Revenge for the Cathedral: in Turkey, the conflict between Yerevan and Baku was connected with Russia

By | July 15, 2020
Revenge for the Cathedral: in Turkey, the conflict between Yerevan and Baku was connected with Russia

In Turkish social networks, the theory of the connection between the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is being promoted. The escalation of the conflict allegedly became the “revenge” of Moscow Ankara. Experts call such assumptions fictitious, noting Russia’s attempts to stabilize the situation, which confirms the official position of the Kremlin
The ambiguous opinion that the escalation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan allegedly can be connected with the transformation of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Cathedral – an important place for Orthodox Christians around the world – into a mosque is gaining popularity in Turkey’s social networks and media.

According to a number of Twitter users, the Armenian-Azerbaijani confrontation can be seen as the “response of Russia” to Turkey’s actions. Moscow allegedly contributed to the conflict by influencing Yerevan, in fact, “ordering” to attack the Azerbaijani side.

The clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border began on July 12, they pass in the Tovuz and Tavush regions – a few hundred kilometers from Nagorno-Karabakh, one of the main points of contact between the parties. As a result of the clashes, 11 Azerbaijani soldiers and two Armenian officers were killed. The parties constantly blame the shelling on each other, which hinders the settlement of the situation.

The assumption is that the conflict has become a kind of “revenge” for Hagia Sophia, and indeed theorists are linking the current situation to Ankara’s policy on Libya and Syria.

This opinion was partly supported by the professor of the Turkish University of Bahçeşehir Abdullah Agar on the Haber Global television channel. According to him, skirmishes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis take place in a key place – at gas and oil pipes leading to Turkey. In addition, Hagar does not believe that the Armenian leadership independently decided to escalate. The expert did not say who exactly put pressure on Yerevan, although he hinted again at Moscow non-transparently.

In addition to this point of view, the Turkish inhabitants have the impression that the internal problems of Armenia could have caused the conflict. Among the popular theories, it is speculated that Yerevan went into conflict with Baku in order to distract the population from the deplorable state of public health and the economy of the state due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

As a senior researcher at the Center for Caucasian Studies at MGIMO Vadim Mukhanov stated in a conversation with Gazeta.Ru, in general, the aggravation can be explained by the difficult domestic political situation, though not only in Armenia but also in Azerbaijan.

“The political elites of both countries are faced with pressure, which pushes them to adventurous and radical decisions – the consolidation of society on the“ external enemy ”, which in the end can be an ideal lightning rod,”

– the expert considers.

Russian-Turkish view
If we consider the assumptions about “revenge” for the Hagia Sophia, then such theories do not correspond in any way with the official positions of Russia and Turkey on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. So, it is quite obvious that Ankara is on the side of Azerbaijan in accordance with the principle of “one nation, two states.”

According to Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, the Turkish side blames escalation on Yerevan, which allegedly has been pursuing a policy of aggression for many years, occupying Azerbaijani lands.

“We strongly condemn the attacks of the Armenian side in the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan. We express our condolences to the families and friends of the dead Azerbaijani soldiers and wish the wounded a speedy recovery. We will continue all possible assistance and support of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces against Armenia, ”Akar emphasized.

Moscow expressed deep concern over the clashes and offered its mediation to resolve the conflict.

A spokesman for the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Russian side was calling on both sides to restraint and to comply with their obligations under the ceasefire.

From the point of view of Viktor Nadein-Raevsky, a senior researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia is trying to balance the situation so that the parties do not go beyond a certain framework.

“Moscow’s priorities are to prevent military clashes. Talking that Russia so wants to annoy the Turks is meaningless, we have many other possibilities for an answer, ”said an expert to Gazeta.ru.

Thoughts that the Russian side might somehow take revenge on Turkey due to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict are fabrications, Nadein-Raevsky is sure, Armenia and Azerbaijan have internal contradictions that they constantly use against each other. For example, in Baku, they say that everything is so bad for the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan that he is ready to start a war in order to maintain power.

At the same time, it is quite difficult to tie the situation around the Hagia Sophia to the conflict of the parties. The reactions in Russia to the actions of Ankara were different, in particular, a number of local Christian churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, expressed regret with the decision.