During and after the 44-day war in Artsakh, the most important and vital lessons were taught to me by the adversary or the enemy (as you like to describe it, it does not change the essence of our neighbor and the content of relations with it).
It may sound strange, but the opponent taught me more during this time than all my teachers combined.
I received the first lesson at the end of October 2020, when we were returning to Yerevan after another working visit. On that day, it was officially announced that Azerbaijan was using white phosphorus weapons on a large scale. We got in the car on the lightless street of Stepanakert, there were 5 of us, we filled up with gas, turned off the phones and left.
We left the city, cars were “hit” in some places, “Smerch” missiles in several parts, we went further, the top of the mountain on the left was “burning,” it was a strange linear fire. One said that a rocket had fallen, the other said that it was the result of that phosphorus.
The smoke did not go to the two big cities of Artsakh, but to the south. The enemy knew what he was doing and why, he wanted to intimidate and sow panic among the people. The operator of our team tried to remember what trick the Armenians had used in the first Artsakh war to panic the Azerbaijanis, they had filled the tents with wheat or something else, and there was confusion among the enemy.
We crossed the border, entered Goris, the city was immersed in light, it was unusual.
That day the opponent taught me not to be afraid, he also taught me not to be afraid of confessing that you are afraid and to overcome that fear.
The second lesson I learned was not to underestimate the opponent and not to overestimate us.
For years, young people of my age, myself and not only have sown a mentality according to which the enemy is inferior to us in strength and intelligence, the Armenian propaganda machine has become so inferior that the enemy has even been compared to sheep.
We had lost the ability to assess the situation soberly.
This extremely wrong approach was refuted during and after the war. Let me bring simple examples. In the parts of the Goris-Kapan road, which came under the control of Azerbaijan, our enemy deliberately placed Azerbaijani signs and posters in the part visible to the Armenian drivers.
This is a tool of unique psychological influence, initially, it served as a part of the information war, naturally many in the Armenian media used it, perhaps unintentionally supporting the propaganda machine of Azerbaijan.
Even now, those same signs are a way to mentally oppress the Armenians passing through that path, so that we always remember the defeat.
Every week they throw new information “shells” into our public domain. The photo of Ilham Aliyev, which allegedly testifies to being in “Sosi Park,” is from that series.
The situation is the same in the positions, the Azerbaijani side is best furnishing its front line, showing even an advantage over the Armenian soldier in that issue.
The war taught me to be more prudent and restrained in the information I received.
For example, in the middle of December, I visited the border villages of the Goris region of the Syunik region. We met with volunteer groups, which at that time were still guarding the borders.
One of their commanders escorted us to the outskirts of one of the villages, assuring us that the area, according to Soviet maps and GPS systems, could pass under Azerbaijani control, but thanks to them it did not.
I filmed him, but after some research, my material did not include it. And the problem was not that the commander was lying, on the contrary, he was right; I had just seen the example of the village of Aravus, where the border volunteers filmed the negotiations between the mayor and the Azerbaijanis, presenting that the mayor is able to defend the territories of his own village.
The video became a cause of internal political manipulation in Azerbaijan, and as reported in Aravus and Tegh, one of the generals arrived from Baku and urged him to retreat, otherwise threatening to attack the village.
As a result, in order not to deepen the tension, the army corps urged them to change the location of their positions. To this day, Aravus is fighting for 54 hectares of land approved by cadastral papers.
The war taught me to be honest with the public, even on topics that at first glance and especially in the eyes of the government, is “Azerbaijan’s mill is filling water.”
Before the war, for example, we were taken to the “Yeghinikner” military unit in the north of Artsakh, where we were presented with trenches, scenes that testify to the fighting spirit of our army and the unbreakable spirit of a soldier.
The war, however, showed that most of the front line, to put it mildly, was in a deplorable state, and the army was vulnerable.
We had to talk about the problems that remained unresolved, first of all, because they were hidden from the public. One of them is border security.
In February, I was in Syunik again and left for the front line with the volunteers. My goal was to cover the situation on the front line. I saw trenches dug with shovels, soldiers and volunteers serving in inconsolable conditions, and in front of me an enemy that was provided with everything.
These issues are hidden because those who raise them can be labeled by the government at least, and at most, after the recent legislative changes, they can also be fined.