Why do the Azerbaijanis call themselves Turks

Great wars were once followed by epidemics, the medieval plague, and later usually tuberculosis. In a forgotten part of the world, a pandemic has now been followed by a war: in Armenia, the doctors moved to the front, and those infected with Covid-19 died within their four walls without a shot because the hospitals no longer had room for the wounded who had many pandemic patients.

Perhaps the Armenians should have talked more about this disaster within the disaster, then the world might have been interested in the conflict in the Caucasus earlier. But the story is complicated, and who knows where Nagorno-Karabakh, the "Mountain of the Black Garden", is?

This is how it works with conflicts that have been frozen for decades, one forgets them. Only the people who are, or once were, the conflict zone do not forget. Especially when a new trauma meets an old one whose wound has never been healed.

Franz Werfel called the columns "wandering concentration camps"

There is a major catastrophe for the Armenians. It is connected to the year 1915, when the decayed Ottoman Empire in the shadow of the First World War sent the Armenians from Anatolia on death marches. At that time there were Armenian rebels who relied on Russia, the enemy of the war, but that does not explain the mass deportations. There are said to have been more than a million deaths. The survivors reached the Syrian desert, where they received hunger and disease.

The contemporary witness and writer Franz Werfel called the columns of misery in his novel "The 40 Days of Musa Dagh" as "wandering concentration camps". That was prophetic. "Who is still talking about the extermination of the Armenians today?" Asked Hitler in 1939, as if his monstrous crimes could also be forgotten.

The Turkish Republic, founded in 1923, does not deny the expulsions, but to this day it does not want to call the primal tragedy of the Armenians genocide. If she did, she would begin to free herself from a historical burden. And it would help heal the wound over time. But now Ankara has revived old fears with the one-sided, almost intoxicating partisanship for the Armenian war opponent Azerbaijan. This will make it even more difficult to close the wound in the future.

One was already further: in 2008, the current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was Prime Minister, the arch enemies approached, they talked about historians commissions, signed protocols. In Kars and Gyumri, the border towns, hope for trade and change grew. Armenia in particular longed for it. Even then, people there feared their other neighbors, the highly armed gas and oil state of Azerbaijan.

This has to do with the second fundamental conflict of the Armenians, that of the Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh. It has been unsolved for so long that there was no way out. The Armenian-Turkish spring ended quickly ten years ago. The border remained closed, the railway lines cut.

And whenever there is a fight for Nagorno-Karabakh - as is now the case in the 44-day war - the memory of 1915 is part of the Armenian narrative, even if more than a hundred years have passed. Many Armenians then simply call the Azerbaijanis "Turks". The old fears can also be used for propaganda purposes because the wound is still open.

But others have also torn apart the map of the South Caucasus. In 1921, Josef Stalin, People's Commissar for Nationality Issues in the young USSR, ensured that Karabakh was added to the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, although the majority of the population was Armenians. The motto was: Divide and rule! Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Karabakh declared its independence in 1988, and Armenian troops later occupied a fifth of Azerbaijan.

The suffering of that time cannot be adequately described with numbers: 580,000 Muslim Azerbaijanis were expelled from the war region. And 400,000 Armenians, who lived as a Christian minority in Azerbaijan, had to leave their homeland. Baku was also once a multi-ethnic metropolis.

The Jew Werfel put the sentence in the mouth of a Muslim in his novel: "Nationalism, the disease of Europe, fills the empty space that Allah leaves behind when he is driven from the heart."

Erdoğan can be grateful to Putin

Now that Baku's troops had recaptured the city of Shusha, Russia forced an armistice. Schuscha is 1500 meters high. Stepanakert, the capital of the "Artsakh Republic", as the Armenians call Karabakh, can be seen there as if on a plate.

The Turkish Commander-in-Chief Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can be grateful to Vladimir Putin for his stop signal. For if Azerbaijani soldiers equipped by Turkey had massacred Armenians in Stepanakert, how could Erdoğan have explained this to the world? Turkey is still a member of NATO and, by its own admission, wants to stay that way.

For Armenia, the forced ceasefire is bitter. He brings Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan into dire straits. A velvet revolution only took him into office in 2018. The old power clique was closely associated with political hardliners from Karabakh. She played the national card, behind which the corruption that Pashinyan fights flourished. He promotes the IT industry, and women in conservative Armenia. The young generation likes that. He wants more independence from Moscow. Putin would probably have nothing against the overthrow of the rose revolutionary.

Three million people live in Armenia, at least as many Armenians are scattered around the world - this, too, is the result of a long history of persecution. In the past, many even rushed from the diaspora to the front when they were called on. Now the pandemic has prevented that - and perhaps even saved lives.