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Pope Francis on Armenia and Armenizm

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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.

ARMENIZM

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.

Eastern Europe

Azerbaijan-Russia Ties Face Increasing Challenges

Emil Avdaliani

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Russia-Azerbaijan ties face increased challenges as Baku accused Moscow of purposefully stoking the conflict by providing arms to Armenia. It is notable that this rhetoric develops when Turkey is particularly vocal in its military support for Azerbaijan. Though it still remains to be seen whether these signs evolve into a concrete policy shift in Azerbaijan, hopes for diplomatic solution of Nagorno Karabakh conflict recede, and Turkey and Russia up their military support for Baku and Yerevan.

Azerbaijan-Russia relations face increasing challenges as the geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus evolves. A series of events tested the bilateral ties and there is an increasing amount of evidence that some reconsideration of foreign policy on Azerbaijan’s part could be taking place. 

The first challenge was the July fighting on Armenia-Azerbaijan frontier, far from the actual source of conflict – Nagorno Karabakh. What could have been a relatively unnoticed confrontation, it drew international attention due to the geostrategic infrastructure which runs near the fighting zone in Azerbaijan’s Tovuz region. Those are:

  • Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines, which deliver Caspian oil to the Black and the Mediterranean Seas;
  • South Caucasus natural gas pipeline, which will send Azerbaijani gas to the EU and plays a key component in Turkey’s emerging strategy of positioning itself as regional energy hub.

In addition, the region also has the Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars (BTAK) railroad (unveiled in 2017) and rarely mentioned the fiber-optic cables linking Europe with Central Asia. The Tovuz corridor also has a crucial Azerbaijan-Georgia highway, which allows Azerbaijan to connect to the Black Sea.

Thus in July Azerbaijan faced a threat to its major income. Damage to the infrastructure would also diminish the country’s geopolitical weight as a safe source of oil and gas. While fighting in or around Nagorno Karabakh takes place occasionally and at times reaches a serious level, such as in 2016, it nevertheless fits into the overall narrative of more or less predictable military scenarios which military and political leaders in Baku would expect. The Tovuz fighting, on the other hand, goes against most military narratives and required Baku’s tougher reaction. This is how the ties with Russia, Armenia’s major economic and military ally, come under intense scrutiny in Baku.

It is has always been a long-term challenge for Azerbaijan. Baku occasionally expresses its concerns on Russia’s military support for Armenia, but the criticism has usually been aired though newspapers and media rather than by high-level political figures. This changed following the July fighting.

Reasons are multiple. First, Russia (using its 102rd military base in Gyumri) and Armenia launched snap combat drills on July 17-20, just as the fighting in Tovuz region was still unfolding. Second, a series of flights of Russian military cargo planes to Armenia took place right after the July fighting. 

In a notable change of tone the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev surprisingly publicly complained to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, stating that the recent reports on allegedly increasing Russian military support (400 tons of military hardware) for Armenia raise concerns and questions in Azerbaijani society. Perhaps as a reaction to growing bilateral differences, the Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu visited Baku to assure the Azerbaijani public that the flights were not of a military nature, but rather transported materials for the 102nd military base.

However, the affair did not end there as a senior adviser to Aliyev, Hikmet Hajiyev, on August 29, following Shoigu’s visit, claimed that “the explanation by the Russian side is not entirely satisfactory.” This effectively meant publicly refuting the Russian defense minister’s statements, further aggravating differences between the two states.

A September 1 article by Nezavisimaya Gazeta claimed that Azerbaijan had readied 500 Syrian militants in preparation for a “blitzkrieg against Armenia” and that Turkey has its troops on Azerbaijani soil. Baku vehemently criticized the report calling it “slander and [a] dirty campaign against our country.” 

Yet another sign of troubled ties is the September 6th decision by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry opting out the Russia-led “Caucasus-2020” military drills (planned to be held in the southwest of Russia). Only two servicemen will be sent as observers. Though officially no concrete reasons for the withdrawal were given, it is possible to link the decision to Azerbaijan’s recent grievances at Russia.

Some larger reasons too might be at play motivating a change in Azerbaijan’s rhetoric. The Minsk Group, the body that aims to facilitate the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan is faltering. No concrete way to resolve the stand-off is present and the July fighting has just showed that diplomatic tools are receding. A vacuum is being created for regional powers to fill in. This is how Turkey comes to play an increasingly larger role in Baku’s strategic calculus.

Indeed, as the July fighting unfolded Turkey has been especially supportive of Azerbaijan. For instance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noted “Turkey will never hesitate to stand against any attack on the rights and lands of Azerbaijan, with which it has deep-rooted friendly ties and brotherly relations.” Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar even warned that Armenia will be “brought to account” for its “attack” on Azerbaijan. Then large Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises followed.

Turkey’s calculus here is clear as the country needs to defend the vital oil, gas and railway infrastructure coming from Azerbaijan. And considering how far has diplomacy receded around Nagorno Karabakh issue, Turkey and Russia are set to play an even larger military and economic role in the South Caucasus. For the moment open rivalry will be avoided, but for Moscow and Ankara the region represents yet another area of covert competition along with Syria and Libya.

However, casting Azerbaijan-Russia relations as deteriorating is not entirely correct. Intensive cooperation still exists between the states. Azerbaijan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeyhun Bayramov, paid an official visit to Russia on August 26 at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov.

In late August-early September Azerbaijani servicemen participated in the “Tank Biathlon” and also won the Sea Cup competition – both held as part of the “International Army Games – 2020” organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

It is still hard to see whether Azerbaijan’s changing rhetoric towards Russia is more than just a temporary, tactical maneuver. It could be a clever diplomatic game Azerbaijan has always pursued since 1990s – namely, facing its larger neighbors against one another. Nevertheless, the rhetoric and recent political decision signal a search for reconsideration of some basic elements in Baku’s strategic vision. Turkey’s bigger role is likely to be sought more intensively, while hopes for a diplomatic solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict would further recede.

Author’s note: first published in caucasuswatch

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Eastern Europe

Putting People in Control of Their Land to Realize Ukraine’s Potential

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Land reform will allow Ukraine to capitalize on its economic potential and improve the lives of Ukrainian people – but a lot still needs to be done before a successful land market opening.

I have now had the privilege of being the World Bank’s Regional Director for Eastern Europe for a little over two months. Returning to Ukraine after almost twenty years, I have been impressed by many recent achievements on Ukraine’s reform path.  Many of these are complex, and consequential – creating an independent gas transmission system operator that is already helping safeguard Ukraine’s gas transit revenue; continuing, in the face of opposition and setbacks, to strengthen anti-corruption institutions; undertaking the difficult process of resolving non-performing loans in state-owned banks; and moving, amidst the unprecedented global pandemic, to protect pensioners and other poor and vulnerable Ukrainians.

Today, the immediate challenge Ukraine faces is the COVID-19 pandemic – first to immediately reduce both the mounting toll on health and lives, and then to rebuild livelihoods and incomes. But what reforms are most needed to restore and even improve incomes for the average Ukrainian in the aftermath of the epidemic?

There are many that are required. But for me, the greatest promise is offered by the set of measures around agricultural land reform. Here again, much has been accomplished, most notably when, this past March , the Rada voted to end the nearly two-decade old moratorium on the sale of farm-land. This was a critical first step to unlocking Ukraine’s greatest source of growth. But it is not enough. The next and necessary step is to advance fundamental measures around the governance of land – to allow ordinary people and local governments to benefit from their land without intimidation, bureaucratic interference or corruption.

Land reform that truly allows owners and users to take control of their land can be transformative. By World Bank calculations, for Ukraine as a whole, this can permanently add almost one percentage point a year to economic growth. For landowners currently leasing out their land, this could provide up to  $3 billion every year. For rural residents and small farmers, this can create some  $24 billion of collateralizable assets that allow them to invest in irrigation, horticulture or non-agricultural small enterprises. And for local communities and local governments, this can provide an income stream of up to  $2 billion annually to better the lives of Ukrainians.

The Ukrainian authorities have already made enormous strides in this direction by passing a package of legislation that reduces raider attacks and land-related schemes, makes land data publicly accessible, and allows local communities to plan land use.

But there is much more legislation around land governance that is needed to ensure all the benefits of land reform for every Ukrainian. And just passing the laws is not enough – once that is done, there is the need to draft implementing regulations, to set up institutions to administer these regulations, and to actually implement measures.

Moreover, for improved land governance to lead to more investment, and thus income, it is especially important that Ukrainian landowners or land users be aware of their rights and how to exercise them, and have these rights protected. This is particularly true for small and medium farmers. They must be able to have any actual or attempted violations of their rights redressed quickly. Farmers and other private participants must know how to use land as collateral to access credit. Banks and other financial institutions must be able to professionally assess the value of the collateral and have the incentives to lend to smaller borrowers. Once relevant laws and regulations are in place, there is thus a need for a broad-based legal awareness and a financial literacy campaign.

All of this takes time – and time is running out.

By the most conservative estimates, the needed regulations, institutions and implementation could take at least nine months. The land market opens on 1 July 2021. So, it is essential to pass the appropriate laws by the end of September, at the very latest.

If this deadline is missed because of entirely avoidable delays, there is a real risk that on the date the land market opens, Ukraine will miss this golden chance. Even more, there is the danger that opening the land market in the absence of these strong legal and regulatory safeguards will result in an echo of the 1990s privatization – leaving the market vulnerable to the powerful and well connected and actually worsening land-related corruption and inequality.

Together with our partners, the World Bank has long advocated land reform as a key for Ukraine to develop the productive potential of its abundant land resources. We see this as central to revitalizing the incomes of average Ukrainians, especially in rural areas.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unlock the sector’s growth potential through investment in high value-added crops and agri-processing and, most important, to transform the welfare of millions of Ukrainians. Ukrainian parliamentarians and policymakers have to ensure that we do not miss it.

World Bank The article was first published in Ukrainska Pravda

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Eastern Europe

Opportunism and July’s Armenian-Azerbaijani Flareup

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By mid-July, within days of the latest flareup in fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a flurry of articles written by Azerbaijani think tank members appeared on Modern Diplomacy (MD). Azerbaijani think tanks may have erroneously assumed that MD was a media battlefield between Armenians and Azerbaijanis after a Geopolitical Handbook on Armenian issues was published a month earlier.

On August 2, 2020, MD published an article entitled The Treasure Map to the Forgotten Epoch of the Iravan Khanate, by Irina Tsukerman. The article uncritically adopts the most vulgar of Azerbaijani historical falsifications claiming that most of Armenia and its capital, Yerevan, have little or no Armenian lineage – and are instead Azerbaijani. The rambling nature of this four-thousand word article, and its spectacular disregard for the accepted historical record, seemed designed for the express purpose of appealing to Azerbaijanis and offending Armenians, for example by pointedly referring to the 2800-year-old Armenian capital city as Iravan, instead of Yerevan.

The thesis of Tsukerman’s article on MD dates back well over a generation. It parrots nationalist screeds, penned by Azerbaijani and sometimes Turkish propagandists, usually intended for local consumption. In recent years, many such works have been translated into reasonable English and evidently distributed for posting by western authors under their names. A common characteristic of these articles is their lack of hard references – a relic from the Soviet days. Tsukerman’s MD article appears to have been post-annotated with reference links before it was submitted to MD. Most of these links are of low quality and/or have little to do with the associated text. Forty-five of the fifty-three reference links were Wikipedia articles, gratuitously including general Wikipedia articles on Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, The Republic of Azerbaijan, Tehran, etc. Another reference points to a Turkish-language text that originally appeared in an anti-Armenian publication, Yeni Turkiye 62, which includes articles claiming Armenians committed genocide on Turks and Azerbaijanis – a claim widely known to be untrue, and similar in form, tactics and intent to Holocaust denial.

Within weeks of the apparent success of post-annotating an article in MD with useless reference links, Israel’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) published another anti-Armenian article of dubious integrity by Tsukerman, entitled “Russia and Iran’s Dangerous Energy Gambit in the Caucasus“. Due to a reader complaint noting the lack of any references and the article’s clear anti-Armenian bias, BESA initially took down the article, but then restored it the very next day, replete with ill-considered, low-quality references, not unlike those in Tsukerman’s MD article.

In my perhaps old-fashioned view, the provision of valid high-quality citations is a responsibility that every author should take seriously, and the verification of the quality of those citations is a responsibility that every editor should take seriously. Padding an article with useless and unhelpful citations pro forma, simply to be able to say that the article has citations, is the tactic of a college freshman – not one that I would expect to see in a scholarly publication. Evidently BESA operates according to a different set of standards.

This brings us to the larger question: Why do so many poorly referenced, factually inaccurate, anti-Armenian propaganda pieces appear in the world press? A short-term answer is that both the ruling family dictatorship in Azerbaijan, and the country’s supporting interests in the west need to bolster Azerbaijan’s image at home and abroad, especially after its significant military loss in the latest border flareup.

In the medium-term, one might note that the amount of western investment in Azerbaijani hydrocarbon extraction and transport is probably well over $100B, with British Petroleum accounting for $75B of that figure. Azerbaijan is also one of the few countries bordering Iran that is compliant enough to be used as a base for intelligence gathering and covert operations targeting Iran. Moreover, forty percent of Israel’s crude oil is supplied by Azerbaijan, and in return Israel has sold Azerbaijan at least $5B in high tech weaponry over the past decade. By contrast, Armenia has no viable petroleum reserves, and comparatively little with which to counter materially. Hence a much lower standard is set for the publication of Azerbaijani propaganda in the western press, and Azerbaijan is propped-up as a reliable partner to the Israeli public – this in spite of the fact that Azerbaijan is a Shia Muslim-majority country that refuses to open an embassy in Israel.

A rare glimpse at the longer-term answer can found in a September 2015 event where Israeli Knesset Members Oren Hazan and advisor Mendi Safadi visited Baku, Azerbaijan, for high-level meetings. During this visit, Safadi commented, “I’ve always been on the side of Azerbaijan, and we are ready to provide assistance and patronage to the Azerbaijani side to neutralize the influence of the Armenian lobby in the US Congress, the EU institutions, and international organizations.”

To this observer in Yerevan, it is manifest that Azerbaijan has enlisted help from certain actors in Israel and the Jewish diaspora in generating and promulgating pro-Azerbaijani propaganda, including anti-Armenian propaganda that falsifies the historical record and that is sometimes overtly racist in nature. Of course, with such an arrangement between two countries comes the opportunity for authors of a mercenary bent who are willing to lend their names to such falsifications. Since 2015, a large number of articles of this sort have appeared, for the most part in the Jewish press. Some writers have focused on the semi-frozen conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Others have attempted to characterize Armenia’s normal relations with Iran as in opposition to western-imposed sanctions, while neglecting to note that well over twice as much trade goes on between Azerbaijan and Iran. Still others characterize certain Armenian historical figures as fascist supporters of the Nazis during WWII, conveniently neglecting the fact that well over a quarter million Armenian soldiers never returned from fighting the Nazis, and that fact that Armenia was awarded twenty-four Israeli “Righteous Among Nation Awards, while Azerbaijan was awarded none.

Truth and open debate have little to do with this kind of industrial production of anti-Armenian propaganda. Opportunist writers posting such articles know very well the nature of the endeavor in which they are participating, yet they seem to feel that they can persist without regard to any cost to their reputations, as long as their hate speech is directed only against Armenians.

It is ironic that Jewish writers, many the progeny of Holocaust survivors, blindly support Azerbaijan’s government and its anti-Armenian policies, many of which are designed to create an external enemy in order to redirect popular anger away from a corrupt family dictatorship. The former mayor of Baku, who served between 2001 and 2018, Hajibala Abutalybov, in a 2005 meeting with a municipal delegation from Bavaria, Germany, stated,

“Our goal is the complete elimination of Armenians. You, Nazis, already eliminated the Jews in the 1930s and 40s, right? You should be able to understand us.”

Israelis and Jews everywhere certainly ought to be able to understand these words better than most, and they should be asking themselves if this is really an alignment for which they wish to be remembered in the fullness of the historical record.

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