Yesterday was the end of the NATO excersizes in Armenia. Except for seeing some guys on the street once in a while who are clearly not Armenian, and from their age/haircuts giving away their military backgrounds, not much else was seen or heard of this. Azerbaijan chose not to attend the excersizes in Armenia, but next year it seems the excersizes will be held in Azerbaijan, and they have no choice but to allow the Armenians to attend. The Armenians have already said that they intend to :-) Interestingly, someone returning from Azerbaijan this week as a tourist was telling me how high Karabakh is on the Azeri conciousness. How much it is talked about and discussed in the news. For the life of me, I don't know what they want with it, unless they plan on emptying it of Armenians. Otherwise, what use is it to them? All it amounts to is a headache. I would really love to travel to Azerbaijan and talk to people and find out what they are thinking. I have had one decent email exchange with an Azeri that simply stopped when I asked him a few questions about why he thinks Karabakh should be ruled by Azerbaijan. I can't find the last message I sent him, which I wanted to include a part of to show the sorts of things I asked. I made sure too that it was clear I was not trying to be antagonistic, not trying to "win" any arguement, simply was interested in his point of view, and sharing mine. Anyway, he never answered.
The history of the Southern tip of Karabakh and Nakhichevan is interesting in how it somewhat parrallels the history of Jews and Israel. These historically Armenian areas were emptied of Armenians completely by the Persian Shah Abbas I, who was afraid the Ottoman Turks would take the lands and all of the industrious Armenians with it. So he forcibly moved all the Armenians from those lands, including the incredibly rich towns of Jugha and Agulis, to Persia proper in 1605, many of them to Isfahan. In Isfahan there is a whole neighborhood named Nor Julfa, where the Shah even built an Armenian church (in a rather Islamic style) for the new imports in what may be the only case of a Muslim ruler building a church in history. So meanwhile, Turkified Albanians, who today are called Azeris, slowly moved into those areas, while the Armenians were kept out. Eventually when the Russians took over this area of the Caucasus, and Armenians were allowed to move back, many did. This accounts for a rather mixed population, which was heavier on Armenians in some places, and heavier in Azeris in others. Nakhichevan for example when it became part of the USSR was about 50/50. During Soviet rule, policies in Azerbaijan led to depopulation of Armenians (Nakhichevan for all practical purposes had no Armenians left by the collapse of the USSR), and in Armenia, Azeris were moved out by Stalin to make room for repatriating Armenians, there was no Soviet Armenian government discrimination that I have read of. Of course back in the early 1800's, none of this mattered much since there was no such thing really as nationalism, and the ethnicities did not intermarry much. Now, with nation-states, things have become an ethnic disaster. So anyway, I was just reminded of this bit of history when I mentioned Azeri claims and wanted to share it since it is so interesting. Today's Karabakh does not share this history however, since it was not part of this whole depopulation/repopulation. It was too far north.
So now I am heading to the massive Hin Erivan restaurant, which I have not been to yet and is actually the NEW Hin Erivan, since the first one was demolished last year and this is the replacement.