On September 2, 1991, when Artsakh declared independence from the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan it was its first expression of self-determination. That independence was later approved in a referendum cementing the people’s will to decide their fate and to utilize any means to defend themselves against an aggressive enemy that was relentlessly attacking Artsakh on all fronts. Artsakh’s declaration of independence became its saving grace and as we mark the 26th anniversary of that bold move, we must realize that that very independence is sacred and cannot be compromised.
Earlier this year, the people of Artsakh, once again, went to the polling booth to reaffirm the republic’s independence by amending its Constitution to provide more powers to local government and give its people the ability to govern themselves. Another provision of the new Constitution changed the name of the republic to Artsakh from its former Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
In 26 years, the people of Artsakh have endured hardship and continue to live under the threat of war, as Azerbaijan relentlessly violates the cease-fire agreement and attacks Artsakh’s borders. Yet the very people who brave those adversities on a daily basis understand that theirs is a struggle not merely of individual survival but of the perseverance of a nation.
Similarly, the soldiers who are stationed at the frontlines know full well that they are not defending just the Artsakh borders, but those of a homeland—the entire Armenian Nation.
Since the April War in 2016, which was the worst breach by Azerbaijan of the cease-fire agreement since its signing in 1994, the international community has continued to mediate the Karabakh conflict based on the same—unacceptable—principles agreed upon, without taking into consideration that Azerbaijan, as a party to the conflict, is unwilling or unable to negotiate in a civilized manner.
Recent reports indicating that Azerbaijan forced Israeli contractors to live launch a suicide drone on Artsakh targets should signal that official Baku does not play according to norms and rules established by the so-called mediators and is willing to engage a third party, in this case Israel, in its military adventures, with reckless disregard and beligerance.
To call the situation in Artsakh volatile would be an understatement.
Yet despite these life-or-death obstacles, the people of Artsakh, and with it the Republic of Artsakh, continue to flourish. Its residents have long accepted their role as the strong pillars of our nation, knowing full-well that they are not alone in this fight; that an entire nation that spans from Yerevan to Los Angeles and beyond are ready, willing and determined to fight for and advance the struggle, because it is a matter of life and death of a nation.
Since February of 1988, when the Artsakh liberation movement was in its nascent stages, we came together as one nation to demand justice, fight and win a war and participate in the strengthening of Artsakh’s statehood.
Today, Artsakh represents the heartbeat of our national liberation struggle and our collective national aspirations. We have shown in the past that together, as a nation, we can confront adversity and emerge victorious.
As one makes a wish when blowing out birthday candles, let us use the 26th anniversary of Artsakh’s independence to not merely make a wish, but to commit ourselves to this ongoing liberation struggle that today is represented by Artsakh, but tomorrow can become the foundations of a Free, United and Independent Armenia.
Long Live Artsakh.