Following a (relatively) recent report published by the State Service for Mobilization and Conscription (SHXCDX), the media announced that 1291 Great Patriotic War veterans are still alive in Azerbaijan. Approximately one quarter of these veterans still live in Baku, and a handful of veterans live in all districts except for Beylagan and Khojavand. Of course, none of them are from the separatist republic of Nagorno-Karabakh or the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan (of which parts are occupied by Armenians) in Armenia, because Armenians can never be considered patriotic.
If you’ve lost track of which Great Patriotic War or Conflict the media is referring to, fear not: the meaning has mutated over time. The term is currently used in reference to the Eastern Front of World War II, which lasted from June 22nd, 1941 to May 9th (or 11th, if you include the liberation of Prague) 1945. The term is not typically used outside of the former USSR, although it should be noted that the Eastern Front never crossed into what was once Azeri territory.
Of course, this was not the first Great Patriotic War – in fact, it was the third. The first Great Patriotic War occurred in 1812, in which Napoleon ultimately failed to take Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. The Russian troops were not well-equipped, but employed scorched-earth tactics to starve the woefully underprepared French troops. The Great Patriotic War later referred to the First World War, in which Russia fought both the German and the Austro-Hungary Empire – again managing to outlast better-trained and equipped officers. With the prospect of another large and difficult war looming with the breaking of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the term “Great Patriotic War of the Soviet People” began circulating in 1941 as a propagandist way to inspire Soviet resistance (which, as we know today, was quite impressive).
So why does this mean anything to Azerbaijan? It’s not clear – while relations with Russia have typically been strong in the post-Soviet world, both nations are competing for oil exports and Russia’s weakening economy has led to a degree of distancing. At the same time, playing up the Soviet connection could be advantageous if relations with Armenia continue to deteriorate and Baku needs to call on its ally.
(Or maybe Azerbaijan just wants to pretend that they’re relevant on the global stage.)
In other news, Azerbaijan is unhappy that NATO is planning to hold a Parliamentary Assembly in Yerevan. Vice-Speaker Ziyafet Asgerov, the head of the Azeri delegation to NATO, has written a formal letter protesting the locale. (They have suggested Belgrave instead.)
Baku is also pleased with the progress made between Iran and the P5+1 group in regards to the Iranian nuclear program. With Iran as Azerbaijan’s only buffer to the increasingly unstable and chaotic Middle East, such a deal will (hopefully) combat destabilization in the region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on the matter:
“We are confident that this political framework will open up an opportunity for the development of peace, security and stability in the region and beyond. The Azerbaijan Republic supports efforts and political will of the international community regarding the constructive resolution of international issues basing on the norms and principles of the UN Charter and international law.”
In light of Yemen’s collapse, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also extended its deepest thanks to Russia for evacuating Azeri nationals from Yemen to the embassy, and later to Moscow. It helps to have allies!