Author: Oleg KUZNETSOV
At the end of January, a monument to Nazi henchman Garegin Nzhdeh was solemnly unveiled in the Armenian-populated city of Khojavend in the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan, within the Russian peacekeepers’ area of responsibility. According to Armenian media, the Nzhdeh monument has been actually installed before the outbreak of hostilities and was supposed to be unveiled on Nzhedh’s commemoration day in November 2020. Now they present this event as a triumph of the Armenian spirit in the conditions of total military defeat of the Armenian army and the political regime.
In fact, Garegin Nzhdeh and his openly racist theory of Tseghakron have gained increasing popularity and have even been deified in modern Armenia after the country gained independence back in the 1990s. Tseghakron has become the official state ideology of Armenia. Nzhdeh's ultra-radical nationalism has long become the flesh and blood of the Armenian political spectrum, if not the entire Armenian society. Therefore, we cannot expect this practice to be abandoned in the near future. It is not surprising that the monument to Nzhdeh was installed on the site of a dilapidated memorial to Soviet soldiers fallen in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. Such metamorphoses of symbolic meanings are absolutely natural and logical for Armenia and the Armenian separatists in Garabagh. Over the past 30 years, clerical Nazism, which acknowledges only one religion, one church and one nation legitimate, has replaced the ideals of friendship of peoples, internationalism and ethnocultural diversity. Therefore, there is a significant shift in moral dominants, resulting in the replacement of heroes.
Armenian authorities have introduced a systematic and purposeful Nazification of the country at least in the last twenty years. They have gradually turned Armenia into a Nazi country in full compliance with Nzhdeh’s theory of Tseghakron, which assumed that the highest value for every Armenian was his nation, outside of which he cannot exist in entirety. The purpose of Tseghakron is to unite the Armenian people in all the territories they consider their historical homeland to form a single Armenian state. However, the concept of "historical homeland" or "historical Armenia" centred in the Ararat valley means a vast geographic region in the north of Western Asia, including the territories in Asia Minor, Armenian Highlands and a part of the South Caucasus. Moreover, the territory of the modern Republic of Armenia is only one tenth of the "historical Armenia". In other words, Tseghakron favours significant expansion of the state borders of Republic of Armenia to cover the area of "historical Armenia", thereby putting forward territorial claims to all neighbouring states, that is Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey.
In fact, Garegin Nzhdeh has never been to Garabagh. And he spent only five years of his rather long life (1866-1955) in modern Armenia, serving a sentence in a local prison half of this time. Nzhdeh was born in the village of Kaznut, 5 km from Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan, where he spent his childhood. He received his primary education in Kaznut, secondary education in the Tiflis gymnasium (Georgia), and higher education in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 1907-1911, after an unsuccessful attempt to engage in nationalist propaganda, he was sentenced to house arrest to be served in the house of his older brother near Julfa, Azerbaijan. Then he was exiled to Bulgaria. In 1914, Nzhdeh joined the Russian Military Service as part of the 2nd Armenian volunteer squad of the Caucasian Front. He first appeared in Armenia in 1918, where he soon became one of the army commanders. In 1921, the Red Army pushed his troops to Persia, from where he emigrated to Bulgaria. He lived there until October 1944, having collaborated with Nazi intelligence services (Abwehr and SD-Ausland) during the Second World War. Nzhdeh was eventually arrested by the Soviet military counter-intelligence agency SMERSH and taken to Moscow. In 1946-1948, he was held in the inner prison of the Ministry of State Security (MGB) of the Armenian SSR in Yerevan. After sentencing, he was transferred to Russia to serve his sentence in the Vladimir prison of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he died of an illness.
A monument to Nzhdeh in Garabagh, which he has never been affiliated with, is the glorification of his personality, as well as the propaganda and commemoration of Tseghakron, his teaching, which justifies and encourages the territorial expansion of Armenian nationalism. Tseghakron of Nzhdeh was the ideological basis of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan in 1988-1994. Therefore, the Nzhdeh memorial in Khojavend is an absolutely logical and natural manifestation of this ideology for the Armenians of Garabagh. The opening ceremony served a sole purpose of making Armenians cherish radiant hopes for an ephemeral independence from Azerbaijan.
As a Russian national, I am especially worried that the inauguration ceremony of the Nzhdeh monument took place not just in Garabagh, but in the territory, which is ‘under the temporary control of Russian peacekeepers.’ It’s an ambiguous situation, which does not add value to the image of Russia in the modern world but in Armenia. This is the most annoying thing about the whole situation.
As a member of the UN General Assembly, Russia is categorically against the glorification of Nazism in any form and in any country, especially in the post-Soviet space, positioning itself in the international arena as the leader of this process. But on the other hand, Russian peacekeepers in Garabagh de facto encourage Armenian separatists. It was the Russian delegation to the UN that initiated the adoption back in 2012 of the UN General Assembly Resolution on Combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The following statement was published on the official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 6, 2019: "… the former ruling Republican party of Armenia took steps to memorise Garegin Nzhdeh, a controversial nationalist politician, who was reportedly involved in cooperation with the Third Reich." Less than two years later, Russian peacekeepers actually began to protect the monument to the collaborationist of the Third Reich.
On the one hand, Russia demolishes a monument to Nzhdeh installed in the courtyard of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Armenian Gregorian Church in the city of Armavir, Krasnodar Krai of Russia in December 2019, but one the other hand, after a little over a year, it allows to solemnly unveil a new one in Khojavend of Garabagh. It means that Russian authorities view Nzhdeh as a Nazi criminal and prohibit the propaganda of his personality and teachings in Russia, but turn a blind eye to the glorification of Nzhdeh’s personality as a national hero of Armenia and the entire Armenian people beyond the Russian borders, particularly under the protection of Russian peacekeepers.
Finally, from a diplomatic point of view. Russia recognises the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and considers Garabagh, including the city of Khojavend, an integral part of Azerbaijan, which firmly and consistently opposes the glorification of Nazism, as demonstrated by President Ilham Aliyev during the summit of the Council of CIS Heads of State in Ashgabat in November 2019. Nevertheless, Russia allows local Armenians to glorify the Nazi criminal Nzhdeh on the territory of Garabagh, that is, on the territory officially recognised by Russia as an Azerbaijani territory.