Life along an international border can be challenging – especially if you are at war with your neighbour. For decades, border communities in Azerbaijan and Armenia have been caught in the middle of a drawn-out conflict – one that fluctuates from isolated incidents to periods of full-scale hostilities. But even during times of relative calm, fear and insecurity cast a long shadow over everyday life.
Things weren’t always this way. On a recent visit to one of the border communities in Azerbaijan, we were told about how during Soviet times, communities on either side of the border used to cross over to trade, work, or even to participate in Muslim rites of passage, such as the ‘Kirve’. In addition, shared resources – such as common pastures, roads, irrigation and water supplies – used to be considered a blessing rather than a curse. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations have soured over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that has been occupied by Armenian forces since the signing of a ceasefire in 1994 that put an end to six years of full-scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.