On March 12, Austria commemorated a sad date, the 80th anniversary of the Anschluss, a bloodless “absorption” of the country by Hitler’s Germany. March 12 is an official Day of Remembrance in Austria. During a ceremony held in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen urged young people not to be “taken in” by neo-fascist and far-right ideologies. “The German armed forces came overnight to seize Austria. What did not come overnight was contempt for democracy, disregard for basic human rights and freedoms, militarism, intolerance and violence. Austria has a shared responsibility for the atrocities of National Socialism. Austrians were not only victims but also perpetrators, oftentimes in leading positions,” said van der Bellen.
Anschluss is translated from German as reunification. An Armenian word miatsum has a similar connotation used since 1988, half a century after the Anschluss, by Armenian fascists to label their claims to Azerbaijani Karabakh.
There are many parallels between the events of 1938 and 1988. Indeed, the Anschluss was a seemingly bloodless event, and most Austrians welcomed the annexation of their country by Germany, albeit unaware of the upcoming global consequences of this experience. Same as in Karabakh, when the crowds yelling “mi-a-tsum!” did not realise the cost they were going to pay because of their actions and that they were actually pushing their people to war. But most importantly, in 1938, the world community did not react to Hitler’s annexation of Austria as it should have reacted. It did not foresee the readiness of Nazi Germany to destroy the recognized borders behind the crowds who enthusiastically welcomed Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler, an Austrian by birth. Nor did it foresee the territorial appetites of Hitler. Many researchers believe that if the world did properly react to the Anschluss of Austria and prevent the Munich agreement, it would be quite possible to avoid the Second World War.
There is no doubt that if the actions of Armenian nationalists were properly evaluated in 1988 without excessive complacency and if, after the collapse of the USSR, there would be a clear signal that the world would not tolerate any forceful redrawing of borders, I am sure that many of the existing acute political crises could be avoided.
Yet another warning of the Austrian President is more relevant than ever, that is the danger of fascination with neo-fascist ideas.
Today hardly anyone seems to believe in the urgency of reminders about the dangers of such ideas, especially in countries where these ideas were taken for granted as a guide to action. Surprisingly though, it is hard to realize that even today Nazi ideas are being promoted to the rank of state policy. This is exactly what transpires in neighbouring Armenia, which not only denies the “Anschluss-Miatsum”, but also promotes the Nazi accomplice Garegin Nzhdeh, the deputy commander of the Armenian Legion of the German armed forces and author of the racist theory of Tseghakronism as “a father of the nation” and “a symbol of patriotism”.
This Hitlerite butcher began his bloody career with ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in Zangezur, later applying his rich experience in countless massacres of civilians including the children, women, and old people, whose only fault was that they belonged to a “wrong” nationality. The only difference was that in Zangezur the people was killed for being Azerbaijanis, while in Crimea – for being Jews or Karaites. A pompous monument has been erected in the centre of Yerevan for Nzhdeh the Butcher, and his ideology, Tseghakronism – officially promoted in Armenia as a state policy.
Yet Armenia is trying to mislead the world community by resorting to tricks typical to conmen but not the state authorities. The word tseghakron in Armenian means race. During his stay in the United States, Nzhdeh created an organisation from young Armenians that he would openly call tseghakron in Armenian, and racists in all other languages. If, for instance, someone is speaking about a race in anthropological sense of this word, tseghakron is normally translated into other languages as race. But as soon as it comes to Nzhdeh and his ideology, then the Armenians prefer using tseghakronism, a word of incomprehensible origin. But all these interpretation tricks do not make Nzhdeh’s ideology any less explicitly racist and fascist.
This cheap trick can deceive only the naive people unfamiliar with the situation in Armenia, where the fascist ideology of Nzhdeh is manifested in everything. The fascist tenet of “purity of blood” has turned into a series of ethnic cleansing events in Armenia. Being a hard-core fascist, Nzhdeh preached “the purity of Armenian language” forbidding Armenians to communicate in other languages but Armenian. In fact, education in any other language except Armenian is prohibited in Armenia. There is a small number of Russian classes in high schools but they are only for the children who have at least one non-ethnic Armenian parent.
An outrageous incident occurred recently during the selection of participants for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest started in Armenia. The head of the Armenian delegation at contest, Gohar Gasparyan stated clearly: “All children of Armenian nationality of 9-14 years old can participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, regardless of the place of residence. We are waiting for talented Armenian kids.” Then one named Anush, answering a question if children of other nationalities can participate in the selection, replied: “Actually, it is impossible according to the law. Generally speaking, if a participant is from Armenia, he or she must be of Armenian origin.” This is fascism in action, isn’t it?
In fact, the first Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrosyan was well aware of the danger of such ideology. Tseghakronism, ARF Dashnaktsutyun, etc. were strictly banned during his tenure. But then Ter-Petrosyan was overthrown as a result of the “creeping coup” and fascists like Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan usurped the power. In one of his interviews, Kocharyan, in the spirit of the fascist Nzhdeh, tried to reason a “genetic incompatibility” between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. In his interview with Thomas de Waal, the incumbent president Sargsyan was boasting of his complicity in the massacre of the peaceful population of Khojaly: “Before Khojaly, Azerbaijanis thought that they could joke with us; they thought that Armenians are incapable of laying hands on civilians. We managed to break this (stereotype).” Needless to say that the irresponsible and aggressive behaviour of Armenian authorities remains a serious threat to the security of the entire region. But above all, this policy is dangerous for Armenia itself, whose citizens are better not to forget the outcome of fascination with the ideas of “racial superiority” and claims to the lands of neighbouring countries for Germany. Although, given the current statistics of emigration from Armenia, I believe that many of its citizens understand the implications of the dangerous game played by official Armenian authorities.
Furthermore, one can see a manifest of the fascist ideology on the symbol of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which is very similar to the symbolism of the Third Reich. The RPA logo depicts an eagle with stretched wings almost exactly repeating the coat of arms of Nazi Germany; even the head of an eagle looks at its left wing. It is not a shame to use an eagle as a symbol of party and country. But both symbols (RPA and Third Reich) match entirely, and such things cannot be accidental.
Today, one can find an image of a steel eagle neither in Germany, nor in Austria, let alone in any other country of the world. But in Armenia the authorities revived the eagle, which is flaunting not only on the emblem but also at all party congresses, like years ago at party congresses of the Third Reich. Armenian authorities have surpassed even the Fuhrer in his effort to spread the ideology of fascism. If Hitler dreamed of creating a mono-ethnic state in the Third Reich, destroying the most beautiful cities of Europe including Paris, Krakow, Prague, and Warsaw and changing ethnic identities of people living therein, none of his efforts were fruitful. It is hard to believe but the current leaders of Armenian nation have managed to do this, thanks to the complete negligence of the world community. As a result, Armenia is a mono-ethnic state, where no Azerbaijanis are living; the entire Azerbaijani architecture previously populating the historical centre of Yerevan and also the whole territory of Armenia has been destroyed; and absolutely all Azerbaijani toponyms and hydronyms have been changed to Armenian ones.
Latvia developed new tasks for NATO soldiers
Member of the Latvian Saemas’ national association “Everything for Latvia!” and Freedom”/LNNK Jānis Dombrava stated the need to attract NATO troops to resolve the migration crisis. This is reported by la.lv. In his opinion, illegal migration from the Middle East to Europe may acquire the feature of an invasion. He believes that under the guise of refugees, foreign military and intelligence officers can enter the country. To his mind, in this case, the involvement of the alliance forces is more reasonable and effective than the actions of the European border agencies. Dombrava also noted that in the face of an increase in the flow of refugees, the government may even neglect the observance of human rights.
The Canadian-led battlegroup in Latvia at Camp Ādaži consists of approximately 1512 soldiers, as well as military equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.
Though the main task of the battlegroup in Latvia is country’s defence in case of military aggression, Latvian officials unilaterally invented new tasks for NATO soldiers So, it is absolutely clear, that Latvian politicians are ready to allow NATO troops to resolve any problem even without legal basis. Such deification and complete trust could lead to the full substitution of NATO’s real tasks in Latvia.
It should be noted that NATO troops are very far from being ideal soldiers. Their inappropriate behaviour is very often in a centre of scandals. The recent incidents prove the existing problems within NATO contingents in the Baltic States.
They are not always ready to fulfill their tasks during military exercises and training. And in this situation Latvian politicians call to use them as border guards! It is nonsense! It seems as if it is time to narrow their tasks rather than to widen them. They are just guests for some time in the territory of the Baltic States. It could happen that they would decide who will enter Latvia and who will be forbidden to cross the border!
Changes are Possible: Which Reforms does Ukraine Need Now?
The past 16 months have tested our resilience to sudden, unexpected, and prolonged shocks. As for an individual, resilience for a country or economy is reflected in how well it has prepared for an uncertain future.
A look around the globe reveals how resilient countries have been to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have done well, others less so. The costs of having done less well are almost always borne by the poor. It is for this reason the World Bank and the international community more broadly urge—and provide support to—countries to undertake economic and structural reforms, not just for today’s challenges but tomorrow’s.
One country where the dialogue on reform has been longstanding and intense is Ukraine. This is particularly true since the economic crisis of 2014-2015 in the wake of the Maidan Revolution, when the economy collapsed, and poverty skyrocketed. Many feared the COVID pandemic would have similar effects on the country.
The good news is that thanks to a sustained, even if often difficult, movement on reforms, Ukraine is better positioned to emerge from the pandemic than many expected. Our initial projection in the World Bank, for example, was that the economy would contract by nearly 8 percent in 2020; the actual decline was half that. Gross international reserves at end-2020 were US$10 billion higher than projected. Most important, there are far fewer poor than anticipated.
Let’s consider three reform areas which have contributed to these outcomes.
First, no area of the economy contributed more to the economic crisis of 2014-2015 than the banking sector. Powerful interests captured the largest banks, distorted the flow of capital, and strangled economic activity. Fortunately, Ukraine developed a framework to resolve and recapitalize banks and strengthen supervision. Privatbank was nationalized and is now earning profits. It is now being prepared for privatization.
Second, COVID halted and threatened to reverse a five-year trend in poverty reduction. Thanks to reforms of the social safety net, Ukraine is avoiding this reversal. A few years back, the government was spending some 4.7 percent of GDP on social programs with limited poverty impact. Nearly half these resources went to an energy subsidy that expanded to cover one-in-two of the country’s households.
Since 2018, the Government has been restructuring the system by reducing broad subsidies and targeting resources to the poor. This is working. Transfers going to the poorest one-fifth of the population are rising significantly—from just 37 percent in 2019 to 50 percent this year and are projected to reach 55 percent in 2023.
Third, the health system itself. Ukrainians live a decade less than their EU neighbors. Basic epidemiological vulnerabilities are exacerbated by a health delivery system centered around outdated hospitals and an excessive reliance on out-of-pocket spending. In 2017, Ukraine passed a landmark health financing law defining a package of primary care for all Ukrainians, free-of-charge. The law is transforming Ukraine’s constitutional commitment to free health care from an aspiration into specific critical services that are actually being delivered.
The performance of these sectors, which were on the “front line” during COVID, demonstrate the payoff of reforms. The job now is to tackle the outstanding challenges.
The first is to reduce the reach of the public sector in the economy. Ukraine has some 3,500 companies owned by the state—most of them loss-making—in sectors from machine building to hotels. Ukraine needs far fewer SOEs. Those that remain must be better managed.
Ukraine has demonstrated that progress can be made in this area. The first round of corporate governance reforms has been successfully implemented at state-owned banks. Naftogaz was unbundled in 2020. The electricity sector too is being gradually liberalized. Tariffs have increased and reforms are expected to support investment in aging electricity-producing and transmitting infrastructure. Investments in renewable energy are also surging.
But there are developments of concern, including a recent removal of the CEO of an SOE which raised concerns among Ukraine’s friends eager to see management independence of these enterprises. Management functions of SOE supervisory boards and their members need to remain free of interference.
The second challenge is to strengthen the rule of law. Over recent years, the country has established—and has committed to protect—new institutions to combat corruption. These need to be allowed to function professionally and independently. And they need to be supported by a judicial system defined by integrity and transparency. The move to re-establish an independent High Qualification Council is a welcome step in this direction.
Finally, we know change is possible because after nearly twenty years, Ukraine on July first opened its agricultural land market. Farmers are now free to sell their land which will help unleash the country’s greatest potential source of economic growth and employment.
Ukraine has demonstrated its ability to undertake tough reforms and, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen the real-life benefits of these reforms. The World Bank looks forward to providing continued assistance as the country takes on new challenges on the way to closer European integration.
This article was first published in European Pravda via World Bank
Liberal Development at Stake as LGBT+ Flags Burn in Georgia
Protests against Georgia’s LGBT+ Pride parade turned ugly in Tbilisi on July 5 when members of the community were hunted down and attacked, around 50 journalists beaten up and the offices of various organizations vandalized. Tensions continued the following day, despite a heavy police presence.
On the face of it, the Georgian state condemned the violence. President Salome Zourabichvili was among the first with a clear statement supporting freedom of expression, members of parliament did likewise and the Ministry of Internal Affairs condemned any form of violence.
But behind the scenes, another less tolerant message had been spread before the attacks. Anxiety about this year’s events had been rising as a result of statements by the government and clergy. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili suggested the march “poses a threat of civil strife.” The Georgian Orthodox Church meanwhile condemned the event, saying it, “contains signs of provocation, conflicts with socially recognized moral norms and aims to legalize grave sin.”
For many, these statements signified tacit approval for the abuse of peaceful demonstrators. Meanwhile, the near-complete absence of security at the outset of the five-day event was all too obvious in Tbilisi’s streets and caused a public outcry. Many alleged the government was less focused on public safety than on upcoming elections where will need support from socially conservative voters and the powerful clergy, in a country where more than 80% of the population is tied to the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The violence brought a joint statement of condemnation from Western embassies. “Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused,” it said. The Pride event was not the first and had previously been used by anti-gay groups. Violence was widespread in 2013 — and the reality of attacks against sexual minorities in Georgia remains ever-present.
In a socially conservative country such as Georgia, antagonism to all things liberal can run deep. Resistance to non-traditional sexual and religious mores divides society. This in turn causes political tension and polarization and can drown out discussion of other problems the country is marred in. It very obviously damages the country’s reputation abroad, where the treatment of minorities is considered a key marker of democratic progress and readiness for further involvement in European institutions.
That is why this violence should also be seen from a broader perspective. It is a challenge to liberal ideas and ultimately to the liberal world order.
A country can be democratic, have a multiplicity of parties, active election campaigns, and other features characteristic of rule by popular consent. But democracies can also be ruled by illiberal methods, used for the preservation of political power, the denigration of opposing political forces, and most of all the use of religious and nationalist sentiments to raise or lower tensions.
It happens across Eurasia, and Georgia is no exception. These are hybrid democracies with nominally democratic rule. Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and others have increasingly more in common, despite geographic distance and cultural differences.
Hungary too has been treading this path. Its recent law banning the supposed propagation of LGBT+ materials in schools must be repealed, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on July 7. “This legislation uses the protection of children . . . to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation . . . It is a disgrace,” she said.
One of the defining features of illiberalism is agility in appropriating ideas on state governance and molding them to the illiberal agenda.
It is true that a mere 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union is not enough to have built a truly liberal democratic state. Generations born and raised in the Soviet period or in the troubled 1990s still dominate the political landscape. This means that a different worldview still prevails. It favors democratic development but is also violently nationalistic in opposing liberal state-building.
Georgia’s growing illiberalism has to be understood in the context of the Russian gravitational pull. Blaming all the internal problems of Russia’s neighbors has become mainstream thinking among opposition politicians, NGOs, and sometimes even government figures. Exaggeration is commonplace, but when looking at the illiberal challenge from a long-term perspective, it becomes clear where Russia has succeeded in its illiberal goals. It is determined to stop Georgia from joining NATO and the EU. Partly as a result, the process drags on and this causes friction across society. Belief in the ultimate success of the liberal agenda is meanwhile undermined and alternatives are sought. Hybrid illiberal governments are the most plausible development. The next stage could well be a total abandonment of Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Indeed what seemed irrevocable now seems probable, if not real. Pushback against Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice is growing stronger. Protesters in front of the parliament in central Tbilisi violently brought tore the EU flag. Twice.
The message of anti-liberal groups has also been evolving. There has been significant growth in their messaging. The anti-pride sentiment is evolving into a wider resistance to the Western way of life and Georgia’s Western foreign policy path, perhaps because it is easily attacked and misrepresented.
To deal with this, Western support is important, but much depends on Georgian governments and the population at large. A pushback against radicalism and anti-liberalism should come in the guise of time and resources for the development of stronger and currently faltering institutions. Urgency in addressing these problems has never been higher — internal and foreign challenges converge and present a fundamental challenge to what Georgia has been pursuing since the days of Eduard Shevardnadze – the Western path to development.
Author’s note: first published at cepa
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