By Talar A.
Edited by Brendan S.
If you were to listen to any Azerbaijani nationalist, the first thing they would tell you is this:
Armenians are a bunch of victim-playing pigs who deserve to die.
They would immediately tell you that Armenians are not to be trusted and that we are the vilest humans on earth, nowhere close to the worth of the great Azerbaijani nation.
Ask any Armenian, myself included, and we can tell you the truth behind their lies: Armenians have been endlessly persecuted for the past millennium, and now, the world is once again silent. In the wake of this new wave of fighting, Armenians like myself have become the targets of xenophobic attacks and Azeri diaspora-perpetrated pogroms, ranging from a deluge of death threats to arson of Armenian churches to physical attacks on a woman and her five-year-old son. Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW that not every single Turkish or Azerbaijani individual is like this. Quite a few have sent me their support. However, the fact remains that as long as Ilhan Aliyev and Recep Tayyip Erdogan run the region, and so long as their factions of hatred remain in power, Armenians will have no peace.
In 2005, the Mayor of Baku said to the German mayor of Berlin “Our goal is the
complete elimination of Armenians. You Nazis, eliminated the Jews in the 1930’s and 40s right? You should be able to understand us.” In the wake of quotes such as this and the xenophobic actions behind them, is it hard to wonder why Artsakh region (Armenian land for millennia) is so valuable to Armenians? For us, it isn’t just a piece of land or a source of national pride. It is literally the difference between our survival and being another ancient people who were wiped out and relegated to history books.
To understand the conflict, one must first understand the history of Armenia and its
people. From at least the fifth millennium BCE and on, the ancestors of the Armenian people, known as the Nairi and Urartians, lived in what is known today as the Armenian Highlands (including Artsakh). To these people, the gods had placed them there and that was where they were meant to stay. Later, writers such as Herodotus wrote about the Armenians, stating that they lived in the region and that the Babylonians called them the Armena or the Hayasa. Armenians were also written about in the Beshitun Inscription as being ruled by the Achaemenid Empire. It was around this time that ancient writers started to describe the land known as Artsakh as a holy place for the Armenian people. Armenians continued on in this land under the thumb of one conqueror after another, though they did make time to have several dynasties and an empire under Tigran the Great along the way. Eventually the Armenians found themselves under Ottoman rule.
The Ottoman Empire was not a good place to be a Christian ethnic minority, as the
Armenians and other ethnic minorities had to pay jizyat tax and give blood libel: forced to send their first born sons to be janissaries, who were often abused to reinforce Turkic hegemony. At the end of Ottoman rule, the Turkish power structure under Ataturk exacerbated the Armenian Genocide, with a series of mass exterminations and the foundation of Turkification orphanages well into the 1920s. The remaining Armenians who were stuck under Soviet rule were forced to live in ten percent of their ancestral homeland (now the modern borders of the Armenian state), suffering the loss of Artsakh to the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan SSR at the will of Stalin in December 1922, with no ethnic justification of this outside of Soviet economic interests. Had Stalin not decided to include Artsakh in Azerbaijan SSR’s jurisdiction in 1922, Azeri nationalists would have absolutely nothing to go off of in the 21st century, and perhaps the Artsakh conflict wouldn’t even exist to begin with.
In case the millennia-long history of the Armenian Highlands hasn’t convinced you yet, consider this:
Before Azeris destroyed it, there was a khachkar (cross stones) cemetery in the now Azeri-occupied city of Julfa. Khachkar is a distinct Armenian style of carving in which a large stone slab or wooden plank is carved into intricate crosses. These stones had been there for thousands of years, and the Azerbaijani government knew it, so they destroyed every last piece of it. Today, no trace remains of the Julfa stones except the pictures of them taken by UNESCO and Iranian surveillance footage of the destruction. Several Armenian archaeological sites both in Turkey and Azerbaijan have either been destroyed or diluted with Turkic propaganda claims of “…an ancient Turkic language.”
If Nakhchivan and Artsakh were truly ancient Azeri land, what need would there be for the destruction of Armenian ancestral sites? Wouldn’t it have been far better to let the stones stand so that they could try and prove their ethnic claim to the world, at least by lying that they are of Turkic origin?
Ninety-five percent of Artsakh is comprised of ethnic Armenians, they use the Armenian monetary system, they speak Armenian, have Armenian names, consider themselves Armenian, and their flag is identical to ours with the exception of the white staircase pattern. Why would Azerbaijanis, who have made no secret of their hatred of us, want to use all of those? Simple. Artsakhis are NOT Azerbaijanis, but Armenians. This fact has remained constant for thousands upon thousands of years.
With this kind of history, is it any wonder why Armenians are so passionate about holding on to Artsakh? The truth is, rightful ethnic jurisdiction of Artsakh shouldn’t even be a discussion. Azeri nationalists rely on 1922 Soviet-constructed borders and mere propaganda to defend their claim on Artsakh, since there is no rational reasoning behind their conquest mentality. Artsakh is one of the last pieces of Armenian ancestral homeland that we have access to, and that is why we are prepared to defend it to the death.
In conclusion, Artsakh is Armenian. Always has been, and God-willing it always will be. If the day comes that Azeris take it, it will mean the end of Armenians. So I, as an Armenian, beg you to ask yourself this question:
Do you want to stand with a state of conquest and genocide, or do you want to stand with the people of Armenia?