Marine Petrossian

By Marine Petrossian

The Turkish border has come closer to my home. Or to put it another way, now I realize more clearly how close it is to my home. I write these words sitting at my desk, in my apartment at Arabkir district of Yerevan. Ararat mountain is in my rear on the left. Stepanakert is in my rear on the right. Baku is much far away but on the same line — Yerevan-Stepanakert-Baku. Ankara is on my left, to the north, far away. My ancestors’ town Sepasdia is much closer. They form a line: Yerevan-Sepasdia-Ankara. This is the same line that ends with Baku in the East. The line was always there but up to yesterday it was kind of in the mist of history. Now the mist is gone. And the history came back to shoot us with newest weapons.

The above were my thoughts written some two months ago, at the beginning of October. The war had just started. We were absolutely sure we were going to win. And then we lost the war. We lost it badly. I remember the day when we got the news that the Azerbaijanis had taken Shushi. It was November 9, and it was the spokesman for Artsakh’s president who wrote about this on his Facebook page. Impossible to believe! Most of my friends were asking on Facebook — Maybe the spokesman’s page has been hacked? Maybe it is a fake page? But the spokesman soon confirmed it was his posting. And then, late at night, came the terrible news about the joint statement signed by Prime Minister Pashinyan together with the Russian and Azerbaijani presidents: we were ceding to Azerbaijan not only all seven districts around Nagorno Karabakh proper, taken during the war of the 1990s as the belt of its security; not only the city of Shushi, a gate to Stepanakert; but also Hadrut that had never been mentioned in any resolution plan before, being part of Nagorno Karabakh proper.

Were we in a nightmare dream? No, it was a reality, not а dream. Pashinyan posted a Facebook live message, telling us he had to sign the statement otherwise after losing Shushi we would lose also Stepanakert and the rest of Artsakh, and all of our troops could be surrounded and destroyed by Azerbaijanis.

Today, when I write this, more than three weeks have passed since the signing of capitulation statement, and there have been some shocking revelations. It turns out that our prime minister, long ago before the war started, was well aware that Azerbaijan with Turkey were planning an attack; he was also well aware that Armenian military resources were not enough to withstand that attack. And knowing all this, instead of being active in Minsk Group negotiations to find a solution through compromise, he did exactly the opposite: he created a deadlock, announcing that negotiations had to start “from zero point.”

Why, Nikol, why did you do that?

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The Armenian people would not agree to compromise, Pashinyan says.

Had you tried to explain to them the situation?

No, he had not. He was afraid to lose his popularity. And we lost the war. And we lost all the achievements of our previous victory in 1990s.

I write these words sitting at my desk, in Yerevan. Ararat mountain is in my rear on the left. Stepanakert is in my rear on the right. Baku is much far away but on the same line — Yerevan-Stepanakert-Baku. Ankara is on my left, to the north, far away. My ancestors’ town Sepasdia is much closer. They form a line: Yerevan-Sepasdia-Ankara. My great-grandfather Kosmas Messiayan was a famous doctor in Sepasdia. This summer, after having found his unique photos and then some exciting papers about him and his family, after having read Garabed Kapigian’s Yeghernabadum and then Arakel Batrik’s Hushamadian about the history of Sepasdia and destiny of its Armenian population in 1915, I started a seriеs of poems: letters to my grandpa, to Varujan, to Metsarents [Medzarents] — all of them were from Sebastia region. While writing these letters, I had the feeling that I was speaking to people who had lived in an epoch utterly different than mine, in an epoch that was closed forever. Now I realize maybe I was wrong.

When I was born, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union. Then, in 1988, the Karabakh movement began. Soon the Soviet Union collapsed and Armenia became an independent state. Then the Karabakh war started and we won the war. We had broken the chain of defeats that had lasted for centuries. We were a nation of winners. It was a wonderful feeling. And it lasted only for three decades. Having lost this war, we lost not just territories but security both for Artsakh and Armenia. Now we are on the brink of an abyss, having against us not only Azerbaijan but also Turkey with his huge army and big appetite.

How did we come to this?

Prime Minister Pashinyan is not going to resign. What is his main argument? He says: If I resign, nakhginner will come back. Nakhginner are the “former ones”: President Robert Kocharyan, Serzh Sargsyan and their supporters. Pashinyan believes this argument will work and keep him in power, because it is similar to the one that assured his victory during the Velvet revolution of 2018: Merjir Serzhin / Reject Serzh. Pashinyan won the revolution and became Armenia’s prime minister solely with that slogan, without presenting any political program to his voters. The negativism was so strong that people were not looking for any political program. Serzh and his team are robbers, looters, plunderers; they have robbed you and this is why you are poor; we will make Serzh go, we will put all the plunderers into jail and you will not be poor any more — this was the main message of Nikol and his team during the revolution.

It was a successful one — Serzh Sargsyan resigned and soon Nikol Pashinyan was elected as Armenia’s prime minister.

Very soon, numerous lawsuits were filed against people who were part of former government or ruling political team, also against people who had familial ties with former president. Up to now, almost none of these lawsuits have ended with any final court decision. The process is at a standstill.

After the victory of the Velvet Revolution, in Armenian society there were great expectations for reforms, particularly in the judiciary, national security and police. Nikol Pashinyan and his team were unable to fulfil them. They did not manage to revamp these systems; instead, they made them largely non-functional. Then came the Covid 19. Then came the war. And we lost it.

Nikol Pashinyan’s populism turned to be a disaster for Armenia. But it was not just an accident, it was the culmination of unhealthy developments in Armenia’s political life where there are no serious discussions, no serious programs, instead, there is this image of talanchiner/robbers/plunderers right in the center of political discourse. All this had started long ago, it went on for decades and culminated with present disaster. When such a big disaster happens, there are two roads a nation can go by: either it will degrade and go to final collapse; or it will rethink its priorities, analyze its mistakes and find new ways of going forward. I hope we will be strong enough to take the second road.

(Marine Petrossian is a Yerevan-based poet and columnist.)

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