The Caucasus
tovuz

Armenia-Azerbaijan border as regional flashpoint

Several have been killed in ongoing clashes that broke out along the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. An Azerbaijani general is among the dead in the heaviest fighting between the two nations in years. Villages in Azerbaijan’s northern Tovuz rayon (district) have come under artillery fire by Armenian forces, causing property damage. Officials in both countries blamed each other for starting the fighting. But some see an Armenian design to involve Russia in the conflict. This time the fighting is not in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia does not have internationally recognized sovereignty. An attack there would fall outside the purview of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member. Under Article 4 of the CSTO Charter, an attack on a member state is considered an attack against all members. (Photo: Axar.az)

The Caucasus
North Caucasus

Russia: raids on rights defenders in Dagestan

Police in southern Russia raided the homes and office of activists who provide legal and psychological assistance to survivors of human rights abuses and domestic violence, Human Rights Watch reports. The raids took place in Makhachkala and Khasavyurt, two cities in Dagestan, a republic in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region. The activists targeted are members of the Stichting Justice Initiative, a nongovernmental organization representing victims of rights abuses in the North Caucasus and survivors of domestic violence. Police seized computers and electronics containing documentation pertaining to their work. The court order sanctioning the search and seizure contained no information about any specific alleged offense that would have justified the action.  “These outrageous police raids show the poisonous climate for NGOs in Russia, and particularly in the North Caucasus,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. (Map: Wikitravel)

The Caucasus

Russia upholds Chechen-Ingush border agreement

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation upheld a decision to draw a border between the republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya. In September the two republics signed an agreement to define the border between them. This was the first time that the border has been defined since the split of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic after the collpase of the USSR. The agreement became law in each republic in October, but a group of Ingush deputies challenged the law. The Chechen-Ingush border dispute has sparked violence in recent years, and been exploited by Islamists who seek to create a “Caucasus Emirate” covering both republics, a resurrection of the insurgent state established by Muslim rebels in the 19th century. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection?)

The Caucasus

Protest, polarization in ex-Soviet Georgia

A massive protest encampment erected in front of Tbilisi’s parliament building demanding the resignation of Georgia’s government prompted President Georgi Margvelashvili to meet with demonstration leaders and remove his chief prosecutor. The latest round of mass protests began over accusations of a government cover-up in the slaying of two youths. But pressure was building for weeks. The first protests broke out in mid-May to demand drug legalization after a series of police raids on nightclubs. Gay rights advocates took to the streets to mark Inter­na­tion­al Day Against Homo­pho­bia—to be confronted by gangs of neo-Nazis, who tried to intimidate them into dispersing, giving Hitler salutes and chanting “death to the enemy!” The protest wave indicates a new generation tired of rule by ex-Soviet elites coming of age—but starkly divided between more liberal and harshly reactionary currents. (Photo: OC Media)

The Caucasus

Chechen police state turns ire on druggies

Last year, horrific reports emerged from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya that authorities were rounding up gays in detainment camps and subjecting them to torture —the first time this kind of thing has happened in Europe since Nazi Germany. Now the reign of terror is being extended to drug users and small-time dealers, who are facing torture at the hands of Chechen security forces as part of the same ultra-puritanical campaign. Reports describe electric current being applied to suspects to induce them to “confess.” No one has survived without confessing, victims are told. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

The Caucasus
helsinki

Chechnya: concentration camps for gays?

Alarming reports are emerging that Chechyna has opened “the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler,” following a “gay purge” in the southern Russian republic. (Photo: Human Rights Campaign via Twitter)

The Caucasus

Nagorno-Karabakh in Russo-Turkish game

As the worst fighting since a 1994 truce breaks out in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey’s President Erdogan asserts himself as protector of Azerbaijan, pledging to back Baku “to the end.” (Map: Wikipedia)