Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 145

In the wake of the informal Azerbaijani-Armenian summit in Geneva, the main opposition parties in Baku continue criticizing President Haidar Aliev’s search for a mutually acceptable compromise over Karabakh (see the Monitor, July 22). On July 23, moreover, the Democratic Congress–an umbrella organization encompassing most opposition parties, large and small–criticized the United States for using “double standards” and influencing Aliev in the direction of “more concessions” to Armenia (Turan, July 23). Yet the Popular Front (PFA) leader, former President Abulfaz Elchibey, and his supporters are simultaneously conducting an irredentist campaign with regard to Iran. Reacting to the recent unrest in that country, they are calling for a “national liberation struggle” with a view to uniting “northern Azerbaijan” and “southern Azerbaijan”–that is, attaching the Azeri-inhabited provinces of Iran to the existing Azerbaijani state. Elchibey concurrently heads the Movement for a United Azerbaijan (UAM), which is made up of a range of political and youth organizations affiliated with the opposition in Baku.

On July 14, Elchibey described the unrest in “southern Azerbaijan” as a process likely to develop in two stages: the first, now underway, as an “anti-regime struggle” in alliance with the Iranian opposition in Tehran; and, second, a follow-up “movement of national liberation of Azeris from Iran,” to start “no later than this coming autumn” (Interview with Turan news agency, July 14). On July 17, Popular Front Vice Chairman Mirmahmud Fattaev declared after a special UAM sitting–chaired by Elchibey–that “the situation in southern Azerbaijan is comparable with the situation in northern Azerbaijan ten years ago and should be turned into a national liberation movement” (ANS TV, July 17).

On July 27, Elchibey addressed a joint sitting of PFA and UAM youth organizations on “The role of youth in the national liberation struggle.” Again anticipating an Azeri secession movement in Iran, he described it as a continuation of the abortive 1945-47 attempt to attach that part of Iran to Azerbaijan. He urged his audience “to prepare for the struggle toward that goal” (Turan, July 27). The 1945-47 events in northern Iran were regarded both in that country and in the West at the time–and have been regarded since–as a Soviet undertaking to break up Iran and attach its Azeri-inhabited north to the Azerbaijani SSR. Azeri nationalist groups, however, regard those events as a genuine national movement.

Elchibey is on record as asserting–at the PFA’s congress last February, for example–that regaining Karabakh and “liberating southern Azerbaijan” are equally important goals and that the order in which they are to be pursued will depend on circumstances and opportunities. Some senior leaders of the PFA do not share Elchibey’s militancy and are conscious of the risks involved in confronting Armenia and Iran simultaneously while resisting Russian revanchism. Even these more responsible leaders, however, seem to find it psychologically difficult, if not impossible, to distance themselves from Elchibey and the radical groups which follow his agenda.

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at pubs@jamestown.org, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions