- Artsakh: People of the Forest
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The Artsakh Republic, a fledgling democracy, continues being confronted by Azerbaijan — a country that has developed as an archetypal oil dictatorship ruled by the Aliyev family since 1967.
Azerbaijan’s Culture Genocide
Azerbaijan has been hereditarily ruled by the Aliyev clan, a political network from the region of Nakhichevan established in the 1960s by Heydar Aliyev—Azerbaijan’s Soviet-era Communist boss and major-general of the USSR’s secret police (KGB). In 1993, Aliyev staged a military coup and came to power by re-inventing himself as Azerbaijan’s President.
More than eighty percent of Azerbaijan’s state income derives from the sales of crude oil, transported from its capital Baku via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea. Not surprisingly, like in Nigeria, Libya, Iraq and other oil autocracies, a key characteristic of Azerbaijan’s political and economic system is corruption. The Transparency International, a global NGO that studies and fights corruption around the world, has routinely been ranking Azerbaijan as one of the world’s five most corrupt countries.
Azerbaijan has been a hub of Islamic terrorism and a hot spot for drug trafficking. In August 1998, the Azerbaijani branch of the “Islamic Jihad” organization, which by then had merged with Osama Bin Laden’s AI Qaeda, coordinated the bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded nearly 4,600. The FBI was able to trace about 60 phone calls made from the satellite phone used by Bin Laden to his associates in Baku, and from them—to operatives in East Africa.
When Heydar Aliyev died in 2003, Azerbaijan presidency passed to Ilham Aliyev, his only son, through a staged election. Like his father, Ilham rules with an iron fist, suppressing political dissent and quashing free press. 
Ilham Aliyev made Azerbaijan more, not less, belligerent. Since the beginning of operation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in 2006, when more oil money began swelling state coffers, there has not been a month without Ilham declaring that he wants to use the oil money to start a new war against the Armenians, conquer Nagorno Karabakh and expel its population.
In addition to being an autocrat, Ilham Aliyev is a passionate Azerbaijani chauvinist. His sworn enemies include not only human beings but also thousands of ancient Armenian historical and cultural monuments that still densely cover the western half of his state.
In 2006, Ilham ordered to destroy almost all Armenian churches, monasteries and cemeteries in his father’s birthplace of Nakhichevan (Naxcivan), an Azerbaijani-held exclave sandwiched between Armenia and Iran. Nakhichevan was cut off from Armenia and given to Azerbaijan because of pressure from Turkey, in the 1920s. The demolitions have created an international outcry, largely because of filmed annihilation—by the Azerbaijani Army—of thousands of intricately-carved khachkar tombstones standing in the world-famous medieval cemetery in Jugha (Julfa). Khachkars are unique-to-Armenia art form, representing large stone slabs with engraved Christian cross that are used for various memorial purposes. Western press compared Azerbaijani vandalism in Jugha with the destruction of the statute of Buddha in Afghanistan by the Taliban militia in 2001. 
Azerbaijani historians have been publicly instructed by the Aliyevs to rewrite history textbooks, cleansing Azerbaijan’s history of anything non-Azerbaijani. This, however, has been an arduous if at all accomplishable task. The reason is obvious: “Azerbaijanis” are not native to “Azerbaijan,” and they barely left any cultural trace on the land they presently occupy. Azerbaijanis, a Turkic people, who speak a dialect of Turkish, migrated to the Southern Caucasus from the Central Asia (Turkistan) in the late Middle Ages, and remained since then largely a collection of semi-nomadic tribes, especially in the Christian-peopled highlands west of the River Kura.
Unlike Azerbaijan’s neighbors of Armenia, Georgia and Iran (Persia), whose unique cultures and states have existed continuously from the ancient times, an entity called “Azerbaijan” is a phenomenon of the 20th century. After exploring various options, Azerbaijani political leaders decided to name their self-proclaimed state, in 1918, after a bordering province of Persia called “Azerbaijan” (where a large number of Turkic-speaking Persians lived). That immediately caused a sharp diplomatic reaction from Tehran, which accused Baku of “toponymic embezzlement.” Rejection of Azerbaijan’s independence by the League of Nations soon followed. To fully grasp the absurdity of the situation, imagine Germans deciding to name their country “Burgundy” or “Venice,” with France or Italy protesting, and with the UN refusing to recognize its sovereignty.
Plus, no people called “Azerbaijanis” or “Azeris” were known prior to the 1930s. These terms were invented by Bolshevik anthropologists in the course of what is known in academic literature as the USSR’s “nativization” (“indigenization”) project. By the Kremlin’s order, a task force of Bolshevik scholars engineered new names for dozens of obscure nationalities of the former Russian Empire, and invented for them claims to historical continuity.  This included the Turkic-speakers of the Southern Caucasus that had been obscurely referred to by bureaucrats of the Russian Empire as “Caucasian Tartars.” Before the 20th century, these “Caucasian Tartars,” lacking self-definition as one people, identified themselves either very broadly, as “Muslims,” or very narrowly—as members of specific tribes, clans or urban communities (e.g. Afshars, Padars, Igirmidort, Sarijalli, etc.). Moscow also instituted standard surnames for Azerbaijanis—based on Arabic forenames plus the Russian “ov” ending bolted on, and created a Cyrillic-based alphabet for their, largely unwritten, language.
At present, Azerbaijani historical revisionism is met with exposure and increasingly strong condemnation in Western academia. Disturbingly, however, Baku’s oil autocrats ignore these warnings, and continue regarding Armenian historical and cultural monuments found on the territory of the former Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic as a direct threat to Azerbaijani identity and statehood. More practical steps are to be taken to neutralize this policy as soon as possible. Should a focused international effort fail to stop Azerbaijani cultural vandalism, more artifacts of ancient Christian cultures of the Southern Caucasus will forever be lost, defaced or intentionally misattributed by Azerbaijani “scholars.”