On September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched a military offensive against the self-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic with one clear goal – to destroy it. It was a logical continuation of Azerbaijan’s decades-long policy, including the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war and the blockade of the Lachin (Berdzor) corridor imposed in December 2022. After 24 hours of intensive fighting, the self-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic surrendered. A few days later, the large exodus of the Armenian population started, and by the end of September 2023, less than 100 Armenians were left in Nagorno Karabakh. On September 28, the president of the self-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic signed a decree to dissolve the Republic by the end of 2023.
The reaction in Armenia to these events was somewhat surprising. The government made it clear that Armenia would not intervene to prevent the destruction of Nagorno Karabakh. Most Armenians went to social media, lamenting the lack of actions by Russia, the EU, and the US. Many were genuinely surprised that for Russia and the collective West, geopolitical or economic interests had more value than the fate of 100,000 Armenians who lived in Nagorno Karabakh for the last several millennia.
Most Armenians appeared to live in a parallel universe where the world powers were acting based only on values. The second reaction of Armenian society was the quest to find culprits. The list was quite long – starting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and ending with President of the European Council Charles Michel, with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and even US President Joe Biden somewhere in the middle. Another trend was to change social media profile photos, putting pictures either taken in Nagorno Karabakh or with cultural and historical monuments of Nagorno Karabakh.
Yes, many Armenians also take part in numerous private initiatives to support the forcibly displaced persons from Nagorno Karabakh, but all know that this will not continue forever. Several months later, many will be overwhelmed by the problems of their daily lives, and few will continue to support Karabakh Armenians, as was the case with the forcibly displaced Armenians from Shushi and Hadrut due to the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war.
What is mainly missing are the debates and discussions on what should be done now, after Azerbaijan finished with Nagorno Karabakh by force. There are two ways forward – the first path is to concentrate on the humanitarian issues of the forcibly displaced persons from Nagorno Karabakh, seeking to accommodate some of them in Armenia and forget about the 32 years of existence of the self-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic. Part of this strategy is the talk about the “right of return” of Armenians to Nagorno Karabakh and the discussions about to whom Armenia should apply to secure that right – the UN, the EU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, the international Court of Justice, the US, or other countries such as France, or, to put this in other words, who should become the “savor of the Armenians” this time.
The problem here is the crystal-clear fact that no Armenian from Nagorno Karabakh can live under Azerbaijani jurisdiction, regardless of any international presence in Karabakh “to secure their rights.” The only way to secure the right of returns of Armenians is to end Azerbaijani control over Nagorno Karabakh, and Armenia can do that only through military means. All other discussions about the international community, international law, and other fascinating terms are simple manipulations for some political gains and political goals, either inside or outside Armenia. Option one is the direct path to very soon transform Nagorno Karabakh into a new “Western Armenia” or “Nakhijevan” with songs, restaurants with Karabakh toponyms in downtown Yerevan, or even some residential areas replicating the names of Karabakh towns or Stepanakert suburbs/neighborhoods.