In my previous column I shared my impressions of the visits and meetings in Azerbaijan. This time I want to tell about the myths and misinterpretations I discovered in the Azerbaijani society during the conversations I had during the visit.
As far as I understand, these myths are a product of Azerbaijani authorities, disseminated through mainstream media. They pose interest for Armenia for several reasons. Firstly, myths are great material for political scientists and propaganda theorists to analyze and to determine their ultimate goal. Here are a few of them, and I leave it to the reader to decide how realistic these assumptions are.
Myth N1: Karabakh’s Armenians lived very well in Soviet Azerbaijan, and in 1986, Karabakh was the most advanced region of Azerbaijan economically and socially. The Karabakh movement was created by a third party, which also later provoked a war between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
Myth N2: The pogroms of Armenians in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad were encouraged by Russia and carried out by Armenians from Kapan. The goal was to drive a wedge between Armenian and Azerbaijani people. By the way, President of Azerbaijan recently repeated this thesis.
Myth N3: Armenians would not have won the Karabakh war without help from Russian troops. Moreover, it was the Russians who fought on the front line, and Armenians followed them to seize the property of Azerbaijani people.
Myth N4: Azerbaijan and Artsakh will easily reach an agreement if Armenian troops withdraw. The people of Artsakh are completely safe, as they are citizens of Azerbaijan like all others, and the constitution guarantees safety to all Azerbaijani citizens regardless of their ethnicity.
Myth N5: The main party hindering establishment of peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia is the Armenian Diaspora, which holds financial assistance as leverage. The main culprits are the old Armenian political parties, which have huge influence over the government of Armenia.
Myth N6: All more or less successful projects carried out in Armenia and Artsakh over the last 20 years were implemented with the funds of benefactors from the Diaspora. All the Armenians from the republic have done in that period is building restaurants and shops.
Myth N7: The economic state of Armenia and Artsakh is worsening day by day and the situation will become critical in a few years. Then, Armenians will ask Azerbaijan to save them, offering Artsakh and adjacent territories in exchange for help.
Myth N8: Most Armenians don’t care about Artsakh. Personal welfare is more important for them. Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh dream of opposite things.
Myth N9: Armenia’s foreign propaganda is defined by ethnic Armenian journalists in Russia. They are also in charge of anti-Azerbaijani propaganda.
Myth N10: Azerbaijan is several times stronger than Armenia in terms of economic and military power. Azerbaijan can easily defeat Armenia in a few days in a new war, but Baku respects the request of world powers and gives Armenia “the last chance” to make concessions in order to avoid hostilities.
Obviously, some of these claims seem doubtful and some others are based on the theory of betrayal. I assume they targeted the domestic audience initially, but later on they made way into the foreign propaganda as well. The Azerbaijani journalists who visited Armenia have already mentioned four of these myths in their reports and interviews. Evidently, Baku is meticulously studying all media publications about our visit to Azerbaijan, so that certain propaganda theses might be brought up again and some others could be replaced.
In conclusion, I would like to note that creating an image of enemy is one of the pillars of information war. As I reread some of the abovementioned myths, it became clear for me that the image of enemy created by the Azerbaijani leadership has nothing to do with the real state of affairs and truth will be painful for the people of Azerbaijan to see, if they see it…
Davit Alaverdyan is Editor-in-Chief at Mediamax and Associate Professor at the Department of Journalism, Yerevan State University (YSU).