Is There Hope for Understanding Between Armenians and Azerbaijanis?

Among the three leaders of the national movements and the first ‘democratically-elected’ presidents of the South Caucasus, Levon Ter-Petrosyan was undoubtedly the most educated. Neither Zviad Gamsakhurdia nor Abulfaz Elchibey could be compared to the first Armenian president on an intellectual level.

Still, they have something in common: all of them, voluntarily or not, acted in the powerful gravitational field of the Russian political empire, and in the end successfully fulfilled one and the same mission: to bring their supposedly independent countries to full dependence on Russia.

It should be acknowledged that for politicians of the epoch of the collapse of the USSR, the realities of the situation left almost no choice, other than: nationalism as a means of mobilizing the masses; the adaptation of one’s tactics to comply with political parameters dictated by Moscow; and the simultaneous but unsuccessful search for alaternative centers of gravity outside of Moscow.

One would have, perhaps, had to be a genius to overcome the gravity of this historical process; a heroic figure on the level of Prometheus.

But, as history has shown us, all of the political actors of that time turned out to be mortals.

From this sad truth, it follows that we must admit that the success of the leaders of the national movements in the countries of the South Caucasus was vital for Moscow’s future plans regarding the region.

When, in the end of the 1980s, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, in tandem with the Russian intelligence services, set fire to ethnic tensions in Georgia, who was he: an idiot, or an agent?

After he had taken up the position of the democratic, anti-imperial unity of the peoples of the Caucasus, did Merab Kostava die in a car crash accidentally, or was this accident orchestrated?

When, during the years of his leadership, Elchibey waved about the banner of pan-Turkism with all his might in ethnically variegated Azerbaijan, and skillfully upheld the Russian policy of escalation of the Karabakh conflict, should he have been regarded as a naïve idiot, or a hardened agent?

Returning to Mr. Levon Ter-Petrosyan for a moment and for the clarity of this text, I would like to continue with a realistic picture of his involuntary cooptation into the coordinated system of Russian imperial policy in the South Caucasus.

He came to power in Armenia precisely because he fit the Kremlin’s plans regarding the future of the South Caucasus; let us not fall into any illusions about the political maturity of the Armenian electorate of the time.

To do this, the Soviet intelligence services sent the real champion of Armenian independence, Paruyr Hayrikyan, to Ethiopia, from where he escaped to the USA.

They then molded the image of a stalwart champion of Armenian independence from a successful Soviet academic and conformist. Coming to power in Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan began to very carefully lead Armenia along a path that coincided with Russia’s plans for the South Caucasus: the path that lead the country to the place where it is now.

At the same time, he honestly tried, within the bounds of what was permissible, to reduce Armenia’s dependence on the Kremlin’s destructive plans.

Twice Mr. Levon Ter-Petrosyan made appeals to reason to his compatriots. First in 1998, with the article “

Voyna ili mir

” [War or Peace]. The result of his appeal to the reason of the Armenian people was his removal from the post of president and the ascension to power in Armenia of field commanders from Karabakh.

I don’t doubt that the result of his present appeal will be the same.

We’ll try to understand the logic of Mr. Ter-Petrosyan and go over his starting assumptions. At the very beginning of his appearance to the ANC, he declares to his comrades in the party that the “root of all troubles is the strategy of maintaining the status quo in Karabakh as a political philosophy, which is the base on which the Armenian State is constructed”.

It is absolutely clear that if the leaders of the Armenian movement hadn’t set before the nation the task of taking Karabakh from Azerbaijan, the following events would never have taken place.

First, the transformation of the democratic national movements in Armenia and Azerbaijan into ochlocratic nationalist movements.

Second, the formation in Armenia and Azerbaijan of a clan of field commanders capable of influencing political processes.

Third, there would not have taken shape a deep enmity between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The pogroms and deportations of thousands of Armenians from Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis from Armenia would not have taken place. Armenia would not have been excluded from highly profitable international projects. And, lastly, Armenia would not have transformed into an outpost of Russia, whose interests in the country are vigilantly guarded by oligarchic, criminal structures.

After one concept has been distorted, a whole series of others follow. The ex-president declared that “in 1998, we had one country, and today we live in a completely different country”.

There are weighty reasons for doubting this assertion. Armenia, then as now, is one and the same country.

Then as now, its immersion in the ethno-territorial conflict with Azerbaijan is its dominant characteristic. The presence of deep political disagreements with Turkey, the unceasing degradation of achievements accumulated in the Soviet period in industry, agriculture, science, education and healthcare, the growing rate of emigration, the entrenchment of corruption as the main principle of activity of the government apparatus and a dangerous social polarization. I don’t think that the first president of Armenia would deny that all the listed phenomena and tendencies were present during the time of his leadership as well.

Later in his speech, the orator begins listing off facts that are hard to contest. He asks the hall, “… will we repeat the adventurism of 1920, when, striving for maximum territorial gravity, we lost half the territory of the Republic of Armenia”?

This is a rhetorical question, since the choice has already been made, all of Armenia is now engaged in one thing – territorial expansion. Call this what you will: “restoring historical justice”, “a national-liberation movement”, “irredentism” – there’s no difference. Armenia is trying to legally formalize the annexation of Karabakh, which, according to all international documents, is the lawful territory of the Azerbaijan Republic. If this wasn’t the case, then the independence of Karabakh would have been recognized long ago, without problem.

And truly, taking into account Armenia’s limited resources and the price it is paying for the realization of this project, it’s hard to call this anything other than adventurism. But what is the start of the adventure: the actual seizure of territory, or the attempt to keep it via a “strategy of maintaining the status quo”?

For the sake of illustration, the scholarly orientalist and medievalist reminds his listeners and readers of several twists and turns in the history of the Palestine conflict.

And how cunning this is. He asserts that the Palestinian Arabs and Arabic states declared war on Israel. The unfortunate “Palestinian Arabs” weren’t a political subject, to be able to “declare war on Israel”! And there were no Arab states so independent from their Western patrons to be able to start a war. At that time, the Palestinian Arabs and the “Arab states” had no more independence from the West than Soviet Armenia or Soviet Azerbaijan had independence from the Kremlin.

Mr. Ter Petrosyan ought to remember the degree of his independence and his ability to make decisions independently at the beginning of his political career. Does he remember? Could he, the first president of Armenia, have stated at the beginning of the 1990s that he is opposed to the seizure and annexation of Karabakh? His political opponents openly rebuked him, even during the 2008 presidential elections, for the fact that in 1993 he was opposed to the seizure of Kalbajar. And who of the field commanders, under direction for Russia, would have listened to the president of Armenia, formally independent but in reality bound hand and foot?

And so, both the “Palestinian Arabs” and the “Arab states” had the same amount of sovereignty to make decisions to exactly the same degree that Armenia and Azerbaijan were sovereign at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s.

The orator completely fairly reminds that since Egypt and Jordan and the PLO recognized Israel in 1993, the peacebuilding process has been moving forward, but, as he episodically notes, “to this day has not come to a close”. He skillfully avoids this detail: that the peacebuilding process is incomplete because of Israel’s policy for settling the occupied Palestinian territories with Israelis, which the Palestinians, and indeed the whole world, categorically do not accept. And that Israel is challenging world society because it is supported by the USA.

Does this situation remind the thoughtful reader of something? What parallels beg to be made?

Mr. Levon Ter-Petrosyan proposes that his Armenian listeners think on three key questions:

1. What are the compulsive needs that dictate the “Nation-Army” program proposed by the government?

2. What problem does it seek to resolve?

3. How many resources are required to implement it?

In a period of free reflection on the topic he himself has presented, the orator declares indisputable truths to his listeners, along the lines of “reliance on the diaspora is a chimera”, “the national wealth of the country is being ruthlessly plundered by highly-placed officials and wasted on developing their own businesses, constructing luxurious mansions, and hunting lions in Africa”.

Regarding the first question, Mr. Ter-Petrosyan declares that “it’s funny to speak of the expansionist ambitions of the Armenian people if, of course, not to speak of the delirious dreams of taking Baku, freeing Western Armenia and creating an Armenia that stretches from sea to sea”.

Wait, wait, and why is it funny to speak “of the expansionist ambitions of the Armenian people”? After all, is it funny that the majority of the population of Armenia supports the “war for national liberation” in Karabakh, the occupation of 16% of the territory of a neighboring state, the inclusion of 7 districts around Nagorno-Karabakh in the

Constitution of Artsakh

as “liberated territories”, and stubborn reminders about the necessity of “also taking back the Shahumyan Region from Azerbaijan”?

If the blood of the tens of thousands of Armenians and Azerbaijanis that have become victims of these Armenian chimeras, the crippled fates of millions, and the enormous number of homes and various structures turned to ruins are funny, what dimensions does a catastrophe need to achieve before it is no longer considered funny? After all, is the world obliged to shake with laughter when Serzh Sargsyan, president of the Republic of Armenia, declares to his young countrymen that “our generation fulfilled the task of liberating Karabakh, the task for your generation is to liberate Western Armenia”? And this assertion is coming from the lips not of some marginal, nationalist historian like Ayvazyan, but from the highest official in the Republic of Armenia.

Is there really no difference between them in the Armenian view of the world? Or does the whole world need to learn the unique, Armenian concept of funny?

Mr. Ter-Petrosyan declares to his listeners that, “in the ‘Nation-Army’ question, as regards compulsion stemming from the need for survival and security, the Swiss experience needs to be fully put aside, since the Middle Ages are passed and the relations between states are determined according to completely different principles of international law”.

If one abstracts from reality, then there need be no objection to his words. It is clearly not the Middle Ages outside right now. But the problem is that alongside the general change in the state of the greater part of the world, there still exist and function within it countries that contrive to stay true to medieval ideals, values and concepts. Armenia, unfortunately, is one of them. If “relations between states are determined according to completely different principles of international law”, then by what principle of modern, international law is a part of the regular army of the Republic of Armenia on the territories legally belonging to the Azerbaijan Republic? Why are they referred to as “occupied” in international documents, and why are the results of the glorious work of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan in seizing parts of the territory of Azerbaijan not recognized by the international community?

But if the policies of modern Armenia contradict international law, then what’s the point of the wailing about hardships? After all, this is a voluntary and, it would seem, fully conscious choice. Perhaps the entire picture painted by Mr. Ter-Petrosyan, of the steady degradation of Armenia, is something to be proud of? Like a war hero takes pride in his wounds.

The most outstanding modern political thinker of Armenia believes that the support of Turkey prompted the government of Azerbaijan not to yield after losing Kalbajar, and that as a result they lost five more districts. Is that right, Mr. Ter-Petrosyan? Why does the orator toss out of his calculations such reasons as the fact that the demarcation of sides in the conflict region had not yet been fully realized in the configuration required by Russian diplomacy, which had been drawn on the maps of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation, or also the peculiarities of the struggle between mafia clans for power in Azerbaijan? Does he not know of this and not remember? After all, didn’t he remind the Armenian people of this in his day, that the “victories in the Artsakh War can in no small measure be explained by the struggle for power which was taking place at that time in Azerbaijan”?

Mr. Ter-Petrosyan is absolutely correct in pointing out that, “not having learned a lesson from the bitter experience of the past 18 years, the regime decided to continue its infamous policy of never-ending confrontation with Azerbaijan and Turkey, which in this short span of time has already led to great economic, social, demographic, moral and psychological destruction in Armenia and Karabakh”.

One cannot agree with the next conclusion drawn by the ex-president, that continuing the policy of confrontation with Azerbaijan and Turkey, “… signifies that, at the very least, nothing will remain, and the problem will lose relevance of its own accord”.

A realistically depicted image of present and future Armenia is so pitiable that it begs that eternal question: what is to be done? And Mr. Levon Ter-Petrosyan is proposing to the congress of the party led by him that they make a conscious and long-term choice: go to the next parliamentary elections, in 1918, with a plan for a peace compromise. He sees the primary political task of his party in the following: “The moment has come to finally recognize that, in order to achieve success in the negotiation process on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Serj Sargsyan must speak from the position of a leader who enjoys the support of the majority of the people, political forces and civic organizations, and not from the position of a weak leader with problems inside the country. And for this, we do not need to declaw him with “patriotic” chatter, but rather to encourage him to take a decisive step in resolving the Karabakh conflict.

The ex-president of Armenia’s speech was not well received in Armenia. In the grand scheme of things, this speech could have been transformed into the start of a serious, nation-wide discussion about the essence of the policy being pursued, that policy which transformed “independent” Armenia into a Russian outpost and condemned its people to degradation and poverty.

But we need to account for the “national peculiarities” of the Armenian people. These “peculiarities” include a belief in their own exceptionalism, having certain rights that other peoples do not and cannot have, the myth about the “genocide” and historical grievances which must be avenged, the happy ability to see victory in defeat and acquisition in loss. With such a peculiarity of worldview, the Armenian people are at this time unable not only to discuss, but even to hear the far-flung talking points voiced by Mr. Levon Petrosyan.

Attuned to the political expediency of the moment, commentators immediately blew up the last part of his speech and cried out triumphantly, “Aha! Levon Ter-Petrosyan wants to tear off a nice-sized chunk for his party in the next parliamentary elections! This is why he is calling his comrades to rally around the acting president, Serj Sargsyan, on the platform of gradual, peaceful resolution of the conflict…”

Those same people who live in the illusory world of glorious victory for Armenian arms in the war, on the whole preferred to spit and denounce this speech. Once more there sounded out typical exclamations along the lines of, “Not one step back! We won’t give up an inch!” and so forth. Armenian experts began to remind the population that Iskander missiles have already entered Armenia, and that a new war should not be feared. And nobody declared to this same population that every one of the eight Iskander missiles with standard warheads (nobody is going to give Armenia a nuclear warhead) is capable of tearing a 20-meter crater in the ground. Only God knows whether these eight 20-meter craters will change the military and political balance in the region, but it’s indisputable that they are changing the attitude of Armenia’s inhabitants to a cheerful one.

Unfortunately, the picture in Armenia is analogous. Society is not able and not prepared to discuss on a serious, theoretical level, and to recognize the problem of the Karabakh conflict. On the surface are gung-ho attitudes and naïve expectations for some sort of Israeli-made miracle weapon.

Could it be that we need to come to terms with the sad conclusion that the two peoples locked in conflict have indistinguishable socio-political worldviews, and acknowledge that the Armenian people really lucked out to have as its adversary the terribly ancient, heroic and wise Azerbaijani people? Could it be that the Azerbaijani people simply lucked out to have as its adversary such an ancient, cultured and competent people as the Armenians?

Or perhaps, in this instance, the Russian diplomats and intelligence agents were the luckiest of all, those who cooked up this unpalatable ethno-territorial gruel and who are dull-wittedly and barbarically controlling these two peoples using the joystick that is Karabakh…

Ana səhifəNewsIs There Hope for Understanding Between Armenians and Azerbaijanis?