Interview | Ashot Manucharyan

The excellent working state apparatus was the result of the organized nation: everyone sought to do their best. This is what we saw in those 2 years.

Rima Grigoryan had a conversation with the member of Karabakh committee, board member of Pan-Armenian National Movement, state and public figure Ashot Manucharyan.

Since a certain moment, the events of Baku massacres had become known to us and it became obvious that the Soviet Union wasn’t able to provide a defense (it’s hard to say whether that’s because of political motives or the general condition of the country as the political leadership of the Soviet Union was not adequate). In such a situation – when the problems stricten before people – people themselves must solve those problems, particularly the problems of border defense, Karabakh and the defense of Armenians of Karabakh. We received reactions from the most unexpected places concerning the solution of the defense. …’s brother Alexander Harutyunyan served in the Soviet Army. He was a great tanker and for that feature, he was the head of the technical department of Military faculty at the Agrarian University of Ejmiatsin and was strongly connected with the tank military unit located there. Along with that, he was a good master of Eastern martial art and worked in our school. One day, he came up to me and said that he had formed a few tank personnel and agreed with several people in the regiment that if there is danger in Karabakh (like in Sumgayit) they would come to defend. He said that they would all be killed (just as they figure out, they will use the aviation  and will burn them from above), however, they will have managed to defend the population by that time. And he said to inform him only in case of real danger.

After the Baku massacres, there was a session of the Karabakh committee and Vano Siradeghyan and I were instructed to refer to the nation and tell them to bring weapons. And a large number of brigades were formed by the help of that call.

About the essence of the Karabakh conflict

I consider that the essence of the Karabakh conflict has been gerrymandered until now. Actually, it was exclusively an intra-Azerbaijani conflict: there has always been such a thing when Azerbaijan was out of the circle of the empires’ influence. As multinational people lived there, one tried to take possession of the other and there started collisions. Authoritative capitals started to regularly emerge in Azerbaijan, and this time, as soon as the empire started to collapse, all those problems began to appear in Azerbaijan.  Along with the USSR collapse, a new way and a regime of a country were forming in Azerbaijan, which was often not the leading circle but the arriving circle, for example, the murders were organized by the arriving people, and there was a cooperation with some authoritative circles. In fact, the developments in 2 years in this direction and the reason we call the massacres of Armenians so are only because of the reason that the major self-defense was organized in Karabakh, otherwise, the same fate would have been expected for the inhabitants of Karabakh as it was for the inhabitants of Baku. This problem is deliberately set out of the discussion: if this problem was set in the discussion, it would be obvious that the problem is only one – How to organize the emerging state formations in Azerbaijan? If we throw this part away, it appears that Karabakh started a national-liberating battle. Karabakh indeed referred to the authority with the Soviet laws by saying that it wanted to be in Armenia’s part and not in Azerbaijan’s. And after that, the murders of Armenians started in different parts of Azerbaijan, not in Karabakh. Let’s understand how different this is from any other conflict. For example, Ossetians, Abkhazians announced that they didn’t want to be a part of Georgia, but no Ossetian or Abkhazian was murdered in Tbilisi, then, of course, when the confrontations increased, border collisions began, but it has another logic. The international community has set this story out of the discussion, as it will make the conflict inappropriate: the situation will change if you contemplate the problem as a conflict emerged inside Azerbaijan  (that problem exists now too, concerning Talyshs, Lezgis, besides, one Azerbaijani clan stifles the other and the collisions appear in that way).

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In speeches of January 14-15 rallies, we often hear the idea that Azerbaijan’s actions are encouraged by Moscow, and if the acts of violence aren’t prevented, the responsibility falls on Moscow. What policy was the Karabakh committee maintaining towards Moscow?

The logic of relations with Moscow was like this-we were trying to influence them, to do steps that would oblige them to make the right decisions in that situation. It appeared that the organized nation has a great influence and can implement management both indoors and outdoors. By saying indoors, we must take into consideration that in that case, Armenia was not formally independent, however, as the nation was standing in Republic Square, it could influence the decision-making process. The decisions were made in various spheres, and the influence on the authority was huge in any sphere. The latter tried to act in a way that there emerged no problems for the nation. Commissions were created by the nation to all the directions: along with all the authoritative bodies, the national bodies were working, which always discussed all the problems with the working bodies. If there was an offer from the national body, the state bodies either implemented them or tried to prove why it was impossible to implement: this was the one side. Besides this, there were objects of strategic importance, for instance, Nairit. Yes, the motives of closing Nairit were ecological, but we have always said during the negotiations that we can be a mediator, bring about a reconciliation with ecologists to conduct the activities of ecological cleaning during some years. And the factory will work if Karabakh’s situation is mended, that is to say, all these became a weapon, means of influence in Karabakh’s situation. Other problems served it. For example, we did a lot of things in a consolidated way, with the working powers in different republics of the Soviet Union. The meeting of democratic powers was conducted in Armenia in the 1988s, in one of our artists’ yard, out of town. During the meeting, helicopters flew above, trying to hinder. All these opportunities were also created for serving that policy. Armenia’s movement influence was immense, and all the influence was used for oppressing both from outside and inside. I can say it gave results in some way. As such a result, I can mention including corps for defense, even though their behaviour was most commonly inadequate, as corruption was already widespread, and they could conduct punishing activities, of course, by introducing another excuse. And we could influence over that by organizing proper campaigns and compelling Russia not to let such things happen. In short, we had to use all the arsenal, because the authority’s lack of competence became fantastic. The authority hadn’t reacted adequately to anything till the end, and the Soviet Union’s collapse was first as a result of that lack of adequacy, and not of various processes, as together with all those processes, their power would not be enough for the Soviet Union’s collapse.

In the rally of January 15, it’s said that the Central Committee wanted to announce a state of emergency in Azerbaijan.  However, the committee was against it, as it thought it would lead to the annihilation of a peaceful population in Getashen. Would you elaborate on what happened afterwards?

Perhaps, I can’t remember the logic, but as a very quick evacuation began, a state of emergency wouldn’t  change anything for the Armenian residences out of Artsakh, and there distinctly was some internal defense in Artsakh, and the state of emergency could indeed turn into a certain dictation for the population (I’ve already said that corruption was very widespread during that last year, and as the country was collapsing, those cases became a lot. For example, in the circumstance of the Soviet Union, it was impossible that subdivisions of military or special services would have been included in that. Of course, there could have been some corrupted officials). I guess the logic was like this.

For helping the refugees, there were systems created by both the state and the Movement. The movement worked in every sphere, and it was obvious then that it was a more efficient way. During all those times, there were basically no corruptions and illegitimacies, and when those armed operations began, the part of the misuses was back, but the nation had been able to take possession of all the things until those 2 years. The excellent working state apparatus was the result of the organized nation: everyone did their best. This was what we saw during those 2 years, then, for some reason, we decided that it’s not good. However, that system remains the best way of organizing state-social life in the nation’s memory. 

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At that time, the nation itself was astonishing. If we compare it with today, we would think that we’ve appeared on another planet. The people who were 25 back then, are now 50-70, but they don’t live by those values that they lived by during those years. During those times, people sacrificed everything for each other: a vivid example of that is the welcoming of refugees. Huge sacrifices were implemented in favour of those people. Over the years, when we learnt to live by other values, those people started leaving Armenia, while they were initially welcomed in absolute warm manners, and they were given everything. I think that the condition of the nation must also remain in memories as a possible condition from which we renounce to live in more efficient systems, but which leads to catastrophic consequences.

Source – the archive of the site hambardzum.am


Translator: Jemma Khachatryan.