Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Cultural and psychological consequences
Calling Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh a war between two ethnic groups is a bit of stretch. Confrontation of 1991-1994 created militaristic image of “beautiful Armenia”, which inspired intelligentsia of the late 1980s, which faced harsh post-Soviet reality with no room for romanticism. Consolidating idea of Armenian nationalism, based on military aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh, became a national dogma for Armenians, which promised them questionable triumph.
Despite relatively successful military occupation, Armenians suffered psychological defeat in this war. Ideals of socially and economically successful state - "South Caucasus' Switzerland" - have been replaced with negative and unpromising idea of defensive war of attrition. Tragedy of the situation is aggravated by the fact that extreme conditions, in which Armenia finds itself, were created by the hands of those in power. This is equally perceived by Armenians of older and oldest generations, but simply can't be understood by their children and grandchildren. And younger generation is the one that has to deal with all the burden of war. Thousands and thousands of young people died at the front, most of them were from simple families.
It's important to mention that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues to be a moral ideal for young Armenians, living many kilometers from the contact line, while Armenian youth, living far beyond the South Caucasus region, tries not to mention this topic, focusing on diaspora as they seek an opportunity for their own self-realization. In Armenia itself, young people are exploring options of becoming a part of “the diaspora,” reinforcing ethnic dispersion. The ideals of Armenia, built on war and occupation, don't attract many people, especially against the background of constant threat of resumption of conflict, which is why most of the population has already left the country and this process continues. People are the most valuable capital, and a stable outflow of population will sooner or later lead to weakening of the already poor economy of Armenia.
This conflict is not beneficial to either Armenia or Azerbaijan. This is the crisis in post-Soviet space, in which children and grandchildren of Soviet Armenians and Soviet Azerbaijanis are participating. Azerbaijan has to increase its military spending annually, while the most conscious part of Armenian diaspora, unwilling to finance the war, doesn't have an opportunity to invest in Armenian economy. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land and infrastructure in the occupied areas have been destroyed, and it will take years to restore all of this. This applies to hundreds of homes, schools, medical facilities and other infrastructure that ensure functioning of the once thriving cities and districts, where Armenians and Azerbaijanis could live in peace as friends. Frozen Karabakh conflict doesn't allow sides to work on reconstruction without the risk of complete destruction of the achieved results.
In conditions of globalization, virtual war for "historical territories" threatens Armenian ethnos with isolation. Nationalism and aggression of Armenian separatists divides the international community into friends and enemies of Armenians. Those who praise occupation are considered friends of Armenian people, while any other point of view is subjected to severe criticism.
As for Azerbaijan, Karabakh conflict led to the consolidation of forces around idea of preservation of sovereign statehood. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was imposed on Azerbaijan from the outside through provocation of separatist tendencies in the areas of traditional residence of Lezgins, Avars and Talyshs. Azerbaijani society has tried to prevent a split. Occupation has caused hostility between two peoples who have lived peacefully for centuries, but hatred cannot serve as the basis of society. Modern Azerbaijanis don't hate Armenians (this is confirmed by numerous contacts and cooperation of representatives of two peoples outside the South Caucasus region), while they firmly support preservation of sovereign statehood.
Today, Baku is limited solely by the norms of international law, as well as experience of diplomatic relations in resolving consequences of the conflicts. After return of the occupied territories, principle of statism will become the basis of their economic, social, administrative and humanitarian development, since restoration of any autonomy is contrary to interests of both Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples.