Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Ethnocentric attitudes encouraging negative stereotypes

It has thoroughly been identified that the sociocultural layers need to be resolved for Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate. Presently, both countries are engaged in deriding one another that is supported by the negative perceptions held by them, ones built up due to the hate spread through media and government.

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After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is de facto controlled by the Armenian population. During the 1990s, nearly one million people were displaced and 30,000 were killed during the war. Azerbaijan and Armenia have long since contested over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been declared a separatist territory after the peace treaty signed in 1994 between the two countries.

After the earnest appeals for ceasefire made by France, Russia and USA, Armenia said that it was willing to halt the fighting in order to establish compliance as per the 1994-1995 agreements.

Read more: Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict: There’s more to it than meets the eye

Despite being recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the Armenian ethnic group allegedly controls Nagorno-Karabakh because it comprises mostly of Armenians. Earlier, on 27th September 2020, the war between the two former Soviet countries once again erupted, leaving 23 martyred. The three-decade unresolved dispute poses a threat in the disturbance of markets, since the South Caucasus is the corridor for pipelines carrying oil and natural gas from the Caspian sea to the rest of the world.

Current situation of the conflict 

While others may encourage talks about peace and negotiation, heavy weaponry has reportedly been used by the two on the line of contact that both claim to have authority over the other. While Russia has very strong relations with Armenia, Turkey supports Azerbaijan primarily because of its rivalry with Armenia. Archrivals Pakistan and India are also divided in their support. Pakistan supports Azerbaijan and has built a strategic alliance with the country, while India is much closer to Armenia than it is with Azerbaijan. After the earnest appeals for ceasefire made by France, Russia and USA, Armenia said that it was willing to halt the fighting in order to establish compliance as per the 1994-1995 agreements.

Nearly 900 villages were looted, 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and about 20% of Azerbaijan territory was occupied by Armenian forces.

Read more: Missiles hit Azerbaijan after shelling of Armenia capital

Resonating on the previous clash settlements, this one is believed to be unstoppable. Both countries have engaged in missile attacks and bombardments for the first time since the 1990s and this one has seemingly brought havoc, sending ripples to other regions as well. According to sources, the risk of war may result in the intervention of an outside power and can thus, become a foundation of regional disequilibrium.

Economic impacts 

Over the years, Armenia’s aggressive policies have caused immense destruction in Azerbaijan. Nearly 900 villages were looted, 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and about 20% of Azerbaijan territory was occupied by Armenian forces. From the year 1989 to 1994, Azerbaijan faced considerable loss to its GDP as well as a reduction in agrarian activities, accompanied by the seized 25% forested areas that were later used by Armenians for their economic gain. Additionally, the irrigation system was destroyed in Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving five regions of Azerbaijan in turmoil. However, Azerbaijan was able to offset the damage with its oil resources.

International actors involved with the conflict

International mediators scheduled a meeting to resolve the matter, in response to which France accuses Turkey of military involvement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey stays firm on its stance, stating that the resolution will only take place when there is a sustainable ceasefire. On the other end, Putin denied the granting of defense to Armenia, stating that it was Azerbaijan’s territory and not Armenia’s.

When Armenia and Azerbaijan were still under the Soviet Union, atheistic values never intervened with the way the territories were functioning

Read more: Azad Kashmir assembly condemns Armenia attacks on Azerbaijan

The terror of war and constant shelling in the Nagorno-Karabakh region has led to the displacement of over 75,000 people — almost 50% of the population — and the rise in death toll since 27th September. Both states engaged in accusations of the other violating their territories minutes after the truce talks in Moscow. Azerbaijan, believing it to have a chance to gain an upper hand, wishes to strike while the iron is hot.

An anthropological perspective 

It is important to understand that the conflict is not limited to that of a territorial dispute. After much consideration and ethnological studies, it has thus been concluded that the prejudice and hatred that exists amongst the two regions is because of several reasons. To comprehend the barriers that hinder the process of reconciliation amid these two regions, it is vital to observe the differences with respect to values of the culture, history, norms, religion, socio-economic development, ethnicity, and the ethnocentric approach towards one another.

When Armenia and Azerbaijan were still under the Soviet Union, atheistic values never intervened with the way the territories were functioning. Now, however, there exists a constant rift since Armenia is a Christian state while Azerbaijan is a Shia Muslim state. Additionally, Armenians associate Azeri people with Turks, and this is another reason for their dislike towards Azeris.

The trend of migration amongst the Azeri group escalated between the years 1959 to 1979 and there was a conspicuous change in statistics that would possibly lead to the disappearance in the Armenian population

Another possibility could be due to the socio-economic development; the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh region must grapple with the lower standards of living, the climate, low economy from agriculture, higher costs of building roads, et cetera. Since most of the population of the disputed region is that of Armenians, they remain dissatisfied and draw out comparisons with Armenia.

Read more: Armenia, Azerbaijan agree ceasefire, start of ‘substantive’ talks

The third reason may possibly be the demography. Armenians in rural regions of Nagorno-Karabakh have been more populated from 1926-1979. However, over the years, they have decreased in numbers and in reaction to this decline, Armenians fear losing their status and leadership in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. After the Soviet government drew boundaries and declared Nagorno-Karabakh as an autonomous region, the ethnic populations at that time comprised of 94.4% Armenians and 5.6% Azeris.

The trend of migration amongst the Azeri group escalated between the years 1959 to 1979 and there was a conspicuous change in statistics that would possibly lead to the disappearance in the Armenian population. The concept of ‘native land’ and having to give it up to a foreign group can create a lot of issues for many states.

As for the Armenians, it entirely revolves around two most essential motives: its geostrategic location and ethnic dominance. Since the region was predominantly comprised of Armenians, it created distress to the extent that Armenians started to believe that they could lose their future chances of uniting the region as part of their territory.

Read more: Pompeo voices sympathy for Armenia, hopes country will ‘defend’ itself against Azerbaijan

However, the most important aspect of viewing the conflict is from the ideological conditions and ethnic identification. Since both regions have different beliefs, their ideology would clearly differ in the sense that each group struggles to safeguard its own identity. Each group has its own views, either influenced by religion or culture.

Cultural prejudice and disdain will always remain because both believe their respective culture to be superior and refuse to build perception through direct contact.

During the Soviet rule, the concept of ethnic self-consciousness readily lost its foundation to the then endorsed official ideology. The purpose was to persuade individuals to identify themselves as soviet people before being recognized by their group. Thus, the concept of nationalism in the contemporary era emerged anew, to restore the gap from being able to recognize oneself from their own ethnic group. Moreover, the political culture, too, plays a vital role in encouraging ethnic relations.

Lastly, cultural difference is yet another factor that may occasion tensions between the two states. It has much to do with the psyche of individuals along with the normative differences, the traditions, the language, the difference in food, clothing — everything, as a matter of fact, can create differences. Cultural prejudice and disdain will always remain because both believe their respective culture to be superior and refuse to build perception through direct contact.

Conclusion

The very essence of the article is to generate an understanding of the multifaceted dimensions of the conflict. It has thoroughly been identified that the sociocultural layers need to be resolved for Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate. Presently, both countries are engaged in deriding one another that is supported by the negative perceptions held by them, ones built up due to the hate spread through media and government. Moreover, it has been identified that disparaging and ethnocentric attitudes encourage negative stereotypes and thus results in a conflict.

Read more: Putin invites Armenia, Azerbaijan foreign ministers for peace talks

Arfah completed her bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Bahria University, Islamabad with a major in anthropology. She looks forward to writing/publishing research papers addressing issues of minorities living in Pakistan. She also enjoys writing poetry.  


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