain any success. Among the invaders, the first one was France to leave the country when it encountered with difficulties. Russia never fully supported Armenians to the end after the First World War, but newly established Turkey. If these countries had supported an independent Armenia, the Ottoman Empire could not resist against this much great power pressure. This was the first analysis of Levon Ter Petrosyan: Armenians should count on their own power. It was a big mistake for Armenians to build their all policies on the support of other nations.
The second analysis proposed by Levon Ter Petrosyan was that Armenia was a small, poor, sea-locked country having no significant natural resources and surrounded by the Turkish peoples. In the west, there is Turkey with its population of 75 million, whereas in the north Azerbaijan with its population of about 7 million and the south according to some sources there are more than 30 million of Azeri Turks of Iran. On the other hand, Georgians in the north have always been the ally of Turks for the centuries. Armenia has no border with Russia. Under these circumstances, only way to exist had to develop good relations with its neighbors, especially with the Turks. The third important analysis proposed by Mr. Petrosyan was, if Armenia wants to be independent in real terms, it should have diverged from the Moscow. Yerevan being dependent so much on Moscow for decades should have dissolved its bonds and stand on its own feet. To sum, the deductions of Petrosyan as follow:
- Armenians should not rely on other countries’ support for objectives which go beyond their own capabilities and powers,
- Relations would be developed with neighbors especially with Turkey,
- Dependency on Russia in particular would be decreased rapidly and an Armenia which is fully independent would be established.
Petrosyan and his team were about to realize a crucial revolution in Armenian thought. However, being so enthusiastic about independence was not indicating that they are ready for it. They were still into nationalism, which was so romantic and territory-centric. What Armenians conceived from the term “homeland” was just a territory and unrealistic ideals. They were considering annexing the regions of Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nakhcevan (Azerbaijan) and Jevahiti (Georgia) into Armenia as the foremost priority. Even before the collapse of Soviet Union ultra-nationalist Armenians had started to struggle for Karabakh’s annexation to Armenia. Thus, before Petrosyan’s plan was implemented, Karabakh issue became dominant in the region. In addition to the turmoil in Azerbaijan, thanks to the direct support of Russia, Armenians not only captured Karabakh but also the cities and villages, in which only Azeri people live. They attacked to the Nakhcivan, but as a result of Turkey’s immediate warnings the war remained limited in the Eastern front.
Following these developments, Petrosyan lost his chance to compromise with Turks. Issues of Karabakh and regions under occupation caused relations to break off with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Although Turkey was among the countries which recognized Armenia in the first place, it stopped diplomatic relations with Armenia and closed its borders. This was so normal since both Turkey and Azerbaijan are Turkish states. Moreover, there were millions of citizens who were Azeri oriented in Turkey. During the Armenian War, streets of Turkey were full of protests. In addition, Turkey was a country that promotes status quo more than any other country in its region since 1923. The most important Turkish foreign policy principle was that there could be no way for a border change by force of arms in the region. Turkey has resisted all efforts to change the borders by force for the decades and Turkey saw the Armenian occupation as illegal attempt to change the borders.
Despite this fact, Turkey searched for ways to prevent a possible deadlock in terms of the problem. Turkish leaders expected that Armenia at least would withdraw from the regions except Karabakh. If Armenia had taken a step in this regard, Turkey could take bigger steps. Messages sent to Armenia again and again during the 1990s. Even Turkey sent food aid to Armenian people after the war due to the emergence of the dramatic situation. Moreover, donations and aid sent from the European and American states only could be transferred to Armenia through Turkey. As an indicator of good faith Turkey opened its airspace to Armenians and started regular flights between Turkey and Armenia. However, Petrosyan understood that as long as he could take steps in Karabakh issue, he would not resolve any problems. He was about to take radical steps in his last days in the government but Russia and ultra-nationalist diaspora Armenians came on the scene and brought down Petrosyan. It is known that Tashnaks, who were banned by Ter Petrosyan, played an important role in this process.
After Petrosyan, extremely romantic Robert Kocharyan has come to power. He was not even a citizen of the Armenian state when he became the President. He attended to the elections by cheating and he had no idea even about what state means. He was totally a warrior and knew well about the Armenian people and whatever it takes Armenians should be defended. In accordance with his opinions Turks were bad, Armenians were good and Russia was a friend whereas Azerbaijan and Turkey were enemies His visions was as shallow as this much.
Thus, the era of Petrosyan came to an end and the hopes of peace faded away with him. The policies and analysis of Kocharyan were adverse that of previous terms;
- Relations with Russia developed further and many Russians and supporters of Russia came to more effective positions in Armenia. In this period, while the former Soviet Republics was diverging from the Moscow economically and politically, Armenia became even more dependent on the Moscow than the times of the Soviet era. Especially, Russia became an energy monopoly in Armenia. While becoming dominant in Armenian economy, Russians also took control of the Armenian politics. Armenia became the only Russian base in Caucasus, yet it could not receive the essential supports from Russia.
- Kocharyan team made enormous efforts to develop relations with the Diaspora. They especially hoped to find new credit and financial aid sources in the diaspora. The Diaspora could provide economic and political support. However, the expected economic support was received so late and less than anticipated. Moreover, the extremists began to constitute a monopoly in relations with Armenia and they captured even the control of domestic politics. Armenia failed being an independent country that can stand on its own feet.
- Kocharian Administration nearly declared war against the Turkish people. A campaign has been started against Turkey to pass the so-called genocide bill in the parliaments all over the world. In this way, Turkey would be in a tough position in the international arena and had to accept the Armenian demands. In other words, Kocharyan was implementing the classic Armenian tactics once again. Not relying on its power but on that of the others’, Armenia was disrupting relations with its neighbors.
- Lastly, Armenia under Kocharian pursued an uncompromising policy about Karabakh issue. It is said that Karabakh was an independent country and would never be returned to Azerbaijan. For the other regions under Armenian occupation, they would not make any concessions. Kocharyan, being from Karabakh, hired Karabakhian guards to protect his presidency and took precautions. Karabakh issue therefore took the control of domestic and foreign Armenian policy.
WHO WON, WHO LOST? AZERBAIJAN OR ARMENIA?
While turning back to its previous policy Armenia was thinking that it had gained a crucial victory against Azerbaijan. However, it was the Azeris who really gained a victory;
It was perhaps Azerbaijan to be the most unprepared country for independence among the former Soviet Republics. The concept of national conscience could not be created yet. On one hand communists wanted an Azerbaijan bounded to Moscow, on the other hand nationalists were as idealist and romantic as to dream a big Turkish state including Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. In the end, as a result of the domestic conflicts and debates and the direct Russian support to Armenians, Azeris could not protect 20 % of their territory and Armenia occupied these regions. One million Azeri became refugees and this problem has continued so far. Azerbaijan lost territories at least for a while but it gained its national unity, development and a market integrated with the world. Let’s look at what Azerbaijan won in its conflict against Armenia:
- Azerbaijan has become a real nation aftermath of the Armenian attacks and thanks to the Armenian attacks, a solid national conscience was created. Without Armenian attacks, the period to create a national conscience would take so long.
- Azerbaijan has become a more homogeneous country. During the war about 500.000 Armenians left Azerbaijan and all of the Azeri people left Armenia. However, Azerbaijan Armenians were more powerful in Azerbaijan than the Armenia Azeris in Armenia. The Azeri Armenians were the richest and the most influential people of Baku. Thus, their leaving this country in a way means gaining real independence for Azerbaijan. Even the Karabakh Armenians were relatively rich and had all of the freedoms. When Armenians occupied the Azeri territories they lost their special position in Azeri economy and politics but gained only the territories.
- Without the war Azerbaijan would only be a puppet of Moscow and could never gain its independence in a short time in a real sense. The war resulted with broken ties -in a way that could never be repaired- between Russia and Azerbaijan. Today, if Azerbaijan really is an independent country, it owes this to Armenian aggression.
- Owing to the uncompromising and aggressive attitude of Armenia, Azerbaijan succeeded to isolate Armenia in the region. As a matter of fact, Baku is happy with the Armenian polices towards Turkey and Azerbaijan. Thus Armenia has been left outside of all regional co-operations and integration projects.
Having rich petroleum and natural gas reserves Azerbaijan grew stronger and stronger, while Armenia got damaged in economic terms. It was really hard to stand on its own feet for Armenia in the existence of conflicts with its neighbors. Occupied Karabakh was not a region that worth it in this regard. It did not contribute to Armenia even it became a burden for Armenian economy. In this situation Azerbaijan has made the following analyzes;
l It was obvious that it could not recapture Karabakh with the help of its army right now. The most important reason for this; Russia was still supporting Armenia. Azeri forces attempted to recapture Karabakh in 1999, but Russians warned them and said “if you insist on this, you would lose Gence city too”.
l Secondly, USA and the EU did not respond well enough to Armenia after the occupation of the Azeri territories. Owing to Armenian Diaspora’s activities primarily France and the US have been following delay tactic against Azerbaijan. Karabakh and the other cities continue to be remain under the Armenian occupation, and the Western countries still promise to do something. Azerbaijan understood that the West will not make enough pressure on the occupier Armenia at least for a while.
l USA and Europe were interested in Azeri oil and natural gas but this had not turned into a political support yet.
l Turkey, alone itself could not bring an end to the occupation.
Under these circumstances, instead of wasting its energy for nothing, Azerbaijan decided to strengthen its army while pushing Armenia in difficult position. For the solution of the problem according to the Azeri politicians for a while a deadlock policy should be pursued. In this period, Azerbaijan should be strengthened while Armenia getting weaker. In other words, the issue of continuation of the occupied regions was in favor of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan did turn out to be right. Having an attitude, this was so uncompromising and extreme that Armenians did not even move slightly from the land which they occupied. While wasting its time on the occupied regions, Azeris externalized Armenia from all of the regional cooperation projects. The most important of them is Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan Crude Oil Pipeline Project. It was certain that this pipeline would pass through Armenia if Yerevan Government succeeded to soften its attitudes a little. Either the project would be canceled or Armenia would be preferred simply because it was shorter and most economic route for the pipeline. Since the USA and Europe were the ones to provide the required capital for this project even Azerbaijan could not prevent this if Armenia moved wisely during the 1990s. Secondly, natural gas pipeline also by- passed Armenia and now Kars-Baku railway project is to by-pass Armenia. The railway that passes through Armenia cannot be used and this pushed Turkey and Azerbaijan to construct another one that passes through Georgia. Armenians tried prevent this in all over the world, including American Congress and Europe. Even they tried to guarantee that they would not damage the trains that would pass through Armenia. However, it was too little and too late. The most important of all, the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey were becoming more intense in all aspects -from military to economics- that cover a broad spectrum. Armenia has been fully isolated in the region and Russia’s political support did not help out for economic development in Armenia. Not having border with Russia and Russia’s commercial approach instead of behaving like a strategic partner isolated Armenia and put it in a challenging situation. In 15 years, the population of Armenia declined from 3 million to almost 2 million of people. Once again they spread all over the world. Even to live and work they came to Turkey and currently 50-75.000 Armenians live in Turkey.
Another success of Azerbaijan is that step by step they achieved to attract the attention of the USA and the Europe countries. Armenians are still influential in these countries and Azerbaijan is still the same Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan is engaged with a close collaboration with Western companies in terms of energy and in other sectors and these countries has gradually begun to understand the importance of Azerbaijan. For instance, for the energy security of the European Union, Azerbaijan has a key importance. The BTC pipeline transports the Caspian Basin’s oil resources to the European and Mediterranean markets. Italia is the country that mostly takes the advantage of this. The BTC pipeline represents an important alternative for European Markets against Russian and Middle Eastern oil. Similarly, transportation of Azerbaijan’s natural gas to Europe through Georgia and Turkey, and joining of Kazakh and even Turkmen gas to this would constitute a crucial alternative for Europe. Even in the current situation, European companies have an important share in Azerbaijan’s energy resources and in this regard Azerbaijan is not a country that can be easily sacrificed anymore. The same situation is valid for the US. It wants to break the dominancy of Russia in the region and mostly interested in petroleum. Not only Azerbaijan and Central Asian Republics might become an important alternative to Russia but also they would get out of the influence of Russia if they could become independent energy actors and break their dependency to Russia. For this reason the USA attaches importance to Azerbaijan and the other Central Asian Republics. Another factor that makes Azerbaijan important for the USA is its neighboring to Iran and Azeri population more than 30 million in this country. In order to destabilize Iran and against Russia, the USA expects so much from Azerbaijan. Through collaboration with Georgia and Turkey, the attitude of Azerbaijan to tend towards the West constitutes the base of the US policies. Nevertheless, the repercussions of this cannot be witnessed on the Karabakh issue. Armenian lobbies are still influential on decision makers of the US and the EU, thus the cooperation with Azerbaijan can be blocked in some areas. Especially, the US and the EU do not have the maneuvering field that they want. In spite of this, they perfectly collaborate in economic terms and this will continue in the future. Azerbaijan keeps its expectations limited in this regard. It does not expect Western World to bring the Armenian occupation to an end. Azerbaijan knows that it needs time for this result. In fact, this situation in a way serves for the interests of Azerbaijan. If pressure is made to Armenia and due to this Armenia withdraws from the regions that it has occupied, demographic and political balances could change rapidly in Azerbaijan and this could lead country to an unstable situation. Besides, hundreds of thousands of people that come from Karabakh and the other occupied regions move into houses from the tents that they live. Some of them are just got employed and in a certain level they accepted the situation. Sudden changes in the current situation could cause different radical expectations to emerge. Under these circumstances, a gradual transformation seems better. And Azerbaijan exploits the position of Armenia as an “occupant” to the end. Also, it externalizes Armenia from all of the regional projects. While wasting its time on the occupied lands for almost nothing, Armenia’s economy cannot be integrated nor to the world neither to the region. On the other hand, Azerbaijan is turning into a growing regional power.
The real success of Azerbaijan certainly is its economic development. Particularly, with the implementation of BTC pipeline project, Azeri economy has boomed. Growth in 2005 was 26.4 % and it seems that in 2006 growth rate will exceed this number (around 30,6-32,5 %). Even a little decrease in this rate is anticipated for 2007; a similar growth rate is expected. Oil and natural gas revenues have an important share in this growth rate. However, growth in non-petroleum sector is around 9.5 %, which also is a high rate. It can easily be supposed that with the flow of revenues that would come from energy sector to the other sectors, the growth rate in non-petroleum sector will increase further. Parallel to this, also budget deficit is decreasing rapidly. There are significant increases in exports and imports. It is easy to observe the spread of prosperity in Baku. Per capita income has exceeded $ 7.300 in 2006 and this will increase further. Unemployment rate is around 1.2 %.
Nevertheless, Armenia pursues a different route. Even though the growth rate was around % 12 in 2006, this number could be deceptive to understand an economy, which is so small, like in Armenia. The economy, which can hardly survive with financial aids and transfers, is not sufficient to keep the population in the country. Construction sector has an important share in the growth of Armenian economy. Diaspora transfers an important amount of money to the country. This resource causes high growth rates. However, this is not something sustainable. Armenian economy cannot create its own dynamics and has an image that this economy needs much more financial aids and transfers. Unemployment in Armenia is still around 30 %. Investments of private sector mostly come from Diaspora. This means the dominancy of Diaspora on economy and certainly on politics. Similarly, Russia has taken the control of certain sectors like energy. Despite of the virtual growth in the economy per capita income is around $1.513. Even this number exceeds $5.000 with PPP; it is so interesting that per capita income remains in this level despite of declining population. On the other hand, the biggest problem of Armenia is the uncertainty which Karabakh causes on its economy. Even some Diaspora companies hesitate to invest in the country. Similarly, the closed borders of Azerbaijan and Turkey between Armenia and having no exits to sea increase the dependency on the borders of Georgia and Iran. Accordingly, this increases the customs expenses of Armenia.
Briefly, Armenia thinks it gained a victory in Karabakh and in the other regions that it has occupied. It considers that in time it can make other countries to forget this occupation, but for what. It endangers the whole Armenia only for Karabakh territories. Armenia could not comprehend the changing nation-state concept. Armenia still preserve the old-fashioned state concept of the 19th century. Just for land they endanger their nation and the state they could found so late. Armenians could build their policies on fight against Turks even though they are surrounded by 110 million Turks. Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink defended that Armenian identity should not be built on conflicts with Turks. In accordance with his opinions, this was the poison in the Armenian blood. Wherever they are, according to Mr. Dink, Armenians should get rid of this poison and create a holy alliance with Armenia. This alliance should be created on keeping Armenia alive, not to satisfy the personal and ideological interests through Armenia.
Citizens serve for their countries and try to glorify it. However, Armenians try to satisfy their feelings and needs by sacrificing Armenia. Respecting to their sorrows in the past, I could not understand whether they want to glorify Armenian nation or try to satisfy their personal and political ambitions by means of fighting with the Turks.
They could not appreciate the first Armenian state. Tashnaks firstly used this state to take revenge, and then handed it over to the Bolsheviks. We hope history to not repeat itself. Maybe they will be surprised but we will be the ones to worry the most. Turkey and the region needs a stronger and really independent Armenia than the Diaspora Armenians need.
8 February 2007
Translated by Hasan Selim OZERTEM and Fatma YILMAZ (USAK)
Turks and Armenians, A International Relations Study