Young ISHR sections from Armenia and Azerbaijan in a round table discussion on Nagorno-Karabakh at the ISHR annual general meeting in Germany. FLTR Prof Risajew Azerbaijan, Ivan Agrusow, founder of ISHR,Germany, Prof. Muradjan, Armenia. Koenigstein, 1992
Thus, the then young ISHR sections of Armenia and Azerbaijan reported again and again about the will for peace of both peoples, which, however, were repeatedly stirred up by various interest groups.
And one does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe these reports of the then democratic movements of both countries that within the disintegration of the largest state-structure in the world and the resulting new power constellations, various mafia-kind interest groups were involved in sowing the seeds of division.
The spiral of violence and war that was triggered was unstoppable under the conditions of the time and without outside support, so the post-Soviet state- and identity-building of Armenia and Azerbaijan became firmly interwoven with the enemy image of the other.
Until the 1994 ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, this spiral of violence claimed up to estimated 50,000 lives and at least as many wounded and drove far over a million people (estimated up to 400 000 Armenians and more than 1 Million Azerbaijanis) from their homes to this day!
The province of Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself a de facto independent republic in 1991 (Republic of Arzach, approx. 140,000 inhabitants, after the flight of the approx. 40,000 Azerbaijanis, today almost 100% Armenian), also occupied 7 neighboring provinces and thus factually occupied almost 15% of Azerbaijani territory.
The friend of the one is the enemy of the other
These facts, set at that time, are still the starting point of the conflict today. Armenia and Azerbaijan have basically been in a state of war for more than 30 years now, soldiers are facing each other at their borders, people are dying again and again in smaller border fights, last in 2016 200 people fell victim to a major battle.
One might hope that in the last two decades, marked by modernisation, globalisation and, in partly EU rapprochement, the waves of mutual hatred, at least in the younger generation, would have calmed down somewhat, but unfortunately this is not the case; on the contrary, the images of the enemy have continuously manifested themselves in both societies.
Just how deep this goes can be seen from a few examples:
Neither an Armenian nor an Azerbaijani may enter Azerbaijan or Armenia without state permission. Even an ordinary visitor to Azerbaijan cannot simply enter the other country with the entry stamp of one country. An entry into Nagorno-Karabakh not authorized by Azerbaijan is punishable as a criminal offence.
Positive reports about the other person or even friendships are considered as a kind of treason, this usually applies to the wider environment as well. In other words, the friend of an Armenian, regardless of nationality, cannot also be the friend of an Azerbaijani and vice versa.
An Azerbaijani officer (traumatized by violent expulsion of Nagorno-Karabakh), who chopped off the head of an Armenian participant with an axe in his sleep 2004 during a NATO event in Budapest, was pardoned by Azerbaijan after Hungary’s extradition in 2012 and almost declared a national hero whereas 2013 the then 76 year old celebrated national hero and most famous writer Akram Aylishi was dishonored by the state and socially persecuted and ostracized for the fact that his new book “Stone Dreams” also mentioned Azeri atrocities. And on the other side the British journalist Thomas de Waal is unpopular in Armenia for mentioning Armenian atrocities against Azerbaijanis in his famous 2003 work “Black Garden” or for classifying todays Armenian national hero Garegin Nzhdeh, a famous military strategist from both world wars as fascist.
In the historical sciences of both countries there are many attempts to prove of who now is really “the owner” of Nagorno-Karabakh. For this purpose, one goes deep into antiquity and lists a line from times before Christ, which leads both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani side to the conclusion that Nagorno-Karabakh is “Ancient-Armenian” or “Ancient-Azerbaijani”.
While Armenia links the pogroms directly to the continuation of the genocide perpetrated against them, Azerbaijan calls for the Armenian attack on Khojaly (1992, at least 500 deaths) to be recognized worldwide as genocide.
And not least, the example mentioned at the beginning of this article, that after a recent border incident with at least 16 deaths, thousands of Azerbaijanis, including many young people, took to the streets, even stormed the parliament and demanded war against Armenia, respectively the military reconquest of Nagorno-Karabakh.