Армянофобия в Азербайджане. Борьба с ксенофобией.

Армянофобия в Азербайджане. Армения Азербайджан, Ксенофобия
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Chapter 1. What is important to know about xenophobia?

The complex notion of xenophobia can lend itself to a scrutiny under diverse perspectives of such sciences as biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, ethnology, political science, cultural studies and other related disciplines, yet regardless of its aspects it boils down to an antagonistic perception of others vs. your own kind.

No real threat from the 'others' must necessarily be present to trigger off the xenophobia complex as it is intended to bring together the members of any specific community, therefore any similar marking will suffice to serve a key indicator distinguishing between 'us' and 'them'.

The sense of affiliation with a community (i.e. family, tribe, religious, professional, cultural or ethnic group) is a core human need.[1] Being part of an ethnic community ranks high among top needs in the self-identification of any individual. Therefore, everything that cannot be framed into the historical concept of ethnic self-identification may elicit individual feelings of rejection, negation, exclusion and opposition.

The conflictologist Christopher Mitchell[2], in his study of primary self-identification comes up with the following socio-psychological findings.

  • Affiliation with a large group meets the need felt by every individual to be accepted by others.
  • Identification with any particular group is instrumental in building self-esteem and sense of security; therefore it is of preference that the group in question be successful from the perspective of its individual members.
  • Individuals shun any negative opinions in respect of their own group, as it relates to their wish to maintain a high self-esteem;
  • In their ambition to build a high self-esteem individuals are likely to glorify their group and overlook information on its actions or qualities that can put the group orits members in a bad light.
  • The division into 'us' and 'them' is almost inevitably bound to debase 'them' so that 'us' can be hailed by the same token;
  • Group identification is often so strong that the values and objectives of the group are internalized and assimilated by its individual members.
  • Any threat to the group or any of its values and goals will be regarded by its members as a personal threat putting their own values at risk.

The awareness of pitting 'us' against 'them' occurs through close ties, such as:

  • family, kinship, blood ties (tribe, clan, family);
  • ethnicity (people, ethnic group, nation);
  • language (language, dialect, vernacular);
  • creed (religion, sectarian groups);
  • social affiliation (community, estate, class, group).

'One of us' is a holder of models that form and govern the conduct within a single community as inherited from previous generations and replicated by generations that follow.

The 'others' are associated with fear, alleged trouble and change - not infrequently for worse. Change, aggression, invasion and destruction are in direct association with the concept of 'others' and set the foundation underlying the picture of the world formed by virtually all peoples. This statement is true not only for relations between individuals and groups but also covers the interaction of the human being with nature (natural phenomena, wild animals, etc). Social psychologists G.U. Soldatova and A. V. Makarchuk hold the view that more often the attitude towards 'aliens' is dominated by fear.[3]Historically, people have always treated arcane, unknown and new things with apprehension. According to Erich Fromm, this fear, which may later translate into suspiciousness and culminate in rejection, can be traced back to the need of making 'extraordinary decisions'.[4]

According to some authors, the concept of 'alien' cannot be simply equated with the concepts of 'opposed', 'other' or 'enemy', but serves as an axis that lends sense to the concept of 'one of our own'. People who live in homogeneous environments rarely reflect on their identity seeing the world framed into a shared ideologies, perceptions and behavioral patterns. Only after they face an alternative and become aware of their differences, do they form a picture of their own kind and identify themselves as bearers of their 'own' system.

People's view and evaluation of 'aliens' spring from their own customs, traditions and lines of conduct. The concept of 'us' ('one of our kind', 'friends', 'desirables') has been carved by chiseling out 'them' ('enemies', 'aliens', 'undesirables'). People have long been able to build awareness of the specifics of their own ethnic group only through comparison and contrast with others.[5]

'Aliens' can be classified as follows:

'Remote aliens' are a group known to exist but with so far no contacts established or vital interests affected due to geographical, historical and other reasons. This category evokes neutral and descriptive attitude that is free from negative implications and according to Igor Kon 'arouses curiosity' (contacts between Armenians and Eskimos, Georgians and Uighurs, Bushmen and Sioux).

Friendly aliens are a group with a shared history of cooperation, intensive contact, overcoming the same calamities and joining forces in warfare against common enemies. The perception of this category of 'aliens' takes on a positive hue with their differences well known, thoroughly examined, accepted and viewed favorably (contacts between Armenians and Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks, Azerbaijanis and Turks, etc.). Soldatova defines this category rather as 'others' than 'aliens'. "They both attract and repel at the same time. By itself, such emotional duality is free from negative connotations, and the odds are always high that such 'other-alien' may become a 'one of our own'.[6]

Nearby alien represent a group located in the immediate vicinity, where a history of conflicts, confrontation and struggle underlies the relations with this group. This may refer to warring tribes, states or opposing systems, which according to G. Soldatova can be
defined as 'hostile'. Therefore, 'hostile-aliens' are usually shunned, rejected, blamed for all calamities and disasters; frequently they are targeted as enemies and hated. And, should the rational fear of the unknown degenerate into such manifestations, then we come to deal with nothing short of xenophobia - fear of aliens, feelings of hatred and animosity towards 'alien' individuals and groups which differ from us".[7] The perception of 'hostilealiens' is characterized by negative hues and mutually aggressive attitudes that last. 'Hostile aliens' are groups which live, as a rule, in the immediate vicinity of each other (share a border) and sometimes within the same community (relations between the national or religious minorities and the majority).

It must be noted that the transition from the second category of 'aliens' to the third category is rather commonplace. Familiar, close and not numerous as they are, they may be in need of protection and defense. However, as 'aliens' evolve to the extent of wanting to break off, take charge of their own problems and meet their needs on equal footing with the majority, they may be immediately labeled as 'hostile enemies'. Qualities previously regarded in a positive vein may become tinged with entirely opposite feelings.

Repelling alien elements hinges on the importance of the global goal. For instance, the ethnic differentiation of own kind vs. aliens lies along the lines: "We are Armenians" or "We are Lezgins". But within the same ethnic group, identical processes may occur on subethnic or territorial levels, such as: Lezgins of Azerbaijan vs. Legzins of Dagestan, Cristian Armenians vs. Muslim Armenians, which can further break into factions based on the local vernacular, region or a patron saint worshiped. Consolidation or exclusion varies depending on the goal or status of the 'alien' in the context of the problem at hand.

The interaction between the groups on the basis of their distinctions can be as follows:

  • Biological – based on the survival instinct.
  • Psychological – based on the perception of the other group and the processes that it entails, such as: patterns of thinking, fears, motives, etc., that form attitudes and behavior.
  • Socio-psychological – based on the differentiation occurring within the society and the social processes that it entails.
  • Political – based on the role and responsibility of the authorities in shaping the public opinion and ways to cultivate or thwart xenophobic tendencies.

The biological aspect

The origins of xenophobia have been traditionally traced back to biological characteristics, where the rejection of an 'alien' is seen as an instinctive survival mechanism for preserving the kind and species. Those 'of own kind' are protected from extinction as scarce resources are relentlessly fought over. [8]

However, seeking to justify human behavior by biological factors only is highly contentious. Throughout the history, social structures were governed by placing taboos and bans on natural biological instincts through religious, moral, administrative and legal provisions. A. Tsiurupa maintains the view that "such an instinct is pernicious and pointless in the human society".[9] This comes to say that an entire universe of differences separates the animal world and the human society, and therefore biology may not be referred to as an excuse for any conduct which the human society flags as detrimental.

Psychological and socio-psychological aspect

Xenophobia is an irrational sentiment and a source of an entire set of negative individual emotions hinging on fears, prejudices, stereotypes, biased judgments and all ensuing states and behavioral patterns.

Xenophobia is based on anticipated risks and fears springing from a twisted perception of the reality rather than any objective circumstances. Suspected existence of external and quite specific forces responsible for adverse effects occurring within 'own' society and putting its very existence at risk is referred to in support of allegations of ill intent on the part of 'aliens'.

The surrounding world is seen as a 'pyramid of threats' with the enemy's incarnation placed at its top and possessing destructive traits, objectives and instruments. The "enemy" can manipulate the surrounding environment (by enchanting, bribing, slandering or lobbying) and makes use of these capabilities and capacities to influence the destructive processes within the society. The mirror image of this pyramid represents the prism, through which the reality is seen, and which comprises attitudes, stereotypes and projections cultivating the image of an enemy. This process is followed by frustration which leads to aggression and repression.

Frustration is a psychological condition occurring where there are no or limited possibilities to meet one's needs and causing a feeling of deprivation over what is aspired for. The theory of aggression and frustration maintains that the frustrated condition leads to an aggression directed against the actual or purported source of frustration, any other third party or even 9 against own self. [10]

In Azerbaijan, for instance, 'Karabakh' is usually considered to be such source of frustration (standing collectively for a military defeat, the negotiation process, attempts to win it back, absence of a promised war) where Armenians as ethnic group are labeled as its cause, regardless of their place of residence, nationality, sex, age, and social status.

Aggression – is a deliberate action or rhetoric, meant to cause damage or offense to its target. The aggression may occur unaccompanied by action; it can manifest itself in rhetoric, fantasizing, dreams or even in a thoroughly meditated retaliation plan,[11] such as vociferating insults in the press, threats of blasting nuclear power plants or shooting down civilian aircrafts, wishful thinking on "celebrating the next Nowruz in Shusha", public discussion of incursion plans and hostilities.

There are several ways of externalizing aggression:[12]

Redirection against the recognized cause of frustration– Karabakh and Armenia, including their inhabitants, who are labeled as "separatists", "aggressors" and "occupying forces".

Redirection against absolutely innocent targets – at the end of the twentieth century, the Armenian population of Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad, while not being the supporters of the Miatsum ideology (demands to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh under the Armenian jurisdiction), fell victim to pogroms in Azerbaijan because of their compatriots' actions in Karabakh only on the grounds of their Armenian ethnicity. In the aftermath of the war, this aggression was further extended to those, who, according to the official Baku were pro- Armenian and therefore supported anti-Azerbaijan policy; we refer to the infamous 'Black list', which will be discussed later.

Transferring inside own society, i.e. redirection against own self – the search for internal "Armenian enemies", suppressing the dissidence and authoritarianism resulting in an increased rate of suicides and homicides (domestic murders and political assassinations).

Also, ethnic attitudes/mindsetsform part of the socio-psychological dimension. This refers to a person's propensity to perceive individual aspects of the life of the nation and relations between nations as well as to act in a certain way in a particular situation, in accordance with such perceptions. [13]

There are three types of attitudes/mindsets:

Positive: overestimation of positive qualities;
Negative: overestimation of negative qualities;
Adequate: a balanced approach in evaluating some characteristics.

The formulation of attitudes/mindsets falls under the impact of the attitudes/mindsets instilled by parents (similarities between attitudes of parents and children on socially significant subjects), persons of high repute and the mass media. All of these serve as agents of education, propaganda and ideology in shaping the needed stereotype.

Grandfather to his grandson: The Armenians are our enemies, son. These accursed people have been blighting our lives for 5 years now fouling up everything with their venom. Once, we accepted them into our service as farm hands and servants. We gave them land, housing and shelter. They grew on our scraps. Let them be damned for abusing our kindness. As insolent dogs bark at their masters, so did they pay us back with a vile ingratitude to bite those who lent them a hand and supported them in times of hardship. These scoundrels and bastards bark at those who gave them bread and refuge[a].[14]

Azad Sharif, a veteran of Azerbaijani journalism: We must shout this message loud and clear so that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren may hear us and avoid the mistakes of our fathers and our own. Let them never trust Armenians again and give them the chance to do another Khojaly[b]! Heed my words, in half a century they will once again knock at our doors offering their treacherous friendship, begging for our trust, repenting their sins and trying to win our favor with their sweet talk. Children! Grandchildren! And great-grandchildren! Never forget this!

Frequently, these attitudes/mindsets are generated on the basis of a successful or failed communication experience with a representative of some group. Ethnic attitudes/mindsets, just like any others, underpin the common misconceptions on others. However, they are susceptible to change under temporal or situational factors; this can be accomplished through collecting sufficient knowledge about the subject, personal contacts or altering the ideological milieu.

Mirmekhti Agaoghlu:In this way, the hatred inside me gradually transformed into a complex of insignificance. I felt upset over being lied to for so long.

Out of pure interest, I began communicating with some Armenian girls on the website www.mail.ru. They used to tell me: "Your guys are so rude, ill-mannered and immoral; they use obscene language and insult". I tried to show some civilized manners. < …> I told these girls, that I am different and not like them.

Sometimes, we talked about the war. We tried to figure out who was right, who was to blame, while forgetting that resolution of this conflict was up to the presidents, and not us. And when we realized this simple truth, the bombast dissipated, and our conversation returned to the regular subject of simple things in our lives. < ... > The years of our childhood saw crowds rushing into streets for rallies, and ever since we have been creating the great Armenian foe by nurturing, elaborating and fueling its growth. In the end, we made it so big that we started seeing only what we wanted to see rather than the reality. < …> but every time we get to know who our enemies are and what they are capable of, we are up for a shock.

In their turn, ethnic attitudes/mindsets underlie the ethnic stereotyping, which constitutes an interaction element based on the experience of previous generations which serve as a source of human views and perceptions.

Stereotype is a set of views that reflects the attitudes/mindsets of a social group in respect of a specific phenomenon or another social group. Ethnic stereotype is a firmly ingrained attitude/mindset that directly affects how the surrounding people are perceived and how their behavior is interpreted. Stereotyping is a convenient way of classifying and systematizing information. Ethnic stereotypes are associated with a generalized and schematized description of the properties and characteristics of one's own ethnic community (autostereotypes) and those of an alien ethnic community (heterostereotypes).[15]

The present research revealed the dominant stereotypes in Azerbaijan, which are as follows:

Azerbaijani autostereotypes: very ancient, cultured, civilized, hospitable, trusting, forgiving, hard-working, talented, creative, honest, decent, proud, courageous, patriotic and tolerant people.

Kenan Guluzadeh:[16]Azerbaijanis is truly gentle nation, far from any gratuitous aggressiveness, let alone any deliberate cultivation or incitement of religious hatred and national or ethnic strife. These are not just lofty words, but the reality that we all know. < …> We can feel no hatred towards the people who live in the neighboring countries, and this includes Armenians. Indeed, we may loathe, and perhaps rightfully do so, some nationalist circles in Armenia. < …> But we are not capable of hating an entire nation, simply because a human soul cannot house so much hatred. < …> Xenophobia is foreign to the Azerbaijani society. We are all Azerbaijani, and we have no other motherland..

Heterostereotypes of Armenians– vile, perfidious, lying, bloodthirsty, thieving, untalented, ungrateful, greedy, mercenary, scheming, petty merchants and perjurers.

Azad Sharif, «a veteran of Azerbaijani journalism:Let us be honest at least to ourselves and admit the fact that we are an amazingly trusting nation: we bear no grudges and take pride in our multiculturalism. For centuries, our forgiving nature was abused by our treacherous and envious neighbors who shared with us the same 12 courtyard, front door, the city or the village . This turned into a tragedy for us. They ate our bread, they drank our water, they enrolled in our schools and universities, they benefited from the riches of our republic and amassed considerable wealth. They married off their women to our men. It is no coincidence that some 30 thousand Armenian women live in our country.
We failed to see through the genetic perfidy of Armenians. We even did not heed in earnest the words of the great Pushkin, who exclaimed some two hundred years ago: "You are a coward, you are a slave, you are Armenian!"»[17]

Umoud Khazar, activist of Nida movement: I recall my childhood when influenced by some absurd propaganda I pictured Armenians as one-eyed, long-bearded, cannibal Cyclops, and ingenious parents spooked their children not with bogeyman stories but Armenians; nothing has changed ever since.[18]

Assessing an individual and his/her conduct in terms of a group affiliation is a form of ethnic stereotyping. As a rule, such assessment represents a projection of one's own qualities on the "alien".

Projection is a form of psychological defense that attributes to someone else the traits of one's own character, personal qualities, feelings, relationships, etc. The projection functions as a protective mechanism guarding the individual against alarming sentiments. Besides, a desire or emotion so projected is perceived by the individual as directed at his/her own self externally. This comes as a consequence of the psychological repression that amounts to a subconscious attribution of one's own qualities, feelings and desires to another person.[19] In this case, repressed desires are projected to someone else. Meanwhile the individual condemns others for what he/she fails to identify as his/her own desires.

Repression is a protective process, through which ideas are removed from the consciousness. Due to the repression process, thoughts are suppressed and subdued inwards never ceasing to influence the individual and triggering an internal conflict.[20]

An individual who resorts to the protective mechanism of projection is convinced that others are capable of ill deeds while harbors latent tendencies to do the same. Sometimes, it is regretted that such ill deeds were not committed when opportunity presented itself. The most illustrative example of such projection can be found in the extensively trumpeted thesis on the "incompatibility of Armenians and Azerbaijanis" attributed to the ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan.

By contrasting their "tolerance" and the "racism" of Armenians,[21] the Azerbaijani authorities are at odds with their own unabashed display of xenophobic rhetoric:

  • Some human rights defenders in Azerbaijan must be contaminated by a mix of the Armenian blood in their veins.[22]
  • They (Armenians) must be killed in Karabakh and not in other countries.[23] It can be confidently affirmed that if Hays[d] ever show any "talent" at all, it is in no way an achievement of their own nation, but the result of the Turkish blood that most of them have flowing in their veins.[24]
  • Although, in this case I chose the wrong wording and unwittingly insulted a noble and freedom-loving animal ('wolf' - author's note) - the only one that cannot be tamed - by comparing it with the Armenians. It goes without saying that the love of freedom (throughout their history, Armenians prostrated themselves under the heels of others, and for the last three hundred years they have comfortably established themselves as Russia's boot-licking pet dogs) or nobility for that matter are foreign to this nation. Instead, a comparison with jackals would be more appropriate, with their howling reminiscent of the wails of our vile neighbors about "their history full of suffering".[25]

Similar distorted perceptions and judgments engender negative phenomena such as bias, prejudice and discrimination.

Bias is a preconceived judgment, belief or point of view on a person without sufficient reasons.[26]

Prejudice is a false condemnation of people solely on the basis of their affiliation with an ethnic group.[27]

Discrimination is a negative line of conduct or appeals to adopt a negative line of conduct in respect of certain people solely on the account of their affiliation with a particular ethnic group.[28]

If bias is a negative attitude/mindset, and prejudice is a negative judgment about a person and his/her actions, then discrimination is a negative behavior. Rectifying negative attitudes/ mindsets can contribute towards eradicating discriminatory behavior.[29]

In view of the foregoing, it can be argued that stereotypes are ideal tools for shaping the image of enemy instilled in the public mind.

Image of the enemy is an ideological and psychological stereotype that allows establishing expectations, perceptions and behavior in respect of an "alien" who may be ascribed superhuman, arcane or negative traits.

However, this is hard to achieve without firmly relying on ethnocentrism, which is a tendency to view one's own ethnic group and its social standards as a basis for value judgments on the practices of others. It is understood that the human being lends supremacy to own standards most likely for self-assertion and self-praise, yet it must not necessarily lead to a bad attitude towards the practices of foreign groups.[30]

Similarly, people in medieval Japan viewed the Chinese as their teachers and a source of many cultural borrowings, yet they referred to them using the offensive term of "Southern Barbarians". The Greeks who coined the term "barbarian" (the one who babbles) acted in a comparable fashion.

For this very reason, the shaping of the enemy image based on the ethnocentrism also implies demonizing and dehumanizing the "aliens"[e]

Dehumanization implies a total antagonism between 'them' and 'us' going as far as stripping them of their humanity. The members of the alien group are identified with illfamed animal species, such as scorpions, snakes, jackals, rats, etc. Specifically, during the preparation stage of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, government-controlled radio stations compared the Tutsi with cockroaches.[31]

Demonization implies ascribing to "aliens" certain negative qualities such as loose morals, marginality and possession of some supernatural powers using which they may exert adverse effects.

Using the enemy image typology proposed by the historian Yelena Sinyavskaya [f]who studied the subject in the army or in wartime,[32] in relation to the armenophobic policies in Azerbaijan in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the image of enemy may be described as follows:

The synchronous image of the enemy represents a generalized picture that can be shaped during the hostilities through direct personal involvement (former combatants of the Karabakh war);
The retrospective image of enemy brings together the individual memories of former combatants who were personally involved in certain events (and represent altered interpretations of such events many years after they happen);
The image of the enemy shaped by the official propaganda precedes the personal experience of any contacts with the enemy (and occurs at the level of officials or the most reputable figures for the community);
The image of the enemy shaped by analytical services prevails among commanding officers and diverse secret services, which require an adequate picture of an enemy based on an objective and a voluminous data for operational and strategic decision-making;
The image of the enemy shaped through personal contact and daily life is the most common and present at all army levels with those directly involved in the fighting or conflict.

Political dimension

The political component of xenophobia is based on the tendency to manipulate the public mind for channeling the emotional energy and tension towards the political agenda that is in the interest of the manipulator.

The very existence of the "external enemy" is asserted and instilled in the minds of the people for internal mobilization and, as a rule, is used by the political elite to suppress forces and currents aimed against it within the group.

"The image of the enemy" instilled in the minds of the people can unite the society around the figure of a charismatic leader making it temporarily oblivious of or alleviating for a moment the domestic conflict between the authorities and the society. It can help make up for economic and social blunders committed by the ruling elite. In the face of any threat, real or imaginary, the population demonstrates obedience to a ruler, who is endowed with a status of the "Father", "Defender" or "Leader" of the nation.[33]

The idea of correlation between the formation and development of the society and specific individual is clearly and consistently epitomized in authoritarian societies; Azerbaijan can rightfully be characterized as such with its personality cult of Heydar Aliyev as the "Founding Father" and the "Savior" of nation placing his and his descendants' authority above any criticism or discussion.

Dear Mr. President! Once, one of our wise poets said that the sun of the Orient will rise here in Azerbaijan. Indeed, the time has come, and in 1969 the sun rose over Azerbaijan.
That sun was our genius leader - the great Heydar Aliyev, who in the Soviet period could turn in a short time an economically deprived republic into fully developed country making our homeland thrive. The sun was the architect and creator of the independent Azerbaijan - Heydar Aliyev. The sun was the founding father and the author of Azerbaijan oil strategy - our great leader Heydar Aliyev. Subsequently, you have continued the political course of our great leader. In the period of your leadership, our country has seen great accomplishments. New cities and towns were built, and country's infrastructure was reconstructed. Gigantic social and industrial facilities were created. There are too many things to list. And, most importantly, the financial and spiritual welfare of our people becomes increasingly better with every new day.[34]

Such authoritarian individual maintains an outward indifference and betrays no ambition for power despite its attractiveness. Instead, this leader forms a clique of loyal people and plants in their minds the conviction that wielding power is such a complex, responsible and 16 divine vocation that only a man of extraordinary and superhuman abilities can cope with it.[35] If the power represents a super value only a super human deserves it. The loyals, in their turn, carry this conviction down the social hierarchy.

In May and June 1993, with the threat of civil war and the loss of independence looming over the country amid a severe governmental crisis, the people of Azerbaijan stood up with an insistent plea for Heydar Aliyev's return to power.[36]

Modesty is yet another distinctive feature of the authoritarian personality. By the way, this person's true wealth, ambitions and the desire to retain power at any cost have no bearing on this. The picture of the reality in the minds of the masses becomes so warped that the pursuit of power is replaced by the notion of modesty so that the ascent to power is staged as popular clarion call, people's choice with the leader's reluctance to assume the onus of power. Under these circumstances, the leader may not spurn the pleas of the people. Such maneuvering gives credit to the myth that the leader basks in popular love, which is then replicated at all social levels; by the way, the faith of the people is often absolutely genuine.[37]

The people love me, I simply can't help it. Recently, the chairman of the Executive Committee of the city of Ganja decided to erect my statue in front of the premises of the City's Executive Committee. I summoned him and explained that he ought not to do this. He argued for a long time. But I told him: "Erect a statue in my memory, when I'm gone. If you can do it then".[38]

In fact, the popular faith in the infallibility, salvation mission and veneration of the "Father of the Nation" warrant the security and power of any such authoritarian personality, while negative manifestations in the society get channeled towards external or internal enemies concocted to this end by the very authorities in power. They can be Armenians, Russians, clerics of Iran, corrupt officials, mercenary human rights defenders, people green with envy, but never the "Leader" himself.

It must be pointed out that anti-Armenian publications and official statements spike in Azerbaijan as the domestic situation escalates to its maximum amid civil unrest, public outcry, natural disasters, corruption scandals, etc., where the "Leader" is called to account for his policy, and the public gaze must be averted.

To inculcate its ideology, the authoritarian system seeks to sow fear in the society by positioning itself as the guarantor of security. This is the shortest path to achieve goals, which can be defined as state-perpetrated terror tactics within the society itself. Terror tactics call for creating an atmosphere of fear and instability or using the existing instability or security needs of the people to suppress freedoms and tighten the grip on power.[39]

The forces that seek to disrupt the existing status quo get marginalized and labeled as internal enemies with the state machinery cracking down on them amid public condemnation. This process can be described as domestic terror.

To keep the information space under а total control and to ensure а trouble-free functioning of the "enemy images", those in power resort to such tools as misinformation and disorientation. 

The mass media are powerful weapons in the arsenal of propaganda and suit well to advance the current agenda. The authorities that control the mass media and alternative news outlets can influence the public opinion to manipulate it and inculcate the required ideology.

Misinformation is an action that targets a person and represents a deliberate communication of misleading information concerning the true state of affairs.[40]

Misinformation occurs following the chain of events below:[41]

  • Misleading a specific person or group of persons (even entire nations);
  • Manipulation (of the actions of single person or a group of persons);
  • Shaping of the public opinion on some issue or subject.

Misleading represents a direct or indirect deception, communication of false, slightly modified or incomplete information which implies its distorting, misinterpreting or taking the information out of its context.

Manipulation is an influencing technique which directly seeks to re-channel the activities of the people. The following levels of manipulation can be identified:

    • Reinforcing values which serve the interest of the manipulator and already exist in the minds of the people (ideas, attitudes and mindsets);
    • Partial tweaking of attitudes about some event or fact;
    • Fundamental swing of attitudes and mindsets.

Shaping of a public opinion – is a step-by-step process, which involves generating views on some subject, phenomenon or situation, sharing information between people, discussions and debates crystallizing into a public attitude in the minds of the people.

Other varieties of misinformation are half-truths or the deceit through non-disclosure.[42]

The information space of Azerbaijan abounds in examples of such half-truths. One of the best-known and widely advertised of such half-truths is the myth of the notorious UN resolutions[g], ignored by Armenians.

Armenia has so far not complied with four resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council on the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh and its adjacent territories.[43]

The half-truth lies in the fact none of these resolutions presses any demands on the Republic of Armenia for liberation of the "occupied territories". These resolutions feature a number of points, the first and foremost of which is the immediate cessation of hostilities. In 1993, at the time when these resolutions were adopted, Azerbaijan went on the offensive and never planned to stop hoping to deliver a counter blow and reclaim the territories that had been lost before 1993.

The UN Security Council came up with this request as early as on April 30 1993 in its first resolution No. 822. However, a full year elapsed with another three resolutions issued, but the first resolution remained without compliance. The bloodshed continued swelling the number of displaced persons. The ceasefire "without delay" could not imply lingering till May 1994. With such persistent failure to abide by the resolutions of the UN Security Council, can it be claimed that they were complied with in a timely fashion? Which of the two parties breached this cardinal requirement of all resolutions and must bear the primary responsibility for failing to abide by their provisions and becoming the cause of almost all other demands aborted and leading to a massive non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions?
Of course, no party is free from error but Azerbaijan can rightfully claim the "first prize" in this matter. Even as the country was losing control over its territories, the leadership of Azerbaijan – both Elchibey and Aliyev - persevered in their attempts to score a military breakthrough on the front-line and resolve the conflict by sheer force. Relying on force alone, they ought not to neglect the fact that it might put at risk their own territories, thus becoming oblivious of their shared responsibility for the emergence and expansion of the occupied territories. In its turn, the occupation forced Azerbaijan into the vicious circle of rejected and failed peacebuilding initiatives. Over the years of the Russian mediation, the parties contributed to creating an entire calendar of violations of the ceasefire, derogations from similar agreements and other misjudged peace-building efforts (this is reflected in Resolution No. 884 in a circumlocutory language).[44]

This means that the existence of these resolutions is not disputed, yet taking their provisions out of their context and thereby completely changing the spirit and the letter of the document along with tardy demands for compliance, represent a blatant demonstration of half-truths or downright lies.

This being said, the most common form of misinformation in Azerbaijan consists in distorting information by means of small additions, insertions of text or paraphrases of the original wording.

Azerbaijani webdite Trend.az: WHO - selling organs of the Azerbaijani prisoners of war by Armenia is unacceptable.[45]
The commercial sale of human organs is absolutely inadmissible and is in absolute contravention of the human rights law. This statement was made to journalists by the head of the Committee on Strategic Programs and Special Projects of the European Regional Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO), Mr. Agis Tsouros who thus adopted a stance on the sale of organs obtained from Azerbaijani prisoners of war by Armenia.

In reality, as reported by other information agencies of Azerbaijan (e.g. apa.az) the quote looks different and does not concern the position of Tsouros on Armenia or Azerbaijani prisoners of war but covers instead the general subject of illegal transplantology: "A. Tsouros noted that the transplantation of human organs in the global health care system is done in strict compliance with the law. Such operations are inadmissible, if they circumvent the law. The United Nations also speaks against the illegal transplantation of human organs or even their legitimate commercial sale".[46]

Or, it may be a contradiction between a loud heading and the gist of the source statement.

Richard Morningstar: Growing drugs on the occupied territories proves true. [47]
The United States opposes the cultivation, transport and sale of drugs in any part of the world. "I am not familiar with all the facts on this issue. I do not possess any supporting information. However, we must be confident that all these thoughts and conjectures reflect the truth," said the ambassador.

Here, the words of the ambassador Morningstar are used in a heading so as to imply that he claims knowledge of illicit cultivation of drugs in Nagorno-Karabakh and confirms this information. While it is obvious from the wording of his direct quote that he is not fully familiar with the facts, and their veracity must be checked.

The main goal of this misinformation process consists in eliciting the required emotional response from the audience, in which the people lose their ability to think reasonably, assess critically and analyze the information they are presented with. Any attempt to understand, clarify or investigate the events is balked at the outset by exerting pressure on the author through defamation, derision, physical action, arrest or even assassination.

In 2007, criminal proceedings were instigated against the Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev for a tentative to revise the official position of Azerbaijan on the tragedy of Khojaly.[48] Following a trip to Armenia and Azerbaijan, he published a series of articles in the weekly "Realny Azerbaijan" entitled "Karabakh Diary", where he voiced his confidence over the fact that a corridor for refugees did really exist, otherwise, the population of Khojaly could not find their way out of the encirclement. 20 He also expressed the view that the Popular Front of Azerbaijan may be responsible for opening fire against civilian non-combatants for political reasons.
As a result, he was sentenced to 8 years and was released after four years of imprisonment..

Disorientation consists in misleading the public, propagating fallacious misconceptions and shifting value benchmarks. One common technique of disorienting the adversary or one's own society consists in "decapitating" a group by discrediting, demonizing or dehumanizing the leader of the opponent group and his/her activities.

A resident of Khojaly, a town razed to ground by Armenians in 1992, claims that he was tortured by the current Armenian president R. Kocharyan[h]. "I passed out after I took a severe beating from Robert Kocharyan; ever since, I have problems with my eyesight. The entire world must know the instigator who was behind the tragedy of Khojaly and who poses as a democrat," said Gulali Binaliyev. According to him, on the day when the town was occupied by Armenian forces, he was taken hostage along with his family and suffered torture at the hands of the current Armenian president Robert Kocharyan".[49]

"The Armenian Catholicos Garegin II is just another terrorist and a bloodthirsty thug as the head of the State Serzh Sargsyan". This statement was made by Elman Mamedov, a deputy of Milli Majlis from Khojaly in his interview to SalamNews. The deputy stressed that he did not expect any positive results from the meeting between the Haji Allahshükür Hummat Pashazadeh, the head of the Caucasian Muslims Office, and Garegin II: "Allahshükür Pashazadeh is a man of faith while Garegin II is another bloodthirsty thug just like Serzh Sargsyan".[50]

"It is very shameful that these people claim to represent the intellectuals of Azerbaijan. Their actions can be qualified as high treason. We do not view them as representatives of our country's intellectuals and demand that Rustam Ibragimbekov and Akram Aylisli be declared persona non grata," the local media quote a young party official.[51]

When coupled with a visualization technique meant to bring about an emotional surge in the target audience, results can be obtained both rapidly and efficiently.

The American psychologist Victor Kagan[52] holds that despite its irrational nature xenophobia may be also upheld by quite positive processes. The human being never commits deeds that appear as bad, evil, inappropriate or criminal etc. The mind always transforms any such perspective action into something positive. The motivation of any such deed undergoes a substitution, change, shift and an outward modification portraying it with positive and possibly heroic overtones.

This is precisely the process that Azerbaijan implements through its state machinery. It is clear that the murder of a sleeping person (or an enemy for that matter) is a dishonorable deed. Yet, a slight shift of accents in the rhetoric from "sleeping man" to "the man who desecrated our flag" оr "the feats of Ramil breathed in a new life" may warrant a positive public appraisal.

The political establishment of Azerbaijan chose armenophobia as its weapon in seeking to wrestle the Azerbaijani society into consolidation (assimilation process of ethnic minorities), to minimize the risks of a schism within the country (clan stratification and strife) and to re-channel the popular outcry.


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[a] Here and later in the text, original spelling and syntax were preserved.

[b] Events related to the tragic deaths of Meskhetian Turks near the city of Aghdam in 1992, which are interpreted differently by Armenian and Azerbaijani sides.

[c] Armenian inside of me. See attachment

[d] Hay(Հայ) is a self-designation of Armenians.

[e] For more information, see the chapter Dehumanization and Demonization of Armenians.

[f] Yelena Sinyavskaya - Russian historian, doctor of history, professor, leading researcher at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She specialized in the military history of the twentieth century, social history, alltagsgeschichte, historical psychology, military psychology and military sociology. She is the founder and leader of the scientific discipline called Military and historical anthropology and psychology.

[g] UN Security Council resolutions No. 822 (1993) of 30 April 1993, No. 853 (1993) of 29 July 1993, No. 874 (1993) of 14 October 1993 and No. 884 (1993) of 12 November 1993.

[h] Ex-president of Armenia. 1998-2008.