ARTSAKH HAS EARNED ITS RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION
In 1988 hundreds of thousands protested for Karabakh’s self-determination
BY SETO BOYADJIAN, ESQ.
Last Wednesday, in the historic Cannon Building on Capitol Hill,
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) joined an
impressive number of Congressmen to mark the 25th Anniversary of
liberty in Nagorno Karabakh. The event served as a celebration of the
ongoing democracy and freedom in Artsakh. During the preceding days,
Members of Congress also took the floor and went on record to mark
the 25th Anniversary of Nagorno Karabakh’s freedom.
These initiatives constitute a deserved tribute to the 25 years
of liberty and democracy achieved by the people of Artsakh, who
embarked on a liberation struggle in 1988 and shook off the shackles
of tyranny by declaring independence in 1991. They also attest to the
now established reality that Artsakh has not only gained its right
to self-determination; it has also earned its right to independence.
Whether an independent country or whether eventually an inseparable
unit of the Republic of Armenia, the patrimonial identity of Artsakh is
well established. Artsakh was one of the fifteen provinces of historic
Armenia. When invading foreign forces caused the dismemberment of
Armenia, Artsakh retained its attribute as a distinct territorial
unit. Under the Persian Empire, it was a separate and quasi-independent
During the Soviet dominance, Moscow recognized Artsakh as a distinct
territorial identity and, as such, in 1923 it was designated as
an “autonomous region” to be administered by the recently created
Azerbaijan. (Note that historically and legally Azerbaijan did not
exist; it came into existence as a separate country and state only
Both Armenia and the people of Artsakh protested against Moscow’s
administrative decision of 1923. In fact, this decision was a direct
outcome of Joseph Stalin’s “nationalities policy” that aimed at
gerrymandering the ethnic minorities within the Soviet Union and
pitting them against one another. In view of the ongoing Armenian
protests and petitions, in January 1989 Moscow was compelled
to redesignate the status of Artsakh as an “ethno-territorial
administrative division” administered directly from Moscow, not
Thereafter, on December 10, 1991, in full compliance with Soviet
Constitution and Soviet laws on secession, the people of Artsakh held
a referendum in the presence of international observers, whereby they
overwhelmingly adopted the independence of Artsakh.
Today, after 25 years of labor and toil to maintain and expand the
spirit and the deed of freedom, Artsakh is the most democratic, free,
transparent and egalitarian country not only in the South Caucasus,
but also among the former Soviet Republics. It was born out of struggle
for freedom and it exists to consecrate freedom. Such a country and
such a people own the birthright to self determination.
Artsakh and its freedom loving people exemplify the true definition of
the principle of self determination. They have a coherent identity as
Armenians. The have deeply rooted connection to the territory known as
Artsakh. They have demonstrated their will to determine their destiny
through democratic principles. They have proved their desire to live
free and liberate themselves from systematic persecution of Azerbaijan.
Azeri arguments promoting the concept of territorial integrity taking
precedence over the principle of self determination are sham and moot.
In the first instance, Artsakh has never been – not even during the
Soviet times – an integral part of Azerbaijani territory. Second,
under the Charter on European Security adopted in Istanbul in 1999,
conflicts with ethnic minorities can only be constructively resolved
within democratic systems. Thus, when a state is undemocratic, the
principle of self determination as applied to its ethnic minority
takes priority over the principle of territorial integrity. In case of
Artsakh and its people, Azerbaijan is the worst kind of undemocratic
and despotic state.
Azerbaijani attempts conjuring the specters of territorial integrity
and secession against Artsakh’s right to self determination are hollow
and misplaced legally, politically and historically.
Such arguments were made back in 1991, when the Armenian National
Committee of America (ANCA) was pushing for a sense of the Senate
Resolution recognizing Nagorno Karabakh’s right to national self
determination. The strongest opposition to the resolution came
from the late Sen. Jesse Helms, the ranking member on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. He stated his opposition, because he
was told that the resolution supported secession. After meeting with
and receiving explanations from ANCA representatives, the Senator
changed his position. He announced his support for the resolution with
the following explanation: He said he was opposed to the resolution
under the belief that it was encouraging secession and that U.S. has
had its share of civil war as a result of secession; however, he
now realizes that the Nagorno Karabakh liberation and its right to
self-determination stand for unification with Armenia.
When the resolution came to the floor of the full Senate, Sen. Helms
supported Karabakh’s right to self determination.
The Senate Resolution recognizing Nagorno Karabakh’s right to self
determination passed with unanimous consent.
Seto Boyadjian is an attorney and serves on the national board of ANCA.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress