Life, Liberty And Nagorno-Karabakh
“Do you see these men with their eyes closed and heads tilted?” My uncle asked my brother and I.
It was Christmas and our uncle had just come back from Armenia with gifts.
He brought us a gorgeous box carved out of obsidian with the image of men dancing on it. Some had their eyes closed, heads tilted as if in a trance, while the others were holding them upright.
“They’re sleeping!” my brother exclaimed.
“No... They’re dead” my uncle answered.
This was an engraving from the last stand of the men of Sasun––ancient Armenia’s Sparta–– whose reputation for stubborn refusal to submit to any foreign ruler and relentless resistance was made famous in medieval times.
While the First World War was raging, Armenians were fighting for their very existence as a people…
And after repelling wave after wave of Ottoman Turkish assaults, running out of ammunition and refusing to be taken alive, the men of Sasun decided to dance the Kochari (the traditional Armenian warrior’s dance which is typically performed in a tight circle with each dancer supporting the weight of the next) and fall to the last man as their final act of defiance.
They would be so unequivocally free that they would even choose the manner of their exit. In recent times, that defiant dance was again seen, in a very different place.
It was to be performed not against a foreign enemy but in the streets of Yerevan in 2018, where the brave citizens of Armenia faced truncheons, water cannons, threats and intimidation by their own soviet-styled police because they dared to demand their inalienable rights of liberty, rule of law, and democracy…
Which they eventually received through a bloodless revolution that has ushered in genuine reforms for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union.