The answer was to fabricate a history. The officially sponsored Buniatov or Baku School of Historiography (Ziya Buniatov was an Azeri revisionist historian) developed to re-write history in the service of national ambition. In his early chapters, Galichian examines two books that exemplify the fruits of these labours, War against Azerbaijan: Targeting Cultural Heritage and Monuments of Western Azerbaijan. Just as Turkey claims its roots in the Hittites and other people with whom it has no historical connection, Azerbaijan claims to be the heir to the Caucasian Albanians, a Christian people who ruled much of what is now Azerbaijan and had became extinct in the 12th century. This subterfuge eradicates a millennia long Armenian presence and allows Azeris to be presented as indigenous and the Armenians as latter-day interlopers. This is the history that has been taught to Azeri schoolchildren for decades, and its irredentist implications are clearly revealed when we understand that “Western Azerbaijan” refers to Armenia itself.
Levon Chorbajian, Ph.D. is the translator and co-author of The Caucasian Knot: The History and Geopolitics of Nagorno-Karabagh (Zed Books) and the editor of The Making of Nagorno-Karabagh: From Secession to Republic (Palgrave Macmillan).