BORDERLAND CONFLICT AND COOPERATION IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS
Natural Region Caucasus
Diversity, Contrasts, Risks
Hardly any other area within the post-Soviet space boasts so much diversity as the Caucasus. This applies to the geographic setting, to history, culture, political activity, and economic potential. If Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan are seen as a unit, then that is primarily to serve the purpose of simplification. In fact, the region is very heterogeneous. This also goes for the exploitation of mineral resources, the accumulation of natural hazards due to extreme weather conditions and climate change, as well as the degradation of soil and vegetation.
Tsypylma Darieva, Florian Mühlfried
The Caucasus as Contact Zone
Languages, Religions, Peoples, and Cultures
The Northern Caucasus and the Southern Caucasus are closely intertwined with regard to history, socio-economic structure, culture, and religion. As a part of multinational empires, the Caucasus has always been a contact zone marked by ethnic and linguistic diversity and a rich cultural heritage. Ethnic affiliation and its representation are made anew, solidi-fied, and dissolved over and over again. At the same time, there is a tradi-tion of a local cosmopolitan culture sustained by interregional trade, normative orders, and cultural exchange. This “cosmopolitanism from below”, however, is more and more in danger.
Sofie Bedford, Emil A. Souleimanov
Islam in the Post-Soviet Caucasus
On Sunnis, Shiites, Sufis, and Salafis
In the Caucasus, Islam is represented in various forms. The Northern Caucasus is marked by Sunni Sufi-brotherhoods. Elites and laymen there see religion as the source of political legitimacy. The Sunni Islam of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence is present in the Northwest Caucasus. In Azerbaijan, the Twelver Shia Islam spread by the Iranian Safavid dynasty predominates, and, as in the Northwest Caucasus, Islam is largely limited to the realm of spirituality. But there, too, Salafis are calling into question the authority of official Islam.
State, Religion and Nation in Georgia
Georgia’s Orthodox Church propagates a national-religious Georgian identity. In doing so, it has gained influence in recent years. Firmly anchored in society, it is able to exercise political pressure as well. It could not prevent the adaptation of the Georgian legal system to European standards, for instance, the adoption of an anti-discrimination law or the legal recognition of other religious communities. But with its mission against a liberal and multi-confessional society, it provokes conflicts, no matter whether it sees Georgian society threatened by the Muslims of Adjara or by people with a homosexual orientation.
Thomas de Waal
Chained to One Another
Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide
The murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Young Turk government in the late Ottoman Empire casts long shadow. This was one of the first genocides of the 20th century. Since then, Armenians and Turks have remained locked in confrontation. In spite of the intransigence and estrangement on both sides, the Armenians with their trauma and the Turks with their fear of acknowledging the truth are chained to one another in an almost pathological way. In order to move forward in the Armenian question, dialogue should take the place of confrontation. It would be prudent to put the static, symbolic conflict surrounding the term “genocide” on the back burner.
The Stalin Cult and Ethnicity
Georgian “Koba” or Soviet “Father of Nations”?
Stalin was a Georgian. However, within the Stalin cult, which starting in 1929 was promoted by all of the Soviet media – the fine arts, folk poetry, film – his personal nationality remained taboo. Stalin embodied the “father of nations” beyond any kind of own ethnicity. His patriarchal role stood symbolically for the Soviet Union, for the transnational roof that spanned the national territories of the socialist, federal state. Stalin filled the repre-sentative vacuum that existed at the level of supranational Soviet identity.
A Novel from Baku
Baku in the 1970s. The capital of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic is a provincial backwater and at the same time the centre of the world. This world, from the heart of which the first-person narrator in Aleksandr Goldstein's novel Pomni o Famaguste (Remember Famagusta) speaks, extends from the Caucasus to Palestine/Israel, from Greece by way of Turkey to Iran. The novel depicts an image – in part deeply alienated – of the city and the region as a whole during the 20th century. The sixth chapter, which begins with a stroll through the urban topography, captures in a portrait of the Parapet, Baku's central square, this world's social, ethnic, and cultural richness as well as its poverty as if under a burning-glass.
THE POWER OF THE STATE
Embedded not Icebound
Conflicts and Regimes in the Caucasus: A Review of the Literature
In recent years, a number of new analyses of the conflicts in the Caucasus have appeared. Only the best studies manage to name the violent ethno-nationalist actors precisely, to reveal the tensions between official interpretations of history and concrete experience, and to show how Soviet models of depicting perceived enemies persist to this day. Federalism is hardly discussed as an option for conflict resolution. Desideratum in the research are comparative analyses of the (semi-)authoritarian regimes in the Caucasus and their reproduction mechanisms as well as the micro-dynamics of conflicts and internal social configurations. The field is also still awaiting comparative policy research that looks at the political economy and functioning of the para-government structures in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.
Networks in the Southern Caucasus
Forms and Functions of Informal Practices
The people of the Southern Caucasus have to rely on informal networks in order to manage everyday life. The origins of these networks lie in traditional forms of social organization, such as extended families and rural communities. In the Soviet Union, informal networks served to offset the structural deficits of the planned economy. They guaranteed access to products in short supply and services. The introduction of the market economy did not render these networks obsolete. On the contrary: In politics, economics, and society, they have gained even greater significance.
Need for Renewal
The Energy Industry in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are expecting a growing demand for energy in the next few years. Azerbaijan can take care of itself given its own oil and gas reserves. Armenia is dependent on fuel imports from Russia and is planning to expand nuclear power. Georgia’s energy mix varies seasonally due to its large share of hydroelectric power. In exchange for the transit of gas and oil, Georgia is remunerated with natural gas which it then uses for the production of inexpensive electricity. With the exception of hydropower, alternative sources of energy play little role in these three countries. There is hardly any investment in improving energy efficiency.
Between Reporting and Propaganda
Media in the Southern Caucasus
The media landscapes of the Southern Caucasian countries vary as much as the countries themselves. In Georgia, there is a vibrant media scene. In Armenia, the market is shaped by political and business cartels. In Azerbaijan, the authoritarian regime is suppressing independent media.
Zaal Andronikashvili, Giorgi Maisuradze
Philologists versus Philosophers
Georgia’s Path to Unfree Freedom
In 1990, Georgia stood at a crossroads. In the debate over the future of the country on the eve of its independence, basic patterns of national self-perception emerged. A backward-looking “philological” current devoted to national myth stood in competition with a sober, analytical “philosophical” current located in the present. The election of the literary scholar Zviad Gamsakhurdia as president ensured for years the dominance of philologists and a class-like organized intelligentsia that claimed to be the guardian of national culture. The counter current was represented by the philosopher Merab Mamardashvili, who advocated an ethos of responsibility and an active concept of freedom, but died at the end of 1990. The loss of this side led to the escalation of conflicts, the consequences of which have not been overcome to this day.
Georgia: State in the Market
From Neoliberalism to Managed Capitalism
After the Rose Revolution of 2003, the relationship between economics and politics changed in Georgia. Mikheil Saakashvili’s policy of deregulation and non-intervention had the desired effects: bureaucracy and corruption were eliminated. The business environment became more attractive. Liberal reforms, however, were accompanied by arbitrary, informal interventions. 2008 was a turning point in economic policy. Domestic political protests, loss in standing after the August war with Russia, and the global financial crisis accelerated the end of the liberal economic model. The government de facto introduced a state managed development program.
Centre and Periphery
Local Self-government in Georgia
Independent Georgia has paid no attention to decentralising political decisions. Local self-government leads a shadowy existence. Institutions of local self-governance have few responsibilities and are underfunded. But functioning cities and towns are essential for key areas of public services. Only recently have people realized that decentralization and the idea of subsidiarity do not weaken the state, and that functioning services in fact strengthen it and thus enhance the legitimacy of the rulers.
Unity in Diversity
The Armenian Diaspora and Armenia
In 1915, up to 1.5 million people lost their lives in the genocide against the Armenians carried out by the Ottoman Empire. Just as many Armenians were expelled. The Armenian diaspora has struggled ever since for the recognition of this crime as genocide. The Armenian diaspora exists primarily in the United States, France, the Middle East, and Russia. It is a significant economic factor for Armenia. Its considerable influence on politics in Erevan is not unproblematic. Its oft uncompromising position makes it difficult to find pragmatic solutions in the matter of Nagorno-Karabakh or in relations with Turkey.
Eva-Maria Auch, Sebastian Schmidt
Ambivalences in Azerbaijan
Environmental Protection and Conservation in an Authoritarian State
The ecological situation in Azerbaijan is contradictory. On the one hand, the collapse of the Soviet Union revealed the subjugation, destruction, and contamination of nature and the environment. The petro-chemical centre Sumqayit, for instance, ranked among the most polluted cities worldwide. On the other hand, a natural environment of unique beauty came into view. In conservation and in forest policy, the country has achieved remarkable results. But within society, there is a lack of environmental awareness and sensitivity to the importance of environmental protection and conservation. Political backing is increasingly in short supply. Even achievements in conservation have increasingly come under pressure.
Society and State
The Local Level in Armenia and Azerbaijan
In Armenia and Azerbaijan, relations between society and state are char-acterised by distance. Institutions of (self-) governance at the local level do not bring about convergence. They serve the ruling elites in the implementation of their interests and grant the population no possibility of influencing governmental decisions on local matters. The population is essentially left to pursue their concerns through self-organisation or personal networks.
Christina Huthmann, Ansgar Gilster
Health and Education in the Southern Caucasus
After the fall of the Soviet Union the South Caucasian states‘ social systems slipped into a severe crisis. It took more than a decade to overcome the negative effects of secession wars and economic collapse. Over the last years, many development indicators have shown progress. Life ex-pectancy is on a constant rise, and all health systems provide free basic health care. Every child has access to schooling, and the quality of secondary education is improving. Georgia clearly shows the most promising developments, although it is economically in the weakest position. Azer-baijan, on the other hand, has not used the economic benefits from its oil industry to finance broader access to health care and education.
Under the Radar
Is the Authoritarian Party Truce in Nagorno-Karabakh Doomed?
In May 2015, Nagorno-Karabakh has elected a new parliament. However, many experts have not taken the election seriously. Discussions in parliament are widely considered meaningless. The ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan justified an authoritarian party truce which lasted for years. Recently, the internal agreement has begun to crumble. With the Party of National Revival, a real opposition has entered parliament.
THE POWER OF THE POWER
Petroleum and Natural Gas in the Southern Caucasus
Domestic Supply, Export, Transit
Of the three South Caucasian states, only Azerbaijan can meet its petroleum and natural gas needs on its own. Georgia and Armenia are dependent on imports of these energy sources. Armenia leans on Russia in energy policy; Georgia has established itself as a transit country for the supply of oil and gas from the Caspian region to Europe. Azerbaijan is preparing to export gas to Europe. Whether gas from Turkmenistan in future will also move to the European Union via Azerbaijan and Georgia is uncertain. The EU’s attempts to establish a “southern gas corridor” subject to its rules of competition have so far met with little success, because it fails to recognise the interests of the region’s gas-producing countries.
Russia in the Northern and in the Southern Caucasus
“Near Abroad” and “Interior Abroad”
Russia has a special relationship with the Caucasus. It is historically, culturally, and emotionally charged due to the Tsarist Empire’s expansion to the south. To this day, the Russian Federation extends into the region as a whole with seven constituent republics. In terms of foreign and security policy, socio-economics, but also religion, Russia has such close ties to the Southern Caucasus that Moscow has to consider the repercussions of its policies vis-à-vis Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as the breakaway regions such as Abkhazia or South Ossetia, on its own periphery in the Northern Caucasus. The entire Caucasian area is marked by the tension between Russian claims to power and its actual power to act formatively.
Franziska Smolnik, Andrea Weiss, Yana Zabanova
Turkey, Georgia, and the de facto State of Abkhazia
Over the past 25 years, Turkey has built up relations with its eastern neighbours in the Southern Caucasus that are marked by conflict and cooperation. At the heart of these relations are economic and political interests, but the history of the Ottoman Empire in the region also plays a role. Ankara cultivates close relations with Georgia, but also maintains informal contacts with the de facto government of Abkhazia, which broke away from Tbilisi. With regard to relations with Abkhazian society, the Abkhazian diaspora in Turkey plays an important role. Turkey’s engagement, however, is a balancing act. Ankara not only has to consider Tbilisi, but also Russia. This also limits Turkey’s role as mediator in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.
Blockade à Trois
The Triangular Relationship Armenia–Azerbaijan–Turkey
International relations in the Southern Caucasus are still significantly de-termined by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan and Turkey are closely linked to one another and keep the border to Armenia closed. Isolated in this way, Armenia sees itself threatened by a massive arms build-up in Azerbaijan and leans on Russia for security. Armenia’s isola-tion benefits Georgia, which has thus become the sole transit country for exports. Attempts to dismantle the blockades by improving relations be-tween Armenia and Turkey faltered in 2010 over the question of recog-nising the genocide against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Today, political relations are on ice, not only between Baku and Erevan, but also between Ankara and Erevan.
Emil A. Souleimanov, Josef Kraus
Old and New Aspirations
Iran’s Policy in the Southern Caucasus
Iran is an important regional power in the Southern Caucasus. Its cooperation with Georgia is limited to economic matters. Armenian-Iranian relations are determined by the two countries’ relations with Azerbaijan. Iran and Azerbaijan have been able to improve their economic relations. But political relations are marked by conflicts. Given the 20 million Azeris in Iran, Tehran fears Azerbaijani nationalism and irredentism. Iran is fine-tuning a range of instruments designed to undermine the integrity and security of Azerbaijan from the inside out. Baku wants to strengthen its position by turning to Israel as well as to the United States.
The United States in the Southern Caucasus
Until the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the United States viewed the Southern Caucasus only through the prism of Moscow. That has changed since the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The United States pursues its own security, energy, and political interests in the Southern Caucasus. Georgia has become an ally of Washington, Azerbaijan is favourably disposed to the United States, and Armenia cultivates good relations with America, although Russia is Erevan’s guarantor of security in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Under President Barack Obama, however, the United States has greatly reduced its engagement in the region.
Michèle Knodt, Sigita Urdze
The European Union in the Southern Caucasus
The European Union’s interest in the Southern Caucasus is limited. After the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the EU provided humanitarian aid and engaged in developmental cooperation. It gave scant attention to the ethno-territorial conflicts in the region. The EU has yet to develop a Southern Caucasus policy. For Brussels, the area was part of the Eastern Partnership. This model has run up against its limits. Only Georgia has signed an Association Agreement with the EU. Armenia has so far refrained, and Azerbaijan made it clear from the start that it is unwilling to conform to the EU’s conditions.
THE POWER OF IMAGES
Holidays for the People
Transnational Memory in the Southern Caucasus
At the start of the 20th century, monuments in public space were almost unknown in the Southern Caucasus. It was only under the Soviet regime that holidays and monuments were introduced. The purpose of these forms of remembrance was to mobilize and integrate the multinational society. Following the precept “national in form, socialist in content”, medieval poets were assigned a “national culture” and glorified. To prove the validity of historical materialism, they were interpreted as transnational precursors of socialist thought and instrumentalised. Shosta Rustaveli, Nizami, and the folk epic “David of Sasun” thus became part of the Soviet heritage. Post-Soviet cultural policy has stuck to this path. The same elites work in the same bureaucratic structures and operate in the same state system of honorary titles and awards. Even the Soviet form of remembrance remains largely unchanged.
Far Away and Yet So Close
Europe’s Image in Georgia: The History of an Idea
The idea of Europe came to Georgia from Russia. In the first half of the 19th century, Georgian aristocrats in the Tsar’s service began to read works of German idealism and Romantic poetry in Russian translation. These texts brought the national idea to Georgia. For the national movement of the 1870s-1890s, Russia was also the gateway to Europe. In the early 20th century, for the first time ever, poets from the symbolist group “Blue Horns” spoke not of a move towards a modern Europe, but of Georgia’s “return” to European civilisation. After the establishment of Soviet rule in Georgia, the official doctrine for 70 years was that the socialist future lies in Asia. Only with Perestroika did the idea of a return to the common European home once again emerge. However, in the past two decades, Russia has lost its role as the mediator of European ideas. Today, it is the opponents of a European Georgia who look to Moscow.
Brothers in Faith or Evil Empire
Perceptions of Russia in Georgian Literature
The conflict-ridden relationship between Georgia and Russia has been emotionally charged for centuries. This was manifested not only in Russian, but also in Georgian literature. The loss of Georgian independence starting in 1801 and the conquest by Bolshevik troops in 1921 are major turning points. The spectrum of Georgian images of Russia range from Christian protector to colonial oppressor. Within this spectrum resonates the promise of individual liberty, but also hatred for the great collective prison. Georgia's ever evolving perception of itself is also always reflected in the literary depictions of its large neighbour.
Russia’s Georgian Myth
The Sovietization of the Romantic Utopia
In 19th-century Russian literature, Georgia was romanticised. Poets and writers of the Soviet period did not break with this tradition. This is seen in the works of Sergei Tretiakov, Konstantin Paustovskii, or Andrei Bitov. In poetics and imagery, they drew on the romantic Georgian myth. De-spite the ideological transformations, their texts fed off the traditional arsenal of metaphors, themes, and symbols, which is why Russian imperial gestures and interpretations of Georgia remained recognisable. On the linguistic level, basic elements of Soviet ideology often collide with traditional romantic imagery and allow continuities or breaks to emerge.
Baku between Orient and Occident
Islam in the Post-Soviet City
After the collapse of Soviet rule, which had suppressed all religions, Islam was rehabilitated in independent Azerbaijan. In the capital of Baku, mosques that had been diverted from their original purpose were restored, others refurbished, new ones built. Islam returned to the public sphere. At the same time, the regime stresses Azerbaijan’s secular na-ture, tries to gain control over all of the faithful, fights radical currents, and advocates a “worldly Islam” as national tradition. For Muslims, this is nonsense. As a place where different ways of life coexist, Baku is coming under pressure.
Religion, Purity, Radicalisation
On the End of the Multi-confessional Alaverdoba Festival in Georgia
Public space in Georgia has been becoming charged in a national-religious spirit for some years. This sacralisation process is pushing non-Georgian Orthodox minorities from local communities. This is seen in the example of the folk festival in east Georgian Alaverdi. There, a centuries-old, transconfessional coexistence between Muslims and Christians is coming undone under pressure from church leaders. This could lead to mutual radicalisation.
Azerbaijan: The Exported Leader
The Cult of Personality around Heydar Aliyev
For a decade, Baku has been promoting the memory of Heydar Aliyev on the international stage by sponsoring Aliyev monuments and parks out-side Azerbaijan. While much of Azerbaijan’s population is still living below the poverty line despite enormous oil revenues, Baku is buying permission to export the cult of Aliyev. This contributes neither to Azerbaijan’s democratisation nor to the improvement of its image on the international stage. At the same time, it calls into question the democratic reputation of those countries that engage in this game.
Between Constraints and Freedom
Poetry and Realism in Georgian Film
Georgia has produced an extraordinarily lively film scene and many innovative artists. In the 1920s, Georgians made groundbreaking silent films under the influence of the avant-garde. Under the doctrine of Socialist Realism, Georgian film in the 1930s and 1940s yielded compliant monumental films and eulogies to Stalin, but its heyday came in the 1950s and 1960s. The specific lyrical undertone of this era resulted not only from the pressure of censorship, but from the expression of a particular mentality as well. After Georgia’s independence, Georgian film found itself in an identity crisis. Most recently, primarily female directors have been in-venting film anew.
A Philosophy of Freedom
Merab Mamardashvili and the Metaphysics of the Agora
Merab Mamardashvili was a principled opponent of state ideologies. His Moscow seminars in the 1960s and 1970s were a place for diversity of opinion and free speech. There, the philosopher, a native of Gori, Geor-gia, whom the Soviet Union kept from traveling for 20 years, entered into dialogue with Plato, Kant, and Descartes. With that, he gave metaphysics a Russian language. As state repression receded in the 1980s and change moved within reach, the political significance of Mamardashvili’s philosophy became obvious.
Aschot L. Manutscharjan
The Word “Genocide” Did Not Exist Yet
The Genocide against Armenians 100 Years Later
2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the expulsion and massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. One and a half million people lost their lives in this campaign of mass murder. Even if the term itself did not find its way into international law until 1951, this was undisputedly genocide. This is evidenced by a number of monographs, studies, source editions, and publications of files from diplomatic archives. The knowledge about the genocide is overwhelming. It is time that Turkey end its policy of denial and reassess its past.
(Osteuropa 7-10/2015, S. 659672)