A deal imposed by Russia put an end to the battle over Nagorno-Karabakh for now, leaving Armenians to pack up and burn their homes as they retreat, while Azerbaijan returns to long-lost lands Let’s plan.
by Anton Troynowski And
Snap by Mauricio Lima And
KELBAJAR, Azerbaijan – Cars, trucks and vans jammed mountain roads deep into the night on Saturday, defending all Armenians: upholstered furniture, livestock, glass doors.
When they left, many set fire to their homes, covered their escapes in their heavy smoke and illuminated it in an orange glow. Near some of the burning houses stood old ruins: the remains of the houses had been abandoned a quarter century earlier, when Azerbaijan fled and moved into Armenian territory.
In the southern Caucasus Mountains, bordering Europe and Asia, the weekend was at a turning point for decades between Armenia and Azerbaijan, over isolated and mountainous lands that both believed their rights were . In the 1990s, it was forced to leave the Azerbaijanis. Now, it is Armenian, a new tragedy for them and a victory for their enemies.
“How do I burn it?” The 53-year-old Armenian Ashshot Khansyan mentioned the house he had built and was about to land in the town of Kelbazar. His neighbors had urged him to destroy the house, he said, but, “my conscience will not disappoint me.”
He was packing his hens, tying his legs with white string, but he said he would leave his potatoes behind.
The New York Times came to Armenian-controlled areas and Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to document this pivotal moment for both sides in the conflict. The war has drawn in some of the region’s largest international powers, with Turkey struggling to prevent fighting in Azerbaijan and Russia in a region.
Russian peacekeepers, overseeing the handover, arrived in the armored personnel carrier on Friday in Kelbazar district. He established one of his observational posts in Dadivank, a centuries-old monastery that is feared by Armenians, who are predominantly Christian, incoming Azerbaijanis, who are predominantly Muslim.
“When an Armenian is born, they all know about Artsakh,” said 24-year-old Vargheen Vertayan, in tears, using the Armenian word for Nagorno-Karbakh. Along with hundreds of other Armenians, she prayed in Dadivank on Friday to bid her final farewell, which may be the last time.
Unlike the scenery in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, can hardly be brisk. There, celebratory flags hung on almost every surface, hanging from balconies, hanging on car roofs and windows, and wrapped around the shoulders of a teenager in a martyr’s alley cemetery on a hill above the Caspian Sea.
After President Ilham Aliyev announced the end of the war on Tuesday, the streets exploded with joy in Azerbaijan, and the Armenian army would withdraw from the three districts adjoining Nagorno-Karabakh and return them to the control of Azerbaijan.
“We are very happy because we finally won, thank God,” said Ibrahim Ibrahimov, 18, a computer science student who is walking with two friends near the sea in Baku. “Finally, the people of Karabakh can go home.”
When both countries were part of the Soviet Union, the Armenians and Azerbaijan lived together, but centuries of ethnic enmity ruled when communism collapsed. Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian, ended as part of Azerbaijan. Armenia won the war on the region in the early 1990s which killed about 20,000 people and displaced one million people, most of whom were from Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijanis were expelled not only from Nagorno-Karbakh, but also from the surrounding seven districts, including Kelbazar, which was mostly inhabited by the Azerbaijanis. The entire region became an internationally unrecognized, ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijan’s desire to return to its citizens, who were displaced from their homes, became a driving force in its politics.
A quarter-century of on-and-off talks failed to resolve the deadlock, and on 27 September, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev launched an offensive to resume the region by force. Advanced drones, funded by Azerbaijan’s oil and gas boom, drove the Armenians into their trenches. At least 2,317 Armenian soldiers died; Azerbaijan has not released a death toll.
In early November, Azerbaijan’s army approached the fortified city of Shusha – a place steeped in history and symbolism for both countries – with Azerbaijan barely sleeping, watching the state television channel for news.
The 37-year-old Temur recalls the moment when Mr. Aliyev announced that Azerbaijan had taken Tushar. He said that he had seen the announcement with his aunt in his one-room apartment, as neighbors poured in to greet. Many of them, like his family, are from Shusha. He asked that his surname not be published to maintain the family’s privacy.
“It’s the end of craving and living the bad times,” he said. “When you are a displaced person, and when you are longing for that place and you cannot go to it, that place becomes more than just a stone or a mountain, it becomes like a loving person . You want to kiss it, and lie down on it and feel the energy from the earth. “
About one lakh people were uprooted by the first war between the two in the 1990s and settled in towns and settlements in Azerbaijan. Many families still live in the cramped apartments in Baku and its surroundings, and their joy at the promise of return was celebrated with grief.
“We are very happy, but many of our youth died in that place,” said 48-year-old Eleanred Mamedova in Nagorno-Karabakh and recently about the fight. “All the bodies are coming back now.”
He opened a picture on the phone of his neighbor’s son, who was shot in the head of a soldier in the hospital. “He’s been in a coma for 40 days,” she said. Another neighbor’s son was missing, he said. “We don’t know where he is, maybe he’s caught.”
It was not clear when the displaced would be able to return to Azerbaijan. Mr. Aliyev has promised to rebuild the infrastructure and rid the area of land mines before allowing families to return.
On Saturday, at busy hours, before they felt that Azerbaijan was scheduled to control the Kelbazar district (the deadline for leaving was extended for 10 days on Sunday), departing Armenians made the region as difficult as possible. Determinations to make appeared. They toppled power lines and left restaurants and gas stations. Men with chain saws are driven out of the side of the road, wrens and trucks fill freshly cut logs in beds.
“Let them die of cold,” said a man, who had come from Armenia, collecting logs.
At a bank in Kelabazar on Friday, a worker was breaking down internal walls with a major malfunction while workers moved everything – windows, desks, doors – into a truck. At the police station, officers kept a farewell bottle of vodka, while a three-foot-long white cone of burning documents was hidden in the back.
“These were always Armenian lands!” A police officer shouting asked who had previously lived in Kelabazar.
One of the few living in Kelabazar district was Hovnes Hovhanisyan, the residence of Dadivank Math. When he arrived in 1993 with Armenian troops taking control of the area, he found that the beautiful hilltop monastery had been turned into a cattle yard, he said.
Hundreds of Armenians crowded the grounds of the monastery for a final prayer on Friday; Many brought their children to be baptized. Some of the monastery’s unique, carved-stone stalls, known as mules, were installed on a wooden pallet, apparently to be removed. Suddenly, down below, the house of the protector of the monastery burst into flames.
“I told him don’t touch it!” Said Abbott Hovhannison, referring to the guards, who had apparently ignored his insults.
In Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, tensions had escalated in recent days as protesters accused Prime Minister Nicolene Pashinen of a peace deal accusing them of treason. Mr Pashinyan and defense officials said Armenia, surrounded on the battlefield, had no choice – a statement that came as a shock to one country, and a global migrant, united in patriotic support of the war effort Was.
After 43-year-old police officers in Bairalavas were detained by protesters, he said, “We said we were winning, and then suddenly it turned out that we were not winning.” “This is treason.”
On the Central Republic Square in Yerevan, a huge screen broadcast cellphone video was shot by Armenian soldiers. One threatened retaliation against Azerbaijan.
“For every broken window, for every broken house, we will enter your houses,” said the soldier, his voice echoing throughout the square. “You will not be able to sleep peacefully.”
Last week President Vladimir V. About 2,000 Russian forces would patrol the line between Azerbaijan and Armenian-controlled areas for at least five years under a deal made by Putin. The deal reclaimed Russian influence in the former Soviet Southern Caucasus, and the arrival of the Russians was largely welcomed by ethnic Armenians who said they planned to remain in the Nagorno-Karabakh section which Aruna remains in control.
But still amidst heartbreak, some older Armenians recalled the days when they lived with Azerbaijanis as friends and neighbors – still relatively recently impossible for the younger generation to imagine. 53-year-old Igor Badalian, an Armenian who fled his hometown Baku a quarter-century ago, said it was politicians, not regular people who were to blame for the conflict.
“People fight each other like dogs are against each other,” he said, going to Dadivank with his wife on Friday and collecting stones and earth in farewells. He said, it is sad that it happened like this. We did not want it that way.
Anton Troynowski reported from Kelbazar, and Carlotta Gal from Baku, Azerbaijan.