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Interview with Seyran Ohanyan (November, 2008)

-Mr. Ohanyan, I want to ask you to begin our conversation with your biography. Which are the most eventful episodes of your traversed road?

-I was born in Shushi, Karabakh. I spent my childhood in village Atabek, region Shamakhor. Since 4th form I’ve lived in village Mrgashen, region Kotayk. My parents are pedagogues. I was born in a family of traditional manners, warm human relations, where children were taught to be honest, kind, tolerant, persistent. Strong, heroic characters have always attracted me though I’ve always been quiet, peaceful and balanced. I’ve dreamt of becoming an army officer since childhood. In the years of my youth the image of any army officer was characterized by courage, patriotism, strength, good upbringing, high intellect and moral. Thus, it was the embodiment of my human ideal. After graduating from secondary school, I attended the Baku Higher Joint Command College. I began my military service as a Battalion Commander in the Soviet army located in Germany, and then I moved to the regiment of Stepanakert, I was a commander of battalion. I participated in the war of Artsakh. I led a detachment and a battalion to the war, I was in the front and I led the troops in the battlefield of Martakert. I was wounded, and then I was amputated. Afterwards I was appointed as chief of the general staff of the Armenian Armed Forces and First Deputy Minister of Defense of Armenia, I led one of the formations of the Armenian army, and then I was appointed as Minister of Defense of Mountainous Karabakh. I’ve led the Army of Defense for 8 years; from 2007 till 2008 I’ve led the chief headquarters of the Armed Forces of Armenian Republic.

-Mr. Ohanyan, the army realizes a program of universal reforms which includes all the fields of the system. What does the need of reforms depend on?

-The whole period of forming and raising the army has been accompanied by great achievements and progress. Everything possible has been done to have a disciplined, militant, powerful army in a short period of time and keep up with the rate of the development existing in the region and do its duty keeping the borders of the country inaccessible and preserving the achievements of the war. Thus, during its short but very complicated and dramatic biography the Armenian army has been able to solve its main problem becoming the most reliable guarantee of our statehood. However, we had reached a haven when we felt the need of reforms in governing system, structure, educational programs, legislation and ideological-educational field to keep up with the rates of the development of the system, to strengthen the fighting ability of the Armed Forces and to solve the problems which we haven’t overcome.

-Don’t the reforms have anything to do with the threats of Azerbaijani side which become more and more frightful day by day? Maybe we are getting ready for a war?

– The threats of Azerbaijani side have always been and we have always been ready for the war. I don’t think we must ignore the danger of the war and not to notice the evident battlecall of the government of Azerbaijan which we hear since the establishment of the ceasefire till today. Your questing about getting ready for the war is not urgent because we always get ready for it. That’s how we keep peace. As soon as we forget the danger of the war, as soon as we weaken, the war will begin again.

– The expression “we always get ready for the war” concerns to the army. The army is both physically and psychologically ready to block the way of the enemy on occasion. What about the people? Don’t you think that people must sometimes think that despite the achievements of the war and the power of the army, we live in a region where we are surrounded by unreliable and unpredictable neighbours?

– I don’t want our people to be destructed from natural life and to think about the danger of the war as long as that danger is not evident. Our people have given their part of the fight, they have won, and let them enjoy the peace, but they must not forget that they have to be powerful, united, full of spirit in all times and they have to work, make their own land prosperous and become stronger and more persistent day by day.

-Especially when we need to contrast quality and spiritual potential to the quantity and natural resources of Azerbaijani side.

– The potential of the nation can be multiplied if it’s aimed, if it’s concentrated on the axis of such ideas which are inmost for our nation. We have no lack of potential if we are able to direct the mind and the consciousness of the whole society on primary problems and form a united system of values. Today much is spoken about the military-patriotic education of the generation. I think that education must be observed as a versatile and continuing phenomenon which includes moral, aesthetic and patriotic education as patriotism forms on the basis of various virtues. A man can’t be patriotic if he doesn’t love his parents, if he isn’t honest, if he isn’t honourable and conscious… The upbringing of a person must begin in the family, and then continue at school, at the university, army with the same system of values, with the same ideas and moral-psychological accentuation. Thus, we have a problem of forming a united ideological and educative program. And the most important of all together with the education of the new generation we mustn’t forget the education of the society as the child grows up in the society, becomes the bearer of its moral description, thinking, standards. No matter how aimed the education and moral admonition are at schools and at the universities, the morals of the society will have their effects on a person. I think we have a lot to do in the moralizing field.

– The hero of Azerbaijan is a person who kills the sleeping Armenian, the hero of Turkey is a juvenile who shoots at the Armenian editor-in-chief from his hiding place. Is it possible to have a strong society with such heroes?

– No, it’s not. But I would like to speak about our realities as I am much more concerned about the morality of our society than about the demoralization of Azerbaijani society. We must be able to make the image of the protector of the fatherland, the image of the hero, as well as the image of the man who sacrifices himself, who builds works and creates and the image of the man who is kind, honest, just, an unreserved value in the system of the values of the society.

– Mr. Ohnayan, your sons have served in the national army. I would like to ask you a question. Have they served as ordinary soldiers? Have they been to the trench and front line?

– I have three sons. My youngest one is still a child. My elder son joined the army from the first year of the institute and served in the army of defense. My eldest son Arthur has got a military education. He is an officer.

-Was it when you were the Commander of the Army of Defense?

– Yes. As to being to the front line and trench, even my youngest son has been there when he was nine months old. It’s a custom to see in the New Year in the trench with my soldiers, sometimes with my family. Thus, your question isn’t for me or for my sons. My sons have served like all the soldiers. As a son of the Commander of the Army of Defense, he has only had additional duties and no privileges.

– What additional duties?

– To have a model behaviour, to serve devotedly, always to be vigilant to his duties. As to the differentiated approach towards the soldier or unlawfulness, I must say that this problem has been favoured with attention in the program of reforms; the mechanisms of control have become more clear and stronger. We must make every effort to make the Armenian army an example for all the links of the state structure for its legality, morality and ideological potential.

The achievements of the war are preserved; the army keeps up with the rates of the development. On the contrary, we are obliging the border. This fact already means something. We have done everything possible in the sense of politics. It’s enough to mention that we’ve never had serious disagreements on solving the problem of Karabakh in inner political field. But in any case we are stronger, more united in the battlefield in danger than during peace.

-What haven’t we done that we could do?

– We could have more solidary, more ideological, more united and prosperous society.

– There is a circulating question: what does the army give to the soldier? Isn’t that observation false in your opinion? Must the army give something to the soldier or must the soldier give something to the army? Why not say that military service is a moral duty, realized deprivation?

– That’s how we need to say. The soldier does his filial duty to his fatherland, his hand on his arms, against the bullet of the enemy, endangered his life; he protects his own land, because fatherland is more valuable than life, more valuable than the life of each of us, than the lives of our sons. This is unequivocal. But let’s also not forget that before entering life, before colliding with complicated interrelations, the army is a school of experience for a boy and he doesn’t go through that experience alone as his commanders are beside him.

– Mr. Ohanyan, I’m grateful for the interview and I want to finish it with a light note, especially that I’m sure it will be interesting for the citizens and officers and soldiers to know how you live outside the military service, what hobbies you have, who your friends are, what you do for fun and which are the little joys of your life.

– Outside the military service, if I have time I read. I like to play billiards. I have even participated in competitions. As for fun, I don’t like to be in a noisy company. I prefer a small circle of company, close friends, when we understand each other and when there is a mutual understanding, warmth. In a word, I like to have a rest with my close friends, relatives. I help people with pleasure. I am a man of my word and sometimes I give promises which are hard to accomplish and I make great efforts to realize them. Most of all I appreciate conscientiousness in people; I can’t stand liars and cynical people.

– Which of your virtues are you most proud of and is there a trait that hinders you?

– I highly estimate my fairness. There are people who appear in the epicenter of the events, when they need to show them off, to win the sympathy of the society. As to me, on the contrary, I avoid tribunary activities and mass communication. And this somehow hinders me.

– Mr. Ohanyan, you naturally haven’t an opportunity to talk with all the soldiers and the officers of the National Army and to say your word. Now you have that opportunity.

– I am sorry that I can’t shake the hand of each of my soldiers, to answer his honouring greeting and say that I am grateful. I want to tell them to learn the work of the soldier well, to protect themselves and those who need their protection. Never lose courage when you face difficulties. We have all gone through the road you are going now. And I would remind the officers – from the newly converted lieutenants to the generals, that the profession of a soldier is the most honourable, the most heroic, and the most self-sacrificing. I’d also order them to respect and to love the soldier unconditionally, never to forget that they are an entity. I wish them all a service with honour and without mishap.

Category: #01 (917) 12.01.2012 – 18.01.2012, National army, Destinies, News, Spotlight