Every single sign contains the same monster, which name is a stereotype.
Nowadays, when ethno-political conflicts dominate in different parts of the world, it becomes more urgent to study the mechanisms through which it is possible to understand, describe and interpret the relationships between different ethnic groups. Among these mechanisms are ethnic stereotypes, besides emphasizing the outline of ethnic characters they also build and reproduce the existing social reality. Ethnic stereotypes become the means of self-understanding by self-identification (автостереотип / self-propagation) and another group (гетеростереотип / external stereotype), by the reproduction of ethnic identity, which coincides with the combination of other ethnic identities. Ethnic stereotypes not only describe the present reality, but also define it based on the needs and requirements of the general public, making an opinion as “others” and themselves, emphasizing specific generalized characteristics or leveling up them. This is how ethnic root codes become one of the elements that constitute the ethnic identity, which inevitably implies the bounds of standards because “we” are not “they”, “they” are not like “us”. “We / peers” – “those / strangers” contrasting fact: that is, the self-determination of others in the prism / light is one of the most important functions of ethnic stereotypes.
Based on the above-mentioned thesis, I asked myself: what are the peculiarities of the Armenian identification model made by the perception of itself as the “enemy” (in this context, the Turks / Azerbaijanis) image, and how is the “victim” stereotype formed during the century?? It should be noted that in the Armenian dominant nationalistic discourse, which is reproduced, mainly in the media, the Azeris are identified with the Turks. In this context, the identification of any historical event with the genocide and the Turks is itself perceived as a comprehensible fact.
Research Problem and Methodology
In this text, I want to present and analyze the change in the stereotype of the “victim-nation-victim” and the cyclical nature of its reproduction on the ongoing military action in Karabakh in April, 2016. I was wondering how the information field in Armenia was developing in social networks (forums, e-media) during the four-day battle and how the reproduction of the “new victim” was reproduced over that information layer.
This brief analysis material was selected using a targeted method. From the social networking and mass media dedicated to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a multitude of Armenian virtual groups have been selected to cover the layer of information material covered by military action in April ,2016. The selection of the material has been based on the following criteria in the context of my topic (discussions, comments, subscriptions, etc.) the level of activity, the relevance and the practicality of the published material.
The material selection date was selected on 02.04-10.04. 2016. The choice of time is associated with the fact that the hostilities were exacerbated on April 2 and the active phase lasted until April 6, when the information on military operations in the forums and media was refreshed almost every minute. The debate on military events in Internet forums was not systematic , but rather a reactive character: they were refreshed when new information appeared. This was the culmination phase of the information flow, when a large portion of the information directly or indirectly referred to the stereotype of the “victim of the new genocide.”
For the detection and comparison of the slowdown in information flow, I have also used materials from the next four days after the official pause of the hostilities. The forums included links to diverse interviews of experts, citations from various international reports and protocols, caricatures and memos that point to the intertextual nature of the forums. Similar eclecticity of information is intended to control a fairly wide spectrum of reactions and reflexes in the area of conflict tension. Conventionally, they reproduce the emotional and moral orientation of the entire information field, and they are also a response to the information attack against the Azerbaijani side and vice versa.
The Cycling Principle of “Genocide Victim” Stereotype
Until the 1960s, the topic of the Genocide was officially banned in the Soviet Union and was closed. Only in the 50s, this silence exploded, and information on the Armenian pogroms in the Ottoman Empire began to penetrate literature and culture, forming a new national discourse in Armenia.In a relatively short period of time a striking stereotype of mourning “victim” emerged as a compassion, pity, and sympathy. The construction of a monument dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide has contributed to the spread of the stereotype. Thus, the memory of genocide has become a constant meteorological event.
After the tragic events in Sumgait on February 27-29, 1988, a wave of debate over “the new genocide of Armenians” rose and a tendency to maintain the stereotype of the “victim” survivors of the terrible tragedy. During the demonstrations of the Karabakh Movement in1988 “The Sumgait – Continuation of the Genocide”, “If the USSR recognized the 1915 Armenian Genocide, genocide would not be 1988 Sumgait “,” Humanity Must Recognize 1915 genocide for the Sumgait not to repeat “, and other signboards and posters appeared, thus the thoughts of the” new genocide “and the stereotype of the victim are constantly circulated in the Armenian national discourse.
The next incitement to the intensive development of the “stereotype of the victim” was the murder of the editor-in-chief of the Armenian-Turkish “Akos” newspaper, Hrant Dink. In 2008 Armenian Beirut artist Anita Tutikyan prepared a 1.500.000 + 1 poster in memory of Dink. With this, she emphasized the fact that Dink became the next victim of the ongoing Armenian genocide.
The next wave of discussions on this methane was rising after the tragic events in the Syrian town of Kesab. On March 21, 2014 the Al-Qaeda terrorist group in Al-Qaeda began the invasion of Kessab, a populated Armenian town north-west of Latakia. Most of the city’s Christian population had to leave their homes and places of residence. The events in Kessab were a subject of serious debate and condemnation among Armenians around the world. Social networks and the media did not cease to “call for stopping a new massacre of Armenians” to the international community.
The use of such meteorological-stereotypes means that the imagination of the society is not free because stereotyping is associated with continuous recurrence. During the last 60 years the genocide discourse in Armenia has been reflected in various historical events and in Azerbaijan and Turkey. Like all similar post-stanitarian stereotypes, presentation is associated with exclusion. Thus, ethnic stereotypes are involved in the construction of ethnic identity, forming stable perceptions of itself as a “victim of genocide” and others, “murderous enemy.” Parties to patriotic discourse (politicians, mass media, and others) resort to popular stereotypes, do not create new political rhetoric. They accept traditional national arguments, thus identifying the significance of that methane.
«The Past is not Dead, in Fact it is not Even Past»
The military actions in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Azerbaijan resumed on April 2, 2016. According to official information, fierce battles lasted for 4 days, with further military action, and with shooting in the conflict area.
On the first day of the drone strike, media and photographs appeared on the network from fierce battles. The information posted on social networks raised the wave of panic in the first hours, the negative statements of the Azeris and the immediate revival of the idea of the “victim of genocide”. After that, both Armenians living in and outside Armenia have the following requirements:
a) give political and moral assessment to hostilities
b) identify all political and economic stakeholders
c) punish immediate guilty persons in the resumption of hostilities in the conflict area.
Gradually, the forums were supplemented by new materials on military action and emotions with demotivators. The next stage of the development of the information field became a certain “legalization” of information. Administrators and participants of the forum are based on the statements of politicians, international organizations (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Institute for War and Peace Reporting), and Diaspora representations Famous actors and cultural figures all over the world joined the action against the resuming of hostilities, Charles Aznavour and George Clooney expressed their sympathy with “We share the sorrow of the Armenian nation”, “We are against genocide” and other similar texts. The Armenian Diaspora of different parts of the world was called upon to stop the “new genocide of Armenians” and support financially (Picture 1). Fundraising was organized to help families suffering from hostilities in many Diaspora Armenian centers. In Internet forums, goods and equipment for the first-time needy (food, clothing, hygiene supplies, etc.) and monetary assemblies for the victims and soldiers in border areas were announced.
Picture 1. Armenian demonstration against military action in Washington:
The next step in the development of the “victim” stereotype on the Internet forums was to introduce the discourse of religious thematic. After the second day of the conflict, images appeared on the scene of the torture of the deceased’s corpses, along with images of icons and prayers (especially in comments). Applying to religious feelings of the nation is a good strategy and lever for raising national self-consciousness. One of the most noticeable ways of deseculiarism, especially in dynamically developing post-Soviet countries, is religious nationalism. Today religion is often “walking” with the nation’s “sacred past” (about the origin of the myth). Together they become ethnic identification determinants and are widely used for the legitimacy of political, economic, social and cultural rights of the ethnic group. In recent years, this phenomenon can be traced to the stage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: the new optics of the historical past (pseudo) along with religious sentiments and slogans “true knowledge” defines national radicalism that not only forms public gossip, journalistic discourse, is an academic life and a political struggle, becoming one of the weighty factors in the creation of a “victim” stereotype. An example of increasing the religious sensitivity in the Karabakh conflict can be brought about in April, 2016. The information of mass media about soldier Kyaram Sloan’s murder by cutting the head off , which was interpreted as a manifestation of religious extremism.
On the other hand, for several days the protective prays weren’t stopped for volunteers and frontier guards in the Internet forums. There were countless number of praying soldiers’ and mothers’, armed clergy’s and others paintings (Picture 2).
Picture 2: Armenian Soldiers at the Field Chapel, Nagorno-Karabakh.
It should also be noted that there has been a breakthrough in expressing self-critical (cynical) attitude toward the resumption of conflict, state policy, mass panic and the famous stereotype at the discourse level. Thus, on the first day of military operations were organized in Yerevan by an unofficial mobilization of men with speeches containing “We are not a people of sacrifice, we are a people of heroes”, “Sumgait will not be repeated”. Interestingly, the theme of the “new genocide” in organized rallies in Diaspora Armenians was much more relevant than in Armenia. This is due to the fact that the majority of the Armenian Diaspora was formed as a result of genocide in the Ottoman Empire, and the existence of the Diaspora is legitimized by the vitality of that meteorology.
Summarizing the above-mentioned overview, one can draw the main trajectory of the development of electronic information, which gives rise to a new outburst of the “new genocide victim” stereotype. Any social or political phenomenon threatened by the Armenians as a nation has been polarizing in the last 25 years, so the notion of “genocide victim” often acquired a special emphasis on nationalist tone. The vitality of this methane is very strongly dependent on Armenia’s state policy.
Such memorable days as the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire (April 24), Commemoration Day of the Armenian SSR (Sumgait, February 27-29), Shoushi Liberation Day (May 8-9), etc. are dictated by social practices which, as a rule, bear the idea of a given stereotype. On such events, when the nationalist parties and movements burn the Turkish / Azerbaijani flag in the central square, there are vividly highlighted national flags (Armenian flag, military-patriotic songs) and ideological propaganda, social networks and forums are flooded with nationalist tones, Demotivators’ activity. All this intensifies the contrast between “self-alien” and “victim-assailant”, which in turn promotes the periodicity of stereotype. This is a dynamic process that is actively enriched with new meanings and practices.
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Author: Evia Hovhannisyan © All rights reserved.
Translator: Anoush Gevorgyan