Chairman of the Writers’ Union of Azerbaijan Anar Rzayev discusses damaging myths destroying a country and its relations with neighboring states
An exclusive article for the “Moscow-Baku” portal
As you know, the most important component of the Armenian national and historical self-awareness is mythology. And if the myth about “Great Armenia from sea to sea” is a relatively harmless amusement for self-consolation of the most disadvantaged strata of the population, then the myths associated with
territorial desires are dangerous not only for neighboring countries, but also for the Armenian people themselves.
From the very beginning of the Karabakh confrontation, I wrote and spoke more than once, both in my homeland and far beyond its borders – in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Washington, Strasbourg, Geneva, Istanbul, Ankara, Cyprus, on Moscow and Turkish televised broadcast, on the pages of the German and French press, as well as at congresses of people’s deputies of the USSR, sessions of the Supreme Council, various symposia, conferences, participated in meetings with US congressmen, with Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Nazarbayev, Demirel, Ozal, Ecevid, Erdogan, trying to express our point of view on this decades-long conflict.
Today, when our army inflicts crushing blows on the military facilities of the occupation forces of Armenia, when our people, united with an unprecedented consolidation of all strata of society, stand for the liberation of their lands, when we watch with sincere pride the brilliant, well-reasoned speeches of our President in Azerbaijani, Russian, English, when our Truth, blocked for many years by the world mass media, finally seeps into the Russian and Western press and television, I want to approach this issue from a slightly different angle – on the part of sympathy for the Armenian people, involved in a fatal, primarily for this nation, confrontation with their neighbors by political adventurers, scribblers, cheap populists.
How did it start?
Due to my venerable age, I witnessed the origin of this conflict and I must say that from the very first days of this confrontation, the Armenians relied on the myth. In this context, the word “myth” is not quite a precise definition. The word “falsehood” is more appropriate here.
The initial message of this conflict in that distant 1987 was that the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of Azerbaijan (NKAO) declared their economic problems and distress. There was an immediate reaction to these complaints: it was proved by a document that the standard of living of the Armenians of the NKAO is much higher than the standard of living of residents of other regions of Azerbaijan and even the population of Armenia itself.
Then another myth was launched – about the alleged discrimination of the Armenian population in the NKAO. However, all the facts contradicted this lie. All the highest power in the region according to the hierarchy of that time was in the hands of the Armenians. The first and third secretaries of the regional committee are Armenians, the second secretary is Russian, the chairman of the regional executive committee and all his deputies, except one, are Armenians
Only one of the deputies was Azerbaijani, although Azerbaijanis constituted about a third of the region’s population. In Khankendi (Stepanakert), a University was functioning in the Armenian language. In this city and in other districts of the region, children studied in Armenian schools. The Armenian Theater operated in Stepanakert. Regional newspapers were published in Armenian and Russian, but there was not a single newspaper in Azerbaijani. NKAO had its own deputy quota both in the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan and in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. One of the Deputy Chairmen of the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR was an Armenian, one of the members of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan was also an Armenian. Armenians were among the ministers, chairmen of the executive committees of various districts of Baku, and in the Baksovet (Baku Council) itself, Armenians held leading positions.
There was nothing of the kind in Armenia, where, after several mass expulsions, more than 200 thousand Azerbaijanis were still living before they were most cruelly expelled from their native lands.
Now, let’s imagine, alas, a fantastic version: what would happen if the Armenians did not start this unjust conflict? Due to the centuries-old tolerance of the Azerbaijani people towards all other peoples living on our land, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh would perfectly well exist as part of independent Azerbaijan, as they did before. Moreover, the natural resources of our country, its economic development would undoubtedly be reflected in the high living standards of the Armenians of Karabakh also. And the living of 200 thousand Azerbaijanis in Armenia would serve as a guarantor of the prosperous existence of both peoples on the territories of each other.
In response to the harsh expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia, fueled by the terrible stories of refugees, certain excessive acts took place in Baku and in relation to the Armenians. We do not deny those incidents. We condemn them. As a result, the Armenians were also forced to voluntarily leave Baku. Although, in terms of the degree of cruelty, isolated acts of violence in Baku cannot be compared with the total extermination of Azerbaijanis in the Gukar region and in the Azerbaijani village of Baganus Ayrum, with the massive expulsion of the indigenous population from the regions of our republic occupied by the Armenian armed forces.
I understand very well that, trying to erase these crimes from people’s memory, some will talk about the events in Sumgait, as a result of which 26 Armenians and 6 Azerbaijanis died. The Sumgait events, as it was later irrefutably proven, were inspired by the KGB of the USSR. And the acts were captured in documentary footage filmed by professional cinematographers notified in advance with a very specific purpose – to discredit Azerbaijanis in the eyes of the whole world.
Another specific feature of the Sumgait events was that a group of the lumpen people was supplied with drugs and driven to Armenian addresses by criminal Edik Grigoryan (who, by the way, unlike other participants, escaped punishment). Moreover, he aimed mainly at the apartments of those Armenians who refused to contribute money to the separatists’ fund. Those responsible for the Sumgait events were severely condemned by the public of Azerbaijan, by our writers, as well as in the pages of the Moscow press. And did at least one Armenian writer publicly condemn the monstrous genocide in Khojaly?! Khojaly, where the entire population of the city was massacred, where about 1000 inhabitants died and went missing – most of them women, old people and children ?! And the war criminal, who later became the head of Armenia, boasted cynically: Yes, we showed the Azerbaijanis that we are not joking and will not stop before the destruction of the civilian population – women, children, old people.
And what if all this had not happened …
Now let’s imagine that all these bloody events would not have happened – neither Sumgait, nor Khojaly, nor the occupation of Azerbaijani lands. The Azerbaijanis would not have been expelled from Armenia and there would have been no reciprocal steps from the Azerbaijanis. Nowadays, during the period of market economy, at least in the largest cities of Azerbaijan – in Baku and Ganja – Armenians with their commercial abilities, broad connections with representatives of their diaspora abroad, would own banks and supermarket chains, expensive hotels and tourism business. Possessing all of this, they would be influential both in the media and in politics. As it was at the beginning of the last century. So what did the separatists gain by drawing the two peoples into a maelstrom of bloody clashes? Only a temporary career success of the former Karabakh party and Komsomol functionaries who became presidents of Armenia one after another. Presidents in a foreign, as a matter of fact, for them, country. Presidents who were overthrown and arrested after a certain time not by Karabakh Armenians. How much blood was shed just to temporarily sit in the presidential office, and then end up in prison …
What have the Armenians gained over almost three decades of the conflict they unleashed? World recognition, at least in words, of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Four UN resolutions on the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the territory of Azerbaijan. Alienation of Armenia from vital, communication, economic, energy, transport projects. A demographic disaster with citizens leaving at the first opportunity from Nagorno-Karabakh, and from Armenia itself. Not recognized by anyone in the world, including Armenia itself, is a puppet regime in Nagorno-Karabakh. Political, economic, financial collapse in Armenia. Complete dependence on the foreign diaspora, which happily and comfortably living in Russia, in Western and Muslim countries, dooms the “beloved nation from afar” to incredible suffering.
And next to it, relying only on its own potential, rapidly developing, every day more and more strengthening in economic, political and military terms, Azerbaijan.
Is it really so difficult to draw appropriate conclusions based on reality, and not on the myths of the times of Tigranes the Great?
How much can you rely on the promises and handouts of other powers, at enmity with neighbors?
By the way, today in independent Azerbaijan, unlike in the neighboring Armenia, hundreds of thousands of people representing various nationalities and religions live peacefully, not a single Russian school has been closed, a Slavic University exists, a Russian theater functions in Baku, newspapers and magazines are published in Russian, there are a TV channel broadcasting in Russian.
All this is fake news …
The only thing nationalists are strong in is the propaganda of lies. And it is extremely disappointing that this fake news of Armenian origin is actively disseminated by some Russian mass media and, above all, TV channels. The fake news about an Armenian plane allegedly shot down by the Turks was spread by their submission. The rumor was not confirmed, but there was no intelligible refutation from anyone. Just like the myth about the alleged participation of Turkish soldiers or even some Islamist groups fighting on the side of Azerbaijan. The idea is stubbornly advanced that the Azerbaijani army is fighting on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, while it liberates, in accordance with UN resolutions, areas around Nagorno-Karabakh, where there has never been an Armenian population.
The Armenian propaganda explains the occupation of these seven regions as the creation of a “security belt” around the territory of the separatist regime.
Let’s imagine for a moment an analogy – what country in the world would agree with such an interpretation of the occupation of its own territory?
Can you imagine that, say, Madrid would not only agree with the proclamation of Catalonia as an independent state, but moreover, would not mind the creation of a “security belt” around Catalonia from the occupied Spanish territories. Or the same analogy in relation to England and Scotland, Canada and French-speaking Quebec, and Macron’s France and Corsica itself? Absurd? Sure!
So why should such an exception be made for Armenia and the separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh from the sovereign right of each state to its territorial integrity, approved by the world community?
You can be astonished at the one-sidedness of some Russian TV channels. Unfortunately, active participation of at least two and sometimes three representatives of the Armenian side from among experts and political scientists, acting as fierce guides of their national interests, is encouraged in each such program. At the same time, representatives of the Azerbaijani side are rarely invited to these programs.
I want to note that love for one nation should not necessarily be combined with rejection of some other. Say, to the same Turkey, constantly reminding about the Russian-Turkish wars of the past centuries. Who has not Russia and Turkey fought with for many centuries? But why should these two countries remain hostile to each other? After all, the reasons uniting them are much more than separating. Do bad relations with Turkey serve Russian interests? The Russian public consciousness is being taught the myth that there is supposedly some secret conspiracy about the creation of a kind of superpower of the Turkic-speaking peoples under the auspices of Turkey; and that this is a mortal danger for Russia; and that the only obstacle to the creation of the mythical Great Turan, naturally, is little Armenia. The so-called pan-Turkism under Stalin was the reason for the destruction of the intelligentsia of the Turkic-speaking peoples, including Azerbaijanis. It turns out that even now this ogre is a stainless weapon in the hands of provocateurs of all stripes. Even the founder of the idea of Pan-Turkism, the Turkish ideologist and scientist Ziya Gokalp, argued that “the creation of Turan – a single state of all Turks – is the utopia as the communist future of Lenin.” “And the same chimera as “ Great Armenia from sea to sea, ” we will add.
Is the common cultural space of Hispanic Latin American countries fraught with the threat of creating a single State? Or more than twenty Arab countries – adjoining on a common cultural, historical, religious, linguistic space, want to be united in one superpower? Nonsense? And this nonsense in relation to the Turkic-speaking peoples is stubbornly imposed by some ideologists on the Russian public consciousness, as if it were a potential threat to the very existence of Russia.
The past connects us …
Too much connects the former Soviet republics, and in particular Azerbaijan, with Russia, with Russian history, culture, literature, language, to reject these values for the sake of the never-existing Turan or plans to merge with any other, even a very close country. Azerbaijan paid a high price for its independence to cede it to any other country. Historical, cultural, literary, ethnic, linguistic affinity, common spiritual, moral values connect Azerbaijan with Turkey, but no one ever, either in Turkey or in Azerbaijan, has thought or is thinking about the political or administrative merger of these two fraternal countries. Even in the Russian-Belarusian format.
In the years that followed the “Anschluss” of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan, our country is no longer what it was thirty years ago, with an army that had not taken shape at that time, and with the then naive faith in the friendship of peoples being a savior. Now we are well aware of who our sincere friend is and who wants to become our enemy himself. Now we have a powerful army equipped with modern weapons. And thirty years of fruitless and empty negotiations with the participation of the Minsk Group (including France, engaged by the Armenian lobby), these purely factitious efforts did not bring the solution of the problem one centimeter closer. We are patient people, but there is a limit to every patience.
And now, when Azerbaijan, ON ITS OWN LAND, BY ITS OWN FORCES, IS TRYING TO WIN BACK ITS ANCESTRAL LANDS, Armenian STARTED TO CRY OUT ABOUT AGGRESSION from our side. The telephone receiver in the hands of the Armenian leader is heating up with a prayer to everyone in the world to save the Armenians. From whom? Nobody in Azerbaijan has anything against Armenia and Armenians. We are fighting only against the invaders who, with the latest weapons almost donated to them, are not only trying to hold on to the occupied lands, but also bombing civilians in cities and villages far from the front line. They are bombing from the territory of Armenia itself with an obviously provocative purpose to call back fire on themselves and then scream to the whole world about the agreement, according to which the member countries of the organization promised to protect the country against which the aggression was committed. A cheap trick. Nothing will come of this provocation; now we know well who we are dealing with.
Many experts scream that Turkey is preparing genocide against Armenians in Karabakh. It is not clear why Turkey is preparing the genocide of Armenians in Karabakh, if more than 20 thousand Armenians, having their schools, churches, and printed publications in Istanbul alone, live safely on the territory of Turkey. Moreover, Turkey constantly accepts, according to some calculations, 300 thousand, and according to other 200 thousand guest workers from Armenia, who earn their daily bread not in their homeland, but in a supposedly “hostile” country.
And why would Azerbaijanis organize genocide in Karabakh, while tens of thousands of Armenians live peacefully and calmly in Baku now? That is a non sequitur.
I still carry faith in common sense and a reasonable beginning in the Armenian public consciousness when Armenians finally understand that it is better not lay eyes on other people’s territories, but to help their own land flourish with a friendly attitude towards neighbors; when they realize that it is better to think not about retribution for the real or imaginary sins of others, but soberly assess your own history with unfulfilled ambitions, fruitless hopes and bitter disappointments. Really, one should not indulge in illusions of “living space” at the expense of foreign lands; it is better to try to help your own people in your own country so that they do not run away to find work in Russia, Turkey and God knows where else. The most burning problem in Armenia is not the fear of imaginary genocide, but the threat of demographic exhaustion. I am absolutely sure that after the liberation of our occupied lands, no real danger threatens the Armenians who have remained to live in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani state guarantees their absolutely safe existence and equal rights with all other citizens of our country.
I appeal to all sober-minded people of the Armenian society. Stop deceiving your people with myths about imaginary threats, stop feeding people with fables about a mythical state from sea to sea; stop propaganda of enmity and revenge towards Azerbaijanis, Turks and other peoples; give up attempts to involve third countries in this conflict. This conflict is by no means included in the sphere of their national interests. In the end, your diaspora will get tired of feeding you morally and materially.
Stop living with myths that have failed. Let us establish at least good neighborly relations after the liberation of our lands. And then things will be fine for you, for us, for everyone, for Russia and Turkey.