And if not for Karabakh: on the borders between the republics of Transcaucasia

Who laid these borders between the republics of the Caucasus

The current aggravation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is due not only and not so much to the factor of Nagorno-Karabakh. After the world and civil wars and revolutions, after Russia itself and its Transcaucasian neighbors were balancing on the brink of disintegration or transition to a semi-colonial state, the centuries-old interethnic and inter-confessional strife between Armenians and Azerbaijanis did not go anywhere.

It was harshly, although not always successful, suppressed by Persia, the Russian and Ottoman empires. But this discord gave a minimum of chances for the settlement of the mutual borders of the two newly formed mono-national republics: Armenian and Azerbaijan. At first they were part of the Transcaucasian Federation - not a very successful local analogue of the RSFSR, but they became full-fledged allies within the USSR. Then they got their very intricate boundaries.

It is significant that long before the well-known conflict that grew into a full-scale war, these borders did not suit both sides. And they did not suit initially. It just seemed that the Armenian-Azerbaijani borders at the turn of the 20s and 30s were finally and irrevocably established.

The republican authorities from Baku and Yerevan periodically demanded to change the corresponding decisions of the Soviet All-Russian Central Executive Committee in their favor, but for a long time in vain. However, in the end, the leadership of the Azerbaijan SSR, incomparably more influential in Moscow than the Armenian competitors, achieved the demarcation of mutual borders. And in its course, Baku has achieved a lot.

What did Baku seek and achieve?

First, the fact that the territory of Azerbaijan in several places was deeply wedged into the territory of Armenia. At the same time, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, included in the Azerbaijan SSR, where the Armenian population always predominated, was demonstratively separated from Armenia by the "Lachin corridor" 15-40 km wide. This very corridor was occupied by the Armenian troops in the early 90s.

Secondly, it was near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in Armenia that three regions - exclaves belonging to Azerbaijan - were created. Moreover, one of these regions is located only 30 km from Yerevan, that is, between the Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan and the capital of Armenia. And this ASSR was also created within the Armenian SSR, therefore the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan is actually the largest exclave inside Armenia.

Armenia, on the other hand, bargained for itself only one such exclave - Artsvashen (Azerbaijani Bashkend) near the border of Azerbaijan with Armenia. It is also characteristic that this Armenian exclave and two of the three Azerbaijani exclaves are located in the adjacent north-western region of Azerbaijan (Artsvashen) and the north-eastern region of Armenia.

Naturally, such "bizarre" mutual borders and belonging of those exclaves were often disputed by Armenians and Azerbaijanis during the Soviet period. First of all, Baku and Yerevan proposed to "align" the borders in such a way that those national exclaves would become part of the territories of Azerbaijan and Armenia, respectively.

Moreover, in Armenia, they periodically claimed a large part of the neighboring Touz region of Azerbaijan (more precisely, for its connection with the Artsvashen exclave), where a military conflict has now unfolded, as well as the northern region of the Nakhichevan ASSR (Norashen region) in order to "move" the border with Azerbaijan from Of Yerevan.

Azerbaijan adequately "responded" with claims to the entire eastern shore of the Armenian Lake Sevan. And even to the southern Armenian region - Meghri-Kafan region, which is located between the Nakhichevan ASSR of Azerbaijan and the rest of the territory of the Azerbaijan SSR. In this case, the entire Soviet-Iranian border in Transcaucasia would be on the territory of Azerbaijan.

And the Kremlin was in no hurry

Moscow, for obvious reasons, did not dare to change these boundaries. But the old disputes escalated sharply after 1991, and by the mid-90s the aforementioned exclaves were abolished by Armenia and Azerbaijan. So, such a long military-political conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is caused not only by Nagorno-Karabakh.

As for the Azeri affiliation of the Nakhichevan region, one cannot but recall the Treaty of Kars, signed on October 13, 1921 by the Armenian, Azerbaijan, Georgian SSR and the RSFSR with Turkey. It is valid indefinitely and provides in Article 5 that:

"The Turkish government and the Soviet governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia agree that the Nakhichevan region, within the boundaries specified in Appendix 3 of this agreement, forms an autonomous territory under the auspices of Azerbaijan." As you know, this decision was an integral, if not the most important part of the then Soviet policy of concessions towards Kemalist Turkey. The authorities of which initially supported the territorial appetites for Armenia on the part of even Soviet Azerbaijan. "

Meanwhile, at the turn of the 40s and 50s of the last century, through the efforts of the then head of Azerbaijan M.D.Bagirov (see. I was once given a Russian name here.) in the republic, an extensive network of pan-Turkist agents was destroyed. But soon after the execution of Bagirov (1956), personally initiated by N.S. Khrushchev, almost all the "victims", the surviving Pan-Turkists, were rehabilitated and began to receive positions in the middle and top echelons of the leadership of Azerbaijan.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that Ankara's position with Azerbaijan's direct support remains to this day. As noted by the authors of the French "Figaro" on July 17 this year,

“Turkey has always taken a hostile position towards Armenia and maintained close ties with Azerbaijan, which shares the same linguistic roots and religion with it.
Be that as it may, Ankara has, first of all, its own territorial claims, not only in the Transcaucasus, which go back to Ottoman times, but today are kindled by President Erdogan. The current battles refer to the context of increasing aggressiveness in Turkey and, in particular, Erdogan, who wants to return to the imperial past. "

At the same time, "Azerbaijan's defense spending exceeds the total budget of Armenia." As for the border disputes between Yerevan and Baku, “these conflicts were frozen for 80 years under Soviet rule, but nothing was settled.

Judging by Turkey's unequivocal support for Azerbaijan and in the current Touz conflict, it is reasonable to assume that, taking into account Figaro's sober assessments, Ankara will provide Baku with at least political support if this conflict continues.