Walking around Hadrut it is easy to forget, that you’re just a view miles away from hostile Azerbaijan – the place is an amazingly regular, yet a charming little Armenian town.
Hadrut town is the center of the Hadrut region. It forms the southern border of Nagorno-Karabakh, and is one of the most mountainous parts. The region has 29 communities including the town of Hadrut and 37 villages with a population of 12,070. The town is surrounded by mountains, buried in green, has good quality roads. We noticed many satellite dishes on quite a lot of buildings, which hint that there is a certain level of prosperity.
Young people here are optimistic and cheerful about the future of their tiny Republic. Yet, they are quite alert about the dangers posed by the “torks” (that’s how they pronounce “turks”, meaning Azerbaijanis).
The large group of young people I met with, aged 15-30, all said that they have modern computers connected to the internet with dial-up connection and follow the news coming from Azerbaijan closely. Given the militaristic rhetoric and hate speech pouring out of Azerbaijan, it was not surprising to see that none of these young people believed in the possibility of any peaceful arrangement with Azerbaijan in the near future.
However, the willingness of Hadrut’s young people to communicate with Azerbaijani peers and tell them about the Karabakh side of the conflict was surprising. They told us about their attempts to reach out to Azerbaijanis on Odnoklassniki.ru, the highly popular Russian social network. They said the Azerbaijani peers were using insulting language and demonstrating complete unwillingness to listen.
Lesson 1: “We are the winners”
It seems obvious in Yerevan, that Karabakh needs some sort of negotiations with Azerbaijan, which is using oil revenues to grow its military might. It seems obvious in Stepanakert as well, that there needs to be some sort of a compromise…
…but the look of peaceful Hadrut changed everything for me.
More that 340 people of Hadrut Region fell victims during the Artsakh war. Nearly 30% of its area has been ruined and burnt several times, but the people of Hadrut liberated itself through heavy sufferings.
Many young people we met here have never seen an Azerbaijani.
The image of the Hadrut people, who have won their war and are just living their lives makes me wonder – why would these people need to change anything? Maybe the status-quo they have is the best possible solution?
The answer to that question again came from the Hadrut people. They told me they’ll keep trying to communicate with their Azerbaijani peers, not because they hoped to change anything, but because “we are the winners” and “we understand the hard feelings on the other side.”