On a spartan journey to the breakaway Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the author finds ghost cities, mountain tableaus and strands of personal connection to the area.
”While the Nagorno-Karabakh war was one of independence — fought within the context of a century-old genocide against the Armenians by the Turks, the fall of the Soviet Union and anti-Armenian pogroms — it was difficult for me, with my background, not to feel dismay that the same persecution the Armenians had suffered was perpetrated upon their Azeri neighbors. What about the former Azeri girls and boys, now refugees about my age, whose memory of home is fading like a photograph left too long in the sun? Most, I learned, have settled in other parts of Azerbaijan. And while I may never be able to see Azerbaijan because of my ethnicity, they may never get to see the place where they were born.”
I had some similar feelings when I saw the wall of license plates, all from abandoned civilian Azeri cars, in Artsakh. I was disgusted that something like this could be found in a place that knows refugees, that knows genocide, that knows losing everything you have. I could imagine our old house in Baku marked the same way, Armenian license plates as trophies, our tombstones mowed down to make space for cosmopolitan architecture.
Despite this, I wonder if the author of this article considered the history of Artsakh inside and outside of the Soviet Union. If he considered the Armenian territories (probably stripped of their churches, their graves, their khachkars -search Julfa) that remain “in” Azerbaijan— territories we can no longer even visit, territories people were encouraged to settle to dilute the majority ethnic Armenian population.
There are many explanations for why the Armenian defense suddenly managed to turn to offense to secure space but it’s still a shame that there are refugees on any side.
This is always difficult to think about. Always.