More than twenty years have passed since the beginning of the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. Throughout this period, Armenians and Azerbaijanis have learned to live without direct contact. A wall of estrangement has been erected that will be difficult to overcome. Deeply anchored in both societies, the ‘image of the enemy’ has become an objective and palpable category. Indeed, the level of reciprocal alienation is intensifying. And neither party is prepared to offer concession.
The fragile balance in the area of the conflict can be upset at any time, as can the even more fragile peace. Both governmental authorities and the mass media must be held responsible for the recent intensification of negative attitudes and the targeted cultivation of the image of the enemy.
A long period of reconciliation will be required to surmount the image of the enemy in each of these antagonistic societies. Intensive and continuous labor will be necessary. Above all, more accurate and positive information about the counterpart must be increased inside Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, and Azerbaijan. The creation of an atmosphere of trust and tolerance constitutes the overarching prerequisite for the establishment of a good neighbour relationship.
Proposing the research project “The image of the enemy: background and the mechanisms for its overcoming on the example of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,” the partners – Center for Strategic Analysis “Spectrum,” Yerevan, Armenia, and the Institute of Peace and Democracy, Baku, Azerbaijan, had the following goals:
– To analyze the emergence of the “image of the enemy” in the Armenian and Azerbaijani societies against the backdrop of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict;
– To understand the mechanisms of maintenance and utilization of the “image of the enemy”;
– To propose the mechanisms aimed at minimization of the negative perception of each other by the peoples of Armenia and Azerbaijan;
– To enhance the level of tolerance in both societies.
The implementation of the project became possible with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.