The Big Betrayal: Leaving Artsakh in the Lurch

Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian. Los Angeles, 23 September 2023

The saddest thing about betrayal is that
it never comes from your enemies.

According to the wisdom of many centuries,  the essence of any relationship is loyalty. Betrayal is the breach of loyalty, which is not easy to accept if you find yourself abandoned, deserted, or especially forsaken. This emotionally laden word “to forsake” suggests that one is leaving someone or something for which one once had affection, dependence, and trust.

Since the 1980s, the Republic of Armenia has always been there to encourage, help, and support the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) toward their quest for self-determination –except in September 19, 2023!

Most Armenians around the world are disappointed, dismayed, and downright disturbed with the turn of events for the indigenous people of Artsakh. For centuries, Armenians could finally claim some of their ancestral territories from the descendents of the plunderers of their homeland.

The effects of betrayal include shock, loss and grief, morbid pre-occupation, damaged self-esteem, self-doubting, and anger. Not infrequently they produce life-altering changes as well.

The pain would be greater when multiple sources of expectations would let us down. In this personal commentary, I would like to briefly identify some of those entities who took part in this Big Betrayal when Azerbaijan, unprovoked, attacked the beleaguered people of Artsakh to terrorize them into submission after being besieged for over nine months. Those who have shown affinity to Artsakh had failed to come to the rescue at a crucial time when the people of Artsakh needed them the most.

At the top of the totem pole is Federation of Russia, Armenia’s supposedly partner and ally.  It brokered a cease fire treaty on November 9, 2020 between Armenia/Artsakh and Azerbaijan. It deployed about 2,000 peace-keeping forces around Artsakh in order to stop any violence perpetrated by the signatories of the truce.

Despite the truce, however, Azerbaijan attacked Armenia proper and Artsakh, but Russia failed to enforce the terms and conditions of the truce.

Azerbaijan even attacked and occupied some parts of the territories of the Republic of Armenia in 2022. Despite being a member of CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), no action was taken to protect the territorial sovereignty of Armenia.

The second member who betrayed Artsakh is the Armenian military brass. The Armenian generals before the 44-Dar War always assured the people that they were ready to counter any Azerbaijani aggression. In fact, they were busy working on enriching themselves by becoming businessmen to benefit by growing crops on the vast fields occupied from Azerbaijan.

Also, many military officials have been embezzling military appropriation money by purchasing inferior or defective weapons and pocketing the savings in this way.  Just this month, five Armenian Defense Ministry officials were arrested for embezzlement. Medals to pin or rotten eggs should we throw at the chests of the disloyal Armenian generals? You be the judge.

The third members who betrayed Armenia and Artsakh are the men in uniform who were arrested for high treason. For monetary compensation, the Armenian National Security office has indicted over one hundred individuals for passing on secrete information to the Azerbaijani recruiters. Armenia had too many enemies from within. As a result, Azerbaijan knew exactly where and when to strike the military positions of Armenia and Artsakh.

The fourth party which betrayed Artsakh is the so-called civilized international community especially Western Europe. Although they expressed concerns about Azerbaijan’s criminal acts in and out of the battlefield, no sanctions were ever laid on the criminal to stop the cruel treatment of the Armenian people.

The fifth member which betrayed Artsakh is the vast Armenian Diaspora. After the 44-Day War in 2020, it failed to help arm Armenia and Artsakh with modern weapons to face Azerbaijani imminent aggressions. Many articles were published in the Armenian journals such in the USA Armenian Life Magazine,, etc. suggesting ways and means to equip the Armenian army with combat drones. The Diaspora instead acted as another bystander just like the Western nations had done.

The Turks are smarter than most people think. When they usurp something or conquer a territory, they tend to make themselves stronger to be able to keep that which had been stolen from someone else. For 30 years, Armenians have kept Artsakh and the seven surrounding regions without trying to get stronger than Azerbaijan in order to be able to keep what they had already claimed their own and had it in their possession.

The sixth members who betrayed Artsakh are the government officials of Artsakh. All throughout the 30 years of declaring self-independence, Azerbaijan had been strengthening its armed forces with modern weapons, and yet the government of Artsakh kept its head in the sand.

Instead, the government official of Artsakh should have visited the major centers of the Armenian Diaspora to solicit military funds for the purchase of modern weapons. Like the Republic of Armenia, they too slumbered while Azerbaijan was beefing up its armed forces. Expecting Russia or other nations to come to the rescue is a risky strategy by throwing self-sufficiency, self-dependence to the wind.

The seventh member which betrayed Artsakh is the Republic of Armenia when PM Pashinyan signed a peace treaty in 2023 with Azerbaijan. The essence of it was that Azerbaijan would respect the territorial sovereignty of Armenia in return Armenia would accept Artsakh being part of Azerbaijani territory. What a painful way of forsaking an old friend?!

The above ill-conceived agreement gave the license to President Ilham Aliyev to use its artillery and Israeli killer drones to subdue the people of the Artsakh in September of 2023. Reportedly, 27 Armenians were killed and over 400 people were injured, including many buildings were demolished.

The result of the peace agreement emboldened Azerbaijan to demand the complete disarming of the Artsakh Defense Forces, turn in their war weapons and equipment, and dissolve the government of the Republic of Artsakh. This constitutes a complete surrender.

Additionally, Armenians of Artsakh should be ready to accept integration into the Azerbaijani way of life or they would be allowed to immigrate into Armenia or anywhere else. Thus, the end of the dream of an Armenian Artsakh is sealed.

Who is the Biggest Betrayer of Artsakh? In my opinion, it must be the Republic of Armenia that has forsaken Artsakh in the hope of saving parts of the Republic of Armenia from being taken by Azerbaijan.  The government of Armenia has thrown the people of Artsakh to the wolves, which have been waiting to erase any trace of Armenians in Artsakh.

Leaving the indigenous people of Artsakh in the lurch, meaning to abandon, desert or forsake someone in difficult straits, would baffle our new generations who would scratch their heads and say “How Unpatriotic!” Also, the consequences of this Big Betrayal will haunt Armenians for years to come.

The bottom line is this: forsaking an old friend in times of trouble is a unacceptable behavior for the Armenian people who pride themselves for adhering to the ethical principle of what is right and what is wrong. For them, forsaking an old friend is not only wrong, but a cardinal sin.

Hopefully, we would be able to inspire our new generation to continue with the quest for the self-determination of a handful of people left in Artsakh. Hope springs eternal as they say.

Finally, do we have to have a calamity to learn a lesson? Unless we Armenians bite the bullet and accept that we are a bunch of egoistic, chauvinistic, and know-it-alls, we would remain disunited and become an easy prey to our proverbial predators.

Thirty years of building the Republic of Artsakh was thrown out of the window by committing a fatal mistake. I call that a Big Betrayal on the part of the government of Armenia. Like most Armenians, I have also emotionally invested in the future of Artsakh. After so many years of conquest, we had the real chance to recover some of our ancestral lands. Hopefully, unlike Nakhitchevan, a good number of Armenians will remain in Artsakh and keep the flame of our hope burring to one day rise and claim it back –this time around with unity and strength.

  1. I agree with all of the points that you have mentioned regarding the betrayal of Artsakh except the seventh.
    The occupation and evacuation of the population of Artsakh was expected to happen at any time after the 44 day war. Nothing was going to stop Azerbaijan to take the rest of Artsakh then. I believe that they did not in order to toy with Armenia in demoralizing it. As for a military intervention by Armenia in Artsakh would require to cross first Azerbaijan to reach Artsakh. That would have surely meant an all out war.

  2. We should call a spade a spade and address the following!
    2-Both Catholicoses Karekin and Aram, Archbishops all the way to the bottom priest are also responsible for the demise of Artsakh. Rather than giving broad patriotic sermon/speeches they should have used their posts to bring attention to the cause. They should have practiced what they preached by being part of the fabric, being at the meetings, next to the soldiers in the battlefield, being in the centuries old churches in Artsakh.
    2-Political party leaders, rather than serving the interest of foreign nations, creating chasm in our societies both in Armenia and diaspora, and eying the throne, they should have worked tirelessly uniting the people.
    3-Army generals/commanders. Don’t know where to start…
    4-More importantly leaving behind “its not me its you” mindset! All of us should have done our parts.

  3. When I heard that Armenia had not accepted Artsakh as a free state and it had not accepted Artsakh as part of its territories, I was shocked.
    What have they been doing for 30 years?

    Then I heard that Macron of France said they were ready to accept it as a free state, but they were waiting for Armenia to do so.Nikol Pashinyan tells him that he does not need them to accept anything. What????

    I hear that Russia doesn’t want Armenia to declare Artsakh as independent. What????

    Then I hear that the previous government closed down factories, they took them apart and sold the iron to Azerbaijan.

    France offers to send an army (about a year ago?). Nikol says no, they don’t need help, the Russian soldiers will help them.

    Aliyev pays millions of dollars to Nikol so that Armenia doesn’t update the military.

    Someone, a journalist says to Nikol (this is before the Sep 2020 war) to buy drones. Nikol doesn’t give a damn.
    Soldiers sell info to the enemy during the war.

    What is going on with Armenia?
    What are all these stories I am hearing about?

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