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Tracing the Ancient History of Nagorno-Karabakh


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Author Topic: Tracing the Ancient History of Nagorno-Karabakh  (Read 24 times)
N. Truth Seeker
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« on: October 12, 2020, 11:49:18 pm »







Since the start of the 3rd millennium there has been no dearth of wars in the Muslim world – Syria, Libya, Yemen and ongoing occupations of Palestine and Kashmir.  There’s yet another place which has been the hotspot of strife since 1988.  That’s the region north of modern Iran and east of Turkey – Azerbaijan and Armenia. 

The dispute is over a province of Azerbaijan forcibly annexed with Armenian territory by Armenian authorities soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  In other words, Nagorno-Karabakh is under occupation of Armenian military. That’s the cause of the conflict.

The Western world is sympathizing with Armenia even though it officially recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan as does the United Nations. Surprisingly, Iran is among the very few Muslim states that also backs Armenia in this conflict.  According to Western critics and short sighted analysts, Nagorno-Karabakh has been a part of Armenia since ancient times.  But they refrain from perusing how that happened.  In reality, since earliest times the Karabakh expanse had been a part and parcel of Azerbaijan prior to its forcible annexation with Armenia.

Let us take a trek along the path of history to understand this story. 

Modern-day Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of Persia in ancient times.

It’s not known in history what might have been the name of the region before it was called Persia.  It probably became known as ‘Persia’ between 500 and 600 BC.  The title Persia came from ‘Persis’ or ‘Pars’ which was the name of a region in southern modern-day Iran. Gradually the term Persis changed into Persia and was applied to entire modern-day Iran and its northern regions of modern-day Azerbaijan and Armenia.  For thousands of years, Iran was known as Persia.  Persia officially came to be known as ‘Iran’ in 1935, but the Iranian people within their country since the time of the Zoroastrians called it Arya or Iran or Iran-zamin (land of Iran).  The term ‘Iran’ means ‘land of Aryans.’  Without a doubt, sounds awfully racist!

Zoroastrianism was founded in Persia in 6 B.C. by a polytheist priest named Zoroaster.  Zoroastrism is a polytheistic religion sometimes described as pantheistic which accepts the worship of different deities.  Prior to Zoroastrianism, Persia followed the polytheistic religion similar to Hinduism in India.   Thus, the polytheistic priest, Zoroaster, transferred the religion of Persia from a particular type of paganism to another.

Christianity officially came to Armenia between 300 and 305 A.D. introduced by an Armenian cleric named Saint Gregory.  But some sources of information claim that unofficially Christianity began arriving in Armenia since the time of Bartholomew around 1st century A.D. The exact period is not known even to the Armenians.  Prior to Christianity, Armenians were polytheists like the Romans.  Some say that Bartholomew was executed in Armenia for preaching Christianity and helping to convert an Armenian king.  According to another version, Bartholomew was killed in India where he went to preach Christianity.  It hasn’t been confirmed which version is correct as both Armenians and Indians were (and still are) capable of such violence and bigotry. 

Achaemenid empire of Persia lasted for approximately 200 years from 6 BC to 300 BC when defeated by Alexander.  He ruled for only 12 years until his sudden death, followed by quite a long period of disorderliness and chaos by different invading rulers.   The Sassanids ruled from 224 to 650 AD, finally overthrown after the advent of Islam in Persia.  By that time the Sassanids were weakened and corrupted.

There are several presumed stories regarding the origin of the name "Azerbaijan." The most common proposition is that Azerbaijan was named after Atropates, a Persian satrap who ruled the region in the modern northern Iranian province of Azarbaijan.   Atropates in old Persian means  "protected by fire" or "the land of fire."  It alludes to the Zoroastrian fire temples which existed in the region in that period when Persians were hardcore polytheists or fire worshiping Zoroastrians.

Originally the very ancient name of Armenia (approximately 1,000 BC) was Hayk, which was most likely the name of a tribe in the region.  It innovated to Hayastan (that is, ' land of Hayk').  Later, the name Armenia given to that small region by the Zoroastrian rulers of ancient Persia, was derived from the word 'Armenak' or 'Aram' which was reportedly the name of an ancestor of one of the ancient rulers of the region.  Exact dates of these changes are not known to anyone as they extended over a period much before the systematic compilation of history.

According to unreliable stories, the earliest mention of the region presently known as Nagorno Karabakh was discovered in some "inscription" in some village of a country currently called Armenia in approximately 800 BC or earlier !!!!  It was called 'Urtekhini' at that time.  From that, they derived the name 'Artsakh' which is used by the Armenians until the present referring to Nagorno Karabakh.  However, even if this story is true (which is unlikely), the professed inscriptional name of “Urtekhini” has no bearing in medieval nor modern history.  Two thousand and eight hundred years ago the geographical borders and titles were not the same as at present.  Even the name ‘Armenia’ didn’t exist.  It may have been known as “Hayk’ but not sure.  According to chronological information compiled later, even the ancient name ‘Persia’ did not exist in 800 BC. The story tellers aren't sure precisely when 'Artsakh' was seized to be made a part of Armenia.  The famous Greek historian and geographer named Strabo who lived in approximately 40 BC made no mention of any place named "Artsakh" in Armenia in his lengthy list of gains of Armenian kings since 189 BC. 

Nagorno Karabakh (aka Artsakh) was transferred from the Azeri region into Armenia by one of the Persian satraps stationed in Armenia in approximately 225 AD or a little later, during the reign of  Sassanids.   But the demographics never changed and ethnically the place remained populated overwhelmingly by the Azeris.  The Azerbaijanis are ethnically northern Persians, extending north up to eastern Caucasus.   Armenians are the Hittites of Turkic origin who came to live in Anatolia in ancient times and followed various pagan religions.  Satraps were the permanent governors of the provinces of ancient Persia during pre-Islamic times of the Achaemenid and Sassanid empires.

Iran and Azerbaijan were predominantly Sunni Muslim countries until the 16th century.  In the 1500s the first Safavid ruler of Iran, Shah Ismail, set off to conquer Iran and Azerbaijan.  Spreading of Shiia Islam was reportedly one of his important goals, until Iran and Azerbaijan became predominantly Shiia Muslim.

In 1920 when USSR annexed both Azerbaijan and Armenia in Soviet territory, it recognized "Artsakh" as a part of Azerbaijan and named it Nagorno Karabakh.  The Russians knew the political history and demographics of the region.  Their decision simply meant the restoration of the province within its original administrational area.  Nagorno is a Russian word meaning 'mountains.'  Karabakh is the Russian corruption of the Azeri word meaning 'black garden.'  In Azeri 'qara' means black and 'bagh' means garden.  'Black garden mountains' or the 'mountainous black garden' would be the definition.   By late 1980s the Soviet Union had drastically weakened.  It finally fell in 1991.  Taking advantage of the situation, Armenia began hostilities against Azerbaijan to usurp Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988 and by 1992, a year after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh was re-occupied by Armenia.



Landscape of Nagorno-Karabakh


As we currently see the conflict raging between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, it has the strangest equation imaginable.  Azerbaijan is predominantly Shiia Muslim, approximately 85%.  Armenia is orthodox Christian.   But Shiia Iran supports Christian Armenia while Sunni Turkey backs Shiia majority Azerbaijan.  Turkey's support for Azerbaijan is understandably based on the Armenian-Turk animosity over Armenia's exaggerated claims of suffering a "genocide" at the hands of Turkey in 1915.  Iran's official excuse for its lack of neutrality in this dispute is Azerbaijan's diplomatic relations with Israel, though Armenia too has similar diplomatic links with TelAviv.  If that is truthfully the reason for Iran to favor Armenia, Iran certainly hasn't yet been able to explain why it's been brazenly hobnobbing with India and Oman, both of which are hand-in-glove with Israel.  The other justification cited by Iran apologists is "Islamic Iran" doesn't support Azerbaijan which is run by a "secular" government.  Yet, based on the same argument, those apologists are unable to explicate why Iran is helping Bashar al-Assad in Syria who too is secular and his prime goal for fighting the Syrian war is to maintain Syria as a secular state.  That's fine, no objections for this isn't the time for black & white readings.  The governments in Syria and Azerbaijan could be secular but majority of their people aren't, and neither are their secular governments forcing the people to embrace secularism as did Ataturk of Turkey or the Shah of Iran.   The actual reason for Iran to discreetly favor Armenia is the former's preoccupation with "culture," history and tradition, an aspect which Iran perceives as one of its important national symbols to date.  The Karabakh region was initially stolen by the trouble-making Sassanids of Persia in favor of Armenia, and Islamic Iran, up until the present, has a problem viewing that as a negative move. 

Rumors are periodically spewed by certain circles of Arab secularists and segments of Iranians, fanned by self designated Western "leftists," that Syrian opposition fighters have been sent to Nagorno-Karabakh to fight the Armenians.    A slight dissection of this argument tells us these ideas are fairly absurd.   If true, it’s probably the first time in our pan-Islamic history that Salafist Sunnis are helping a Shiia country to fight orthodox Christians!   Normally, Salafists would rather help Christians or Zionists or any non-Muslim entity against Shiia Muslims.  No matter how attractive might be the salaries of Salafist mercenaries for assisting a predominantly Shiia community, their deep-rooted natural aversion for Shiias would eventually get the better of them.   Sooner rather than later, they would either switch sides or quit in favor of terrorist activities back to Syria, Iraq or Libya.


To understand the present political situation in a nutshell, check the following blog entries @ Zainab’s Lounge:

Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan. More to the story than meets the eye?

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as on fall of 2020


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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2020, 07:43:07 pm »



O really?   The Karabakh region was stolen by the Sassanids?   I never knew that, except that I'm not surprised.  Both Achaemenid and Sassanid empires that are supposed to constitute Iran's ancient culture carried little to be proud of, to be honest.  They were just warriors, fierce warriors, and synonymous with spears, sheathed swords, iron armour, iron, bronze and silver war masks.  That's as far as they went.


Rumors are periodically spewed by certain circles of Arab secularists and segments of Iranians, fanned by self designated Western "leftists," that Syrian opposition fighters have been sent to Nagorno-Karabakh to fight the Armenians.    A slight dissection of this argument tells us these ideas are fairly absurd.   If true, it’s probably the first time in our pan-Islamic history that Salafist Sunnis are helping a Shiia country to fight orthodox Christians!   Normally, Salafists would rather help Christians or Zionists or any non-Muslim entity against Shiia Muslims.  No matter how attractive might be the salaries of Salafist mercenaries for assisting a predominantly Shiia community, their deep-rooted natural aversion for Shiias would eventually get the better of them.   Sooner rather than later, they would either switch sides or quit in favor of terrorist activities back to Syria, Iraq or Libya.

This is a very logical point.   I cannot imagine those Al-Nusra type guys coming from Syria or Libya amidst the Shiia community of Azeris fighting in their favor. 

Very perceptive trudge through history.  Thanks brother.


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Ruhi_Rose
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2020, 08:01:30 pm »



This is a very informative piece of history.   Iran backers are generally of the opinion that Azerbaijan's Israeli link has cautioned Iran.  But as you rightly pointed out so many other allies of Iran with deeper Israeli links, and yet Iran seems quite at ease with them.  They also say Israel has set up some sort of espionage center in one of its consulates in Azerbaijan.  Don't know how far this is correct, and if so, indeed it doesn't sound good.  But the question that arises is how did things come to this point between Iran and Azerbaijan?  Has Iran's shoulder-rubbing with Armenia and giving them weapons prove to be a tipping point between Iran and Azerbaijan?  As you said, majority of Azeris aren't secular, and there are plenty of Iranian Azeris too in the provinces of east & west Azerbaijan of Iran.  Compared to that, Iran can expect nothing from Armenia in return except selling them weapons.  Doesn't sound good at all.  Briefly, with Iran it's all about money these days.  It's befriended India and Oman despite their warm ties with Israel because Iran is hopeful of lucrative trade with them.  That same monetary incentive isn't there in Azerbaijan.

 
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