With the meeting of the winners of the war of Haut-Karabakh

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Since 1988, without stopping, this old autonomous republic of Azerbaïdjan, populated as a majority of Armenians, is a hearth of conflict between the two republics.

After ten years of confrontations, marked out pogroms, displacements of populations (Armenian driven out of Azerbaïdjan, expelled Azeris of Karabakh), the Armenian forces carried it and reign on this small territory populated of less than 150.000 people, proclaimed independent, but ruined. In the absence of a negotiated payment, Karabakh works with its fastening in Arménie.

Recall of the facts. On February 20, 1988, the Soviet of Haut-Karabakh, autonomous area integrated into the republic of Azerbaïdjan, but populated as a majority of Armenians, fact secession and proclaims the fastening of the territory in Arménie. An old conflict several decades is awaked. Armed confrontations, ethnic cleanings. In 1991, the population proclaims an independence that no State in the world recognized.

Of our special correspondent.

“You will see, over there they are bumpkins, they speak Armenian but they think spontaneously in Russian. ” Vartan, all with its control, soliloquizes, with this trailing flow, this thick accent specific to people of Erevan. It avoids a hole in the roadway, on the road crimped between the snow-covered chains. We arrive at the last city of the republic of Arménie, Goris. A few kilometers further, at the bottom of a small valley, the “border”. Crossed the river, we are in Karabakh; guards and police officers carry uniforms very close to those of their Armenian counterparts.

Lada attacks the laces which will hoist us at the top of the high hill to which Berdzor clings. “Here, front, it was a Turkish region, the village was called Latchine”, and Vartan adds: “Recovered We it, maintaining thanks to this conquest, Nagorno-Karabakh is connected to the motherland. ” The road is new, the well traced white bands, astonishing for an area always in a state of war. “The road which leads to Stepanakert was arranged thanks to a téléthon which put the diaspora at contribution. ” The church of Berdzor which dominates the valley appears and disappears with the liking from the laces - “it has been just inaugurated”. Sheep feed, a shepherd greets us. We cross the village: it is devastated, not more than one building out of ten is intact, more trace of the mosque, more one Azeri inhabitant. Groups of men and women discuss: black silhouettes on sky of storm. “Of the moved Armenians of Azerbaïdjan, they repopulate the villages given up by the Turks (Azeris, note). They fled the massacres of Soumgaït, of Bakou, of Shahoumian; they have sorrow to adapt, and there is no work here. As in Arménie. ” Much of Karabakhtsi emigrated towards Russia, Iran, the Occident since the beginning of the war: the autoproclamée republic account less than 150.000 inhabitants, of which the third in the Stepanakert capital (300 000 Armenians fled Azerbaïdjan, and almost as many Azeris gave up Karabakh and the areas of Latchine, Kelbadjar, Agdam, conquered by the Armenian forces).

We arrive at Shushi, the historical cultural cradle of Haut-Karabakh, “Small Paris”. Destroyed to 90 %. “From here, the Turks bombarded Stepanakert of the months during. We reconquered it, but the city suffered. ” In the content of the basin, Stepanakert which one guesses easy target for the mortars and the guns planted on the heights. The ten kilometers of road are cahotic; one slalome between the lifting gear: the roadway is in repair - the téléthon.

The capital is sad but in order: the effort of rebuilding was titanic. Samvel Babayan, Minister for Defense, rent his compatriots: “The army and the population do only one. Here not of mother, wife éplorées; they are proud their men fallen for the fatherland. If we gained the war, it is thanks to our union. ” The minister, whose biography remains fuzzy, does not dodge the question of the victims. “6.200 Armenians perished: 3.200 Karabakhtsi including 500 civil victims of the bombardments. Others: Armenians of Russia, of the United States, of France. ” The war. One does not hear echoes of engagements, but one crosses many soldiers in the streets. The minister affirms capacity to count on 23.000 50.000 old, men-at-arms, and “of eighteen at forty-five years, in the event of crisis”. For the moment, the face is stabilized. No cease-fire was signed with Azerbaïdjan, “the army of Haut-Karabakh imposed by carrying it”.

Vis-a-vis the semi-sparkling glance of our interlocutor, one includes/understands the reputation better that it was built: a fox. Confirmation, when it analyzes the reasons of the success of “150.000 against seven million enemies”. Initially old history: Haut-Karabakh resisted the invasions always better, in its ECRIN of escarpées mountains, that the other Armenian territories. Then Soviet years: “the government of Azerbaïdjan and the central capacity of Moscow sent Karabakhtsi in first line, against the Nazi Germany or in Afghanistan. ” Samvel Babayan smiles then frankly: “We lived in the same family, we knew our forces and our weaknesses. We recovered by the trick of the weapons to the enemy when we did not have even rifles: a true gift. ” The smile widens, the eyes are folded. A fox.

In the street, difficult to locate the “presidential palate”, one does not know. “Normal, Vartan judge, the majority are moved. ” Some trade open, a coffee too. The occasion to nibble soft white cheese, a branch of tarragon. There is no work here, industry is bloodless under the double effect of the fall of the USSR and the war. Giraïr Poghossian, small airs of Charles Aznavour, receives us in a vast office: telephones, a lit television. Environment good child - beside the secretary a kettle smokes on a radiator. The Prime Minister unrolls the program of rebuilding: the privatization of the trade and the grounds is completed - “each villager received 6.000 m2 free”. The goods of the State should follow. The government subsidizes the investment: 20 % of the budget of the nation are used for the constitution of capital. One made creed of the market economy in his most liberal version. Welfare expenditures? Health is free for the “vulnerable layers, the pensioners and the children of less than eighteen years”, is two thirds of the population. The social affairs represent 70 % of the budget “except defense”. As for knowing this last… “secret signal”, with precedes the smile of the Prime Minister of it.

The construction of a republic, a fortiori not recognized, is a challenge. Nothing rejects people from here, neither the outdatedness of the communication system, neither the lack of sources of energy and raw materials, nor the lack of funds. “No matter who can invest, the banking structure allows any financial transaction with the whole world, and the economic bonds with Arménie are reinforced. ” Giraïr Poghossian is optimistic. It thinks that quickly “the relationship, now negative, between imports and exports will be reversed”. The arsenal of laws widens, the assembly legislates, the recognized political parties are expressed. If a proof were needed, the establishment of a eight day old visa in due form would convince us. The restriction of displacements appearing in good place recalls there to the visitor that the republic of Haut-Karabakh is in war.

The flags which ondoient beside the banners of Arménie summarize the situation: the colors blue-orange-red of Arménie are crossed by a white broken line, symbol of a fracture which will have to be reduced until fusion in single Arménie. It is the wish of two parts of the same people. All the Armenians, like Vartan, think that that will be done early or late: the events of Georgia and more recently of Kosovo did not extinguish the desire, they just poked concern. “The Turks could call upon NATO to reinstate Karabakh in Azerbaïdjan, thus hoping to erase their defeat of 1992. ” Vartan, at the time to pass by again the border, launches a glance towards the dome of the church of Berdzor. It is the first time that it came here. “I had said you well that Karabakhtsi is a little rough. But how much courageous. ”

Christian Kazandjian