Armenia-Azerbaijan: A New War in the South Caucasus


Reactionary regimes in crisis wage a chauvinist war against each other. Russia’s intervention would transform it into an imperialist war.


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 30 September 2020,




1.             A new war between Armenia and Azerbaijan erupted on 27 September. Both sides claim to have killed hundreds of their opponents and destroyed dozens of tanks, drones, etc. Armenia also announced that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down one of its SU-25 warplanes, a claim denied by Ankara. While the conflict currently focuses on the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, fighting is also reported from other border regions (e.g. Dashkesan). There is no doubt that this is the bloodiest conflict since the end of the years-long war between the countries in 1994.


2.             The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has its historic roots in the occupation of the region by the Russian Empire since the early 19th century. The Tsarist rulers established a policy of playing various Caucasian people against each other. Moscow often instrumentalized religious tensions between the Christian Armenians and the Muslim Azeris. In addition, parts of Armenia remained under occupation of the Ottoman Empire where they faced brutal oppression since the late 19th century. This oppression culminated in the notorious genocide during World War I when up to 1,5 million Armenians were killed. During the Soviet period in the 20th century the Stalinist regime – known for its infamous policy of deportation of whole people like the Chechens or the Crimean Tatars – was incapable of solving the national conflicts in the Caucasus. When the bureaucratic dictatorship crumbled in the early 1990s, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan resulted in a bloody war with about 30,000 dead and more than three-quarter million Azeris as well as half a million Armenians displaced. This war ended in 1994 with a victory of Armenia. Yerevan not only brought Nagorno-Karabakh – an enclave in south-western Azerbaijan with an ethnic Armenian majority population – under control but it also occupied about 9% of Azerbaijan’s territory outside of this enclave.


3.             Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are poor capitalist semi-colonies. Armenia – being part of both the Eurasian Economic Union as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization – belongs to the sphere of influence of Russian imperialism. It also hosts a Russian military base (in Gyumri) and an airbase (in Erebuni). Azerbaijan – which has traditionally close relations with Turkey – is rich in oil and natural gas and depends on the export of these raw materials. Hence, it suffers strongly from the ups and downs of the prices on the world market. Azerbaijan has been under the authoritarian grip of a single family – the notorious Aliyev clan – since 1993. First the father, then the son, have brutally ruled the country and shared the country’s wealth only between themselves and imperialist oil corporations.


4.             However, both regimes face increasing domestic problems. The beginning of the Great Depression of the capitalist world economy in late 2019, later accelerated by the collapse of globalization because of the COVID-19 crisis, has dramatic repercussions for the two Caucasian countries. For that reason we have seen acceleration of military tensions and the danger of war in various regions in the last 12 months (e.g. Eastern Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Egypt-Libya, Indian-China). The collapse of energy prices has dramatic consequences for the Aliyev regime and it faced an unprecedented crisis last summer when the foreign minister was sacked and demonstrators stormed the parliament in Baku. Domestic politics in Armenia is traditionally conflict-ridden with the current regime coming to power after the so-called “Velvet Revolution” in April-May 2018. Hence, both regimes have an interest to deflect public attention from domestic problems by wiping-up chauvinism and military tensions. For these reasons, fighting at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border erupted already briefly in July this year.


5.             The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) considers the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in its current stage as reactionary on both sides. Neither the Aliyev regime nor the Pashinyan government have legitimate objectives of war. Baku strives to re-conquer the Armenian majority region of- Nagorno-Karabakh. And Yerevan wants to keep its Azeris-populated territories. Socialists must oppose chauvinism on both sides and refuse any support for the war efforts. They must declare that the enemy is not the other people but their own ruling class.


6.             The new war in the South Caucasus is also marked by the intervention of foreign powers. As mentioned before, Russia has been the dominant power in Armenia since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Iran has also sided with Armenia. Likewise, several European governments have indicated sympathy with Armenia. On 29 September French President Emmanuel Macron denounced Turkey's statements backing Azerbaijan as "reckless and dangerous". He also appears to voice support of French imperialism for Yerevan: "I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role."


7.             On the other hand, Turkey has declared its full solidarity with Azerbaijan (as did the Organization of Islamic Cooperation). There are indications that Armenia is recruiting mercenaries from the Kurdish PKK/YPG and Azerbaijan from Syrian militias which are close to Turkey. Sheikh Abu al-Yaqdhan al-Masri, a well-known independent cleric based in Idlib who used to be part of petty-bourgeois Islamist HTS – a leading force in the Syrian liberation struggle against the Russian-Iranian-Assad occupation – has issued a fatwa which rightly condemned participation in this war by Syrian fighters.


8.             Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan is motivated, on one hand, by political reasons as it hopes to consolidate support for the Erdoğan regime both at home as well as in the Muslim world. In addition, Turkey is highly dependent on energy imports which account for three-quarters of its current account deficit. It is heavily reliant on Russian gas – accounting for 33% of Turkey’s gas imports – and, moreover, on price that is double of what Europeans pay. It hopes to reduce its dependence of Russia by importing oil and gas via the newly built Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.


9.             In contrast, Russia aims to keep its strong influence in the Caucasus so that it can control the energy exports to Turkey as well as to Europe. Moscow wants to prevent the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline, as well as Southern Gas Corridor, as such projects would bypass Russian territory.


10.          However, at the current stage, the element of intervention by foreign powers is not the dominant aspect in the war. At the moment, this conflict is primarily driven by domestic factors – both in Armenia as well as Azerbaijan. In case, Russia – or any other imperialist Great Powers – intervenes in this conflict, the character of the war would change. In such a case, socialists must alter their tactic. They would have to take no longer a defeatist position on both sides but rather support the camp of Azerbaijan and Turkey against the Armenian-Russian side. Naturally, such support must be limited to the military conflict. We refuse political support for the regimes in Baku and Ankara under any circumstances. The RCIT calls socialists in Russia as well as in other imperialist states to intransigently oppose any steps towards military intervention in the South Caucasian war.


11.          As the RCIT has elaborated in a number of documents, Russia has become an imperialist oppressor state in the past two decades. Chechnya is a typical example for the Russia’s nature as a robber state. The Chechen people have been nationally oppressed for most of the time since the Caucasus was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. They demonstrated their desire to separate from Russia twice after the collapse of Stalinism in 1991. In two heroic civil wars in 1994-96 and 1999-2009, the Chechen people fought for an independent state. Ultimately, Russian imperialism was able to crush this liberation struggle only with the most barbaric methods and heavy losses among its own army. It is estimated that the two wars have resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Chechens (out of a total population of Chechnya of little more than one million people!) and the displacement of the majority of the population! The RCIT unconditional supports the national liberation struggle of the Chechen people who are striving to achieve an independent state.


12.          In contrast to Russia, Turkey is an advanced semi-colony. Sure, the political nature of the Erdoğan regime is clearly bourgeois and reactionary. Likewise, it oppresses the Kurdish people. It has also global ambitions as it would like to play the role of the guardian of the Muslim world. However, the class character of a state is not determined by the wishes of its rulers but by its objective political and economic position within the imperialist world order. As a matter of fact, Turkey has an increasing external debt, reaching 444.9 billion (or 56.7% of its GDP) at the end of 2018. Its Net International Investment Position is continuously deteriorating with its external liabilities ($611 billion) nearly three times as high than its assets abroad ($232 billion) by July 2020. Likewise, the foreign direct investment stock of Turkish capital is much lower (6% of GDP) than the FDI stock of foreign capitalists in Turkey (21% of GDP). Large parts of Turkey’s banking sector are dominated by foreign capitalists. In short, Turkey is not an imperialist but an (advanced) semi-colonial country.


13.          Hence, the RCIT rejects the designation of Turkey as “sub-imperialist”. The wrong theory of “sub-imperialism” is not only based on an anti-Marxist method but has also been utilized numerous times by pseudo-Trotskyists (e.g. the tradition of Tony Cliff) as an excuse for the refusal of defending semi-colonial countries against imperialist powers (e.g. of Argentina against Britain in 1982, of Iraq against the U.S.). In other words, the concept of “sub-imperialism” is revisionist in theory and social-imperialist in its practical consequences.


14.          We call socialists to join the RCIT in building a Revolutionary World Party which fights against imperialist wars and capitalist exploitation via preparing the socialist overthrow of the ruling class!


* Down with the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan! This is a reactionary war on both sides!


* No to all forms of chauvinism and war-mongering!


* Oppose all forms of intervention by Russia as well as any other imperialist power!


* In case Russia supports Armenia, socialists need to side with the camp of Azerbaijan and Turkey!


* Support the national liberation struggle of the Chechen people! Independence for Chechnya!


* International solidarity with the Syrian Revolution against the Russian-Iranian-Assad occupation!


* For a workers and peasants republics in Armenia and Azerbaijan! For a socialist federation in the Caucasus!




International Bureau of the RCIT




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We refer readers to the following documents of the RCIT:


RCIT: Turkey and the Growing Tensions in Eastern Mediterranean. Theses on the complex contradictions between imperialist and regional powers, the Arab Revolution and the consequential tactics of Marxists, 28 August 2020,


Documents of the RCIT on Russia rise as an imperialist Great Power:


Documents of the RCIT on the Syrian Revolution:


Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, RCIT Books, February 2018, (see in particular chapter II and V)