In June 2016, Pope Francis, current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was on a three-day official visit to the Republic of Armenia. This visit was not a routine visit of the ruler of the state. It is distinguished by the fact that the Pope is the leader of the superpower of the Vatican state and the Holy See, the power of which depends not on nuclear and other weapons, but on powerful spiritual charge which is guided by the army of billion followers. On the other hand, Francis is not an ordinary political leader but a Man who stands out not only for his intellect but also for his spiritual nature and decency, for his exemplary behavior and lifestyle; his apparent merit and he can be placed in the series of great humanist thinkers.
If we add to this Francis’ ideas about Armenia and the Armenians, it becomes clear that his trip was truly historic and every Armenian, wherever he is, can be proud of, and should draw serious conclusions and prove to the ignorant world that He was right, as it is accepted by the Catholic dogma of the pope’s infallibility.
Now I want to present a few thoughts of Pope Francis about Armenia and the Armenians:
On the eve of his visit, the Pope calls the attention of the world noting. “…I will go on pilgrimage to a land of the East, Armenia…”. What does “pilgrimage” mean in this case? Is this a common pilgrimage? Where do people usually go on pilgrimage? – sanctuaries, then Armenia is such a sacred place. Of course, Armenia is sacred for every Armenian, but it is also a sacred place for the Pope, that is for the Catholic world, in case when Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church are Christian, and not Catholic.
This expression has a continuation, “… I ask for your prayers…” What does it mean? Why should all the Christians pray for him? Probably it means that He has a very serious task, which can only be fulfilled by everyone’s support, and he visits Armenia by a particular mission. What is that mission? He wants to remind the world which is now in its tough times, not to forget the role of Armenia in the development of modern civilization.
In his speech in Holy Etchmiadzin, he said, “It is very moving for me to have crossed the threshold of this holy place… the centre from which its spirituality radiates”. Immediately a question arises. What is the spirituality of the Armenians?
What does it mean, especially when he adds “Armenia gave the world its unique identity and it made itself the herald of Christ to other nations.” What kind of identity, moreover particular identity? What precepts should the Armenians impart to other nations? Whether it should be understood in the framework of purely Christian ideas? He continues: “… faith in Christ … is an essential part of its identity… ” and then cited John Paul II, which refers to the identity of the Armenian nation.
Pope Francis, following Saint John Paul II, considers the Armenians peace ambassadors to the world. He believes that “The whole world needs…(your) message of peace….”. Pope Francis probably had in mind the fact that the Armenian kingdoms had constantly pursued a policy of peace, fought only when they were attacked. This is proved by the fact that there was no slavery as such in Armenia. The same thing happens today when the soldiers forced the aggressor to a ceasefire.
In this context I consider it important to mention the attitude of Pope Francis to Saint Gregory of Narek, whom he proclaimed a Doctor of Catholic Church, whose poem “Book of Lamentations” he considers to be an extraordinary book and calls it the “spiritual constitution of the Armenian people.” What spiritual is it and how is it expressed? Do the Armenians understand this “constitution”? Did they understand what is to be the Doctor (Vardapet) of the Catholic Church? What did this proclamation give the Armenians? What did the Armenians do to recognize, to understand, to gain lessons, to present to the world the ancient thousand-year-old “spiritual constitution”? And in their turn what did others do to learn this spiritual wealth?
The Pope refers with his precepts to the Armenian people, which, I think, in a sense, completes his mission and the pilgrimage to Armenia. Here’s the message: “…. a future of constant efforts to create the conditions for peace: dignified employment for all, care for those in greatest need, and the unending battle to eliminate corruption”. Here is his exhortation to people. “Dear young people, this future belongs to you, but cherish the great wisdom of your elders and strive to be peacemakers: not content with the status quo, but actively engaged in building the culture of encounter and reconciliation”.
Being familiar with the Armenians, Pope Francis believes that Armenizm unites them all, regardless of whether they are Catholic or the followers of the Apostolic Church. What is the Armenian identity? What is the difference between Armenians and other nations? What peculiar features do they possess? In short, what does Armenizm mean?
I think there is no need to continue with a series of new questions that Pope Francis put forward, they are too many, that are basis for serious reflection, as well as for new, radical conclusions for the Armenians and the world.
Overall, the Pope’s visit seems to me as follows: He, like no-one before and now, placed the Armenian nation in the most prominent peak in view of not only Catholics and Christians in general, but of all humanity.
Armenians need to finally come out of the sleep. The road is the correct understanding of the questions put by the Pope and thoughtful, reasoned response. The Armenians have no choice. The Pope with his visit gave the key to the solution of domestic and foreign policy, the fundamental concept of solving the problem of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and, in general, the key to true progress of the Armenian society.
With this essay I try, on non-professional level, to touch briefly the problem of, particularly, spirituality of the Armenian people, its unique identity and Armenizm.
In recent decades, the issue of national(ethnic) identity has become a topic for current discussions in social sciences as great efforts were made to merge the nations in the course of history, which, however, can be asserted, successfully failed. A vivid example of the above said is the policy of Turks towards annihilation of nations and Turkization, Bolshevik national policy, as well as the advocacy of the European multiculturalism. And it is not accidental that the issue of identity was moved to the foreground. In this context it is necessary to highlight the fact that constantly growing consumer psychology and materialism has promoted the spiritual values carried by the nations themselves. The Armenian social scientists are also concerned with the Armenian identity, but as far as I know, not to a sufficient extent to give complete answers to the questions – Who are the Armenians? What is Armenizm?
In this regard, it is debated whether the Armenians are the carrier of the European culture or the Asian? This issue is very important in terms of the European integration, which the Armenian nation faces from time to time.
I think that the identity of the Armenian people (as well as of any other nation) is determined by many factors, particularly by customs, traditions and legends created in the Armenian environment by the cultural, economic and other relations with neighboring and other countries, by the Armenian music, architecture, music and dance, the Armenian Script, military culture, the Armenian alphabet created by Mesrop Mashtots, bibliography and by Christian values, etc. The translated literature, which has greatly contributed to the Theology, Philosophy, Law, Political and Natural sciences and, in general, to the development of the Armenian culture, has a unique place in the Armenian literature, and it is no coincidence that the Armenian people has included The Feast of the Holy Translators in their calendar. Great and unique is the role of such individuals as Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the Great), Aram, Tigranes the Great (Tigran Mets), Gregory the Illuminator and Mesrop Mashtots, Movses Khorenatsi, David the Invincible, Gregory of Narek, Nerses IV the Gracious (Nerses Shnorhali), Mkhitar Gosh, Komitas on the road of shaping the Armenizm.
Based on all abovementioned, as well as on other diverse factors, the Armenian culture has evolved over centuries, which in its turn determines the Armenizm, the Armenian spirit, the spiritual conformation, and the Armenian nation has been shaped of its own kind. What is this type capable of? The same is true about other nations.
I think it is important what combinations of various features have been made. This probably depends on the path of the nation over the past centuries, that makes every nation unique.
All in all, I would like to highlight just a few of the many Armenian features, without claiming them as completely justified.
The first thing I would like to mention is the attitude of the Armenians to their children, they pay too much attention to their learning, education, they spare nor their welfare, nor health, nor their rest, nothing. Even the illiterate Armenian finds that education is a necessity for his child. It is no coincidence that the adult’s precept to their children is as such: “Learn to become a human”. It is surprising how the elderly parents care for their already grown-up children (who are not children any longer) when they need more care for themselves. But this is not all. The parents` attitude is much deeply displayed towards the grandchildren, probably because becoming wise through the years they realize that they were not sufficiently attentive to their children at that time and try to compensate it by their attitude to their grandchildren.
All this applies not only to an individual Armenian, but the Armenians in general. It is known that in the Middle Ages, even in the absence of statehood, the education was free in Armenia.
On the other hand, the Armenians stand out for their worship to the parents and in general, for a deep respect towards adults, when the children try in every way to be worthy to their parents with their attitude and care, uphold their honor, ensure a dignified senility for them. And this is not conditioned by their potential, they are ready for any sacrifice, only the parents feel themselves better. It is not an ordinary compensation of debts, but internal, spiritual urge, an expression of love that turns the family into holiness. Such a relationship of the generations based on mutual love makes the Armenian family a strong and indivisible/ inseparable unity, which becomes a unique whole cell not dependent on the social status, social environment. Perhaps this is one of the factors that the “Armenian” type retains its identity.
Another typical feature of the Armenians is their attitude to the manuscripts and books. They have always been considered a subject of special care and one of the greatest values. Special attitude was displayed to “Narek” of the poem “Book of Lamentations” by Gregory of Narek, which is considered sacred and balm from diseases.
It is enough to remember that when the Armenians were forced to leave their homes and take migration path, among the first items of necessity have always been manuscripts and books. That is why many of the famous ancient manuscripts were saved in this way. It is not accidental that after the invention of printing in many European and Asian cities the Armenians have established printing houses and published books.
One of the characteristic features peculiar to the Armenians is the fact that in many Armenian communities of the countries worldwide there has been an indisputable principle throughout the centuries – there should be no one asking for alms, beggars and the poor in their community. And, as a continuation of this and the previous principle, there was another principle – education was free of charge. Let us recall the great philanthropists A. Mantashev, G. Gulbenkian and others.
One of the typical features of the Armenians is their strive for justice and law-abidance, which is observed in Armenia as well as in all the countries where there are Armenian communities. All the Armenian kingdoms considered the adherence to moral principles as a guarantee to ensure justice; they have stressed the importance of human dignity, and, in general, spiritual values and legality, which were considered supreme/uppermost values. Such an approach has been expressed in all the Armenian Lawcodes since the IV century. A concentrated expression of such ideas was presented by Gregory of Narek, who pleaded the God in his prayers to give a man a chance of conversion as he believed that the person’s sins first of all are not his guilt but misfortune. Such a possibility could be realized only in the conditions of a peaceful, just, law-abiding, spiritually healthy society. In the Armenian reality the role of legal consciousness therewith was also highlighted, without which it could be impossible to ensure an ordinary development of the society. That is why Nerses the Gracious appeals to all the classes of the society in his “Toukht Enthanrakan”, demanding them not to be guided only by the carnal, and not to forget the spirituality because of the carnal. Overall, “Toukht Enthanrakan” contains regulatory provisions on human rights and of limiting the powers of the authorities which are still consistent with modern concepts with their legal significance.
The “Lawcode”(Datastanagirq) of Mkhitar Gosh has acquired special significance in the Armenian reality, on the basis of which is the divine right of man, or by modern terminology, the natural rights. Since the 5th Century the constitutional approaches have been of great importance in Armenia. This is primarily manifested in Church Councils that have adopted mandatory rules regulating public, as well as legal relationship. These Church Councils, starting from the Council of Ashtishat (365 AD), were, in today’s terminology, a representative assembly, which was attended by the representatives of all social strata without exception. This approach has been maintained in subsequent centuries, and the rules of these congregations had universal and priority importance. From this perspective it can be asserted that these meetings are comparable with constituent meetings by their nature. It should be noted that a similar meeting was held by King Vachagan (5th century), where “Canonical Constitution” was adopted. In the absence of statehood such meetings were held by the Catholicoses. Overall, it can be concluded that the rules adopted in such Councils have ensured the supremacy of the rules of national consensus, thus they have been constitutional by nature.
It is not convenient to talk about the details here, but I want to mention two circumstances that show the special attitude of the Armenians to the Constitution. First, the work “Snare of Glory” by Sh. Shahamirian published in 1773, which was a unique draft constitution, intended for future independent Armenia. Only the title of the book is a complete constitutional concept and, taking into account the time of publication of this work, one can be really surprised by such a constitutional ideas and approaches.
The other phenomenon is that in the illiberal Ottoman Empire from 1840 to 1860 the “constitutional movement” was expanding, the purpose of which was to adopt a formal document for Armenians in Turkish Sultanate which would regulate the internal relations of the community. As a result of the movement in 1863, the Sultan government approved the “Armenian National Constitution,” which retains its significance up to now.
Such thinking is obviously an evidence of the formation of a new civilizational level.
I would not dare to make such a conclusion, if it were not for the point of view of an expert of the Armenian law, Professor Kohler, according to whom the Armenian nation gained civilized legal status, when he adopted highly developed religion. It is no exaggeration to say that the Armenian, as a carrier of its own civilization, could perform the role of the world in a strange world.
Without going into professional details, which is beyond our power and not our problem, I suggest to those who are interested in the history of law to get acquainted with the researches of Josef Karst, Joseph Kohler, etc.
Considering all these, I think that the foundation of the analytical center of “Constitutional Culture” in 2016 Yerevan should be highlighted. I am convinced that this international organization in the nearest future will generate ideas that will guide further development of civilization in various aspects.
As for the behavior of the Armenians in the Armenian communities, we can claim that they have never been distinguished by their illegal, unlawful behavior, otherwise the authorities of these countries will not grant them any privileges. Besides, the Armenians have always tried to harmonize their community life with the legislation of the host country, while remaining faithful to national values. This is evidenced by the “Lawcode of Polish Armenians”, “Astrakhan Lawcode”, etc., created on the bases of the legal principles of the Lawcode by Mkhitar Gosh and have been functioned with the permission of the authorities. The Armenian law-abidance is evidenced by the generosity emphasized in the poem “Tazit” by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin (see further).
Of course, it may be objected that in this case, how should it be explained that nowadays the number of inmates in American prisons has increased dramatically? Here I would like to refer to the words of the great English poet Lord Byron. “The virtues (of Armenians) have been those of peace, and their vices are those of compulsion.” In this case, the vices of the Armenians are forced to them and appear as soviet legacy. The Soviet Union was a country where any economic freedom, economic initiative was considered illegal, which led to the formation of the corresponding illegal behavior. I am sure that the rate of such crimes will drastically decrease after the change of the generation. And my hypothesis that the reason for such behavior is homo sovieticus – is motivated by the fact that this phenomenon is characteristic to the migrants from all the post-Soviet space.
I would like to mention one of the most important features of all Armenians – it’s a special attitude of the Armenians to the Armenian woman. The Armenian woman, who is a bit of oriental and European, has a unique place in the Armenian society with her generic image and has a special social status. I believe that the basis for this phenomenon is the loyalty to the Bible, in other words, the Armenians have been impulsively guided by biblical provision, according to which “the two shall become one flesh.” I should also bring the viewpoint of August von Haxthausen on the Armenian woman – …in family life, this people has a patriarchal way of life, which only sharply differs from other Asian peoples in one way – the difference in the social status of women, in invoking her for independence, equality and human dignity, which is expressed in the very way of the Armenian family, as well as in the personal characteristics of the Armenian women. Then he gives an explanation. It seems to von Haxthausen that the reason for this lies in the very mission of the Armenians, as people of high culture and spirituality that has become a mediating link and the center of the unification of Europe and Asia. I think there is no need to add anything to the said above. In fact, this definition is not the only one, the same view was expressed by the Austrian historian Amand Shvaykher Lirhenfeld and many others.
Finally, it should be infered that Armenizm as a phenomenon could be formed only in the Armenian Highlands, under the auspices of the holy Mount Ararat, a mountain that has been sacred for Armenians for thousands of years, which was later enshrined in the Bible. And another factor – today the science finds that one of the most important factors of European civilization progress is the wheat plant, the homeland of which is the Armenian Highlands, I mean that it is not accidental that Armenia has become the cradle of civilization and has assumed the role of civilizing. Armenizm exists and will exist as long as there is Armenian Highland and the people live there. No matter how good the Armenians feel themselves abroad they will be able to survive only if the Armenians continue to live in their homeland, from where they get their vital and spiritual food.
I must also mention the creative kind and nature of the Armenian. Every Armenian, regardless of educational, social, environment background and opportunities, is constantly in the incessant search for something new. And the Armenian is the carrier of both the rational and the spiritual, and always strives to achieve his objectives. He is not indifferent to the events happening in his surroundings, or in the world, he always reflects his attitude to everything. Of course, this does not mean that he is always right and meaningful, and that’s why he is always ready to listen to a view of a better qualified and educated one and evaluate it.
Finally, I want to mention the general characteristic for the Armenians, by the XVII century famous botanist, traveler Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, which was later repeated by Jacques Elisee Reclu and many others, according to which the Armenians are the best people in the world, they are virtuous, polite, imbued with discretion and decency.
The list of characteristics of the Armenians can be continued, but it should be left for the future. Here I would like to mention just a few of the hundred assessments and characterizations given to the Armenians in two-thousand-year-history.
One of the famous characteristics of the Armenian nation is given by the greatest thinker, philosopher I. Kant and he thinks that the unique commercial spirit is dominating in the Armenians: they are engaged in exchange, traveling from China to Cabo Corso (present-day Cape Coast) on the Gulf of Guinea. It shows the unique origin of this intelligent and hardworking people, people that passes through the entire Ancient world from the north-east to south-west and is warmly accepted among all these nations where he finds himself. It proves the superiority of their nature …
Another German ethnographer and traveler August von Haxthausen describes the Armenians as follows: all the studies indicate the fact that the Armenian people are marked by the will of God and are chosen to spread the Christianity and civilization in the East. The Armenians can be regarded as a leaver, as the main ingredient in the Asian dough, designed to revive the dead spiritual life in this region.
Many years ago, when I got to know Kant’s characterization of the “commercial spirit”, it had a very negative impression on me, so far as “merchant” prompts nothing good to many of us. Basically, we understand that word with negative meaning “hawker”, “trader”, ” usurer,” “miser”, as the European “bourgeois”, which has never been respectfully accepted in the European culture. However, much later, when I studied the Armenian culture more thoroughly and the history of development of the European economy, I began to understand that the genius philosopher from Konigsberg gave such a description that the Armenians can really be proud of and present themselves to the world with their contribution to the modern civilization.
When reading Kant`s writings, especially taking into consideration the limited communication possibilities in the 18th century, immediately a question arises – How could he have known that the Armenians are “intelligent and hard-working” and that “passing through the Ancient world they received a cordial reception among all the peoples”? What did he mean by saying “unique origin” and “superiority of the character”? The cordial reception among the peoples is probably certified by the fact that the big merchants were engaged not only in trade but also performed the role of mediator and interpreter in the relations between the ruling families and/or authorities of different countries, they even did official diplomatic assignments, became ambassadors to different countries and even ministers of foreign affairs. If we add to this all the significant contribution of the Armenians in commercial and economic, particularly in maritime relations between China, India, other Far Eastern and European countries, I think, the picture will become more complete.
As to the characteristics of the Armenians given by von Haxthausen, it should be noted that not only the existent researches had served as a starting point for him, such as Kant and others, but also his own experiences and researches. Overall, his view is not only consistent with the thoughts expressed by Kant, but he gives more far-reaching civilizational assessments.
Considering the fact that Kant had practically never been away from Konigsberg, it can be assumed that there was some idea about Armenia and the Armenians in Europe in the 18th century, which is justified by the von Haxthausen witness that there is certain information and research about the Armenians.
A question arises, what kind of information and research is meant? First, we can mention «Anglo-Saxon chronicle» of 807, where it is indicated on the first lines of the old English manuscript that the Brits came from Armenia and settled in the south of England. Valuable information is also contained in the German legends, where Armenia and Ararat are often mentioned, the leader of Germanic peoples called Armenios, as well as the assumption that the Bavarians and the Tirols have been originated from the Armenians (Enno Mayer, Zwischen Rhein und Arax. 900 jahredeutsch-armenische beziehungen, 1988). It is not difficult to assume that the works of famous Greek and Roman historians can be listed among these researches which were included in the framework of the interests of European thinkers since the Renaissance, and in many of them Armenia and the Armenians had serious assignation (I mean such great thinkers as Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, Strabo, Plutarch, Cicero, Seneca and many others).
In addition, all the Europeans were cooperating with the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in the Crusades, got directly acquainted with the Armenian culture, established economic and trade relations with the Armenians (especially Venice and Genoa republics). It was not accidental that the king of Cilicia, Leo VI Lusignan was given royal reception by the kings of Castile, Aragon and France. John I, the King of Castile, granted several cities to Leo VI. King Charles VI of France gave him the royal palace of Paris Saint-Owen. His tombstone is in the royal crypt at Saint-Denis. The Armenian participation in the Crusades was highly appreciated by Papal Bull (“Ecclesia Romana”) of Pope Francis Gregory XIII.
Here it is not impossible to note Francois Rabelais, who in his novel “The life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel” speaks with reverence about the Armenians. It is interesting to note that the name of Artaxias (Artashes) is written with the Armenian phonetics and the history of the King Artaxias II is described with deep knowledge. Further the luxurious reception in Rome of Tiridates, the King of Armenia as well as the efforts of the Roman Emperor Nero to make Tiridates the permanent friend to Rome are described.
Extensive information about Armenia and the Armenians was given by the European travelers in their traveling notes (Zhurden de Severac, Burkhardos Monte de Sion, William of Rubruck, Marco Polo, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, John Dardel, Johannes Schiltberger, Antonio de Gouveia and others).
In this context, I think it was important that the Armenians founded numerous publishing houses and were publishing books in Venice already in 1512 and further in many other European cities. This circumstance could not but attract the attention of the Europeans, if we consider that the book was a rare and exotic phenomenon at that period.
Important information was published about Armenia, Greater Armenia, Lesser Armenia and Tigran the Great in the French encyclopedia, in “Britannica” and in other universal encyclopedias published in Europe in the 18-19th centuries.
Apart from this, the prominent European thinkers began to discuss issues related to Armenia and the Armenians, the Armenian language and the works of the Armenian historians in their studies and gradually the Armenian Studies was formed (Matyuren La Kroz, Gottfried Leibniz, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Joachim Johann Shroyder, I. Kant, J. Herder, Antoine-Jean Saint-Martin, A. Von Haksthauzen, Leopold von Ranke, Heinrich Petermann, Marie Brosset, Edward Dulaurie, Victor Langlois, Frederick Muller, Auguste Carrier and others).
Taking into account all the above mentioned, it is not difficult to guess why Armenia was in the limelight of the European science and culture.
Armenians, wherever they live – in Europe or the Far East, South America, the Middle East, North America or Iran, regardless of cultural and religious environment, had rapidly integrated and become law-abiding and exemplary subjects and citizens of these countries, were distinguished by their hard work, contributed to the development of science, the arts and crafts of that countries and to the economic progress.
Such a viewpoint may seem an exaggeration, but when learning about the Armenian activities in various countries, it is not difficult to ascertain the accuracy of such evaluation. On the other hand, it is surprising that this viewpoint is expressed by the Europeans, because in the framework of the ideology of Eurocentrism at that period, only the Europeans are capable of civilizational, cultural, economic intervention. Despite this factor, when the Europeans think that the Armenians may have a serious mission in terms of civilization, this means that there are serious grounds for it.
I do not know what specific basics are meant by von Haxthausen and others for their conclusions, but many of such facts are known from history. It is a well-known fact that in the 18th century, for several centuries, the Armenians, who migrated from Armenia, had established large communities in some European regions (Italy, Byzantium, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Transylvania, Russia, etc.), where they had received many privileges from the government, built churches, schools, founded printing houses, participated in cultural life, had many popular scientific, religious, cultural, political and economic figures. Unlike the European countries, where Armenians settled willingly, escaping from the Tatar-Mongol and later the Seljuk Turks unbearable domination, the Persian ruler Shah Abbas forcibly resettled several hundred thousand Armenians in Persia, granting them with great benefits. Here they built the city of New Julfa, boosting the rapid development of trade, economy and culture. Favorable attitude was displayed towards the Armenians in Russia. Thus, Peter I the Great granted privileges to the Armenian merchants. With the edict of November 10 (21) in 1724 he announced his patronage to the Armenian people: “Keep the honest Armenian people with special mercy… We ordered not only to protect their merchants, but also to grant with some privileges for great interests and benefits and will be kind to them in the most merciful way.” The same attitude was treated by Catherine II, who with decree of 1768 expressed her support and patronage to the Armenian people. In particular, by granting privileges to the Armenians, allowed them to build Grigoriupol and New Nakhchivan cities.
The poem “Tazit” by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin can be considered the illustration of the political role of the Armenians in Russia. The famous phrase of the poem: “You are a coward, a slave, you are Armenian”, which, taken out of the context of the poem, has become “a great proof” of different interpretations and speculations, and Armenophobia. Whereas reading the poem, it becomes apparent that Pushkin, in this case by saying “Armenian” with the mouth of highlander meant only the evince of magnanimity, a person with high moral qualities. But that is not of interest to us. We should answer to the question – why the great poet, as opposition to human cruelty, ferocity of satisfying the vile passions, has mentioned the Armenians. How is this explained? Hardly accidentally, Pushkin would mention particularly the Armenians without any reason. Pushkin was very well aware of and had close ties with a number of Armenian politicians (David Abamelik, the Lazaryans, Grigor Zakaryan and many others). Moreover, Pushkin has witnessed how the Karabakh brigade returned from the battle, bringing eight Turkish flags with them. Therefore, Pushkin could not describe the Armenians as a coward or a slave. But it is not enough to commemorate/mention the Armenians.
To understand why Pushkin has done so, it is necessary to refer to the role of the Armenian element in the North Caucasus and Caucasus, in general, in the beginning of the XIX century and during the second half of the 18th century. In this regard, we consider it important to mention a question concerning Crimea. The point is that after the destruction of Ani, many Armenians migrated to Europe (Hungary, Transylvania, Poland, etc.), particularly to the Crimea, where densely settled Armenians had a major impact on economic, cultural and political life. When in 1768-1774 after the Russian-Turkish war, the Russian Empire, in the face of Russian Empress Catherine II and Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin, decided to unite the Crimea to Russia, deported Armenians from the Crimea in 1778 (as well as other Christian nations). In 1780, the Armenians established the famous New Nakhchivan residence with the sponsorship of the government. To understand this Russian policy, we should apply to another Russian writer V. Pikul, who in his historical novel “Favorite”, in the letter of Potemkin addressed to the commander A. Suvorov, who had Armenian descent states about letting the Hellenes make the wine and hunt mugil, they are commercial people, resourceful, believe me they won`t get lost. But in the new areas … let the Armenians develop new handicrafts, such as … weave silk and cotton fabrics, make leather morocco leather, make various needlework, in which the Armenian women are so skilled. It is no coincidence that Potemkin highlighted particularly the spiritual development of the people in the letter and ordered to bring priests from Armenia.
With this deportation the Russian Empire undermined the economic and military capabilities of Crimean Khanate and created conditions for uniting the Crimea to Russia, and besides, strengthened its position in the North Caucasus. The Russians realized that it was impossible to establish order in this immense territory only by military force, it was necessary, if we use the current terminology, economic, cultural, political intervention. And to solve the very problem they wisely used the Armenians and other Christian nations, encouraging them by various privileges to continue to live in that region. And the Armenians settling in the region began to deal with economy, trade, agriculture (particularly horticulture), crafts and many other occupations. It is obvious that by settling there they developed their own culture, established schools, cultural centers, built church and residential buildings. The economy began to develop gradually in the Caucasus as a result of the Armenians` various creative activities, which had a beneficial effect on the development of public relations. And, most importantly, other nations were also involved in these processes, gradually acquiring the appropriate civilizational level. The same happened in the Crimea, after joining the Russian Empire, where the Armenians were given many privileges, which contributed to the settlement of the migrants from Western Armenia in Crimea. As you can see, the Russian policy towards the Armenians greatly facilitated the final appropriation of the North Caucasus.
I think here the unique character of the Armenians is manifested, which was successfully used by the Russian Empire to solve their own internal problems.
Obviously, the Armenians had gratefully received the favorable treatment of their host country/people, and at the same time it is also obvious that such attitude to the Armenians is explained not, as it is said, for their beautiful eyes but for the sake of far-reaching political and civilizational reasons and state interests.
Every nation and a state have a problem of being presented to the world, especially the newly independent state. Today, the world is not aware of a few thousand-years-history of the Armenian people, the place of Armenia on the map, though the word “Armenia” is mentioned on all the ancient maps of the world. It is known only by the Armenians and by narrow specialized, scientific small community. Despite millennial cultural heritage and their contribution to global civilization, today the Armenians are only known to the world as the remnants of a collapsed superpower. Meanwhile, they have the task to develop, but it is necessary to appear to the world not only with a dignity, their culture, historical heritage, but first of all with present cultural, economic, scientific achievements, with their Armenizm.
When I heard the words of Pope Francis on Armenizm, I tried to understand what it means. After long ponderings, of course, on amateur level, I found out that I still do not know what are the elements that formed it, what mixture does lead to Armenizm. But overall, I think we can draw the conclusion that Armenizm is meant to serve to civilization, to develop a civilization, to fight for civilization. Especially given the fact that many great thinkers have expressed such an opinion (August von Haxthausen, V. Abaza, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, N. Marr, F. Makler, A. Kraft-Bonnar, P. Charanis, E. Mezhelaytis and others). Perhaps, I will mention only the words of A. Mayer: There is a country that Armenians can demand … due to the fact that they are a force. Armenians are the force of civilization since IV or V century.
My knowledge is this much. It is obvious that the aforementioned about the Armenians is only the small part of the reality, which has various layers of exploration and discovery, but that’s not the problem. Of course, the Armenians will be grateful to all the scientists and researchers who will help to clarify and supplement the Armenian history, the Armenian identity and Armenizm, all this is necessary for the states interested in the progress of civilization. The great Russian scientist N. Marr, back in the beginning of the XX century, writes in this regard that the Armenians were the first to understand the international interests and the history of space already in the Middle Ages. The Russians should be the first to get interested in the history of the Armenian people, as responsible for the present fate. The Armenian nation is still the only race capable of sublime Christian culture and civilization, a tribe that owns the future of the region.
The same thing, in fact, is claimed by the European and American Armenologists.
How can we explain such a favorable attitude of the great humanist Francis towards Armenia and the Armenian people? I think there is no secret here. Such an attitude stems from the concern over the future of mankind, when the Christian values are gradually replaced by the growing mercantilism, when the moral values are turned into the product, when spirituality is replaced by the material, when the material is idolized, when the human being is transformed into a robot. Therefore, the Pope can not remain indifferent to all those communities, including the Armenians and Armenia, which is already two millennia appropriates Christ’s teaching, and this doctrine has become a state subject for a thousand seven hundred years and it remains faithful to Christian values and continues to contribute to the progress of civilization.
Let me finish with the principle of the Lithuanian poet E.Mezhelaytis that Armenia is the rock of civilization.
Turkey to Seek Larger Role in the Black Sea and the South Caucasus
As Turkey-Russia disagreements intensify in northern Syria, another theater – the Black Sea and the South Caucasus – is starting to play a bigger role in Turkey’s thinking in the coming years. Ankara is likely to increase its military and economic cooperation with Georgia and try to shore up Tbilisi’s NATO membership aspirations.
Turkey’s significance in the regional geopolitics is dictated by the country’s geography and the fact that it borders regions of different geopolitical importance. Whether it is the Black Sea, South Caucasus or Syria, all these regions experience crises of alternating magnitude, which directly impacts Turkey’s borders. Though over the past decade Ankara has remained perceptive of various military and economic developments along its borders, nevertheless, it could be argued that it is the Syrian crisis that has largely consumed Turkey’s entire foreign policy attention. It is in Syria that Ankara has faced its major competitors, Russia and Iran, which, both, against Turkish interests, pursue their strategic goals of securing the sovereignty of Syria under the current president, Bashar al-Assad.
However, as Moscow’s pressure on Ankara in Syria grows, Turkey might turn its attention to other regions to offset Russian influence. Two such regions are the Black Sea region and the South Caucasus where the security situation has worsened significantly. Over the past decade there have been consistent efforts from Russia to increase its military and economic influence in the region. The annexation of Crimea in 2014, ensuing military efforts to limit maritime traffic across the Kerch Strait, exponential growth of the Russian military personnel in Georgia’s Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region, etc. all these measures complicate any viable western countermeasures in the region. Therefore, due to its geographic proximity and geopolitical interests in the Black Sea and South Caucasus regions, Ankara, in light of heightened competition with Russia in Syria, is likely to play a more active role in these theaters.
Indeed, Turkey is quite worried over the recent decade’s developments to its north and north-east. Though Ankara and Moscow have shown that both could successfully cooperate in different theaters, they, however, remain geopolitical competitors with diverging visions over the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. Russia’s annexation of Crimea leaves little chance for two powers to find a lasting compromise. In fact, Ankara has already started addressing this problem through helping Ukraine build a powerful military which could serve as a certain limit on Russia’s ambitions in the Black Sea area.
This geopolitical thinking was underscored in February when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Ukraine and announced $36 million in Turkish military aid for Ukraine. During the visit a framework agreement on cooperation in the defense sector was signed, which aims to facilitate cooperation between the countries in the defense sphere on the basis of reciprocity. This Turkish policy builds upon its recent consistent efforts to shore up Ukraine’s military capabilities through intense cooperation meetings. Moreover, in 2019 Baykar Makina, a privately owned Turkish drone maker, has won a $69 million contract to sell six Bayraktar TB2 UAVs to Ukraine. Indeed, on February 12 Turkish and Ukrainian military delegations openly discussed the possibility of enhancing bilateral security cooperation in the Black Sea region. This also involved potential participation in joint exercises and intensification of dialogue between Turkish and Ukrainian naval forces.
Thus, based on this trend, it is likely that in the coming years we could witness a further growth in military cooperation between Kyiv and Ankara. The latter would specifically work on expanding Ukraine’s defense capabilities both, maritime and land, vital to limit Russia’s military operations in eastern Ukraine or at sea along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
In the South Caucasus
That Turkey’s evolving thinking towards the Black Sea region is not an isolated case is also clear in Ankara’s recent growing attention paid to Georgia. For example, in December 2019 Turkey announced it would allocate 100 million Turkish liras (about $17 million) to the Georgian Ministry of Defense to carry out a reform in the sphere of the military logistics. This follows a significant growth in the transfer of Turkish defense capabilities to Georgia throughout 2019. In the first 11 months of 2019, exports of Turkish defense products to Georgia amounted to $3.9 million, which is approximately 37.8% more than what was during the same period of 2018. These measures also link up with a deep military cooperation that both states enjoy within Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan trilateral format (extended for 2022) when in mid-2019 the parties agreed to cooperate in creating military forces and defense systems in line with NATO standards.
This region has always been a space of intense Turkish-Russian competition and it is a crucial component of the country’s strategy of foreign policy diversification Ankara has pursued since early 1990s. Turkey has actively worked on connecting the South Caucasus region to its growing energy market consumption by initiating/facilitating various east-west energy and infrastructure projects. The TANAP, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan etc. have served as a powerful tool for Ankara to secure/strengthen its vital geopolitical interests. This thinking was clearly reflected during the latest meeting between the Turkish President and Georgian PM, Giorgi Gakharia in October 2019. For example, Erdogan stressed that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway represents not only “a step of historic importance,” but it also “introduces a new means [of transportation infrastructure] that interconnects the three friendly countries [Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan].” Thus, it is in Turkey’s vital interest to keep the corridor to Azerbaijan and the wider Caspian basin as free and secure as possible primarily from Russian military and economic ambitions.
To pursue this agenda would be possible through an increase of military cooperation with Tbilisi. However, though significant in numbers, just Turkish military aid (provided to Georgia in 2019 and in previous years) might not be enough to extensively increase Georgia’s military capabilities. Indeed, over the past decade or so, while Syria dominated Ankara’s agenda, Russia’s intensive militarization of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region changed a balance of power in the South Caucasus.
This geopolitical thinking could have been behind an interesting reappraisal of Turkish foreign policy. This January, during the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu unexpectedly called for Georgia’s accession into NATO: “I don’t understand why we have not invited Georgia, or [that] we haven’t activated the action plan for Georgia to become a member.” He also added “We are criticized for having relatively better relations with Russia as a neighbor, but our western friends are not agreeing to invite Georgia because they don’t want to provoke Russia. But Georgia needs us, and we need an ally like Georgia. So, we need enlargement and Georgia should be made a member.”
This represents a novelty in Turkey’s approach. Growth in military cooperation with Georgia as well as an open support for its NATO aspirations could well signal the beginning of a new strategic approach within Turkey’s neighborhood. Considering the military pressure emanating from Moscow in the Black Sea and Syria, Ankara could start pressuring the Kremlin by propping up those very borderland states which share difficult relations with Russia.
This is still far from a clear proxy competition, which takes place between the US and Russia. Moreover, Turkey and Russia will be striving to avoid confronting each other militarily. Even if the Syrian conflict ends in the near future, Turkey will still have to address a changing military, thence geopolitical, balance of power to its north and north-east, to limit a predominant Russia.
For Tbilisi, on the other hand, an evolving perspective in Turkey’s foreign policy could provide a significant geopolitical boost in its quest to link up with NATO. Turkey using its vital position as a NATO member could offer a much deeper military cooperation beyond what is already seen within the Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan trilateral cooperation.
Author’s note: first published in Caucasus Watch
Russia aids Italy in fight against COVID-19: Why we should be aware
You’ve probably heard this week that Russia - with such ceremony, might I add – sent planes with its military medics to Italy to help in the fight against the coronavirus. This charity event was nothing more than a PR stunt by the Russian army, the sole purpose of which was to spread Moscow’s propaganda narratives and influence the Italian public, as well as politicians.
It seems that some Italians are aware of this as well. The newspaper La Stampa cited high-ranking officials and reported that 80% of the aid sent by Russia turned out to be “completely useless”, adding that it is being used as a cover by Vladimir Putin to further his own political and economic ends. Right from the beginning, there was no humanitarian element to this charade.
Moscow, as one would expect, denied this, stressing the “good” nature of its intentions. Sadly, such sentiments are shared also by Italian politicians. As reported by La Stampa, the Italian prime minister agreed to receive aid from Russia to please Moscow and improve bilateral relations.
Currently, an increase in Russian disinformation can be observed in Italian social media – fake accounts are thanking Russia for the support, some are continuously slandering the EU and NATO about their inability and individual useful idiots are even tearing off EU flags and replacing them with Russian ones. And all of this is eagerly reported by the pro-Kremlin and anti-EU media outlets.
Unfortunately, a large part of Italians, crippled by the crisis, will believe the Kremlin’s propaganda campaign, and we can soon expect increased criticism of the EU and NATO coming from Rome along with improved relations between Italy and Russia. I think this will most likely begin by Rome attempting to cancel the sanctions imposed against Moscow.
The coronavirus is a global issue, but it seems that Moscow for quite some time has been lying about the spread of the virus in Russia in order to paint itself to the rest of the world as civilization’s last refuge. Rumors are spreading among Russian social media users about the special genes and formidable immune systems of the Russian nation, and this has resulted in many, including the elite, believing that COVID-19 will not affect them. At the same time, an unprecedented outbreak of “pneumonia” continues in Russia.
Despite Putin ordering to implement emergency measures to combat the coronavirus (the constitutional vote has been postponed and everyone in Russia received a paid week off from work), it is clear that the Kremlin’s primary objective is to exploit the new crisis to gain diplomatic advantage over the West.
This means that not long from now other EU and NATO member states could receive offers of “aid”, and this also includes Latvia. Let’s hope that our politicians, unlike the Italians, will have enough mental clarity to resist the Kremlin’s lies and refuse any ambiguous offers before it’s too late.
Imagine such a scenario: the crisis caused by COVID-19 in Europe continues to worsen: the US, the UK and other partners of Latvia are too busy with their internal problems and are no longer able to support Europe’s eastern flank against Russia. The response capabilities of NATO are paralyzed, and the West is unable to guarantee even diplomatic support for Latvia. Moscow understands this, and the Kremlin decides to act by turning to the Baltic states with an act of “goodwill” in the form of 10 military aircraft containing “humanitarian” aid.
Looking back at history, I clearly remember how “humanitarian aid” trucks from Moscow helped during the Ukraine crisis when Russia occupied Crimea. Kremlin-hired trolls worked even more vigorously by glorifying the Kremlin, which had no issues of using the pretext of humanitarian aid to occupy the Crimean Peninsula.
Italy saw this scenario and clearly lost. What would our own government do in such a situation?
Defeating Systemic Corruption? Anti-Corruption Measures in Post-Revolution Ukraine and Armenia
Ukraine and Armenia offer case studies on the challenges of recovering from post-Soviet authoritarian legacy, fraught with rampant corruption. As a matter of fact, systemic corruption has long condemned the two post-Soviet countries to a vicious circle of underdevelopment, bad governance and inability to implement fundamental economic and political reforms. Not surprisingly, the anti-corruption reforms have been put at the heart of post-revolution state-building in both countries.
Notably, Ukraine’s former President Petro Poroshenko’s government significantly reduced the corruption, particularly in the gas, banking, and government procurement sectors. As a sign of moving the fight against corruption to the highest possible policy agenda, the Ukrainian government introduced the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Specialized AntiCorruption Prosecutor’s Office NABU as well as Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) established in 2015 with the participation of civil society and donor countries. Yet, the effectiveness of these institutions has been questioned by several observers, pointing to insufficiency of anti-corruption measures amidst unrelenting efforts by power groups to retain their outsized influence over law enforcement and justice. In essence, Poroshenko’s steady decline as a political powerhouse significantly owed to his failure to eradicate corruption.
Meanwhile, VolodymyrZelensky’s promises of defeating rampant corruption resonated with Ukrainians, who placed a great deal of faith in his ‘game-changing’ agenda.
The Rada’s first day was marked with the adoption of important pieces of anti-corruption legislation, including the removal immunity from prosecution for MPs and the proposal to provide the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) with the right to undertake autonomous surveillance.
Moreover, Zelensky’s anti-corruption efforts resulted in investigations and subsequent arrests of some of President Poroshenko’s associates, including Oleg Hladkovsky, a top Defense official; a People’s Front party MP and the former head of the Rada’s defense committee SerhiiPashinsky; ex-deputy minister for the occupied territories Yuri Hrymchak; and Poroshenko Bloc MP YaroslavDubnevych, etc. Furthermore, Zelensky put the High Anti-Corruption Court into action, that passed a bill reinstating criminal liability for the illicit enrichment of officials.
Similarly, the post-revolution government in Armenia criminalized illicit enrichment and intensified its anti-corruption campaigns. The government pushed for a series of high-profile trials against former senior officials, most notably ex-president Robert Kocharyan, former high-ranking officials Manvel Grigoryan, Aram Harutyunyan, Seyran Ohanyan and others. This extended to former defense minister and outstanding former ruling Republican Party member, Vigen Sargsyan, who was charged with “abuse of power,” as well as to former Chief of Police Alik Sargsyan – charged with covering up illegal post-election crackdown on opposition protesters in Yerevan in 2008 and with destroying evidence of the “overthrow of the constitutional order” led by then President Kocharyan. However, these arrests and investigations have not yet led to court rulings. Essentially, both Pashinyan’s and Zelensky’s fight against corruption has so far focused on punishing former governments’ members or associates. The question remains if the anti-corruption measures will move beyond selective prosecution of former officials to the unequivocal application of “zero tolerance for corruption” principle.
This, in turn comes down to the furtherance of democratic reforms , leading to the advancement of good governance practices and eradication of the systemic corruption in both countries.Some critics have been skeptical about the effectiveness of anti-corruption reforms in these countries, positing that while governments embark on “crowd-pleasing affairs,” much needs to be done to address the more systemic problems that the new governments inherited.
Both Zelensky and Pashinyan have placed a special emphasis on defeating judicial corruption. While former Ukrainian President Poroshenko hailed the judicial reform as “the mother of all reforms,” there was not much to reinforce government’s pledges of fundamental reforms.
In an effort to rectify this, in autumn 2019, President Zelensky embarked on judicial reforms. More specifically, he dismissed the High Qualification Council of Judges (the body responsible for attestation and selection of judges), announced plans to reload the Higher Council of Judges (the highest self-governance body of judges) and halved the number of Supreme Court judges. Remarkably, while the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, praisedZelensky’s government’s judicial reform, it expressed concern over certain aspects of the reform, pertaining to “important issues of the rule of law” in Ukraine. The Commission criticised the situation, where the politicians are seen to get too much power to determine whether the sitting judges remain in their position or not. Similarly, the judicial corruption is one of the most harrowing challenges facing Pashinyan’s government. Following the controversial release of second President Robert Kocharyan in May 2019, Pashinyan contended that the judiciary is a remnant of the former corrupt system which would cook up conspiracies against the Armenian people. As a result, he called for a mandatory “vetting” of all judges to the all the courts in the country because of their ties to the previous regime. The tension between Pashinyan’s government and the “remnants” of the former regime reached a point, where the Armenian parliament adopted a bill on holding a referendum on suspending the powers of a majority members of the Constitutional Court. Pashinyan would largely treat the current Constitutional Court as an impediment to completing the revolution in Armenia. More specifically, it was regarded as an instrument that prevented the people from exercising their right to form a government in the country in the 1996, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 presidential elections. Notably, PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Armenia, called on Armenian political players to refrain from actions and statements that could be perceived as exerting pressure on the judiciary. Essentially, Pashinyan threw his weight behind changing the Constitutional Court, contending that the latter represents the corrupt regime of Serzh Sargsyan, rather than the people of Armenia. Furthermore, he regarded the opponents of the referendum as “anti-state” forces.
Overall, the judicial reform remains as big challenge in both countries, as its success is critical to breaking with the authoritarian legacies.
Based on the comparative analysis of anti-corruption strategies in developing countries, there are three main observations to make regarding Ukraine’s and Armenia’s trajectories.
First, in both countries corruption has been deeply entrenched and a result of the post-soviet authoritarian legacy. Essentially corruption has permeated every section of society and become a way of life in both countries . A major impediment to democratic state building, including fight against corruption in Armenia and Ukraine is related to prevailing post-Soviet “informality”. The use of informal networks and connections in exchanges of favours, gift-giving along with other informal activities have been been deeply ingrained in both Ukrainian and Armenian societies. Therefore, the state apparatus, as well as education, healthcare, judiciary and law enforcement have long been dominated by informality.Thus, quite often the institutions that have been set up to fight corruption run up against deeply entrenched habits of graft in society and politics. Even though it would be an oversimplification to contend that Armenian and Ukrainian societies are congenitally hooked on graft as a way of life, the “culture of corruption” will not disappear overnight. Studies show that Ukrainian citizens tend to “condemn” high-level corruption” yet “regard petty corruption as a justifiable evil”. As a matter of fact, countries with long histories of informal illiberal practices and corruption often face tremendous challenges in eradicating these blights .Therefore eradicating the culture of corruption and informality should be an urgent priority on the reform agendas of new Ukrainian and Armenian governments.
Second, one of the biggest challenges of anti-corruption reforms in developing and particularly transitional countries is the persistence and prevalence of corrupt practices by political and economic elites. More specifically, the residual influence of oligarchy presents a threats to the fight against systemiccorruption. Clearly, the political elite’s robust commitment to eradicating systemic corruption is indispensable. Meanwhile, inconsistencies and the weakness of a commitment lead to a situation, under the banner of “zero tolerance for corruption” governments keep playing a “tolerant corruption” game. Although political will may not be sufficient, it is a necessary condition to defeat corruption. The case of Romania demonstrates that the political will to defeat corruption may well make up the absence of a tradition of the rule of law and democracy. More specifically, the European Union pressure, along with the electoral pressure and the political will of the domestic political elite combined to ensure the establishment of the rule of law and defeating corruption in the Romanian judiciary .
Third, external factors including the anti-corruption programs of international donors have proved conducive to the fight against corruption. While Ukraine’s choice for Europe and fervent desire to irreversibly depart from the orbit of the Russian influence is a crucial impetus to defeat corruption, Armenia’s centrality in the Russia-led socio-political order has remained intact. Nevertheless, Pashinyan’s government’s anti-corruption efforts prompt to posit that international efforts may well resonate with prevalent social norms in Armenia. A question remains if the legitimacy of the anti-corruption norms promoted particularly by the European Union will lead to their smooth implementations in Ukraine and Armenia.
Last but not least, the lessons from the successful anticorruption crusades of Singapore and Hong Kong show the need for anticorruption reform initiatives to be participatory and inclusive of all stakeholders including public and private sectors as well as civil society. Thus, it is absolutely essential for Armenian and Ukrainian civil society organizations to further develop institutional and professional capacity to contribute to anti-corruption reforms and influence their implementation.
Overall, the grounds for cautious optimism need to get reinforced to ensure that systemic corruption will no longer undermine democratic state-building in both countries.
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