Current Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict
The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republics and Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republics were Russian states within USSR. The present center of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh which was an autonomous oblast (Russian for administrative unit) within the borders of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. After the Soviet Union disintegration Armenia and Azerbaijan were recognized as independent countries and Nagorno-Karabakh, legally became part of the Azerbaijan sovereign territory. Hence international law recognises Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory – and the presence of Armenian military forces as occupation. After the dissolution of USSR, Armenia attacked and occupied the region, like India occupied Kashmir after British withdrawal in 1947. Azerbaijan has the right, under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, to act in self-defence. Interestingly the OSCE Minsk group, created in 1992 to resolve the conflict, co-chaired by US, Russia & France, has failed so far for the last 3 decades. Russia is a traditional ally of Armenians in this conflict, has a military base there and is a provider of weapons to them but also supplies weapons to Azerbaijan. As for France, with its Islamophobic President, has outrightly criticized Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan against illegal Armenian occupation. In order to understand the background of this conflict and why Russia backs Armenia and Turkey backs Azerbaijan, also a Turk nation, we need to delve into the history.
Historical Relations Between Turks & Armenians
The Armenians encountered the Muslim Turks when Seljuks defeated Byzantine Empire in 1071 CE in Battle of Malzikert, where Armenians fought alongside their Byzantine Lords. After the capture of their Kingdom by Seljuk Turks, one of the princes escaped to Cicilia, the Southern Anatolia (now Turkey) and established their Kingdom of Cicilia which became a strong ally of the European Crusaders. Under the Ottomans, the Armenians lived peacefully with the Turks for several centuries. After conquest of Istanbul (Constantinople) in the 15th century, Mehmed Al Fatih (r. 1444–46; 1451–81) established the office of the Patriarch for the Armenian Apostolic Church, the traditional church of the Armenians. The men holding that office asserted their spiritual authority over all the Armenians living in the empire. The Armenian Patriarch was authorized to manage internal working of their community such as administering the schools, clergy, family law, and even taxes for them. Under Ottomans they enjoyed the status of a Millet i.e. Religious Community, which gave them a sense of shared identity as it linked them with all Armenians living under the empire. The Armenian merchants thrived in 17th and 18th centuries and established communities in most of the cities of the Middle East and in places as far away as India, East Asia, and Europe. A large majority of the Armenians lived as peasant farmers in the mountain valleys of the eastern Ottoman Anatolia (modern Turkey) and in the western part of Safavid Empire in Iran. The Armenians lived in harmony with the Turks till the end of 18th century, when the Great power of Europe - France, Britain, Russia, Austria, began challenging the Ottoman Sovereignty.
Armenian Resettlement - Russian Geopolitical Strategy
In the 16th century Russia emerged as a political power and one of their imperial ambitions was to control the Caucuses. As a result of two wars with Persia (1804-1813, 1826-1828) and one with the Ottomans (1828-1829) Russia conquered the territory of South Caucasus which includes modern day Azerbaijan (then a Turkic Muslim Khanate). To maintain their control over the conquered territories, a project for resettlement of Christian communities was decided. The project came in to full swing with the aim to reduce and counterbalance the high Muslim population, whose loyalty as a conquered people will always be more with Caliph in Istanbul or the Persian Rulers rather than St. Petersburg. Thousands of Armenian families, settled in Ottoman and Persian empires, were brought in, with mediation of Russian Armenian and Orthodox Churches, through incentives and with high hopes of an independent state. An Armenian Oblast (state) was created in modern Armenia with its current capital at Yerevan. In the Russo-Ottoman war of 1828, thousands of Ottoman Armenians fought alongside Russia against their own state with the hope of having their own in the Russian occupied Ottoman territories. However, after the Treaty of Edirne (also called Treaty of Adrianople), this remained unfulfilled after Russia withdrew under the condition that Ottomans would allow Armenian resettlement to South Caucasus, hence Russia continued working on its own demographic change plan.
The Tanzimat Era
In order to be at par with the European impact, the Ottomans decided to introduce reforms in the 18th century called Tanzimat i.e. based on European model that would modernize the empire. In Ottoman history, the Tanzimat period refers to a time of Westernizing reforms from 1839 until 1876. It was a movement toward a European-style governing structure through the establishment of councils and ministries. The era was divided in to two periods: First Tanzimat period (1839–56) and the Second Tanzimat period (1856–76). Both were undertaken during the rule of Sultan Abdul Majid (r. 1839–61), strong advocate of European system and lifestyle. The reforms granted equality before the law to all Ottoman subjects regardless of religion or ethnicity giving extraordinary privileges to non-Muslims. Many of the reforms happened under significant political and diplomatic pressure of European powers. Somehow the ruling Ottoman circle started to believe that modernization through Western norms was the only viable model for success in the 19th century. But it is also true that a major aim of these reforms must have been to maintain loyalty of the millions of Christian subjects of the empire, who were being exploited by Great powers for geopolitical reasons.
Rise of Armenian Nationalism
In the late 18th century Armenians took advantage of the new imperial regulations governing millets (non-Muslim religious communities) in the Tanzimat period and introduced a national constitution for the Armenians in 1863. The constitution provided that the Armenian Patriarch was the chief executive of the millet but that he was to be elected by a general assembly, composed of both laymen and clergy. Armenian merchants and bankers, known as amiras, began to use their wealth to buy influence among Ottoman officials to place those sympathetic to their interests in the post of Armenian Patriarch. Further limiting his powers, the assembly could impeach the patriarch. The constitution also separated the spiritual affairs of the community from the temporal matters. Such reforms gradually minimized the patriarch’s influence over the Armenians, who held a special relationship with Ottoman rulership on behalf of the community for past 400 years. A nationalist and radical leadership became more influential among Armenians that gradually increased the wedge between Armenians & Ottomans which eventually led towards Armenian rebellions and bloodshed between their community and the Ottoman State. Some historians have seen this trend in local governance (initiated by Tanzimat Reforms) among the various religious communities including Armenians as contributing to the rise of nationalist sentiments. The children of the Armenians began educating separately from Muslims and primarily in the language of their community. They rejected Arabic and Turkish which their parents and ancestors spoke. They were also taught the separate history of their community and its culture. It is this separate education that many believe inspired the millets to see themselves as separate peoples.
The Hunchak & Dashnaks - The Nationalists Extremist Organizations
Justin A. McCarthy, an American demographer, professor of history at the University of Louisville, and an expert of late Ottoman History, says that the Turks and the Armenians have lived together for 800 years, with Armenians being Ottoman subjects for 400 years, and should never have become enemies to each other as they are today. His historical analysis is very important to keep in view, especially to comprehend the current regional conflict in the Caucasus between Armenia (military ally of Russia) and Azerbaijan (a Turkish nation and ally of Turkey).
In 1876, Russia invaded the empire with the specific goal of seizing the six provinces or “Six Vilayets” in the Eastern Anatolia of Ottoman Empire, where majority Armenians were concentrated. The six vilayets were Van, Erzurum, Mamuretülaziz, Bitlis, Diyarbekir and Sivas. 17% of their population was Armenian but majority 78% was still Muslims. After their failure to capture the Eastern Anatolian territory resulted in the Treaty of 1878, which raised the “Armenian Question” i.e. Russians and other European powers, Britain & France, demanding increased autonomy or independence for Armenians. McCarthy informs that it was not until the Russian Armenians began exporting their Marxist inspired nationalist ideology to local Christian Armenians of Eastern Anatolia that resulted in their armed struggle and militancy against the Ottoman state. The political and militant support for this nationalist mindset came from 2 parties, namely the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party, called the Hunchaks, founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1887 by Russian Armenian students. The second was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, called the Dashnaks, founded in Tiflis, Russian Empire, in 1890. Both parties carried the ambition to carve the six provinces out of Eastern Anatolia for their future Armenian state. These groups saw their opportunity after Ottomans lost Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria because of European interventions.
Hijacking Ottoman Armenians by Assassinations & Threats
However, the majority Armenians were not in favor of any radical ideology and did not wish the breakup of Ottoman empire, they wanted to continue living in the empire but with increased political autonomy and participation. Hence the only way to finally destroy the traditional loyalty of the Armenians to the Istanbul based Apostolic Church and the Ottoman State was to somehow bring the clergy and the influential merchant class under their control, which doing so would allow to spread their ideology among the community. To achieve their ambition, they committed assassinations of the influential clergy and merchants, and spread terror into their hearts that forced them into acceptance of their radical thought. Assassinations of famous merchants such as Bedros Kapamaciyan, the Mayor of Van, Armarak, the kaymakam of Gevash, Isahag Zhamharian, and others. The assassinations of Church leaders and clergy such as Armenian bishop of Van, Boghos, the attempt on Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul, Malachia Ormanian, and murder of Arsen, the priest of Akhtamar Church in Van, by Ishkhan, a Dashnak terrorist. This was in addition to the murders of loyal and brave Armenian police officers, one Armenian Chief of Police and Armenian advisors to the government. The aim of these revolutionaries was to turn the peaceful and co-existing Ottoman Armenians into rebels and this could only be achieved by committing terrorist activities against the state which would cause authorities to crack down on Armenians. The Ottoman reaction to Armenian provocations were reported by European newspaper as oppression against their subjects. The propaganda caused the European consuls to intervene on behalf of the arrested Armenian rebels and demand pardons from the Ottoman state. Such as pardoning killers of Sultan Abdul Hamid, the rebels of Zeytun, the Dashnak rebels that occupied Ottoman Bank, the Russian consul pressure to stop trial of Dashnak rebels etc.
Armenian Rebellions Before World War I
This radical mindset that spread among the Ottoman Armenians became the key for Russia during World War 1 to defeat Ottomans in the East Anatolia, where majority of Armenians were concentrated. As per unbiased historians, the war broke out in April 1915 but the Armenians were already planning several months before to desert the Ottomans in case of their defeat from Russia and also assist Russians in their attacks, which happened as planned. A massive armed rebellion was started long before the war broke out. Guerilla attacks of Dashnaks against Ottomans were taking place throughout the Eastern Anatolia, during 1914. It was after a series of attacks and rebellions and killing of hundreds of innocent Turk and Kurd Muslims, an Armenian effort to ethnically cleanse local Muslims from their territories. All of this paved the way for successful Russian invasion of East Anatolia in 1917. As a result, Ottomans ordered the deportation of Armenians (May 26-30, 1915) to Southern Anatolia or other parts of the empire. The Armenians claim that these deportations were a plan to commit Armenian genocide that led to deaths of 1.5 million Armenians, which has also been compared by some in the West and media with Jewish holocaust. This, however, is disputed as per Turkey, whose archive information claims that a total of 3 million people died between 1912 – 1922 which included Jews, Turks, Kurds and an estimated 300,000 – 600,000 Armenians. With the expansion of Russia into Crimea, Caucuses and Balkans, and loss of former Ottoman territories, resulted in persecution, displacement and eventual death of hundreds of thousands of Muslims from those territories, which is widely ignored when Armenian deaths during the same period are mentioned.
Historian Analysis on Armenian Deaths
Renown author and Historian Bernard Lewis denies the Armenian genocide claim and says that there is no authentic evidence that proves that Ottomans pre-planned a systematic genocide. He does, however, accept that Turks adopted ferocious methods to repel the terrorist attacks of the Armenian revolutionaries which led towards deaths of thousands at the hands of irregular Ottoman forces, local Turks and Kurdish villagers. But this was all a retaliation to the stab in back by Armenians for past several years and their collaboration with Russians. He claims that it would be absurd to compare Armenian deaths with Jewish holocaust because the Jews never committed a rebellion backed by foreign powers, against Nazi Germany yet majority of them were not spared. While Armenians in other parts of the empire where there were no rebellions were spared, the ones serving in the Ottoman state and forces were spared, and not all deportees were killed, many were spared. These exemptions did not occur in Jewish holocaust. Another renown British historian Norman Stone, states that Armenians in Izmir, Istanbul, Aleppo were spared is a major evidence against so called Armenian genocide. Many Armenian deaths were also due to starvation, diseases, poor weather conditions during deportations. Stone also claims that its well documented that many Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman officers in charge of deportation, but not to forget that the Turks themselves tried more than 1,300 men for the crimes in 1916, convicted many and executed several. Hence, none of this squares with systematic genocide theory. The main question would be, how many Russians and Armenians who killed Turks and Muslims were tried and convicted? None!
After lower house of the French parliament, passed a law defining the denial of an Armenian genocide as a crime, the lower house of the German parliament in 2016 also approved a non-binding resolution recognizing Armenian claims of "genocide". President Erdogan invited European politicians and international community, to jointly open the archives to settle the question about Armenian killings during 1915. "If available, you can also open your archives. Come and let us make a decision." Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia along with international experts to tackle the issue. It is an unfortunate reality that the Turkish Government has never received a positive response for all those invitations. It is because of this lack of response to Turkish proposals that Erdogan added "I know in my heart that the main point is not Armenians. They are just being manipulated. The Armenian issue is just blackmail against Turkey around the world. I want to let the world know: like it or not, we will never accept the 'genocide' accusation,"
 What is behind the Nagorno-Karabakh flare-up? And how can it be resolved? Al Jazeera News, Opinion, Robert M Cutler, 19 Oct 2020 https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/10/19/what-is-behind-the-nagorno-karabakh-flare-up/
 Encyclopedia of The Ottoman Empire, Gabor Agoston and Bruce Masters, Armenia, pg. 51, Armenian Apostolic Church, pg. 53
 THE RUSSIAN-SOVIET RESETTLEMENT POLICIES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS
FOR ETHNO-TERRITORIAL CONFLICTS IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS, By Farid Shafiyev, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario - https://curve.carleton.ca/system/files/etd/6f8fbd09-0bcb-4428-859e-42138ed25844/etd_pdf/cca6fb951143a6d272e32959b6d0a049/shafiyev-therussiansovietresettlementpoliciesandtheir.pdf
 Agoston & Masters, Tanzimat pg. 553
 Agoston & Masters, Armenian Apostolic Church pg. 54
 Armenian-Turkish Conflict, Speech given by Dr. Justin McCarthy at the Turkish Grand National Assembly March 24, 2005 http://homepages.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/Armenia/justin.html
 What happened in 1915 in eastern Anatolia? TRT World, Nov 9, 2019, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oGXENYEztM
 Summary Rebuttal of the Armenian Genocide Claim, National Press Club in Washington, DC 3/25/2002, C-SPAN, Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. https://armenians-1915.blogspot.com/2007/08/1900-video-prof-bernard-lewis-no.html
 Historian Norman Stone in the Chicago Tribune, Number 27 |October 17, 2007 "ARMENIAN STORY HAS ANOTHER SIDE" https://www.tc-america.org/issues-information/tca-issue-papers/armenian-story-has-another-side-301.htm
 Armenian issue exploited to blackmail Turkey, President Erdogan says, Daily Sabah, Istanbul, June 4, 2016, https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2016/06/04/armenian-issue-exploited-to-blackmail-turkey-president-erdogan-says