Literary Responses to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict with Arakel Minassian, Monday, March 22, 7:00pm

On Monday, March 22, at 7:00pm (ET), Arakel Minassian, M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan, will present two contemporary literary responses to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Register for this Zohrab Information Center event here:

The escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict this past year into full-fledged war resulted in devastating losses for the Armenians – the loss of land, civilian life and infrastructure, and thousands of soldiers, many as young as 18. The current peace agreement is at best a stopgap measure, and the political turmoil in Armenia continues to this day. This latest fighting was the culmination of over twenty years of prolonged stalemate that saw the solidification of divergent and mutually exclusive Armenian and Azerbaijani national narratives. Dialogue in such times proved extremely difficult, as it is now.

This talk will examine two pieces of contemporary Armenian literature dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – Hambardzum Hambardzumyan’s 2010 short story “Erku zham” [“Two Hours”] and Karen Gharslyan’s 2016 experimental piece Aterazma: Tpagrayin film [Aterazma (It’s-hate-war): Typographic Film]. These two texts, composed by writers born shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union who came to adulthood in the context of this prolonged stalemate, invite readers to find alternate forms of engagement with both the conflict and the Azerbaijani counterpart. They ask readers to see Armenians and Azerbaijanis not as eternal enemies, but as two peoples with shared histories in the region, both in the Soviet period and before. They further ask readers to see the young men manning the trenches on both sides of the line of contact as human beings sharing in terrible and prolonged suffering. By finding these common threads between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, these authors offer an alternate narrative to that of perpetual enmity.

Arakel Minassian is a graduate of the M.A. program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan, where he wrote his thesis on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in contemporary Eastern Armenian literature. His research focus has been on contemporary Armenian literature generally, and his article on a 2015 personal essay by Anna Davtyan is forthcoming in the scholarly journal Études Arméniennes Contemporaines. Arakel is also a translator of both Western and Eastern Armenian.   

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