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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Armenia: Part I

by Mitchell Moses (JD '09) and Kerry Docherty (JD '09),

Our trip was broken up into two distinct experiences.  Our first 4 days were spent in the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.  Karabakh has been subject to war and occupation for the past century and is now recognized as part of Azerbaijan.  However, Karabakh's roots are in Armenia, over 90% of the population is of Armenian descent, and it does not consider itself part of Azerbaijan.  The events leading to the inclusion of Karabakh in Azerbaijan started immediately after World War I.

As Commissioner of the Nationalities for the Soviet Union, Stalin was charged with appeasing the people of Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan regarding the issue of their physical territory.  Needless to say, the decisions he made were based on political maneuvering rather than territorial integrity or preference.  Historical maps show that Karabakh was/is clearly in the territory of Armenia.  Furthermore, the people of both countries supported the inclusion of Karabakh in Armenia.  Stalin ignored these issues and declared Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan.  His decision centered on the Soviet Union's desire to keep Turkey satisfied, in hopes that it would become a communist nation.

Turkey's strength was also increased by the genocide it conducted against Aremnia and its resulting territorial gains.  Granting Karabakh to Azerbaijan further fulfilled Turkey's wish to eliminate Armenia as a country.

The above events occurred with little conflict because the entire region was under Soviet control.  However, the situation became volatile as the Union began to dissolve in the late 1980's, and the territorial lines of each country became very important, especially under the umbrella of religious conflict in the region.  Fighting broke out between Karabakhi/Armenia forces the Azeris almost immediately.  The initial desire was for Karabakh to reunite with Armenia, but that proved to be unlikely because of the Soviet defined Karabakh was 100% landlocked by Azerbaijan.  Thus, Karabakh declared its independence in late 1991 and fought a war for that independence from 1992 - 1994, ultimately emerging victorious.  In a War that resembled David and Galiath, Karabakh (population 150,000) defeated Azerbaijan (population 7 Million).

The host of our trip, Baroness Caroline Cox, traveled to Karabakh over 40 times during the War and gave aid of all kinds to the over matched country.  Her aid continued after the War in the form of a rehabilitation center.  The country suffered major casualties and lost almost 20% of its population, so rehabilitation was a primary area of focus for the country as it rebuilt itself.  One reason aid from people like Baroness Cox and her organization, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, is so important is that Karabakh is not recognized internationally as a country because of issues concerning territorial integrity.  The lack of recognition keeps many UN sponsored organizations from providing relief.  The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center has helped thousands of people in its ten years, and a large part of our trip was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Center and collaborating to bring more Western health care practices to the country.  The highlight of our interaction with the Rehabilitation Center was visiting it and seeing all of the people who have been helped.  It was truly an inspiration to see how much can be achieved with so few resources.

Other highlights of our visit to Stepanakert, Karabakh were a meeting with the Prime Minister, a State Dinner with the Speaker of Parliament, and a meeting with the Deputy Minister if International Relations.  Each member of the government gave us great insight into the political climate in the region and provided advice on how to form a relationship with Pepperdine and the country.  We are in the process of contacting our new friends and hope to report more on internship opportunities in the months to come.

As a final note on the Karabakh experience, it was an amazing experience to travel with Baroness Cox.  She is a national celebrity and is loved by all.  We could not walk down the street without a group of teary eyed men, women, and children approaching Lady Cox to give her hugs and kind words.  It was a beautiful example of the difference a single person can make.

It's important to note that Karabakh and Armenia are Christian nations surrounded by Muslim countries.  Turkey's actions in the Armenian genocide and Azerbaijan's actions after the dissolution of the Union indicate that Karabakh and Armenia are defending their borders as a matter of self preservation, not one of territorial ambition.