BY HARUT DER-TAVITIAN
“The seeming debate over the packaged, phased and other options [concerning the resolution of the Artsakh question], I am sure is just a veil to prolong the settlement process and to maintain the current situation, the status quo for as long as possible. I anticipate with pain what a terrible threat it poses to the existence of both Karabakh and Armenia. Today, similar to the times preceding the Treaties of Batumi and Alexandropol, we are probably missing the last chance for a favorable solution to the Karabakh issue and for Armenia to prosper. And for that we will all answer to our people” (Excerpt from the speech of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan at the Enlarged Session of the Security Council of Armenia, January 8, 1998)
Those who transform discussions during a crisis from necessary solutions to personal insults do disservice and damage to the endeavor and purpose of finding ways out of the crisis. Those who ignore the realities on the ground and strive for maximalist solutions pave the way for future disasters. Demagogic outbursts would not solve the problem, but instead would cause destruction. By focusing on the details and diverting our focus from the big picture, they lead us to new disasters.
The mind provoking debates in the press and in public speeches during 1988 unfortunately faded away during the 20 years of Kocharyan-Sargsyan rule. The issue of Artsakh, instead of being genuinely discussed as an important element of strengthening the statehood of Armenia, turned into a factor of seizing power and accumulating personal wealth through mudslinging. This led us to today’s crisis. Dismissing the shortcomings of the past thirty years inhibits our ability to see effective ways out of today’s crisis.
In this regard let us try to clarify some facts, starting with the above quote of Levon Ter-Petrosyan.
- One week after the glorious victory of Sardarapat, we signed the humiliating Treaty of Batumi on June 4, 1918, which limited the boundary of Armenia to only 4,400 square miles.
Two and a half years after the declaration of independence on May 28, 1918, we signed the infamous Treaty of Alexandropol on December 2, 1920.
Remaining within the narrow confines of an article, we feel the need to give a brief explanation of why this happened, by quoting Hovhannes Kajaznuni, the first Prime Minister of the first Republic of Armenia. “It is an undeniable truth that the situation in Armenia has been extremely difficult and our working conditions have been exceptionally unfavorable. But it is undeniable – at least for me – that in addition to this, there was our own inability and incompetence to run our state affairs. If it is true that to govern means to predict, then we have simply been useless governors, because we have not had at all that ability to predict. We have always been wrong in our accounts and we have always had surprises, surprises only for us, because we did not know how to forecast. That was our biggest weakness. Then we did not have a clear and definite consciousness of what to do, we did not have a guiding principle and a lasting, consistent system. We acted by the spur of the moment impulses, we hesitated, fell sideways, half-blindly touching the ground under our feet. We have not recognized and often overestimated our capacity, we have not realized the magnitude of the difficulties, we have ignored the opposing forces and we have been negligent to the dangers that threaten us. We were abrupt where extreme caution was needed and indecisive where we should have been abrupt. We have not been able to distinguish the state from the party and we have introduced party mentality in the running of the state affairs. We were not statesmen.”
We share this quote to show the timeliness of Kajaznuni’s statements. The words of this pioneer of statesman thinking were discredited as “the delusions of a mad old man” instead of being used to educate impartial and unimpeded minds and patriotic generations. His request was ignored: “Please, be a little patient and try to approach the issues with an unhindered mindset, something that is not so easy for people who live a partisan life and think partisan.” Why? Because,” as he states in his report to his partisan friends, “you love the tool more than the work.”
The history of our recent past, both in the Diaspora and in Armenia (since independence), actually proves that if the different factions of our nation had loved the work more than the tool, we would have spared a lot of crises and lost opportunities, fratricidal crimes, church chasm, etc. Instead, we would have had a more united and constructive community, a more prosperous Armenia and Diaspora, and a stronger statehood.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere described by Kajaznuni prevails today. State/national interests are sacrificed for party/sectary interests and as a nation we all suffer. The need for an unselfish and impartial approach, which we have always emphasized in our articles, is absent from public discussions where the mob mentality rules. It was with this approach in mind that we penned our article entitled “Sardarapat and Batumi, Kelbajar and …” published in Massis Weekly on May 15, 1993, where we wrote: “If those who descended from the heights of Sardarapat to the depth of Batumi have learned their lessons from history, they must seek caution in their expressions instead of inciting passions with demagogy. They should support the current government, so that together, as a nation, we can prevent the recurrence of Batumi. That will enable us to stay on the heights of Kelbajar. That will enable us to continue the Victory March of our modern-day liberation struggle.” Alas!
It is also worth quoting the following statement of Commander Vazgen Sargsyan. “I am afraid of the indifference in our society to possible military-political complications. You need to sober up, there are serious surprises ahead. I am afraid of the opposition’s hatred of the army. It is necessary to sober up; this is also the army that protects you and your children. I am afraid of the dwindling attention of the authorities to army building. It is necessary to sober up; the war is not over yet. Finally, I am afraid of all those who are not afraid – indifferent, adventurous, all feasible “saviors of the people.”
What we are left with after November 10, 2020 is less than what we had when on February 20, 1988 the leadership of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO) submitted an application to transfer the territory from Azerbaijan to Armenia. Since then we have witnessed a series of dazzling developments: The collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the constituent republics, including Armenia; The outbreak of the Artsakh war, which after the initial nonsuccess, was crowned with a glorious victory with the liberation of the seven territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and the independence of Artsakh. The international community did not accept our achievements and demanded the return of those territories to Azerbaijan. We, intoxicated by our successes, began to speak out about the liberation of Nakhichevan, Javakhk, and even Western Armenia. When those who gave us victory advocated sobriety, we labeled them as traitors, forced one to resign and assassinated the other. We excluded Artsakh from the negotiating table, sold Armenia in a “property for debt” deal and looted the rest. In the face of the enemy’s preparations for war, we built private castles and neglected to arm the army as the guarantor of our victory and collective security. We entrusted our defense to those whom we sold Armenia, despite the fact that they also were demanding us to return the territories. And the premonition of the victor came true. Instead of “not an inch,” we lost our achievements of the first half of the 90s and more. The fear of Commander Vazgen Sargsyan also came true: “the Armenian people have achieved a national feat in the last 7-8 years, and it will be extremely painful and fatal if we suddenly lose what has been achieved through bloodshed and struggle due to misunderstandings, mistrust and disunity.”
We chose the title “The Artsakh Question and the Statehood of Armenia” to emphasize once again the inseparability of the two. We emphasize that the Artsakh issue should not be exploited to seize power in Armenia, which in turn harms the strengthening of Armenia’s statehood. Where have we come from the national heroic achievements of the 90s? Regretfully, the drubbing of Batumi after the victory of Sardarapat and the subjugation of December 2 after the declaration of independence on May 28 were repeated. With regards to the Artsakh issue, we have retreated from an independent republic to the “Volsky version.” With regards to the statehood of Armenia, we are currently engaged in the search for traitors.
But we are not pessimistic.
(To be continued)
The Armenian public, as far as I know, was never told the actual ((details)) of what an Artsakh agreement with Azerbaijan would entail aside from the main outline of the return of certain territory and a vote someday by Artsakh Armenians (or Azerbaijan as a whole?) to decide the status of Artsakh.
Those are not ((details.)) They are just an ((outline.))
Would the vote have allowed independence? Would there have been a demilitarized zone around Artsakh? Would there have been 3rd party troops to assure that Azerbaijan would not attack? Would there have been a pan-Turkic corridor across southern Armenia?
One assumes that the deals offered to Artsakh since 1994 were, in their ((details)), unacceptable, and may even have led to a war situation that was worse than what we have now.
Thus, had there been an agreement with Azerbaijan, say, 15 years ago, perhaps Azerbaijan would simply have invented some excuse to intervene in Artsakh, maybe with the aid of Turkey and jihadis as happened in the recent war. Certainly Azerbaijan never gave up the idea of totally taking back Artsakh.
These are questions we don’t know the answers too. The public should have been told the actual details of what were offered Armenians. Then, if such conditions were unacceptable, at least people could have decided where they stood and whether Armenia and Artsakh were acting in ways acceptable to their population.