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Moscow has played a significant role in propelling the conflict between the two neighbours by creating autonomous regions in Azerbaijan and drawing controversial borders.

Behind the ongoing border conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, there are growing signs of Russia’s old realpolitik, as Moscow openly backs Yerevan against Baku. 

Since the early years of its formation, Russia, which is mainly based on a synthesis of Slavism and Orthodox Christianity, has always seen itself as the protector state of Slavic nations and Orthodox Christians. 

“Russia has traditionally supported Armenia very much. Traditionally, it will. Historically, Armenia has looked at Russia as its protector. That goes back to the fact that those are primarily Orthodox Christian countries. It also goes back to all the 1915 events and also Nagorno-Karabakh [dispute],” said Matthew Bryza, the former US ambassador to Azerbaijan and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. 

The 1915 events refer to political and military circumstances in World War I, when Russia-backed Armenians aimed to create an independent state in the Eastern Anatolian territories of the Ottoman Empire. The clashes between the Ottoman and Armenian forces caused human losses of great magnitude on both sides. 

For centuries, Moscow remained focused on the Balkans in Eastern Europe, and Caucasia, which is located between the Central Asia and Russian mainlands. The Russian Empire and its Tsarist regimes fought the Ottoman Empire and its allies in both regions for centuries. The Balkans and Caucasia have always had significant Slavic and Orthodox Christian populations.  

At the same time, Moscow’s policy has required the statecraft to suppress Muslim and Turkic aspirations across those regions, while allying with friendly nations like Serbia and Armenia, using them to create spheres of influence across the Balkans and Caucasia. 

Russia-Armenia axis

“We can clearly say that Russia is on the side of Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia de facto looks like a region of Russia. Almost all of the Armenian economy has been controlled by Russia. Armenia’s defence is also at the hands of Russia,” said Bulent Aras, professor of international relations at Istanbul Policy Center-Sabanci University.

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