Shifts in Territorial Discourse over Southern Armenia

Shifts in Territorial Discourse over Southern Armenia

On November 16, 2021, clashes erupted between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces near the town of Sisian in southern Armenia, in the province of Siunik. This episode of fighting was notable as the worst altercation since the end of the Second Karabakh War of 2020. The Armenian side reported six soldiers killed and 13 taken captive, with 24 missing, while seven killed and ten wounded was the official count from Azerbaijan. Russian mediation resulted in a halt to the hostilities.

What happened in Siunik – indeed, what has been happening across that border region since May, 2021 – is directly related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has numerous complexities. One is the inter-play between claimed borders and effective control. The unrecognised authorities in Stepanakert claimed the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of Soviet Azerbaijan, plus the Shahoumyan region to the north. Following the cease-fire in 1994, though deprived of some slivers of NKAO territory in the east and north-east, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic or Artsakh had at the same time effective control, in whole or in part, over seven additional districts of what used to be Soviet Azerbaijan proper – the areas marked in light beige on the map below outside the lines of the former NKAO.

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Armenian and Turkish narratives: clash or normalization?

For the third time in three decades, Ankara and Yerevan are trying to normalize relations. In a region plagued by rivalry, distrust, and historical grievances, this will be no easy feat. In #TOPTALK, Rusif Huseynov discusses the topic with Nareg Seferian, a U.S.-based Armenian scholar, whose expertise covers the Armenia-Turkey ties among others.

Սյունիքի անվտանգությունը, մարդիկ ու տնտեսությունը․ զրույց հետազոտողի հետ

Սյունիքի անվտանգությունը, մարդիկ ու տնտեսությունը․ զրույց հետազոտողի հետ

ԱՄՆ-ի Virginia Tech համալսարանի ասպիրանտ Նարեկ Սէֆէրեանը ներկայում աշխատում է «Սյունիքի՝ պատերազմից հետո ի հայտ եկած նոր սահմանները» աշխատության վրա։ ՍիվիլՆեթի Գևորգ Թոսունյանի հետ զրույցում նա խոսում է Սյունիք կատարած այցի ընթացքում կատարած իր ուսումնասիրությունների մասին։

Անվտանգության զգացումը պակասել է

Անվտանգության զգացումը պակասել է

ԱՄՆ «Virginia Tech» համալսարանի ասպիրանտ Նարեկ Սէֆէրեանի հետ զրուցել ենք Սյունիք կատարած նրա այցի նպատակներից։ Զրույցի ընթացքում շոշափել ենք նաև հասարակության շրջանում տիրող տրամադրությունների մասին որոշ հարցեր։

Independence and Indigeneity

Independence and Indigeneity

Today is Armenia’s independence day – the thirtieth anniversary, in fact, of this latest manifestation of a place called Armenia on the world map. It has not been an easy three decades, and the last twelve months and more have been marked with a pandemic and a devastating war and its aftermath, among other challenging phenomena.

For the past two weeks now, I have been in Kapan, in the province of Siunik in the south of the country, doing fieldwork for my dissertation. So far, I have conducted about a dozen interviews and had numerous conversations with locals about Siunik and the experience of the new geography of the province and the country since last year. That’s the over-arching theme of the dissertation. Although I do not have many substantial conclusions to draw as of yet, one common theme that has appeared is indigeneity. It is a prevailing part of Armenian discourse that the Armenians are the original inhabitants of this land, their historical homeland.

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Some Thoughts on “Whiteness”, Privilege, and Related Categories in Discourse in the United States

Some Thoughts on “Whiteness”, Privilege, and Related Categories in Discourse in the United States

I have been exposed to numerous news stories, documentaries, long-form articles, and other media products about racism in the United States over the past year and more, ever since George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. It’s not that I had been unaware of racism in America, but I now find myself more educated about the various social, political, cultural, and legal facets of this complex and multi-layered phenomenon. Many questions remain for me, popping up amidst mixed and conflicted thoughts and feelings as I try in particular to tie in the narratives I’ve come across with the experience of the Armenian community in the United States.

At the outset, I have to emphasise that I am not American at all. I have spent quite a few years in this country, but always as a student – an observer and a learner in more ways than one. So my perspectives are that of an outsider.

I remember one of the first times I devoted some thought to the conceptualisation of race in the United States. It was the 2010 census. I filled it in as everyone was required to do so. There were a few basic questions, and then a long list of options for “Race”. It seemed like such a lop-sided form to me. What kind of data would come out of it? As far as I could tell, it would compute how many people were in a given space at that prescribed moment, how old they were, and then lots of variations in how they could label themselves. What purpose could that latter bit serve in public policy?

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Four Reasons Why the Public Recognition of the Armenian Genocide Matters

Four Reasons Why the Public Recognition of the Armenian Genocide Matters

It is April 24 soon – Armenian Genocide commemoration day.

Every year, the public remembrance of the victims of a horrific crime during a tumultuous period becomes political in many places Armenian communities call home, not the least of which in the United States.

The White House has been issuing statements annually on April 24 for more than a quarter of a century now, but always avoiding the term “Armenian Genocide”. The massacres and deportations are duly and solemnly condemned by each president. However, calling it by that explicit term – genocide – would be detrimental to relations with Turkey, because the government in Ankara has long held either denialist positions or has pushed forward modified arguments about the broader historical context, general widespread suffering and chaos during the First World War, and so on. It is comparatively rare in Turkey nowadays to hear outright denial of killings, dispossession, and the exile from Anatolia and Asia Minor of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other communities in 1915 and later. But describing it as genocide remains taboo in most Turkish circles.

There have been reports that President Biden will invoke “the g-word” this year. Congress, for its part, has acknowledged the Armenian Genocide on a few occasions, most recently in October, 2019, when relations with Turkey were at a low. Almost all state governors or state houses have made various proclamations or passed resolutions on the Armenian Genocide during the last few decades, as have many city-level governmental bodies throughout the United States. However, there is no sustained, federal Armenian Genocide policy position consistently adopted and expressed by the legislative and executive branches in Washington. It remains a challenge at the forefront of the impressive and moving efforts undertaken by the Armenian-American advocacy and activist community.

The broader question lingers: why even acknowledge the Armenian Genocide? What’s the point of any public or national commemoration in the US or elsewhere? It happened more than a hundred years ago. Yes, it was tragic, it should be condemned, the community has every right to hold memorial services. But what makes it a live public, political issue?

I think that is a reasonable question. Here are four reasonable responses.

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Shades of Sèvres

Shades of Sèvres

In Turkish public discourse, “Sèvres Syndrome” refers to the looming legacy of the agreement signed in a suburb of Paris in 1920 which envisioned carving up the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Although it gives off an impression of being conspiratorial at first blush, political leaders in Turkey do have a basis in bringing up the notion of foreign powers planning to dismember the country. For over a century, the Eastern Question was on the agenda in the corridors of power in London, Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere. Geopolitical rivalries about this and other matters came to a head with the First World War, with mixed outcomes for all the empires involved. The Republic of Turkey – forged out of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 – has far less reason to suspect aspirations regarding its territory today, Kurdish separatists notwithstanding.

A sovereign Armenian state was foreseen by the Treaty of Sèvres, to include vast swathes of modern-day eastern Turkey. By contrast, Lausanne did not even involve any Armenian delegates during its negotiations, given the inroads made by a resurgent Soviet Russia and the consequent collapse of the infant Armenian republic in the Caucasus next door. As a result of the tumultuous first quarter of the 20th century (among other eras), hindsight and the notion of “historical justice” and “the restoration of historical justice” is ingrained in Armenian public discourse, even featuring in the country’s declaration of independence from the USSR. Nothing could be more emblematic of such a sentiment than Sèvres, which, unlike in Turkey, is shorthand for a missed opportunity alongside insufficient support or intervention from any of the Great Powers, the United States, or the West in general.

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