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And How is Karabakh Conflict Discussed at Your Kitchen Tables?

Author – Aliya Haqverdi, Baku 

Published on JAMnews

– Experience shows that everything depends on the interlocutors' “preparedness”. The most astute know a great deal of numbers and dates – what Gorbachev said on a certain day, how many Armenians and Azeris lived in Shusha in the year when the conflict broke out and so on. The less knowledgeable are more emotional and use formulations like “they must get out of our lands.”

I very rarely hear people say that the conflict can be settled peacefully. Most often they say they do not want a war but are “willing to take up arms shall the homeland call.” Because we are patriots, because we love our country and are ready to defend it from encroachments.

When the possibility of military action appeared, it turned out that everybody in Azerbaijan wanted a war. Office workers, villagers, bank clerks, housewives and students; it's like they all suddenly awoke from their slumber and began demanding revenge. Abstract wishes like “one day, God willing, we will celebrate Novruz in Shusha” suddenly turned into a light at the end of the tunnel even for those Baku residents who have never even seen Shusha.

Such reaction is incomprehensible to foreigners, especially for those, who have recently visited the hospitable Karabakh and do not want to see ruins in the place where they were so well received. However, if we could turn back time, we'd get to the year 1988, when Nagorni Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan, and the idea of unification with Karabakh compatriots grew into a strong wave in Yerevan, uniting people and bringing them to the streets.

I do not deliberately cite any exact dates, names, and details. Knowledge of some key moments, seeing some images will suffice. The first is Karabakh, where Azeris and a greater number of Armenians reside; the second picture shows the people’s inspired faces on the streets of Yerevan; the third image shows the war, the blood, and the pogroms.

Naturally, not everything is so simple in this world: there was ethnic strife, there were mutual claims and violence outbreaks, the USSR, and thousands of other factors that affected the onset and course of the conflict. However, I have one question to these three pictures: did the intellectuals of Yerevan want bloodshed, death of children, women, and old people? Of course not. The social movement was an important driving force behind the conflict and each member of this movement wanted one thing – historical justice. Their main driving motive was patriotism. It was a driving force not only for them. 

History has now made a new spiral. We, the residents of Baku, are not the same scared and hungry Soviet citizens who could barely make ends meet at the beginning of 90s. We are sated and prosperous residents of an oil capital, and our state is not the Kremlin’s vassal, whatever they say about tendencies. We seem to have looked around upon coming to our senses and seen that a small neighbouring state has seized a piece of our land that does not even have even a border with it. And seven surrounding districts! How could this happen?

We have many versions concerning this issue. Let’s return to the kitchen and listen to what is being said there. For example, that it's all Russia's fault. Or that we are so kind that the cunny and infinitely treacherous Armenians managed to deceive us. Of course, we are not blame for the loss of Karabakh. Nevertheless, we still experience a vague anxiety in this regard. 

Our state is now strong, and we can finally take revenge, they say in the kitchens. Judging by the social networks, those sitting on their sofas at their homes also think so. We love our motherland, we are patriots, and we want historical justice to triumph.
I have already heard this somewhere. 

The arguments are always there. Even those who urge to terminate, expel, dismember and drown the neighbouring people in blood have arguments. Sometimes it is a prosy “what- about -ism” when “they have not spared our children” is cited as an argument. Sometimes they are abstruse Hitler-like theories that the neighbouring nation, basically, does not deserve to live on this earth. Sometimes it is an intermediate version, such as “let them make sail and we will spare them.”

Adherents of the conflict settlement using military methods also have arguments. Arguments at all levels are always “dressed” in cheap, trite pathos – “to terminate the enemy,” “to liberate the territory” instead of “to kill one hundred people” or “to burn down houses.” These terms are used on both sides of the border. Such reasoning, as a rule, comes down to one simple postulate: “x” number of people must be killed, burnt, executed or blown up a) in memory of other killed innocent people; b) for the sake of historical justice: c) because we love out motherland.

Here, one might object that our refugees wish to return to their homes. They wish to, but in kitchens and on sofas the land’s practical value, as a rule, is the tenth argument in the list of motives.

Abstract ideas – memory, justice, and love for the homeland – are what's important.


The memory is, obviously, a kind of rudiment, a vestige of the blood feud. It turns out that two nations at war must kill each other to complete termination, according to the principle of “an eye for an eye.” Both sides bore great losses during the conflict – there are a lot of corpses – how great possibilities are! You're dissatisfied with the social situation, the authorities’ policy, the persecution of the freedom of speech, with unemployment, but can’t openly protest? That's fine. Aggression will accumulate in you and will rain down on “those murderers and villains.” You've never seen the interlocutor? It does not matter, they are all the same there.

Historical justice is a very comical oxymoron. For thousands of years borders and names of states were changed and redrawn, empires were created and disintegrated, but for some reason, some people believe that the borders of their countries should be much greater due to historical precedent. How can it be realized practically? Is there a law under which an Armenian scientist can show Pliny’s manuscript and be issued a document for a plot of land “from sea to sea?” How do you imagine that?

As for the love of the homeland – this is the last, the most touching, and the most false postulate. And the most popular. Everybody loves the motherland; it is our default setting. At schools we recited poems and sang songs about it. During our entire life we argue about who does it correctly and the most successfully. But what is it, this love of country?  Is it a readiness to go to the front, to kill and be killed? These of emotion at the sound of the national? A tacit acceptance of all that is happening in the country? Or is it something entirely different?

Now picture this: you are sitting on your sofa, and, of course, you love your homeland. Then imagine blood, guts, and corpses of people who also loved their homeland. Or they were told that they had to love it. You have always said and written that the love of motherland requires sacrifices and that you are ready for them, haven't you. Surely this love does not only accept dead people as sacrifice. Isn't there another way to appease it?

Currently there is lull on the troops’ contact line and disappointment in kitchens and on sofas. Over the last 4 days all my friends learnt that I am a cold-hearted and insensitive person who holds nothing sacred. I fully agree. Perhaps that’s why I am glad that tonight nobody will be killed in Karabakh.