On September 27, fighting over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus broke out on the greatest scale since the cease-fire of 1994. Amid an unstable situation developing in the former Soviet space at the cusp of eastern Europe and the Middle East, the University of North Texas and the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech held an online discussion about the facts on the ground, the key local and regional players including Azerbaijan, Armenia, the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and the United States, as well as the role of civil society and development efforts in the face of the conflict.
Too often the Karabakh conflict is reported in the Western media with great emphasis on oil and gas pipelines. While energy infrastructure is indeed a significant component of that complex issue, the rhetoric from the political leaders and from common voices in the region hinge overwhelmingly around national identity, historical narratives, and symbolism.
For example, the President of Azerbaijan complained in his interview on Al Jazeera English that towns and villages in the region have been re-named in the past decades. Now we see that the Azerbaijani armed forces claim to have taken over the village of Mataghis/Madagiz and Ilham Aliyev’s official Twitter account very soon proclaims a new name for it, rather – “I reinstate the historical name … Sugovushan”.