The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic: a Hostage or a Threat?
The 1994 ceasefire agreement between Armenians and Azerbaijanis de facto stopped the armed conflict and gave the two nations the opportunity to get a break for a while. Each of the sides has benefited from it on its own.
Since that, Azerbaijan has increased the socio-economic potential of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The territory of Nakhchivan is gradually becoming a Turkish sphere of influence. Once retarded and being not important subject, thanks to the Turkish investments Nakhchivan has obtained a developed infrastructure. This policy is aimed at turning Nakhchivan into a free-trade area between the two countries. The building of the railway, passing from Igdir to Kars, is going to contribute to the strengthening of the bilateral links.
The modern Nakhchivan has good roads and modern facilities, among which we should mention the international airport and the planned hydropower plants. The Azerbaijani authorities mention about their intention to turn Nakhchivan into the capital of the Islamic culture and to increase the flow of tourists. Moreover, the number of the population of the autonomous republic is increasing: in addition to Azerbaijanis, more than six thousand Turks are living there now.
The military sphere still continues to remain important both for Turkey and Azerbaijan. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is getting militarized day by day and has already acquired its separate army. The Turkish army is de facto present there, as the Turkish military officers maintain cooperative Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises there.
The active militarization of Nakhchivan provide Azerbaijan with a reliable support in case of military actions, especially now, when the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia are politically tense. Still during the Artsakh war, in 1990s, Azerbaijan was trying to harm the enemy from the Nakhchivan side, bombarding the civilian settlements and causing human and material losses.
Nowadays, the violations of the ceasefire from the Nakhchivan border still occur. After the four-days-long war in 2016, the experts, in patricular, senior expert of the Centre for Political Studies at the Noravank Foundation Karen Veranyan mentions about the military capacity accumulated during the escalation of the situation in the Artsakh–Azerbaijan border. Moreover, experts point out the progress of the Nakhchivan army during the last eight years and mention that thanks to the Turkish assistance, from a “geographic hostage” Nakhchivan has become an autonomous region which is not only powerful but also is capable to attack.
Nakhchivan is just 30 km. far away from the Ararat region (400 km. away from Baku). In the immediate vicinity of Yerevan there is a militarized republic, whose official rhetoric represents Armenians and Armenia as its number one enemy.
In the Armenian capital, it is considered that the threat is somewhere far away, on the Artsakh-Azerbaijani border, and for tens of years of pause between the past war and the potential new, loudest achievement of Armenia on the Nakhichevan border is the discovery of the oldest leather shoes, in one of the caves. Meanwhile, the population of both Ararat and Vayots-Dzor regions is steadily declining.
To date, Nakhchivan, the ancient region of the Armenian Highland and one of the cultural centers of ancient Armenia, is not an ephemeral but a serious potential threat to Armenia.