Stepanakert, 2023 (Marut Vanyan photo)

Azerbaijan Makes No Secret of Plans to Erase All Armenian Traces from Armenia

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“You can endlessly gaze at 3 things: fire, a flowing river and how the symbols of Armenian terrorism are being demolished in the Karabakh. Structures erected by the separatist regime after the 1994 occupation of Karabakh are currently being dismantled,” wrote Azerbaijani media reports, about the demolition of the Artsakh (Karabakh) Parliament and War veterans’ buildings in Stepanakert.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you destroyed our Aghdam and Fizuli, now we are destroying your Stepanakert, Azerbaijanis usually bring such a counterargument on social media.

Stepanakert, 2022 (Marut Vanyan photo)

While the Parliament building is being demolished, Artsakh MPs made a statement warning that Armenian cultural monuments and churches are in danger.

“The latest manifestations of vandalism are the desecration of  the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert, the destruction to the ground of the Artsakh National Assembly buildings and the Union of Freedom Fighters,” reads the statement.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan was nicknamed “son of the statue” for placing statues dedicated to his father and predecessor dictator, Heydar, all over Azerbaijan. Aliyev doesn’t like other statues. The statue of Charles Aznavour, Alex Manoogian, Khachatur Abovyan and Stepan Shahumyan, after whom the Artsakh/Karabakh’s capital city is named, was removed in Stepanakert. Following the Azerbaijani media, we can assume that Stepanakert will look completely different soon (how unusual is it to see the Stepanakert stadium in the colors of the Azerbaijani flag?). “All the “illegal” buildings and monuments built by Armenians will be removed in Karabakh,” the Azerbaijanis declare every day.

Stepanakert, 2023 (Marut Vanyan photo)

Stepanakert is a typical Soviet city with its khrushchevkas (typical Soviet three-to-five story apartment buildings) — you cannot compare it with Rome. But it’s not just about demolishing buildings. Demolishing the buildings destroys the lives of the people who lived there, their memories and dreams.

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What will be the next “illegal” building, people’s apartments that they have built for years with their hard work? Life will show this too. What saw Artsakh Armenians, perhaps they should not be surprised at anything.

According to Azerbaijani media Baku to allocate $2.4 billion for reconstruction of Karabakh and 140,000 people (Azerbaijanis) are expected to return by the end of 2026.

While Baku is demolishing building and replacing them with new structures in Artsakh/Karabakh, its residents live scattered in Armenia, they consider it unrealistic to return to their homes at the moment, others, unable to cope with social difficulties, simply emigrate from Armenia.

“Approximately 30,000 Artsakh citizens have left Armenia,” said Armen Asryan, leader of the Union of the Relatives of Soldiers Killed and Missing in the 3rd Artsakh War NGO during a press conference on March 6 in Yerevan.

Exodus, September 25, 2023 (Marut Vanyan photo)

“There is no statistics on how many Artsakh citizens left Armenia. The (Armenian) authorities can say that number clearly. Anyway, we have a serious fear that the number can significantly increase  in the spring. In this kind of social and housing programs it becomes more obvious,” said Artak Beglaryan, the former Artsakh  State Minister added at the same press conference.

The Artsakh/Karabakh Armenians are in a very difficult social and psychological situation currently. Azerbaijanis say (mostly mockingly) forget Artsakh (Karabakh); it’s already in the past, and Armenians say we will return one day. In any case, the fact is that Artsakh/Karabakh is under the control of Azerbaijan and the Armenians consider it unrealistic to go there soon.

It’s hard to say this, but it’s really frightening to think that the Artsakh/Karabakh Armenians will say for a hundred years that we will go home one day, but they won’t be able to go there, as we are witnessing in the case of Diaspora Armenians.

Lachin Corridor, September 25, 2023 (Marut Vanyan photo)

The following are some comments from Artsakh Armenians now in Armenia:

Gayane Budayan, Hadrut, Artsakh/Karabakh Hadrut: “I really don’t expect anything good. It is clear that they will demolish and destroy, whatever they don’t like, they will transform. The Artsakh/Karabakh Armenians will face the same fate as the Armenians of Shahumyan; some will fly to Russia, others to other countries, others will somehow survive in Armenia. How do I see the future of Artsakh in the next 70-80 years? It’s very hard to say. I do not know… The Artsakh Armenians are neglected by the Armenian authorities, that is a fact that has its reasons, I think everyone understands that.”

Anoush Shahramayna, Stepanakert: “If I try to imagine what Artsakh will be like in 10 years, I should at least see what is being done by Armenia.. Can we properly represent our rights as Artsakh Armenians in international courts? What happened was no longer a war; Azerbaijan simply forced us out of our country. Who should raise again the rights of self-determination and return of the Artsakh people? What should be done for this? These questions must be answered first. We must understand that time is not working in our favor. We need concrete goals, development and civilized struggle. As for the situation of Artsakh Armenians, it is very complicated, unstable social situation, the risk of any displaced person being outside is very high. There are no social guarantees, and with the termination of social assistance programs, the problems will deepen. Many Artsakh families have left Armenia, but they do not have refugee status in another country. I think the maximum should be done to keep the people of Artsakh in Armenia. We need continuous social support programs, an active and realistic housing security program.”

Stepanakert, 2023 (Marut Vanyan photo)

Armine Hayrapetyan, Stepanakert: “What is happening today in Artsakh after the ethnic cleansing was expected from Azerbaijan. In the course of history, we have seen it both in Nakhichevan and in northern Artsakh. Azerbaijan will try to do the same with today’s Artsakh, will try to erase the Armenian traces. The demolition of the parliament building caused an uproar among Armenians, which is strange to me, frankly. Aliyev proceeded to the destruction of state symbols in order to show Armenians, Azerbaijanis and the world in general that there is no Artsakh state. We should oppose Azerbaijan and speak to the world about our rights, but this is not being done, perhaps due to their (our) socio-psychological trauma. However, time does not wait and we must sober up and act. We must not accept our weakness. In this changing world, everything is possible, so as a result of geopolitical developments, everything can be different. The issue of Artsakh is not just the issue of Artsakh Armenians, but of all Armenians all over the world. The more indifferent we are, the more time will work against us.”

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