The "Caucasian Knot..." is undisputedly the most objective and thorough analysis of history and politics of one of the most significant parts of larger Armenian homeland-Artsakh-known today as Nagorno-Karabagh. This amazing work offers tremendous detail and insight and is a terrific effort by talented historians and political scientists. I found the book informative, colorful, and convincing. The Christian people of this tiny region, before they won independence in 1991, were in struggle for freedom with Azerbaijani Turks, (Azerbaijanis, Azeris, or Caucasian Tartars), the descendants of nomadic Moslem migrants from Central Asian steppes. Azerbaijani chauvinists, violent and racist as they are, denied political and cultural rights of Azerbaijan's Christian minorities and in 1987 spearheaded the policies of "ethnic cleansing," thus producing blueprints of violence lately put to work in the Balkans.
Not surprising, this book continues to enrage Azerbaijani nationalists, as it masterfully deconstructs their genocidal fantasies and exposes their goals: to grab the lands of their Christian as well as Persian-speaking neighbors, "expropriate" their cultural legacies, and then evict them from their own lands. As it is widely known, Azerbaijani pastoral tribesmen did not exist as a nation and even as a single ethnic group before 1920s, with their Soviet-crafted "statehood" being an unfortunate yet dangerous side-effect of the 19th century Caspian oil boom. Envious to the ancient cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus and Iran-Armenians, Georgians and Persians-and driven by a desire to justify their ever growing territorial ambitions, Azerbaijanis recently embarked on a project to enrich their thin historical record, either by manufacturing it from scratch or by producing bizarre tales and myths which, understandably, quickly become anecdotes in western scholarly circles.
However, there exist objective reasons for Azerbaijani historical revisionism. The book shows how young Azerbaijani nationalism replicates the path once walked by its ethnic kin, Turkish nationalism. In 1920s and 1930s the Turks tried to "prove" that all world languages derived from Turkish (it was the so-called "Sun Theory of Languages," a schizophrenically funny Kemalist project) and that the ancient Trojans and Hittites, for example, were all, in fact, "proto-Turks." In the similar fashion, Azerbaijanis, who treat Turkey as a model of their nation-building, try today to "prove" that all historical, cultural, and architectural monuments found on the territory of today's Azerbaijan were created not by the indigenous settled Christians or Zoroastrians of the Caspian, centuries ago before the first Turkic herdsman put his foot on the land of the Caucasus (together with his sheep), but by Azerbaijanis themselves.
The authors of the book vividly demonstrate how the myth about the "Caucasian Albanians" (or correctly speaking, Aghvanians, a mysterious Christianized people, extinct by the 7th century), were conveniently used to deny the political and cultural rights of native Armenians of the region. The putative "Albanian" homeland was "stretched" by the imaginative Azerbaijani map-makers far, far westward to include contemporary Nagorno-Karabagh, with Armenian architectural monuments declared as "Albanian." Despite the vigorous protests of local population, 75 churches and monasteries, whose Armenian roots were especially difficult to deny as their walls were covered by Armenian engraved texts, were blown up or otherwise demolished by Azerbaijani KGB troops, between 1954-1991. Priests and monks were imprisoned or killed right on site. (Fortunately, 850 more churches in Nagorno-Karabagh survived the ordeal and the stone-borne Armenian texts are still there, telling the stories of glory and pride).
The authors of the "Caucasian Knot..." demonstrate that according to the 18th century Azerbaijani chronologists, nomadic Turkic tribes from Iran were settled in the mountainous part of Karabagh only in the late 18th century, not constituting even 5% of its population both in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of these chronologists is Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi, whose book "History of Karabagh" (Tarikh-E Qarabagh) is available at AMAZON.COM. Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi's text proves that the Armenians solely inhabited western Azerbaijan-west to the Kura (or Kur) river-from pre-Christian times and, thus, constituted an absolute demographic majority in Karabagh's mountainous part by mid-XVIII century. However, the Azerbaijani nationalists are so deeply entranced by their own myth-production, they have little idea what their own historians have to tell them!
The violent game of the revisionists seems to be close to its end. Due to the absurd nature of their claims, Azerbaijani "scholars" quickly become pariahs in western universities, which no longer accept academic exchange-visitors from Azerbaijan's notorious Academy of Historical Sciences. As to the literature on Nagorno-Karabagh, it is ever popular, especially as the region quickly becomes a beloved destination for the growing number of both western tourists and scholars.