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In 1988, a war began between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority Armenian area within Azerbaijan's borders. The Soviet Union sent in troops to keep the peace, but it didn't work. Why not?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Tyler Durden, CGCampbell, Kobunite, Pieter Geerkens, Steven Drennon Sep 17 '15 at 20:49

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    This is an example of a question where showing the preliminary research would really help. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 15 '15 at 14:52
  • Sure. Go to Wikipedia. The Russian troops withdrew in 1992, the ceasefire did not arrive till 1994. Ergo the Russian troops did not stop the war. Happy? – Ne Mo Sep 15 '15 at 15:32
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    The answer is very simple: at the time when the crisis became visible, Soviet Union was itself on the edge of collapse. – Alex Sep 15 '15 at 18:59
  • and maybe they didn't even want to stop the violence. The Soviets were not averse to letting the people in the remote areas fight each other to near extermination and then replace the remaining few with Russians from overcrowded cities elsewhere who were deemed more reliable. – jwenting Sep 27 '15 at 11:54
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Because the goal of the Soviet Russia was completely the opposite.

The whole reason of creation of Karabakh, Zangezur, Nakhchivan, and many others was to put a "ticking bomb" under every country occupied by the Russia, including both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
So that in a case of any national-liberation attempt, the bomb has to trigger a civil war.


During centuries, Russia (all flavors of it) has deliberately ignited national tensions amongst the nations who supposed to be controlled by the Russia.

The Soviet Russia wasn't an exception: genocide and massive relocations led to creation of artificial national exclaves — in virtually every country occupied by the Russia.

Karabakh has been a disputed territory between various states for centuries. When the Russia has re-captured both Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1923, they kept the high ratio of Armenian population, despite the Nagorno-Karabakh "Autonomous Oblast" (NKAO) formally belonged to Azerbaijan.

As soon as the Soviet Russia weakened in 1987, a menace of national-liberation revolt has increased. The top leaders of Azerbaijan, including Heidar Aliyev, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and one of the richest Soviet leaders, have been powerful enough to quickly liberate their nations from the Russian occupation.
The same applies to Armenian leaders, although they haven't been as wealthy as Azerbaijan.

The "bomb" has exploded immediately: In February 1988 the marionette "Supreme Soviet" of the NKAO has voted to unite itself with the Armenia, which, in turn, has triggered Armenia-Azerbaijan war that doesn't actually stop since then.

The Russian "peacekeeping" forces did only support both Armenian and Azerbaijan armies with weapons. They were ready to strike in case if any of the fighting party was close to victory.

Again, the Russia doesn't need anyone to win. Instead, it needs the war in the area.

Here's an article by Armenia-affiliated analyst:

The main goal of Putin’s policy is to preclude the political influence and activity of Western powers in unsettled conflicts like Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Russia is continually undermining Armenia’s security system, propagandizing that the future of the people and the state depends on Russia’s will.

Russia promotes a policy of continuous intimidation of Armenia by openly militarizing Azerbaijan and supporting the modernization of its military power. Moreover, from the political aspect Russia adheres to Azerbaijani positions, simultaneously, opposing Azerbaijan to the United States on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

The known military contract between Russia and Azerbaijan, in which Russia is going to deliver until the end of 2014 offensive weaponry costing $5 billion
"Russia’s Main Strategy for the Nagorno-Karabakh Issue", The Foreign Policy

…And here's an opposite point of view:

The defense pact is actually an upgrading of a 1995 treaty allowing Russian ground and air forces access to a base in the west of the country. It expands the Russian mission from protecting only the interests of the Russian Federation, to also ensuring the security of the Republic of Armenia.

Under the pact, Moscow will also supply Yerevan with modern weapons and "special" military hardware. The existing base houses MiG-29 fighter jets and S-300 missile-defense systems, as well as troops.
"Russia, Armenia Sign Extended Defense Pact", Radio Liberty

Apparently, both points are mostly true.


My personal note: I have friends in both countries, including those who were born in Karabakh. Unfortunately, both Armenians and Azerbaijani citizens see only a half of the picture, trying to convince me that the Russia is militarizing their opponent (only), but it "will not leave us alone in a trouble". This may be the reason why the Russia hasn't yet been legally accused of ignition the Karabakh conflict.


If you speak Russian, here's some great political analysts for further reading. Some of their works are translated to English, but not every.

  • Garry Kasparov, a Russian opposition leader, an Armenian national who was born in Azerbaijan, a former World Chess Champion, has written a series of articles about Armenia-Azerbaijan relations. There's the excerpt of his point:

    …this conflict is now also being used by the authorities of Azerbaijan and Armenia to strengthen their position and wealth. (ArmInfo)

  • Yuri Felshtinsky in his works "Blowing up Russia" and "The legal foundations of the immigration and emigration policy of the USSR" discusses a lot about the national policy of the Russia against the conquered nations.

  • +1. I accept that Russia has always played all sides, and that it deliberately 'screwed up' the borders of the constiuent republics when drawing them. However, if a civil war was the outcome that they wanted then why did they send troops to NK at all? Why not just let them fight? – Ne Mo Sep 15 '15 at 15:17
  • @NeMo: Attacking with pre-existing troops is much easier than cross-border invasion. See what happened in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Adjara (the latter — unsuccessfully). Then — Crimea and Donets'k/Luhans'k. – bytebuster Sep 15 '15 at 16:02
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    @user4419802, my "conspiracy theory" is backed with credible references and reputable analysts. I realize there may be other sources, as credible as mine, to back the opposing statements, but unfortunately you failed to provide with one. – bytebuster Sep 15 '15 at 17:27
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    Felshtinsky is not credible source in any meaning of this word. And talking about "militarizing Azerbaijan" for last 20(sic!) years without a new war is simply ridiculous. – Matt Sep 15 '15 at 17:44
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    @NeMo to make sure they do fight. It is getting more interesting: reportedly ISIS has Chechen fighters, and Asad's side is backed by the Russian Army. – Sassa NF Sep 15 '15 at 22:38
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The same reason the Soviet interventions in Afghanistan or Chechnya have been unsuccessfull:

  1. The Red Army was in a very, very, very poor state. Morale was low(most of the soldiers were recruits - actually all of the soldiers up to sergeants were nothing but recruits, oftentimes from Central Asian Republics, who had little to no desire to fight for the Russians, especially post-Afghanistan), equipment was getting old, corruption was rampant, funds were low.

  2. The Soviet Union was already falling apart.

  3. Terrain. The Caucasus region is mountainous(named after the Caucasus Mountains), therefore permits and encourages asymmetric warfare. As both the Soviets and the Americans saw, Afghanistan poses the same problems - it's bloody near impossible to defeat all the opposition, who knew the terrain better, and could appear at any time, make a surprising attack(lowering the morale even more), and then dissappear back into the mountains.

And, of course, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict doesn't seem to have been among the top priorities of the Politburo at the time, who had plenty of other problems(economic, political, military, etc.).

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    Adrian, your idea in understandable, but the answer lacks any credible references. The last statement about "top priorities" seems to be totally untrue. Many analysts say that Karabakh/Nakhchivan settlement (by exchange of exclaves) is the key to peace in entire Caucasus region: both religious (Christians vs. Muslims) and economical (oil and gas pipeline to Iran→Turkey→Europe). This is exactly why the Russia needs a war there. – bytebuster Sep 15 '15 at 15:01
  • What Soviet intervention in Chechnya do u mean? – Anixx Sep 15 '15 at 17:38
  • "Soviet intervention in Chechnya" is nonsense. You should at least revise the structure of the sentence. – Matt Sep 15 '15 at 17:39
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    All answers confuse Russia with Soviet Union. – Alex Sep 15 '15 at 19:01

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