"For Azerbaijan the issue of Karabakh is a matter of ambition, for the Armenians of Karabakh it is a matter of life or death …"

(Academician Andrei Sakharov, Soviet human rights activist and Nobel Prize laureate)


"Our airplanes bombed Stepanakert every day for over 100 days in a row, but Armenians refused to vacate their houses ..."

(Excerpt from an interview with Lala Shovket Gadjieva, State Secretary of the Azerbaijani Republic, by Azerbaijani State Television, 26 August 1993. See the ruins of Nagorno Karabakh's cities of Stepanakert and Martuni after Azerbaijani aerial attacks)




Apartment  buildings in

Stepanakert destroyed by

Azerbaijan's BM-21 GRAD

surface-to-surface missiles,

ejected from the Azeri-held

town of Shushi (Shousha).


Photo by Onnik Krikorian

Click on picture to enlarge


NATO's campaign to halt Mr. Milosevic's repressions in Kosovo has resonated well beyond the Balkans. Now, after the ethnic cleansing campaign in Azerbaijan was defeated by Nagorno Karabakh's armed forces, some political circles in Baku, especially among the opposition parties, are desperately looking for external support. Those Azeri politicians, who still cherish the idea to retake Karabakh and expel its Armenian population, recently attempted to find ways of benefiting from NATO's new interventionism. Azeri nationalists believe that Azerbaijan's posture of a self-appointed NATO ally in the oil-rich Caspian and its strong ties with NATO member Turkey may one day lure NATO to become involved in the Karabakh conflict on the Azeri side.

Caught between its unwillingness to find a compromise solution to the conflict with Armenians and impotence to launch a new war against Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan tries to exploit today’s NATO's eastward expansion initiative. In the same fashion Azerbaijan exploited the anti-Armenian bias of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the early stages of the Karabakh conflict. The conservative elements of the central government in Moscow viewed the Karabakh anti-totalitarian movement as dangerously posed against the principles of the Communist regime and the so-called "Leninist policy on nationalities." They utilized Azeris as a suppressing force directed against democracy and liberalism, making a good use of the fact that the Azeris’ nationalistically warped quasi-Islamic identity is naturally opposed to the Western definition of human rights. In turn, Baku was more than happy to once again offer such services to its Kremlin overlords, reviving an earlier practice of the Russian Czar's secret police that repeatedly employed marauding mobs of Azeris to stifle liberal intentions in the southern provinces of the Russian Empire.[1]

Cooperation between the Kremlin's Communists and Baku by Spring of 1991 degenerated into the implementation of the notorious "Operation Ring," a military-political campaign aimed at ethnically cleansing Nagorno Karabakh of its native Armenians. This operation, which was carried out jointly by Soviet Army's paratroopers and the punitive units of Azerbaijani special operations police (OPON), was the most brutal attempt to find a Final Solution of the Karabakh question in the period immediately before the collapse of the USSR, when anti-democratic opposition to Mikhail Gorbachev was especially strong in the Kremlin. Disguised as a passport checking exercise, Operation Ring’s real purpose was to evict Armenians from twenty-four villages on the periphery of Nagorno Karabakh. It involved the arrest and detention of hundreds of Armenian men and the deportation of thousands Armenian families from their homes, utilizing violence and a systematic violation of human rights. Wherever resistance occurred, as in the town of Getashen (Chaikend), many civilians died under indiscriminate fire from Azeri death squads.[2]

See an image from the town of Arakel, razed to the ground by Azerbaijan's special police and Azeri nationalist gangs during Operation Ring  >> .


A photograph that shocked the world:

 an Armenian boy deadly wounded

as a result of Azerbaijani aerial

bombardment of Nagorno Karabakh's capital city of Stepanakert.

- Nagorno Karabakh, summer 1992 -

Click to enlarge

The progressive circles of Russian intelligentsia at the time vehemently protested against the Operation Ring, as it was viewed as a prelude to the crackdown of democratic movements across the USSR. Indeed, those Kremlin officials who masterminded the bloodbath in Nagorno Karabakh in May-June 1991, formed a clique and organized a coup in Moscow two months later, overthrowing the government of Mikhail Gorbachev.

The cynicism of Azerbaijan's attitudes toward NATO is that Baku fails to see the fundamental difference between the humanitarian nature of NATO’s Operation Allied Force and the Communist Moscow’s repressive actions against democratic Karabakh movement of the late 1980s. The similarity in the positions of Mr. Milosevic's Belgrade and Baku in this respect is striking too, as both erroneously view NATO as an unprincipled and irresponsible bully ready to take over the world. The difference is that while Mr. Milosevic and his crew lamented about NATO's actions, Baku tries to make itself a friend of NATO in order to include its own regional foes in the list of those to be "bullied" in the future.

The renewed calls of a number of important Azeri opposition leaders for creating a "Greater Azerbaijan from Sea to Sea" are virtually indistinguishable from President Milosevic's previous nationalist designs for Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to Azerbaijan's former President, former head of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party [APFP] and top presidential contender Abulfaz Elchibey, as soon as Azerbaijan significantly strengthens her ties with NATO, Baku should expand the territory of Azerbaijan, proceeding with the annexation of the Azeri-populated regions of the neighboring Islamic Republic of Iran and capture of the southeastern provinces of the Republic of Armenia.[3]

The explicit claims to the territories of Azerbaijan's neighbors are also part of the nationalist manifesto issued by the Office of the President of Azerbaijan in 1998 that was discussed earlier. Azeri accusations that Armenia is behind an "aggression" against their country are farcical and are employed to divert the attention of international public from Azerbaijan's own profound revisionist and expansionist designs.[4] Welcome to the sinister world of Azerbaijani nationalism, where interethnic life is defined by the zero-sum-game mentality, and where you are either a genocidal conqueror or an absolute looser — any third option is excluded ... 

" [in 1999] ... Azerbaijan ... served as a logistic hub for international mujahidin with ties to terrorist groups, some of whom supported the Chechen insurgency in Russia." 


The US Department of State: Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999

Baku views NATO as a vehicle of international legitimization of a possible new ethnic cleansing campaign of the Azerbaijani state against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh, should regional hostilities resume any time soon. The main opportunity for Baku to garner NATO assistance for Azeri parochial interests is a perceived flaw in NATO’s operation in the Balkans — the so-called “no-exit strategy.” In other words, some political circles in Baku hope in case NATO is pressured to engage in a proposed peace-enforcing or peace-keeping operation in the Caucasus, the logic of the “no-exit strategy” would quickly suck NATO deeper and deeper the into the conflict — even against NATO's own initial plans — and will snowball Alliance's actions, making them self-explanatory, self-justifying and strongly partisan, despite possible moral, political and material costs. And, as long as the imaginative and self-taught "Realpolitik strategists" in Baku speculate that NATO and Azerbaijan are similarly "fighting" against the Russian presence in the Southern Caucasus, some of them waxed insolent to the degree that began thinking that NATO will assist Azerbaijan in ousting ethnic Armenian civilians from Nagorno Karabakh in the same way the Soviet Army and KGB were aiding Azerbaijan in its ethnic cleansing operations in 1991. 

An eye-witness' account: see articles on the Karabakh conflict by Baroness Caroline Cox, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords of the British Parliament and human rights activist:





Azerbaijan's autocrats and oil-barons interpret US foreign policy's orientation toward realism and flexibility as readiness to be complicit to a conspiracy of silence about the attempted genocide against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. Treating Western politicians as brainwashable cash-greedy hypocrites, Azeri nationalists perhaps think that the revenues received from the export of Caspian oil will buy them a Western-endorsed license to kill with impunity and violate the territorial integrity of neighboring states.

Many analysts indicate that were it not for the Caspian oil factor, which has become a lobbying tool that Azeris have used in recent years, Azerbaijan would have been long placed in the category of human-rights-abusing autocracies and international outcasts, with Azeri politicians ending up in the International Court of Justice in the Hague for their crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Azerbaijan started the Karabakh conflict, then elevated tensions to the state of all-out war, then lost the war, and now is seeking to use the political resources of the West for re-launching its onslaught against neighboring nations. There is little doubt that among the losers in this game would be Western investors in the oil sector of Azerbaijan, whom Azeri politicians try to involve in their nationalist machinations. Once again — as it happened earlier, in 1918-1920 — the Azeris are using oil as a weapon for financing genocidal projects, aimed at wiping out the Christian communities of the South Caucasus, destroying their state units and expropriating both their lands and cultural heritage.


Keeping Azerbaijan's genocidal

instincts at bay: one of several

dozens of T-72M main battlefield

tanks of the Nagorno Karabakh

Defense Army (NKDA), captured

as trophies from Azerbaijani troops


Photo by Hrair H. Khatcherian


Meanwhile, with Azeris looking toward the West for help, posing as "friends," Baku expands its behind-the-scenes double-dealings with anti-West forces, as Azerbaijan has recently become a key link between the Islamic militants in Chechnya and Dagestan and chief terrorist structures worldwide. According to American experts, Azerbaijan provides weapons, transportation, intelligence and military personnel for terrorists who operate against Western interests in Europe and Russia.[5]

Indeed, through its vast contacts in the underworld of international terrorism, Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defense was actively recruiting mercenaries from Afghanistan and Pakistan and bringing them to fight against Karabakhi Armenians. Thus, in 1993-1994, Azeri recruiters invited up to 1,500 Afghani mercenaries to the Caucasus. Most of them belonged to Hezb-e-Islami's armed formations under the command of Afghanistan's warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The training centers the mercenaries were transported from are now sponsored by Osama bin Laden, one of the United States' chief terrorism suspects.

Despite the fact that hostilities in Nagorno Karabakh ended in 1994, Azerbaijan did not freeze its ties to terrorist groups but, on the contrary, vastly expanded them to become the region's top terrorism-aiding state. In late September 1999, Russian foreign minister officially notified and warned Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Moscow that under the disguise of humanitarian aid to Muslims, aid from a number of Azerbaijani funds and organizations turned out to be financial and other cooperation with Chechen and Dagestani extremists.[6]

The United States, on their part, are too concerned with Azerbaijan's involvement in the Middle East's terrorist games. The US Department of State in its guide Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999 indicated: " [in 1999] ... Azerbaijan ... served as a logistic hub for international mujahidin with ties to terrorist groups, some of whom supported the Chechen insurgency in Russia."

The polarization of regional countries during NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia is another factor that Azerbaijan's opportunistic opposition is trying to use as leverage against the Armenians of Karabakh. For example, a number of high-positioned Azeri agitators who travel extensively to the West — e.g. former presidential aide Vafa Guluzade — try to mislead the Western audience by cultivating pet theories about alleged Russian military assistance to Karabakhi Armenians in 1992-1994.


Azerbaijan's Terrorism


Picture: From 1991-1994, Azerbaijani

terrorist groups organized over 80

bomb attacks on the pipelines that

supplied natural gas to Armenia. Azeri

terrorism aimed at worsening earthquake-

ravaged Armenia's economic and

social conditions. The explosions mainly

took place in the Armenia-Georgia

border area peopled by ethnic Azeris.

Azeri-spread conspiracy speculations about the ubiquitous "evil hand of Moscow" point to attempts to find Azerbaijan's formula of survival in casting a new, artificially reconstructed Cold War situation in the Caucasus.[7] Bogus Moscow- and Tehran-inspired coup plots in Baku, various propaganda campaigns and periodical provocations on the Karabakh-Azerbaijan frontline, etc., are all used to augment mistrust between NATO countries, Russia, and other regional players in an effort to pit NATO and Russia against each other. In contrast, Armenia solves her security problems using the so-called “strategy of complementarity” i.e. policy that views NATO and Russia as partners in a new cooperative regime of regional security.

So far, American officials and the representatives of NATO have been rejecting Azerbaijan attempts to exploit the Kosovo precedent as out of hand. Addressing a meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on 28 June 1999, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, said "some hope, and others fear, that [Kosovo] will be a precedent for similar interventions [by NATO] around the globe. I would caution against any such sweeping conclusions." NATO's former Secretary General Javier Solana, on his part, voiced his opposition against NATO involvement in the Karabakh conflict. And, in July 1999, in the unprecedented sessions of the US Senate and Congress, American lawmakers, reflecting the will of the American people, again emphasized that Azerbaijan will not receive humanitarian aid from the US until it displays good will at the negotiation table, accepts the OSCE peace plans, as did Armenia and Karabakh, and lifts the blockade of Armenia and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.

[1] After the collapsed revolution of 1905, the Czarist secret police, suspecting Jews and Armenians behind the liberal agitation in Russia, used Cossacks and Azeri bazaar mobs, respectively, for instigating acts of mass hostility against both groups. The results of those policies were the massacres of Armenians in Baku and Nagorno Karabakh by Azeris (then called "Caucasian Tatars"), which, in turn, coincided with the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine, Bessarabia, and southern Russia. The massacres were repeated in September 1918, when the Ottoman Turkey expeditionary troops — the notorious "Army of Islam" captured Baku and assisted local Azeri marauders to kill and rape up to 30,000 Armenian inhabitants of the city. See a photograph depicting the condition of the city of Baku after the 1918 massacres of Armenians  >> .

As the American author and petroleum expert Daniel Yergin put it: "... Then the British withdrew and the Turks captured the city. In the maelstrom, the local Muslims, abetted by the Turks, once again — as in the revolutionary days of 1905 — began to pillage and destroy, in the process killing every Armenian they could find, even those lying in hospital ... " ( Excerpted from - Daniel Yergin. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power; Chapter 9: Baku  >>  ).

[2] Azerbaijan's ethnic cleansing operations in Nagorno Karabakh in 1991 were documented by the international Memorial human rights organization based in Russia ( as well as by the Geneva-headquartered Christian Solidarity Worldwide. See Memorial's report on the "Operation Ring;" it is available online from Memorial's website.


Blockade and Ethnic Cleansing:


Picture: A decade after the disaster,

homeless Armenian children of the

Earthquake Zone still play on the

wreckages of their destroyed houses.


The Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia,

initiated in July 1989 and reinforced

by Turkey in 1993, prevented

the reconstruction of Armenia's

north-western regions which suffered

from the 1988 earthquake. The Armenia

 earthquake of 1988 killed 25,000 people

and left every fifth Armenian homeless.

Click on picture to enlarge

See also the report about ethnic cleansing in Nagorno Karabakh by Christian Solidarity Worldwide human rights group: Caroline Cox and John Eibner. Ethnic Cleansing in Progress: War in Nagorno Karabakh. The report is available online at

[3] This passage was excerpted from the transcript of the ceremony devoted to the 10th anniversary of the creation of the People's Front of Azerbaijan Party [PFAP], held in the Shahriar club in Baku on 15 July 1999.

See also 1) interview with Abulfaz Elchibey in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 28 July 1999 (No. 136), in Russian; 2) Abulfaz Elchibey's address to the II (V) Congress [Kurultai] of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, 30-31 January 1998, "The Current Socio-Political Situation and the Tasks of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party." The full text of Elchibey's speech is available online.

In particular, Abulfaz Elchibey noted in his address:

"... The creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in North Azerbaijan by some of the Azeris on parts of Azerbaijani lands in 1918-1921, and its restoration as the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1991 does not mean that the Azerbaijan national liberation movement is over. The creation of an independent state in North Azerbaijan was a great victory of that movement and the beginning of new stage. This new stage will end with the creation and or restoration of a united Azerbaijani statehood. ... That is our answer to those, who say “we were unable to reclaim Karabakh, but you speak of putting our flag over Tabriz [capital of a province in northern Iran populated mainly by ethnic Azeris aut.]. ... If we want to free Karabakh, we must free Tabriz. ... You must see these correlations. … Already in the South [i.e. in Iran aut.] there are active organizations, whose sole purpose is the state independence of the Azeri Turks. The majority of political parties in the North [i.e. in the Azerbaijani Republic aut.] included in their programs the idea of a United Azerbaijan. The political organization of the movement organized the United Azerbaijan Community and various circles of Southern Azeri Turks are joining in …"

[4] The notion that aggressive irredentism and territorial expansionism has become the chief preoccupation of Azeri nationalists is best demonstrated by the legalization of the Azerbaijani Salvation Party (ASP; Azeri: Azerbaycan Qurtulush Partiyasi) in Azerbaijan in 1999. The primary and only political agenda of this organization, as specified in its manifesto, is the partition of the territory of neighboring Iran and annexation of its northern provinces by the Azerbaijani Republic. The party's president Mr. Eldar Garadagly noted: "The ASP has been set up because there is no northern or southern Azerbaijan, there is one united Azerbaijan." See, Najiba Mirzayeva. "Neither Right Wing Nor Left Wing But Radical Nationalist Party," Azadlyg. Baku, 3 July 1999 (in Azeri).

 " ... Azeri accusations that Armenia is behind an "aggression" against their country are employed to divert the attention of international public from Azerbaijan's own profound revisionist and expansionist designs toward Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran ..."

[5] See, Yossef Bodansky. “The New Azerbaijan Hub: how Islamist Operations are Targeting Russia, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.” Defense & Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy, section: The Caucasus, p. 6; See also "Bin Laden Among Islamists' Foreign Backers." Agence France Presse, report from Moscow, 19 September 1999.

See a report about Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Hezb-e-Islami's mercenaries recruited by Azerbaijan in The Muslim, 23 May1994.

[6] See “Russia Talks To Azeri Ambassador On Chechnya Link.” Reuters, report from Moscow, 28 September 1999.

[7] While there are rumors that Russian troops at the time have helped Abkhazians and Transdniestrian Slavs to fight against Georgia and Moldova, respectively, Russian assistance to Karabakhi Armenians is a myth. The trick that Guluzade and other Azeri provocateurs employ in this regard is ex-post analysis, a well known logical distortion when the events of the past are "explained" through the prism of recent unrelated developments, with causes and effects changing places. Thus, with a Russian-Armenian military cooperation agreement signed as late as in 1997, Guluzade stretches its implications backward, to 1992. There is no record or facts that may prove that any Russian-Armenian military cooperation was in place prior to 1995 or/and that any Russian-Karabakhi military interactions ever existed. The ex-post tricks of Azeri propagandists are designed to entrap the vigilance of a limited pool of gullible Westerners, who still maintain strong Cold War era anti-Russian biases.