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The Karabakh tradegy of Armenia. One interview story

10:35, 30-го листопада 2020 · Джерело: institutedd.org

The Karabakh tradegy of Armenia. One interview story
The Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict is being considered just in common sense in Ukraine.

On one side, today’s mass culture regulates the standards of perception, so the intensification of hostilities between the two countries for many people has become a trivial problem: which one to support. This seamlessly integrated to the internal Ukrainian agenda. Nagorno-Karabakh is officially considered as Azerbaijani territory. Therefore, both the media and politicians, appealing to the Ukrainian tragedy in Donbas, have set a framework for the discourse on the events in Karabakh. However, if we view this problem from the political angle gloating over Armenia’s defeat and get simplistic interpretations of the drama of its relations with Azerbaijan, we diminish our ability to comprehend the modern history thoroughly and objectively. Today, in Ukraine this conflict is seen rather from Azerbaijan’s point of view. And definitely, when it comes to the issue of information integrity, we have a wide gap here.

This article is not aimed at taking one position or another. It is about providing valuable inspiration and getting subjective experience of how a reflection of objective social practice works. Our informant is an ethnic Armenian who lives in Ukraine and has relatives in Armenia who took part in the dramatic events of the recent military escalation in Karabakh.

Of course, such limited studies do not deal with the representativeness and completeness of description. The qualitative methodology does not involve the study of statistical facts, but a deep penetration into the life experience of the individual. Whereas overall lack of the great theories that try to explain the patterns of global development is their inability to be used to understand the person, his/her inner experience and sense of reality in which he/she lives and acts.

Although, considering the Karabakh war, there is a great temptation to demonstrate how well these events fit into the conceptual framework of the great theories. Thus, thanks to S. Huntington, it is very easy to consider the clash of civilizations, the defining marker of which is religion. According to the sociologists who use the methodology of the I. Wallerstein’s world-system analysis, the relevant events can be viewed in the context of contradictory relations between the countries of the semi-periphery of the modern capitalist world-system. However, social science also tries to study the inner world of a human-being in his organic link with the social reality. In our opinion, the events similar to the Karabakh war should be considered turning from the specific to the general: from a real experience of the person to high level theories of abstraction. With this approach, it is also possible to realize the humanistic function of science.

In social terms, a territory as a geographical fact is the spatial cradle of human relations; it becomes part of these relations itself, materializing in the artifacts of culture and taking root in the collective memory. Therefore, the sense of the “own” territory is weakly correlated with the international recognition of its belonging to any country. Territory is a part of social history. And we are not addressing the issue of determining who owns Karabakh.

For Armenia, Karabakh is an existential challenge that affects the foundations of national identity and a sense of belonging to civilization. In this context, religious differences play an important factor. Historical contradictions between Islam and Christianity are reflected in the current conflict between the two countries. That is why the defeat for Armenians is a question of ability of Christian countries to act in concert: “We have been betrayed. Armenia was left alone. Christendom betrayed Armenia. Russia has betrayed us, America, Europe have betrayed us. They do not understand that the Christian world has abandoned us”.

Armenians were deeply affected by the feeling of being abandoned and betrayed, undergoing a devastating national tragedy. And this experience turns the regional conflict (in geographic terms) into the global one in its value: “this situation... should have been resolved on a global level. The entire world community should have been involved”. This feeling is aggravated by the very experience of hostilities. According to our informant, the Armenian army had to face what the French intelligence had informed about before: “Our army fought with Turkey, as well as with Azerbaijani troops and terrorists ... from Libya, Syria”.

Karabakh is not only a war for the territory. This is the clash of memories. The geopolitical struggle and regional key players’ desire to maintain/expand their influence in it are just the tip of the iceberg in these events. On a deep level, this war affects the traumatic experience of Azerbaijanis and Armenians. For Armenians, this is a real clash of civilizations; this is a crash with the tragedies of the past. Turkey having become an active participant in this war on Azerbaijan’s side is an incarnation of the long-standing trauma from the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire. This is how the Armenian experience of the struggle for Karabakh differs from the Ukrainian events in Donbas or Crimea: “Most people don’t know everything that is happening. They do not understand. Donbas and Crimea cannot be compared. These are completely different things. There are quite different reasons for the war”.

In addition to the acute experience of betrayal, the disappointment of Armenians in the possible allies is also important. This is especially concerns the Russians: “That devil Russia has planted its peacekeepers here”. Armenia’s failure in the war creates a situation of uncertainty and social deterioration. This forces the Armenians living on the front lines of Karabakh flee their homes, running away from the impending threat. The first days after Pashinyan had signed the agreement, the road from Stepanakert was crowded with the refugees caught in traffic jams. This general feeling of anxiety is reflected in the perception of our informant: “I have no idea what to expect. Many territories were given away. I just do not know”.

It should also be noted that Karabakh is a deeply traumatic experience. This is not only about reopening the old wounds, but also getting the new ones. Armenians should deal not just with the loss of the territories they were considered indigenous to, but also with the victims, they have had in the conflict. Both, civilians and military. The latter are glorified, they become the heroes who lost their lives for the nation; and they are commemorated in the tragic social experience forever: “So many people died…The young aged from 18 or 20. Each of them fought hard like a lion. Each of them is a hero. This is an unspeakable tragedy”.

To crown it all, the war over Karabakh is the war in which a specific territory is not so much a necessary “space for living” as a symbol. This is a wound carried by both countries, which have suffered huge losses throughout the conflict. However, to be objective we need to embrace the living experience of both peoples, because for each of them Karabakh is not only the matter of identity or political interests. Karabakh is a place of social and humanitarian disaster. In this regard, it resembles Donbass and the other conflicts showing global contradictions but hurt the population most severely, leading to tragedies with the irreparable effects. This is how we should deal with such conflicts. Nowadays, the main task is not to test the theories, but to make the international politics more humane, to bring it closer to people and their needs. Any conflict, first of all, is a varying perception of the same situation by each party. Therefore, the conflict resolution necessarily involves the study of these visions and their understanding.

Olexandr KOVTUN
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