The Nagorny Karabakh conflict has affected people across the region so deeply that it has become a key part of their identity, according to a recent study by International Alert.
“Envisioning Peace” is the largest study of its kind since the 2016 ‘April War’, which marked the worst outbreak of violence in the Nagorny Karabakh since the ceasefire was signed in 1994.
Through over 100 in-depth interviews, communities in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh shared their views on how conflict has impacted their lives, and prospects for reconciliation and peace.
The study found that people have come to view conflict as a ‘normal’ state of affairs, which it warns could hinder attempts at conflict resolution.
One interviewee said: “I haven’t even thought about what my life would be like without the conflict.”
This study was particularly significant as it included the views of a wide range of people: not just those living in rural and urban areas, or in the capital cities, but also those near the frontline and others in internally displaced people (IDP) settlements.
A key finding was that the people most prepared to resolve the conflict peacefully were those most affected by it personally. These include those now living near the Line of Contact or international border, those who had fought and witnessed death and destruction first-hand (doctors, ex-combatants), and young men of conscription age. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, the further people lived from the frontline, the stronger their patriotic views.
“This report’s findings suggest we should draw upon the peacebuilding potential of those who have first-hand experience of war and of living with people from the ‘other’ side. These individuals understand the importance of resolving this conflict and can take practical steps to promote peacebuilding initiatives,” said Carey Cavanaugh, retired US ambassador and former co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, who is now Chairman of the Board of International Alert.
The report found that the protracted nature of the conflict has perpetuated patriarchal gender roles. Male and female interviewees viewed women’s role as focused on caring, motherhood and supporting men. While most respondents believed that everyone suffers from the conflict, they thought that the main responsibility for dealing with it rests with the older male generation. The only exception to this was in Nagorny Karabakh, where everyone was seen as responsible for dealing with conflict.
The results also showed that people consider the conflict too vast and impossible to resolve themselves. Many feel that it should be resolved by the authorities or external players such as the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States or Russia, although paradoxically, the report also found that people did not trust these actors.