Almost Anniversary: Azerbaijan’s hope for Turkey’s attack failed because of political crisis in Russia

October 3 marks a historic day of 18 years ago when all the armed forces of Armenia were on hair-trigger alert for a possible air attack from Turkey.

Political analyst Hayk Demoyan, head of the Armenian Genocide Institute-Museum, recalls that “Turkey then centered its forces on the Armenian border, and deployed armored vehicles and artillery of the 220th mechanized and the 9th artillery alignment of the Sarighamish division of the Turkish army at Bayraktaran border village.”

What exactly was going on?

Presidential elections were scheduled for October 3, 1993 in Azerbaijan; the initial predictability of the outcome did not promise any surprises. The intrigue was however somewhere else, and Heydar Aliyev, then running for presidency, had high hopes for it: he was counting on opening a second front against the Armenian statehood. And, his hopes were not groundless.

Yet in September Turkey concentrated a solid military contingent at the Armenian border. It was then that Turkish premier Tansu Ciller, openly demonstrating his annoyance with the Armenians’ success, stated that Turkey “is not going to sit back and do nothing”.

Ankara’s determination was determined by most serious crisis of power in Russia, where the conflict between the president and the parliament was gradually turning into an armed confrontation. Turkey was counting on Boris Yeltsin’s removal from office, on the creation of prerequisites for reconsideration of Armenian-Russian agreements and withdrawal of Russian military units deployed in Armenia.

Aliyev had high hopes for such a prospect, and in early October Turkey was making attempts to use the political crisis in Russia to attack Armenia under the pretense of a fight against Kurds.

Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov had reached a clear-cut agreement with the Turkish Premier: should Khasbulatov win, Russian frontier guards would be withdrawn from Transcaucasia. This would enable Turkey, using the Kurdish issue as an excuse, to carry out a limited encroachment upon Armenia.

If the October 3 presidential election results in Baku were predictable, in the Russian capital, on the contrary, things were happening in an interactive regime: while Azeri voters were on their way to polling stations, Khasbulatov was calling to storm the Kremlin and lock Boris Yeltsin in Matrosskaya Tishina (“Seaman’s Silence” – detention facility in Moscow).

The night of October 4 Yeltsin made a decision to storm the House of Soviets: at the session of Defense Ministry’s General Staff he ordered to use tanks and armored vehicles.

On October 4, the day when the army entered Moscow and tanks opened fire at the House of Soviets, the armed forces in Armenia were on red alert to repulse the possible attack from Turkey. Thousands of Russian border guards deployed on the Armenian-Turkish border were watching the north.

Heydar Aliyev secured an almost 100-percent victory in elections, and he could have rightfully celebrated another victory, if not for the fact that Yeltsin’s victory in Moscow wrecked his far-reaching plans.