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The Caucasian Knot: The History and Geopolitics of Nagorno-Karabagh: History and Geopolitics of Nagorno-Karabach (Politics in Contemporary Asia) [Paperback]

Levon Chorbajian , etc. , Patrick Donabedian , Claude Mutafian

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Book Description

1 Nov 1994 Politics in Contemporary Asia
When Azerbaijan declared its independence from the Soviet Union, the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabagh followed suit. Before long, pogrom and war were the order of the day, resulting in thousands of Armenian and Azeri casualties. This book examines the history of mountainous Karabagh, the ancient Artsakh of the Armenians, and assesses the mass of archaeological material and documentary evidence supporting the conflicting Azeri and Armenian claims. The authors follow the populations of the area from antiquity through periods of Mongol, Turkmen and Persian occupation, onto Turkey's and Russia's entry on to the scene, the period of Bolshevik rule, perestroika and, finally, the war with Azerbaijan. The book highlights the Armenian culture of the enclave, traces Karabagh's demographic evolution and situates the current hostilities firmly in the regional context in terms of the interests of neighbouring Russia, Iran and Turkey. The picture that emerges is one of a clash of nationalistic passions and Russian economic, military and diplomatic calculation.

Product details

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books Ltd; First Edition edition (1 Nov 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856492885
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856492881
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.2 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,312,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suitable for the neutral observer 16 Oct 1999
By J.Stuart - Published on Amazon.com
An excellent book full of info about Nagorno Karabagh, a little Armenian statelet in the Caucasus Minor, which recently won its independence. The text is a great resource! First, I advise you to visit Nagorno Karabakh. "Small but beautiful," as they say there. It's a wonderful country, and I could spend 18 great days there in July 1998. I went primarily out of curiosity, but was astonished to discover beautiful Alpine scenery, exuberant Armenians mediaeval monastic complexes and attractive capital city (Stepanakert). Although I have an Armenian friend who guided me, the book was very useful. I was very thankful that I picked it to read as one of my background resource materials as it puts very complex issues into understandable and historical context. The text provides a very even-handed, unbiased history of this troubled region and describes sufferings by all sides in this conflict. I've browsed through three or four books on this topic, and this has been the most comprehensive and informative.
While this is one of the most insightful and heart-wrenching books on the subject, it has two striking problems. We confront the first one in the title: it misleads us. Contrary to the title's claim, the book is about "A Caucasian Knot" not "The Caucasian Knot." The other suggestion: Mr. Chorbajian and Co., change the cover photo!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Caucasian Knot:" Notable for its Humanistic Appeal 29 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in the history and politics of a fascinating little country called Nagorno Karabagh, or Artsakh in Armenian. It should not be overlooked by anybody who is keen to learn more about the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The text traces Armenian history from its earliest forms to recent times with impressive detail. It is academic but readable and enjoyable. This is an example of how a good history book should be written. I am delighted to have such a memorable book on my library shelves. The authors presented deeply revealing guide to modern culture and politics of the volatile Caucasus that fills a wide gap in general knowledge. The tone of the text is balanced but maybe too scholarly. It rendered me great assistance when I was working on my dissertation on Caucasian politics back in mid-1990s. The book is free of any offensive or biased remarks concerning any ethnic groups in the Caucasus and is notable for its clear humanistic appeal. When I visited the region three years ago on a humanitarian mission, my own experience only confirmed the value of the "Caucasian Knot."
"Caucasian Knot" is about the current plight of the people of Nagorno Karabakh, a long suffered Armenian Christian land that freed itself from the Azerbaijani yoke a decade ago. It is a sorry situation since the Armenians of Artsakh are among the oldest distinct population groupings of Eurasia. Armenian settlements and a distinct political entity have existed in Artsakh since the 2nd century B.C. The book shows that Armenian independence prevailed there until the collapse and partition of the first Armenian state in the 5th Century A.D. At that time, between 480 and 483, Moses of Xoren wrote his famous "History of Armenia"-a manifestation of importance of Artsakh in Armenian civilization. In contrast to other Armenian lands, until the late Middle Ages, the Armenian principalities in Artsakh retained their independence under Persia's nominal rule.
The Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh were among the first in the region to embrace Christianity back in 301 A.D. in the aftermath of the missionary activities of St. Gregory the Illuminator. In this context, the repeated destruction and rebuilding of the Monastery of Amaras symbolizes the resilience and determination of the Armenians of Artsakh. First built around 330 A.D. by St. Gregory the Illuminator, it has been repeatedly damaged and destroyed by countless invaders--such as the Arabs, the Persians, the Mongols and the Turks--only to be rebuilt again and again by the local population. The Monastery in Amaras was last damaged by the Azerbaijani chauvinist bigots in 1992, during Nagorno Karabakh's bitter war for independence. It has since been rebuilt and its centrality in Armenian religious life restored.
"Caucasian Knot" shows that the Armenians' quest for independence has long history. In the late 1980s, as the population of the then Soviet Union was awakened to rediscover national roots, as well as cultural and religious heritage, so did Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. By then, they had a history of quest for independence despite Soviet oppression. Significantly, since 1923, Nagorno Karabakh was a distinct Autonomous Region within Azerbaijan-a status that reflected the population's distinction. The Armenian population became restive due to severe discrimination by the governing Communist regime in Baku since the thaw of the early 1960s, including protests in the late 1960s demanding self-determination within the confines of the USSR.
In the late 1980s, the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh were alarmed by the rise of Turkic militancy in Azerbaijan. The legacy of the 1918-1920 slaughter of Armenians by Turkish and Azerbaijani forces-especially the March 1920 destruction of Shushi, an Armenian cultural center that lost its Armenian population and character until recaptured in May 1992- was revived by pogroms in Baku and "ethnic cleansing" of Armenian population throughout the region since 1988. No less alarming was the Azerbaijani blockade aimed to starve the Armenian population into surrender and self-imposed exile. Hence, once the Armenians' quest for self-determination was rejected by the Soviet and subsequently Azerbaijani authorities, the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh embarked on their quest for independence as the sole guarantor for their self-survival.
The Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh declared their independence and vowed to defend the Armenian character of their land. They then withstood a three-year long brutal war in which the vastly superior Azerbaijani forces strove to destroy them completely. Presently, the population of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is a mixture of the local population and Armenian refugees from parts of Nagorno-Karabakh still held by Azerbaijani forces, as well as ethnically cleansed Armenian communities in other parts of Azerbaijan, most notably Baku. They are trying to rebuild their country. A mere 150,000-200,000 people surrounded by a sea of hate with only a corridor to Armenia as a life-line of sustenance.
Therefore, we should recognize the determination of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh to preserve and revise their heritage and take control of their lives. In an era where the United States has stood up to the rights of endangered minorities to self-determination, stability, and betterment of life, we should not neglect the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Armenian people of Artsakh. They have already fought and sacrificed enormously in order to attain these rights. They deserve not only our congratulations, but our recognition and help, so that they can continue to grow and develop free of existential threats.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, scholarly accurate, the best work on Karabagh 9 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visit Nagorno-Karabakh! 25 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
For what it tries to achieve-a compelling recount of the entire history of the Nagorno-Karabakh, historical Artsakh, this book is near flawless in its execution. The authors are masterful writers well acquainted with the subject. The book is an excellent examination of the two millennia long history and culture of Karabakhi Armenians: their own unique political tradition, and their (still continuing!) struggle with the encroaching Moslem Turkic nomads, i.e. the ancestors of people who in the wake of the 20th century consolidated into the present day "Azerbaijanis."
I have run across no other text with this unique perspective. The book prompted me to visit Nagorno-Karabakh in spring 1999 and become acquainted with the enduring and hospitable people of this region. I visited the mediaeval Gandzasar monastery with its gorgeous St. John cathedral (built in 12th-13th centuries), which serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Artsakh; and the monastery of Amaras, where the Armenian alphabet was first taught to students in the 5th century by its creator, St. Mesrop Mashtots. I found the monastic complex of St. Jude in northwestern Karabakh-depicted in the text-still beautiful and proudly standing, despite the repeated and partly successful attempts to destroy it by Azerbaijani vandals. And the tour to the ancient Castle of the Magpie ("Qajaghakaberd"), the impregnable stronghold of the long-gone local Armenian dukes, is a truly breathtaking experience!
After my journey to Nagorno-Karabakh I still wonder what might have possibly made the small and nowadays erstwhile Azerbaijani minority claim that region from the Armenians ??? Azerbaijanis left NO cultural artifacts on Karabakhi soil, perhaps except for the two mediocre-looking 19th century mosques in the town of Shoosha, standing amidst 1,500 Armenian churches, monasteries, cross-stones, and castles! I regret not being able to contact the author of the "Caucasian Knot..." directly to offer my respect and admiration for such a formidable and at the same time completely accessible work of scholarship. Recommended to all students of Eastern Christianity. While travel to the region might not be an easy journey, it IS worth dusty roads and assorted bureaucratic challenges one may encounter. My advice is straightforward: GO TO NAGORNO-KARABAKH!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The alpha and omega of good literature on modern history 24 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Five stars just isn't enough for this work. This has to be one of the greatest works on Eurasian and Middle Eastern history of all times. One of my absolute favorites. I am an ethnic Assyrian, originally from Iraq, and I understand the situation with the Armenians of Karabagh well. I wish we, Assyrians, could defend ourselves as did the people of Karabagh. Read this book once for an overview. Read it twice for the depth. Read it thrice to stand up for the rights of the endangered Christian Orthodox civilization of the East!
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