Of Chess Champions and Axe Murderers

Armenian chess champions greeted by President Sarkisian (left); Azerbaijan's hero axe-murderer Ramil Safarov


The streets of Yerevan thundered with cheers and jubilation Monday night as throngs of residents flocked to the streets to welcome Armenia’s National Chess team which had retuned from Istanbul where it had beat the Hungarian team to win gold and clench the title of world champion.

Fireworks lit up the Yerevan sky and social media was buzzing with excitement and pride as our national heroes came home victorious.

Under normal circumstances, the chess victory would still have been a source of pride and excitement, but would not have had historic implications. However, under the dark cloud of the Ramil Safarov incident, Armenia’s victory in Istanbul against Hungary and last week’s absurd images from Baku, where Azeris celebrated the return of an axe-murderer as hero turned irony into pathos.

It was indeed ironic that Armenia was left to battle Hungary in the chess finals. Victory was even sweeter, since Armenia has suspended all relations with Hungary over its decision to extradite the Azeri soldier Ramil Safarov who brutally killed Armenian officer Gourgen Margaryan in 2004. It was also poignant to hear the Armenian national anthem in Istanbul.

The recent developments have, once again, put into perspective the crux of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and highlighted the gains and losses that have played out during the course of the war and the ensuing peace process.

What began as a democratic movement under Glasnost and Perestroika for Armenians demanding their rights, turned violent when Azerbaijan began a wave of brutal massacres and pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad, Baku, Shahumian and Getashen. When Armenians were under relentless Grad missile attacks they banded to fight a war imposed on them and emerged victorious. Modern day heroes were born and hundreds joined the pantheon that boasts selfless individuals who have put the survival of the nation first. Azeris retreated without heroes and 20 years later live in squalor as a few in Azerbaijan reap the benefits of its oil wealth. They were forced to create heroes, namely Haydar Aliyev, who is the architect of the current regime that thrives on and perpetuates hatred and brutality.

During the peace negotiations, Azerbaijan has continued to threaten war, kill innocent civilians, and domestically stifle those who have advocated change in favor of criminals and bandits. Official Baku, through its president, has said that every Armenian is the state’s enemy and must be dealt with accordingly.

While Armenia has not been without its own troubles in the continued quest to protect human rights and justice, it has never officially called for the destruction and murder of an entire race.

Decades ago as the world watched the brutal pogrom of Armenians with the same tacit “concern” as expressed when Safarov was extradited and then pardoned, the great human rights advocate and activist Andrei Sakharov said that the Karabakh conflict is “matter of prestige” for Azerbaijan, while for Armenians it is “a matter of life and death.”

So many deaths, including that of Gurgen Margaryan’s could have been prevented had the international community, especially the US, Russia and Europe, did not sit idly by and exert pressures in their absurd efforts to advance so-called parity in the name of advancing peace.

The Karabakh conflict resolution process is at a crossroads now. Azerbaijan’s blatant support and glorification of an Armenian killer should not go unpunished by the stakeholders who claim to have the region’s best interests at heart. Their “concerns” should have turned to anger and condemnation when in the days following Safarov’s extradition, Azerbaijan continued its sub-human policies and elevated the axe-killer to a hero.

The US continues to say that it is looking for answers from Baku, and the NATO secretary general last week guardedly asked for an explanation and instead got the middle finger from Ilham Aliyev.

However late in the game, it is time for the international community to recalibrate its position and begin to not ignore bellicose statements and acts by Azerbaijan and view them as a threat to not only to Armenia and Armenians, but their own efforts at establishing peace in the region.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday pledged to work to diffuse tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of the upcoming United National General Assembly. One way to ensure that their efforts hold any credence is to use the pulpit of the General Assembly to loudly condemn Azerbaijan and any other nation that promotes hatred, murder and glorifies those who commit them as a state policy.

Two neighboring countries welcomed national heroes to their midst. As the world watched, a definitive picture has emerged that magnifies—in no uncertain terms—the contrast between civilized people and barbarians: A nation proudly welcoming a group that for several weeks has been representing his country in an international competition and is returning a hero having leveraged sportsmanship, acumen and conviction and another nation proudly welcoming a person who wielded an axe, viciously and brutally murdering another human being.

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  1. bigmoustache said:

    azerbaijan has no heros, they desperatly need one. on the other hand we revere our selfless, sacrificing heros and know their names and deeds from the artsakh war, the genocide times and beyond.
    but we do need more statues of our fedayis such as tehlirian, serop, kevork, sose in armenia, along with with our poets, artists and intellectuals

    • Arsineh said:

      We have so many statues they are coming out of our ears. Many fedayee statues can be found throughout the country, along with our great poets, artists and intellectuals. You can barely walk 10 feet without finding one. In fact, I get to stare at Mayr Hayastan all day long.

      Not only that, Yerevan has been covered top to bottom with new statues, monuments and sculptures… it’s quite a beautiful site.

  2. Avery said:

    Another great article Ara.

    The juxtaposition of the two pictures couldn’t have shown the fundamental difference between Armenians and AzeriTatarTurks any better.

    Armenians celebrate and reward excellence in intellectual achievement.
    Azerbaijanis glorify murder, mayhem, and destruction of the most savage kind.

  3. Andranik said:

    The best article so far about this !
    Obama and Clinton will speak after/if Obama is reelected!

  4. Berge Jololian said:

    Very well said Mr. Khachatourian – beautifully written and contrasted.

    It is time to re-align Armenia’s foreign policy – less relations with EU, NATO and US State Department clowns. More relations with CSTO, Russian Federation and Iran.

    Europe’s attitude has not changed towards Armenians since the late 1800’s led by (still is) by the sinister British and their quest for petroleum – [Europe] the root cause of pre-1915 periodic massacres of Armenians that culminated in the Genocide.

    Armenia’s geography lies in the direct path of access to central Asian energy sources [not Georgia]. So was the case at the turn of the last century.

  5. Raffi said:

    We can pave the road from Yerevan to Budapest with the bones of Armenians who were killed while the world merely expressed its concern with Turkey and Azerbaijan. I don’t care what they have to say.

    Azerbaijan has made it so clear that they hate every Armenian on the planet, want us dead, and will not honor any pledge they make to safeguard us, that we need to recognize Karabakh’s independence now and end negotiations with them. There can be no negotiations with a nation that worships axe murderers of Armenians, and there can never be a return to Azeri rule.

    End of story.

  6. Artur said:

    This Azeri guy is going to commit a suicide some day, he cannot bear so much, we will all see that day, remember my words

  7. George said:

    The West knows the difference between Armenians and the Azeris, however WHEN OIL TALKS, Values, Human Right, and Justice are sacrified

  8. levon sanosyan said:

    Let the Western world know that the nail has been nailed in the coffin of the Turkish-Armenian so called Protocals.
    Come and take your coffin Hillery Clinton and no one needs your sincere assistance! Go and dance and give a five
    to your body-body Davoutoglue. And never again dream of cheating on the Armenian Cause.

  9. Satenik said:

    Armenia: Achiever of impossible! To think that a small nation whose history has been a tragic story all along has acieved so much is a dream come through only by Armenians! Armenia , we salute you!

  10. John Ahmaranian said:

    What a difference!
    The one is welcomed as World Chess Champion
    The other one is World Axing (baltagi) champion!

    The one chalanged the world on the chess table for his victory
    The other axes his opponent who was sleeping in his bed!

    The one killed the imaginary “king” on the chess table, to become an international heros.
    The other one killed a real human being to becone an international murderer!

    The Turk we knew is the same Turk! Even his axing method is the same.

    • Vahan Vanagan said:

      And the next Step will be the pitiless answer of our Soldiers to the Azeri-Turk Nomads from the front to Baku,. as it was during the Liberation of Artsakh in 1994. And Matthew Bryza will remind his Aliev brother in law that he was not doubting of this.
      Vahan Vanagan

  11. Garo Kassabian said:

    Dear Ara, Bravo!
    Excellent article. You have come out with so perfectly well on the subject of Chess Champions and
    Axe Murderers. We, Armenians as a nation, have been faced with similar circumstances in our
    tragic history of the past 100 years. The following juxtaposition comes to mind: the return of the remains of Talat Pasha (Mastermind of the Armenian Genocide) as a national hero from Berlin to Istanbul, versus the remains of Gomidas Vartabed (a victim of the Genocide) from Paris to the Armenian Pantheon in Yerevan.
    GARO K

  12. Stephen T. Dulgarian said:

    We thank our Armenian brothers for winning the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul as World Champions and hopefully the World Nations will condemn Pres. Aliev of Azerbaijan for falsefying with Hungary that Safarov the Axe killer of Lt. Gurgen Margaryan would continue serving his sentence in Azerbaijan, but instead he has been honored for his Axe killing & even paid him his salary for the years he was in prison in Hungary as well as giving him a free home to live in. We pray that the United Nations will take action on this terrible atrocity.

  13. Tatul Sonentz-Papazian said:

    Excellent article, timely, to the point and effective! Keep up the good work, Ara, we’re proud of you.

  14. Kevo said:

    If not suicide or assassin, Major Safarov will continue his murder spree by leading Azeri soldiers in the next war/conflict.

  15. Vahan Vanagan said:

    Additional to the Remarks of Avery:

    The Image of the criminal Azeri Safarov can be completed with the Bloody Ax in one hand and the flower in the other, as Abdul Hamid was represented with a bloody dagger in his mouth at the time of 1895 massacres.
    It is not too late to modify the Image.