BAKU, Azerbaijan — In a mostly empty Soviet-era building here on a recent morning, a 29-year-old woman pressed her eye against the scope of a sniper rifle, brown hair spilling over her shoulder, and took aim at virtual commandos darting between virtual trees.
Gathered around her were fellow students — a decommissioned soldier, teenage boys with whispery mustaches, a 34-year-old communications worker in Islamic hijab. When sniper training was offered here in April, by an organization that provides courses on military preparation, the classes were a sensation, attracting three times as many students as the instructors could handle.
The logic behind this can be traced to a grievance that festers below the surface of everyday life, permeating virtually every conversation about this country’s future.
Since the early 1990s,
has been trying to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within its borders, and secure the return of ethnic Azeris who were forced from their homes by war. A cease-fire has held since 1994, and officials remain engaged in internationally mediated negotiations with Azerbaijan Armenia, a process that will receive a burst of attention this month when the two sides meet in . More Kazan, Russia