NEWPORT BEACH — Can you say, "Nagorno-Karabakh"?
Mumbling that double-barreled name to my boss' face triggered a moment of rare discomfort between us. The keen eyes of my editor narrowed and squinted at me through his glasses.
His face formed a question mark. This was something he didn't know.
"You know, that oil-rich enclave in the Caucasus," I said.
I was telling him about my plans to leave the newsroom earlier than usual the following evening, a Friday, because I wanted to attend a speech in Newport Beach before the World Affairs Council of Orange County by the "president" of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Little did he know that I had on my poker face. The truth is that I was only slightly less ignorant about Nagorno-Karabakh. I was right about its strategic location but not quite right about its richness in oil.
I first heard about Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s, when I was a postgraduate student of international relations at the London School of Economics. A nasty ethnic conflict had flared up in Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh, as it is also known. That war was a sideshow in the European press compared with the war in former Yugoslavia, which I was studying and researching then for my master's thesis at LSE.