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Armenia – a cause of instability in South Caucasia

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Baku, 15 October 2018 – Newtimes.az

For a century now, the term South Caucasia brings to mind a geographical region consisting of three countries: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Throughout the past century, the region has occupied the world political agenda with a series of issues. Some of these are hot issues that stem from territorial and border disputes, border security, occupations and border conflicts. The direct and indirect involvement of global powers and of powers that pursue their own interests in the region has been influential in the lack of a solution to these problems. Therefore, at present South Caucasia is a region that harbours a series of internal problems that can cause significant regional and international difficulties. In fact, it may be said that South Caucasia is a small region that can cause big problems for the world. These problems are undoubtedly triggered by some of the region’s characteristics. First, South Caucasia is of significant strategic value. Its critical geographical location on the east-west and north-south routes makes South Caucasia a key region. The second important factor is that the region houses significant energy resources. The rich natural gas and oil fields, especially in and around the Caspian Sea has always drawn the attention of international powers. A third factor is South Caucasia’s cultural-ethnic and religious characteristics. The region displays a non-homogenous ethno-cultural structure that consists of many different cultures and ethnical origins. A fourth factor is the historical factor. Historically, the region has been a field over which major powers have encountered and fought each other over their interests. It may be said that all these factors contain many points in themselves. However, as these four factors, roughly described, contribute to significant problems, the make South Caucasia one of the most troubled regions in the world.

Adding to this the problems among the countries in the region, we are met with an unsolvable political outlook. In this context, the foremost internal characteristic of the region is that it consists of three different nations and many ethnic identities. While a glance at the map might show that South Caucasia houses three nations, namely the Azerbaijanis, Armenians and Georgians, this is only true on a map. On the contrary, the region is a mosaic of nations. The situation is especially complicated in the case of Georgia. This country now houses more than one national identity with distinct political identities, none of which accept the powers of the central authority.

The country that complicates things further in South Caucasia is Armenia. Armenia, which has been present in the region for 100 years as a state and 200 years with its national identity, was formed as result of the policies followed by Tsarist Russia to bring the Armenian population together after the 1826-1828 Russo-Persian and 1828-1829 Russo-Ottoman wars. On the contrary to the general process of state formation in world history and the history of international relations, Armenia is a state that was created by another state by collecting its population in one place. Therefore, the preset values of the Armenian state were established not by its own social dynamics, by according to the interests of Tsarist Russia and as a natural consequence, Armenia is an artificial state. However, Armenia denies this fact to argue that it is attached to the region by an historical identity that goes back to ancient times and that its present territory does not reflect the area that historically "belongs'' to it. The cause of the main problem is the demand for land and geographical expansion that feeds this long series of problems.

Armenia’s land demands have marked the 30-year long process under and following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that was full of political-economic and social problems for the region. Armenia’s never ending claims are rooted in a utopian understanding of history. The sharing of these claims at the political level and their use as the raison d’être of the Armenian state keeps problems that are difficult for the region to overcome alive and current and makes for a fireball growing within the region. Looking at the 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, what does Armenia mean for South Caucasia? It is clear that the answer to this question varies according to parties in the region. However, looking at the past 30 years, an examination of Armenia’s presence in South Caucasia may be divided into four main headers: 1. Armenia has problematic relations with its four neighbours. The map of "Greater Armenia'' shows that the most important factor in this is Armenia’s essential land demands from its neighbours. This is Armenia’s basic and underlying aim in reaching the ideal of "Greater Armenia''. 2. By ignoring the international agreements to which it is a party and the decisions of the most important international organisations of which it is a members, Armenia has become an untrustworthy state in terms of international law. Armenia’s uncompromising and illegal attitude brings up the problem about its ability to function as state. 3. Armenia’s approach regarding its tough political-ideological aims has naturally led to it becoming isolated in its region. Armenia openly prefers cold relations with neighbouring Azerbaijan and Turkey, and indirectly or more covertly cold relations with neighbouring Iran and Georgia. In other words, Armenia has ignored regional realities to isolate itself from the rest of the region. Armenia isolating itself from the region may appear to be in the interests of external powers to an extent, but does not benefit Armenia’s region or its society. 4. Isolated one way or the another from its region, attaching itself to an unreal ideological-historical national identity makes for an artificial life in Armenia. The fact that the country’s population is in constant decline due mainly to migration abroad and other socio-economic factors may be seen as a case in point. How heavy and traumatic the difficulty of having to cope with such an artificial life has been displayed once more in the events that led to the toppling of the criminal S.Sarkisyan regime in the past months. These four factors are promoted by Armenia itself and as well as affecting the regional position of the country, pose a major obstacle to the establishment of regional peace and stability.

Yet, approached from a different perspective, the current situation, which neither benefits Armenia, nor its region, could have been very different. Geographically, Armenia lies at the crossroads of the important regional transport routes of the region. However, over the past 30 years, Armenia has squandered this advantage to itself and the region and continued the mistakes of previous regimes. Having won its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, Armenia had the advantage of being very well located as a South Caucasian country. The country could have become a crossroads for energy and transport projects. Although it has not lost this advantage, Armenia has turned its back on this geographical bounty over the last 30 years.

Despite having a long borderline with Turkey, Armenia does not recognise the boundaries of the Republic of Turkey. So much so that in the past, highest Armenian officials have used the term "Western Armenia'' to openly mean the territory of the Republic of Turkey, Armenia’s state literature and writing has a settled distinction between "Western Armenia'' and "Eastern Armenia'' and important state symbols bear a depiction of Mount Ararat. The ideological utopian historical understanding of Armenia has been the greatest obstacle to Armenia finding a common political language with Turkey since 1918. While Armenia appears to enjoy good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to its south due to strategic-political and conjectural circumstances, school textbooks in Armenia claim that the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran lies within "Greater Armenia''. Although the Armenian side has not voiced this claim at the highest level, such a claim can be found among members of the public, the press and in the literature. In many Armenian sources, the territory of what is today the Ostan of Western Azerbaijan to the south of the River Aras is openly shown to be within the territory of "Greater Armenia''. To the east, since it was formed/created, the Armenian state has always viewed Azerbaijan as "attackable'' for its fantasies of expansion and growth with the support of various regional and global powers. Despite Azerbaijan being an entity over the former territory of the Khanate of Yerevan and becoming a republic in 1918 with the advantage of geography, Armenia has approached its eastern neighbour with the most ruthless ideology for the last 100 years. Armenia had taken over Azerbaijan’s Zengezur state (name of the territory that currently links Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan until the 1930s) and Gökçe (now the region around Lake Sevan) with the support of the Soviet Union.

From the start of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia invaded Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh and neighbouring regions and forced more than 1 million Azerbaijani Turks off their homeland, both from within Armenia and from other occupied Azerbaijani territories. Since its placement in Azerbaijani territory, Armenia has used every periodical opportunity to grow at the expense of Azerbaijani territory.

Georgia, Armenia’s northern neighbour, is not free from the latter’s expansionist dreams. Armenia fought Georgia in 1918-1919 and views communities of Armenian origin in Georgia as a potential in its desire to take over the border regions of Georgia. However, this desire has so far been shelved due to the strategic and political conjecture in the region. The situation, that is tragicomical and extremely volatile at the same time has not only damaged Armenia’s geographical advantage, it has almost exhausted it. As a result, the country that sits at the crossroads off the region has become the economically invisible country of its region and was left out of all important strategic transport and energy projects including BTC, BTK, BTE and TANAP.

Despite being located in South Caucasia, Armenia has chosen to remain blind to the reality of South Caucasia to pursue its "dreams'' and is an important threat to the stability and development of the region. It cannot be said that the factors that have pushed Armenia into this situation are unimportant. Foremost among them are the regional and global power centres. Armenians know that they owe it the governments of Tsarist Russia and later the USSR for the present location of their state. This has not been easy for the region or for Armenians. From the Christian religious perspective there are facts that support this thesis. For centuries, Armenians have identified as Lusavorchagan within the "True Christian'' identity, but after a while Armenian Christianity came under the effect of the Russian Orthodox Church. The edicts signed by Tsar Nicholas I to this end support this thesis. It took a long time for social acceptance to set in when Armenians lost their distinct religious identity against the Russian Orthodox Church and turned into the Gregorian branch of the Russian Church. This problem continues to be significant and hotly debated in Armenia today. Another interesting point is that despite the religious factor being generally downplayed during when Armenia was taken over by Tsarist Russia and later under the totalitarian USSR, the Armenian national identity and Armenian nationalism were supported and led to create expansionist policies. This has had the most negative consequences for Azerbaijan.

In addition to the creation of an Armenian state on Azerbaijani territory, the sad state was allowed to expand. The second external factor is just as determinant and dominant as the first. This is the Diaspora, which has become a source of pressure on Armenia from the outside. The Directives the Diaspora sends, accompanying financial aid, are an important consideration when questioning the independence of Armenia. The Armenian Diaspora, which is located mainly in the USA, is attached to the idea of "genocide of 1915'' to the degree of religious faith. The so-called genocide acts as mortar for the Diaspora and constitutes its reason for being and source of psychological inspiration. The Diaspora provides Armenia with significant financial aid, political support and meets the job, housing and other needs of Armenian citizens who quit the country because of its socio-economic situation. Over the last 30 years, the influence of the Diaspora on Armenia has increased. At present, it does not seem possible for Armenian administrations to overcome its pressure. The Diaspora acts like a second Armenia built on the first. This was seen most recently in Nikol Pashinyan replacing the criminal Serge Sarkisyan regime. In light of all this, it can be said that the Diaspora does not wish to see Armenia become independent. This desire of the Diaspora is consistent with the regional interests of Western powers.

Adding all this up, it can be seen that there is more than one Armenia. The issue of reducing the many Armenians to one, that is saving the country from the conflict of interest of various sources of power should be taken up first by the Armenian administration. For the priority of these different interests are not the welfare of the Armenian state and society, nor the stability and development of the region. In light of these facts, it can be said that there is no single Armenia that has a single political identity and a single central administration that can use its own decision making mechanisms to form its own policies. More openly put, in terms of international law, there is no Armenia that has completed its state formation. This is the source of the problem for South Caucasia. It is just like how social problems arise from people who have not become mature humans. The questions that need to be asked, arising from the above, can be listed as follows: 1- Will Armenia become a truly capable state that is dependable by the international law? 2- Will Armenia accept the reality of the geography it was placed in and give up on its dreams of enlargement? 3- Will Armenia gain the ability to interact freely with other subjects of the international law respectfully by completing its socio-economic and legal development? It is possible to ask many more similar questions. Only by overcoming these challenges will Armenia develop into a fully capable state serving its own society. Otherwise, Armenia will continue to be the problem country of South Caucasia.

Dr. Elsevar Salmanov

References:

Final communique Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Foreign Ministers held at NATO Headquarters, Brussels // http://www.nato.int/cps/ en/natolive/official_ texts_46247.htm

Kreml Ermenistanda Paşinyan inqilabı tipli prosesleri istisna etmek kursu götürüb, http://sia.az/az/news/politics/689183.html

Oktay Hasan, "Ermenistan Diplomasisi ve Türkiye'', Yeni Türkiye, no. 60, 2014, pp. 1-5. Oktay Hasan, "Ermenistan’da Türk ve Türkiye Algısı'', editör: Almagül İsina, Türk Diasporası ve Türk Dünyası Vizyon 2023, İstanbul, 2014.

Paşinyanın Karabağ taktikası, http://www.pia.az/Pashinyanin_Qarabag_ taktikasi_-_-246814-xeber.html

Robert Cummons: "Dveri NATO otkrıtı dlya novıh çlenov, v tom çisle dlya Azerbaydjana'', http://news.day.az/politics/240260.html

Süleymanov Elhan, Süleymanov Vurğun, Ermenistanın Azerbaycana karşı silahlı tecavüzü ve işğalın ağır neticeleri, Bakı 2012, p. 181

Samuel Graham Wilson, "The Armenian Church in its relation to the Russian Government'', The North American Review, Vol. 180, No. 578 (Jan., 1905), pp. 88-101.

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