Nagorno Karabakh is an empty homeland. The exodus of its population, some 120,000 inhabitants, has been completed in a week. The fiction of an independence that no one recognized, not even the parent republic of Armenia, has lasted three decades. There remain in this mountainous region a handful of citizens who have not been able to flee, the deserted towns and the monuments of its remote past.
There were Armenian deaths, around 200, in the brief campaign with which the Baku army took control of the enclave, but there were none afterwards, when the population had to choose between staying, as the Government formally required. from Baku, or leave with what they were wearing before the troops arrived. They knew that it would not be long before those expelled 30 years ago would also arrive, after the first war in which the victory was Armenian and the exodus was Azerbaijani. When the tables turned, the choice was between the suitcase and the coffin.
Armenia has entered a well-known and long-standing cycle of collective suffering. A new Jerusalem will be installed in the minds of many of those who have left. All national stories have a cradle from which the historical homeland was born, whether invented or real, as is the case of the enclave on Azerbaijani land. Their loss often becomes an incurable wound that is passed on from generation to generation through the centuries.
The meaning of this dizzying flight goes beyond the limits of the tiny country that has just disappeared. It is one more episode of a centuries-old confrontation, in which almost all degrees of horror and extermination have been displayed on both sides. For Armenians it is an added chapter to their national martyrdom between 1915 and 1923, when between 600,000 and 1.2 million perished in the massacres organized by the dying Ottoman Empire, a tragedy that inspired the very legal idea of genocide as a crime.
The sudden emptying of an entire region, surrounded by a victorious army, has all the signs of intentional ethnic cleansing. According to an opinion by the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, it is possible to classify as a crime of genocide the siege to which the population has been subjected during nine months of deprivation of supplies, since last November until now. In an additional gesture of the growing distance between Russia and Armenia, Yerevan has just ratified its accession to the ICC, the judicial body that deals precisely with this type of crimes and which includes Putin as a defendant for the war in Ukraine.
Russia has lost all its authority in the South Caucasus. The mutual defense treaty that linked it with Armenia is a dead letter. Its peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh has only protected the escape of those expelled. It is the price paid for the strategic advantage it hopes to gain in Ukraine.
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