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Eastern Europe

Ordinary Fascism with Azerbaijani Variations

Arman Navasardyan, Ph.D

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In the midst of the Cold War, in the most dramatic moments of mid-60s, thinking society of USSR was not only deeply touched, but was also given  food for thought by the talented filmmaker Mikhail Romm’s   documentary film called “Ordinary Fascism”  which according to impartial experts is a genius film about fascism origin and development and, most importantly , the potential dangers of the  latter  for future generations. This is a film-meditation about the nature and causes of the emergence of fascism in the country that has given birth to a unique constellation of science, culture and arts.

It is assumed that the Third Reich’s “National Socialism” ideology is a turning point in history. But, alas, his inheritance revives like a tale headless monster. Holocaust, genocide, aggression, racism, “return of territories – today all of this is still hanging over the head of mankind like a sword of Damocles.

“Expanding Germany’s Spatial Territories” was the principal thesis of Hitler’s program, which still does not calm politicians in many countries inspired by fascism’s “expansion to the East”( “DrangnachOsten”) challenge. Only some of them direct the arrow to their neighbors.

They say, “mafia is immortal” and then what about fascism? It is prospering right before our eyes, in our region. We must beware and take measures against it, for modern fascism is not less dangerous and less disastrous than it was in the period of Fuhrer and  Duce.

Now, as the French would say, “Let’s get back to our sheep!”. The fascism machine lives, operates and roles round just  a few kilometers away in our neighborhood. By the classical laws, fascism is a political regime with its internal and external orientation, peculiarities and principles. Today’s Azerbaijan’s political agenda includes all the components and parameters of the fascist system. Usually dictators are charismatic and have special names. Julius Caesar was “the father of the nation” in ancient Rome, Mussolini was Duce in Italy, Hitler was Fuhrer in Germany. Aliyev does not have charisma and is modestly satisfied with the status of a president, probably seeing that Portuguese Antonio Salazar was just a premier-minister.He was also convinced fascist. Like all mentioned dictators, Aliyev did not cancel the Parliament and the multiparty system… However, in the conditions of fascism, the dictatorship is characterized by the fact that a system is created in the country where all the levers of power are concentrated in the hands of the sole leader, as a result of which all the laws adopted by the legislature and the executive are transformed into fiction and the opposition parties are purely decorative in nature. Thus, Aliyev’s reelection in the upcoming elections is 100% guaranteed.

Azerbaijan’s economy holds all fascism segments. Like other fascist regimes, corporatism develops along the path of unifying the state and large capital. And in the conditions of corporatism, economic policy is determined by the sectorial interests. In Azerbaijan, it is, naturally, the carbohydrate industry. These corporations are monsters born of the coupling of the state bureaucracy and oligarchy, which governs the entire capital and reserves of the state. The interests of small and medium-sized enterprises are ignored and the protection of the   population’s interests  by the trade unionists and  the syndicates  is out of the question. They simply do not exist here. Azerbaijan faces militarization of economy. The Third Reich’s favorite slogan ”guns Instead of butter’‘ is widely used.  The social needs of the broad population and the well-being of ordinary people are subordinated to military spending, which according to  the ruling regime is determined by the war with Nagorno-Karabakh. One of the obvious features of Fascism’s policy is repression and censorship. Like other fascist regimes, there is a legal and non-legal police mechanism in Azerbaijan that is protected by the state. Such a terrorist act is carried out not only against active oppositionists. Special websites gather and sort individuals who criticize the authorities. Subsequently they are exposed to moral and, if necessary, physical pressure. In the internal political life Azerbaijani fascism combines the police and state repressions with propaganda, hacking methods, persecutions, arrests and imprisonment.

The “odyssey” by the renowned writer Akram Aylisli takes a special place in the fight against dissidents, which, like many other cases, “missed” the “alert”eyes of Western human right defenders. The most striking feature of fascism is militarism, which occupies a special place in the current political life of Azerbaijan and the propaganda mechanism of the authorities. In order to conceal internal political failures and distract people from the daily problems, the leadership applies to the fascist trials. war is declared a natural, everyday life of man. At the same time, this is done in the background of so described “Armenian aggressor” and “occupant” stereotype. Azerbaijan is building a cult of war and fascist mythology, the basis of which are the fallen heroes of the “liberation war”.Creates an alley of the heroes and so on.  And the crown of that ideology was the cynical and shameful fact of granting the title of Hero to the murderer Safarov and raising the throne of glory. For example, things like a deep economic crisis and mass depletion of the population can give rise to fascism. Among the reasons, in our opinion, is the primary defeat of the state in the war, the loss of territories, and, therefore, its degradation on the international ground.

The conditions imposed on the German side after the First World War , for instance , played a major role in the rise of  fascism in Germany. They created the so-called Weimar stereotype, which was skillfully used by Hitler for a revenge, unleashing the Second World War. German fascism was the result of a destroyed imperium nostalgia, loss of territories and violation of international authority. And what has our neighbor lost and what is the logic of fascism?  Return of the lost territories or the restoration of territorial integrity? Let’s suppose that the common and deceived Azeri believes that Armenians have “seized” their territories.  But Aliyev and his team  do know that Armenians have  ,not yet fully, returned what they were taken away from  a hundred years ago.Revenge? But if Azerbaijan had been convinced of success, especially after the April “blitzkrieg” which was a practice a  la fascism, it would have already taken that step. Baku authorities, especially after the April war, are skeptical about the possibility of losing a large-scale war. Azerbaijani fascism moves with the same laws and psychology that other fascist states act.

Within this context, Baku’s revanchist, imperialist, and militaristic ambitions open up new horizons of confrontation and festive dreams. Fascism’s appetite apparently increases in time and space. Otherwise, how would one explain the Aliyev’s desire to capture Zangezur, Lake Sevanbasin,finally the “lost” Erivan Province   and so on? Once you follow the dynamics of the Azerbaijani fascism, you come to the conclusion that this phenomenon does not recognize a friend or an enemy, neighbor or ally, and like an octopus sea monster, has a tendency to spread everywhere, far from its country and in the places where it does not belong. Thus, besides the Armenian lands, the Azerbaijani political mind often attracts attention to the territories of Northern Iran, considering it to be the “paternal lands”.And Baku political scientist Zaura Mamedov is making a fictional statement comparable to the discovery of Columbus, which sounds as the following “Azerbaijanis have always been the owner of the state, now called Iran.” And don’t be surprised, it turns out that “the Azerbaijanis ruled over Iran for more than 1,000 years.” Not forgetting the eldest friend, the political analyst is trumpeting that “In fact, Iran was a Turkic country from X century to 1924.” No more, no less. And we are still indignant about Erivan. It remains only to suspect the strength of the foundations on which the Azerbaijani-Iranian relations are built, as well as the Russia-Iran-Azerbaijan alliance. The course of history, unfortunately, shows that the change of the fascist regime is almost impossible. Azerbaijani fascism is not an exception. After the Judgment Day, such regimes collapse either because of war or in the case of the disappearance of the regime leader.

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Eastern Europe

Did Russia Really Win in the 2008 August War?

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Eleven years have passed since the short Georgian-Russian war started on August 7-8 in 2008. As every discussion on who started the war generally is, the Georgian-Russian one too is about finding moral grounds for military actions which both sides took at the time.

Morality in geopolitics, and the Georgian-Russian conflict is indeed caused by pure geopolitical calculations, is at most times a superfluous thing. All these years the Russians have been trying to convince the world and the public inside the country that the Russian military moves actions and subsequent recognition of the independence of the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions were the only possible and correct actions to be taken. The Georgians also have their dilemmas: some marginal political figures still believe that it was the Georgian government that was most to blame for the catastrophe of 2008. Though close geographically, these diverging narratives and the constant need to prove one’s own truth says a lot about how far apart Georgia and Russia have grown in the past decade.

11 years since the war and it is still unclear what Russia has gained from its military and diplomatic actions since 2008. True, military build-up in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region limited Tbilisi’s ability to become an EU/NATO member state. Moreover, Russian intervention into Georgia in 2008 also showed the West how far Moscow can go if a strategic decision is made to draw Georgia into the alliances. At the time (August-September 2008) those seemed to be long-term (strategic) victories for Moscow. In international relations and geopolitical calculations, you can stop a country from attaining the aims harmful to you, but in the long run you will be unable to reverse the process by forceful actions alone: you have to provide a counter-policy to turn an unfriendly state into an amenable neighbor.

Put all of this into the Russian case. More than a decade has passed since 2008, only a few not-so-important states recognized Georgia’s territories as independent entities. The Georgian public is overwhelmingly anti-Russian, the last hopes of a grand geopolitical bargain – the return of the territories in exchange for reversing EU/NATO aspirations – have disappeared among the Georgian public, and support for western institutions so far has only increased.

In the end, though Moscow waged a reasonably costly war in 2008, took and still experiences a diplomatic burden for its moves against the West, and has yet to attain its grand geopolitical goal of reversing Georgia’s pro-western course. Politicians in Moscow, at least strategists behind the scenes, all understand that Georgia’s persistence, which seems naive today, might turn into serious business if Russia’s geopolitical positions worsen elsewhere in Eurasia.

Indeed, there are signs that Russian influence is set to diminish further in the former Soviet space as the country’s economy is unlikely to be attractive to the neighboring states. Imagine a scenario where Russian internal problems (Putin’s upcoming succession, economic downturns, China’s rise, stronger Ukraine, etc.) weigh ever stronger upon the Russian decision-makers in the 2020s, then Georgia’s western aspirations might become more concrete – it will be easier for the West to make a strategic decision to draw Tbilisi into EU/NATO.

Overall, Russia definitely gained significant results in 2008, but in the long run it did not change the strategic picture in the South Caucasus, though it did produce a grand design for geopolitical domination in north Eurasia: years after the war, Moscow initiated its Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) to draw its neighbors into one economic space – a prerequisite for building a world power. Ideally, it should have attracted Russia’s major neighbors and it would have served the people of the former Soviet space economically. But Moscow failed to get Ukraine and other states involved: without Kiev, the EEU, if not dead, is at least a marginal project. This means that Russian policies towards Georgia and the wider South Caucasus remain the same as before 2008 – keeping foreign powers out of the region, while failing to provide an alternative vision for Tbilisi.

Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today

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Eastern Europe

Lithuania’s new chief of defence has no chance

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Lithuania’s new chief of defence, Major General Valdemaras Rupsys calls himself a realist though it seems as if he is a fatalist with no hope to change anything in the national armed forces.

In a detailed interview with BNS Valdemaras Rupsys demonstrates his inability and even lack of hope to modify national military system. He distinctly reveals his plans.

Major General Valdemaras Rupsys says he will seek to accelerate new armored vehicle and artillery system purchases if the country’s defense spending makes this possible.

The key words here are “if the country’s defense spending makes this possible”. The matter is Lithuania itself can rely only on foreign financing and help to strengthen its defence. Thus, he informs that a number of Boxer IFVs are currently being delivered to Lithuania. Renamed “Vilkas”, or “wolf” in Lithuanian, the vehicles will be provided only to two battalions of the Iron Wolf mechanized infantry brigade, in Rukla and Alytus. It should be noted that Mechanized Infantry Brigade “Iron Wolf” is the core unit of the Lithuanian Army and forms the country’s contribution to NATO collective defence. But even this unit will not be provided with all necessary vehicles and equipment.

The brigade’s other two battalions, in Rukla and Panevezys, will continue to use old M113 armored personnel carriers, with plans to replace them with more advanced vehicles by 2030. No budget money – no vehicles!

Major General Valdemaras Rupsys admits that the only thing he can definitely do – to speak to the authorities. “We’ll definitely have to speak to the ministry about whether there are possibilities to replace their platform earlier than planned,” the general told in an interview. “Plans call for doing so in around 2030 but everything depends on financial resources. There won’t be any drastic decisions to replace the acquisitions that we are already planning now,” he added.

When he answers to the question if the Iron Wolf brigade needs tanks he is very flexible and says that “being aware of our means and financial capacity, I don’t dream about tanks right now. We don’t have such plans.

Another question is if he dreams about fighter jets in the Lithuanian army. And he again says – “No, I don’t today. I am a realist and don’t dream about things we cannot have.”

The worst thing is his full satisfaction with the existing situation. He will not even try to change things. In terms of conscription system he shifts the responsibility on the political leadership, on the whole, which should decide on that. And then what is his responsibility? Does Lithuania need such a chief of defence who decides nothing from the very beginning?

Obviously, Lithuania has no money, but according to Major General Valdemaras Rupsys Lithuania even lacks of ambitious either to be a strong country. Possibly, this aim could be reached at the expense of others. At least he is honest.

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Eastern Europe

Polonia: Poland’s diaspora policy

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In 2007, the Polish authorities for the first time adopted a government program to promote cooperation with the Polish diaspora (Polonia) and Poles abroad. In 2002, they introduced May 2 as Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad.

The strategic objectives of this program for 2015-2020 include support for the development of Polish language and culture among Poles abroad, strengthening Polish national identity among representatives of Polonia, contributing to the popularity of Polonian organizations abroad and the return of Poles living abroad to their homeland, establishing economic, scientific and cultural contacts between Poland and Polonia .

The Polish Foreign Ministry estimates the number of members of the Polish diaspora, including ethnic Poles and people of Polish descent, at 18-20 million, one third of them were born in Poland. Polonia and the Poles rank the sixth if we compare the proportion of members of the diaspora abroad with the population of the country of origin. 18% of tourists visiting Poland are members of Polish organizations abroad and ethnic Poles.

The largest Polish diasporas are in the USA (9.6 million according to 2012 reports), in Germany (1.5 million) and Canada (1 million). Poles are also living in France and the United Kingdom (0.8 million in each), the Netherlands (0.2 million), Ireland and Italy (0.15 million in each), the Czech Republic (0.12 million), Sweden and Norway ( 0.11 million in either), Belgium (0.1 million). In countries such as Austria, Spain, Denmark, and Iceland, members of the Polish diasporas number less than 100 thousand people.

According to the Polish Foreign Ministry, more than 1 million Poles and people of Polish descent live in post-Soviet countries. According to the ministry, these estimates are not accurate – for one,  in Belarus, the most “Polish” republic of the former USSR, the number of Poles and people of Polish origin could amount to up to 1 million (official reports estimate the number of Poles living in Belarus at 295 thousand).

Lithuania comes second by the number of Poles residing there – (250 thousand), the third is Ukraine (144 thousand), then Russia (47 thousand), Latvia (46 thousand) and Kazakhstan (34 thousand) – the fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Polonia is conditionally divided by the Polish Foreign Ministry into ten functionality-based geographical groups: 1. Lithuania 2. Belarus 3. Ukraine 4. Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic 5. Western European countries (Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, etc.). 6. USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand 7. Other European countries 8. Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia 9. Brazil, Argentina 10.Other countries of the world.

This division was carried out on the functional, rather than numerical basis and there is no universal approach as to how to categorize Poles living abroad – each of the above mentioned countries sets its own requirements for working with Polonia. People who have Polish roots but do not speak Polish and who reside in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil are regarded as Polish diaspora by Warsaw. In this case, there is a need to popularize Polish informational and ideological products for Polonia in these countries in the language of the country of residence with emphasis on the economic and cultural components and projects for the study of the Polish language.

The latter bears particular importance. In Brazil, for one, there are more than a dozen Polish language courses. People who go there are provided with social benefits and all the necessary documents – student ID passes for students, work certificates for teaching staff (teachers get discounts 33% to 49% on public and rail transport in Poland, etc.), certificates of Polish schools for distance learning, etc.

Given the presence of anti-Russian sentiment in Poland’s policy, it is not surprising that Russia, the republics of the Caucasus, and countries of Central Asia are among those that Warsaw accuses of breaching the rights of ethnic minorities, including Poles, which is not true. Working with Polonia in these regions carries a clear ideological touch, as historical grievances prevail over culture and economy. By intentionally inciting conflict, concocting accusations of violating the rights of ethnic minorities,Warsaw equips itself with ideological tools to justify its aggressive Eastern policy towards Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

In particular, there are noticeable attempts by Warsaw to force Polish organizations in Russia to participate in anti-Russian propaganda campaigns, especially regarding retrospective assessments of Russian-Polish and Soviet-Polish relations. Polish diplomacy cites the unsuccessful Polish uprisings of the 18th-19th centuries, exiled and repressed Poles of the tsarist and Stalinist times, return of Poland’s western lands to Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus following the Red Army’s Polish campaign in 1939, etc.

The Polish Institute of National Memory (PINP), being an exclusively ideological structure, is on the list of state institutions and ministries that are responsible for cooperating with Polonia. A projecttitled “The Next Stop is History” has been launched in order to promote the historical and ideological heritage of Poland. Implemented within the framework of the Polish diaspora program of the Department of National Education of PINP in several countries at once (conferences, exhibitions, symposia, film screenings, lectures, military sports games), the project has no geographical restrictions and is conducted with the participation of certified teachers.

Let us focus on some characteristic features of the Polish diaspora policy:

– the prevalence of economic aspects while establishing cooperation with ethnic Poles living in the USA, EU and South America;

– a powerful propagandistic and political emphasis and a minimal presence of  economy while dealing with Polonia in countries of the former USSR;

– abandoning tactics of interaction with Polonia which presuppose acting through Polonian organizations only and which have proved ineffective;

– coverage by social, cultural and other projects of the largest possible number of ethnic Poles, in the first place, those who are not members of diaspora organizations;

– absence of heavy vertical hierarchy in disapora organizations in favor of horizontal links and shuttle diplomacy;

– contribute to the formation of a protest and opposition-minded stratum amongst the young in countries of the former USSR (Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine) with further placement of its representatives in local government structures, the media and other socially important projects. 

Summing up, we can say that Warsaw’s diaspora politics abroad are focused on strengthening its positions in the Western community and pursuing unilateral and controversial goals in the eastern direction. From our partner International Affairs

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