The following is the full unedited version of Mr. Akhundov’s article submitted to Minval.az.
Nikol Pashinyan made a statement at the Council of Europe summit in Iceland, as sensational as it was long-awaited. First and foremost, the Armenian Prime Minister confirmed that his country recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan at 86,600 square kilometers. That is, including Karabakh.
A little more than two weeks ago, the head of the Armenian government announced: “The stance of the executive branch of the republic is a complete lack of all territorial claims against the neighboring countries. This is the only principle that will give us a chance at statehood. Otherwise, they will attack us from all sides, doing their best to make sure that we do not exist as a state. And they are doing it.”
This is a very promising statement indeed. In every way. For Armenia, the recognition of territorial integrity and rejection of territorial claims against its neighbors is the most important and essential condition not only for the normalization of relations with its neighbors, primarily Azerbaijan and Türkiye, but also for the survival of Armenia itself as a state. Armenia is surrounded by much more powerful and influential countries.
Of course, Azerbaijan remembers perfectly well Pashinyan’s drunken dancing in Shusha, his shouting “Karabakh is Armenia, period”, and the fact that he is responsible for the failure of negotiations and the outbreak of the second Karabakh war in general and for ordering the shelling of Azerbaijani cities in particular.
But today Nikol Vovayevich is really steering his country’s policy in the right direction. That is why I find myself able to address Nikol Vovayevich Pashinyan personally, who will have to go in for a pound now that he is in for a penny.
Territorial claims against all neighbors have their root cause: Armenian historiography, disconnected from world historical science, replete with fakes and tailored for justification of territorial claims against near and distant neighbors. To protect Armenia from a new war, Nikol Pashinyan must rid this science of the monstrous pileup of fakes and provocative lies, which has been used for decades to “substantiate” the claims to the lands of neighboring countries and peoples. Including Karabakh.
This is a case of ideas materializing. Indeed, if one listens, reads and “watches” from morning till night that Karabakh is allegedly an “ancient Armenian land” which was seized by “evil Turks”, that the lands of the “Greater Armenia” supposedly span all the way to the Kura River, surely those who like to draw arrows to foreign cities on maps will have fuel for their fire. With all the quite predictable catastrophic consequences for Armenia, where you, Nikol Vovayevich, are the Prime Minister and have full authority.
Let’s look at the facts. In 1919, future academician Orbeli publishes his book “Inscriptions of Gandzasar and Havaptuk”. With “Albanian church”, “Albanian Catholicos-Patriarch” at every step and not a single word about Armenia. The result? The entire print run of the book was confiscated and destroyed. It was a very long time ago, a century before the current events, but the book was recently found and returned to readers and historical science.
Was it noticed in Armenia? Unfortunately, no. They made an effort not to see it and not to notice it.
Film director Karen Shakhnazarov talks about the history of his family. And he essentially admits, based on historical documents, that Karabakh was never part of Armenia. The result? His statements, too, were carefully ignored.
Finally, there are texts of the treaties signed by Russia: Treaties of Kurekchay, Gulistan and Turkmanchay. Not a single word about Armenia. The texts of the treaties convincingly prove that the territories of Azerbaijan were annexed to Russia. The result? Even today, the idea that “Eastern Armenia” was annexed to Russia is being actively cultivated in Armenia.
We can also recall episodes from recent history. When, for example, you, Nikolay Vovayevich, boldly claimed that “no one had been killed” during the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia. After that, you received from me through the editorial office of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, as Alexey Venediktov confirmed to me, a book with an account of how many people were killed in that ethnic cleansing, how many were burned alive, how many were intentionally run over by cars, how many were frozen in the mountains as they tried to save themselves and get to Azerbaijan…
And finally, the most egregious and telling example. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes a truly historic decision, allowing access to the famous Ottoman archives. These are a veritable treasure trove of documents on the history of the Armenian people, perhaps the most painful part of it—the First World War. Any honest scholar, and there are some in Armenia, upon hearing about this, would ask permission to visit this archive with a camping cot. Many researchers have indeed availed themselves of this opportunity.
What about Armenia?
In Armenia, not only did the then President Serzh Sargsyan not follow Türkiye’s example and open their archives. Armenian scientists were essentially forbidden to work in the Ottoman archives. “Why do we need archives, we already know everything,” President Sargsyan said (!).
To call a spade a spade, it was a crime against historical memory. Cutting the Armenian people off from the truth about its own history.
Perhaps it would be appropriate to recall here the legend of the mankurts, as told by Chingiz Aitmatov in his Buranny Station. A mankurt, a person stripped of memory, was a most valuable slave. Anything could be indoctrinated into them. But prisoners were turned into mankurts by their enemies. The Armenian people was deliberately turned into mankurts by their own state-mongers. The same people who were and are condemning the Armenian people to the role of an instrument of someone else’s politics, with disastrous consequences. This was the case in the early twentieth century, and Hovhannes Kashazuni, the leader of the Dashnaks at the time, lamented: “We have filled our heads with illusions … We have placed our own aspirations in the hive of others. We have lost our sense of reality and let dreams take over.” I would add: dreams of other people’s lands.
Has anything changed in more than a century since? Has Armenia drawn conclusions from those tragic pages? Has it learned lessons from its defeat in the 44-day war?
Judging by what is happening in Armenian historiography today, there is no affirmative answer to this question. Armenian historical science continues to stew in its own juice. It cannot even establish collaboration with prominent scholars from the Armenian diaspora. Those who work and write their theses at the world’s leading universities are simply unable to accept the monstrous pileup of fabrications people face in Armenia. Nor can they accept that Yerevan’s academic luminaries advise scholars of Armenian origin worldwide: “Don’t argue with us, instead translate our studies into English, and that will be your contribution to the ‘Armenian cause’.” This is the watershed between world and Armenian historical science.
Perhaps one can explain why Serzh Sargsyan cut his compatriots off from Armenia’s true history. At that time, it still seemed that the claim to Karabakh could work. Besides, Armenia was then under the criminal dictatorship of the Karabakh clan, with all that it entailed.
But why is nothing changing today, now that there is a government in power that positions itself as a democracy?
Today is the perfect time to take the next step and free Armenian historical science from the monstrous pileup of fakes and bring it out into a civilized space.
Sadly, nothing is happening so far. Armenian historiography is busy coming up with new myths and continues to stew in its own juice. And the Armenian people continues to live under the spell of illusions about “Armenian lands”, “Greater Armenia from sea to sea”, etc. This makes it easier for all those who want to push this country into new conflicts, with Azerbaijan, with Türkiye, with Georgia … If Armenia willingly offers itself as an instrument of this policy, there will always be those willing to take advantage of it.
So, perhaps it is time to lift President Sargsyan’s ban and start to study your own history without fakes and without cuts?
Perhaps it is time to start bringing Armenian historical science out of the darkness? Take the historic chance, Mr. Prime Minister!