Muslims of Russia and Azerbaijan: a game of ups and downs?

Two news stories that Muslims in Russia and the post-Soviet space should discuss this week are the story of the release of footage showing Ramzan Kadyrov’s son beating a prisoner who burned a copy (mus’haf) of the Koran, and Azerbaijan’s triumph in Karabakh.

There is no point in discussing the first story at length. We have already written several times that either the Kadyrovtsy themselves or someone else is deliberately creating an image of them as a «red rag» in Russian society, a universal irritant that will result in hatred being unleashed at the first convenient opportunity and fed to the crowd when it needs to be appeased again. What is worse, this image is associated with the image of Islam and Muslims in Russia, who, contrary to the opposite reality, are beginning to be perceived by society almost as the rulers of the country, but as deranged and lawless. This is actively promoted by pro-Kremlin bloggers («Kremlin agents», as some of our brothers sometimes call them), who directly or indirectly justify idiocy like what we witnessed last week. By the way, it is worth considering separately the fact that, according to Kadyrov, Zhuravel wanted to convert to Islam, but instead of helping him, he was beaten and the incident was posted online. It would be interesting to hear a competent Sharia assessment of this act from Islamic theologians…

But what is the connection between all this and what is happening now in Karabakh? The first is an almost perfect example of what not to do, while the second is an almost equally perfect example of how to approach serious problems.

Because from a position of strength, its own strength, and not delegated by the Kremlin to solve its tasks, Azerbaijan, by defeating the Armenians, could have completely settled the score with them for the humiliations and atrocities of 30 years ago in Khojaly and many other places. And then there would be videos on the Internet of executions and humiliations of defeated Armenians in the style of Kadyrov and Zhuravel, but with an even more brutal specificity of real war.

However, we see that the leadership of Azerbaijan, having achieved a brilliant military and political victory, is doing the opposite. In particular, they are sending journalists to film videos of Azerbaijani policemen distributing food and water to Armenians stuck in traffic and giving sweets to Armenian children, as well as interviews with Armenian residents of Karabakh in which they are offered not to leave and instead to remain there as protected Azerbaijani citizens.

By the way, these numerous interviews, in which the fleeing Armenians explain who exactly is forcing them to leave, leave no doubt — the current exodus of the Armenian population from Karabakh is a deliberate decision of the Armenian authorities, while the Azerbaijani authorities are appealing to their Armenian citizens to stay.

Therefore, most of the ethnic Armenian population of Karabakh is likely to leave it as a zone of uncertainty and panic, and what will happen next is uncertain. In principle, the leadership of Azerbaijan can take the position that no one expelled them, they left on their own, but if they left, they should not return. This would be logical, but unlike the «Muslim opinion leaders» in Russia, the Azerbaijani leadership seems to care about its reputation as a civilized country. Therefore, it can be assumed that Armenians who have left Karabakh and are not involved in war crimes will be offered the opportunity to return and obtain Azerbaijani citizenship, and that some of them will accept this offer when the dust settles.

If the Azerbaijani leadership decides to go down this road, it can be expected that it will now win some loyal Armenian public figures, either among the enlightened Armenian bloggers who are already writing open letters to Aliyev offering their services, or among individual reformed and amnestied separatist leaders who will now voluntarily surrender as prisoners. It is already out of the question for them to lead any kind of autonomy, as the Armenians of Karabakh rejected this opportunity when Azerbaijan offered it to them, which is why the Azerbaijanis had to resolve this issue at a disproportionately high cost. However, it can be assumed that there will be some special representatives of the Armenian community in the local authorities who will be presented to the world as proof that there are Armenians in Azerbaijan and Karabakh living well there.

In any case, the leadership of Azerbaijan is trying to solve the problem of Karabakh Armenians in the most civilized way in order to create the most favorable reputation for itself. Meanwhile, in Russia, figures associated with Islam are doing their best to create a reputation of savages and degenerates for Russian Muslims.

And yet, once upon a time, Russians, including some Russian Muslims, looked at Azerbaijan as a country of «tomato traders», while they considered themselves a superpower. But today we see a clear difference not only in the ability of the two countries to effectively solve their military tasks (not to mention the fact that Azerbaijan is doing this on its own territory, not on someone else’s), but also in the level of political culture that the leadership raises for the population in one case and lowers to extreme levels in the other.

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