The lessons of Karabakh – Hadrut

Click to see the full photoreport from Hadrut

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, 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”

Copy of CIMG2601

Memorial to Hadrut's fallen heroes of Karabakh war

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.”


17 thoughts on “The lessons of Karabakh – Hadrut

    • Thanks Adrineh, I find it very hard to write on this subject, because I have very strong feelings and feel, that I’m very subjective.

  1. In Artsakh, several diasporan medical associations have established, equipped, and continue to finance, 5 fixed dental clinics, one mobile dental clinic, and one women’s health care clinic (in Stepanakert). One of those dental clinics is in Hadrut
    All these clinics provide free care for the general population.

    This shows how a small group of committed people can do some good.

  2. I think you can’t say that Azerbaijanis are not willing to communicate for two reasons. Firstly, it depends on how those Karabakh Armenians tried to communicate. If they were as intransigent as most people are on both sides then it’s no wonder. It also depends on who you communicate with. I have experienced just as many intolerant and aggressive comments and attitudes from Armenians in the same way I’ve seen that from Azerbaijanis.

    Secondly, and more importantly, communication is not only possible, but it’s also happening and it’s been the most encouraging and refreshing development I’ve seen in this region in 12 years. It’s certainly made the past 18 months here the most enjoyable.

    Communication Is Possible: Armenian & Azeri Dialogue with the Aid of Social Media

    In fact, it’s been so encouraging, we even set up our own special coverage page on Global Voices:

    Caucasus Conflict Voices

    Here’s too more of it. The tools are there, as are the people. All that’s needed is the right approach on both sides, and that depends a lot on being open, tolerant and progressive. And those people exist in Azerbaijan, and are more in number than you could ever imagine…

    • I didn’t say anything, I just reported the following:
      > They said the Azerbaijani peers were using insulting language and demonstrating complete unwillingness to listen.

    • I have had a lot of experience, both positive and negative, of communicating with Azerbaijanis and in fact, I have travelled about 2000 kilometers in the past 10 days and been to Stepanakert, Hadrut, Shushi, Martuni, Kapan, Goris, Ijevan, Berd. The reason of my trips was to tell the young people in those areas, that they need to use technology and communicate with the world and with their peers in Azerbaijan.

      • I don’t think you need to tell anyone. Some of us have been doing this for the past 18 months without any support at all and it’s happening naturally. What’s amazing, but not surprising given how civil society works here, is that those of us who are doing it and actually kicked it off are not included in this sudden interest in “spreading the world.” One guesses money must be available now…

  3. Oh, and btw: a comment must have got hit by your spam filter because of the number of links in it. However, please check. It was a comment as a response to another made on the Serj Tankian post.

  4. Incidentally, I don’t imagine you have much positive experience at all mainly because you haven’t even tried, and especially using the right tools. It’s all happening on Facebook, basically, and I suspect you haven’t anywhere close to the hundreds of connections a real grass-roots movement to cross the ceasefire line has managed to establish…

    • Onnik, I didn’t intend to turn this comments section into a listing of all the “experience” I’ve had. However, since you “don’t imagine” that I have much positive experience at all “mainly because I haven’t tried”, I’ve got to do this:

      1. 1999 – I coordinated a project which brought Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Turkish ministers of Emergency situations and signed a contract on cooperating, sharing information about earthquakes and other disasters of the region. The meeting point was in Gyumri.
      2. From 2003 – 2005, as coordinator of Media Diversity Institute I worked with Azerbaijani parners to organized joint trainings, hold joint media monitoring, conferences. Jointly and very successfully we have produced 3 documentary films, 5 newspaper supplements, 2 radio-programs. I’ve published 12 books in Armenia, a large number of which have been distributed in Azerbaijan. As part of a multinational team I’ve helped organized conferences, trainings with participants from Armenia and Azerbaijan in London, Vienna, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Tbilisi. I consider those very-very successful examples.
      3. In 2006-2007 I was the project coordinator and editor of a joint Armenian – Azerbaijani literary website, which unfortunately failed as a project. Bad example.
      4. In 2008 I participated as a participant and trainer in a project, which gave young people the skills necessary for using new technology tools to produce text, audio, video materials and share information about themselves.
      5. In 2008 – 2009 I was involved as a trainer in Armenian – Azerbaijani media project and had very successful experience.
      6. 2010 – I’m traveling to border regions and telling Armenian communities in Karabakh and Armenia that they need to use technology to communicate with the world and peers in Azerbaijan.

      PS: I’ll be able to share further details about my positive/negative experience with any of those projects around a pint of beer anytime this week :)))

    • They are the enemy and it’s pointless to try to find a common language with them. They will hack you to death when you least expect it.

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