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The Karabakh conflict in kitchen discussions

Lack of facts

As experience shows, it all depends on how informed your counterpart is. The most informed ones operate dates and numbers easily – like what Gorbachev said on a particular day, or how many Armenians and Azeris lived in Shusha many years ago, etc. The less informed ones prefer emotional attitude and slogans like “They are to get lost from our land.

It is rarely can be heard, that the conflict can be resolved peacefully. More common is the idea that we do not want war, “but will take up arms, if the Motherland gives the order. Since we are the patriots, we love our Motherland and are ready to defend it.

But when war loomed over the horizon, it turned out that everybody wants war in Azerbaijan. Office clerks, farmers, bankers, housewives – all of them as if woke up, demanding the revenge. “With the God`s help the next Novruz we`ll celebrate in Shusha – out of wishful thinking this fantasy suddenly turned into the concrete purpose even for those in Baku, who have never been to Shusha.

Such an attitude is not easily understood by the foreigners, especially those who have recently visited Karabakh and do not want to witness the ruins at the place of such hospitality.

But let us move back in times and find ourselves in 1988, when Karabakh still belongs Azerbaijan, and in Yerevan people are taking to the streets, united and inspired by the idea of unification with the compatriots.

I intentionally ignore dates, names and other details. Basic moments envisaged are sufficient. First comes Karabakh, where the Armenians and the Azeris live, the Armenians prevailing. Second come the inspired faces on the Yerevan streets. Then come bloodshed, war and pogroms.

It is obviously not all that simple: ethnic hatred, violent outbursts, the USSR and numerous other factors that have influenced the cause of the conflict – all that is not to be ignored. The only question that I am to ask – did the Yerevan intellectuals want bloodshed at that time? Did they want children, women and elders to die? No, for sure. The public movement, each participant of which wanted historical justice and nothing else, was the important impetus to the conflict. All of them were motivated by patriotism. And they were not lonely.

History has made another turn. We, the Baku residents, are no longer the intimidated and hungry Soviet citizens, who in the early 90-s could hardly make ends meet. We are the well-to-do residents of the oil producing country capital, the citizens of the country that is not the Kremlin vassal, whatever trends are being discussed. Looks like we have come to our senses, looked around and found out that the small neighboring country had taken away a piece of our land, we do not even have the common border with! And seven other districts to add. How could it happen?

The versions are numerous. Let us get back to the kitchen table and listen to the conversation. What is being said? For instance, that Russia is to blame for everything. Or it is our kindness, that the Armenians, artful and cunning as they are, used to deceive us. The loss of Karabakh is not our fault, for sure. But deep inside there is some strange anxiety.

We are now strong and capable of taking revenge, the kitchen orators believe. The sofa activists from the social networks agree. We love our Motherland, we are the patriots, historical justice is all we want.

Guess, I`ve heard it before.

Arguments are always at hand. Even for those who call to draw the neighboring nation in blood. Some arguments are simplistic, like “They did not feel pity for our children. Some are more complicated, like the Hitler racial theory which denies whole nations the right to exist. The compromises happen too, like We let them alive in case they get lost.

Those who stand for the military solution have substantial arguments at their disposal too. But they  always look hypocritical: “to eliminate the enemy -instead of “to kill a hundred people, or “to free the territory – instead of “to burn down houses. This kind of vocabulary is in use on both sides of the border. The idea behind it is simple: X number of people should be shot, executed, burned down or blown up – a)in the memory of other innocent victims; b) for the sake of historical justice; c) because we love our Motherland.

One could argue back that the refugees want to return to their houses. Which is true but comes as the last argument in the kitchen conversations. Abstract ideas matter more. Memory, justice and the beloved Motherland.

Memory seems to be a rudiment, a remnant of tribal revenge. If two nations are enemies, does it mean they are to eliminate each other, guided by the principle “an eye for an eye. The conflict has already claimed numerous lives, and the possibilities are still vast. You are disappointed with the social policies, the authorities, lack of free press, or unemployment, but you cannot protest openly? Do not care, aggression will pile up and then pop up with indignant screams addressed to “these murderers and bastards. You have never seen your counterparts? Nothing to care about, they are all alike.

Historical justice seems to be a funny oxymoron. Epochs come and go, empires rise and fall, countries appear and disappear, and some people still believe that their country`s territory should be larger due to some historical reasons. How can it be implemented? Is there a law that allows to establish Armenia “from the sea to the sea based on some ancient manuscript? How should it look like?

As to love for Motherland, this argument comes last – the most moving and the most false of all. It is also the most widespread one. We all love our Motherland. It goes without saying. We used to recite poems and sing songs about it at school. How to do it right, is the life-long discussion. But what does it mean, to love a country? Does it mean to be ready to kill or get killed at the frontline? Or does it mean to be moved to tears by the hymn lyrics? Or one should silently agree with everything that is being done in the country? Something else?

Then imagine: you are on the sofa, experiencing love for the Motherland in the usual manner. Then come corpses, bloodshed, guts on the ground. The people who used to love their Motherland like you did, or at least were told they should – they are all dead now. It were you, who kept saying and writing that love for Motherland demands victims, and you claimed to be ready for them. Are the corpses the only acceptable form of love?

Ceasefire disappointed the sofa warriors. In last four days all my friends have discovered that I am a heard-hearted person with nothing sacred. I fully agree. That is probably why I am glad that nobody got killed in Karabakh tonight.

The opinions, expressed in this article convey the author’s views and terminology do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editorial staff.

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