Expressing disappointment, sadness and anger, members of Glendale’s Armenian community gathered downtown Monday after news of an accord in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the local demonstration eventually shutting down part of Central Avenue.
The effusive mood typically shown by Glendale members of the Armenian diaspora at events outside the Armenian Consulate was replaced by somberness as the crowd processed information that had begun trickling out hours earlier. The throng had learned that the peace agreement signed by Armenia largely ceded land in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan that the latter’s army had retaken in the
The agreement, brokered by Russia, is largely seen as a victory for Azerbaijan, which aimed to reassert control of the region — home of Armenian-populated Artsakh — that has mostly functioned autonomously since 1994.
Another demonstration is being planned at 4 p.m. today, Nov. 14, along the Artsakh Avenue promenade downtown, where speakers are expected to denounce the Armenian government’s decision.
“Make no mistake: This agreement is no end to any war,” declared Meghety Hindoyan, a member of the local Armenian Youth Federation chapter, at Monday night’s gathering. “Our strength is eternal and we will fight until the last breath for the freedom of Artsakh and the Armenian people.”
Small groups of people began to assemble outside the consulate shortly after sundown Monday, mostly keeping to their circles, smoking in silence and lighting a single candle in memory of the nearly 1,200 Armenian soldiers reported killed in the hostilities. Within hours, hundreds had gathered, with other speakers airing their anger and smaller arguments boiling over among some crowd members.
Although officers initially attempted to contain the crowd to Lexington Drive, the Glendale Police Department ultimately had to wall off two blocks of Central Avenue to accommodate the crowd.
The deal generated a large protest in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, with the crowd storming and ransacking the country’s parliament and even attacking that body’s speaker, a political ally of the prime minister who signed the deal, in the streets. News reports indicate frustration is rooted in what appeared to be the government’s failure to disclose to the public that Armenia’s military was largely being outmaneuvered by the more sophisticated military of Azerbaijan, boosted by its oil revenues and supplies from Turkey.
The deal grants land presently held by Azerbaijani forces as being controlled by the nation, with an Armenian-populated area around Stepanakert, the Artsakh capital, remaining autonomous. Although that region is now separated from Armenia, the agreement calls for a road linking the two, with Russian peacekeepers on site to secure it.
A similar road will also be constructed across southern Armenia to link mainland Azerbaijan with an Azeri enclave within Armenian borders, again to be monitored by Russian peacekeepers.
Moscow’s involvement stems from its mutual defense treaty with Armenia and diplomatic relationships with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijani forces had shot down a Russian military helicopter in the days preceding the deal, an act seen as possibly incentivizing Azerbaijan to come to the table.
The Artsakh republic declared its independence from Azerbaijani control in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed, although no other nations have recognized it. The newly independent Armenia bolstered Artsakh forces as they fought a three-year war that resulted in the long-held borders of Nagorno-Karabakh that are now being redrawn. Though predominantly populated by Armenians who have established clear cultural links to the region, Nagorno-Karabakh also has been home to Azeris and both Armenia and Azerbaijan see the territory as crucial to their nation-building.
The two nations warred over the territory after World War I, when they each briefly gained independence from Russia before they were absorbed into the Soviet Union.
“We are here to say that we are not against the Armenian government, but we are here to tell the government that they cannot move forward with the concession of our sacred lands,” Hindoyan proclaimed. “We know our history. We know our pain, and it’s not up to any one person or even one generation to seal the fate of the Armenian nation.”