The iron fist is in place: Azerbaijan’s war. An historical parallel.
“We are the winning country. We have destroyed Armenia.”
On June 26, president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev gave an address on his nation’s Armed Forces Day that in terms of tone and content can’t help inviting comparison to the speeches of a national leader of the last century.
Aliyev, identified on his web site as Victorious Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, used the occasion to celebrate the victory of his armed forces in what he called the Great Patriotic War (not to be confused with World War II in the rest of the former Soviet Union) of last year; that is, the overwhelming assault against the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and its 145,000 inhabitants.
For anyone still under the delusion that the Aliyev dynasty rules over a modern secular nation state, the opening of his address should lay that notion to rest.
“May Allah grant mercy to the souls of all our martyrs.
“We avenged our martyrs on the battlefield. I have repeatedly said that the blood of our martyrs will not remain unavenged. And this is exactly what happened.”
That should provide a retrospective understanding of why ethnic Armenians thirty years ago were less than enthused about living in an independent Azerbaijan under such a dispensation.
He also said “the occupying Armenian state is becoming more and more depraved and does not want to vacate our lands.” As will be seen later, the allusion to “our lands” is not limited to Nagorno-Karabakh.
He also praised “brotherly countries led by Turkey, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan,” and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which “supported us from the early hours of the war.”
There’s far more involved than simply “liberating occupied territories.” His words suggest a wider and ongoing holy war.
Parallels with another victorious supreme commander-in-chief will be examined later, including in reference to Aliyev’s assertion that “I have repeatedly said that the norms of international law do not work.” As international law is ineffective, he added: “A few years before the war, I made it clear in my speeches: we must gather strength and this issue will be resolved by force.”
Like the predecessor alluded to, Aliyev matches brutality with grandiosity, for example when he stated, “the second Karabakh war showed our capabilities to the whole world.” As though not establishing his point clearly enough, he expounded on it in this manner: “I am told that some leading Western media are suggesting today that even if we had faced the world’s leading country in the war, they would not have had a chance against us. In other words, this shows that the Azerbaijani Army today is one of the strongest armies in the world.”
The grandiosity is not merely personal and national but mythical and with a more refined character would be almost metaphysical; for example when he claimed “today’s Azerbaijan is the most powerful Azerbaijan in our entire centuries-old history.” Azerbaijan has no centuries-long history. It has existed as a nation only from 1918-1920 and again since 1991.
Azerbaijani troops illegally entered Armenia itself earlier this year. The chief of Armenia’s general staff recently estimated there are in excess of 1,000 Azerbaijani troops there now, almost eight months since the end of the war against Nagorno-Karabakh. In his speech Aliyev added these chilling words: “I said that we would never allow for the establishment of a second Armenian state on our historical lands. The first Armenian state was established on our historical lands. The whole world knows this now.”
To make the same claim on Armenian territory that it has on that of Nagorno-Karabakh is a stark indication that Baku feels entitled to seize the former as well as the latter. If Nagorno-Karabakh was assigned during Soviet times to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, Armenia decidedly never was. As illegitimate as the first claim is, the second is absurd.
In fact the Azeri leader spoke as though he had already defeated Armenia with statements like “As a result of the war, the Armenian army was completely crushed” and “there is no Armenian army any longer.” And by way of recapitulation, “From now on, Azerbaijan will live as a victorious state and Armenia as a defeated country.”
Transitioning back from the magniloquent to the bloodthirsty, he made these comments:
“We have already avenged the blood of the martyrs of the first and second Karabakh wars. We exacted our revenge on the battlefield.
“There is only one way for Armenia to develop – to establish normal relations with its neighbors, give up their territorial claims and not to use the word Nagorno-Karabakh at all. Because there is no territorial unit called Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We are the winning country. We have destroyed Armenia.
“They should know that the iron fist is in place.”
The entire edifice of Aliyev’s claim to Nagorno-Karabakh rests on the Soviet connection described above; that and the presence of Turkic-speaking inhabitants in the region. There is no “centuries-old” relation between Nagorno-Karabakh and any independent Azeri political entity.
The closest analogy to the Azerbaijani claim is that of Germany to Danzig and surrounding territory until 1939 when Germany, like Azerbaijan, declared that its adversary (Poland) was not negotiating in good faith and invaded the territory and seized it. However, Germany had far the better historical case.
On September 1, 1939 Chancellor Adolf Hitler gave a speech in the Reichstag announcing the invasion of Poland.
Excerpts of that address will be compared to those of Aliyev’s speech of June 26.
Hitler: Danzig was and is a German city. The Corridor was and is German. Both these territories owe their cultural development exclusively to the German people. Danzig was separated from us, the Corridor was annexed by Poland.
Aliyev: We had to prove that Nagorno-Karabakh had always been the land of Azerbaijan.
Hitler: As always, I attempted to bring about, by the peaceful method of making proposals for revision, an alteration of this intolerable position. It is a lie when the outside world says that we only tried to carry through our revisions by pressure.
Aliyev: We gave Armenia a chance, and our participation in the talks, as I have said before, was already the biggest concession on our part. There could be no concessions on the matter of territorial integrity, and this position is clear.
Hitler: I have also tried to solve the problem of Danzig, the Corridor, etc., by proposing a peaceful discussion. That the problems had to be solved was clear.
Aliyev: Our participation in the talks gave Armenia a chance to resolve this issue without bloodshed. But Armenia must have interpreted it differently. It may have thought that we were hesitant. It may have thought that we would not restore our territorial integrity.
Hitler: Poland was not prepared to settle the Corridor question in a reasonable way which would be equitable to both parties, and she did not think of keeping her obligations to minorities.
Aliyev: I can say that the mediators were also fed up with Armenia’s hypocritical position in the process of negotiations. Because Armenia and its leadership were trying to deceive the international mediators as well. They were putting forward conditions that everyone knew from the very beginning that they were completely unacceptable.
One could go on for some length.
The world reacted the first time. But not the second.