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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 aims to boost its “Sustainable Development” profile

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On May 21, 2018,Azerbaijan hosted an international conference on “Sustainable Development Goals: Promotion of Sustainable Development and Decent Work” in Baku involving number of state and non-state officials. The conference highlighted the progress made by Azerbaijan in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as its cooperation with the International Labor Organization (ILO)and the United Nations (UN). The ILO identified Azerbaijan as a focus country for the region in the implementation of the SDG8 and the 2030 Agenda.

The SDGs were adopted by the UN member countries in September 2015 with a view to implement 17 goals and 169 targets during 2016-2030.Azerbaijan joined the SDG at the UN Sustainable Development Summit on the same year.

Azerbaijan pays a special attention to the implementation of SDGs, which include the shared goals and targets set by the world leaders to mobilize people in achieving sustainable development. In order to achieve the SDGs in Azerbaijan, the National Coordination Council on Sustainable Development (NCCSD)was established by the decree of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev dated on October 6, 2016. NCCSD’s main function is coordinating the implementation of the SDGs at the level of senior officials of the relevant government agencies and working out national priorities in accordance with global targets. The Council’s importance for Azerbaijan lays in ensuring the compliance of state programs and strategies covering the socio-economic spheres within the SDGs.

Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of NCCSD Ali Ahmadov, speaking at the international conference, emphasized that “more than 1.9 million new jobs have been created in Azerbaijan over the past 15 years, which is about 40 percent of the active population in the country. Moreover, Azerbaijan is among the countries with rapid population growth, which amounts to up to 1.2 percent per year. This is quite a big figure, which makes it necessary to create more than 100,000 jobs annually”.

Another distinguished guest of the conference, Director-General of the International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder noted that “diversification of the economy in Azerbaijan is of great importance in raising employment and ensuring sustainable development. Reduction of poverty level in the country over the past 15-20 years is one of the most important achievements of Azerbaijan. This shows that the government directed the oil and gas revenue for social development.”

Talking about SDGs, it is also worth to review the implementation of these goals. Although any country can achieve significant success in many areas, however,it still can encounter unresolved environment-related issues. For example, the targets of SDG6 on clean water and sanitation are a priority for the country as an urgent matter for sustainable development.

Another issue is energy-driven economic growth. The key drivers of Azerbaijan’s economic growth are trading in crude oil and natural gas. At the same time, the country has a great potential to diversify its economy, and the economic diversification holds great potential to boost other sectors’ sustainable development. In this context, the Azerbaijani government seeks to accelerate the use of alternative energy, develop institutional environment, reinforce the scientific and technical potential, strengthen the personnel training, and carry out awareness campaigns for energy consumers. This corresponds to the SDG7 targets on building the capacities for renewable energy sources and diversification of the economy to meet these targets.

Besides abovementioned, it should be underlined that Azerbaijan has also national priority lists of SDGs which helps to bring up successful outcomes in the implementation of SDGs.  The national priorities of the country focuses on SDGs: such asSDG8-decent work and economic growth, SDG12-responsible consumption and production, SDG13-climate action, SDG14-life below water, SDG15-life on land and SDG17(17.4)- partnerships for the goals.

One of the strategic objectives of Azerbaijan in the framework of SDGs national priorities is becoming one of the leading trade and logistics hubs of Eurasia by developing its transit and transport services. The main SDGs applicable to Azerbaijan’s vision for trade development are SDGs 8, 10, and 17. This transformation aims to create new jobs and open new business opportunities.

To support above-mentioned, the country is actively engaged in implementing the major transportation projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway and Baku International Sea Trade Port. The opening of the BTK railway on October 30, 2017, with an initial capacity to transport 1 million passengers and 5 million tons of freight a year, was an important step in Azerbaijan’s policy of connectivity.

President Ilham Aliyev has determined that a major state policy goal should be to make use of the country’s transit potential, pointing to the Baku Sea Port as a key strategic project in the diversification of economy, which is set to become one of Azerbaijan’s main investment projects in the non-oil sector generating the second greatest share of budget revenues.

To sum, Azerbaijan aims at achieving the following SDGs goals: inclusive and equitable education, gender equality, sustainable and inclusive economic growth that ensures full employment, as well as targets on infrastructure for sustainable economic development.

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Eastern Europe

Russia–Armenia Relations and the April Revolution

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Starting in April, 2018, Armenia witnessed a remarkable political revolution, prompted by Serzh Sargsyan’s attempt to remain in office by becoming the country’s Prime Minister. As massive crowds packed Yerevan’s Republic Square, the veteran Armenian politician ultimately bowed to popular pressure and stepped aside on April 23. The second phase of the April Revolution saw the ascendancy of protest leader Nikol Pashinyan to the Prime Minister’s office. Pashinyan’s proposed electoral reform promises to pave the way for a more competitive political system in Armenia, breaking the monopoly of the ruling Republican Party, which has dominated Armenian politics since the late 1990s.

Even more remarkable was the lack of any foreign involvement in the April Revolution. There were no “little green men” in the Ararat valley, nor was America’s Victoria Nuland on hand to pass out cookies on Republic Square. In reality, the involvement of United States was nonexistent, while the role of Russia was minimal, although not insignificant. In contrast to the reaction to the Electric Yerevan protests in 2015, there was no rush in the Russian media or among Russian political elites to draw parallels with the Ukrainian Maidan or the “color revolutions.” Instead, Moscow was cautious and pragmatic, emphasizing the necessity of a legal transition of power. Publicly, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova even supported the demonstrators, writing “Armenia, Russia is always with you!”

Two-sided nature of the Russia-Armenia relations

The Russia-Armenia relationship is two-sided. For Armenia, Russia means protection from neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey. For Russia, Armenia represents an important ally in the Caucasus, a region critical to Russian security concerns. Therefore, Russia observed the recent developments in Armenia very closely. Behind the scenes, Russian officials were in contact with both sides in order to gain a clear understanding of the events. According to protest leader Armen Grigoryan and certain unnamed sources, the opposition emphasized to Russian officials that the protest was strictly domestic and was not directed in any way against Russia. This message was further emphasized by Pashinyan to the delegation of Russian Duma deputies who visited Yerevan. Not only were Russia-Armenia relations under no threat, but they would be “deepened” should Pashinyan become Prime Minister. The protest leaders also made an effort to ensure that no EU or American flags were flown during the Armenian protest.

Russian officials were also in contact with representative of the Armenian government and the ruling party. In the early days of the protest, it became clear to Moscow that Serzh Sargsyan had no political future. His decision to remain in power was a major misstep in the Armenian context, and therefore supporting him would be a liability for the Russian side. However, in terms of his successor, Moscow was initially more inclined to support acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan. A reform-minded politician, Karapetyan governed Armenia from the Prime Minister post effectively for a year and a half, although the Republican Party machine prevented him from making major changes. The former chief executive of ArmRosGazprom, he also has good business and political contacts with Russia, including with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan (no relation to Karen). Therefore, he represented both stability and change to Moscow.

However, it soon became clear that the protestors in Yerevan wanted to abolish the ruling Republican Party machine entirely. Although Sargsyan’s bid to stay in power served as the immediate motivation for the protests, the causes – chiefly jobs and economic inequality – were much deeper. Fundamental changes were required to remedy them. In this case, Pashinyan’s bid, to both become interim Prime Minister and to reform the electoral laws, represented a better alternative for the demonstrators. Gradual reform of the existing system was no longer a tenable option. Therefore, Moscow remained neutral, while Karapetyan rejected the offer to become the Prime Minister candidate of the Republican Party, leaving the ruling party with no candidate to nominate.

Putin-Pashinyan personal chemistry

The situation was reinforced by Pashinyan’s meeting with the Duma MPs on April 29, which cleared the way for his eventual victory on May 8. Notably, after Pashinyan’s election as Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin was one of the first political leaders to congratulate him. Later, in a phone conversation with Putin, Pashinyan exchanged greetings with him on the occasion of Victory Day, commemorating the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Notably, Pashinyan’s grandfather and namesake, Nikolai, fought in the Red Army and died in the war. The new Armenian PM also reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, within the context of the Eurasian Economic Union, he may push for a more democratic and egalitarian relationship among the member states to ensure that smaller republics, like Armenia, will have more of a say in determining the policy of the union.

On May 14, Pashinyan and Putin met in Sochi where they had very positive and constructive talks. In the meeting, Putin hailed Armenia as a “close ally and partner in the region.” For his part, Pashinyan assured Putin that “there is a consensus in Armenia: no one has ever questioned the strategic importance of the Armenian-Russian relations, and I think it will not be questioned ahead.” He also met with Eurasian Union Chairman and former Armenian PM Tigran Sargsyan and held a rally with the Armenian community of Sochi.

Why Armenia’s opposition shied away from anti-Russian rhetoric

While Russia exercised incredible restraint in reaction to the April Revolution, the leaders of the revolt also learned valuable lessons about Russia-Armenia relations and the potentially adverse impact of their past anti-Russian statements. Given the extraordinary importance of the Russia-Armenia relationship, most Armenian politicians across party lines traditionally understood that Russophobia was counter-productive for the country. However, in recent years, some Armenian opposition leaders, taking cues from developments in Ukraine and Georgia, began to incorporate such discourse into their attacks on the government. Although Pashinyan has never been known to be exceptionally anti-Russian, even he adopted this position in his criticism of the Eurasian Economic Union.

In one way, anti-Russian rhetoric was useful for both the Armenian government and the opposition, to alert Russia that it could not take Armenia for granted. However, the April Revolution demonstrated that Armenian Russophobia could also be fatal for the opposition. Amid their stunning success, it soon became clear that anti-Russian policy was in fact hindering their far more important objectives (e.g., challenging the Republican Party monopoly). Consequently, Pashinyan moved quickly to reassure the Russian press and the Russian political elite that the revolution was not directed in any way against Moscow.

Meanwhile intending to capitalize on Pashinyan’s past remarks, the ruling party attempted to paint the revolutionary leader as a reckless Russophobe for both Russian observers and Armenia’s domestic audience. In the end, they failed to convince these two audiences, both of whom gave Pashinyan the benefit of the doubt. However, it was a close call for Pashinyan and it clearly illustrated the pitfalls of unnecessary anti-Russian bluster in Armenia.

Alternative path

Not only is anti-Russian discourse counter-productive in terms of its immediate political impact, but also in terms of its broader relevance. The April Revolution in Armenia has regional and even global significance that the Rose or Orange Revolutions or the Maidan would never attain since they allowed themselves to be blinded by the allure of geopolitics and national chauvinism. Shifting away from the geopolitical context, the revolution in Armenia presents an alternative path for the post-Soviet states. Instead of excluding Russia and casting it as an “eternal enemy,” why not include it in broader regional discussions about democracy, economic justice, and state-building?

Although each former Soviet republic is unique, they all share broadly similar socioeconomic problems as well as the common historical and cultural experiences of Imperial Russia and the USSR. In an age of globalization, these commonalities are the foundation for greater regional cooperation. Therefore, maintaining broad transnational cultural and economic connections across the post-Soviet space is an asset for all. The April Revolution in Armenia is significant as is a civic movement that realizes such potential.

First published in our partner RIAC

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Eastern Europe

Stephen Cohen’s Misrepresentations about the 2014 Coup in Ukraine

Eric Zuesse

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The restoration of the Cold War now, between Russia and the United States, is based on frauds by the United States, as will be documented here; and one of the biggest responsibilities that historians have, is to state this publicly — to acknowledge it publicly and clearly — so that the necessary public pressure can finally come to be brought upon the U.S. Government, to acknowledge that it has been wrong about this matter, which is a matter increasingly threatening the entire planet with World War III, a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, the war that would end the world.

Most historians fail this fundamental professional obligation to truthfulness especially about important matters such as this, and don’t even acknowledge publicly that the overthrow in February 2014 of Ukraine’s democratically elected President was a “coup” instead of a ‘revolution’ (which the U.S. Government and its foreign allies call it), but even most of the historians who do call it a “coup” do not say that it was perpetrated by the U.S. Government upon, and greatly harmed, the people of Ukraine; and, so, their admission fails to apply any pressure at all upon the U.S. Government, to stop its constant lying about this.

Wars do not result merely from force of arms, but even more fundamentlly, they result from force of lies. In the present matter, those lies can have a world-ending consequence; so, at least the biggest of these lies need to be addressed in public, by historians.

Dr. Stephen C. Cohen, the prominent Russia-specialist now retired from Princeton and NYU, has said on at least two occasions, that the February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a “coup.” Cohen has never said, like the founder and head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor, Dr. George Friedman, once admitted, that it was “the most blatant coup in history”, but he did call it some kind of “coup”; and yet he has persistently refused to call it a coup that started in and was perpetrated by the U.S. Government — started in the Obama Administration, long before the coup’s culmination-period, 20-26 February 2014, when the EU finally became shocked on February 26th to discover that it had been a coup. I don’t understand why Dr. Cohen constantly presents it in that false way — as something it wasn’t. The following note is therefore intended specifically to correct Dr. Cohen’s false account that it had started elsewhere than inside the Obama Administration:

On May 9th, at an event co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and New York University’s Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, Cohen stated (at 28:45 in the video) that it was “a coup, an unusual coup, it originated in the streets.”

It did not  originate in the streets. It originated in offices, specifically in U.S. Government offices, and assisted by other entities, including private entities, which worked closely with the U.S. Government, in order to plan it, and to carry it out.

I thus asked him, on May 17th, via email,

You think it originated in the streets, in November 2013 — really, it didn’t originate on 1 March 2013 when the U.S. Embassy started its CIA-run training-sessions for organizing the Maidan demonstrations? It didn’t originate in, or at least by, June 2011, when Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, in order to deceive him into revealing the tricks he’d use to organize such a mass-movement (the public cover behind which the coup would be perpetrated) — fooled him into thinking that they were on his side, the pro-democracy side — certainly not on the side of coups and other “regime-change” operations? As I pointed out in that just-linked-to article, “Only in retrospect did Assange come to recognize that, as he headlined in October 2014, “Google Is Not What It Seems”. That’s when he noted, “Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s ‘director of regime change’.” He recognized too late, that they were manipulating him, using him, to help in overthrowing both Assad and Yanukovych — to help in their and Obama’s fascism.

Dr. Cohen replied,

“Obama’s fascism”? Do you even know what it is?

I answered,

Ask these people what “Obama’s fascism” is. They experienced it, through his agents — the people he installed to run their country (and Obama never criticized those stooges for doing his dirty-work, not even for doing it in such a blatantly “fascist” way).

Cohen didn’t reply, though perhaps he will, some day. If he will, then I shall welcome his response, because, if I am wrong, then I want to know in what way I am wrong; and if I am right, then not only is Dr. Cohen wrong, but our entire U.S. foreign-policy Establishment is wrong and has been lying pervasively about how the “restored Cold War” happened. Did Putin seize Crimea? Or, instead, did Obama seize Ukraine (via this coup)?

Like I, Professor Cohen — according to his own testimony, and mine — voted for Obama, both in 2008 and in 2012. I would do it again, against Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and against Mitt Romney, because those opponents of his, were even more fascist than Obama turned out to be; but this is the type of electoral choice that remains to the people, in today’s American ‘democracy’. That’s what it is: choices between ‘public’ representatives such as that.

Until the United States Government, and American academics such as Professor Cohen, publicly acknowledge the reality, that Obama lies, and that Trump lies, to allege that Russia ‘seized’ Crimea and that America didn’t seize Ukraine in a prior coup, a coup which has even been publicly admitted by some of the coup’s own actual participants — a coup that shortly thereafter was followed by an ethnic-cleansing campaign to get rid of enough people who had voted for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama overthrew, an ethnic-cleansing so as to stave off a subsequent electoral victory in Ukraine for restoration of a neutralist Ukrainian Government similar to the Government that was overthrown — as long as they instead hide the fact, that this was an American coup, against Ukraine, in order to grab Ukraine on Russia’s very doorstep, so as to make it a NATO member — there can be no constructive settlement of the ‘new Cold War’, because the fact is: it’s a war that the U.S. has been secretly waging against Russia, ever since at least 24 February 1990.

The termination of this war between the U.S. and Russia cannot be achieved by continuing the lies about what is behind it. This has been a decades-long war to eliminate Russia’s friends and allies, to turn the European ones into NATO members, to surround Russia with our missiles and nukes being positioned just five minutes’ striking-time from Moscow, and then to issue an ultimatum for Russia’s surrender, so as to achieve the world’s first global and all-encompassing Empire.

Continued lies just cannot do the job that the entire world needs to be done: the U.S. (the most dangerous country in the world) must terminate its obsession to expand its empire to an all-encompassing scope, and must cease-and-desist its continuing war against the sovereign nation of Russia, and against all other nations that have continued to resist America’s all-grasping aristocracy’s reach for the ultimate Empire.

The Big Lie today is that “Putin stole Crimea” not “Obama stole Ukraine.” The Big Truth today is that Obama stole Ukraine, not Putin stole Crimea.

If Dr. Cohen has any objections to the factuality of any of the allegations that I have made here, or to any of the documentation that I have linked to as the sources for these allegations, then I publicly welcome him to state what those objections are. Otherwise, I shall continue to take strong exception to Dr. Cohen’s account of these matters.

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