"The Role of Caspian Oil in Maintaining  Stability in the Caucasus Region: In the Case of Mountainous  Karabakh Conflict"

This dissertation is broken up into 5 chapters on Virtual Azerbaijan (VAR):


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III





From the dawn of history, and doubtless long ages before,
these mountain fatnesses were the refuge of vanquished  races,
the plains at their feet the camping-ground of conquering hordes.
John F. Baddeley
The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus

         The Caucasus region was known by ancient historians as the ends of the Earth.  It marks the meeting point of the Eurasian steppe and the Middle Eastern highlands to the north, with the Anatolian and Iranian plateaux to the south.  The Caucasus mountain chain that stretches eastwards for seven hundred miles from the Black Sea to the Caspian, marks the furthest reaches of Europe and the frontier between both Muslim and Christian worlds. 

            This region has always been a buffer zone between Russia, Iran and Turkey during the nineteenth century, and between East and West in the twentieth century.  Like the Balkans, the Caucasus has the same shattered mosaic of multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies. This geographical configuration, underlies the historical significance of the Caucasus as a borderland and bridge between civilizations and people.

            There are three main nations in the south Caucasus, namely-Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan which used to be part of the USSR (the United Soviet Socialist Republics).  Nevertheless, the peoples of the north Caucasus can generally be divided into four:  the Circassian or Adyg tribes of the northwest and Black Sea coast including the Adygs', Cherchens' and Kabardians;  the indigenous Caucasian nations, such as the Chechens' or Ingush;  the Turkish speaking invaders of the thirteenth century such as Karachai, Balkar and Kumyks;  and the Iranian speaking Ossetians besides a few much smaller ethnic groups.[1]Compared to the three independent south Caucasus republics, most of these national groups are still part of the Russian Federation as autonomous republics.

            The Caucasus's complex and shifting mix of cultures, religions and nationalities, has long been a source of potential instability.  As a rule, its communities have lived in harmony only, when peace has been imposed by an outside power.  For the past one hundred and fifty years, that power was the Russian empire and its successor, the Soviet Union.[2]

            With the implementation of "glasnost"and "perestroika" in the second half of the 1980's, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev opened a Pandora's Box of greivances that had been suppressed by seventy years of Communist rule.  The USSR, remained ethnically diverse with uneven political and economic development, including different levels of intensity for national consciousness.  Not surprisingly, both "perestroika and "glassnost" were met differently in the each  republic, depending on their particular level of development. Higher levels of development, resulted in new ideas being more readily accepted.  Moreover, despite the fact that in the 1970s, Soviet leaders declared the emergence of a new national identity, "Sovetskiy narod",  (the united people) communism failed to remove national distinctions in the Soviet Union.[3]

            Since the collapse of  the Soviet Union, five large scale wars have been fought in the Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan whose dispute over the enclave of Nagorno - Karabakh has been widely documented; Georgia and Abkhazia; Georgia ans South Ossetia; Ingush and Ossetia and between the Chechen Republic and Russian Federations.

            This dissertation will address the regional and international dynamics and implications of the Armenia - Azerbaijan conflict over the Nagorno - Karabakh.  As M. P. Croissant reasons, it is perhaps the only post-Soviet conflict, that poses a potentially exposive threat to peace and security on a regional, opposed to a local scale.[4]  Furthermore, it will examine certain recent oil and gas developments in the Caspian basin and the impact of these developments on the Nagorno - Karabakh conflict.

            However, before investigating the Nagorno - Karabakh conflict, this research will briefly consider other pertinent Caucasus conflicts which are mentioned above.  A comparison of other ethnic conflicts with the Nagorno - Karabakh conflict, will provide us with the opportunity to observe all Caucasus conflicts as a complex.

            The Armenia - Azerbaijan confrontation is the first in a succession of ethnic conflicts in the region.  It was followed by the conflicts in Georgia, where the Abkhazians [5] and Ossetins [6] desired to secede.

            Apart from the Chechen conflict, all of the other four conflicts involved non-Russian nations.  This constituted a serious challenge to Moscow, which faced the difficult task of acting impartially.  Disappointment, along with the uncertain position of Moscow, immediately alienated the Caucasus and advanced the rise of independence movements in the region.  Meanwhile, the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia served as the locomotive for the emergence of nationalist movements in all three republics.  The popular forces in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, were convinced that they would find solutions to the conflicts once they regained independence. [7]  Thus, popular forces in the Caucasus republics, sought to establish direct contacts with each other.  One good example of this was the meeting in Riga early in 1990, between representatives of the Azerbaijainian National Front (APF) and the Armenian National Movement (ANM), under the mediation of the Baltic Council.  Unfortunately, the parties failed to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. [8]

The breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, had been strongly backed by the former  Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), from the first days of confrontation. With Armenia's support for Nagorno-Karabakh, drawing Azerbaijan into the conflict, this resulted in the conflict assuming an inter-republic character.  Conversely, the conflicts in Georgia were between the republican government and national minorities.

            On the other hand, compared to the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic in Georgia, was the sole national formation of the Abkhaz people.[9]  Furthermore, unlike Armenians in Karabakh, the Abkhazians were destined to fight for their national interests without essential external support.  Like Abkhazians the Ossetins did not enjoy great help from outside despite their fellow natives living in the neighbouring North Ossetian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR), of the Russian Federation.  Alternatively, North Ossetia was engaged in a conflict with Ingushetia over the Prigorodny Raion (region) of North Ossetia and the city of Vladikavkaz.  This conflict was generated by the forced deportation in 1944 on Stalin's orders, of the Ingush from the lands they had hitherto occupied, and the settlement of the Ossetins in their place.[10]

             Unlike the Ossetins, the Azerbaijanians are concentrated mainly in Georgia.  The combination of both historic and geographic factors, make the notion of self-determination applicable to the Azerbaijanian case.  On the the contrary, the Ossetins have aquired two autonomies in the Russian Federation and Georgia.  Hence, the nature of Ossetian nationalism is extremely complex.[11]

            Like the Armenia-Azerbaijanian and Georgia-Abkhazian conflicts, Rus-Chechen conflicts have deep historical roots.  It was a famous Chechen hero, Sheikh Shamil [12], who fought against Tsarist Russian invasions for more than twenty five years during the last century. [13]  According to Magomet Galaev, the Russian armed forces have been forced to re-conquer Chechnya for the third time in the last two centuries.  This reveals the extent to which Moscow has lost control over this North Caucasian republic.[14]

            After the Chechen war, which caused an estimated 50,000-80,000 largely civilian casualities, the so-called "Khasavurt Agreement" was signed in August 1996 between the Russian Federation and the Chechen republic.  It set the end of 2001 as the deadline for deciding the status of future relations between Moscow and Grozny.

            However, no progress has been made between the parties on the future status of Chechnya.  Authorities in Grozny, consider Chechnya independent, while Moscow still considers it part of the Russian Federation.  No country has formally recognised Chechen independence.  Just three months after Azerbaijan signed its landmark Caspian Oil contract with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) [15], setting off the race for pipeline routes, Russia attacked Chechnya.  Most experts believe that the pipeline issue, was at least a contributary cause of the war.  In addition, ex - Russian Prime Minister, Sergei Stepaskin's recent statements, do not deny a new pressure on Chechnya. [16]  Russia's effort to retain control over Chechnya and the Caspian's oil resources, will be discussed further in chapter two. 

            This brief examination and comparison of the main Caucasus conflicts, describes the complex environment in which the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict exists.  In order to have a more comprehensive understanding of the Nagorno-Karabakh isssue, it is essential to investigate the history of this region before 1988.

untainous area of 4,800 sqaure metres in the Southern Caucasus, situated inside what is internationally recognised as Azerbaijan.  The name itself, a Russian-Turkish-Persian compound, is proof of the region's complex history and means "Mountainous Black Garden".  It is known to the Karabakh Armenians as "Artsakh".

            Armenian scholars made many efforts to prove that Nagorno-Karabakh, has for centuries been a heartland of Armenian civilization.  They claim that Nagorno-Karabakh belonged to the Armenians as far back as the formation of the Armenian people in the seventh century B.C.[17]  In 387 A.D., the kingdom of Armenia was partitioned between Byzantium and the Sassonid Empire in Iran, with the Artsakh becoming part of the Iranian province of Albania [18] (not to be confused with the modern republic of Albania).  Even though separated from the Armenian heartland, the inhabitants of the mountainous region, were different from their brethren under Byzantine rule, in that they were able to maintain a degree of autonomy over their affairs.

            In parallel to the Armenian scholars, a new historical school emerged in Azerbaijan after the Second World War.  In the view of contemporary Azerbaijanian scholars, who first articulated in Ziia Buniatov's 1965 monograph entitled "Azerbaijan in the Seventh-Ninth Centuries", modern Azeris are descendents of the ancient Caucasian Albanians. [19]  Azerbaijani scholars argue that local Albanians were Iranianised in the first millenium B.C., and began to assimilate with Turkish speaking newcomers during the first millenium A.D.  However, although Albanians were Christian and indigenous inhabitants, they were formally Turkified by the XI - XII centuries.  Azerbaijani scholars, suggest that this was largely superficial, and claimed the Albanians managed to retain the basic aspects of their traditional pre-Turkish culture until 1836. [20]  In other words, the Armenians succeeded in bringing about the abolition by the Russian authorities in 1836, of the Albanian Christian Patriarchate which had been operating in Azerbaijan, and the transfer of its property to the Armenian church.

            However, it is not the aim of this thesis, to weigh up more fully the respective historical arguments of the Armenian and Azerbaijanian scholars.  Nevertheless, as Robert H. Hewson points out, both sides are guilty of oversimplifying the ethnic history of the region.  The population of southeast Caucasia, whether under Armenian or Albanian rule was highly mixed, and to label it as being essentially one or the other, or even to divide it simply into two groups, is well in advance of the evidence. [21]

            In a momentous event for the development of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, Russia annexed the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Iran in 1805 as a result of the first Russo-Iranian war.  Administered by the Iranians as a collective unit known as the Khanate of Karabakh, it was expanded to include parts of the areas to the east forming the Elisavetpol Guberniia.  With the creation of the new province of Elisavetpol, the Russians linked Karabakh with the plains to the east, which were inhabited predominantly by Azeris. [22]

            However, under the terms of the Turkmanchar Treaty (between the Russian empire and Iran) in 1828, forty thousand Armenians were resettled in Azerbaijan.  Following the conclusion in 1829 of the Peace Agreement in Edirne, ninety thousand Armenians who had been living in the Ottoman Empire, were also resettled in Azerbaijan.[23]  By resettling Armenians in South Caucasus, Russians were seeing them as a buffer nation between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

ion of mutually reinforcing nationalisms in Nagorno-Karabakh among the Armenian and Azerbaijanians after the 1905 violence, all that was needed was a spark to ignite an explosion of emotions on both sides. That spark came, when the First World War brought chaos and unexpected independence to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

            Chapter one will examine pre-Soviet and Soviet history of  the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  In particular, the impact of "glasnost" and "perestroika" and ultimately, the collapse of the USSR will be considered with a view to comprehending the course of Armenian-Azerbaijanian hostilities over the given period. Furthemore, analysis will delve into how the two nations animosity has come to focus primarily upon Nagorno-Karabag.

            Chapter Two will examine the Caucasus region's ability to attract foreign investment and the possible consequences for Azerbaijan, and the region as a whole of the development of Caspian oil and gas. In addition, geopolitical interests over the transportaions of oil and gas, wil be examine.

            Finally, chapter three will deliberate the conflict since the cease-fire of May 1994, including the impact of oil  and regional geopolitical competition on efforts by various international actors, to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

[1]Suzanne Goldenberg, ,  "Pride of Small Nations" (London and New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd, 1994), 3.

[2] "Transcaucasia: Hell is Other People".  Strategic Survey 1993-1994 , 89.  

[3] Valery Tishkov,  "Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in and after the Soviet Union : The Mind Aflame “ (London, Thousand OAKS and New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 1997) , 4.

[4] Michael Croissant , " The Armenia - Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications", (USA: Praeger Publishers, 1998) , xii

[5] Otyrba Guergui, "War in Abkhazia", in Roman Szporluk  ed.,  National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia , volume 2. (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1994) , 281.

[6] Julian Birch , "Ossetia: A Caucasian Bosnia in microcosm", Central Asian Survey 14 (1) 1995 , 44.

[7] Leningradskaya Pravda: " The Statement of Leningrad", Popular Front, 13 February, 1990.

[8] Seidov. V., "Nationalism and Ethnic Conflicts in Transcaucasia in Comparative Perspective", http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/7124/1-text.html

[9] Seidov. V., "Nationalism and Ethnic Conlicts in Transcaucasia in Comparative Perspective". http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/7124/1-text.html

[10]Alexei Zverev, "Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus", Chapter 1 (3/4), Contested Borders in the Caucasus.  http://poli.vub.ac.be/publi/ContBorders/eng/ch0103.html

[11] Seidov, V.,"Nationalism and Ethnic Conflicts in Transcaucasia in Comparative Perspective",

[12] Bulent Gokay., "The Lonstanding Russian and Soviet Debate over Sheikh Shamil: Anti-Imperialist Hero or Counter-Revolutionary Cleric?", in Ben Fowkes, ed., "Russia and Chechnia:The Permanent Crisis" (London: Macmillan, 1998) ,27.

[13] Moshe.Gammer, "Russian Strategies in the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan, 1825-1859" in Marie Bennigsen Broxup, ed., The North Caucasus Barrier (London: C. Hurst, 1992) , 45-61.

[14] Magomet Galaev., "The Chechen Crisis: Background and Future Implications", Conflict Studies Research Centre, June 1995 , 1.

[15] Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC).,  a consortium of western and American oil companies led by the British Petroleum Company (BP) and the Azerbaijan State Oil Company (SOCAR), signed an eight billion dollar contract in September 1994, to develop three Caspain fields - Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli.

[16] Nikolai.Efrinovic, "South Chechney ne koncila mi sceti, komsomolskaya pravda" 3 July 1999.

[17] Anassian H.S, "Une Mise Au Point Relative A L'Albanie Caucasienne", Review Des Etudes Armeniennes 6 1969 , 305.

[18] Walker, Christopher ., "Armenia and Karabakh: The Struggle for Unity", (London: Minority Rights Publications, 1991) , 73-74.

[19]Ziia. Buniatov , "Azerbaijan vii-ix Asrlarda", (Baku: Azerbaijan dovlat noshriiaty, 1965).  See also, Mamedova Farida, "Politicheskaia istoiia i istoricheskaia geografia kafkazskoi Albanii", (Baku: Elm, 1988)

[20] Smith, Law, Wilson, Bohr, Allworth., "The Politics of National Identities", (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) ,.51.

[21]Robert Hewson, "Ethno-History and the Armenian Influence Upon the Caucasian Albanians", in Thomas J. Scumrelian, ed., Classical Armenian Culture: Influences and Creativity (Pennsylvania: Scholars Press, 1982) , 33.

[22] Michael Croissant ., "The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict", 12.

[23] Griboyedov A.S., "Zopiski o pereselenii armyan iz Persii v nashi oblasti", Soc. 2(2) Pravda, 1971.Cit.po sb: Istoriya Azerbaijana   (Baku: Elm,  1990), 56-59

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