Speaking exclusively to Greek City Times, an Armenian-born Greek citizen and a seperate source wishing to be unnamed revealed that volunteers are going from Greece to defend Artsakh against the Turkish-sponsored Azerbaijani aggression.
The source, wishing to remain anonymous but speaking exclusive to Greek City Times, revealed that the first batch to go to Armenia will consist of approximately 80 Greek citizens, around 50 of Armenian heritage and around another 30 ethnic Greeks.
He also revealed that all the volunteers are coming from all parts of Greece, including Athens, Thessaloniki, Chalkidi, Crete and Thessaly.
Iakovos Stamatiadis, in speaking with Greek City Times and separately from the unnamed source, said “I cannot sit here and watch what is happening in my homeland and not fight.”
“I will go to Armenia to support my country and to fight,” the 30-year-old who arrived in Greece 28 years ago said.
When asked by Greek City Times why it is important for him to go to Armenia and fight, he said “because I put my country above all,” adding “I am angry and stressed because my country defends herself and they [Azerbaijan] are invading us.”
Reflecting on how his family is in Armenia, Stamatiadis said “they do not feel safe, they are afraid. The situation is very serious.”
“I want to say that the government has to [openly] support Armenia. I have Greek friends, I live in Greece. I know that Greek people are with us. Greeks want to go to Armenia to fight,” he said.
When asked whether these were ethnic Greeks or Armenian-Greeks, he confirmed that it was ethnic Greeks who wanted to go to Artsakh and fight.
“Let me say that Greeks are a heroic people,” Stamatiadis said.
To the Greeks of the diaspora, he said that “they are my brothers.”
“I want to say to Greeks in the diaspora that I appreciate and thank you. I am Armenian and I live in Greece. I feel myself Greek. I love Greece with all my heart. They are excellent. They are my brothers,” he said with a smile.
He also said that he would not hesitate to fight for Greece in the case of a war with Turkey.
Stamadiatis finalized his interview with Greek City Times by saying that he personally knows “30-35 Armenian-Greeks” going to Artsakh, and another “15-20 ethnic Greeks” who are also going.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at loggerheads with each other over the territory of Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, since the Soviet Union begun collapsing in the late 1980’s.
As acting Commissar of Nationalities for the Soviet Union in the early 1920’s, Joseph Stalin made the decision that the Armenian-majority region of Artsakh would be under the administration of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic instead of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Although Stalin promised Artsakh to the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, he ultimately granted the region to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic, albeit with autonomy. This served two purposes – a continuation of the Soviet divide-and-rule strategy in the Caucasus, and a hope to turn Turkey into a socialist state by appeasing the Azeris who are linguistically and culturally nearly identical to Turks.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, which resulted in the creation of 15 new countries including Armenia and Azerbaijan, created chaos throughout the Caucasus as wars broke out as a result of Stalin’s artificial borders that left ethnic groups detached from their kin.
In 1921, it was estimated that Artsakh was 94% Armenian. According to the 1989 census, Artsakh’s population was approximately 75% ethnic Armenian (145,000) and 25% ethnic Azeri (40,688). Although there was a significant increase in the Azeri population in Artsakh in the 20th Century, former Soviet Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev, father of current dictator Ilham Aliyev, revealed why this occurred in 2002.
“I tried to change demographics there. Nagorno-Karabakh petitioned for the opening of an institute of higher education there. [In Azerbaijan] everybody was against it. After deliberations I decided to open one, but on condition that there would be three sectors — Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian. After [the institute] opened we no longer sent Azerbaijanis from the neighboring regions to Baku [and] instead [sent them] there. With these and other measures I tried to increase the number of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh and the number of Armenians decreased.”
Despite these efforts of systematic demographic change, Artsakh today is 95% ethnic Armenian.
The collapse of the Soviet Union unsurprisingly led to the Artsakh War, which ended in a ceasefire on May 12, 1994 after a decisive Armenian victory led to a de facto independence for Artsakh, albeit unrecognized by no state, including Armenia, but being almost entirely reliant on Yerevan.
Skirmishes have been commonplace since 1994, with serious escalations in April 2016 and July this year when Azerbaijan launched an attack on Armenia’s northeast Tavush province. Although Azerbaijan’s defense budget is $2.267 billion, about five times larger than Armenia’s, they have made little gain and sustained huge casualties.