By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
The news broke like a fever last Monday night. A deal had been signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan to end the bloody month long war in Nagorno-Karabakh which had claimed the lives of thousands on both sides. This is a good thing right? How could any peace be bad? But something felt all wrong about this one. Armenia’s Prime Minister announced the deal on Facebook before adding that said deal was “unbelievably painful for me and our people.” The response of those Armenian people back in Yerevan was equally pained but somewhat less somber. They rioted and stormed the buildings of their government peacemakers, demanding their resignation for treason. That’s because this was not a peace deal made between equal sides on an even playing ground. It was a hostage situation with one side, Azerbaijan’s side, armed to the teeth and openly backed by some of the most powerful and merciless militaries in the world, who helped that nasty little gas station threaten the impoverished Armenians to concede to the demands of their tormentors on nothing short of the pains of genocide.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region had already been affectively ethnically cleansed. It’s ethnic Armenian population cut in two with 90,000 of their 150,000 citizens in exile as refugees back in mainland Armenia. Shushi, the region’s second largest city, had just been captured and a Second Armenian Genocide seemed terrifyingly imminent. What’s more, a major player in this bloody conflict was oddly absent from the deal. The Armenian Government was poorly represented along with the Russians who had failed miserably to defend their allies. The viciously racist regime of Azerbaijan was there with their neo-Ottoman Turkish puppet masters. But what of the Republic of Artsakh? The autonomous nation they were supposedly fighting over. They were nowhere to be found. Apparently their opinion on their own fate was irrelevant to the masters of the universe, even though it was their republic being ransacked and sold off to foreign “peacekeepers.”
Most Americans had never heard the words Nagorno-Karabakh before late September. Even fewer have heard of it’s proper name, Artsakh. But the mountainous dark garden, as it’s Russo-Azeri name alludes to, is an ethnic Armenian exclave which has struggled gallantly to maintain their autonomy from the Ottomans and their Turkic ancestors for centuries. Like many nations in the volatile Southern Caucuses, Artsakh is a mountain stronghold that breeds warriors. It had been its own autonomous republic within the Azerbaijani autonomous republic in the Soviet Union, but had been divided from the nearby Armenian autonomous republic by none other than Joseph Stalin in the 1920’s in what was rumored to be a strange attempt to curry favor with the recently de-Ottoman-ized Turkish Republic, who had just murdered 1.5 million ethnic Armenians less than a decade earlier. This cruel gift clearly failed to impress, as by the early 1960’s Turkey was fully in league with NATO and helping America to spark the Cuban Missile Crisis by letting them park their nuclear-tipped Jupiter Missiles in their territory and aimed at Ivan’s head. This cat and mouse game between the Russians, the Turks, and the Americans would come to define both Armenia and Artsakh’s fate.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh took to the streets peacefully and voted to return to Mother Armenia. Azerbaijan responded with a brutal 6 year long war that would claim the lives of tens of thousands and lead to atrocities committed by both sides. The Russians mostly just sat on their hands as the Soviet Union continued to unravel. A ceasefire was finally brokered by the Minsk Group, a ménage of malevolent meddlers consisting of France, Russia, and the United States, and the proverbial can was kicked down the road. In the meantime, the rag-tag Armenians who had fought the militarily superior Azerbaijani’s to a stand still decided to take matters in their own hands. Sick of leaving their fate up to everyone but themselves, they chose to secede from the UN recognized borders of Azerbaijan and declare independence as the Republic of Artsakh. Even Armenia failed to recognize the will of their own people, but they did continue to occupy 7 districts of Azerbaijan to keep their ethnic brethren from being completely cut off from the outside world like the Gaza Strip. The two remained close to the point of even sharing Presidents over the years. Never the less, conflicts continued to spark along those contentious borders, but nothing like what erupted this fall.