Pen Pals? Azerbaijan’s President and the Little Armenian Girl
Fed up with threats that Baku will forcibly retake her native Nagorno-Karabakh, a 13-year-old Armenian girl sat down and penned a letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev recently. Aliyev, perhaps moved by the curious sophistication of the child’s missive, found time to respond with both a history lesson and an invitation.“Why do you want to grab my homeland, which does not belong to you? Your own lands are not enough for you?” writes the girl, who signs off as Adelina Avagimian, a student from Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert (which Azerbaijanis call Khakhendi). Little Adelina argues that Karabakh has always been Armenian. And besides, she’s never seen any Azerbaijanis around. Aliyev begins with a lengthy history lesson on how Karabakh was actually Azerbaijani land until the Armenians drove all the Azerbaijanis out during the conflict in the late 1980s and early 1990s.“I don’t mean to give you boring lectures on the region’s history, but the Armenians started settling en masse around the South Caucasus, including Karabakh, only after these lands became part of the Russian Empire,” writes Aliyev. “I hope that on one of the starry nights that are so beautiful in Karabakh, when you look at the sky and dream of a peaceful future, you will ask your grandpa about this.”And so goes the exchange, as reported by news agencies on both sides of the frozen front. Just in case anyone missed the familiar narratives, in this Internet age all of Armenia and Azerbaijan were copied. Come visit us in oil-rich Azerbaijan some day with your folks, Aliyev’s letter concludes, and you will see for yourself how Karabakh is losing out by not being part of Azerbaijan. XOXO, The President. The epistolary exchange is reminiscent of the best tearjerkers from the Soviet era, when children sometimes conveyed grown-up messages. Cold War hands may still remember “America’s Youngest Ambassador,” Samantha Smith, a girl from Maine who sent a letter across the Iron Curtain to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1982. Smith took up Andropov’s invitation to swing by the USSR for a choreographed tour, becoming a celebrated emissary of peace. Let’s see if Adelina takes the Azerbaijani offer.