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The Return Of Ethnic Cleansing: Why Nagorno-Karabakh Matters, And Isn't Over Yet

In a few days' time, there will probably be no Armenians left in Nagorno-Karabakh, part of a long history of ethnic cleansing. The self-proclaimed Republic, defeated by Azerbaijan, has announced its dissolution, signaling its historic failure. But it also has much wider geopolitical implications.

Photo of refugees at the back of a truck arriving from Nagorno-Karabakh to Kornidzor, Armenia on Sept. 26

Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in Kornidzor, Armenia on Sept. 26

Pierre Haski


PARIS — It's a specifically post-Soviet tragedy, but also a reflection of the entire world's current state of disorder. History will remember Thursday's dissolution of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh, announced solemnly by its defeated leaders. And it will remember above all this new mass ethnic cleansing, a practice perpetuated from war to war, over the centuries.

The images of the exodus of Armenians from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, taken over by the Azerbaijani army, are heart-wrenching. More than half of the enclave's 120,000 inhabitants have already headed for Armenia — their only refuge. They are leaving everything behind, certain never to return to their homes.

A few more days and they'll probably all be gone. Not a single Armenian will want to remain under Azerbaijani rule. Ethnic cleansing will have been completed, a tragic regression that nothing and nobody, in the current context, can prevent.

In 24 hours of fighting last week, Azerbaijan regained control of this enclave, which had eluded it for three decades. It used force at a time when there was no longer any regional policeman, or arbiter of conflicts.

A mockery of borders

This is the product of a long, multi-century history, which was frozen for a time during the Soviet era, before starting up again at the end of the USSR. History, but also geography, and an entanglement of people that make a mockery of borders.

At the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet straitjacket loosened, then in 1991 when it shattered, the old conflicts came roaring back. Territorial claims between Armenia and Azerbaijan led to war and the first exoduses. An estimated 200,000 Azeris living in Armenia and 300,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan left en masse.

The map of the region shows other simmering conflicts.

Then, when Armenia won the war in 1994, once again, hundreds of thousands of Azeris and Kurds had to flee their villages around Nagorno-Karabakh. They became displaced in Azerbaijan. until Baku's first victory in 2020.

cenes of destruction in Stepanakert, the de facto capital and largest city of the breakaway Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was the target of two days of Azerbaijan-led shelling that killed at least 32.

Scenes of destruction in Stepanakert, the capital of separatist Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh


Not over yet

These individual lives, thrown into tumult by wars, are the real tragedies of a world that has failed to make the kind of progress that allows different people to coexist. A total human failure.

Is this the end of the story? Not yet, we're afraid. The map of the region shows other simmering conflicts.

Azerbaijan has an Azeri-populated enclave, Nakhchivan, to the south of Armenia, close to Turkey — and is demanding a corridor to link its two territories. That would be a corridor that passes through Armenian soil, but also borders Iran. If it pushes its advantage to obtain this strategic passage, a new war could be triggered.

Iran's role is quite fascinating: Tehran happens to have close relations with Christian-majority Armenia, against Muslim Azerbaijan. The explanation lies in the presence of a large Azeri minority in Iran, up to a quarter of the population, and Israel's support for Azerbaijan.

This human, geographical and strategic complexity has turned the region into a land of conflict. Ethnic cleansing, unfortunately, continues to be part of the arsenal of war. There is much work to be done to avoid the next conflict.

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What To Do With The Complainers In Your Life — Advice From A South American Shrink

Argentines love to complain. But when you listen to others who complain, there are options: must we be a sponge to this daily toxicity or should we, politely, block out this act of emotional vandalism?

Photo of two men talking while sitting at a table at a bar un Buenos Aires, with a poster of Maradona on the wall behind them.

Talking in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Martín Reynoso*

BUENOS AIRESArgentina: the land of complainers. Whether sitting in a taxi, entering a shop or attending a family dinner, you won't escape the litany of whingeing over what's wrong with the country, what's not working and above all, what we need!

We're in an uneasy period of political change and economic adjustments, and our anxious hopes for new and better leaders are a perfect context for this venting, purging exercise.

Certain people have a strangely stable, continuous pattern of complaining: like a lifestyle choice. Others do it in particular situations or contexts. But what if we are at the receiving end? I am surprised at how complaints, even as they begin to be uttered and before they are fully formulated, can disarm and turn us into weak-willed accomplices. Do we have an intrinsic need to empathize, or do we agree because we too are dissatisfied with life?

Certainly, agreeing with a moaner may strengthen our social or human bonds, especially if we happen to share ideas or political views. We feel part of something bigger. Often it must seem easier to confront reality, which can be daunting, with this type of "class action" than face it alone.

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