Artak Beglaryan is the Press Secretary and Spokesman of the Prime Minister of the de-facto Republic Nagorno-Karabakh. He is only 26 years old. With the age of six he lost his eye sight in an accidental mine explosion. In the interview he talks about why he climbed the mountain Ararat and the prospects for peace.
Mr. Beglaryan, how did you get involved in politics?
I studied Political Science in Yerevan, in England and I did a mid-career course at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the United States. But the first real career step I took in 2005 when I returned from University College London, where I did my Master. The Prime Minister offered me to work as his assistant and I agreed. I worked in that position until the end of 2013 and since then I am the spokesman. Before that I also wrote columns for newspapers in Yerevan but also expert pieces. That’s how I was noticed as a young political expert.
Did you always plan to return to Karabakh or was it mainly the job offer?
No, I definitely wanted to come back here. When I was leaving for university or courses, my plan was always to come back and work here. I never went abroad with the intention to stay there. My purpose was simply education. I want to be useful for the society here. I thought my potential could be better realized in my home country.
When you were studying abroad, how did people react when you told them that you are from Karabakh?
Only a few people knew about this place. They usually thought that Karabakh is fragile, insecure, even at war. But you see now that Karabakh is mainly secure.
What are your main tasks in your current position?
My main responsibility is PR and communications like press releases, comments on behalf of the prime minister, interviews or PR campaigns. But I am also involved in project management or organizing trainings for government officials.
You are only 26 years old. What are your further career plans?
As of this moment I am satisfied. But every soldier wants to be a general (smiles). First of all, I want to increase my professional skills and my knowledge as a scholar. That’s why I am currently working on my Phd. I don’t have any position in mind that I would like to have in the future but I am sure that it will be an expert or political post.
Yes, in Karabakh. One day it could be in Armenia but whatever I will do, will be for Karabakh and for Armenia because for me they are inseparable.
How did the war influence your life?
Well, I was around 3 to 5 years old. My father was killed in the war. I lost my eyesight in 1995 after the ceasefire. It was an accidental explosion of a mine in Stepanakert. So, in some way it’s an effect of the war. Until the beginning of 2000 there were frequent occasions like this.
Despite this, you still managed to achieve so many incredible things? How did you do it?
I guess because I had the wish and the willpower to do it. Nothing is an obstacle if you really want it. In 2013 I managed to climb to the top of the mountain Ararat.
What was your motivation to do that?
I wanted to challenge myself, also as a blind person, and show that disability does not matter if you want to reach any kind of top – physically or mentally. But the first motivation was the symbolic meaning of Ararat because it is part of our Armenian identity. So, I wanted to try that.
Let’s turn to Karabakh. What do you think are the priorities for Karabakh’s future?
Development and security. They are interconnected. But development such as economic development, institutional development and education doesn’t have any kind of alternative. And of course, development guarantees our security.
Is it possible to gain development without being recognized as a state?
Sure, recognition doesn’t matter. Of course there are some obstacles but it is possible to build a state without international recognition. There are many recognized states that are failed states and there are few non-recognized states that are successful.
What are the most important goals concerning the security of Karabakh?
The strengthening of the army, the borders and this of course is connected to money. If we will have higher economic growth, we can invest more in the development of our army. I don’t see any other option to guarantee our security. Our power is our army.
How do you see the chance for real peace in the foreseeable future?
You mean durable peace? (laughs)… Currently I don’t see any chances. There are only two options: another open war (which will not guarantee peace) or that both sides prepare their societies for peace, especially the Azerbaijani side. It means that we have to change our way of thinking, our identity, especially the Azerbaijani side. We need to redirect our psychology towards each other. But I see that the main problem is there, not here. The Armenian side is very open in comparison with Azerbaijan because we don’t have a vertical propaganda system, which is controlled by the government.
How is the society in Karabakh prepared for peace? Are there any measures?
At the moment it is impossible. There are frequent attacks on the frontline, so we can’t think that the Azerbaijani side wants peace. If your enemy is attacking you with an axe, you are not going to stand there and wait for him to attack you. You will take an axe and defend yourself. That’s why we don’t get prepared for peace at the moment. But we are ready to discuss solutions and to see how we can reach peace together.
How do you evaluate the level of democracy in Karabakh?
The question is provocating (laughs). I am not satisfied as a citizen. Many people are not. But it is developing. We are on the path of consolidating our democracy. But there are lots of problems coming from for example the Soviet experience, the war, weak institutions and so on. And the mentality of the people. We are a post-Soviet country, we cannot change the psychology of the people from one day to another. We are in the phase of transition.
You are a very cosmopolitan person, you regularly go abroad for trainings and workshops. Is this also a chance for other youngsters from the region to get a higher level of education or are you confident that the education will arrive here?
Actually, I wish more young people would have the chance to go abroad. But there are lots of obstacles. First of all, only a few people have a sufficient level of English. Secondly, not many people are looking for these trainings. Of course, there are some but it should be more.
Interviewed by Elena Ammel and Paul Toetzke