BREAKING: Conflict in the Caucasus. After decades of simmering tensions over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, fighting broke out in the Armenian region of Azerbaijan early today with reports of up to 30 soldiers killed with unknown amounts of civilians also perishing. Two helicopters and several tanks were also destroyed in the worst violence the region has witnessed since the 90’s.
While reports are unclear as to what sparked the violence, many seem to point to an advance by Azerbaijan’s military being stonewalled by Armenian forces in the area. Videos of tanks rolling through the streets of Nagorno-Karabakh have showered social media and pictures of an Azerbaijan helicopter have made the rounds.
— Haidar Sumeri (@IraqiSecurity) April 2, 2016
Armenia, a largely Orthodox Christian people, have been fighting for their survival for the past century following the Ottoman Empire’s attempts to ethnically cleanse them from their ancient homeland during World War I. Killing over a million and a half people, the Armenian genocide forced the Armenians too flee all over the globe to escape the brutality and created a survival at all costs mindset typical of any persecuted people.
After the genocide subsided, an restless peace has often typified the region’s various powers. Drawn under the Soviet cloak, the Nagorno-Karabakh region last saw this level of violence in the 1990’s after the collapse of the Red Empire. While Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, it is ethnically almost pure Armenian and a war was fought over this sliver of land once their Russian masters didn’t control the strings. Since an international ceasefire at the conclusion of that conflict, the zone has become semi-autonomous and runs it’s own affairs as part of Armenia.
While the reasoning behind the outbreak is still in question, one has to wonder how Russia is approaching this issue. As Russia retains close ties with both countries, there is little chance that anything gets resolved unless Russia steps in. With President Putin’s desire to increase Russia’s diminished influence in the region, Russia will no doubt be key in solving any disputes.