“Dying Armenia reminds us of the painful price of independence”

“Dying Armenia reminds us of the painful price of independence”
“Dying Armenia reminds us of the painful price of independence”

FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – Armenia celebrated its 31 years of independence on September 21, in a context of renewed tensions with Azerbaijan. For the historian, the attacks on Armenian sovereignty are the result of the lack of vigilance of the international community.

Gaël Nofri is a historian, deputy mayor of Nice and Nice Côte d’Azur metropolitan councillor. He notably wrote A history of revolutions in France (ed. by Cerf, June 2018). He created and chairs the Association for the Defense of the Nation (ADN).


31 years ago, Armenia gained independence. Released from Soviet tutelage, this multi-millennial people, who had gone through a genocide in the 20th century, and seen their first republic crushed by the Bolshevik Empire, finally found the way to freedom.

31 years ago, this conflict already appeared as the inevitable drama of this restored nation. A drama which, even today, in the embarrassed indifference of the international community, murders so many and so many Armenians and threatens the very existence of their homeland.

The concomitance of these two dates is no accident of the calendar. On the contrary, it explains the very nature of this conflict: it is a founding conflict for Armenia, this war for Artsakh – which others call Nagorno-Karabakh. It is indeed, for the recognition of the Armenianness of this land and of the peoples who inhabit it, it is for the recognition of their right to self-determination, that, for the first time in this calm little Caucasian republic of the USSR, people rose up against the dictates of Moscow.

It is for this piece of land and history that the old Armenian soul woke up from the lethargy in which the Soviet authorities claimed to hold it. In Nagorno-Karabakh itself, we have made our voices heard, we have voted and expressed our will since 1988: no, the stroke of the pen dictated by Stalin in 1921 had not made this territory an Azeri land, this one pretended to become again what it was and had never ceased to be. The spark was born.

The Soviet regime fallen, the nations of the former bloc liberated… A world full of beautiful promises opened up to everyone and everyone had to play their part. It required a bit of courage and discernment about the dangers ahead. Obviously, such was not the case.

Repeating the errors of the past, and in particular those committed at the time of the decolonization of Africa, the international community imposed the intangibility of the borders resulting from the former Soviet Union. An expeditious and simplistic solution, which has the merit of avoiding many short-term problems, but only in the very short term. Where international law affirmed the right of peoples to self-determination, there was now opposed respect for artificial, disputed and questionable borders.

Where the international community celebrated the end of the Soviet dictatorship, they opposed the outdated decisions and dated ukases of its most bloodthirsty representative in history. Where the advent of an era of peace and prosperity was proclaimed, the Armenians were to find themselves confronted with the resurgence of pogroms and threats from their Azeri, that is to say, Turkic neighbour.

Thus the 1992 conflict which saw Armenia seize Artsakh was in reality only the extension of the collapse of the USSR, its logical conclusion for the Armenians, the promise finally kept of a independence, unity and freedom announced.

Never, alas, have the nations, in the forefront of which that of the famous Minsk group – France, Turkey, Russia, the United States, plus the two belligerents – seriously sought to impose a definitive, stable and peaceful solution to this situation: since the weapons had fallen silent, that must have meant that the conflict no longer existed.

It was only once the small republic of Armenia was cornered, and many of its sons sacrificed, that Moscow dictated its mediation to Yerevan much more than it offered it.

Gael Nofri

The Azeri desire for revenge during all these years was amplified by the dictatorship in place in Baku, the good offices of a “caviar” diplomacy and the fabulous hydrocarbon windfall which gave access to the financing of a vast modern armament. Moreover, the rise in Turkey of the autocratic regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an internal mixture of corruption and religious rigor, an external fusion of neo-Ottomanism and pan-Turkish nationalism, was inevitably to transform this unresolved conflict into a veritable time bomb. .

When this bomb exploded, in 2020 on the occasion of the 44-day war, another element still had to be decisive, another lesson that we have not learned from decolonization: the tacit acceptance by the international community of a Russian zone of influence in the Caucasus has kept Armenia in close, and not always desirable, ties with Moscow.

Russian influence on economic life, religious life, political life and the army remained decisive long after independence, and could only take on a new meaning with the advent of Vladimir Putin. Faced with this de facto vassalisation, the Velvet Revolution, which in 2018 was to overthrow Prime Minister Sarkissian in favor of the current head of government Pashinian, carried within it an undeniable aspiration to break these ties of dependence with Russia, a temptation to turn to the West…

Also, when the conflict exploded, Armenia, far from being militarily ready to face a war of this magnitude, was still greatly dependent for its defense and its arms supplies on the big Russian brother of which it rightly claimed to be emancipate. An opportunity that Vladimir Putin could not pass up. Also, it was only once the small republic was cornered, and many of its sons sacrificed, that Moscow dictated its mediation to Yerevan much more than it offered it.

Constrained and pushed to the wall, Armenia signed the ceasefire agreement of November 10, 2020, which was nothing other than the fruit of a negotiation between Russia and Turkey, two nations which know get along perfectly and work together.

It instituted the return of Russian influence on Armenia, the abandonment of part of Artsakh to Azerbaijan, at the same time as the last two articles of the document left open the question of the link between Republic of Azerbaijan and its province of Nakhitchevan, isolated from the rest of the country by the Armenian territories of Syunik.

For any bona fide observer, this agreement could only be temporary. Because the essential, for Ankara, is first of all in this connection which would make it possible, in addition to linking the Azeri lands together, to bring together the whole of the Turkic arc, from Istanbul to the Chinese border and its minorities Turkic… Breaking the Armenian lock is therefore a necessity in Erdogan’s pan-Turkish geopolitical project.

Also, when the Azeri troops entered the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia on September 13, no one should have been surprised. Taking advantage of the war in Ukraine, which offers it a comfortable media screen vis-à-vis international public opinion, which mobilizes the Russian army and weakens Moscow’s position, but above all which has put Erdogan back at the center of the regional geopolitical game, Baku tests while advancing… advances while testing!

Make no mistake about it, it is not a corridor that the Azero-Turks want, it is a province. All their actions, all their negotiations, all the ceasefires they accept will only be steps towards this ultimate objective: their project has its coherence, its globality, its finality. They will not deviate from it.

Those who know history and demographics understand that nations do not escape their destiny. So it is dying Armenia that today reminds our nations of the painful price of independence.

Gael Nofri

This is how the informal ceasefire agreement of September 15 should be read, which seems to have been largely negotiated by the United States, which seems tempted to recover the ground here of influence lost by Vladimir Putin (even more than Nancy Pelosi’s long-planned electoral visit, the commitment of the new American co-chairman of the Minsk group, Ambassador Reeker, should be underlined).

But make no mistake about it: this agreement already allows today, in complete violation of international law, Azerbaijan to occupy an area on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. This is just the start; very quickly the conflict will start again. Already today, transports of troops and military equipment are seen everywhere on the border between the two countries; particularly in Nakhitchevan, as well as in the more northern regions, already affected by the bombardments of September 13 and 14, not far from Lake Sevan…

As for us, what have we done – not much. What shall we do – almost nothing.

Certainly the will exists: France spoke faster and louder than many. It has condemned and even seized the UN Security Council for what is a clear violation of international law. But it has done nothing else, nothing concrete, nothing on the scale of the human lives at stake, of the nature of this conflict, of the importance of the international issues at stake in Armenia, so far and yet so close to us.

It must be said, alas, that France, that of age-old friendship with Armenia and that of the Minsk group, no longer sees itself as powerful, no longer believes itself capable, no longer finds itself free to act in complete independence. Taken refuge in the fantasy of a European diplomacy which never existed and which will never exist, she watches in disbelief Ursula von der Leyen complacent with the Azeri dictator Aliyev, who promises to supply her with the gas that we no longer buy from Moscow…

Even more than the gas interests that make you devil in Ukraine and angel in Yerevan, let’s remember that to be president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen is no less German. Those who know the history, those who know the demography, understand that, there too, the nations do not escape their destiny.

So it is dying Armenia that today reminds our nations of the painful price of independence.

SEE ALSO — Putin calls for ‘restraint’ after Armenia-Azerbaijan fighting

The article is in French

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