Hello Mt. Ararat. A view of the Armenian holy mountain (now in Turkey) from Yerevan.
Frist off, writing about this conflict as an outsider is a very tricky thing. There are legitimately intense feelings on both sides and as in most cases where there is conflict, history is a contested thing and facts become part of the fight. I will attempt to lay out the very basics in as fair way as possible. I also want to make clear that I do not pretend to be an expert and if someone finds inaccuracies or gaps, please let me know.
1. Both Azerbaijani’s and Armenian’s have been living in the general regions of their countries for thousands of years. For most of history the region has been held by the Persian, Mongolian, Ottoman, Russian Empires (I’m sure I’m missing one or two but the point is that there was not a long history of self rule).
2. The rise of the nation states (and organized fighting) followed the collapse of the Russian Empire and lasted, on and off, from 1918-1920. While there was some history of fighting between Azeri and Armenian leaders in the region, this was the first organized large scale fighting. Nagorno Karabakh (NK), which is the main issue in the current conflict was first fought over during this time. Both sides claim that historically, the (very fertile) area had been a deeply special place for their people and so it should be part their country.
3. After initially hesitating, the Soviets granted NK to Soviet Azerbaijan as a autonomous region. At this time it was mostly an ethnically Armenian territory, though there were many Azerbaijanis who used the area seasonally, who were not counted by the census. In the late 1980’s an independence movement started in NK, which was eventually backed by Armenia (and directly contributed to the weakening of the Soviet Union itself).
4.Upon the collapse of the soviet union a full on war broke out. Millions of refugees were expelled from both countries (more so out of Armenia, many still live in camps in Azerbaijan). The Armenians in the NK region with direct backing from the Armenian military ended up with all of the region as well as several districts beyond that in Azerbaijan. In May 1994 a cese fire was signed and the conflict has simmered ever since, with no real progress on a lasting resolution. Both Army’s still maintain large amount of troops and sporadic fire still takes place to this day.
5. Turkey has loomed large through all of this. It was only a few years after the killings of millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that the initial fighting began. Today Turkey’s borders with Armenia are closed, mainly because of unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan (though Turkey’s refusal to recognize the killings in 1915 as a genocide have not helped relations).
Իմ Տուն (My House) (I think that is how it is spelled anyway)
So I have been in Yerevan for just over two weeks now. After spending the first week in a room of rotating editions of drunk travelers I moved in to a house a little outside of town. It is a really nice spot with and I lucked out with a great roommate as well. Her name is Leslie and she is an American who has lived here for about 2 years.
The house itself is actually built on top of the roofs of several small workspaces below. It is unorthodox to say the least but it works fine.
The pictures above are both of the inside and outside of my house. Click on the picture collage to see larger images!
Hello hello! I am putting together this blog as a way to keep in touch with family and friends as I spend the next year in Yerevan, Armenia. I will do my very best to keep all posts short, to the point and hopefully somewhat entertaining.
As I have done with past blogs I will make sure to include lots of pictures and touch on subjects as diverse as how I am way too big for the minibusses during rush hour to what I learn from my research in the coming months.
My hope is that you can use this space to communicate with me (and each other) as well and that it will not just be me talking about what I had for dinner last night. I hesitate to write blogs because of that inherent preachy nature, so please comment and let me know if you have something you would like to post!