Trench warfare, drones and civilian civilians: art and design on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh

On the way to the 8-meter-long crater fired by a medium-range missile, Sergei Hovnenesyan and his three neighbors store in the basement of their local grocery store in Steppenkart, in the heart of the mountain. The Nagorno-Karabakh region has been claimed by both Argonia and Azerbaijan.

Damaged building

A man walks through a building damaged during a shelling in the town of Stepnecart in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Whenever there is a gap between air strikes and shelling, their aged legs survive to bring enough provisions to lift the steps, as the two former Soviet neighbors go to war once again.

About 70,000 Armenians in Nagarno-Karabakh have fled from weak-oriented Azerbaijani rockets and drones, which appear to have hit civilian neighborhoods more often than infrastructure and military bases. Those who live – many of the older generation generations such as Sergei and his friends – say they will die instead of leaving their homes in Azerbaijan.

Rubble in the cathedral

A woman cries after witnessing destruction inside the Holy Savior’s Cathedral in the city of Shusha, when she was targeted by missiles.

Fighting updates reach the radio via WhatsApp tsp messages and news bulletins, while the Diocese still holds a mass for those who dare to pray and take candles to church.

When the sound of air raids is heard that an Azerbaijani jet has entered Armenian-controlled airspace, residents have about three minutes to find the cover. Sometimes, when Russian-made missile defense systems do not work, there is no warning.

Armenia’s vast diaspora has been tasked with helping small countries fight Azerbaijan, including France, the U.S. And Lebanese volunteers arrived by Planetod. In the 1990s, they joined Russian, Ossetian, and Slavic mercenaries, while Baku was aided by Turkish far-right groups, the Gray Wolves, as well as men from Chechnya and Afghanistan.

A retired nurse in the basement of a grocery store – these two men and a woman, in the first chapter of their lives, have already done their part to protect the Armenian name for the Armenian Republic within the borders of Azerbaijan, Artax.

Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Shusha, Nagorno-Karabakh

The Cathedral of the Holy Saviors in Shusho, Nagorno-Karabakh, was damaged during the firing by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Photograph: Achilles Zevlis / The Guardian

“I remember seeing it for the first time Mujahideen When I was fighting the Azerbaijani war in the 1980s, ‘said Hovenness, tying bread to the space heater and sipping alternately from a cup of tea and a glass of local cognac. “I have never seen anything like it before. They wear flowing white clothes and headscarves. I think they were from Afghanistan. Now they are sending to the Syrian people, so I believe some things do not change. “

Sergei Hownesssyan, in Nagorno-Karabakh, stands inside a bomb shelter in the town of Stepnecart.

Sergei Hownesssyan, in Nagorno-Karabakh, stands inside a bomb shelter in the town of Stepnecart.

The war on Nagorno-Karabakh has been going on and on for over a century, but with the break-up of the Soviet Union it has turned into a bloody three-year war. The 1994 ceasefire resulted in an Armenian victory, but both sides still face deep-seated and legitimate grievances.

Armenia, unhappy with the ethnic cleansing carried out by Azerbaijanis in the 1980s – as well as by Turkey a century ago – has for many years refused to give up seven other Azerbaijani provinces, leaving 700,000 Azeri unable to return home.

Volunteers sort through donated clothing

Volunteers sort through donated clothing that will be donated to Nagorno-Karabakh refugees at a university in Yerevan.

The fight that erupted two weeks ago is a mixture of old and new. Military nations equipped with AK-47s face World War I in the trenches, in some places the two sides can actually talk to each other, while state-of-the-art drones and long-range missiles fly through the skies. .

Then, now, the soldiers of fortune are jumping into the field against the backdrop of a changing world order. But Turkish-backed Syrian fighters come to the Azerbaijani side of the frontline and foreign-made drones pick up targets from the air, after Syria and Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, an advanced theater in which Moscow and Ankara have become an attraction. The battle for geopolitical superiority. In a sense, this new conflict is a history of repeating itself. In the second, it points out what the future of war might look like.

The man repairs the window

A man on leave from the frontline taps a plastic sheet over the broken window of his apartment in Stepnecart.

“It’s horrible here. They lied to us: they said we were coming to protect the oil and gas facilities, ‘said Mohamed Al-Hamza, 26, from Aleppo across the country, who reached the hospital by phone 30 miles from the other side of the frontline. . He was injured by Armenian shelling just two days after the Azerbaijani support line was set up. “I traveled to Libya and some of them were dangerous, but nothing like that. About 250 of us have asked to go home. “

Fighting since the collapse of the Soviet Union is already the worst rage of enemies in the Caucasus. It was started by Babu who was almost certainly surprisingly insulted by Baku, who has been disappointed by the impotent peace process and the provocative remarks of Nicole Pashinyan, the newly elected Prime Minister of Armenia after the country’s 2018 peaceful revolution.

Oil wealth has given Azerbaijan a definite military advantage over Armenia’s rusting Soviet-era hardware, and for the first time Baku has Turkey’s full support, with which it shares cultural and economic ties.

A man walks past a billboard showing pictures from the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline in central Yerevan

A man walks past an advertising board showing pictures from the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline in central Yerevan.

Ankara’s resolute stance does not yet match that of Moscow, which sells arms to both sides and seems wary of honoring a military agreement with Yerevan, fighting outside Nagorno-Karabakh should be extended to mainland Armenia.

The cost of the war is already inadvisable, even though no country will accept the true extent of their casualties. Despite fierce brawls by Yerevan officials over independence or death, Armenia is suffering heavy losses due to Azerbaijan’s Turkish-made barracks TB2 and Israel’s Kamikaze Harop drones.

In Goris, the last city in Armenia before the mountain corridor connecting the country with Nagorno-Karabakh, a soldier was pulled into a pickup truck, soaking blood. It was used to transport a wounded soldier from an artillery to the hospital; Both his legs were then amputated.

The three volunteers, tired from a 12-day stint on the frontline near the village of Martuni, said little to each other while waiting for a ride to Yerevan.

One of them, a little 23-year-old, said he was posted at a location in the jungle 60 meters away from the Azerbaijani army, where both sides engaged in day-night firefighting, trying to surround each other among the trees. He said that while more Armenians were dying than Azerbaijanis, he estimated the number of Armenian deaths at 4,000. The official toll is around 550. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Destruction of the building by shelling in Stepnecart

Destruction of the building by shelling in Stepnecart. Photograph: Achilles Zevlis / The Guardian

If official figures are to be believed, more civilians have died in Azerbaijan than in Armenia, as Yerevan retaliates by attacking urban centers away from Nagorno-Karabakh. In Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, at least 10 civilians were killed in a single attack, with no clear targets for a residential area.

Baku may lead a corrupt and oppressive government, but his people want this war. Every loss does justice – and increases the popular demand for revenge.

Stella Herapatyansen is sitting inside a bomb shelter in Stepnecart

Stella Herapatiensen is sitting inside a bomb shelter in Stepnecart. She decides to stop despite the heavy bombardment because her son is fighting on the frontline and she hopes to see him when he takes a break.

Khadija Ismail, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist who has been harassed and imprisoned for reporting by President Ilham Aliyev in the past, is in a strange position to agree with the government’s actions for once.

“Our government is dictatorial but this is more than the current regime.” “This is about ordinary people who have been victims of occupation and suffering for the last 30 years as refugees. For us the war never stopped. ”

Six-year-old Gore waits inside a distribution center in the city of Goris

Six-year-old Gore Goris waits inside a distribution center in the city while his mother and grandmother register to receive food supplies for their extended family. He asks his mother when he can come back to school.

Neither side seems to be able to understand the other. News reports from both countries and social media will probably reflect a parallel universe; Vitriol and dysonorrhea have infected everything.

Armenia’s official Twitter account posted a picture of a priest’s delivery and an automatic rifle, warrior monk style, while the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a heavy metal song called ‘Fire’ starring tired musicians in front of a tank.

Baku and Yerevan officials accuse each other of spreading lies and fake news, while the same charges they accuse.

Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan during a nightclub inside a shelter in Stepnecart

Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan during a night mass inside a shelter in Stepnecart.

“It’s a big problem,” said Arek Cachishan, an architect who hasn’t yet joined the fight because of a broken arm. “When information has lost all value, how do you assume it’s supposed to be?”

After the failure of the ceasefire by Moscow over the weekend, there are no signs of an immediate end to the fighting. The coming winter could put an end to Azerbaijan’s humiliation, but it is unlikely to leave until Baku regains enough territory to get the upper hand in the talks. The sponsors of the traditional peace process – Russia, France and the US – will now probably need to sit directly with Turkey to make any progress. And there could be a breakdown elsewhere in the growing international dimensions of this simmering hyperlocal conflict.

Iran, which has a large Azeri population, looks around at its warring neighbors. Moving chess pieces to Moscow and Ankara could change stability in Libya and Syria.

Howig Samara takes a bowl of soup to his restaurant kitchen in Stepnecart

Howig Samara carries a bowl of soup to the kitchen of his restaurant in Stepnecart. He and his wife decided to stay despite the heavy bombing. They prepare free food for soldiers and civilians as a way to help in the war effort.

“It’s funny and sad that somewhere in the war, Syrians are everywhere. “Somehow it’s always about us,” said Howig Samara, an Armenian-Syrian who migrated to Nagarno-Karabakh and opened a rest restaurant rent after the civil war began in 2011. He is busy preparing free food for the war effort despite the lightning strike. .

“But I think this war was always going to happen. If you want to know the future, you have to read the past. ”