A year after the war in Artsakh, discontent within Armenians has intensified rather than diminished. Possibly for the first time in a long while, we feel weak and beaten. A year ago today, we woke up to the devastating news of the attack. But after the initial shock, there was confidence and belief. “We Shall Win” slogans put everywhere and repeated continuously. People truly believed it up until the last moment. Defeat was just too unimaginable.
Defeat was indeed hard to swallow. Not just because of its disturbing outcomes, but in the way the country was left humiliated after the ceasefire agreement. Perhaps it hurt most because we always thought, that even in the most difficult times, Armenians battle through and come out at the other end victorious, or perhaps we believed that we would eventually win because God is on our side; isn’t He? Not this time it seems, at least not from our own perspective. The war broke many things but the one thing it had to break was our complacency. We thought it could always happen to anybody but not us. “Armenians are different”, we said. But why treat ourselves differently?
The wise Frederick Nietzsche said “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Plainly put, you might rephrase this as “When you confront evil, make sure it doesn’t influence you”. But it could also mean that if you look enough into the darkness, take on the unbearable burden of existence, you discover in there a light that can destroy the darkness. The things we have found and experienced in the last year–in spite of the suffering–must lead us into a new light.
What went on in this war will have lasting effects. Yet, encouraging signs emerge where you look for them. In our several trips to Artsakh after the war, there was always a noticeable improvement each time we visited. Houses were almost immediately renovated and restored. Old businesses were reopening and new ones were being established by dedicated patriots, who understood the risks very well but still chose to invest. “We need to populate the land, to make it stronger” declared AMAA CEO, Zaven Khanjian while revealing plans for a new KG building in Stepanakert that the AMAA is planning to open in 2022. We have to look ahead and build bravely for the future while we keep the enemy at arm’s length.
Azerbaijan has done everything possible during the months following its victory to poke our wounds and continue its outpouring of misinformation and falsification of facts. In some ways, it feels as if the war is still not over. In a year where Armenian politicians fought for power and water bottles were thrown at each other in parliament, border intrusions have occurred in Syunik and Gegharkunik and most recently on the highway from Goris to Ghapan. Perhaps a way of the enemy taking advantage of its winning position and applying political pressure, or simply a tactic to remain an irritating presence. The AMAA has responded by doubling down on its effort in the previously introverted Border Village Programs. In the previous year alone, visits were done to more than 12 border villages in Armenia’s East, while more than 15 visits were done in Artsakh. The people that have greeted us there said what we brought them in aid and assistance was not important. They were happy we were there with them and that they weren’t left unnoticed.
I have met countless experts, all of Armenian origin, who have come to Armenia after the war to give something of their own know-how to try and correct past mistakes. Heads of giant corporates, community leaders in scientific and technology fields, entrepreneurs, retired businessmen and businesswomen. It is amazing to see how much potential there is in gathering Armenians together from around the world. Investments have been made in drone technologies, STEM programs, start-ups to boost the economy, whilst making sure government tenders are done competently and free of corruption.
The AMAA is also actively pursuing a contract with a top tech firm to apply after-school scientific laboratories aimed at giving gifted students a head-start in going into related fields in university. Too little too late, you might say. But the logic is that more youth will want to choose to stay in Armenia if they are given the opportunities to excel. Armenia’s long bid to become a technological hub in the Caucasus still has momentum building. We need to equip the future generation with all the tools necessary when that moment finally arrives.
Apostle Paul says in Romans that “if God is with us, then who can be against us?”. Maybe we ought to remind ourselves more often of this powerful statement. It means no matter what hell throws at us, no matter how tough life gets and we groan as we wait in pain, nothing can truly harm us, because nothing can separate us from the love of God. But first we need to rid ourselves of what is old and let the new come and take over. It is such bold changes that will help us overcome the uncertainties and threatening realities that exist today. It is when we accept our own short-comings as mortals and allow for the super-natural to come and manifest itself in our being. It is when we realize the greatest menace for Armenia’s civilization and well-being, is not the enemy at the West or at the East, it is the one within.
May God protect the Armenian soldier and bless the memory of the martyrs.
Aren Deyirmenjian is AMAA’s Deputy Representative in Armenia