Guest Post: on The Last Grenade and Not Turning into Animals

Armenia -- Servicemen escort Eldar Tagiyev, an Azerbaijani captive, (C) during his return to Azerbaijan on the Ijevan-Qazax highway near the village of Kayan, 04Nov2010

Armenia swapped an Azerbaijani captive and received the body of one of its citizens who died in Azerbaijani captivity last week, in an exchange facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A series of exchanges of bodies and this one live Azeri captive followed the October 27 joint statement issued by Aliyev and Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian after their fresh talks hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two leaders pledged to exchange “without delay” all prisoners of war (POW) and bodies of soldiers and civilians killed in the conflict zone.

There are currently 6 Armenian POWs and 6 Armenian civilians held captive in Azerbaijan and 2 Azeri POWs in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The swap of the live Azeri captive for the dead Armenian citizen, however, has caused quite a stir in the Armenian blogosphere. Most are calling this a big mistake of the Armenian authorities. I’m publishing this guest post by Uzogh, hoping, that it will shed some light on the reasons for this outrage in the Armenian blogosphere.


During the Soviet Union’s war in Afganistan, Soviet soldiers developed a habit of carrying the “last grenade.” The grenade was kept by to soldier to blow himself up to avoid being captured. 

This practice was exercised during our war with Azerbaijan as well, because being caught by Azeris is a painful topic. Few have survived captivity in Azerbaijan, suicides are a common thing.

This is exactly why I look down on talks about morality, dignity and other concepts of modern civilization as applied to the Azerbaijan army. And let me tell you why: I take all these issues very personally. Extremely personally. Because I’m a reserve officer, and if there’s a war, I will be taking part in it. And it might just happen, that I could be taken into captivity.

And this is where the most important point comes. When the enemy knows, that after an Armenian officer is hanged in captivity, this will bring about an epidemic of deaths among Azeri war prisoners on the Armenian side, Armenian officers will stop hanging themselves. And the Armenian officers will no longer need the last grenade. And the era of humanism and Geneva Conventions will finally come.

However, if the enemy knows, that regardless, if I’m dead or alive, he will still get his Azeri prisoner alive, I’ll certainly be handed over dead. Just for the sake of making sure, that there is one less soldier in the enemy’s army.

Yes, this is disgusting arithmetic, my friends. It is sick logic. Its unpleasant, but the mankind hasn’t thought of anything else instead.

This is where the line is crossed, which separates me from champions of humanism, and those talking about “not turning into animals.” I care about our captives. I care about them being alive, not dead.

Champions of clean hands only care about clean hands. And that is exactly why, those, who speak of clean hands, are with those very hands, hanging the “last grenade” on the combat vest of the Armenian soldier.

All I can do, is express my sincere and somewhat sarcastic “thank you” to those.


About the Author

Ruben Muradian (aka Uzogh) – is an IT oriented knife collector. Tries to find black cat in dark room common sense in Armenian politics.

Russian version of this post is available here.


26 thoughts on “Guest Post: on The Last Grenade and Not Turning into Animals

  1. In the caption of the picture, the person being exchanged is not a ‘hostage’ but a ‘prisoner of war’. The word ‘hostage’ implies intent to capture for a specific reason which was not the case.

  2. what is the point of swapping their lives for our deads?
    ours are dead already. I mean yes its good to bring back their bodies to their homeland and so their families can have closure of some sort, but still…lives for deads…ara I dont know. As leader I dont believe I could have agreed to that. they killed our captives, we did not kill theirs. if ours had died during a struggle of war/battle/skirmish then maybe to exchange live ones for deads would make sense, but they KILLED ours captives on purpose. personally I would have opted for a live hanging of their POWs in our Hraparak and displayed it on air for turk-liyev to see it. I know nothing would piss him off more than for Armenia to have such a celebration on azeri death

  3. From the first look Uzogh has a point but if you think a little bit more there is no point made. I don’t think Uzogh is proposing a valid solution or any solution at all. It is even immature what Uzogh is suggesting. If you kill an enemy citizen, the other side will continue doing so even more. You will easily end up exchanging dead people without a chance for a alive person exchange..
    The solution is to be well organised not to be captured or minimise teh captures. In this particular case no one has asked the question that how the Armenian citizen crossed the boarder unknowingly and why nobody stopped him. Doesn’t this mean that the boarder seperating two enemies is unprotected on Armenian side? This is a seriouse security issue that can easily lead to further such cases.
    I think what really matters is how a country respects its soldiers and citizens. If it comes to value and counting exchanging 10 for one shows how much you value your citizens. the problem is there are 2 Azeri citizens in captivity and 12 Armenians. To me this indicates a majour problem. A problem that we didn’t even have during the war when Azeris outnumbered Armenian fighters.

    • >>You will easily end up exchanging dead people without a chance for a alive person exchange.
      So right now we are exchanging deads for alive. And some people reckon that it is normal. While azeri military can kill an armenian and receive alive azeri it will not have the motivation to return captives alive.

      >>The solution is to be well organised not to be captured or minimise teh captures
      And it is the last grenade. Because it’s a normal situation during war ta catch enemy alive. While I fully agree with you on the matter of prevention of such situations, I still didn’t see an answer how to make azeris not to kill POWs. Do you have any mature and wise solution? ;)

      >> A problem that we didn’t even have during the war when Azeris outnumbered Armenian fighters.
      There were a lot more azeri captives on armenian side. But we were giving them back to azeris in the framework of cooperation with RedCross. And azeri side didn’t.

      • >> So right now we are exchanging deads for alive. And some people reckon that it is normal.
        -I dont reckon this is normal if you still have 12 citizens in captivity and only have 2 Azeris to exchange. This shows the nagotiation weaknesses of Armenian side. If they publicised the death/killing of a captive they could have got 1 alive + 1 dead for 1 Azeri alive person. It seems that the ultimate aim of Armenian government is not securing as many captives but pleasing the Russians that the signed papers mediated by Russians are working.

        >>Do you have any mature and wise solution? ;)
        -I wrote it earlier but will elaborate. To minimise chances for getting captured. Be organised, equiped and trained well. Of course you can never avoid captivities. If you have 10 enemy soldiers captured and only 1 Armenian, the Azeris will make sure that they keep the POW in good shape to exchange for their 10 Azeri POWs. This is how you increase the value of your soldiers.

        >> And azeri side didn’t.
        They also returned. I know 2 former POWs personally. Armenians offered more than 1 Azeri for 1 Armenian POW. See my point above.

        • >> I wrote it earlier but will elaborate.
          We have agreed on prevention, but the question remains.
          I share your criticism, but still want to know how will you secure lives of those, who are in Azery military jails now.

          >>They also returned.
          They’ve stopped doing this in the beginning from the 2009.

          • If the question is about the current situation that is, known Armenian 12 captives then we dont have much bargaining power as there are only 2 known Azeris on Armenian side. I doubt Azeris will give 12 Armenians in return for only 2 Azeris. This might explain that why they killed the Armenian shepherd. However killing of the 2 Azeris will result killing of 12 Armenians. What you suggested is very irresponsible and coming out of emotions.
            The solution for now is either pay Azeris in cash for each Armenian captive or capture more Azeris to secure 1:2 ratio. At the same time take precution action.
            P.S. Was wondering what AKhK Artur Baghdasaryan is doing? I haven’t heard any investigation that how the Armenian shephard could cross the Armenian boarder.

  4. I must admit that I am not an Armenian national but very much interested in Armenia due to their magnificent cultural background (I am Indian by nationality) . I am sure that exchanging a dead Armenian captive (Possibly ill treated) for a live Azeri prisoner (Seems well treated in photograph) is no way logical. They (Azeris) must release all Armenian prisoners in exchange for all Azeri prisoners on the other side immediately.

    • “All for all” exchange is something that Armenian side expected. Right now there are no signs of this, and no official statement on the exchange formula.
      I’m still waiting for any responce/clarification.

      • Normaly you get “All for All” when a proper peace treaty is signed. There were still German POWs in Sibery even in mid 1950s.

        • Peace treaty is not a prerequisite.
          There was no Peace Treaty (up to now) between Russia and Georgia. But sides have exchanged POWs, non-combatants and corpses “all for all”

          • In Georgia case there was more involved then exchange of prisoners.e.g. Russians pulled back from Georgia but not from N Osetia, Russians didnt pay a single penny for demages. In exchange there was a all for all POW exchange I suppose majority was Georgian POWs.
            If Armenian soldiers pull out from lets say Aghdam I am sure there will be an All for All POW exchange.

  5. Payqar, re your comment about why there are 12 Armenian captives and only 2 Azeris, I wanted to note, that 5 of them were one family: the father, wife and kids. There is not much background, but from what gossip I’ve heard, they had a lot of debts, and the father decided that the best way was to escape to Azerbaijan, so he crossed to Nakhijevan in a minivan with the kids. Armenian border guards tried to stop them, shot at the car, but were afraid to accidentally kill the kids, so in the end, they let the car pass.

  6. WoW, this is definitely one of the most heated debates I’ve read on this blog
    hows about we kill their capitves and tell them that they are still alive and when the time comes during the exchange, they’ll see that theirs are dead and it becomes a dead-for-dead exchange. I mean really what is the point of exchanging lives for deads

      • @nazarian
        ara I dont give 2 sh*ts geneva meneva convention monvention, haskacar???!!! an eye-for-an-eye, they kill ours, we kill 10 of theirs, its that simple. dead for deads or lives for lives, no in-between. thats it, urish ch’ka !

        • That’s fine for the battle field. Once you have a captive then you can’t mistreat them. Imagine the other way round which was the point Uzogh made. Without rules you would have what we had during the war in the early 90-s.

  7. 2Payqar
    >>The solution for now is either pay Azeris in cash for each Armenian captive
    >>or capture more Azeris to secure 1:2 ratio. At the same time take precution
    POW trading for money is against the Geneva convention, that regulates the status of POWs. Any other solution?

    RE: Georgia
    So Peace Treaty was NOT a prerequisite for “all for all” POW exchange, isn’t it?

    • Paying for POWs might be against the Geneva convention but if you dont have an option that’s a legitimate and humane way. Killing of a POW on the other hand is not only against Geneva conventions but is a lowly crime. POWs should be treated well. What Azeris did was despicable and Armenian government should have voiced that in the UN and should have made an international scandal out of it. Why didnt they do it? Either they are utterly incompetent, they dont give a damn about their citizens or the shepherd actually committed suicide. I believe it’s the combination of incompetence and not giving a damn. If you do the same to your citizens in your country you wouldn’t be in a good poition to ask your enemies to treat your citizen’s better, would you?
      I suggested another solution: capture more Azeris and prevent the capture of your citizens. Israel did even go to war for 1 captive soldier.

      –I understand that why Geneva convention opposes the cash for captive notion. They dont want to encourage human trafficking and piracy as a whole.

      Re Georgia
      Peace Treaty is the only definite way of “all for all” POW exchanges. In other cases there are always “hidden POWs” or there will be new POWs. You might have other situations when you make it part of a bigger deal. Such as in Georgia. Russians didnt pay a penny for damages instead there was an “all for all” POW exchange.

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