An exclusive with Iveta Mukuchyan about the heartbreak of losing home, culture, and history — and how the fight for survival of the Armenian people in Artsakh united millions of its diaspora together.
Despite a global pandemic still looming across all borders, hostility still broods in parts of the world where freedom weighs heavier than health. This is the case for Armenia and Azerbaijan, two bordering nations in the southern Caucasus, who were at war over a decades-old disputed territory called Nagorno-Karabakh — or Artsakh.
With less than one third of Armenians living in Armenia as a result of the 1915 genocide by the Ottomans, out of the 11 million population worldwide, 8 million Armenians are dispersed across the globe, and 150,000 living in Artsakh.
That is until now. Although the majority of the fighting in Artsakh has been stopped following the Armenian Prime Minister’s call for surrender, violence is still brooding in the region, as thousands of native Armenians and their families are forcibly displaced out of their homes. By the end of the year, all 150,000 Armenians will have to leave the place they’ve called home for generations.
Documenting this in her first heartbreaking short film “The Forgotten Nation of 2020”, Armenian-German artist Iveta Mukuchyan shares the stories of the unheard.
1. Tell us about the first years of your life; moving from Armenia to Germany. What was it like to adapt to a completely new home, language, and culture?
My parents always ensured that we had a good childhood, so we didn’t really face all the difficulties that they went through. But with the years growing up we started to understand how difficult it was for them to adapt to a new world. My mother taught herself German within 6 months so she could help us with the homework, and my father, who was a successful engineer back in Armenia, had to do everything he could to bring food to the table in a world that was so different from his known one. For the most of our earlier years in Germany however, my sister and I felt like the black sheep.
2. How do you think that journey between two worlds have shaped the person you have become?
Balancing both identities was a messy process for quite some time; I was a native Armenian who grew up in Germany, who then came back to Armenia to study and shortly after, became a public figure. I didn’t understand which was the true me buried under all the compliments and critics. Now with the years I enjoy the woman who I became with all the experiences of my life. You look back and connect the dots and it all makes sense. The German in me knows how to bring order into my life, while the warm-blooded Armenian knows how to love and truly feel.
3. How was your experience at Eurovision, representing Armenia?
It was a great experience doing what I loved on stage while 200 million people were watching live. Almost a year of preparation for the 3 most joyful minutes of my career!
4. How do you think you were able to best use your platform to spread the message about Artsakh?
International news networks weren’t covering the truth of what was happening in Karabagh, therefore I decided to take the matter into my own hands and make my first documentary. With only 10 hours left to hand over the battled land to Azerbaijan, we were on a very short schedule, but we made it happen and gave a voice to the many unheard families. The exposure was incredible, with over half million views. I believe that the way of expression doesn’t really matter, as long as you have a voice people will listen to. How would you act if your mother is sick? You would take care with all your heart and possibilities. That is how I compare my relationship with Artsakh and Armenians. I will always use my platform to make sure the world knows about my Motherland.
5. What is the one thing you think Armenians worldwide need to hear about what is happening behind the scenes?
Unity is the only solution.
6. What was the most heartwarming, and heartbreaking moments in your time in Artsakh during the war?
The most heartbreaking thing was to see a man digging out the grave of his dead son and burning his house down, after it was announced that we had to hand over the lands to Azerbaijan. I asked him where he will go, and his only response was ‘God knows’. I never saw so much disappointment and hope at the same time. Looking into the eyes of this man, I started praying every night and speaking to God in a new language that I didn’t know existed.
7. Where do we go from here? How do you think we can instill hope in the many displaced families in Artsakh, and the many discouraged Armenians abroad?
We need to bring back the meaning of the word “victory” into our people and especially the younger generations. I have some amazing educational and cultural programs coming up next year in form of masterclasses and music programs and will continue to use my voice to educate the world about the situation, and to give strength to the young Armenians who are shaping our future.
8. For the many young girls that look up to you, what is one lesson you think they can learn from your personal story and journey adapting to a new home?
Stay true to your roots but find the balance adapting to a new world, which is changing constantly while you are a part of it. You too are changing the world with every step you take. Being a global citizen allows me to tap into different realities that unites us as one. Explore the world and enrich my own.