Sunday, August 27, 2006

Karabakh - translated means 'everybody loses...'

What's the point of going to war over a territory that your people would prefer not to inhabit?

In an interesting post, what appears to be an American-based patriotic Armenian supporter of the Armenian-controlled Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) complains that NKR authorities limited his visits, which is the subject of a prolonged war which has claimed 30,000. I am not sure what the NKR wants to hide from someone who is presumably sympathetic to the cause. The blogger concludes that many of the villages in the hard-won Karabakh have simply been abandoned.

Judging from the photos, the NKR isn't exactly paradise. It's dilapidated, unmaintained and full of the heartbreaking hardship of war and destruction. The consequent impoverishment has shattered infrastructure, making many towns unliveable. The NKR and Armenia are subject to a trade embargo by Turkey and Azerbaijan, which object to what is happening with Karabakh and the occupation of adjoining Azeri territories.

Thus the Armenian victory of Karabakh appears incrasingly hollow as the lands sit in depressed ruins while the rest of Azerbaijan has become increasingly prosperous. The Armenians who participated in the millenarian nationalistic triumphalism of the takeover must now be nursing some mixed emotions. As Thomas de Waal notes in an interesting article, much of the NKR is rubble now and some Armenians regret it.

It's unclear how many people live in the Armenian-controled Karabakh and adjacent occupied territories. One generous estimate has it pegged at 145,000 but that appears to be based on the 1989 calculation that 145,000 Armenians and 45,000 Azerbaijanis inhabited the province of Karabakh during Soviet times. Of course the Armenians currently occupy Karabakh plus some extra tacked-on-for-good measure lands. I've heard one estimate that a mere 48,000 people live in the NKR.

The previous leader of Armenian Levon Ter-Petrossian was ready to make a deal. For this he was replaced by hardliner Robert Kocharian who is from Karabakh and is unlikely to ever make compromise over the disputed lands.

On top of this, some of the people at the top of the Armenian and often end up beating or even kiling their own soldiers. One observer estimated that 1,000 Armenian soldiers have been killed in "out of combat" episodes, in other words, killed by their own sadistic commanders.

As we know, the Armenians won Karabakh in the early 90s but it now appears to be a milstone around the neck of the victors. The current political impasse undermines the Armenian economy, foreign relations, credibility and humanity of the country. The sooner that both sides return to the table and bang out a deal the faster things will improve.


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