Echoes of History: The Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict and the Specter of Ethnic Cleansing

Feb 12 2024
Momen Zellmi
In a recent speech, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stirred controversy by alluding to the specter of ethnic cleansing in Garabagh. However, the roots of this conflict trace back to the 1960s, when the Soviet Armenian KGB orchestrated an operation that set the stage for the displacement of Azerbaijanis and Kurds from Soviet Armenia and Garabagh between 1987 and 1988.

The Garabagh conflict was not a spontaneous eruption of violence but the culmination of a calculated strategy. The expulsion of Azerbaijanis and Kurds from Soviet Armenia and Garabagh in the late 1980s marked a dark chapter in the region's history. Today, the irony is palpable as Armenians level accusations of ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijan, even as over 30,000 Armenians reside in Azerbaijan without fear of expulsion.

Pashinyan's claims of Azerbaijan's reluctance to commit to a peace treaty also warrant scrutiny. Armenia has been bolstering its defense budget and acquiring advanced weaponry, suggesting preparations for a new conflict. The question lingers: Is Armenia genuinely committed to peace, or is it gearing up for another confrontation?

The Armenian Genocide, which occurred during the final years of the Ottoman Empire, resulted in the death or forced removal of the local Armenian population from Eastern Anatolia, a region once part of historic Armenia. This tragic chapter in history has left an indelible mark on the Armenian consciousness.


In the aftermath of the genocide, Armenian toponyms in the region were systematically erased, replaced with Turkish names. This act of cultural erasure further exacerbated the Armenian community's sense of loss and displacement. The term 'Eastern Anatolia,' now commonly used to refer to this region, has been criticized by some as an ahistorical imposition that obscures the Armenian presence.

The Nagorno Karabakh conflict, an ethnic and territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, reached a critical juncture in September 2023. Azerbaijan launched a military offensive in the disputed region, resulting in its surrender and the disbandment of its armed forces. The predominantly ethnic Armenian population faced threats of ethnic cleansing, leading to the displacement of approximately 100,400 individuals.

This mass exodus has been condemned by international experts as a potential war crime or crime against humanity. The deaths of 64 civilians while fleeing to Armenia underscore the gravity of the situation. Despite Azerbaijan's assurances of safe reintegration, concerns persist due to its history of authoritarianism and repression of the Armenian population.

As the world watches the unfolding drama in the Caucasus, the echoes of history continue to resonate. The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, steeped in a complex tapestry of historical grievances and contemporary power dynamics, defies easy solutions. The path to peace remains elusive, shrouded in the mists of myth and memory.

In the end, the Armenian Prime Minister's recent speech serves as a reminder of the enduring power of narratives in shaping perceptions and fueling conflicts. As the international community grapples with the challenges of fostering peace in the region, it must navigate the treacherous terrain of historical memory and contemporary geopolitics.

The future of the Caucasus hangs in the balance, suspended between the weight of the past and the promise of a more peaceful tomorrow.