Vol. 4, No. 4 (February 15, 2010)
Moscow and Baku have no territorial claims on each other, Russian foreign ministry says
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy
Despite the complexities of the Soviet inheritance and the efforts of some to play up a conflict where none exists, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan have no territorial claims on each other, Aleksandr Lukashevich, an official spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said in reaction to one such effort, an article in Moscow’s Nezavisimaya gazeta on 9 February.
“The border between [the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan] has been determined through the Caspian Sea and onshore,” Lukashevich said in a posting on the Russian Foreign Ministry website, with “the land boundary set by the treaty on the state border that was signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on September 3, 2010.” That line follows “the former administrative border between the Dagestan ASSR and the Azerbaijan SSR.”
Because the border there follows a river, some have raised questions about which side has the right to use some of the flow. But a far more frequently discussed issue, Lukashevich said, concerns two small villages, Hrah-Uba, with 450 residents and Uryan, with 30, located on the Azerbaijani side of the border but whose residents are citizens of the Russian Federation. This situation arose, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, more than half a century ago when “no one in teh Soviet Union could imagine that a great country would fall apart.”
In 1954, he continued, residents of Dagestan were given the right to pasture cattle during the winter on Azerbaijani territory for 50 years, and as a result, some of the shepherds settled there and constituted the basic population of the two villages. “No other documents” referring to the presence in Azerbaijan of territory belonging to the Russian Federation have been found in the central or national archives,” Lukashevich said. Moreover, because the 1954 accord expired in 2004, there is no basis in law for asserting that these villages should be included within the border of the Russian Federation now, a reality that is reflected in the September 2010 bilateral treaty.
At the same time, however, the Russian spokesman continued, Russian Federation citizens do live in these two villages, and this lack of correspondence between political and ethnographic boundaries does present certain “complicated” problems. But he underscored that his ministry and several other Russian departments and agencies, along with the government of the Republic of Dagestan, are working on resolving them.
Lukashevich said that Moscow is “in close contact on this issue with the Azerbaijani side and the residents of two villages. Baku has recently held regular ministerial consultations. [And he added], the Azerbaijani side has assured that it will render every possible assistance in the proper settlement of the problems of Russian citizens. The Russian ambassador in Baku works closely with the migration services of Azerbaijan,” and officials from the two countries plan to make a joint visit to the villages “in the near future.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement came in response to the Nezavisimaya gazeta article which reported that there had been a small rally in Hrah-Uba calling on Moscow to defend that community against what its leaders said was “persecution” by local Azerbaijani officials. And in his remarks, Lukashevich reiterated that “the Russian Foreign Ministry is convinced that this issue will not be resolved by protest actions” but rather will require “a strictly individual approach to each individual and each family” in order to ensure that their interests are “not violated” (Tariverdiyeva 2011).
Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation on this issue appears assured, and consequently attempts by Armenian news outlets and others to play this up, something they have done in the past even to the point of suggesting “separatism” or “irredentism” is rampant in the northern portion of Azerbaijan, should be treated with extreme skepticism. There are real human problems, but they are the kind of problems which can be addressed only by diplomatic contacts and good will.
Tariverdiyeva, E. (2011) “Russian FM: Russia, Azerbaijan Have No Territorial Claims”, Trend.az, 11 February, available at: en.trend.az/news/politics/1827399.html (accessed 14 February 2010).