New Year's Resolutions From Artsakh
New Year’s is a time when we all need a little inspiration. If you live in Chicago at least, you’re freezing your butt off and trying to remember what the sun looks like, and we’re all imagining what the next year is going to hold for us. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve had a bit of a rough 2017, and you’re not really sure what 2018 is going to hold for you. This New Year, as I try to figure out what I want to do in the coming year, I’ve been thinking of one of my favorite quotes from Artsakh.
“Nobody told us it was impossible so we did it.”
We were sitting across from Karen Mirzoyan, the Foreign Minister of Artsakh, having coffee in his office. I’d asked him about the overwhelming sense of hope that we’d seen from all the people we’d met in Artsakh so far. The April War in 2016, which had revived Azerbaijan’s military threat against Artsakh’s existence, had given people so much hope and confidence in their ability to defend their homeland.
“According to all logic we should have lost, but we are mountain villagers. We have to stop being victims. We can’t wait for anyone to give us anything. Nobody told us it was impossible, so we just did it.” Minister Mirzoyan said. “And the most important thing isn’t only the military, but that the country is moving forward. We’ve had very positive trends in the economy this year. We started using hydropower to export energy to Armenia. We’ve had a 200% increase in visitors to our country. This is very good for us, because it’s important to feel that we are not alone, and visitors make a big network to make people here stronger.”
Minister Mirzoyan’s words resonated strongly with what we’d heard from other people during our trip. We came to Artsakh knowing that something there was calling us, but without a clear idea of what we were looking for. The people that we met, however, quickly gave us the answer. On the third week of our trip, we had heard quite a few amazing stories, but what surprised us most in Artsakh was how much positivity and creativity they had moving them forward.
We saw exciting changes in the country’s budding tourist industry, like the restoration of historic sites and the new Janapar hiking trail.We met the family of a fallen soldier who is creating a clothing company to support local artisans in his honor. We met the director of the new Tumo center for Creative Technologies in Stepanakert that is providing technological education to local kids in the hopes of encouraging entrepreneurship. We stumbled upon the studio of the self-taught stone carver who is carving an enormous and intricate design for the dome of the new cathedral being built in the nation’s capital.
Artsakh is an example for all of us. The country is still dotted with the rubble of their war for independence more than twenty years ago, but it’s full of new ideas and people working to put them into action. It is still a tiny unrecognized state, threatened by a much larger military power, which showed its might in the April War. But the faith that people have in themselves and their country is absolutely stunning, as are the things it has allowed them to create.
So my New Year’s Resolution? To access the positivity that the people of Artsakh shared with me, pass it to everyone around me, and to keep us all moving forward. What’s yours?