Post-war circumstances – is Armenian reintegration possible?

Huseyn Mammadov Analysis 16 June 2022
Post-war circumstances – is Armenian reintegration possible?

After Azerbaijan won the 44-days war and liberated its invaded territory, there were significant changes in the balance of forces and overall, the general situation in the region. Currently, one of the main issues between the two countries is the re-integration process of Armenians living in the Karabakh region to the Azerbaijan Republic. There are various controversial opinions about this topic in both countries and this issue is highly complicated, sensitive and intense as well as the region itself. From now on, I will try to write down everything that I am considering regarding this issue.

Apart from everything, I would like to mention that my purpose in writing this essay is to analyze this problem from political, social, strategic, philosophic and professional aspects. Like any Azerbaijani who knows Azerbaijan history a little, I also do not possess a warm and friendly attitude towards Armenians. However, trying to contribute in order to improve the country and region’s welfare by logically restricting personal feelings and patriotic emotions must be among the priorities of any rational person.

Why we are facing this issue?

Up to the requirements of the region, time and circumstances normalization of relations with Armenia and reintegration of the Armenian community into Azerbaijan seems one of the inevitable issues of the close future. Of course, nothing must be as before and will not be. All of us must work to limit the damage to the process for Azerbaijan. In the realization of the process, the Azerbaijani side should take a lesson from the past experiences and avoid repeating mistakes of the past. Thus, the Azerbaijani side must pay attention to several details regarding this issue.

Currently, Russian peacekeeping troops are located in the Karabakh region and they are trying to control relations between the two sides. Of course, in line with our intentions, Russian troops are not there forever and I hope that they will leave the territory as the soonest as possible. Then, as a result, there will not be a 3rd party between the two sides and relations will be held on a bilateral basis. Recreation of conflict in this zone again is not beneficial for either Azerbaijan or Armenia and even the most patriotic citizens of countries understand that.

That’s why parties must be careful regarding mutual relations and should avoid any action escalating problems with one another. It must be considered that there are the 3rd parties interested in maintaining the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia and this kind of effort should be neutralized. And Azerbaijani side should learn to solve all issues regarding the Armenian community itself. Because as in daily civil life, also in a political field when problems between parties are not getting solved within those two, usually the third parties interfere which follow their interests and benefits. Consequently, in the conflict zone, direct conflict parties lose much more and this conflict becomes an effective tool against these parties in the geopolitical arena. Taking into consideration the fact that both countries are young and developing ones, it can be surely said that none of the parties would win from being a marionette of sceneries written by powerful forces. 

Another point is that in political neighbourhoods long-term and permanent enmity, wars and conflicts are the factors which have devastating effects on the economic prosperity of the region. Therefore, in the political arena, it’s likely impossible to have permanent and endless hostility or the absence of a bilateral normal relationship. After a while, once enemy countries tend to have peaceful, normal mutual connections. Not only regional circumstances, but also global processes in the world require this. Consequently, the reintegration of the Armenian community into Azerbaijan is one of the components of normalized mutual relations. Thus, this issue has an inevitable nature and we are going to face that sooner or later.

The next point is that Azerbaijan tries to have a multicultural image of a democratic country around the globe and a complete ignoring attitude towards the Armenian community can negatively impact this image and lead to pressure from powerful forces against us. To maintain a balanced political course in the global arena, Azerbaijan will have to undergo some compromises. 

From now on, the Azerbaijan side must try to keep the situation in Karabakh territory calm, stable and under control and gradually draw away the world’s attention from this zone. Accordingly, control of Armenians living in this zone will require a special approach, attention and monitoring. 

Factors Worth Considering

Historically, Azerbaijan has always been a polyethnic country and because of that has faced both positive and negative events. Especially, Armenians had a highly harmful and destructive impact on the history of Azerbaijan. Thus, it must not be surprising that due to the harsh realities of history a highly negative attitude has been formed towards Armenians in the Azerbaijan society and vice versa. So, regarding this current reality, I would state that it would not be quite safe for Azerbaijan refugees in their historical homeland where nowadays the Republic of Armenia is established or Armenians who had been living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. It can be predicted that Armenians living in Azerbaijan territories as citizens of full rights will not be accepted unambiguously. For the moment, this issue must be gradually introduced to the Azerbaijan society and the Azerbaijan population should be prepared for this phenomenon slowly. 

However, the Azerbaijan side must take lessons from the past experiences and pursue a specific strategy regarding Armenians living inside its territories. In order to avoid actions against the sovereignty, welfare and interests of the country Armenians should be kept away from positions in public security, powerful forces and other spots which carry strategic importance. For easily identifying Armenians and other ethnic minorities living in Azerbaijan, the nationalities of citizens can be shown in ID documents. Having the name of the ethnic roots disclosed in the official public documents would be an effective step in people’s self-perception of their ethnicity and national belonging. 

Another important feature of this process is to locate Armenians within the borders of Azerbaijan as sparsely as possible because world history and experience show that a dense population of any ethnic minority in a particular region of some country usually leads to separatist movements and political problems. Specifically, infinite amounts of materials can be published about Armenian separatism in Azerbaijan over a long time. That’s why I am mentioning here the importance of vigilant control over Armenians and being ready for any separatist danger from them.

The next point is being ready for any negative event prepared by foreign secret services and being able to neutralize them before it’s too late. Any time something may happen to any Armenian civil and some “patriotic Azerbaijani” can be shown responsible for that. This way some “victim character” can be established around those Armenians and consequently, Azerbaijan might be required to pay off or carry responsibility for those negative events. Consequently, it will give reasoning to some powerful foreign forces to intervene in the internal affairs of Azerbaijan or become some mechanism of impact against Azerbaijan in the global arena.

Generally, we should not be afraid of Armenians living in our country. They are also aware of the attitude toward them in Azerbaijan society. If we think of an average Armenian, it’s almost impossible to find a sound reason or rational motive for his desire to live in Azerbaijan. Being a resident of Azerbaijan does not promise many things for them. Therefore, even those Armenians who want to live in Azerbaijan soon will realize that the general atmosphere and welfare here are not so pleasant for them and leave the country. It can be expected that some old Armenians who are morally and ideologically connected to the Karabakh region would like to live in Azerbaijan by becoming local citizens – even, in this case, their average stay period in Azerbaijan will be some 20-30 years due to life expectancy of a human. 

Long-term Approach

Although Armenians officially will be allowed to live in Azerbaijan, the long-term strategy of Azerbaijan must be to keep their amount as low as possible or gradually assimilate them, or ease their departure to developed Western countries, buy their houses for a sound amount of money, etc. get rid of them by numerous means. Polyethnicity in the long-term is usually quite a dangerous threat to the sovereignty of the country. A near example is Turkey’s long-term suffering from Armenian-Kurdish groupings such as PKK, YPG, HDP etc. We must try to stop processes from growing to such a big scale and always keep everything under control. And one of the most effective ways of solving problems is turning them into chances, and opportunities. I am sure that responsible parties will find some ways of getting our benefits from this issue and Azerbaijan can use the Armenian community for its interests and welfare rather than seeing them as long-term pain or problem inside the borders.

Identifying and choosing the right enemy/rival

For a long time, one important enemy character has been established in the perception of Azerbaijan society – Armenians. By saying this I am not denying the fact that Armenia is an enemy of Azerbaijan, but I try to state that by pointing to the main enemy image as Armenians, the attention is drawn away from other not less important enemies. When thinking about these issues, it is crucial to find out for which purposes and by whom Armenians amounting to 2-3 million as a nation are used as a tool against us and a long-term strategy must be built taking into consideration this phenomenon.

A long time ago, Armenians were moved to the given region and from now on departing them seems like a utopia. Thus, rather than seeing ourselves as an equal rival to Armenians and having direct conflict with them, we must perceive ourselves as a bigger and more powerful nation and take advantage of them in regard to our welfare. So, it would be more efficient and effective to be in manipulating side of the triangle than being in manipulated angle face-to-face with Armenians. Over time, they will also understand that Azerbaijan is not a fair rival to fight against and it’s possible to prosper and develop by cooperating with Azerbaijan than fighting with us in the role of a tool used by the third parties. Thus, for Azerbaijan and Turkey, it would be much better to have a companion between each other than to have a small enemy which always makes things complicated and unbearable. This way you’re not only eliminating a significant political problem but also gaining a practical companion at the same time and using it according to your interests and strategy.

Another side of this phenomenon is that as the political course is reflected in the social attitude of the nation, it’s been a long time that the society in Azerbaijan accepts Armenians as the main rival and compares itself to them on each occasion. In any field like sports, arts etc. where we have a representative our community either gets delighted, regretful or calmed down by comparing results to those of Armenians. Of course, this approach is a wrong, short-sighted mindset which prevents the nation from long-term development. Azerbaijani society must compare itself to nations of much higher standards rather than confronting with Armenian community which has been showing downturn signs over the recent years and is much weaker than Azerbaijan almost in means of all resources. 

 Either for the purpose of rivalry or comparison, the Armenian nation is not a deserved rival for the Azerbaijani community…