Pogroms in Azerbaijan and Armenia of 1988-89 As Historical Echo of the 1915 Armenian Genocide
The intended question to be posed in this essay relates to the Armenian
Genocide of 1915 and its evident connection to the massacres of Armenian minority in Azerbaijan in 1988-89. The path I have chosen to answer this question leads throughout the history of Genocide in 1915. Hence, the tragedy at the outset of the twentieth century provoked the slaughter of the same prosecuted ethnical minority by the same perpetrating ethnic majority only seventy years later.
According to the theory introduced by sociologist Alfred Schults, any event by its own nature has no meaning. His view is that a meaning is something ascribed to events or objects and is based on two concepts functioning evenly: the sediment of past experience and another one projected in future. These two factors establish what he calls the system of relevances that enables to interpret a current even out of dual perspective based on past and future. By all means this theory is applicable to massacre of 1915 and the pogroms in 1988. The outlined parallels between the two series of events denote a much more disastrous circumstance under which all the Armenian population in Azerbaijan was jeopardized by “the Turks.” In this case the Schutz’s theory indicates that the significance of past events (the various massacres and genocide) became evident in interpretation of the pogroms that occurred in 1988-
No crime carries as much destruction and cruelty as genocide. It aims at loss of ethnic identity of a victimized party. Genocide intends not just to kill, maim, or violate people; the ultimate purpose is to deprive the victim of its future as a strong national entity. Any massive crime has impact on contemporary and/or possible prospective relations of the victim and the perpetrator on global political arena. One well-documented massive crime against humanity is the Armenian Genocide of 1915 when number of casualties was estimated from 600 000 to 2 000000 people. The bloody event in history of Armenia caused not only human loses, but deprived Armenia partially of ancestral territory.
On the 9th of December 1948, the United Nations adopted the Genocide
Convention, compiling the following definition in Article II:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following facts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The definition of genocide accepted by United Nations has caused a great deal of controversy, for it excluded social and political groups.
Thereafter, in the 1980’s Helen Fein developed a broader and more profound definition of genocide, from which she excluded killing as a mandatory attribute of warfare, and on the opposite, included groups being persecuted based on their social and political belonging:
Genocide is a sustained purposeful action by a perpetrator to physically destroy a collectivity directly or indirectly, through interdiction of the biological and social reproduction of group members, sustained regardless of the surrender or lack of threat offered by the victim.
In the case of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 the governmental atrocity against its own people wasn’t specified anywhere in the scrolls of
International Law. It contained certain regulations on account of a civilian, noncombatant population during wartime, but this incident became first of its kind for which international law had no stipulation. When the legislative definition of genocide was accepted by the United Nations in
1948, it turned out to be that Armenian genocide fell under each of the five categories of it. Although the pogroms in Sumgait and Baku of 1988-
90 resemble more the pogroms in Ottoman Empire in 1890’s rather than actual genocide which occurred in 1915 and culminated in 1921 in the fight and expulsion of survivors who returned to Celicia, the analogy between 1915 and 1988-90 is apparent.
Armenians were a minority population in both Azerbaijan and Turkey, thus clearly identifiable for persecution. Armenians were more upwardly mobile than the majority population, hence creating the possibility of potential social conflict. The overarching political conditions were unstable in both the Soviet Union and the Ottoman Empire – revolutionary change often being a prerequisite of genocide. Armenians were scapegoated for political events outside the borders of the country in which they were residing.