Conflict in the Caucasus

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [New York University]On: 25 October 2014, At: 00:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Strategic SurveyPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Conflict in the CaucasusPublished online: 22 Jan 2009.</p><p>To cite this article: (1992) Conflict in the Caucasus, Strategic Survey, 93:1,75-83, DOI: 10.1080/04597239208460904</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensorsmake no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy,completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Anyopinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions andviews of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor&amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information.Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly inconnection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private studypurposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution,reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of accessand use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p> Yor</p><p>k U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 00:</p><p>03 2</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p><p></p></li><li><p>CONFLICT IN THE CAUCASUS 75</p><p>can be expected to withhold the taxes they are now collecting toprovide some of these services for themselves. What led to the break-up of the Soviet Union was just such a march of events. Local centresof power which wanted more control over their own affairs, a break-down of central control, and a slow accumulation by local leaders ofthe means to achieve their dreams.</p><p>Racing Towards the CrashIn his TV broadcast throwing down the gauntlet, Yeltsin said that thecountry could not afford another October Revolution. The examplewas picked with care for the two situations have close parallels. In1917 a weak reforming government under Aleksandr Kerensky, loathto take drastic actions that would transgress its democratic ideals,faced the growing strength of those who would willingly take drasticaction while hiding behind democratic slogans. 'All power to theSoviets!' was the battlecry. In 1993 a would-be reforming governmentis being slowly throttled by men who claim they are on the side of thepeople, upholding the constitution, and proclaiming 'all power to theCongress!'.</p><p>Conditions as a result of the economic breakdown in Russia are notas bad as they were during the war 75 years ago, and there is nodetermined party in sight like the Bolsheviks to push the situation toarmed revolution. Yet the auguries are not good. The present impasseis certain to last at least until the referendum. Even if there are thenelections for president and parliament, without a change of constitu-tion the two centres of power will remain. Not even a strong countrycan be effectively run under such a system. In Russia, it is a formula fordisaster.</p><p>CONFLICT IN THE CAUCASUS</p><p>For hundreds of years the Caucasus has been the uncomfortable meet-ing place for a bewildering variety of different peoples, cultures,religions and nations. Historically located on the mountainous edges oflarge neighbouring multi-ethnic empires, the Caucasus has been thehaven for a number of national groups who have sought to preservetheir cultural and religious freedom and independence. Over the centu-ries the ancient Christian nations of Armenia and Georgia havefiercely defended their distinctive religious inheritance. With just asstrong a sense of national pride, the Muslim peoples of Azerbaijan andthe Northern Caucasus have maintained their allegiance to the Dar ul-Islam, the world of Islam. Like the Balkans, the Caucasus marks thehistorical frontier between Islam and Christendom and has the sameshattered mosaic of multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies.</p><p>The rugged independence of the Caucasian peoples was to be aconsiderable obstacle to Russian imperial expansion into the region in</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p> Yor</p><p>k U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 00:</p><p>03 2</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>76 EUROPE</p><p>the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Under a succession of charis-matic leaders, such as Imam Mansur and Sheikh Shamil, resistance toRussian rule was sustained for over 70 years through numerous guer-rilla campaigns. It was only in 1855 that Russia completed its conquestof the Caucasus and could enjoy full control over its new territory.However, the tradition of opposition to Russian and Soviet rule neverdied, and renewed campaigns for independence broke out whenevercontrol from Moscow weakened, as in the revolutionary chaos of the1917-21 period and during the Second World War.</p><p>When Mikhail Gorbachev set out to reform and democratize theSoviet empire in the late 1980s, it was not surprising that the Caucasusproved to be one of the greatest obstacles to his ambitions. In 1988, theeruption of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan andArmenia provided the first significant indication that inter-ethnic con-frontation would prove to be a more powerful force than international-ist integration and that the Soviet Union was more likely to collapsethan be reformed. Similarly, the forceful Georgian campaign for inde-pendence, which grew in strength after the bloody repression of anationalist demonstration in Tbilisi in April 1989, confirmed that theCaucasian struggle for independence was becoming more uncompro-mising in its objectives and was seeking complete severance from themulti-ethnic Soviet empire.</p><p>The collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 was a criticalturning-point in the liberation struggle for an independent Caucasus.Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan became fully independent and inter-nationally recognized states during 1992. Such independence was not,however, granted to the peoples of the North Caucasus, which wereleft within the borders of the Russian Federation. Chechnia directlychallenged this disposition in the last quarter of 1991 by proclaimingits independence from Russia. That neither Russia nor the internationalcommunity has recognized Chechnia has not deterred the self-pro-claimed state; it has not retreated from its declaration of independenceand continues to defy the Russian authorities.</p><p>As 1992 progressed the initial euphoria of the dramatic unravellingof centralized Soviet rule in the Caucasus gradually evaporated. Thespeed with which power was transferred from Moscow meant that thenew states of the Caucasus had inadequate political, economic andsocial institutions, lacked indigenous national armies and securityforces, and faced severe economic deterioration. Inter-ethnic conflictsalso grew in intensity. Armenia and Azerbaijan became locked evermore bitterly in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute; Georgia became em-broiled in a number of violent confrontations with some of the non-Georgian minority groups; and instability flowed over to the RussianFederation resulting in fierce fighting between the Ingush and theOssetes in October 1992. Tragically, it was these various conflictswhich essentially defined the political developments in the Caucasusduring 1992.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p> Yor</p><p>k U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 00:</p><p>03 2</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>CONFLICT IN THE CAUCASUS 77</p><p>North /...-' Cherkessia Ossetia /</p><p>)...] Kabardino- '-/&gt; | - p Balkaria --.</p><p>';"[ ' ;;- \J "Chechnia</p><p>%</p><p>jC" Grozny;</p><p>/</p><p>Tbilisi yAdzharia v-~ </p><p>" T U R K E Y \ARMENIA"&gt;</p><p>100 200 kms</p><p> - ,</p><p>w-u International Borderaic</p><p>u International Bordera V Internal/Disputed Borders Nakhichevann-\rj</p><p>AZERBAIJAN Baku</p><p>:-4- Nagorno-Karabakh\ | | . . . . Stepanakert '</p><p>\ LacHin</p><p>I R A N</p><p>Tabriz</p><p>Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-KarabakhIn the early part of 1992, the new Russian government under BorisYeltsin ordered the full withdrawal of the Soviet troops which hadbeen attempting to maintain peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. This deci-sion was popular not only in Russia but also with the combatants, sinceArmenia and Azerbaijan had regularly complained that the troops hadnever been truly neutral and that they had been manipulated by con-servative forces in Moscow to perpetuate and exacerbate the conflict.The withdrawal meant that the two sides could also test their respec-tive military strength.</p><p>At the outset, the Armenian forces were clearly ascendant and won anumber of critical military victories, including the opening of a corri-dor at Lachin through Azeri territory to the disputed enclave. Thereason for these Armenian successes was the relative discipline of theirforces against the chaotic and anarchic Azeri armed formations. Politi-cal instability in Baku also did not help the Azeri cause, as fromFebruary to May the Azerbaijani Popular Front (APF) battled with,and finally ousted, the ex-communist President Mutalibov. It wassymptomatic of this power struggle that during the first five months of1992 six different defence ministers marched through that office.</p><p>In the summer of 1992 the balance shifted. Azeri forces managed toreturn to the offensive after they had seized large amounts of equip-</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p> Yor</p><p>k U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 00:</p><p>03 2</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>78 EUROPE</p><p>ment from the former Soviet army garrisons inside Azerbaijan. Theyrecaptured a large part of the territory that had been lost earlier in theyear. The Lachin Corridor, however, remained under Armenian con-trol, and in the autumn the Azeri advance was halted as the Armeniandefence forces in Nagorno-Karabakh consolidated and strengthenedtheir defences. By the end of 1992, a stalemate had been reached.</p><p>Throughout this period Russia, Iran, Turkey and the CSCE tookturns at mediation, but all failed to make any decisive breakthrough.Cease-fires were arranged after weeks of arduous diplomacy and thencasually broken within hours of their supposedly coming into effect.There were also bitter divisions between the two sides about obliga-tions to the disputed territory and on the right of representatives fromthe Nagorno-Karabakh parliament to be involved in the negotiations.The unstable political situations inside Armenia and Azerbaijan madeit even more difficult for the two sides to reach any sort of compro-mise. President Lev Petrossian of Armenia had to contend with strongnationalist opposition to any concessions, particularly by the DashnakParty which is the dominant force in the Armenian community inNagorno-Karabakh. The political flux in Azerbaijan was even moredestabilizing. The APF forcibly seized power in May, and its leader,Abulfaz Elchibey, was subsequently elected president in June 1992.His legitimacy and the strength of his political power-base remainedfar from secure, however, and he has had constantly to look over hisshoulder at the growing popularity of such figures as the radicalnationalist Etibar Mahmedov or the strongman of Nakhichevan,Gaidar Aliev.</p><p>The overall situation at the beginning of 1993 appears bleak. Peaceseems as far away as ever, and the economic and political costs of thefive-year-old war are becoming ever more apparent. Armenia is cer-tainly suffering the greater economic hardship. The combined effectsof the economic blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and the disruption ofsupplies from Georgia have meant that Armenia is receiving no oil andhardly any gas. The economy is, as a result, close to collapse.Azerbaijan is clearly hoping that Armenia's economic plight will betranslated into increased military weakness. However, as the moreacute observers in Baku realize, this expectation of an Azeri militaryvictory is improbable, given the deeply entrenched Armenian defencesinside Nagorno-Karabakh.</p><p>The only limited grounds for optimism are that the military stale-mate and the undoubted war-weariness of the Armenian and Azeripopulations might lead to a more profitable and sustained peace initia-tive. Such an initiative would depend, however, on the internal con-solidation and increased moderation of the governments in power,greater centralized control over the armed formations engaged in thefighting, and energetic mediation and intervention by the major exter-nal powers and international organizations like the UN and the CSCE.It would also require greater involvement and cooperation between thethree major regional powers: Russia, Turkey and Iran. Without such a</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p> Yor</p><p>k U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 00:</p><p>03 2</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>CONFLICT IN THE CAUCASUS 79</p><p>concerted and coordinated drive for a peaceful settlement, there is aconsiderable danger that the parties in dispute will attempt to escalatethe conflict by spreading the war beyond Nagorno-Karabakh into eachother's territories and by seeking to drag their respective regional alliesinto the fighting.</p><p>Georgia - The Divided StateThe inter-ethnic conflicts inside Georgia since the proclamation ofGeorgian sovereignty in March 1990 have been caused by one funda-mental contradiction: the deeply-ingrained Georgian nationalist desirefor a unitary state and the fact that over 30% of the population are non-Georgian minorities who deeply fear Georgian nationalist self-asser-tion. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, popularly elected president in May 1991,proved incapable of resolving this contradiction and only made inter-ethnic tensions worse by attempting to impose a unified Georgian stateand to abolish the autonomous status of South Ossetia, Abkhazia andAdzharia. His increasing unpredictability and authoritarianism also ledto deep fissures within Georgian society and alienated many of hisformer allies. In January 1992, Tengiz Kitovani and Dzhaba Iosseliani,backed by their respective armed formations, forcibly deposedGamsakhurdia in a coup.</p><p>By spring 1992 Georgia was in a state of deep crisis with restiveminorities and a polity divided between pro-Gamsakhurdia supportersbased mainly in western Georgia and his opposition in the rest of thecountry. In order to legitimize their military takeover and consolidatetheir power, the new rulers invited Eduard Shevardnadze, the formerForeign Minister of the Soviet Union, to return to his native land andresume the political leadership of the country. Shevardnadze was fullyaware that he had b...</p></li></ul>


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