From the perspective of the “west”, the notion of a military parade seems very anachronistic and reflects back to the lost days of the Soviet empire. The show of strength seemed to be more about pandering to the needs of the General Secretary than any useful value to the people. It might have given them some feeling of power – but in an age of “mutually assured destruction” this was ultimately a show of fiction, and misguided perception.
In modern, democratic countries, parades involving vast quantities of military hardware are virtually extinct, and have no real place in a modern world. One would like to think that this style of “chest-beating” is consigned to the past where thinly veiled, testosterone-fuelled, muscle flexing is surpassed by more subtle diplomatic, negotiating strategies.
Of course that is all fine in times of peace, or where people do not feel under threat. This is not the case for Artsakh. The wounds of war are still raw and the necessary caution has to be evident at all times. The people of this country continue with their everyday business knowing, subconsciously, that there is a theoretical chance of war at any time; this may be well hidden below the surface, but must be ever present. In the UK, the likelihood of war affecting anyone in their homeland is effectively zero, and the reality that a front line exists within a short distance of the capital is an alien, and frightening concept. It is easy for us to judge and form a view on a context that we have no experience of, and decide, in ignorance, what people would feel necessary, when such a constant menace exists.
Thankfully for most of us, we have not experienced war. Most people in Artsakh will have vivid memories that trouble them through history, to today. For those who suffered as children during that period, and cried from sheer fright and vulnerability, scared each day of the consequences which they could not predict, left empty from tears, and for some, stomach-wrenching terror at the loss of parents, will carry that trauma with them for the rest of their days. Noises, and events, that for those of us who have been fortunate, would find routine, will cause a response in people in unexpected ways. The sound of civilian jets will recall memories from years before, of the enemy planes making their way to drop horror into the minds of those waiting in fear. The connection remains imprinted into adulthood, and phobias and insecurities will strike indiscriminately. People will still have painful thoughts about the events during the war and be keen to ensure that similar suffering is not committed to their children or grandchildren. The need for protection and security is profound and an overt demonstration of the capability to achieve this is nothing short of an essential population-wide protective blanket.
Sabre-rattling by the Azerabaijani’s remains unabated, and unsettling statements from Turkey are not helpful. The perceived threat is ever present, and the need, on one day of the year, for the people of Artsakh to be re-assured, and reminded, of what effort and commitment is made for their defence is understandable in this context.
As the massed ranks of the different groups of soldiers marched by, there was a strong sense of togetherness and emotion. The large armoured tanks fired up, diesel engines pumping out exhaust fumes, creating a real feeling of strength, the engines engaged, and the many tonnes of firepower lurched forward in unison. They slowly crept through the main square like “gentle giants” mindful of the children and families that they were protecting. The parade of tanks were followed by various forms of combat vehicles, and artillery, and it was concluded with mobile rocket units sending a clear message as to the lengths that the country is prepared to go to, to defend its people.
I heard comments by some that they thought that the event was a waste of money; it is surely too early for this to be the case. Artsakh is beginning to represent itself, subtly, in small ways, on the world stage, particularly in arts, education and culture. This will slowly give it some credibility to the “Western world” however the main threat does not come from there, so in the meantime a combination policy is necessary and a demonstration of their defensive capability remains essential to re-assure and secure the spirited people of Artsakh, and to remind the enemy that this nation will defend its right to self-determination.
As one woman watched the parade, her childhood taken by the war, the little girl inside her started to cry out, and the tears of joy, and past fear, fuelled her emotions, proud of today, and anxious about the future. The past was a dark place, but the future has to be bright; that’s what the little girl wants.
Categories: War and its Legacy