Three conversations in a café reveal stark differences between generations – those who remember peace and those who don’t.

·Here it is, the year 2015. I am sitting in a café and listening to some deep techno. I am letting my mind open and move to the future.
The mind of a human being is unique in that it does not have any limits, does not recognize any borders and does not differ among nationalities.

What if there were no borders in the world? What if there were no conflicting countries? I am trying to make contact with my Azerbaijani friends to have a conversation about our future, about the Caucasus without borders. Hey, future-makers. Here it is, our time to break all borders, resolve all conflicts and make the planet a peaceful place for us.

Have you ever asked yourself why ordinary people need conflicts and borders? Have you, the reader of this essay, thought about how our lives would change if suddenly our borders were to disappear overnight? Have you ever thought about why we need armed forces to protect our land – a small territory on the planet which we all share? Why in the world did we have the thought of creating borders on this common Earth, why can’t we live to develop and explore this planet and go beyond its limits, discover new horizons and keep developing?

From childhood I’ve been a dreamer and a child of something other than Earth. I have thought of parallel realities, parallel worlds and parallel people. And it seems like I haven’t grown up, since I continue thinking about these things. My imagination has been developing so far that it has already been several years since I came to the conclusion that, in general, borders are – let me use this word – idiotic.

They say it is dangerous to attempt to radically change adults’ minds, it is dangerous, and this should be done to kids, who have no understanding of borders, limits, conflicts and hatred. But let’s free our minds from this adulthood; let’s go beyond the hostility and hatred we are taught from childhood.

The music keeps playing simultaneously with my thoughts… you probably know how techno can open your mind and take you deep to a real sense of freedom.

The café is getting more crowded and the music in my ears is growing louder, and with each new set the flow of thoughts about the future is shifting into the images of people with whom I would like to discuss them.

So here we are, people from three generations imagining this common future of ours.

My grandfather, who is 70 years old.

A 22-year-old ex-soldier.

And a schoolgirl aged 14.

We all talk about the future; we all talk about our vision of countries without borders and conflict.

Oh, here it is: a classical set, and my grandpa’s image comes to my mind. How he pictures the future. When I asked him what would change for him if Armenia and Azerbaijan had no closed borders in the future, he immediately replied that he would have more opportunities to travel to the neighbouring country, and would have friends and later maybe relatives, if I ever decided to marry an Azerbaijani guy. Not a common answer at all! Moreover, as he continued, he confirmed my belief that ordinary people have nothing to do with conflict; no one likes to live with the fear in their heart that someone could be killed on the border today, and one day their son might up end up being this someone.

So, as I expected, I did not have any arguments with my grandpa, as we saw things the same way and were of the same opinion on the issue.. My grandfather and I, whom he raised, we should be in the official delegation!

As I was imagining the talk with my grandpa in my head, a group of young people were passing by and I noticed a young man in army uniform among them. He was probably a soldier, and immediately a question arose – how do they imagine the future with our neighbouring country?

I remembered that one of my friends had just come back from the army. I picked up my phone, called him and invited him to have coffee with me in the same café where I had been sitting for about three hours already.

The conversation was a bit harder than it was with my grandfather. This boy had been on the border, the real one that now exists, and had seen shots fired more than once.

“You know, Ashkhen, before the army, I had never thought about hatred towards the people on the other side of our existing border. But when I was there, standing on the border on a severe winter day at night, with the fear that I am going to kill someone and I’m going to be killed –even if it is supposed to be a time of ceasefire for both our countries, when there are shots nearly every day, you start hating those who are on the other side. It is just like our commander had said: ‘Death to the enemy.’ It is really different when you are a solder and when you are just a citizen living far from the border with your daily issues, not even thinking of any kind of hatred as you are busy with your life and work.

“But anyway, it is an interesting question you are asking. What if there were no wars, no closed borders and no conflict?

“To tell you the truth, it is a bit difficult to imagine, as we have seen the opposite since birth. But if one day I had the chance to see our two countries without borders, the first thing that now comes to my mind is to establish contact with the other country and set up a subsidiary petrol station chain of Socar here in Armenia. They say that it is high quality and cheaper.”

My friend said this and smiled, probably imagining himself in the position of CEO of the company here, and I was really satisfied that somehow he could imagine possible future plans involving the two countries.

From the conversation with my friend, I realised that even in our childhood we were taught that we have enemies. We are not brought up with the same intense hatred, it is only on the level of history lessons at school and later in the army. And what is really surprising is that we have never been taught that the Azerbaijanis are our enemy – the word ‘Turks’ is used, referring to both the Turkish people and the Azerbaijanis. As you probably know, this has its roots in the distant historical memory of past events.

My friend
himself as
the CEO

The next person materialised with a chilly set of techno, and I imagined a young girl sitting in front of me and having her favourite chocolate ice-cream. I wanted to ask her about the question that was spinning in my head, but no, I waited until she had finished enjoying the pleasures of eating ice-cream.

So let me get to the most interesting conversation, the one I had with a 14-year-old girl.

“Ash, I do not know why, but I do not like them.”

“Dear, have you ever spoken to or seen an Azerbaijani?”

“No, but I have read in the history books that they have done bad things to us, to our people. I cannot imagine living with them side by side, sharing anything.”

“Dear, I am surprised. I did not know that you could have such thoughts.”

“I feel this way because I have READ bad things about them, even if I have never met any Azerbaijani person. I cannot forgive them for what they have done to my people.”

“But what if it were true? Have you thought about it?”

“Hmm… It is really hard to visualise such a future, but maybe the first thing I would do is meet people there and talk to them about our past, and I might be interested in seeing how they live, and to get to know their daily life. I don’t know, I cannot imagine beyond that, I am too closed to such a topic.”

“I think you are going to change your mind after the long conversation that I am going to have with you.”

She smiled, and with shining eyes was ready and open to hear what I was telling her – about my experience, my friends and no hate speech.

So, here we are, the reality of the present. Three generations totally different from each other.

We, living in this period of history, have a lot of things to do for the future. We should educate and spread our positive experience, and raise our voice about peace and friendship, so that hate propaganda and one-sided history books go mute and fade away. We have no way out but to live and create. We should speak in the voice of music, art and education.

Educate yourself, as you are the living creators of the future. Take the bad weather out of you and let your heart spread sunshine and peace, as we are living on a tiny planet in a huge universe. And whenever you feel hatred, think about the unimaginably big time and universe in which we live.

Life is too short to fill it with borders, killing and hatred. Only love and peace can make the planet a better place to live and enjoy.

The first thing I am going to do after the opening of the borders is visit my friends in Baku who are so close and beloved. I miss all of them, and I do want to visit them in their homes and surroundings, not in third countries.

So, guys, here’s hoping – see you in the near future in Baku or in Yerevan!·

Ashkhen, 25, is a freelance journalist and social activist with diverse interests. She tutored at a private school, served as an observer at the Armenian presidential elections in 2014 and was until recently involved with the popular DJ collective The Monolog.

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