The omission of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Arsenal’s Europa League final squad due to concerns for his safety should he travel to Azerbaijan has shown that "money has won" over practicality in the logistics of the final.
Anoosh Chakelian, Senior Writer with the New Statesmen, joined Wednesday’s OTB AM to provide an in-focus look at the reasons why Mkhitaryan did not feel safe to travel to Baku and the recent history and tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
While there has been a long history of ethnic tension and conflict between the two countries, Chakelian told the show that the recent history of the tension had been consciously stoked up by the Soviet Union.
In addition, Chakelian explained that the main contention of the conflict now is over a disputed piece of land that is in Azerbaijan but has a majority Armenian ethnicity.
“During the Soviet Union the area became its own autonomous region”, Chakelian noted.
“So, the Soviet regime attempted to stir up tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan using this land because of its historic conflict as a divide and rule tactic.
“So, ever since then in the 80s it's been a real tinderbox of tensions. There was a declaration of independence in 1991 which led to a very bloody war but even though there has been a ceasefire since ‘94 there are still skirmishes and deaths.”
Since then, the piece of land has become a “symbolic” area of importance for Armenians due to the amount of land that the country has lost.
Due to the current poor relations between the countries, Armenians are rarely, if ever, given permission to travel into Azerbaijan. Chakelian added that even having an ‘Ian’ or ‘Yan’ at the end of a surname could make receiving a visa to enter Azerbaijan extremely difficult due to the Armenian connotations of such a surname.
“It seems like his safety hasn’t been guaranteed and that's appalling”, Chakelian posited before posing the question: “If it was a bigger player or someone from a more influential country would it be the same story?”
You can watch Chakelian's full explainer of the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the YouTube video at the top of this article.