Thousands of Armenians are now fleeing Stepanakert, the capital of the Republic of Artsakh, now controlled by Azerbaijani army forces, seeking refuge in the base of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.
The inhabitants abandon their homes and cultivated land, leaving all their past life behind. This exodus of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh brings a tragic end to the Armenian history in this ancient region, which began in the time of Tigran the Great and continued uninterrupted for many generations.
Without its Armenian population, it is not difficult to guess what will happen to Artsakh – it will follow the model of other neighbouring regions. A fate like that of Nakhichevan awaits it, where all traces of the presence of the Armenian people have been meticulously erased, as if they had never existed here. Even the Armenian cemetery of *Chulfa, with its medieval **jachkar crosses, was destroyed.
No doubt Stepanakert, which will officially be renamed “Khankendi” very soon, will meet the same fate and everything that is in any way related to Armenian history, culture and language will be wiped out. Even the rich heritage of the Soviet period, the most flourishing period of this city and the region, will be eliminated.
Local monuments will be dismantled, including the world-famous monument “We are our mountains”, better known by the popular name “tatik-papik”. This is because it appears on the coat of arms of the unrecognised Republic of Artsakh and has always been considered an iconic symbol of the Armenian presence in the land of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The beautiful frescoes of the medieval Dadivank monastery and the unique inscriptions on the walls of the Gandzasar monastery are in danger of disappearing if we consider that the Azerbaijani army had already fired on them and an unexploded artillery shell can still be seen today in the wall of the Gandzasar monastery.
Throughout Azerbaijan and Turkey, including the ancient capital of Ani, too many ancient Armenian temples lie in ruins. By their very presence, the monasteries of Nagorno-Karabakh, which date back to the Armenian principality of Khachen, will irritate the new government by reminding it who the architects of these works of art were.
The unfortunate image of the evacuation of Artsakh is reminiscent of the “death marches” when, after the pogroms, the entire Armenian population was deported from a vast territory: from Trabzon on the Black Sea to Adana in Cilicia. It is undoubtedly a bitter comparison because, as is well known, there is not a single Armenian left in this vast region today.
The fall of Nagorno-Karabakh will also go down in history as one of the darkest pages in Armenia’s history. The most important thing now is to understand the real causes of this catastrophe. Otherwise, Armenia could soon lose its territorial integrity and the remnants of its sovereignty. And then it will completely disappear from the geographical map, thus putting an end to the history of the existence of the Armenian state.
Meanwhile, the reasons for what has happened are obvious, especially in light of the shameful reaction of the Armenian government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who withdrew his support for Nagorno-Karabakh and fundamentally does not want to protect its population: 120,000 Artsakh Armenians.
Pashinian’s rise to power meant the beginning of the end for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. His position regarding the future of Artsakh was completely determined by the position of the United States and the European Union, who intended to remove the NKR, to remove it from the Armenian territories, which were established as the only guarantee for their protection, and thus weaken the Russian presence in Transcaucasia. And the inhabitants of the region were cynically sacrificed to these geopolitical combinations.
Moreover, Armenia’s pro-Western Prime Minister initially saw the Karabakh Armenians as political opponents, so it was in his interest to solve this problem at the hands of Azerbaijan.
From the very beginning, Pashinian openly tried to get rid of Artsakh. The lost war in the autumn of 2020, which marked the beginning of the NKR’s liquidation, is a consequence of the fact that Yerevan never had any plans to provide military or political support to the Republic of Artsakh. Both Ankara and Baku were well aware of this and quickly took stock of the situation by deciding on an armed solution to the Karabakh issue.
With the fall of Shushi and the establishment of a shaky truce, when the existence of the Artsakh Republic was under mortal threat, the Pashinian government began the systematic liquidation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in the course of direct negotiations with Azerbaijan, held under the patronage of Brussels and Washington.
The Prague Agreements, in which the Armenian Prime Minister explicitly recognised Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh, gave Baku a mandate for its occupation and subsequent ethnic cleansing.
Moreover, Nikol Pashinjan sought to demonstrably distance himself from Moscow by deploying a disinformation campaign against the Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh, claiming that their actions were allegedly ineffective.
In an interview with a journalist from POLITICO Europa, the Prime Minister said: “The Russian peacekeepers failed in their mission”. He was quick to thank the EU for its apparent intention to send some kind of civilian mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, calling these empty promises “serious support”.
Today, the whole world can see how the West did not provide any help to the Karabakh Armenians, not even in the field of diplomacy, nor did it impose any condemnation against Azerbaijan after the start of the offensive in Karabakh.
On the other hand, the Azerbaijani army is actively using weapons provided by Israel in this operation, in particular combat drones. And the supply of Israeli military technologies must necessarily be coordinated with Israel’s main partner, the United States.
There is no doubt that the Americans gave the go-ahead for the strengthening of the Azerbaijani armed forces, hoping to use them later to put pressure on Iran. Although Washington understood perfectly well that Baku could use these technologies against the Artsakh militia, as well as against Armenia itself, if Azerbaijan were to re-declare territorial claims over Siunik and Gegharkunik.
However, now that the Armenian government has not come out to protect the Armenians of Karabakh, no one can guarantee that it will be able to deal with the residents of these regions, who face a very real threat.
Thus, the responsibility for the end of Armenian history in Karabakh lies entirely with Nikol Pashinian and his foreign sponsors. And we must not allow the rule of this unscrupulous politician to lead to the destruction of Armenia itself.
* The cemetery remained standing until the late 1990s, when the Azerbaijani government began a systematic campaign to raze the monuments. Several appeals were filed by both Armenian and international organisations, condemning the Azerbaijani government and urging it to desist from such activity.
**The Khachkar are stelae carved in stone by Armenian craftsmen and Armenian diaspora communities. They are erected in the open air and serve as places of worship, memorials and relics, mediating between the secular and the divine.