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South Caucasus


nationality human - 2008: yerevan: september 22

Festival in Yerevan Festival in Yerevan Festival in Yerevan Festival in Yerevan Festival in Yerevan Festival in Yerevan
Host: I’d like to introduce you to the subject of hypothetically imagining that the border between Armenia and Turkey are opening, and our co-existence begins. Please express opinions with no political accents, because here we don’t do politics. Are you prepared to live side by side with Azerbaijanis or not? Can you imagine that co-existence or not? Another words, your opinion. Please.

Mkhitar Gishyan, co-organizer of the festival in Noyemberyan: In regards to your question I’d like to say this. Noyemberyan has been a bordering region with Azerbaijan a very long time, and to be concrete our family, our dynasty had been in good terms with our neighbors – Azerbaijanians, living in a few towns of the Kazakh region, and we had… meaning my fathers grandfather a who had community property with Azerbaijanians – a mill, basically it was a very active relationship, we visited each other and our houses were friends.

Even today if you ask the people of the older generation on the other side they would remember Nerses Gishyan. Our ties with Kazakh were interrupted after the Movement in 1988, and not only Nerses Gishyan, I think if we walk into Kazakh today and name names of residents from Noyemberyan, their names will be remembered there…

Why am I saying all this? I myself am young, and that’s why I never had any contact with them, but I think any person would have a demand for relations, an Azerbaijanian or an Armenian, there will be a desire to reinstate those relations. You know, the people today are regretting about what happened, when we became enemies because of some political occurrences. I don’t think there is anything possible. And 80 percent of the Noyemberyan population wishes to reinstate past ties.

Host: Thank you. Please, are there other opinions? Our co-existence, is it possible or not possible? And please elaborate your opinion.

Silva Muradyan, North University Philology student: How is it possible to forget so easily everything that happened and live carelessly? Of course the bloodshed cannot be forgotten.

Host: Coming back to “not forgetting”, I’d like to mention that blood was spilled on both sides and keeping that in mind we must not forget also about that, also I would ask that you conceived the question more widely and would talk about possible mutual relations and co-existence, not only meaning the return of Azerbaijanis and Armenians to their former places of residence, but also co-existence as such, in the event of opening of the borders and the creation of conditions for full communication.

Nino Aptsiauri, advisor of the Georgian Embassy in Armenia: We the people that live in South Caucasus have a common problem, and if we expand the question, then it’s concerning how can people in conflict live side-by-side. When I was watching “Bridge over the Wadi” I was thinking that without considering the opinion of our older generations, our youth, young people with a different and new way of thought, are able to live together. And the conclusion of the film, the information about, the number of children multiplying in the school, in my opinion strengthens the thought that a new generation of Armenians and Azerbaijanis can live together, disregarding what we think right now, Georgian and Ossetian kids can live together, and in my opinion there is no other alternative. Historically we formed as one region, as one nation and we don’t have the right or the alternative. There is and interesting model of bilingual schools is shown here in the movie. That does not mean that we have to forget our traditions, but we have to up bring the respect to one another, and it is only with respect we can co-exist in the world.

Host: Thank you for the optimism. For me personally the film had oppressive qualities, the segment in the teacher’s lounge where the mistake of the female teacher was being discussed, when she lost control of herself, and said that she couldn’t lie anymore. Very well. Lets imagine that we live next to each other and a lesson in history is in session in an Armenian - Azerbaijani school, what would that lesson that’s being taught by two teachers be like?

Gayane Dabaghyan, "DEMPROS": We must begin to teach our children from a very early age, meaning teach them to have a civil way of thought, a direction toward the possibility for co-existence, because our region is so complex, that one way or another we are forced to live together. To respect the language, culture, and traditions of your neighbor - somehow we ‘re supposed to teach that to our children. I lived and worked abroad, and that experience gave me the opportunity to come to this conclusion: there are problems between all nations, and they develop on every step, there are no such countries, nations without problems, it shouldn’t seem to us that our region is special. But people are trying to find a way out. So we must start from the early stages of our children’s upbringing. With us today are also future teachers who must be able to begin from that. We need to start today, so we could talk about peace tomorrow. If we only say speeches on the subject, or talk about, how we need to forget… we don’t need to forget, but we need to be able to forgive, and that’s the most important quality of a person - to forgive - and if we are unable to forgive our neighbors, they won’t forgive us. Lets think about what we need for the upbringing of our new generation in order to be able to forgive.

Armen Voskanyan, linguist: I’d like to ask the lady who spoke earlier where abroad did she work?

Gayane Dabagyan: In USA.

Armen Voskanyan: Ah, in USA. I’d like to express my opinion. It would be very difficult for Armenian and Azerbaijani scholars to have community education. I myself am a specialist of the Japanese language and would like to talk not about the language, but about the Japanese form of Human existence. The Japanese language is inadequate to other languages. Only the Japanese language insures the human existence… And Armenian for example…

Host: I would ask that you be closer to our subject.

Armen Voskanyan: I want to say that if Armenian and Azerbaijanian must live together, they need to learn Japanese. And I’m saying this as a linguistics doctor. Armenians and Azerbaijanians can find a common language only after they have learned Japanese.

Laura Karabekyan, housewife: If we teach our children paternoster and they will know”… and forgive us our debts as we forgive others”, we won’t need Japanese. I’d like to tell a little story. This happened in the 90-ies; we had to fly to Ukraine. Those were foggy times during Gamsakhurdia’ s rule. I was in the “Mother and child” room back then or whatever the name was, two of my children were with me, and one of them cried, I was forced to exit with him, from an establishment, which was crowded with mothers and children, so I wouldn’t disturb the rest. There were women of different nationalities in that room. An Azerbaijanian woman brought my other child to me, who stayed in the room with a foreign to him atmosphere and also started crying. I remind you, it was in the 90-ies, the years of hatred. But the only person who brought out my child to me was an Azerbaijani woman. Inside me I decided to bring up my boys in a different spirit. Yes, they were the enemy, they were at war with us, however they are our neighbors, and we shouldn’t fill up with hatred for centuries. Recently, my son was serving in the military and was stationed in Jabrail, and when I was passing through those captured lands and looking, I mean I don’t know, we drove through those captured lands for endless hours…

Replica: Those aren’t captured…

Laura Karabekyan: In any way Jabrail is not a part of Karabakh.

Host: I would ask that you finish your thought without any arguments.

Laura Karabekyan: As I was saying when I was looking at the remains of the houses, and imagined, that families lived here, children grew up here, and those people aren’t there now. It’s very painful for me, I’am in pain for all destroyed villages be it an Armenian, Azerbaijani, or a Georgian village.

Haykaz Nazdukhanyan, YSU international relations department: Of course no nation can live in isolation without neighboring countries. Even in USSR an experiment to organize a peaceful co-existence of Armenians and Azerbaijanians was conducted during 70 years. But it didn’t bring to a final result, because there hadn’t been a compromising solution of the territorial problem. And today I am greeting the steps toward similar economic interests with Turkey, activation of economic cooperation with Turkey, which undoubtedly will influence the solution of the conflict.

Host: I would as the future teacher in the audience, to think on the following, would they be able to work simultaneously with Armenian and Azerbaijanians kids in one class. It would be interesting to know your opinion.

Vardan Karapetyan: I cannot imagine Armenian and Azerbaijanians together. Should I say why? Because there has been bloodshed, there were victims, and we do live together, then as the Russians say we are only going to tolerate each other. But I can’t imagine being fully neighborly, only on a level of some internal diplomacy.

Manushak Andriasyan, a student: I think all the same that Armenians and Azerbaijanians cannot live together as of yet, because parents died on both sides during the war. And there must be a change of a few generations for people to forget, or not forget, but to adapt to the thought that they have to live together. As of now neither side is able to forget that fathers were killed, and that’s why it’s impossible, right now anyway. We are not prepared yet.

Nune Grigoryan, graduate of the Polytechnic University: I’d like to say this as a representative of the younger generation. Personally I am ready, meaning I can very easily relate, and be friends with Azerbaijanians, easily and with great love. But as I see and feel our older generation is against it, I think, if the youth says yes, then the older generation will pressure the youth even more by constantly saying: how is that? Don’t forget the war, there were so many victims. I want to say that war is not a person’s choice. If I went to a war and killed people it is not because I chose it, but because of the terms. That means if you tell a person - go and kill, of course he will not go, and it’s like that on both sides. If the desire of communication is обоюдным, I think our generation along with a newer generation will be able to be in good relations, of course if we get rid of the pressure from the older generations.

Host: I promised to give the word to the future teachers. And so, how do you imagine working in a community class?

Hripsime Gharibyan, Northern University: As a future teacher I personally think, that the difference is a great one with us being Christians and them being Muslims. But for a teacher, as I believe, meaning for me personally and for Azerbaijani teachers also, - there is no difference of what nationality their student will be. But I think today’s situation is so tense, that I doubt that Azerbaijanians can give us equal conditions.

Georgi Vanyan: If I saw a similar audience in Azerbaijan, and I think there were similar performances in Azerbaijan, I would simply go crazy from the thought: what made these two nations destroy each other? If you recall in the entrance speech, I said, that we must draw a borderline between speculation and a real dialogue, from one angle, when we watch our television stations, and I also mean the Azerbaijanian television, our press, and the speeches of our public political activists during their tours to regional activities to third countries (when they return they say completely different things), we can nicely wonder: how is it that with such caramelized sweet speeches, we still haven’t solved all problems?

You say - time is needed. I’d like to bring an example. During the process of “Days of Azerbaijan» there was a gull, the internet was filled with information on how to take care of the traitors, what kind of pickets there would be, with performances from veterans and relatives of those who died, but strangely enough on that background the official structures of Armenia and Azerbaijan seemed to welcome this activity, it was also welcomed by Semneby. And how do you think our officials explain these steps for the internal use? It is only a necessity to support the international image of their country. Why are we all gathered here and talking, for the international community? So we can appear to be tolerant? Or did we gather here for the purpose of achieving wellness and peaceful coexistence? Also there is one more term. What are those same teachers, who work on the market of internal use, doing today in reality? Disturbing the order that was set up by our dearly respected host and asking you my own question: where is the border, and how to draw it? How do we draw a separating line where on one side there will be speculations directed to the reception of political dividends, and on the other side - a real need for peaceful coexistence? What can we do to separate the paths of people who are busy doing one thing or another? As a public activist I’d like to know your opinion, to receive your advice; what can be done?

Elina Shakhnazarova, journalist: I am not putting up my candidacy for the role of the one showing the way, but I’d like to say one thing. I have a lot of Azerbaijanian friends. And my opinion is if we are talking about breaking the ice on a human level in human relations, it’s quite simple because relations on that level don’t deal with the nationality but with a specific individual. Second of all, we mustn't forget the children's upbringing. I would teach both Armenian and Azerbaijanian kids, I would tell them: yes there are conflicts, but we are neighbors and in reality we don’t want those conflicts to be. Meaning if we know something, and we don’t want it because we know that blood has been spilt on both sides, it unites us and it becomes easier not to accuse each other, and to continue living together.

Host: You said that relations on a human level are possible, you said we used to live with Azerbaijanis, you also said that we aren’t ready yet. I’d like to ask you what kind of steps should we taken in order to be prepared? I personally think it would require many years. But what can we do right now, to achieve that peaceful coexistence?

Marianna Vardanyan: Recently I was reading Thomas de Vaal’s book “The Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan between war and peace”. In it, an independent journalist with his unprejudiced opinion, as a result of many interviews and analysis presents the situation in Karabakh. Opinions were expressed here that it would be easier for the youth to become friends, but this book changed my way of thought in many ways, there were a lot of examples of how Armenians and Azerbaijanians lived in Karabakh. And the testimonies are given mostly by the older generation, whereas the youth doesn’t know about it. I think those people need to be found, the witnesses of community life together, and documental films need to be made, and possibly to widely spread that information. Because to be honest, the only thing the youth thinks about are the genocide, and the attacks in Sumgait. And the other information is unattainable for us. I see the solution of the problem in popularizing that information.

Lucine, Northern University: As a future teacher Id like to refer to the segment with the Arab teacher from the film, who was saying, she cannot hide the historical facts of her people. Personally for me it would also be difficult. I think that as of right now the creation of community schools is impossible for nations in conflict. I think that parents should not grow hatred in their children, because every nation has its own history, which was written by its own historians. Our history brings us to the result that they are our enemies, and their history, in turn shows them that we are their enemies. We must begin from the upbringing of the children and the absence of enmity in it.

Host: I didn’t understand your position. What do you suggest?

Lucine: I suggest not to raise children with hatred toward other nations, then if a few generations change, possibly the enmity will end and disappear.

Armen, YSU: Recently on the net an Azerbaijanian guy sent me a link, when I opened it – at first I thought it was about the Armenian genocide, but when I read it turned out that its about Azerbaijanian genocide, and about the atrocities conducted by Armenians. (gives a deep sigh) I am of the same exact opinion about them. From the very childhood I read it in books saw it on television. I think first of all we must overcome, get rid of some settings. In regards to Azerbaijanians, we are the winning side and we must be more kind hearted towards them, but there remains the fact of the genocide in Turkey. I don’t know… I am supposed to tell my children about it, and that knowledge doesn’t somehow form into an association with friendliness…

Host: I will attempt to change the direction of the conversation a little. An opinion was expressed here that we are ready to live with Azerbaijanians even today. Hypothetically speaking let imagine the following situation. For example, can an Azerbaijanian woman freely walk on our streets with her child or does she need guards? The buildings where Azerbaijanians will reside, will they need guarding? Or they can live in the same buildings with Armenians? Meaning let’s imagine that today the borders are open.

Metaksya, Mkhitar Gosh University: It’s impossible. It was said that the older generation pressures. I don’t agree. There are history books that we read and are unable to forgive.

The name of the festival: Nationality - Human. We are all humans, somewhere similar to each other, but also differing from each other. Hatred begets evil. It’s simple and clear to all of us that hatred can only be destroyed with love. And the second side of the question. Why didn’t anyone voice the question: do we really have a need to live together with other nations? We need to respect ourselves first and foremost we don’t seem to do that very well.

Host: I would ask for the question about Armenian and Azerbaijanian community life to be answered.

Metaksya: I would like to answer in a form of a question: is there a need in that?

Martina, Northern University: I am not from here; I’m from Georgia, and I cannot imagine Armenians and Azerbaijanians living together. I am an Armenian and I live in Georgia as a result of those wars. We fled from Erzrum, Karin, and now I live in Javakhk. I cannot imagine Armenians forgiving Azerbaijanians.

Host: And the Azerbaijanians, can they forgive Armenians?

Metaksya: Also cannot. A lot of time is required for that. That will happen when each of those nations will present the real story to their next generation without justifying ourselves.

Psychology professor, YSU: You know I remember we had a sword hanging on the wall which my grandfather used during the war with Turks, yet one of his best friends was a Turk from the Azerbaijanians. And during the years of the Karabakh movement he came to our house and literally said, “Those bastards embarrassed us”. He brought my grand father the seedling he promised. And what was the final opinion I came to after that? When we speak in abstract categories everything becomes incomprehensible, when we leave everything to ordinary people they seem to find the right way. I don’t know, what European country it was said about, when they create a garden they didn’t put roads up to it they leave everything the same for the people to make tracks and pathway on the grass then they lay cobblestone over it. Friendship is impossible in words. I will attempt to answer the question “ What would I say to my children?” I asked two of my children who studied abroad who was easier to communicate with for them, and they answered – the Turks. They can be very good friends, our mentality is similar, they understand us, but do you know what I tell the children, and this is an instinct speaking in me, we already know that the idiot is not the one who made a mistake, the idiot is the one who repeats the same mistake, I tell them to be friends but to keep the stick in their hand. As a parent it’s my obligation to give them that advice. Let’s leave everything to the people who are doing business with Turkey and Azerbaijan. They have already made those pathways and tracks, so they call each other they are in friendly relations. But that cannot be announced as an official governmental policy. I think that we are not ready today.

Rosanna, medical student: I’d like to say that I grew up in Russia and received a Russian education, and the matter is that there were Azerbaijanian kids in our school. We had a history club and in that club we would discuss that question. And the thing was that a lot of Azerbaijanian kids would apologize to Armenian kids. We understand that blood was spilt on both sides but the fact remains that they were the initiators of the bloodshed, we didn’t start that war! Someday we will be able to forgive them but that will be when they all realize as to what they have done! Only in that case we should try to find some ways to get closer with them. As of now its way to early for that, I think. All people that have Armenian blood flowing in their veins will never be able to forgive, until they all change and admit what they have done! (Sounds of applause, those who aren’t applauding are smiling)

Host: Right now, as a host, I have no right to force my personal opinion onto you, or to evaluate what you said, but I cannot remain silent about the regret in regards to your performance, and would like to share my personal opinion outside the frames of this discussion.

A person from auditorium: It was said about, what kind of ways could we find. We can take lessons from the French and German relations, they annihilated each other for ages, fought against each other for hegemony in Europe, and Alsace and Lorraine remained within French territory. But in the case of Armenia and Azerbaijan there is a big difference. It is possible to imagine Germany without Alsace and Lorraine, but in no way whatsoever is it possible to imagine the Republic of Armenia without Nagorny Karabakh! Karabakh is a strategically military and economical position. The loss of Karabakh would mean the end of the Republic of Armenia.

Host: I think our conversation threatens to cross over to the zone of eternity, that’s why I offer you to watch another short film. Tomorrow I invite you to a no less interesting discussion of the subject “We and others”.
Festival in Yerevan

The end of the festival day, after viewing the film “Punjabi cab”

Edvard Antinyan: In the film you saw the most developed and democratic country, which is a multiethnic one, yet when you ask them they say I am an American, even though there is no such nationality as an American. And that example from the film, of ever-existing stereotypes can teach us a lot, even though we are a monoethnic country. When Armenians didn’t mind their last names ending with “yan” in order to live a calm life in Russia, and that is similar to the Sikh’s beard, because finally the Sikhs are peace loving people and their religion has a 500 year history, they are very peace loving, but they are accepted as terrorists based on their image.

I would like to express my opinion about the subject that was being discussed today. Let’s leave that question, life will show us everything in due time. But I want to say this; we had a “Zakfederation” in 1922-37, who studies the history of us living side by side. Besides that there aren’t any conflicts between Armenian and Azerbaijanian communities anywhere in the world. There is an Armenian - Azerbaijanian confrontation between our governments, in our Governments politics and there are territorial issues. That’s all.

And if we are going to speak about being genetically incompatible… that doesn’t develop anywhere in the world, they do business together, and do whatever they want. Meaning it’s the government conditions, national interests, and not the set up where it’s impossible to live together. I’d like to remind you one more thing and we’ll end on that note. If we talk about the secret pact of Molotov- Ribbentrop, from August 23, 1939, everyone who studies history knows this, according to this pact a line of governments was supposed to be eliminated, especially Poland, because on one hand Germany was supposed to join the USSR, on the other hand the country of Poland would seas to be. But when Poland becomes EU member and a bridge opens up and Poles are hugging Germans and crying from joy. They were hugging the same Germans who built concentration camps in their country, the same Germans who wanted to destroy their government.

But the same Poles have a problem with Russia today, the same Poles are reminding of what happened back during Stalin’s regime, even though that country, USSR no longer exists. This is happening due to a one transparent cause. They are tying their future with Germany, and their cruel past with Russia. Now if our future seems bright to us, it doesn’t matter it could be with the Polish, the Azerbaijanis, and the Turks…

And if there is no promise of a bright future, then why should we submit, in the name of what? Now if there were rights of community welfare, then within certain frames we would know that our future will be a bright one, then the territorial problem would be solved – no borders, no passports, and already it’s being forgotten whose grandfather killed whose. I repeat. I brought Poland as an example because their bright future is tied with Germany, and their cruel past – with Russia. Thank you.

Recorded by Luiza Poghosyan
South Caucasian Documentary Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights in Armenia implementing by Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives with support of Eurasia partnership foundation - Armenia and the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

So-organizer of festival in Yerevan:
Edvard Antinyan