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Armenia: Nagorno Karabakh Independence Marked, Anti-Turkish Protests Planned

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Middle East & North Africa, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Citizen Media, History, International Relations, Politics, Protest, Sport, War & Conflict

ARF-D Karabakh Anniversary Event

Photo: ARF-D Nagorno Karabakh Independence Anniversary Rally, Matenadaran, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2008

While the international media concerns itself with the two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia [1] in Georgia, Armenia Discovered reminds its readers that yesterday marked the 17th anniversary of the declaration of independence by another self-declared republic [2] in the South Caucasus — Nagorno Karabakh [3].

September 2 is the 17th anniversary of adoption of Declaration of Independence in Artsakh (Karabakh) Republic. During the referendum organized within the frames of Artsakh (Karabakh) the people of the region has made their decision of solving the mistake made by Stalin in the start of 20th century and leave the structure of Azerbaijan according to the Soviet Constitution acting at that moment. The followed military actions initiated by Azerbaijani officials aiming at preventing the independence of Artsakh brought to a war lasted until 1994, factual capitulation of Azerbaijan and signing of unlimited ceasefire.

My The Caucasian Knot also covered the event staged by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-D), a member of the coalition government in the country, and noted that other regional issues were also on the agenda [4].

Despite being represented in the coalition government, speakers used the occasion to declare that the nationalist party would stage street protests if the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, attends this weekend’s football match between Armenia and Turkey in Yerevan. As RFE/RL explains, the statement comes in stark contrast to the message of reconciliation that the president, Serge Sargsyan, has offered to his counterpart in Ankara. Vahan Hovannisian, a key figure in the party, also took the time to comment on the recent war between Armenia and Georgia.

The party line is that ethnic Armenians living in Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region should be granted autonomy.


Calls for autonomy in Samtskhe-Javakheti are also not likely to present the right image to the international community either. To be fair to Dashnaktsutyun, the idea of a introducing a federal model in Georgia is not a bad one given the country’s history of ethnic unrest and internal conflict. However, such statements are likely to also be seen as first step to demanding independence. It is not uncommon to hear Dashnaks refer to the Georgian region as historical Armenian territory and to say that “after Karabakh, Javakhk is next.”

Blogian also comments on the rally and notes that the ARF-D promised to stage street protests when Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrives in Yerevan to attend the Armenia-Turkey World Cup qualifying football match. At the same time, it says that the Armenian Football Federation has banned any political propaganda in the stadium itself [5] — especially if it relates to the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey [6].

Political signs of any kind – including banners about the Armenian Genocide – will not be allowed in Yerevan’s largest soccer stadium this Saturday where Armenia and Turkey will play for the first time. Armenia Liberty quotes the chair of Armenia’s Football Federation as saying, “Only football-related placards will be allowed there. A victory for Armenia would send a much stronger message that a few banners.”

Armenia’s nationalist Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) party, in the meantime, has started protesting Turkish president Abdulla Gul’s anticipated visit to Yerevan to watch the game with his Armenian counterpart.

While Turkey officially denies the Armenian genocide, blockades Armenia and has taken a partisan side in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, many are encouraged by the recent positive developments in the Armenian-Turkish dialogue.

But if nationalist parties such as the ARF-D plan to protest the probable visit of the Turkish president to Armenia [7], Unzipped notes that the opposition considers the event to be as important as the government does. Indeed, the blog commends the opposition for its maturity on the matter [8].

Ter-Petrosyan led opposition announced its decision to postpone upcoming opposition rally from 5 September to 12 September and to end sit-it protest on the Northern Avenue from 31 August. Instead, there will be only “political walks” daily 7pm-10pm.


The importance of that game went well beyond sporting significance and considered a possibly key moment in opening up a new page in relationships between our countries.

Opposition does not want its actions to interfere in any way with the importance of developments in Armenia – Turkey relations and objective necessity by the authorities to take all the necessary security actions.

Talk Turkey also takes a more moderate approach and says that despite the differences between the two countries, a visit by the Turkish president couldn't have come at a better time [9].

With the ongoing Russian restructuring and its hopes of revitalizing the Soviet empire, closer relations between affected neighboring countries are very critical in any normal setting. Then there's the issue of reconciling differences regarding the ‘Genocide’ matter. And the hope for a closer dialogue without the presence of any third parties whose justification for their own existence is the continuation of the very same discord they supposedly are for ending.

A good start . . .

My The Caucasian Knot has photographs from the anniversary event [4] staged yesterday.

ARF-D Karabakh Anniversary Event

ARF-D Karabakh Anniversary Event

ARF-D Karabakh Anniversary Event

Photo: ARF-D Nagorno Karabakh Independence Anniversary Rally, Matenadaran, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian 2008