Pliny the Elder went to the Caspian sea and defined it as a sea as its water was salty. Romans went much beyond, but what we call now central Asia was not so successful for them. Basically, besides the harsh resistance of the region of Pontus, ancient Romans controlled the Caucasus region. Nowadays I wouldn’t find so much of Roman brief period, having Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Russia languages and alphabets of their own. In fact in XIX century Russia took control of that part and it is still now the key player (with exception of Turkey, NATO member).
Yet, I may bet that almost none in Europe could say what Nagorno Karabakh is. Actually it could be one of those questions in the Millionaire quiz: 1.000.000€ worth… Few people know about Armenia, its ancient Church, and the genocide upon which I already posted. Perhaps more people know now about Azerbaijan, the “land of fire” described, if I remember well, by Marco Polo too. Land of fire, more pragmatically, recalls the gas pipelines (passing not from Russia, neither Armenia!). Azerbaijan is advertised as a touristic destination, even though fares are not cheap with the following motto: “European charm of the Orient” (long short). A nice move, but not completely clear as its identity. Is Azerbaijan in Europe or is already Asia? Baku is of course famous as a city, and to have clearly written “Azerbaijan” on the jerseys of Atlético Madrid football club is by far more effective to let people realize this presence. Azerbaijan is very active in sport events and maybe in 2016 they will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. It will not the Azerbaijani Grand Prix, it will be the European Gran Prix, previously held in Spain, Germany and UK as a jolly extra destination in Europe apart Luxembourg, San Marino and Monaco. All that is very cool.
If you look at the political map of this region, you might be curious about a landlocked spot by the side of Armenia and bordering Turkey, that is landlocked as well. That is an Azerbaijan’s exclave, but it is not the Nagorno Karabakh (it is Naxçivan). Nagorno Karabakh is close to Armenia and populated mostly by Armenian, but it is legally Azerbaijan. Its claimed but not recognized flag is basically the Armenian, with a “pixel style” detachment that should signify traditional carpet. I frankly see in it the aim to rejoin Armenia as an exclave if not more. As Tiziano Terzani explained in his book “Goodnight Mister Lenin” written in the aftermath of the fall of USSR, that place is matter of complaints by both Armenian and Azerbaijan States. Both populations have been concerned since early 90s.
This problem, according to Tiziano Terzani reports, was consciously created by Iosip Stalin in person, a man who knew well the region, being born in contemporary Georgia. Actually he created a latent casus belli, and I would guess that he knew what he was doing.
In 2011, even though the invasion of Georgia was still recent (2008, during Olympic games in 中国 北京, what a nice engagement on the Olympic spirit… ), it looked that these two countries could meet some agreements. The war over there was not only cold war style, was even a low profile with few casualties. Today, 2015, casualties shot up. If a remote corner of world, having no particular strategic importance (with all my respect, Crimea is more strategic than Nagorno Karabakh) has this increase of temperature from cold to at least lukewarm, there a meaning outside that place.
After this brief exposition of facts, my point.
My explanation of the phenomenon is that both countries don’t recognize anymore Russia as a possible strong referee. This prolonged phase of isolation of Russia may let loose its few allies: Belarus, that is embodying the role of the neutral country; and Armenia. In the meanwhile, international community most likely will witness this breeding ground with the strong intention to do nothing but publish few news.
I’m not happy about that, really (because I’m thinking about the humanitarian consequences), but it looks that Russia’s pax is severely threatened, if not on the brink of been lost forever.
The arduous Caucasian nature praised by poets is again now scratched by human conflicting interests.