The limits of leadership: Elites and societies in the Nagorny Karabakh peace process
Publication date: 
2005
Accord issue: 
17

The Nagorny Karabakh conflict began suddenly in 1988: a clash of political ambitions for a traditionally disputed territory at a moment of imperial decline. Thomas de Waal discusses four elements that contributed to the fissures in the Soviet era: divergent national narratives, a disputed territorial boundary, an unstable security arrangement and a lack of dialogue between the two parties.

Tracing Armenian-Azerbaijani tensions, he dispels the idea of a ‘clash of ancient hatreds’, emphasising that most Armenians and Azerbaijanis had good relations before 1988. Socio-economic factors were also not to blame, but previous political arrangements contained lethal structural flaws that perpetuated mutual insecurities, and at the heart of the conflict are the narrow political narratives the two sides have come to employ in imagining themselves and the other.