Armenia/Azerbaijan: Presidential elections in Nagorno Karabakh

15.2 km South of Lachin, Kashatagh Region, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2006

Today, presidential elections took place in the breakaway and self-declared Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (a source of constant dispute and armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan). These days, Nagorno-Karabakh is populated almost entirely by ethnic Armenians and functions more or less as a part of Armenia (meaning citizens hold Armenian passports, and the local currency is the Armenian dram).

Discussing the Karabakh issue is a potential minefield, and at international conferences in the UK or the US you can usually witness the amount of resentment between Armenians and Azeris over the disputed territory. Both countries are still at war with each other officially, although a ceasefire has been kept more or less intact since the end of large-scale fighting in 1994.

As with so many things pertaining to Karabakh, it's usually just the Armenian blogosphere that is covering landmark events such as today's poll. Therefore, what follows are several excerpts from Armenian blog posts over the past couple of days.

On the situation in Stepanakert (Karabakh's capital), Raffi of Life in Armenia wrote yesterday:

The town is humming, loads of people around from Yerevan and abroad, hotels packed, friends from Yerevan and the US are around, and locals are busy, making it a bit hard to get things accomplished here on the Janapar. Gamats, gamats as they say.

The voting itself is supposed to happen according to fairly clean and transparent standards (something with which the neighbours of the small republic have more problems with). Furthermore, the authorities are helping journalists as much as they can, reports Onnik Krikorian:

The Karabakh authorities have even established a press room with an internet connection so they can file their reports, something which seems like a great idea and one which should be introduced in Armenia given the high cost even for low-quality dial-up services. The press center even appears to be allowing access to bloggers as well, something that must make the Karabakh election very progressive indeed.

Christian Garbis and Onnik Krikorian have some differences over the Nagorno Karabakh issue and comment on each other's blog posts. Christian, on his Notes from Hareinik, writes:

Quite simply, Armenians need to unite on the Nagorno-Karabagh issue once and for all, and discussions which I would describe as patriotic calling for the refusal of handing over Armenian-controlled lands are healthy. The Armenian position should solidify if there is indeed a building support for maintaining Armenia’s territorial integrity from within, and patriotism should flourish nationwide. The rampant display of the tri-color national flag in a grandiose display of patriotism would be a nice start to rally the masses (it is hardly visible anywhere, even on government buildings) along with bold declarations made by politicians, pro-government and opposition alike. Despite some concerns regarding what the international community might say, Armenia really has nothing to lose.

Onnik finds some rather strong words in the comments:

In my opinion, this is all emotive based on your ARF-D background but using arguments formulated total isolation from the region around you. Still, the same knee jerk nationalist (not patriotic) attitude can be found in Azerbaijan so it's only natural that it's found here.

It's just ironic to consider that almost everyone in Armenia and Azerbaijan who says there should be no concessions by either side are the very same people who would never go to fight in a new war.

They won't fight for nationalism or patriotism, in fact. Others can go and die to do that for them. Still, it's all irrelevant really. Most politicians and analysts here realize the need for a compromise peace deal whereas Azerbaijan is playing a waiting game with Armenia and its continuing isolation.

Christian's stance on Nagorno Karabakh seems to be part of a wider trend. A couple of weeks back, Onnik Krikorian found that Armenian civil society was taking a tougher stance on the Karabakh issue:

Unfortunately, many organizations and even publications in Armenia are now taking a more nationalist line on continuing moves to strike a still elusive peace deal.

As much as Nagorno Karabakh is a the heart of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, one should still understand local people's desire to run things by themselves. A year back, Brendan Hoffman interviewed Karabakh politicians in an article on neweurasia:

“We’ve ignored the threat of war to allow democracy to develop. It’s hard to find other countries in a similar situation.” A peaceful solution is more likely, Petrosian believes, if leaders with slightly more respect for democracy come to power in Azerbaijan and Armenia. Still, Ghulian says, “participation in the talks isn’t an end in itself.” The goal is international recognition of their independence.

Toughening rhetorics in both Azerbaijan and Armenia makes the little breakaway republic's future destiny impossible to foretell. The seven rules of nationalism, a humourous take on the frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union posted by TOL's Steady State, make for a rather grim reading in the Nagorno Karabakh context:

1. If an area was ours for 500 years and yours for 50, it should belong to us – you are merely an occupier.
2. If an area was yours for 500 years and ours for 50, it should belong to us – borders must not be changed.
3. If an area belonged to us 500 years ago but never since then, it should belong to us – it is the Cradle of our Nation.
4. If a majority of our people live there, it must belong to us – they must enjoy the right to self-determination.
5. If a minority of our people live there, it must belong to us – they must be protected against your oppression.
6. All of the above rules apply to us but not to you.
7. Our dream of greatness is Historical Necessity, yours is Fascism.


  • Im Armenian, I lived in Erevan till I was 23; now I enjoy living in Germany. The only solution left is to leave NKR and get the high autonomy for it. We were wrong and we cannot win this, the sooner my nation understands this the sooner we can rebuild our country. Our children are raised thinking we are winning, but in reality we already have lost NKR. If you would say this in Armenia, you would be jailed for treason.

  • […] There are mixed reactions to these elections in Armenia, from total indifference to singing praises or speaking the usual opposition talk about how bad the pre-election campaign was and how it is all being rigged, etc. A wide diversity of opinion and comments about the elections can be found in the Armenian blogosphere as well – an interesting review of the mainly English language Armenian blogosphere has already been posted on Globalvoicesonline. […]

  • […] find any Azerbaijani bloggers covering the election, with Global Voices saying that coverage is mainly restricted to the Armenian blogosphere. Regardless, nobody is expecting much fallout from this vote, and few are suspecting any internal […]

  • […] has several updates on the presidential elections held last week in the breakaway and self-declared Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Share […]

  • I am an Azeri from Shusha. Karabagh was historically Armenian land and we must respect the right of self-determination of the people there.

  • To Mostafa.
    I am armenian from Yerevan
    Are you azeri? Is your post realistic. It sounds like false.

  • Mamed

    to Mostafa:

    seems to me, dear Mostafa, you are not an Azeri. Firstly, in Azeri there is no “Mostafa”; in Azeri it is spelled as “Mustafa”;
    Secondly, I don’t want to generate the discussion of being Shusha Azeri or Armenian territory, but pleaze, translate “Shusha” into english from the original language (here, from Azrmenian, as you think)? I don’t know what it means from Armenian but know fro sure it means “Glass” or “Glassy”. Please, don’t start the discussion of the belonginess of the territories and DON’T TRY TO PRETEND AZERI IF YOU ARE NOT AZERI!!!!! Everybody can find a false, as reporter_arm did!

  • leo aryatsi

    I am willing to not only die but slowly get tortured to death before I give up any piece of my holy lands. Artsakh then Naxijevan. Everyone should know that before Artsakh is abandoned to the mongol invaders I and many more will make sure the world stops to see what they’ve allowed to occur by their ignorance.

  • Carolin

    Dear Leo Aryatsi,
    May God give you and many more like you the longest life possible!!! Armenia and NGK stand tall because of you!! Many Diasporan Armenians will return to their homeland. That is their detiny and their birthright. We will keep our lands and take all that are ours. Armenia is one of the oldest countries and is one that will teach the world. God is always with us. Always love your country like you do. You are an ispiration to all of us!!
    The Diaspora soon to be in Armenia:0)

  • ulviyya

    I am from Azerbaijan and i am proud of it Azerbaijan is the ainchent country and Qarabax is the one part of Azerbaijan if you do not believe me tou can rea from everywhere THE HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN

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