Drawing lines: Billboards promoting Made in Armenia goods said to compromise Karabakh cause

A campaign promoting the consumption of goods of Armenian make has inadvertently questioned the current territorial integrity of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) by depicting it within its former Soviet borders on promo billboards in Yerevan.

Such billboards that appeared in Yerevan streets this week as part of the “Let’s Buy Armenian” campaign, present a map on which NKR is shown within the borders of the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region (NKAR) that existed as part of Soviet Azerbaijan until it broke free of Baku’s control with the collapse of the USSR.

ArmeniaNow has made numerous inquiries at state bodies and private agencies in an attempt to identify the organizers of the initiative. The attempts have so far been unsuccessful. Yerevan’s municipality promised to answer ArmeniaNow’s questions “in the coming days”.

Nearly a year ago, in December 2008, representatives of youth organizations of Karabakh sent a letter to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in which they asked him to use his influence to remove the maps used during weather forecasts on Armenian television channels that wrongly present the Karabakh borders.

On these maps Armenia and Karabakh are presented as they were as of 1988, i.e. Karabakh is shown as the former autonomous region (part of Soviet Azerbaijan), and the Lachin corridor (linking Armenia and NKR) is missing altogether.

Tigran Kocharyan, who deals with issues of the current NKR maps, argues that by printing such an erroneous map the organizers violate the constitution of the NKR and the rights of the people who live in the liberated territories. (By the time the 1994 ceasefire was signed with Azerbaijan, putting an end to three years of hostility, Karabakh Armenian forces had managed to establish control over seven districts of Azerbaijan proper that they continue to control until today).

“Does this mean that the honey produced by people who live in Berdzor or Karavachar should not be purchased, because these territories are not on the NKAR’s map?” says Kocharyan.

Kocharyan, a member of the Initiative Against Xenophobia, is convinced that by printing the old Karabakh map the organizers of the initiative “play into Azerbaijan’s hands.”

“It is already a year that we have struggled against television channels showing the map of the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region, and three TV channels have already rejected this map, and now they start a new initiative with the same map. In fact, the organizers settle the Karabakh conflict earlier than, say, the president, since Serzh Sargsyan does not overtly speak about ceding territory,” says Kocharyan.