Internal Bleeding: Crisis has turned “Armenians” against “Karabakhis”
“For the first time in my life I did not say I am Karabakhtsi [Karabakh Armenian]. They asked me where I am from, I told from Abovyan,” ArmeniaNow photographer Anahit Hayrapetyan tells about how every photographer and journalist in the neighborhood of the Myaskinyan monument on March 1 was asked about their descent in a fierce search for Karabakhtsis.
Disinformation was spread that the troops that dispersed the sitting strike in the Liberty Square spoke the Karabakh dialect.
But it was not an occasional matter: it was the expression of xenophobia generated by LTP’s movement, whose number one enemy turned to be the Karabakhtsis.
The next day, March 2 a taxi driver crossing the damaged Mashtots avenue was showing me the shops explaining which belongs to whom, trying to justify the looting: ‘this is Lfik’s, this one belongs to a Karabakhtsi.’ Lfik is oligarch Samvel Alexanyan who is from Aparan [town in the North-West to Yerevan]. But what do the Karabakhtsis have to do with this? The driver continued – the Karabakhtsis have to be driven out.
On March 2 morning near the site of the fighting a man surveying the rubble saw soldiers on guard and said to no one in particular, but in their direction: “Karabakhi dogs”.
This is not a single case as it has become a common point of view during the last commotion.
The negative attitude toward the Karabakh Armenians appeared when the politicians from Karabakh who were brought by Ter-Petrosyan to solidify his power against the oppositional forces, overtook it and began using the fruits of the clan system Ter-Petrosyan had created. If the system is based on clans people protest against the clan in power. In former times the target of protests was the All-Armenian Movement and its leader, then those who forced Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation. The system remains the same; if tomorrow the Akhakalaktsi Armenians [Akhalkalak is the provincial center of the Javakhq region in Georgia, populated predominantly with Armenians] overtake the power they will get the use of it.
LTP turned the negative attitude toward the Karabakh Armenians into hatred, declaring the authorities Tatar-Mongols and saying: “Because of these two, 15,000 people have moved from Karabakh to Armenia, mainly Yerevan, within the last ten years. Each of them has been given a position. It did not suffice, and now it’s the sphere of business given to them (it’s unclear who has checked the figures).”
Enmity was the main weapon of the leader for five months, when he stated the only mistake of the years of his rule was bringing the two politicians from Karabakh, the only thing he apologized for (he even defended the clan system he created by saying the 1995 Constitution was better than the amendments adopted in 2005); he declared all the deficiencies in Armenia originated in 1998, he refuted there were election frauds and state robbery before that, presenting the years of his rule as ideal times. For a protesting crowd the words of the charismatic leader were unquestionable and undisputed truth.
Explaining the problems of the state with persons alone and blaming those persons in deadly sins (perpetrating the October 27 assassinations to cede Meghri), he inspired faith in the mass. They believed ‘go till the end’, and also made keeping power a matter of personal security for Sargsyan and Kocharyan.
LTP and his supporters increased the number of their voters by growing the hostile rhetoric of the campaign. LTP stated Serzh and Robert have served the Turks with servility for a long time. On the other side he called traitors and scum all those who did not join him and instead of opening cracks among the authorities, as he said, created deep breach of enmity in the society: if the leader calls somebody a traitor the mass is ready to destroy. (In the newspaper “168 Hours” singer Shushan Petrosyan told with horror she received letters that called her a traitor for supporting Serzh Sargsyan and threatened to kill her children; she said she did not take her son to school for two weeks because in fear of the threats. And the post-election demonstrations that passed by Vazgen Manukyan’s office scanned ‘Vazgen – a traitor!’, because their leader had stated so.)
However, a primary target remained the Karabakis, in a way that drew comparison ethnic fascism in the 20s-30s in Weimar Germany, where corruption, oligarchy, depreciation, monopolization of economy were blamed on the Jews. (The Constitution adopted in the Weimar Republic in 1919 resembled much the 1995 Constitution adopted in Armenia, where the strong centralized presidential system did not allow for society’s participation in decision-making and facilitated to the oligarchy and the monopolized economy that brought the Nazis to power as a solution to the crisis).
The anti-Karabakhi prejudice reached its climax during the post-voting rallies in February, when a professor in Opera Square [the Liberty Square, the Theater Square] underlining their Karabakhi descent publicized the names of those rectors of universities who have to be punished amid the ardent shouts of the mass. And another speaker stated: “The Armenians in this square are thrice more in number that the Karabakh citizens. Long live the Armenians!”
Armenians of non-Karabakhi descent began writing in blogs as a means of protest calling themselves Karabakhis as Turks called themselves Armenians after Dink’s assassination.
The 5 month-long political trainings resulted on March 1 taking the form of the Molotov cocktails and metal bars. The mass attacked the police shouting: ‘Turks, Karabakhis go away!’ They say the spirit of the Armenian people was broken that day; but if something was broken then maybe that was the spirit of xenophobia.
Unlike Germany, where xenophobia was targeted against an external element, the ‘other’ for Levon is his native – xenophobia aimed against part of a mono-ethnic nation. Just like nationalism searches for enemies for crises among other ethnicities, similarly the ‘pragmatists’ radically denying national projects, search for an enemy to blame the crisis on, inside the nation. A poet woman, renowned intellectual inspired by the hatred of hundreds of thousands says Karabakhis are unable to run a state (LTP openly hinted on giving back Karabakh stating Karabakh is not a Kosovo and is unable to reach independence; he told in an interview Armenia has to restitute the damage caused to Azerbaijan). Thus, LTP supporters appearing in the name of liberalism became enemies of self-determination simply because those self-determined belong to their own ethnic group and because helping them ‘makes the country’s conditions hard.’
Unlike in Germany, where the one who created a non-democratic system and the one who appropriated it were different people, LTP was both the creator of the system and the betrayer of those who get use of it; that is, he is two in one, he wants to oust a clan to replace it with another, but never change the system he has authored.
Those who want to take the power are in the list of detained, 80 percent of them belong either to the All-Armenian Movement or are former officials from Republic party. And a wanted businessman Khachik Sukiasyan used to be the favorite oligarch in times of Levon’s rule, who, despite not being deprived of his incomes, had partially ceded his position to Gagik Tsarukyan. Many of the detained and other supporters of Levon have accumulated millions while in power and have not been punished, because they were replaced by people who equally get use of the system.
LTP was a version of the acting authorities ambushed behind the status of opposition, who having stated he is a tool to change the power turned the mob filled with hatred into a tool to provide the comeback of the old clans to power. Having cited the ‘Let there be no other sacrifice but me’, he sacrificed others, safe in his castle himself, with the coming threat hanging in the air ordered the demonstrators to stay and called for arms and resistance through his comrade-in-arms Pashinyan to hang another deadly sin to the authorities – shooting on people.
The system in ambush manifested itself not in words, but in deeds as it distributed bribes to voters and commissions and resorted to violence on election day equally with the authorities (a week ago head of LTP’s Ani headquarters was sentenced to 7 years in prison for beating Serzh’s representative). And LTP who declared himself a president elect in the first run even before the ballot boxes were opened, revealed the fight to follow would not be for justice, confusing the growing mass.
Experiencing the barbarism in history is not the most secure way to understand it, but is more efficient than the history textbooks, when you understand how the image of the enemy is created because of crises and injustice.
The times of slaughtering one’s own people have passed, but the possibility of persecutions and losses still remains and it is predictable, LTP would begin a hunt for ‘traitors’ and thousands of Karabakis would become deprived of homeland and would wonder to the country that would not accept them with pleasure if the region is returned.
And the danger remains: two days ago a neighbor to an acquaintance of mine refused to allow a nurse to give her an injection because the nurse appeared to be of Karabakh descent.
As long as Armenia of the 1995 Constitution (as the Weimar one) has not been reformed, as long as the clan, corrupt and oligarchic system persists, the energy of hatred and zeal to destroy the ‘enemy’ still threatens the country and the threat of war with Azerbaijan grows in parallel.