Draft:  not for citation

 

 

 Parvin Ahanchi

(ANAS, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography)

 

“Witnesses” and “Memorizers” of the Conflict and Occupation in Karabakh

“We are refugees while are without homeland.

 Feeling not comfortable even being in our own country, because there is so much in word HOME …”

Summary

This paper is on two ongoing studies about the Azerbaijani IDPs of Karabakh.

a) An oral historical study of conflict, occupation and displacement.

b) A questionnaire-based survey of characteristics and opinions of different IDP age-groups.

 

The oral historical study is based on interviews with the Azerbaijani IDPs of the Karabakh conflict.
The interviewees were adult women and men of different ages.
I have divided the interviewees into two groups:

(1)     The “witnesses” or those who were adults when the conflict started in the late 1980s, and

(2) the “memorizers” or those who were born later, outside of Karabakh, in IDP families, and who are considered, and consider themselves, as IDPs.

 

For further studying the opinion of the “memorizers,” I also carried out a survey study among the IDPs. The opinions of those studied were reflected in the questionnaires which I distributed among them. I analyzed and compared the answers of the younger generation with the answers of the elderly about the social and political impacts of the conflict, as well as about the prospects for its resolution in the future.

 

I am interested in comparing the narratives of the two groups and how their members consider possible venues for resolving or transforming the conflict. The members of the first group have direct past experience of peaceful relations with the Armenians of Karabakh, but the members of the second group do not.

 

Background

The violent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place between February 1988 to May 1994 in Karabakh, inside Azerbaijan. Currently, this conflict is regarded as one of the “frozen conflicts” in the Caucasus region. Despite the US and other European countries having a deep interest in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas, their efforts towards resolving this conflict have proven ineffectual. The ongoing actions by the US and other Western countries and Russia have, in a sense, prolonged this conflict causing instability across the Caucasus.

 

Radicalization of the conflict and its transformation into a war influenced people to flee their homeland and settle in different regions all across Azerbaijan territory. The conflict was inflamed by outside support from the Armenian Diaspora, military operations by the Russian Army, and ultra-nationalistic groups in Armenia and inside Karabakh. Later, the conflict events were so tightly intertwined that it became impossible to know how to stop it. Anger of people from the both sides, escalation of arms owing to the existing former Soviet Army in the region radicalized the situation and pushed it to the war stage. Nearly 20 years have passed since the conflict started yet it is still difficult to bring peace to the region.

As a result of this undeclared war, nearly twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s territory was occupied, and close to one million Azeris were internally displaced. Widespread ethnic cleansing followed. A very rich cultural heritage of the region, which goes back centuries, has been damaged and destroyed. The major part of the material cultural heritage could perhaps be reconstructed but the loss of capital cannot be restored.

 

The Project

The oral history interview questions were mainly biographical, but the framework was on either directly experiencing and witnessing the conflict, war, and displacement, or being told of, and memorizing these processes.

My goal is to study relationships between collective memory and individual memory, complexities and diversities of what is called collective memory, as well as relations between memory and history in the Karabakh case.

I suggest that the role of both individual and collective memory of the IDPs is to transmit information from the past to the present, to transmit notions of responsibility, as well as provide a perspective to discuss and imagine ways for peaceful reconciliation and transformation of the conflict, or alternatively, offer a potential framework for imagining further armed violence.

 My project aims to include both analysis and discussion of the conflict that occurred between two neighbors — Armenians and Azerbaijanis – during the last years of the Soviet Union.

 

The people I interviewed for the present report were all civilians, and all experienced various forms of trauma; physically, psychologically and socially. This became clearly evident in their narratives as they shared them with me.

 

By turning to oral history I wanted to look at the historical record as found in the lives of ordinary people who lived and experienced it. My goal is to collect, preserve and share these oral histories. Given my background in archival text or image based research, I had to answer the typical skeptic’s questions: Do oral histories provide “reliable” representations of the past and what kind of “truths” do oral history methods and studies reveal?

 

I want to know the manner in which ordinary IDPs construct and use memory to give meaning to their lives and to their past. In other words, I want to use memory as a category of cultural and historical analysis in order to understand the process of change in the lives of the people I interview.

By telling stories, the Azerbaijani IDPs are involved in constructing what scholars call communities of memory. These communities of memory, or shared experiences, bind Karabakh IDPs across economic and geographical lines, but they are not monolithic. These communities of memory are somewhat fragmented by class and gender, as well as geographically and generationally, however they share similar standards of acceptable social behavior, values, and traditions.

I am particularly interested in the way that individuals use their memories to give meaning to their traumatic and life-transforming experiences, which, in turn, creates a sense of shared history and identity. Noting that the communities of memory are not homogeneous, I am interested to learn how the IDPs use memory to connect personal experiences to local, regional, national and world historical contexts.

Each Karabakh village, town and neighborhood is unique in many ways, including architecture, customs and details of traditions. This means that each community has its own history and “collective portrait.” During many centuries people named places and streets, and also marked the families with pseudonyms. These small town populations lived compactly and were closely connected to and familiar with each other. The conflict and the later war phase separated people and interrupted relations between them. The population of Karabakh has been dispersed over Azerbaijan’s territory, and also over other former Soviet republics, Turkey and even some Western countries.

When the conflict started people wanted to know how it started and when it would finish. Even when cities and villages were being occupied one by one, people were keeping the hope that it would be temporary and they that they would soon be back to their homeland. Trying to adapt to the new environment, so much different from their Karabakh, particularly for the families coming from rural communities, the IDPs suffered from a variety of social, economic, medical and psychological problems.


Methodology and Data

As somebody who have experienced living as an IDP for 20 years, my everyday contacts and discussions with neighbors serve as the primary data, and later I gathered more data in towns and in villages.

 

As a researcher, being from Karabakh makes carrying out my research easier in many ways, as one could imagine. But, this position of being part of the group that one studies has its own challenges of potential bias. So, I tried, as much as possible, to be aware of my own stance and try to have it not to influencing the questions and the direction of the interviews.

I have so far conducted 84 interviews with IDPs who were forty years of age or more when the conflict started around 1988. I have also recorded interviews of the youth, who were born outside of the Karabakh, but still considered IDPs.

 

Based on a sample for convenience, I wanted to make sure that the people I interviewed represented diverse geographic, economic and educational backgrounds, and included both genders. Common among the adults was the unforgettable look in their eyes while remembering their past lives with big hopes and dreams to go back one day to their homeland.

These interviews are part of an ongoing project to form an Oral History Archive of the Displaced Witnesses of the Karabakh Conflict and Occupation.”

As mentioned, in addition to the oral history interviews, I have also used questionnaires for studying the IDPs. The questions embrace a wide range of characteristics, including personnel data (name, surname, DOB, ethnicity/nationality, social origin, home town address, education, and profession). There are also specific questions which reflect IDPs’ geography of settlement, death of relatives’ since the beginning events up to the time of the interview, adaptation processes, IDPs’ access to the Western countries humanitarian donations, their views on reasons for occupation of the Karabakh and ways of conflict resolution.

I am using a sample of convenience, and so far I have administered the questionnaires among 142 adults and 43 students. I will continue gathering information from other “witnesses” and “memorizers” of the conflict. The students’ questionnaire is different from the adults’ questionnaire.

 

For the survey among the memorizers, I have included such questions about where they learn about the conflict and war in Karabakh? Where did they get that primary info? From parents, friends, school teachers, TV, radio, press, or the internet? Are they ready for peacefully live together with the Armenian kids? Would they like to get active for peace in the region together with the Armenian kids? Are they considering that the conflict and war have affected innocent Armenians kids, similar to them?”

There are questions that are the same for both groups of the “witnesses” and the “memorizers.” These questions are: “Which way of resolution to the conflict do you give privilege: by militarily action or by continuing negotiations?  “Which forces or groups have caused the conflict and occupation of the Karabakh?”

These questions are aim at recalling the memories of the respondents’ to restore the history of the conflict, the war and post war (adaptation) period. The ordinary adult IDPs are living historical sources of information about the events.

I visited IDPs’ refugee camps, shelters and schools, university hostels, and buildings where they lived in very compact conditions.

I gathered data for my research through oral history interviews are recorded. My aim it to archive the recorded interviews as well as my interview notes, and make them accessible to the public via the internet.

To hold ethical standard, I explained and discussed the format in order to be sure that the IDPs interviewed wanted to have their voices recorded and put on the internet.

In addition, I am supplementing my research with interesting pictures that the IDPs wanted to share with me. I am scanning the pictures and saving them for the archives.

The kind of data that I have gathered for this oral history project is unique in a special sense. Existing literature mainly reflects the life and heroism of individuals or the political aspects of the conflict. This project provides a format for the voices of ordinary people to be heard with local details and personal emotions, concerning what happened to them, employing mainly a biographical format.

These voices highlight the conflict and occupation from multiple angles, and by representing real life stories of ordinary people, they go above and beyond the existing documentaries, archival pages, and published articles and books. In all their diversity, they collectively comprise many voices mixed with excitation and sadness, with blame and with demand, and mainly calling for justice.


Respondents

In my opinion, the IDPs participation in this oral history project is bringing to light some “unknown” parts of the conflict. By the “unknown” I mean the stories of lived experiences of ordinary Azerbaijani citizens of Karabakh. The interviews work like a call to refresh their memories about the beginning of the conflict, its radicalization, the war stage, fleeing Karabakh, and becoming IDPs in their own country. The oral narratives highlight the conflict from the civilians’ prospective. Generally speaking, they were pleased to share their personal histories and memories of the conflict, and usually expressed satisfaction and relaxation by having the opportunity of telling what was on their minds, and in their souls, to a larger public.

 

Do not ask me, “who I am: IDP or refugee!

Do not ask me, “how are you doing”?

Just hug me warmly with all your soul.

And do not ask me, “how are you doing!”

 

In spite of the above song’s lines, I got involved in this research and was introducing myself to the IDPs as one of them. I was born and raised in Shusha, the historical capital of Karabakh, and experienced being an Azerbaijani who grew up with Armenians as neighbors, friends, and classmates. So I shared a lot with the people who told me about their stories.

 

The respondents of the project are different in terms of their witnessing of the conflict and war, adaptation to the new spatial, economic, social, and “moral” environment. All of the witnesses have been forced to be actors in unexpected events. Generally, the witnesses are divided into the “militants” (those who took part in the armed conflict) and the civilians.[1]

The memorizers are the young people who were born outside of Karabakh, after their families had to flee Karabakh. The memorizers differ from the witnesses in that they had never been forced to witness the bloody pages of the Karabakh events. At the same time, in a sense both groups of the witnesses and the memorizers share in common memorization of these events. The important questions are: what does each of these groups memorize? Which sources are reflected in their memory? Who provides the information for memorizing? How does this information impact their personal and social life?

This kind of questioning will continue, but I would like now to focus on the question of relationship between the witnesses and the memorizers in forming the collective portrait of the Karabakh communal memory? How does these two groups’ collective memory influence the collective memory of Azerbaijani society as a whole?

My point is that the witnesses and the memorizers each have their own memories of the events. The witnesses are considered as such because they obviously have firsthand memories. Regarding the memorizers who have never directly witnessed the events, the witnesses have identified scope of the memories and knowledge about the events. In their turn they will discuss those memorized events with their contemporaries and will share them with the future generations. But what is distinguishing the memorizers is that they never witnessed the events in Karabakh.

In my observation, the youth-memorizers views, though having never witnessed the events, are much more radical than the elderly’s.

Looking at the Armenian-Azerbaijanis ethnic conflict from the historical prospective, it should be recognized that the categories of the “witness” and the “memorizer” are dynamic. Those who witnessed the Karabakh events at the end of the 80s grew up in the 20 century as memorizers of the events that happened in early twentieth century. They remember the events of the ethnic conflicts of 1905 and 1918 through what their parents and grandparents told them as witnesses. It seems that, historically speaking, these chains of events, separated by decades of Soviet rule, still are connected by spider webs of intergenerational witnessing and memorizing.  I would suppose this is the case among the Armenians too.

Though a cease fire has been declared, people are still dying on the front lines. The young memorizers are “witnessing” the death of the civilians and especially the innocent children on the frontline. These violent events of the present “cease-fire” period, form youth memorizers into actual witnesses of the consequences of the Karabakh conflict and war that happened a couple decades ago. Now we have another case, where children are becoming witnesses of a “frozen” yet still bloody conflict.

The Memorizers’ memory about the conflict and war in Karabakh is molded by their impressions from conversations with the elderly, from internet sources, TV, Radio, books and newspapers, and, of course, via the school system. So what they will memorize and how their memory will be formed depends on specific information that they receive and communicate.

I think, we, the adults and the elderly from the both sides, that have directly experienced peaceful life with and within the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Karabakh, have to take the responsibility of contributing to the peace process, and preventing a new conflict and war.  Telling about us directly witnessing peaceful coexistence and mingling of members of both nationalities is the part of oral history that is valuable for future possibilities.

Some narratives

My first respondent, a woman, 65 years old, cried as soon as I requested her to be my interviewee. She said that, this is unbelievable, finally our [ordinary people – P.A.] opinion is going to be object of interest! Around 20 years past since we left our places and nobody has asked us how we are doing? How we got to be IDPs?” How we had to survive in the new places since we came here … Every year we are witnessing how remarks of officials from different Garabagh regions are highlighted widely on TV and newspapers.  But now an ordinary old woman is being asked to talk about it.”

The narratives that one of my respondents, a 56 year old lady named Naima, told me are representative of the paradoxes that existed in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations. She remembered her grandmother’s stories about ethnic conflict at the beginning of the 20th century in Shusha. Her grandmother witnessed cases when the Armenian ultra- nationalists attached a hot samovar to the back of Azerbaijani women. As a result the women couldn’t run or even move.   Naima’s own witnessing of the events is about a time when she was in Shusha’s hospital, where she delivered her first child, in November of 1991. In those days the situation had become very difficult around Shusha and the surrounding villages. She was in bed, just after giving birth, when the hospital came under fire by the Armenian military forces, and all patients had to leave the hospital.

I asked her why the Armenian’s forces were targeting the hospital. She answered because of a tremendous role that the hospital played during those days. A great number of wounded Azerbaijani soldiers and injured civilians were seeking medical assistance and treatment. The hospital was also serving the local civilians as it normally did during the peace time. The Armenian military forces were targeting the hospital in order to deprive its support for the Shusha defenders. Six months later, Shusha was occupied by the Armenian military forces.

Naima remembered how an Armenian guy fell in love with her. The beginning of that story was when her institute’s group was helping the farmers with collecting the vinegar in one of the Armenian villages. She was a lazy student, coming from Shusha, placed on the high mountain where people were not practicing farming. So she was not familiar with this kind of a work. One day during a break, she saw a handsome 17-year-old boy riding a bike. She asked him for a ride. Then she kept riding the bike. The young man fell in love with her, and came every day, helping her with collecting vinegar. Thanks to his assistance she became the number one among the students. When they were leaving the village the young man was crying next to the bus which was taking the students for collecting cotton in another village. He gave her some gifts and they exchanged postal addresses.

As soon as she returned to Shusha she also sent gifts back to him and they continued their correspondence. After couple of months the young man’s family visited her family unexpectedly. She was showing a lot of excitement describing the numerous gifts that filled almost an entire room! They had come to Shusha with a marriage proposal. She did not accept. Traditionally, it was acceptable in Azerbaijani community for an Azerbaijani boy to marry an Armenian girl. But, having an Azerbaijani girl marrying an Armenian boy was very rare. Her family hosted them for a couple of days and then they left Shusha. She never saw him again. Her father told her to stop corresponding with him, and she never replied to his numerous letters.

Our young people have never experienced living peacefully with the Armenians. What they have memorized is about conflicts of the past, and what they are witnessing nowadays is ceasefire being interrupted often, and having civilians, including kids, being killed in the front line villages. These events have contributed to the negative opinion of our youth about the events of the Karabakh. School friends, teachers, teaching materials, TV and newspapers are forming their opinions about the war and conflict. My understanding is that the same situation exists in the Armenia.

 

 

Analysis

The conflict and war in the Karabakh has changed the life of people in the both countries. The ethnic conflict influenced the entire sphere of the societies of Azerbaijan and Armenia and formed their internal and foreign policy. Since ceasefire was declared information has spread rapidly via the press and internet. A huge scope of literature, songs, poems, pictures, music, photos, and exhibitions has appeared since the conflict started. The archives and libraries were flooded from both sides’ by researchers, historians and other interested persons. Each side was telling mostly negative stories about the other.

(I was asking a question to myself; “What will happen if they will get together again?) High emotions with a strong desire to prove who is right and who is wrong is the dominating factor shaping the opinion.

 

While interviewing respondents I sought to discover if they were making distinctions between the non-participatory, anti-war civilian Armenians and the combatants and the supporters of the war; accordingly to their role in the Karabakh conflict and their actions during the ethnic cleansings.

 I wanted to know if the witnesses and the memorizers acknowledged differences Armenians among these groups: The Armed Forces, the civilians and the new generation. The new generations, in their turn, are becoming memorizers like Azerbaijani IDPs’ children.

 

A few people believed that not all of the Armenians are guilty of fanning the flames of war. Those respondents were convinced that they would be able to live together again in the Karabakh as neighbors.

 

Occasionally I came across respondents who did not consider all Armenians to be the same. Part of the respondents is holding a negative opinion about the Armenians.  It is clear from my interviews that twenty years of conflict, war, and separation has created strongly held confrontational dispositions for those who were deeply affected by the same.  The memories of the elderly are not only of the negative experiences but include a small measure of positive.  The younger generations who have memorized these events are sharing only the negative stories.

 

 

The memorizers are witnessing their parents’ problem in adaptation to the new environment where they are compelled to live as a consequence of the conflict. In their daily lives they are experiencing not having citizenship in the place where they reside. All difficulties of the adaptation period are recognized as the result of the conflict and war. So from the early period of their lives they are forming negative impressions of these events and this will shape their imagination and opinion. The predominant and consistent focus coming from our discussions is their desire and intention to return to their homeland.

 

 

Accordingly to data on gender composition of the Shusha IDPs, men are dominating. Among of the 84 respondents 48 comprise men, which is more than half.  There are 43 IDP students in the Shusha School N1. The majority are boys, more than 50%.  The girls are a bit under 50 %.

 

 

                                    Table 1

           Gender composition of the interviewed IDP families

            Witnesses                                            Memorizers   

           

 

 

 

The total number of students interviewed and who filled out the questionnaires were 43. The largest group 47 % of the interviewed students was from the grades 7-8. Two more groups consist of the students in grades 5-6, at 23% and grades 9-10, at 30 % of the total interviewed.

 

 

 

 

It should be noted that all of these IDP students study at the Shusha School N1.

The school shared the building with the local Baku school N38.

Actually the building belongs to the Baku school N38 and the IDP students study there too. Shusha IDP students study in the second half of the day when the Baku students are finishing their study and then the building facility is used by the Shusha IDP teachers and students. At the entrance of the building are 2 frames testifying that there are two schools housed in the building.

 

                                                                                                       Table 2

      Distribution the IDP students Shusha School N1 over the grades

 

 

Analysis shows that the earliest point at which children obtained information was ages 3 & 4.  This group is smallest (26 %) among the interviewed students and though they are so young yet they are remarkably mature in their discussions of the events. Another group (33%) which is a little larger than the previous group are ages 5&6.  The largest age group, (42 %) first received information about the Karabakh conflict and war at the ages of 7 & 8.

This fact shows that the children’s first acquired information is correlated with their growth.

                                                                                      Table 3

Distribution the IDP students by age in Shusha School N1 at the time

of their first obtaining information about the Karabakh conflict and war

 

 

 

I am interested in the manner of dispersion among the students regarding the source of the first obtained information about the Karabakh conflict and war. My expectation was that the students’ answers would reflect sources evenly distributed among all the categories including parents, friends, school, TV, radio, Press and Internet resources. Interestingly, all except three of the students who indicated that they acquired their information about the Karabakh conflict and war in the school, 40 (93%) students have named their parents as first information source. This naturally testifies that parents and the “IDP family,” who witnessed the events had the greatest influence in a specific environment effecting the students view and opinion.

                                                         

                                                                                                  Table 4

The source of the first obtained information about the Karabakh conflict and war 

 

 

 

The children were very familiar with where their families come from and the exact date when their parents became IDP. Their information about parents fleeing the Karabakh cities, villages related to the beginning of the conflict in the Karabakh up to the war time period (1988 – 1993). They were pointing precisely to the name of the region, city and villages where the family left and became IDP.  Eighty percent of the respondents’ parents left Shusha and the rest of them were fleeing from different places of the Karabakh. The children’s knowledge of family stories and their parents’ role in telling and discussing them naturally reflects the IDPs thoughts and the nostalgia held in their minds and souls while sharing with their children.

 

One of the key questions to understanding the IDPs’ adaptation and psychological situation in the new area was question on whether you could place the local population relations to your family status as IDP? Mostly the local people were sad and feeling sympathetic towards the IDPs. This sentiment has been expressed by half of the children, while 28% of them avoided the question.

 

Children (7 %) told of cases when the local people did not understand that their family had been forced to leave their home town and were rude to them. The children were also sharing stories where the local people were blaming them for leaving the Karabakh and called them “refugees” (7%). They also told how the local people’s attitude toward the IDP families was indifferent to their situation (7%).

 

 

                                                                             Table 5

Local population relations to IDPs families from the children perspective

 

 

 

Being attached to their parents’ homeland, the overwhelming majority (88 %) of the children are convinced that they are from Karabakh and not considering their origin as Baku, because they mostly live compactly in Baku and other regions.

IDP children are getting some social support from the governmental and other organizations. So they feel that their community is a part of the rest of the Baku population. They feel this in their everyday life though they are also incorporated into the Baku society socially, economically and politically.

 

The next my two questions were closely related to the one previous. I was interested to know where the children consider themselves to belong.

Sixty seven percent of them consider Baku as a temporary residence. In contrast, 21% expressed their feel they are ordinary Baku citizens and 12 % of the children said that they feel they are IDP.                                 

 

 

           

                                                            Table 6

            Where the IDP children consider themselves belong?

 

 

There are two small groups whose daily social life is different from the majority of children.  One, (9%) is a very small group of children who prefer to socialize with children from Karabakh only. The second group is children who were compelled to socialize only with children from the local communities having been separated from the Karabakh children living in the area, 12%.

The majority 79% of them indicated that they socialize both with kids from local communities and from Karabakh. Living compactly in the Baku districts, the IDP communities are communicated intensively with the local people. This is manifest

in their children’s association with the children of the local communities.

 

The opinion of the IDP children is polarized concerning questions regarding the innocent Armenian kids who like themselves, have been affected by the conflict and war in the Karabakh. Half of them responded positively. Not all of the IDP children are ready nor would they like to call for peace in the region together with those Armenian kids. They explain this by pointing to the continuing situation between these two nations for the last 20 years. They simply cannot imagine how begin considering that they have no current connections, no contacts with the Armenian children.

 

According to the survey and the results of interviews, the overwhelming majority (86%) of the children blame the Russian Army and ultra nationalistic Armenian groups for the flair up of the events in Karabakh?  Personally I was happy to have this statistic on hand, whereby we are able to differentiate the Armenian people from the Ultra nationalistic groups. This gives hope that peace will come soon to the Karabakh.

 

A full 86% of the children said that they are discussing the peace process and negotiations all around in the Karabakh in their daily life. Preferably, the audience for discussion is with the parents (47%), then with school teachers and friends – 35% and also with friends on facebook – 5%.

 

Children’s opinions concerning the Karabakh resolution are divided into approximately equally groups, 51% of them are considering to be the military way while 49% prefer to continue the peace process and negotiations.

 

Patriotic feelings of the children were reflected in their answer to the question; will they be going back to their own home town after liberation of the Karabakh territory or resolution to the conflict? Answer: Definitely yes, (67%) of the respondents. The group of the students who will “forward” this decision to the parents’ responsibility is 23%.

 

The next three groups are those who:

1) are in doubt and not sure of their future choice.

 

2) believe they will not be back to the Karabakh, having not been born there.

 

3) avoided answering this question.

Each of these groups comprises 5% of the total respondents.

 

I asked this question of the witnesses and memorizers; “Do you consider it possible to live together with the Karabakh Armenians again.”

Some respondents also noted that in their experience their Armenian neighbors were very sorry that the war had come and that the Azerbaijanis felt compelled to flee.  But these same people noted that other Armenians had been actively involved in preparing for the violence, working with special organizations from abroad for “the sake of greater Armenia.”  Such people, respondents said, showed themselves very early in the conflict by providing Armenian forces with information about the strategic points in Azerbaijani cities.  As far as a future in which Armenians and Azerbaijanis would live together again is concerned, most were prepared to live with their former neighbors but not with other Armenians who have moved in since the war began.

 

 

 

 

 

The memorizers’ opinion is mostly excluding living together with the Armenians in Karabakh again. My interviews and survey show that the elderly are more tolerant about living together with their former neighbors in the Karabakh. As I mentioned before, the memorizers never had the experience of living peacefully with the Armenians. Undoubtedly, the children’s perspectives were formed by information about the killing of innocent children, women and the elderly by the Armenian ultra nationalists. Children were “witnessing” the information on TV, press and the internet about the killing of children on the frontline villages

 

                                                                                           Table 7

                        Distribution of Shusha IDPs’ perspectives on the possibility

            of living together with Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in the future

 

         Witnesses                                                                       Memorizers

                       

                                     

 

It was interesting to know their opinion without interfere if the peace will soon come to Karabakh and how it will be made possible? The children’s opinion was dispersed in a few groups. Some of the groups’ opinion is distinguished with detail description of the way bringing the peace to the Karabakh. But another groups’ opinion was expressing their hope (7%) or pointing that this will be a very long process (9%) or avoiding to go for details, just  mentioning “it is difficult to say, I’m doubtful (14%). The analysis revealed two interesting groups whose opinions are polarized. One supports continuing the peace process and negotiations for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The other believes that peace will only be possibly with military intervention.  Interestingly, each of these groups opinion comprises 35%. This statistic could be considered a mini model of an Azerbaijani society opinion poll.

 

Elderly respondents’ opinion on identifying Daghlig Garabagh future status was dispersed over 4 options. Mainly number of those respondents who consider keeping the previous status 33% on Autonomy of Daghlig Garabagh Region and identifying it on the base of referendum 35% among Garabagh population are in a significant number. There are also another two groups existed. The first one (10%) is convinced in necessity to make changes to constitution of Azerbaijan Republic on liquidation Daghlig Garabagh previous Autonomy  and the second one (23%)  is thinking on  determining for a new status.

 

Regarding the future status of Karabakh, 35% of the children are satisfied with keeping the previous autonomy. Another 35% of the children evaluate the Karabakh status on the basis of the Karabakh population’s referendum.

The group of the children who are thinking that there should be a new process for a new status of Karabakh comprises 26%.                                        

                                                                     Table 8

               Daghlig Garabagh future status from Shusha IDP’s perspectives

 

                        Witnesses                                                        Memorizers

 

My last question was; Are the children ready to start networking with the Armenian children after liberation of the Karabakh territory or resolution the conflict? Unfortunately the majority of children are not ready for networking with the Armenian children. This should alert the elderly to help the children learn ways for establishing contact with the same age children. The elderly also need to encourage the government toward peaceful resolution the Karabakh conflict.

The elderly must take responsibility for establishing kind relations between all of these children of Karabakh. The elderly are an important part of bringing peace to the region and the children of Karabakh must learn to keep the future peaceful with their neighbors in the Karabakh.

Summary

Summarizing my interview with the witnesses and memorizers of the conflict and war in the Karabakh I came to the reasonable questions. Are these events repeating history? How do we stop the poisoning of the young minds of our future generations’?  What will the next negotiation bring? When is peace coming to Karabakh? When will reconciliation starts?

 

From the very beginning of the conflict in Karabakh I compared the events with Beirut, which had experiencing of ethnic conflicts in 80-s and has been marked as a “deserted land”.

 

I was thinking that if the conflict will stop then we have to go back to our homes and my mind was rising a question “is this the end of the conflict? Could we be sure that it will not be raised again?” I perceive that there is fear to go back lingering in the minds and in the hearts of IDPs.

 

I am hopeful that one day we will hear from more witnesses and memorizers’ voices declaring Karabakh as “The peaceful house for all the nations!”

These voices would bring together two nations separated by the long endured ethnic conflicts between the Azerbaijanis and the Armenia

__________________________

 

Literature

Thomas Ambrosio. Unfreezing the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict? Evaluating Peacemaking Efforts under the Obama Administration. Ethnopolitics, Volume 10, Issue 1 March 2011, pages 93 – 114.

 

Parvin Ahanchi Ethnic Relations in Baku During the First Oil Boom Vol. Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy – Biweekly. IV, No. 4 (February 15, 2011). http://ada.edu.az/biweekly/issues/vol4no4/20110228022915037.html

 

Parvin Ahanchi. Witnessing the War in Nagorno-Karabakh: Shusha’s IDPs Testify.

Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy – Biweekly. Vol. IV, No. 10 (May 15, 2011). http://ada.edu.az/biweekly/issues/vol4no10/20110520015522595.html

 

 Parvin Akhanchi. Interrelations Among Ethno-Religious Groups of Industrial Workers in the Baku Oil Fields During Inter-Ethnical Conflicts in Early 20th Century. Osmanizm, Nationalism and Caucasus. Moslems and Christians, Turkish and Armenians in 19 and 20 Centuries. Weisbaden: Reichert Verlag Press, 2005 (85-98)

Morrison J (1979–1980) Archives and native claims. Archivaria 9:15–32

 

Pylypchuk MA (1991) The value of aboriginal records as legal evidence in Canada: an examination of sources. Archivaria 32:51–77

 

Schwartz J (1977–1978) The photographic record of pre-confederation British Columbia. Archivaria 5:17–44

 

Umut Özkirimli and Sypros A. Sofos, Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2008).
Biray Kolluoglu Kirli, “Forgetting the Smyrna Fire,” History Workshop Journal 60, no. 1 (Autumn 2005): 25-44.
Ebru Boyar, Ottomans, Turks and the Balkans: Empire Lost, Relations Altered (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007).
 

Erik J. Zürcher, ed., Arming the State: Military Conscription in the Middle East and Central Asia, 1775-1925 (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999).

 

Gülfem Kaatçilar Iren, Anilarim (My memoirs) (Istanbul: Ali Riza Baskan Güzel Sanatlar Matbaasi, 2004).

 


[1] In this paper I am focusing on the civilian witnesses. The veterans of the Karabakh war are interviewed for another related part of the Karabakh Oral History Project.