Sketches toward a search for a just and ethical solution to Nagorno-Karabakh deadlock
Posted by kronstadt on November 16, 2007
(These are my own reflections on what I think would be a just and ethical resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, even though some of my comrades might disagree.)
The debate on Nagorno-Karabakh has hitherto been informed by 2 conflicting principles: Self-Determination vs State-Integrity. Both principles are embodied in the UN charter; neither of the two principles is privileged; they obviously clash with each other and are often resolved by powers that be. The Armenian side supports the former and the Azeris formulate their arguments taking as a priori the latter. This dichotomy between Self-Determination and State-Integrity, between Armenianness and Azerinness has been around since day one of the times when the search began for a non-military solution. In this quick article I argue that the principle of Self-Determination offers an ethical and just solution to this deadlock, but for reasons other than those of Armenian “national interests”.
The principle of State-Integrity is a totally wrong way to go about this conflict for a number of reasons. First of all we must understand that Statism as a political form is a new, and, in many ways, alien concept to the region of Caucasus. For centuries, very diverse peoples of Caucasus have lived side by side while organising their communities in terms other than those of Sovereignty and Statism. Statism itself is a post-colonialist invention designed to ensue an indirect control, mediation and manipulation of smaller nations by the imperialist powers. The form of Statism that emerged in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, plays directly in favour of the Russian, American, British and other imperial interests. The old imperialist pattern has manifested itself in the case of Nagorno Karabakh too: Divide and Rule.
The second point why Statism is a wrong direction for understanding and resolving conflicts in Caucasus is that the State works as an empty signifier – a meaningless topological image that does not take into account the realities on the ground. That topological, or ontopoligical image of what one’s country’s image looks like works as fetishistic tool in the process of construction of a unique identity and unique self-interpretation. This is certainly the case with Azerbaijan, which still struggles to come up with a coherent narrative of it’s own national identity – something that is necessary when suddenly gaining an independent statehood. Azerbaijan does suffer from ontopology, but that does not mean that it should become the basis for resolving a very real problem on the ground. Armenians didn’t have this problem of ontopology since they could base their discourse of identity upon centuries and millennia of unique culture, language and a very tragic history of survival, rather than a topological image.
The third point to take into account is that the boundaries that the Caucasian republics as well as the autonomous regions inherited from the Soviet union are completely artificial, and they should not form the basis for a resolution of Nagorno Karabakh problem.
The explicitly racist propaganda against the Armenians as a whole and fascist hysteria that has been pouring out of the highest governmental ranks of Azerbaijan are not helping at all. When one hears the racist remarks that became the trademark of president Aliev and his TV propaganda, one is quite discouraged to search for a solution around the negotiating table, just as one is growing increasingly suspicious of placing trust in Azeri proposals for “highest status of autonomy for Nagorno Karabakh” when it comes from officials who have made no secret that they are racists. Statements like “Armenia is an illegal state established on the territory of Azerbaijan” by president Aliev are not very productive, sane or respectful to say the least.
The Azeri authorities have been promising “the highest status of autonomy and self-determination within Azerbaijan’s sovereignty”, but so far they have not shown any respect or regard for human, civil, and minority rights in any way that would make their offers trustworthy or considerable in any way.
What doesn’t help either is the new and reformulated rhetoric that Azerbaijan formulates that presents us with a map of New Azerbaijan that now incorporates not only the Nagorno Karabakh, but also Syunik, Tavush and lake Sevan.
And thus a simple question springs to mind: How can you sit around the same negotiating table with racists, fascists and people who are not committed to the principles of democracy and respect, and hope to come up with long-lasting solutions that are based on mutual-respect??? It’s difficult, if not impossible. The answer is you cannot and you must not. Racism and Fascism is something that has to be resisted in every corner, both at home and abroad. Peace cannot grow out of disrespect for the other!!! And this is how I see the issue of Nagorno Karabakh.
It is no longer just a territorial issue, but also a human rights issue, just as it is an issue of resisting racism, fascism and anti-democracy in the region!!!
Any concession to the current Azeri regime would be a betrayal not because it would be a matter of surrendering the national interests, but because it would mean surrendering to a racist, anti-democratic and disrespectful regime.
I see the last 10 years of negotiations as something that has gone terribly wrong. If before there were 3 parties sitting at the table: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh, now it became an issue that is formulated in oversimplified conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan (which is how Azeri government’s point of view). The fact that Nagorno Karabakh war was a war of self-defense and self-liberation is by now reformulated as an “Aggression on Azerbaijan’s territory by the Republic of Armenia”. In other words it is now formulated in exclusively Statist terms – as if all political and military processes can happen only between states and can only be resolved in the framework of statism.
I see the concept of Self-Determination as the just and ethical direction for the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh deadlock. I favour the concept of Self-Determination over the concept of State-Integrity, not because I’m Armenian or want to see the stance of the contemporary regime defended, but because I’m a person with a generally anarchist and socialist worldview – because the principle of Self-Determination in this case is both ethical and just.
Another (deliberate and ideological) mistake that Azerbaijan (and now Armenia too) makes is to see Nagorno Karabakh Armenians and the Armenian of the 3rd republic as the same side with identical interests and identical visions for solution. As far as Azerbaijan is concerned this kind of framing works together with their generally Statist standpoint and the worldview of “Armenian aggression against Azeri territory”. The Armenian authorities too have been playing along this kind of formulation of interests because it gives a direct control and the right of say to Yerevan, which has been a cause of a rift between Yerevan and Stepanakert (both of political and popular levels). This is a gross mistake: the interests of the Nagorno Karabakh people are far from being identical to those of the Republic of Armenia. Any negotiation that will not take into account the will of Nagorno Karabakh people – the very people who fought and liberated their homeland, will land on the rocks, and offers no plausible future on the ground.
I also see the need for the Right to Return for the refugees from mainly Azerbaijan, but also Armenia who were caught up in this conflict. All Azeri refugees must have a right to return to their homes and rebuild their lives in the sovereign republic of Artsakh.
As a mode of political and international form I see the necessity that Nagorno Karabakh be recognised as a sovereign statehood of Artsakh by Azerbaijan. And by Artsakh I mean not the territories that were once drawn up by some Soviet officials in the old days, but the very real territories that are de facto under the control of the Nagorno Karabakh people. Of course, this means that Shaumian region and some parts of the Martuni region will, unfortunately, have to be left out. It is a reality that Azerbaijan will inevitably need to recognise diplomatically. Artsakh people fought their war of independence and they liberated their homeland from the national-imperialist tyranny that posed very real threat of systematic massacres and loss of minority right – fair and square — just like Americans once liberated themselves from British imperialists, just like Algierians liberated themselves from the French, just like Mozambicans liberated themselves from the Portuguese, etc.
Given the current state of uncompromising racist propaganda that is pouring out Azeri media and regime, I believe Armenians should keep a much tougher and more principled stance that is not based on the notions of “national interest”, but on notions of ideological principles that emphasises the values of democracy, liberty, human rights, equality and Respect!!!