For Artsakh’s Survival: Some Damage Control Strategies

Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Los Angeles, 28 September 2023

Sometimes even to live is an act of courage

On September 20, 2023, Artsakh surrendered to Azerbaijan after an unprovoked blitzkrieg attack at Stepanakert, the capital city of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). After the first day of the attack on September 19, 2023, the casualties consisted of 200 deaths and some 400 injured due to the surprise attack by Azerbaijani forces on the trumpeted-up excuse for rooting out hidden terrorists from Artsakh.

For a complete capitulation, Azerbaijan demanded from the Artsakh leaders to disarm their Defense Forces, turn in their weapons and equipment, and dissolve their government body.

For nearly 30 years, Armenians around the world have invested in Artsakh in terms of energy, efforts, and dreams. Instead of spending on projects in the Republic of Armenian, most of the money raised in the Diaspora has been spent on Artsakh. New roads, bridges, schools, government buildings, defense forces, and other infrastructures were built there over the years.

Boom! In 24 hours, all the improvements and developments in Artsakh have been handed over to Azerbaijani authorities.

Basically, I see three somewhat mutually non-exclusive ways to categorize an important loss through the mindset of those who had lost their homeland:

  1. Lost forever – What has been lost is gone with the wind. We do not fuss about it anymore. Therefore, there is no need to plan for the future. This is another sad chapter in the history of the Armenian people. Pessimism rules the mood of everyone.
  2. Temporarily lost –Chances are good we would regain the loss within a short period of time. Therefore, it is a matter of remaining patient before our Western friends will get us back what has been lost. A moderate level of optimism seems to prevail.
  3. Hopeful of recovery –Although there are remote chances we would regain that which has been lost sometime in the distant future, but we do not know as to when that will take place. Therefore, there is a need for a     long-  term   planning to realize, to materialize the day that which has    been lost is regained. There is a very weak pessimism for the present,  but greater optimism for the future.

Especially, the above third mindset requires the application of Damage Control (DC) concept and practice, which can be defined as “action taken to limit the damaging effects of an accident or error”.

The DC concept and practice have been used in many human activities. Surgeons have used the concept of damage control surgery for years, and controlling hemorrhage with packing is over a century old. In the area of medical surgery, DC has been used in recessitation as well.

DC has also been extensively used in the maritime incidents for management by objectives to minimize further loss in an accident. For example, in a maritime accident when a ship hits an iceberg, the ship follows certain DC strategies and equipment planned in advance (i.e., as contingency plans) to avoid management by crisis.

To continue with the above example, if water were to rush into one of the chambers of the ship due to a hole in the hull of the ship, measures will be immediately taken to shut down that chamber to stop the flow of the water into the other parts of the ship. Or, if they want to evacuate the people onboard, they have ready lifeboats hanging on davits ready to be hoisted down to move people to safety.

In the case of Artsakh, it is analogous to a shipwreck. While the people did not have contingency plans for DC, measures need to be taken, nevertheless, to minimize their loss.

While DC is scientifically applied in a ship accident, or in medical surgery, the use of it for social and political purposes has not been yet put in specific methods of operation. Many industries have devised their own DC based on management by objectives rather than dealing with accidents based on management by crisis.

The calamity of Artsakh is analogous to a ship in distress or to a shipwreck. Artsakh is being the ship sinking and the passengers and the crew as the people. It is important that measures be taken to minimize losses in terms of material and human lives. DC is adaptable to any situation that goes awry.

Of the the two, life and land, the former is the most important. However, when life is in a safe and secure mode, then land, especially when it is a homeland, is also imprtant to try to save it.

Ideas have changed the world; ideas hopefully will help the indigenous people of Artsakh. Strategies proposed here to be followed now for the future realization of getting back most of what has been lost now.

1. If the Armenians would risk life and limb by staying in Artsakh, then they should evacuate immediately, but if the danger is not real, or a ploy for ethnic cleansing, then they should not abandon their homeland. Of course, President Ilham Aliyev wants them to leave as soon as possible to claim his second victory over the Armenians.

If the decision is to leave, then lock up your house and leave a forwarding address and phone number, if any, posted on the door and take pictures of it. Do take all your property titles with you and take pictures of all your valuables to be left behind.  Through registered mail, send the information on your property and whereabouts you would be reached to the Office of the Foreign Relations of Azerbaijan or to the newly established office to deal with Artsakh Armenians. Otherwise, your property will be sold for a song as an “abandoned” house or it may be given away to an Azeri citizen.

Please do not forget to apply for a passport at the same time as you contact the Office of the Foreign Relations. For your real estate property, you may even later use it as a summer house until you make a final decision about it. As you know, you may also have dual citizenship.

In 1939, after WWI, when France decided to hand over the Syrian Province of Antioch under its mandate to Turkey, the Armenian community there left the province in a hurry without any DC for fear Turks would massacre them again.  As a result, they lost nearly everything even though France had made agreements with Turkey to minimize their losses.

Later I found out that my parents’ house was sold by the government for 1,000 liras (about $33 in the 1960s) and the money was put at the central bank in an non-interest bearing account. The lucky buyer had turned the house into a small maternity hospital. The loss was due to lack of DC measures taken in 1939.

2. If the risk of danger of staying in Artsakh is not that high, then Artsakh leaders should make an effort to keep as many Armenians as possible stay in the homeland — provided there is no more any change for their bodily harm to come their way.

In my opinion, PM Nikol Pashinyan is making a mistake to emphasize time and again that the Republic of Armenia can accept 40,000 refugees from Artsakh. The more Armenians were to stay in Artsakh safely and securely, the better chances of recovering the enclave when the opportune time present itself either during our lifetime or during the life time of our next generations to come.

3. History tells us that Armenians have had the tendency to give up their homeland and establish new ones elsewhere. Three big examples of Armenian exodus into exile are the Hemshen Armenians who fled their homeland from the vicinity of Lake Van around 620 or 780 AD when the Arabs attacked Armenia. The second exodus was when the Seljuk Turks invaded Armenia, a large group of Armenians established a new principality in Cilicia in 1080. And the most recent example is the fate of the Nakhitechvan Armenians who abandoned their homes there and moved to Soviet Armenia due to the shabby treatment of Azeris when Nakhitchevan was assigned as an Autonomous Republic under the Azerbaijani control in 1921. Presently, there is nowhere to establish a new homeland for the Artsakh people.

4. For integration into Azerbaijani society, Armenian leaders should negotiate with the Azerbaijani government to let the Armenian schools, churches, and social clubs operating as before. If President Ilham Aliyev boasts of having a multicultural nation, he should allow different ethnic groups in Azerbaijan exercise their religion, language, and traditions with utmost ease and freedom.

5. Keep educational relations with the Republic of Armenia open and encouraged. The Armenian Diaspora and the Republic of Armenia should offer scholarships to Artsakh students to continue with their higher education in Armenia.

6. Establish a teacher exchange program with the Republic of Armenia. For example, the University of Yerevan and the University of Artsakh should not lose time to establish a teacher exchange program if they already do not have one.

7. Keep Artsakh alive in the minds and hearts of the new generation both in the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh through various cultural events. Music is a big attraction to young people to come together for concerts and festivals.

8. When organizing conferences in the Republic of Armenia, always invite the people of Artsakh to attend.

9. Try to avoid blaming the demise of Artstakh on either the Republic of Armenia or the leaders of Artsakh. The unfortunate incident would create hard feelings and even contribute toward becoming revengeful. Measures should be taken to pin the blame on the real culprit, Azerbaijan, where it really belongs.

10. The Republic of Armenia should encourage Artsakh to sell part of its agricultural products to it. Commerce will also bring people together and foster friendly relations.

11. The Republic of Armenia should offer asylum to the former government officials of Artsakh if Azerbaijan forces them to go into exile. They would be symbols of freedom to remind the people of Artsakh that they were once free and hopeful to build a strong democracy through the principle of self-determination.

12. Try to be registered with the Amnesty International as the indigenous people with an ancestral homeland occupied by Azerbaijan. There are 476 million indigenous people and speak more than 4,000 languages around the world and they are spread across more than 90 countries. The vast majority of the indigenous people –70 percent–live in Asia.

Amnesty International has worked to defend the rights of indigenous people in all regions of the world and demands that states apply and develop needed laws to protect their properties in terms of lands, cultures, and livelihoods. Here is where to write for more information as to what to do to protect your rights: Office at the United Nations, New York ∇ Amnesty International Tel: +1 212 867 8878 United Nations Office Fax: +1 212 370 0183 777 United Nations Plaza, fourth floor E-mail: AIUN @ AI-UN-NY New York, NY 10017 U.S.A.

13. The people of Artsakh should know that Armenians are there for them. Armenians around the world would do their best to help them out with their distressful times. Sometimes, moral support would do more to a beleaguered people than by just giving them money.

14. Any social, cultural, economic activities that would enhance the possibility of the people of Artsakh to remain in their ancestral land would be a win-win situation for the Armenian nation. Only the indigenous people can control the destiny of Artsakh.

Many Armenians may consider attempts at keeping Armenians in Artsakh would be a futile effort. Regardless, we should try to perpetuate the presence of Armenians in Artsakh even if there is a sliver of a chance to succeed –provided they would be safe and secure there. It would be better to chase a ray of hope rather than become despondent of any success.

Let us remember and be inspired by another indigenous people ruled by Azerbaijan. The Talysh people in Azerbaijan also declared independence from Azerbaijan in the early 1993. After three months of building a government called Talysh-Mughan Autonomous Republic (aka Tayshistan) led by Alikram Hummatove who became its first president, the former President Hydar Aliyev crushed their movement just after three months of independence. Despite their defeat, the Talysh people remained in Azerbaijan waiting in the wings for an opportunity one day to become independent again when Azerbaijan as an empire will implode from within.

Some may very well consider my kind of thinking naive, but I firmly believe that it is better to have hope, high spirits, and dreams in one’s heart and mind than the destructive feelings of despair and despondence. Those who dream are risk-takers who plan for the future for survival is a delicate balance between risk and reward.

I also strongly believe that one day we shall all have a community picnic in a lush valley in the shadow of our majestic Mount Ararat, have a concert at one of the lofty castles of Cilicia, and enjoy a barbecue (Ah, khorovats!) and a hike in the stunningly beautiful mountains of Artsakh –when all these sacred places become again the inalienable Homeland of the Armenian people around the world.


The people of Artsakh, like this ship in the picture, are in difficult straights. What the people of Artsakh plan for Damage Control will determine the future of their homeland. They should not forget that every winter has its spring. It has been often stated that Armenians are a bunch of resilient people, meaning they rise from the ashes. We hope, pray and dream that the indigenous people of Artsakh will one day be able to roam again through its stunningly beautiful mountainous landscape of their homeland.

  1. Diaspora Armenians can save Armenia, but only with a dramatic change in mindset and long term goals. The recent events in Artsakh are proof that the naive approach of sending money/support to Armenia or Artsakh was not the correct strategy. What is needed is a strong diaspora, one that can mobilize when the motherland calls. What is needed, is emulating that small country in the middle east, which has been able to carve territory and thrive, despite all odds, simply because of the power of its diaspora. Simply put, what is needed, is to divert the money and energy to supporting young Armenians in various communities in the diaspora , to get higher education, start businesses, run for political office and basically succeed and thrive no matter where they live outside of Armenia. Stop the futile attempts to build an Armenia, and start building a strong Diaspora first.

  2. I miss from the article the imperative (actually urgent since 1995) to upgrade the Armenian military into a force superior in its capabilities to the IDF: a force capable of defeating any non-great-power adversary in a war on any part of historic Armenian territory. This will require massive investment not only in training and equipment but in intelligence: the placing of moles throughout our enemies’ command and control structures, the ability to blind our enemies’ information-gathering and processing capacities, the reduction of our enemies’ forces to undefended targets. Our goal for the next half-century should be the partition and elimination of the enemy state to the east and the recognition of the enemy state to the west that it cannot sustain its policies of aggression. This is our only choice if we wish to avoid becoming again the victims of genocide.

  3. Good try.
    No captain, and no Armenian national leadership “sionaganutune”exists.

    This article is beyond naive. Directing records of people’s centuries old heritage to Azerbaijani system or United Nations? A joke. Pashinyan “inviting“ 40,000 to Armenia after declaring Artsakh is part of Azerbaijan. Not a joke but the crime of centuries.

    Armenians of Artsakh, like others before have yet to learn to stay put. Not be driven out.

    The author of the article must be aware also that the diaspora Armenians have no leadership either. Thanks to the very well planned/schemed long term interventions in the nation’s internal affairs, the tashnags, ramgavars, hnchags, Assembly, AGBU – not Noubar Pasha’s but a Setragian running it, and inept clergy there is irreparable divisions.
    The diaspora is here to help? Yes individuals send donations but no united effort to plan for now, let alone the future.
    The article needs to cry for leadership and national unity.

    Along with public relations, it is time for Njdehs to intervene. Not ideas.

  4. When we beat the Azeris thirty years ago, we–especially our leaders in Armenia and Artsakh–should have realized the victory was not sustainable. The enemy had three times our population and bottomless oil/gas mines. The first PM was pushed out for saying so. The next two prime ministers were corrupt ruffians. They dragged the negotiations while the enemy’s arsenal was being enlarged by Turkey and Israel. They made little effort to form military/diplomatic alliances.

    A number of the army’s senior leaders were corrupt while hundreds of treacherous soldiers sold their homeland’s military secrets for a couple of thousand dollars. Then came Pashinyan: all emotions and no brains. A Russophobe, he made it clear he wanted to jump the fence and join the West. Not an intelligent man, he couldn’t see that Turkey plus Azerbaijan (pop. 93 million) were far more important to NATO than Armenia. Besides, a large percentage of Armenia’s citizens were Russophiles Slow-witted Pashinyan was left hanging in the air–he had angered the Russians without gaining the protection of the West.

    Unprotected, Armenia lost a large chunk of land to Azerbaijan last year. This year it might lose more. Pashinan is Armenia’s Saakashvili. Had Aliyev-Erdogan appointed an agent to run Armenia, the agent couldn’t have done a better job in undermining Armenia and Artsakh.

    Artsakh leaders and people should have abandoned Artsakh years ago, because everyone knew that neither Armenia nor Artsakh were capable of stopping the Azeris who were being helped by Turkey and Israel. Perhaps as a result of voluntary evacuation, they might have received financial compensation from Baku. Brave without muscle.

  5. To Mr. Mardirossian who wondered about our captain.

    The captain is one Nikol Pashinyan. Although his first name means, victory in Greek, he is a big league loser. While a journalist, he was convicted of libel. He was also expelled from university. He eventually fashioned himself as a Messiah who would save Armenia.. This “Armenian” Saakashvili decided to switch horses and head west. He surrounded himself with western NGO liberal activists .Among the NGOs are Armenia Open Society,, OXFAM UK, Eco- Globe Environmental, World Vision, CARE, Democracy Now, Transparency International, Peaceful Change…some 3,400 people. USAID gave him billions as reward but the sum was smaller than the profits Armenia made through trade with Russia and China. The USAID bribe couldn’t replace trade. Samantha Powers promised more money during her trip. Recently, it was trumpeted that Armenian and US troops would hold maneuvers. The public wasn’t told the maneuvers were not about defense: they were about how to control demonstrations, protests, etc.

    Despite the disastrous 2020 war, the sheep-like Armenian electorate re-elected this loser. And now the Artsakh tragedy which started when this joker declared “Artsakh is Armenia.” Until then we were negotiating with the Az about the future of Artsakh. His stupid declaration sent the message to Baku that negotiations were pointless. Soon after (2020), the Az attacked, killing 6,000 (?) Armenians. It then sliced a chunk of Armenia land.

    The man (?) who precipitated the 2020 War, changed his tune and later said Artsakh belongs to Azerbaijan, indicating that Armenia would not get involved if the Az moved on Artsakh. We saw the result.

    A few days ago he stated Armenia would not admit Artsakh refugees. He then changed his brainless mind because he feared an uprising.

    I understand he has secretly acquired Canadian citizenship and has a palatial home north of Toronto. Don’t be surprised to learn that when his situation becomes impossible, the CIA flies him and his Lady Macbeth wife to Toronto.

  6. I agree with Mesrob.

    It doesn’t make sense to go to war with a nation that is superior in numbers and superior in technology.

    Azerbaijan in 1991 was militarily equal to Armenian’s military and perhaps it was ill prepared and so, they lost the war.

    But they made a fortune by selling petrol and invested in their military.

    On top of that, the UN wrote multiple resolutions. I think 4, back in 1991, 1992, 1993.
    The top countries of the world asked Armenia to return Artsakh back to Azerbaijan. They all signed the resolutions. None of them have retracted anything.

    So, what do you want to do? Convince them that those lands belonged to you hundred years ago?
    The only country that is interested is France.
    I hear that France offered military aid but Pashinyan refused. is this true?
    I am hearing so many ridiculous stories that I am skeptical.

    There are a couple of problems.
    1. Population:
    For some reason, Armenians are low in numbers. How could they invade an enemy of 80 million while Armenians globally are only 8 million?
    Without a large population, you are not going to have enough workforce, not enough resources, not enough taxes being collected.
    The Armenian population, both locally and in the Diaspora is not growing.
    I am guessing it is the same for Greece and the other western countries. They are not going up by much either.

    2. Religion:
    Religion played a big role in the past and being a lonely small christian population is not a good idea when you are surrounded by Muslims.
    There is a big difference between Christianity and Islam. Christianity means nothing to western countries. They are businessmen.
    Islam is something else. When Azerbaijan needs help, they received a lot of help from various ISIS and whatever groups.

    Usually, it is christian nations that have major wars with each other: WW1, WW2.
    Look at Russia vs Ukraine.

  7. If it is true that Pashinyan has recently acquired Canadian citizenship and a mansion near Toronto, it is time, for those who set Pashinyan up to destroy the Armenian nation, to provide him with safe exit. “After me the deluge”.

  8. Vrej,
    Reacting to one of your points “1. Population.”

    It isn’t for some reason that Armenians are few in number. The Genocides perpetrated by turkey in 1915 and even before, was/were the reason for the Armenian numbers.

    Those who survived the death marches and all, were no longer in historic Armenia or Cilicia where they could keep their identity as Armenians. They got absorbed into foreign countries getting assimilated. Marrying odars, having children who spoke foreign languages and adopted foreign cultures.

    The other reason is that unlike Muslims who sometimes marry several wives and get many children, Armenians bring one or two. Vast difference.

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