Author: Namig HASANOV
Maxim Shevchenko is not just a well-known Russian journalist, TV host, public figure and popular blogger. He is one of the few savvy political scientists who has been analysing the situation around the Armenian-Azerbaijani confrontation as objectively as possible. He always called on the Russian authorities and the international community to take a neutral and impartial position on the conflict. On December 10, Shevchenko took part in the military parade dedicated to the victory in the Second Karabakh War as a special guest.
"Maxim Leonardovich, what was the outcome of the Second Karabakh War, including its unexpected ending?"
"The outcome is quite obvious. Azerbaijan completely liberated its occupied territories and resolved the so-called Karabakh issue in a political vein. The Russian President Vladimir Putin also stated that Azerbaijan's sovereignty extends to its entire territory, including Khankendi and other regions, which are now formally under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
“We can say that this is a complete victory. Unfortunately, it was possible by military means, although there were other options. I believe that this is a serious event not only for Azerbaijan, but also for global history.
“As one of the world's largest lobbies with enormous opportunities in Moscow, Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, the Armenian diaspora was unable to mobilise its resources. Azerbaijan could break the most powerful diaspora lobby with the de facto support of Turkey and partly Pakistan. This is a global event, and perhaps not everyone has realised it yet. In fact, Azerbaijan did what a leader of the anti-globalisation forces should do, because such transnational diasporas are the strongest instrument of imperialist globalisation. They destroy peoples, countries, draw borders at their discretion. We can see this in the history of the Middle East.
“I highly appreciate the victory of Azerbaijan, not only because I have friends from Azerbaijan, but because it changes the history. I don’t know of similar examples in world history since the Vietnam War, when after a long and bloody war, Vietnam could defeat the coalition of imperialist states led by the US. So for me, the victory of Azerbaijan is the second such victory against the will of the powerful countries. Azerbaijan has finally restored its territorial integrity.”
"How will the peaceful settlement of the conflict proceed from now on? Who will be the subject of negotiations?"
"There are no subjects of the settlement any more. Armenians have their own state with the borders recognised by the UN. Azerbaijan must restore its sovereignty on its entire territory. By and large, the further development of events is internal affairs of Azerbaijan, including the rights to be granted to national and religious minorities, in particular to the Armenian Apostolic Church. I am sure that the leadership of Azerbaijan is committed to following humane and cultural principles. Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva are modern, well-educated, civilised, and humanistic people. In general, the Azerbaijani society, despite the feeling of bitterness and anger that has accumulated over the past 30 years of occupation, is kind and compassionate. It is not dreaming of revenge but the establishment of bright future for itself.
“Those who are sceptical about the belonging of Khankendi or Lachin to Azerbaijan have nothing to do in the settlement process. I believe that international mediators can influence Baku only from a humanitarian point of view, if they consider that someone's rights are violated. Azerbaijan and Armenia should sign an interstate agreement, which will include a clause on the inviolability of borders and the absence of territorial claims to each other. Azerbaijan has the right to demand compensation from Armenia for its devastated territories.
“If the parties have mutual cultural and historical claims, they can be resolved in a civilized manner, in the same vein as the European states followed after the Second World War by fixing the borders within the European Union.
“Personally, I have always supported the idea of establishing the Caucasian Federation. It should have nothing to do with the Stalinist-Orjonikidze principle, but follow the modern parameters, when the borders between Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey are open for free movement of people and goods. The peoples of this region have the right to live comfortably, like the peoples of Europe. The problems have long been resolved not by wars but by openness and dialogue.”
"Many Armenians claim that they cannot in principle live with Azerbaijanis. Some even raise the issue of "genetic incompatibility". What should be done in this case?"
"If some Armenians think that that they cannot live with Azerbaijanis, they can leave. Genetic incompatibility sounds weird and monstrous to the Russian ear. The phrase may be applied to dogs going through cross-breeding. It is purely Nazi. No wonder there was a phrase in Soviet times: "Genetics is the whore of imperialism." This is insulting and demeaning. All peoples on Earth are genetically compatible. Whoever thinks otherwise can live where they want.
“I think there are many Karabakhi Armenians who understand that by accepting Azerbaijani citizenship, establishing their cultural autonomy inside Azerbaijan, they are more likely to gain than lose. Otherwise, they are doomed to wander around endlessly begging for something like the poor. I am sure Azerbaijan will help all Armenians who want to become the citizens of Azerbaijan to live in Karabakh, restore their economy, and preserve their cultural sites. I have no doubts about that. Those smart Armenians who are the first to accept this will live very well.”
"Is it possible to come to terms with dissenters? What are the closest historical examples of reaching peace between the central government and separatists?"
"It is possible to come to terms with anyone who is ready for this. Politics is not putting someone on his knees with a barrel on his forehead and giving him three seconds to make a decision. Politics is when you move toward your objective by forcing your opponent to change his position, but at the same time you change your own position in some way. The limits of agreements are obvious: Azerbaijan will never give up its sovereignty restored in such a difficult way. Therefore, all discussions will most likely be on the boundaries of a cultural autonomy for the Armenians. And President Aliyev has already expressed his views on that.
“On the other hand, if someone has illusions about waging guerrilla wars in Karabakh, then the peacekeepers can leave. I doubt that this will please those who scream about revanchism in the Armenian segment of social networks.
“It is similar to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Great Britain eventually had to hold a dialogue with the leaders of the Irish Republican Army. By the way, Irish nationalists and terrorists cannot be compared to the Armenian militants, who look like a bunch of provincials. They were sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorist attacks in English cities. But then they were pardoned and became the members of the Ulster parliament. Belfast is now a city of peace, not a city of war, as it was 20 years ago.
“I think that reaching some agreements with Armenian dissenters is possible too. Azerbaijani authorities will have to tackle this issue. In politics, it is possible to agree on reasonable compromises through negotiations even with those whom you fought against yesterday. It is impossible to exterminate everyone. The same is true for the Chechen Republic. Ahmad Kadyrov declared ghazavat in the First Chechen War, against the criminal policy of Yeltsin. Then, thanks to his contacts with Putin, the war in Chechnya somehow ended. But Kadyrov sacrificed his own life.
“Politics is a non-linear thing. Therefore, the people of Azerbaijan should trust the president and those who lead the strategic course of Azerbaijan in this matter. Fortunately, there is someone to trust – Ilham Aliyev. Firstly, he continues the course of his great father, Heydar Aliyev. Secondly, he made Azerbaijan a serious political actor of a strategic scale.”
“Armenians leaving the occupied Azerbaijani territories burned their houses, forests, killed pets, destroyed almost everything. How would you define such an action?”
"It is nothing more that vandalism and barbarism. We must follow the legal methods clenching our teeth until we hit our objective. I am sure that soon there will be blooming gardens, houses and roads in Karabakh."
"Armenians believe that you have a pro-Azerbaijani position. Do you feel yourself under the pressure of the Armenian lobby in Russia?"
"Definitely. The well-known Yevgeny Prigozhin and his team initiated lawsuits against me. The media outlets controlled by Prigozhin and connected with some Armenian business structures supported the Armenians during the war. They try to intimidate and ruin me. I am not afraid at all. How can they put pressure on me? I don't work anywhere officially. So, the only thing they can do is insulting and threatening me. But there are also people who help and support me. These are also very serious people.
“The Armenian lobby gives nothing back than speculations? Tashir breaks down the sidewalks in the down-town of Moscow only to build new ones every year. The residents of the city are fed up. Troika-Dialogue run by Vardanyan was involved in transferring money of the elite to the West. What does it bring to ordinary Russians? Is this Hyatt-Ararat in the centre of Moscow which should make them happy? Azerbaijanis are much more delicate in this respect. God sees everything.
“In Russia, half of Krasnodar and Rostov are refugees from Armenia, millions of them. Karabakh has never seen as many Armenians as in Krasnodar. Russia has always supported the resettlement of Armenians. I have nothing against kind, hard-working people who moved to Russia for a better life. But this has seriously changed the demographic situation in the south of Russia. There are serious issues there. There are entire Armenian districts near Rostov, where Russian is not spoken, and even the shop signs are in Armenian. Once on my way from Rostov for Donetsk I could not even ask for directions, because they did not understand me.”
"The Armenian lobby in Russia has actively promoted the idea of a global Slavic-Turkic confrontation. Leading Russian media outlets picked up on this idea, forming a view in the Azerbaijani society that Russia is hostile to Azerbaijan. What is the real situation in this area?"
"Russia has always been an alliance of Slavs, Turks, Finno-Ugrians and Caucasians. These are four ethnographic groups that formed Russia. I would also add the Jews whom Russia has contacted since the times of the Khazar Kaganate. I have great respect for the Armenian people. But the first mention of Armenians in Russia dates back to the 16th century, when Ivan the Terrible ordered the persecution of people preaching Monophysitism in Nizhny Novgorod. We did not have such problems with the Turks, we have lived side by side with them for centuries.
“Many Russians understand and share the position of Azerbaijan. Do not judge by the screaming media outlets - this is not the position of Russian citizens. A huge number of Muslims and Turkic peoples live in Russia. There are a large number of sane people in Russia who understand the benefits of cooperation between Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. There are global projects that can change the world in the future. For example, the transport corridor through Zangezur and other projects. These projects promise big money. There are many people in Russia who understand this.
“There are different lobbying groups in Russia, which have different goals and methods. Some are openly pro-Western and are ready to sell anything for their own well-being and prosperity, which the West can provide in exchange for betrayal of the national interests. Others think of Russia's strategy in a geopolitical manner. Obviously, cooperation and partnership with Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, renewed Armenia, peace with Georgia are in the interests of historical Russia.
“To some extent, the USSR reflected these interests. The 20th century was the only one when we did not fight with Turkey. This is strategically correct. I hope this path will continue and develop. Our historical mission is to develop ties with the free peoples of Asia and Eurasia.”
"A good peace is the one which both opponents are ready for. Is Armenia ready for peace? Should we expect this from the forces that will replace Pashinyan and his team?"
"I am not well familiar with internal Armenian affairs. They discuss everything only in Armenian, which I do not speak. In Azerbaijan, lots of information is in Russian, and I understand everything.
“I don't think Pashinyan will leave. Biden, most likely, will endorse him and provide all kinds of support. He has already threatened Turkey. I think the Americans will try to exacerbate tensions in Karabakh. Azerbaijan needs to prepare for a long and difficult struggle. And all people of goodwill will be with you.”