Notes From Hairenik
Today citizens of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh will go to voting stations and elect a new president.

I have been reading some articles in the blogosphere and the news regarding the growing resistance from Armenian citizens for Armenia to return the lands that it has been controlling since the ceasefire of the Karabagh war in 1994. After the recent round of failed talks for reaching a peace deal between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents last month, and the persistent rhetoric regarding Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity coming from Baku, Armenians are starting to become more patriotic when it comes to Nagorno-Karabagh. I have found this position to be evident especially amongst the youth in my discussions with some people here. Some think that the position is politically motivated, being played as an anti-government card. Their patriotism may be misconstrued as being signs of building nationalism. However, I believe patriotism and nationalism are two separate ideologies that may intertwine, depending on scenarios and stances relating to national interests.

I have often stated my position on this blog about what I would consider a logical conclusion to the war in the signing of a peace agreement. But it is simply my own opinion, and expressing it should not necessarily describe me as being a nationalist. I think nationalist ideas as they pertain to Armenians mostly involve hard, uncompromising stances related to the Armenian Cause mostly prevalent within specific groups in the diaspora, some of which are obviously justified and are perhaps accepted by most if not all Armenians, such as the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. It could be deduced that there is a fine line between patriotism and nationalism. In other words, if you believe in one or more ideals of the Armenian Cause then you may be considered a patriot, but if you undyingly believe in all of them, including the liberation of Western Armenia, then you may possibly be a nationalist.

But can an individual be an independent nationalist without belonging to a party considered to be nationalistic in its ideology? Is a citizen of a country under the rule of a nationalist government also considered to be a nationalist although not believing in some or all of the state policies? Furthermore, can a person not consider him or herself a nationalist although others in society consider him/her to be one?

I don’t know how anyone can filter the convictions an individual holds and then classify them as belonging to one ideology or another. I doubt anyone can distinctly identify the aspects of will, determination, and hope defining each ideological categorization. Armenia as a nation-state is far from being considered nationalist as there are too many internal ideological and political divisions with no unifying gel whatsoever. There are only arguably perceived independent nationalistic elements in Armenian society, if they can even be defined as such.

My position regarding Nagorno-Karabagh used to be that most of the Armenian controlled lands could be contemplated being returned to Azerbaijani governance in a compromise, with the exception of the Lachin region and Kelbajar to the north, which is sandwiched between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh and could not be surrendered. In wake of the latest round of failed peace talks, I realize that Armenia’s position should instead toughen in consequence to the rise in verbally expressed aggression from the Azeri side, especially the refusal to accept the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabagh, something that is totally preposterous, especially after 13 years have passed since the territories have fallen under Armenian control and 16 years since Nagorno-Karabagh declared itself independent in 1991. Terminology in some print/online media outlets now refers to the Armenian controlled lands as “liberated territories,” whereas before the generally accepted terminology was “occupied lands.” This morning I read a reference to Nagorno-Karabagh as being an “ethnic Armenian-controlled enclave.” Unfortunately my knowledge of Armenian history is not strong enough to make my own determination as to what areas can distinctly be considered Armenian, with the obvious exception of greater Karabagh, and what would be accepted as land historically occupied by Tatars, other than what has been told to me by various history buffs as well as what I have read in brief summaries online. However, I concur that given the circumstances Armenia’s position should reflect a refusal to compromise on the status quo, in other words releasing the territories that it has been controlling since the ceasefire. I would take things further by anticipating that Armenia formally recognizes the legitimacy of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh as soon as possible, then after having done so immediately put forward a referendum for the two states to be unified. The sooner that the initiative is conducted the better.

Now does that conception make me a patriot or a nationalist? I can’t say for sure but I know one thing—Armenia seems to have always had the upper hand in these discussions and it should not compromise its own territorial integrity. In the latest talks rumors being spread that were eventually affirmed were that most of the territories would be returned—the details of which were still being worked out—and either the Lachin area or only a corridor would remain under Armenian control with international safeguards in place, whatever that was supposed to entail. Also, a referendum would be held sometime in the future, perhaps in 10 years, to officially and diplomatically determine the status of Nagorno-Karabagh, while it lingered all that time in an ambiguous sort of diplomatic limbo (Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov finally announced that the latter provision was “unacceptable,” in other words fostering an all or nothing position). All of those were ridiculous proposals, again in my opinion, but given the recent circumstances Armenia should not back down any longer.

One argument that is shared by political analysts and others is that if a solution is not found in five years Armenia will be economically isolated and diplomatically shunned as a strategic partner in the region. With all the investment being made in Armenia’s infrastructure by Russian conglomerates and European business ventures I find that scenario hard to believe. The economy is booming in Armenia, albeit mostly because of widespread ceaseless construction projects, and trade seems to be stronger than ever judging from the plethora of goods in markets and the ever-increasing amount of motor vehicles that cruise the roads. Armenia is stronger now than it ever has been, and it will only continue building that strength with time, even though I have concerns that it will hit road bumps along the way, especially with the dram’s recent dramatic appreciation.

Another concern is that a refusal to give in to Baku’s demands would trigger resumption in war. That is also not probably n unlikely scenario, since western powers will not tolerate further aggression in the area, especially when they have invested billions in a new oil pipeline connecting the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. Baku knows this and would most likely not take the chance in risking oil revenues while it wages war. But this is only my opinion, obviously.

Quite simply, Armenians need to unite on the Nagorno-Karabagh issue once and for all, and discussions which I would describe as patriotic calling for the refusal of handing over Armenian-controlled lands are healthy. The Armenian position should solidify if there is indeed a building support for maintaining Armenia’s territorial integrity from within, and patriotism should flourish nationwide. The rampant display of the tri-color national flag in a grandiose display of patriotism would be a nice start to rally the masses (it is hardly visible anywhere, even on government buildings) along with bold declarations made by politicians, pro-government and opposition alike. Despite some concerns regarding what the international community might say, Armenia really has nothing to lose.


Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
In my opinion, this is all emotive based on your ARF-D background but using arguments formulated total isolation from the region around you. Still, the same knee jerk nationalist (not patriotic) attitude can be found in Azerbaijan so it's only natural that it's found here.

It's just ironic to consider that almost everyone in Armenia and Azerbaijan who says there should be no concessions by either side are the very same people who would never go to fight in a new war.

They won't fight for nationalism or patriotism, in fact. Others can go and die to do that for them. Still, it's all irrelevant really. Most politicians and analysts here realize the need for a compromise peace deal whereas Azerbaijan is playing a waiting game with Armenia and its continuing isolation.

Armenia can survive a little longer, one supposes, if it alleviates poverty in the regions so as to create a bigger internal market, but when that happens, it will have to start looking outside of its borders and ultimately, it will need trade routes through and into Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Interestingly, when you talk of publications now using the term "liberated territories" it should be pointed out that they are being paid to write that. Pay them to write about the need for peace as they were doing so before they'd do that as well. Actually, they will do that. They have done in the past and they'll do so at the drop of a hat in the future.

Meanwhile, with presidential elections and a change of leadership scheduled in 2008 in both Armenia and Azerbaijan I can only hope that the elusive peace deal occurs in 2009 and this whole region can finally move on, and nationalism which manifests itself as racial hatred becomes a thing of the past.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
I would beg to differ that the ARF-D as a political organization believes the same way as I do. Perhaps some individuals, but not the organization, despite some public statements made here and there by the party's leaders. I think the tide has turned.

I do not consider myself to be a nationalist necessarily, I thought I made that clear in my post. I also don't understand how people who have strong opinions regarding the return of Armenian-controlled lands as part of a peace deal may necessarily be nationalists. Nationalism is a set of ideals and convictions that is shared by an entire group of people who are united in the same cause. Armenians as a nation are not nationalists. Maybe certain groups are here and there, but in this day and age, I think the concept of nationalism amongst Armenians is dwindling. Capitalism is already replacing nationalism as the name of the game. Like you said, very few would go to fight. The situation may have been different 16 years ago, but attitudes change, beliefs change, things change....

Anonymous artashes said...
I mainly (not fully) agree with Onnik's comment. Garbis, this was one of your weakest posts.

The accepted meaning of nationalism is the political aspiration of a nation to have its own statehood. That is why nationalists usually uphold the national state as the supreme value, more than democracy or anything else. The Russian state for them is the state promoting Russian nation, and the same is true for Jewish, Armenian, or any others. The example of Israel is educational: most Jews are opposed to the return of Palestinian refugees not necessarily on "racial or ethnic hatred" grounds (Israel right now has some 600000 Arab citizens some of whom even serve in its armed forces) but because of the simple fact that Arabs in that case will eventually outnumber Jews, and the state will not be Jewish any more but a multinational democracy. Which is cool theoretically but not for Jews - in a perceived threatening to their national existence environment.

Nationalism in the bad meaning, or ultranationalism, or xenophobic nationalism, is not just about the national state but about denigrating other nations, intolerance, considering your nation intrinsically superior to others and the similar crap. That, of course, borders on racism and nazism.

Now, patriotism is the love, loyalty, and concern for your country (not the particular regime in power, of course). Canadian patriots, for example, could be both English and French speakers. In that respect, genuine and unforced pride and appreciation of, e.g., the Armenian flag is indeed the manifestation of patriotism of the Armenian citizens. But when the government directs and organizes loyal to itself (and not to the country!) people to publicly support its policies, it has nothing to do with patriotism. It's a farce and propaganda. When the brainwashed Americans shout "Support our troops" they do not really mean that, they actually mean: "Support whatever the president does with our troops, even if he sends them to die in vain". They cosider themselves patriots but they are anything but.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Well, I don't understand why you think it is a weak post, but in any case the point I am trying to make is that Armenia is not a nationalist state and does not have a nationalist agenda. I am arguing that an individual cannot be a nationalist without belonging to a party or living in a nation-state that considers itself as such, and even then, you may not agree with all "nationalist" policies. If Armenia did decide to take a hard-line apprach in the Karabagh peace negotiations, I would still not think that Armenia's government had become nationalist, rather it would be seeking to protect its own geostrategic interests, which it should. Actually your comment was making my point clearer than apparently I was trying to make it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I am Iranian and I love Armenia and Armenians. Glad you took over Nagorno-Karabakh. I hope Nakhchivan will be next. You made Azerbaijan realize it is not as strong as its leaders claim it is. Now they will think TWICE before talking about the unification of "South Azerbaijan" (their term for northern IRAN) and their Republic. From all of us Iranians, shnorhakalem!

(By the way our country officially recognizes the Armenian Genocide).

All the Best!