Comments to the articles

Arif Yunusov’s Comment on Susanna Barseghyan’s Article “The Perceptions of the “Enemy’s Image” in Armenia”                                                                                     The article under review is devoted to a very important and relevant topic - the perception of the "image of the enemy" in Armenia. The author rightly points out that the "image of the enemy" has always emerged and has been exploited in conflicts and crises since ancient times. This is a universal political tool that allows unifying people/the nation in such conditions, which at the same time has negative consequences. However, the author somewhat confuses the cause and the effect, since it is not “enemy images” or negative national stereotypes that give rise to conflicts, but rather conflicts and crises give rise to the emergence, formation and development of the “enemy image”.

Further, the author rather interestingly depicted how and why the main “enemy images” appeared in modern Armenia in the person of Turkey and Azerbaijan and what are the differences in the Armenians’ perceptions of these two major enemies. If Turkey is perceived by the Armenians from the viewpoint of a victim, Azerbaijan is seen from the viewpoint of a winner. The main evil from such an "image of the enemy" is indicated very accurately when the enemies lose their "human attributes" and turn "into absolute evil." And “the country, the leader, the people, the ideas, the political system, the culture and the civilization, the history, the religion and so on are considered to be hostile.”

At the same time, the author of The Perceptions of the “Enemy’s Image” in Armenia failed to notice that she herself began to write as a victim of this “image of the enemy”. Indeed, propaganda of the “image of the enemy” implies the inevitable birth of the antithesis of “we-they”, “friends-strangers”, “executioners-victims”, etc. And the author herself, without knowing it, began to write precisely from the standpoint of this antithesis. For her, as a representative of the Armenian people, it is absolutely natural that compatriots perceive the victory over Azerbaijan as restoration of justice: “we (that is, Armenians and the author - A.Yu.) believe that we have established justice”, but “our perception of Turkey is from the standpoint of the victim” and here the author already, just like the whole Armenian society, “demands restoration of justice”. Without even trying to separate herself from her people and understand the other side of the conflict.

The further she writes, the more evident it gets. The author writes that “The image of Azerbaijan and Turkey as the enemy is less invented or mythological,” because it is associated with a “real threat” to Armenia and the Armenian people. A legitimate question immediately arises for the author: aren't Armenians the same threat to the Azerbaijani people? Didn’t the Armenians conduct ethnic cleansing of the Azerbaijanis and deport them from Armenia in 1988-1990? Didn’t Armenians kill peaceful Azerbaijanis in the Karabakh conflict? And finally, didn’t Khojaly happen? But obviously, the author does not think about this, because in accordance with the laws of conflict and the creation of the “image of the enemy”, “your pain” and “your fears” are important. But the fact that the same fears and concerns may be on the other side of the conflict, too, is not being investigated. And therefore, it is quite natural for the author and there is no doubt that it is extremely difficult for the Armenian "society to overcome the stereotype of Turks as butchers." Indeed, as the author herself correctly noted above, the "image of the enemy" requires turning it into an "absolute evil." And one’s own people should only be in the position of the victim of these butchers.

And again, in strict accordance with the behavioral pattern of a victim to an “enemy image” created by a conflict, the author tries to pass off wishful thinking: "regardless of the existence of a nationalistic discourse in Armenia, there is no hate speech or extreme aggression against the enemy." And she further asserts that “In Armenian children’s literature and textbooks there is no xenophobic propaganda, there are no epithets labelling Azerbaijanis or Turks. In the media outlets, too, despite the existence of nationalistic discourse, systematic use of extreme manifestations and vocabulary is not the case.” But there are already many publications by Armenian authors on this subject, which give specific examples that contradict what the author is trying to assure us of (1). As the Armenian students themselves say, “if I were to form an opinion about Turks only on the basis of school information, I would think that they were barbarians, animals, monsters.” There are equally negative epithets about Azerbaijan, which “is described in textbooks as a new country, formed on the basis of nomadic tribes.” (2)  Even social experiments were carried out in the streets of Baku and Yerevan to determine the intensity of the “image of the enemy.” And within the framework of these experiments, in exact accordance with the laws of conflict, the reaction of Armenians is the same as that of Azerbaijanis (3).

And it becomes absolutely embarrassing for the author when she naively tries to convince that "As for the political discourse, all (!!! - A.Yu.) political leaders and forces" rhetoric of war has not been extreme." It will suffice to bring only one example: making a speech at a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2003, then-President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan publicly declared: “Azerbaijanis and Armenians are genetically incompatible peoples.” This statement was regarded not just as extremist, but racist and provoked a harsh response from many Europeans, including the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. And how many similar statements have been made by other Armenian ministers, politicians and leaders of various parties and organizations! It is unlikely that the author is unaware of such statements. The psychology of a person who has become a victim of the “image of the enemy” and who therefore does not see anything reprehensible in the statements of “one’s own” lot, but she can easily pick a needle in the haystack of “enemies”. Now, if it weren’t for Robert Kocharyan to make this notorious statement, but Ilham Aliyev or one of the Azerbaijani politicians, the author would have no problems. Then she would have noticed extremism. And how can she notice "her own ones’" extremism?

And the assurances that in “in post-revolutionary Armenia there were new emphases in the peace discourse: the new government has spoken more about the readiness to and significance of peace” are absolutely naive and amusing! As if there were no aggressive statements by the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister of Armenia about the seizure of new territories from Azerbaijan. And as if during a recent visit to Karabakh, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan did not say that this is the territory of Armenia, which was regarded as an aggressive statement that only incites militarism on the other side (4).

Thus, the peer-reviewed article demonstrates how difficult it is even for experts to avoid the influence of propaganda and stereotypes.


1. See: Глоссарий языка вражды в СМИ Азербайджана и Армении. - https://ypc.am/upload/GLOSSARY_rus.pdf; Армяно-азербайджанские взаимоотношения в медиа Армении и Азербайджана. - https://ypc.am/upload/ArmAzMonit0809_rus.pdf; Филип Гамагелян и Сергей Румянцев. Армения и Азербайджан: конфликт в Нагорном Карабахе и новая интерпретация нарративов в учебниках истории. – Сборник «Мифы и конфликты на Южном Кавказе». Том 1. Под ред. О.Карпенко и Дж. Джавахишвили. - International Alert, 2013, с. 177-183 и др.
2. Кристина Солоян. Линия фронта начинается в учебниках. - https://www.opendemocracy.net/ru/linia-fronta-nachinaetsya-uchebnikach-k...
3. An Armenian in Baku vs. an Azerbaijani in Yerevan: a Social Experiment – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkA6twUVu48; Armenian about Azerbaijanis and Azerbaijanis about Armenians - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAt9HPzSKBA
4. See См Громкие «военные» заявления от армянского премьера и министра обороны. - https://jam-news.net/громкие-военные-заявления-от-армян/?lang=ru; Пашинян поддерживает тезис «новая война – новые территории». - https://regnum.ru/news/polit/2603820.html; Пашинян: Арцах — это Армения, и все! Заявление премьера республики ставит под сомнение надежды на урегулирование и внутриполитический консенсус по Карабаху. Чем ответит Баку? - http://www.rosbalt.ru/world/2019/08/08/1796164.html


Suzanne Barseghyan's Comment on Arif Yunusov's Article “Stereotypes and the “image of the enemy” in Azerbaijan”

In his article, A. Yunusov carefully analyzed the history and factors of the formation of the “image of the enemy” in Azerbaijan. The author of the article quite objectively and thoroughly presents the history of Azerbaijan, reconstructing the process, referring to important historical events and, in this context, the essence of propaganda of the "image of the enemy" in his country. He rightly indicates to the mythological character of the image of the enemy in the representations of both societies. However, A. Yunusov speaks about the polarity of these images, rather than mentioning the main features that are specific to the process of forming the “image of the enemy" in Azerbaijan.

Anti-Armenian propaganda and Armenophobia are presented as the most important factor of national unification and unity, imitating the “Armenian prototype”. At the same time, the Armenian example is presented as based solely on grief, mourning, and a sense of sacrifice. However, the expert does not consider other essential factors, such as history, culture, values, ethno-cultural identity, the features of nation state, etc. For example, the article does not discuss the features of the political regime and the formation of public opinion in Azerbaijan. After all, it is known that the phenomenon of the “image of the enemy” is most clearly manifested and controls the consciousness of the society in states with an authoritarian and totalitarian political regime and propaganda and acts as the main instrument of ideological influence.

In this regard, we see a clear difference between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Unlike the seemingly homogeneous Azerbaijani propaganda, there is a pluralism of opinions in Armenia. In the Armenian and Azerbaijani societies, the asymmetry of the representation and propaganda of the image of the enemy is manifested in political rhetoric, in the media, social networks, educational programs, science, art, etc. Ramil Safarov’s example cited in the article by A. Yunusov contradicts his opinion that both countries conduct a similar propaganda of the “image of the enemy". In Armenia, a person who is credited with inhuman or cruel acts is not heroized at public or state level. Another distinctive feature is the public opinion about the ways to resolve the Karabakh conflict: if in Azerbaijan the number of supporters of a military solution to the conflict is steadily growing (as the author indicates), in Armenia the society sees a solution to the conflict through peaceful negotiations (even after the April war of 2016) (1).

A. Yunusov also draws parallels between anti-Turkish Armenian propaganda and anti-Armenian propaganda in Azerbaijan. As the author rightly analyzes, the Azerbaijani elite uses the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a tool for the purpose of national unity and the formation of the Azerbaijani national identity in a variety of ways and tries to recreate the Armenian model of historical memory. But we see this as an incongruence of facts for the correlation of these processes. The article also contains, to put it mildly, ambiguous interpretations of genocide (the term “genocide” has a clear legal definition). The memory of the Armenian Genocide and the image of the Turkish enemy are not formed specifically for the image of the victim and national unity. This is not the result of propaganda, but an oral history, the social memory of the people that is passed down from generation to generation, it is part of ethnic identity.

In conclusion, I would like to express the hope that in the future the societies of Armenia and Azerbaijan will be so democratic and open that we can speak frankly about the real processes and discourses in our countries.


1. Caucasus Barometer, Public Perceptions on Political, Social, and Economic Issues in the South Caucasus Countries, CRRC-Armenia, 2017 (https://www.crrc.am/wp-content/themes/crrc/barometer_files/presentations...)

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