Lately, there have been a lot of speculations on the topic of settlement of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict. What would be a fair resolution according to Stepanakert?
The Azerbaijani-Karabagh conflict is one of the most complicated in world practice, where numerous aspects of geopolitical and ethno-national nature are intertwined. At the same time, despite the complexity of this conflict, there is only one way of a comprehensive settlement — Artsakh cannot be part of Azerbaijan. There is simply no other option.
The main goal of Azerbaijan is the destruction of Karabagh as an Armenian state entity, but this is rather not a settlement of the conflict, but its solution in strict accordance with the formula: "There is Karabagh, there is a problem, there is no Karabagh — there is no problem." We are talking about a settlement that determines a comprehensive approach and a civilized resolution of the conflict.
Naive people sometimes ask the question: why can't Karabagh be part of Azerbaijan, especially since for quite a long time Karabagh and Azerbaijan were neighbors and formed one single state?
You know, this is a rather superficial statement of reality, because ethnopolitical processes must be viewed within historical dynamics, especially in the current dynamically developing world. Firstly, Azerbaijan as a state first appeared in 1918. Moreover, this was not a natural course of events, but rather the result of geopolitical struggle between global and regional powers in the Caucasus, the Near and Middle East and Central Asia. The territory where the Republic of Azerbaijan is now located had never been historically called Azerbaijan until 1918.
The creation of a state called Azerbaijan by Turkey at that time was a turning point in the history of the region that laid the foundations for a completely different relationship between its peoples and states. Secondly, the Azerbaijani people as a separate entity first appeared in 1936. Before that, such a people simply did not exist. The Azerbaijani people were created for geopolitical purposes by artificially merging a number of Turkic, Iranian and Caucasian peoples and tribes, which again was not a natural process.
In no way does this diminish the history and the culture of the peoples who have become part of the Azerbaijani entity. They do have a very rich history and culture. But the formation of a new nation created completely new geopolitical realities, radically different from those that existed before the creation of the Azerbaijani people and the state of Azerbaijan. Yes, the Armenians of Artsakh have coexisted for quite a long time with various Turkic, Iranian and Caucasian peoples, including within the framework of single state formations, such as the Persian and Russian empires. But at that time these peoples had a different identity and a worldview associated with it.
Interestingly enough, in the 18th century the Armenians of Karabagh, together with the Turks of Transcaucasia, fought against Turkey - a fact that is now unimaginable. By the way, in 1921, Karabagh became a part of Azerbaijan against its will, and besides, at that time, as already noted, a single Azerbaijani people had not yet been created. This specificity, as well as the international character of the Soviet state, a most powerful state apparatus, which immediately suppressed any manifestation of chauvinism and nationalism, deprived Azerbaijan of all the necessary levers to strangle Karabagh. In addition, the Soviet republic did not have full sovereignty over its autonomous entities.
The status of the Karabagh statehood in the form of an autonomous region was enshrined in the Constitution of the USSR and could not be changed without the desire of the people of Karabagh and the consent of the central authorities of the Soviet Union, and some spheres of governance were under the jurisdiction of the Union center. With the creation of the Azerbaijani people, the situation began to change dramatically. There was a radical change in the consciousness of the new Azerbaijani elite, which began to see Karabagh as the main threat to the future of its state. This, coupled with the weakening of the central system of government of the USSR, only spurred Azerbaijan's discriminatory policy towards Karabagh, fueled its chauvinistic nationalist plans and aspirations. That is why no alternative was left to the secession of Karabagh from Azerbaijan. As part of Azerbaijan, Karabagh would not be able to preserve its identity and have a secure future. With the beginning of the process of the collapse of the USSR and the acquisition of independence by Azerbaijan, Armenophobia had already openly become the cornerstone of the philosophy of state-building in Azerbaijan. The pogroms and genocides of Armenians in Sumgait, Kirovabad, Baku, Maragha, the first, second and third Karabagh wars are a clear manifestation of this.
Why is Azerbaijan so afraid of recognizing the right of the people of Artsakh to independence? After renouncing Karabagh, Azerbaijan is actually freed from the problems associated with it.
That is true only at first glance. In fact, the main, if not the most important, reason for Baku’s behavior and hatred toward Artsakh, is that the process of the formation of the Azerbaijani people has not yet been completed. A number of peoples were assimilated and lost their national identity, merged into a single Azerbaijani people. But there are peoples who still retained their national identity and self-awareness and did not become part of the united Azerbaijani people.
These are the Iranian-speaking Talysh, as well as representatives of the Dagestani peoples - Avars and Lezgins, whose total number is more than one and a half million people. Moreover, all these peoples are indigenous and live completely on their historical lands, but more importantly, also have a rich history of statehood. For decades, official Baku has been pursuing a harsh discriminatory policy towards these peoples.
Now imagine what will happen if Azerbaijan recognizes the independence of Artsakh or its right to self-determination. It is clear that an independent Karabagh can become a precedent and an example for these peoples in terms of realizing their inalienable right to self-determination. By the way, the Talyshes created their own state twice, in 1919 and 1993, and the Lezgins proclaimed their own state of Lezgistan in 1991. But the process may not be limited to this. Today, national minorities make up almost half of the population of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This is an objective reality that cannot be ignored, moreover it is very dangerous to do so. Therefore, Karabagh cannot have a future as part of Azerbaijan, it will turn into either a reservation or a concentration camp. And no guarantees, even of an international nature, are able to prevent this. Our people are well aware of this truth and therefore, any kind of association with Azerbaijan is absolutely unacceptable for us. We will protect our country from such prospects. If this is not possible, then there will be an exodus of the Armenian population from their historical homeland. Azerbaijan's aggressive policy towards Artsakh and the Armenian people is also actively fueled by Turkey, which has its own geopolitical goals and intentions for this.
How did the Baku-Turkish aggression affect Artsakh’s diplomacy?
The war imposed on Artsakh by Turkey, Azerbaijan and international terrorists on September 27, 2020, has become one of the most serious challenges to our state. This criminal alliance has set itself the goal of destroying Artsakh and its people. The war was really the strongest blow for us. First of all, these are thousands of perished young men, numerous wounded and the occupation of 80 percent of our territory by Turkey, Azerbaijan and terrorists. This is a serious blow to our security system. Perhaps someone else in our place would have already clung and lost the will to resist. But the Armenians of Artsakh are a resolute people, and we will do everything possible to preserve our country. And this is nothing less than the very mission of every citizen of Artsakh. Naturally, this will also have an impact on our foreign policy. We must make appropriate changes to our tactics and strategy, pursue a very thoughtful and comprehensively balanced policy, be patriots and high professionals.
What can the Diaspora do for Artsakh today?
One of the cornerstones of our statehood is the Artsakh-Armenia-Diaspora trinity. The Armenian people are in fact a diaspora nation. There are more Armenians living outside the historical homeland than in Armenia and Artsakh. In the structure of the Armenian diaspora, especially in Russia, the number of people from Artsakh, according to some data, is up to one million people, which is several times more than the population of the Artsakh Republic. Our compatriots are not indifferent to the fate of Artsakh and have always helped their historical homeland and their relatives there. You can not imagine Artsakh’s development without Diaspora involvement and support. This was the case after the First Karabagh War (1991-1994), when the completely destroyed country was put on its feet, thanks also to the efforts of the Diaspora. However, one very important aspect has to be borne in mind with regard to the relationship with the Diaspora. Diaspora should not be perceived as a «cash cow», which is obliged to help the historical homeland. It is also unacceptable to have a parasitical attitude towards the Diaspora. Homeland and Diaspora are interconnected vessels, and the disruption of their connections, let alone their rupture, has unpredictable consequences for both. Artsakh must be a fundamental value for the Diaspora, one of the ideals that uphold national identity, nurturing the pride of our compatriots and their involvement in forging destiny of the nation. It is also very important for Artsakh itself and is a key component of being a geopolitical actor.
The people of Artsakh have been waiting for years for the international community to recognize their historic right to independence. It is a people’s dream. What are your personal dreams?
The process of international recognition derives from geopolitics, our work, the moral and psychological state of our society. A lot depends on us. I dream of a spiritually and politically strong Artsakh. Our people have the appropriate qualities for this, all that is needed is hard work, unshakable faith and inexhaustible optimism.