Los Angeles County is home to the second-largest Armenian population in the world, with the first being the capital of Armenia. Most of us living in La Cañada have heard of the conflict in Artsakh, whether through social media or through members of the Armenian community. Though the nature of the conflict feels distant to many, especially with news coverage focusing almost solely on the election, I am urging you to inform yourself on the matter, as the long term implications are incredibly serious.
The conflict and tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been going on since the fall of the Soviet Union but have immensely escalated in a violent manner. On September 27th, new fighting broke out.
In order to better understand the conflict, context of the Armenian genocide and diaspora is essential. As the rest of the world was distracted by World War I, 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman empire, significantly shrinking the size and population of the country, and leading to the displacement of the Armenian survivors.
When the Soviet Union fell, containing both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the borders of the Caucasus region remained in dispute after the Soviets drew the borders without much regard for the ethnic and religious identity of the inhabitants of the region, which is the general root of this conflict. The Nagorno-Karabakh region has historically been occupied by Armenian Christians for centuries, and they currently make up about 95% of the population. In 1991 , after about 6 years of war of seeking to escape the oppressive regime, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan. Today, however, the Republic of Artsakh is still not internationally recognized.
With the attack in the enclave on September 27th, years of relative peace have been disrupted and several lives have already been lost and thousands displaced, including innocent civilians, and the destruction of Stepanakert, the capital of the region. Intervention from a global power like the U.S is essential, but our economic ties with Turkey complicate any potential attempts at diplomacy. This conflict has developed into somewhat of a proxy war, beyond just Armenia and Azerbaijan, with Turkey, Russia, and other countries’ involvement potentially growing, making the situation much more dangerous, especially considering the smaller size of Armenia.
All things considered, it’s incredibly important to spread awareness, provide support, and steer clear of dangerous rhetoric. Given the past history of genocide and the manner in which it was ignored at the time, and hardly recognized even in the modern-day, Armenians are fearful for the future of their country and lives of their people. There are many opportunities organized by students and in the area to support the region and people affected, with donation drives and a letter campaign organized by LCHS’s Armenian club, with further information provided on their Instagram account. I additionally advise people to donate to reputable organizations, like armeniafund.org, and support restaurants donating to these organizations that give aid to soldiers, many of whom are only 18. Several restaurants, like the La Canada chop stop, and a majority of Armenian owned businesses in the Glendale/Montrose area are donating their proceeds to provide aid and support, and also have delicious food.
In these times of great tension and conflict, don’t remain silent. The world can not allow history to repeat itself in a horrific manner.