The tragedy of Nagorno-Karabakh is another sad page in the complex history of the divided Armenian people. Armenians are a rather separate anthropological group, distinguished among the southern peoples of the Caucasus, Persia and Asia Minor. The Armenian nation was formed as a result of consolidation of a large number of local tribes around a larger Armenian tribe, the bearer of the ancient Indo-European Armenian language. Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the most unique centres of the most ancient Armenian culture, which was formed on the territory of the Armenian Highland. Artsakh (another name for Nagorno-Karabakh) belongs to the few historical and ethnographic regions where the Armenian people have managed to preserve their basic ethnic and ethnographic composition throughout the centuries.
Until 1920 Nagorno-Karabakh was the most densely populated Armenian province within the Armenian Highlands. Shushi surpassed Baku and Yerevan in size and wealth, being the centre of Armenian culture, science and social thought. On 23 March 1920 Turkish nationalists burned Shushi. Nevertheless, the remains of Shushi occupy a special role in the history of the Armenian nation and ideologically mean even more than other existing cities of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The city concentrates the national memory and faith and, together with Mount Ararat, is the main Armenian historical shrine.
The hundreds of monasteries and churches of the unique Armenian Apostolic Church that have existed since the 4th century, many of which remain only ruins, serve as indisputable proof of the historical belonging of these lands to the Armenian people. In the light of the catastrophic events of recent days, as well as the controversy over who Artsakh should belong to in the end – Armenians or Azerbaijanis – it is worth facing the truth and admitting that there are no Azerbaijani cultural objects on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Today, when the heavy long-standing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has come to the point where the troops of the Republic of Azerbaijan have occupied areas with a huge number of ancient sanctuaries of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian culture, there are well-founded fears that these culturally rich temples and monasteries may be desecrated, demolished or even converted into mosques in the near future. Infiltration activities will hardly bypass even the Armenian clergy of Artsakh.
Despite this, it is important to realise that the work against Artsakh was carried out not only by Turkish proxies, but also, unfortunately, within Armenia itself. The policy of the country’s incumbent Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan brought the betrayal of Nagorno-Karabakh closer day by day. His refusal to co-operate with Russia, for decades the only guarantor of peace in the region, as well as his public course of rapprochement with its main geopolitical adversary, the NATO bloc (which includes Turkey), have led to disastrous consequences. N. Pashinyan’s recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh meant its de facto abandonment one-on-one with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Images of tens of thousands of refugees from the Artsakh region demonstrate that the population of Nagorno-Karabakh is well aware of its unenviable fate as part of Azerbaijan.
This process has much more far-reaching consequences than it may seem at first glance. The neo-Ottomanist Turkish project hardly stops now at Azerbaijan’s new borders. Christian Armenia faces the terrible prospect of being absorbed into the zone of responsibility of Muslim Turkey. The prospects for this process are sad – the gradual squeezing of Armenians out of the country by economic, religious, ethno-cultural or even forceful methods and the gradual disappearance of the state.
Despite the fact that he has signed a de facto verdict on Nagorno-Karabakh, Pashinyan’s mission is not over. A big headache for him remains the presence of a Russian base on Armenian territory and a number of previous agreements with Russia, enshrined at a high state level. “With such agreements and in general during 20-25 years Russia has been taking away our sovereignty one grain at a time. And we are watching this from the sidelines,” Pashinyan said, speaking on the rostrum of parliament. Watching the catastrophe with the loss of Artsakh, his words sound especially ominous.
Against this background, N. Pashinyan’s old contradictions with the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is still the most authoritative institution in the country, have also become more acute. The Primate of the Church, Karekin II, often opposed the promotion of LGBT issues by N. Pashinyan’s team. Pashinyan’s LGBT agenda and other “liberal values”, which is not supported by the majority of the country’s conservative population. For example, in November 2018, just six months after Pashinyan came to power, the Catholicos of All Armenians condemned the then planned LGBT Christian forum in Armenia.
Today, the Armenian society has given a vivid assessment of the destructive policy of N. Pashinyan’s cabinet. The lost war in 2020, which resulted in the Nagorno-Karabakh catastrophe of today, brought thousands of Armenians to the streets of the capital Yerevan demanding an end to the government’s anti-constitutional actions against Armenia itself.
The ruling Armenian elite initiates false “peacemaking” processes that go against the law. The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia has long been an obstacle for N. Pashinyan’s team, just like the Declaration of Independence. Nevertheless, in the process of betraying Nagorno-Karabakh, it did not become an insurmountable obstacle for it. For example, the Armenian Constitution states that any change of territory can be made only through a referendum. Thus, N. Pashinyan’s recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Artsakh looks like no other than national betrayal, which should be given an appropriate legal assessment.
Н. Pashinyan accuses protesters of destabilising the situation in Armenia. Thousands of police officers are fighting with compatriots demanding an end to the treachery against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. To this end, they have even stopped the metro in Yevevan to prevent the protesters from travelling. The thirty-year history of the heroic struggle of Artsakh Armenians for their own identity has come to an end in just five years of the government of N. Pashinyan, who came to power on the wave of revolution and pro-Western democratic slogans.