In June 2016, Pope Francis, current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was on a three-day official visit to the Republic of Armenia. This visit was not a routine visit of the ruler of the state. It is distinguished by the fact that the Pope is the leader of the superpower of the Vatican state and the Holy See, the power of which depends not on nuclear and other weapons, but on powerful spiritual charge which is guided by the army of billion followers. On the other hand, Francis is not an ordinary political leader but a Man who stands out not only for his intellect but also for his spiritual nature and decency, for his exemplary behavior and lifestyle; his apparent merit and he can be placed in the series of great humanist thinkers.
If we add to this Francis’ ideas about Armenia and the Armenians, it becomes clear that his trip was truly historic and every Armenian, wherever he is, can be proud of, and should draw serious conclusions and prove to the ignorant world that He was right, as it is accepted by the Catholic dogma of the pope’s infallibility.
Now I want to present a few thoughts of Pope Francis about Armenia and the Armenians:
On the eve of his visit, the Pope calls the attention of the world noting. “…I will go on pilgrimage to a land of the East, Armenia…”. What does “pilgrimage” mean in this case? Is this a common pilgrimage? Where do people usually go on pilgrimage? – sanctuaries, then Armenia is such a sacred place. Of course, Armenia is sacred for every Armenian, but it is also a sacred place for the Pope, that is for the Catholic world, in case when Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church are Christian, and not Catholic.
This expression has a continuation, “… I ask for your prayers…” What does it mean? Why should all the Christians pray for him? Probably it means that He has a very serious task, which can only be fulfilled by everyone’s support, and he visits Armenia by a particular mission. What is that mission? He wants to remind the world which is now in its tough times, not to forget the role of Armenia in the development of modern civilization.
In his speech in Holy Etchmiadzin, he said, “It is very moving for me to have crossed the threshold of this holy place… the centre from which its spirituality radiates”. Immediately a question arises. What is the spirituality of the Armenians?
What does it mean, especially when he adds “Armenia gave the world its unique identity and it made itself the herald of Christ to other nations.” What kind of identity, moreover particular identity? What precepts should the Armenians impart to other nations? Whether it should be understood in the framework of purely Christian ideas? He continues: “… faith in Christ … is an essential part of its identity… ” and then cited John Paul II, which refers to the identity of the Armenian nation.
Pope Francis, following Saint John Paul II, considers the Armenians peace ambassadors to the world. He believes that “The whole world needs…(your) message of peace….”. Pope Francis probably had in mind the fact that the Armenian kingdoms had constantly pursued a policy of peace, fought only when they were attacked. This is proved by the fact that there was no slavery as such in Armenia. The same thing happens today when the soldiers forced the aggressor to a ceasefire.
In this context I consider it important to mention the attitude of Pope Francis to Saint Gregory of Narek, whom he proclaimed a Doctor of Catholic Church, whose poem “Book of Lamentations” he considers to be an extraordinary book and calls it the “spiritual constitution of the Armenian people.” What spiritual is it and how is it expressed? Do the Armenians understand this “constitution”? Did they understand what is to be the Doctor (Vardapet) of the Catholic Church? What did this proclamation give the Armenians? What did the Armenians do to recognize, to understand, to gain lessons, to present to the world the ancient thousand-year-old “spiritual constitution”? And in their turn what did others do to learn this spiritual wealth?
The Pope refers with his precepts to the Armenian people, which, I think, in a sense, completes his mission and the pilgrimage to Armenia. Here’s the message: “…. a future of constant efforts to create the conditions for peace: dignified employment for all, care for those in greatest need, and the unending battle to eliminate corruption”. Here is his exhortation to people. “Dear young people, this future belongs to you, but cherish the great wisdom of your elders and strive to be peacemakers: not content with the status quo, but actively engaged in building the culture of encounter and reconciliation”.
Being familiar with the Armenians, Pope Francis believes that Armenizm unites them all, regardless of whether they are Catholic or the followers of the Apostolic Church. What is the Armenian identity? What is the difference between Armenians and other nations? What peculiar features do they possess? In short, what does Armenizm mean?
I think there is no need to continue with a series of new questions that Pope Francis put forward, they are too many, that are basis for serious reflection, as well as for new, radical conclusions for the Armenians and the world.
Overall, the Pope’s visit seems to me as follows: He, like no-one before and now, placed the Armenian nation in the most prominent peak in view of not only Catholics and Christians in general, but of all humanity.
Armenians need to finally come out of the sleep. The road is the correct understanding of the questions put by the Pope and thoughtful, reasoned response. The Armenians have no choice. The Pope with his visit gave the key to the solution of domestic and foreign policy, the fundamental concept of solving the problem of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and, in general, the key to true progress of the Armenian society.
With this essay I try, on non-professional level, to touch briefly the problem of, particularly, spirituality of the Armenian people, its unique identity and Armenizm.
In recent decades, the issue of national(ethnic) identity has become a topic for current discussions in social sciences as great efforts were made to merge the nations in the course of history, which, however, can be asserted, successfully failed. A vivid example of the above said is the policy of Turks towards annihilation of nations and Turkization, Bolshevik national policy, as well as the advocacy of the European multiculturalism. And it is not accidental that the issue of identity was moved to the foreground. In this context it is necessary to highlight the fact that constantly growing consumer psychology and materialism has promoted the spiritual values carried by the nations themselves. The Armenian social scientists are also concerned with the Armenian identity, but as far as I know, not to a sufficient extent to give complete answers to the questions – Who are the Armenians? What is Armenizm?
In this regard, it is debated whether the Armenians are the carrier of the European culture or the Asian? This issue is very important in terms of the European integration, which the Armenian nation faces from time to time.
I think that the identity of the Armenian people (as well as of any other nation) is determined by many factors, particularly by customs, traditions and legends created in the Armenian environment by the cultural, economic and other relations with neighboring and other countries, by the Armenian music, architecture, music and dance, the Armenian Script, military culture, the Armenian alphabet created by Mesrop Mashtots, bibliography and by Christian values, etc. The translated literature, which has greatly contributed to the Theology, Philosophy, Law, Political and Natural sciences and, in general, to the development of the Armenian culture, has a unique place in the Armenian literature, and it is no coincidence that the Armenian people has included The Feast of the Holy Translators in their calendar. Great and unique is the role of such individuals as Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the Great), Aram, Tigranes the Great (Tigran Mets), Gregory the Illuminator and Mesrop Mashtots, Movses Khorenatsi, David the Invincible, Gregory of Narek, Nerses IV the Gracious (Nerses Shnorhali), Mkhitar Gosh, Komitas on the road of shaping the Armenizm.
Based on all abovementioned, as well as on other diverse factors, the Armenian culture has evolved over centuries, which in its turn determines the Armenizm, the Armenian spirit, the spiritual conformation, and the Armenian nation has been shaped of its own kind. What is this type capable of? The same is true about other nations.
I think it is important what combinations of various features have been made. This probably depends on the path of the nation over the past centuries, that makes every nation unique.
All in all, I would like to highlight just a few of the many Armenian features, without claiming them as completely justified.
The first thing I would like to mention is the attitude of the Armenians to their children, they pay too much attention to their learning, education, they spare nor their welfare, nor health, nor their rest, nothing. Even the illiterate Armenian finds that education is a necessity for his child. It is no coincidence that the adult’s precept to their children is as such: “Learn to become a human”. It is surprising how the elderly parents care for their already grown-up children (who are not children any longer) when they need more care for themselves. But this is not all. The parents` attitude is much deeply displayed towards the grandchildren, probably because becoming wise through the years they realize that they were not sufficiently attentive to their children at that time and try to compensate it by their attitude to their grandchildren.
All this applies not only to an individual Armenian, but the Armenians in general. It is known that in the Middle Ages, even in the absence of statehood, the education was free in Armenia.
On the other hand, the Armenians stand out for their worship to the parents and in general, for a deep respect towards adults, when the children try in every way to be worthy to their parents with their attitude and care, uphold their honor, ensure a dignified senility for them. And this is not conditioned by their potential, they are ready for any sacrifice, only the parents feel themselves better. It is not an ordinary compensation of debts, but internal, spiritual urge, an expression of love that turns the family into holiness. Such a relationship of the generations based on mutual love makes the Armenian family a strong and indivisible/ inseparable unity, which becomes a unique whole cell not dependent on the social status, social environment. Perhaps this is one of the factors that the “Armenian” type retains its identity.
Another typical feature of the Armenians is their attitude to the manuscripts and books. They have always been considered a subject of special care and one of the greatest values. Special attitude was displayed to “Narek” of the poem “Book of Lamentations” by Gregory of Narek, which is considered sacred and balm from diseases.
It is enough to remember that when the Armenians were forced to leave their homes and take migration path, among the first items of necessity have always been manuscripts and books. That is why many of the famous ancient manuscripts were saved in this way. It is not accidental that after the invention of printing in many European and Asian cities the Armenians have established printing houses and published books.
One of the characteristic features peculiar to the Armenians is the fact that in many Armenian communities of the countries worldwide there has been an indisputable principle throughout the centuries – there should be no one asking for alms, beggars and the poor in their community. And, as a continuation of this and the previous principle, there was another principle – education was free of charge. Let us recall the great philanthropists A. Mantashev, G. Gulbenkian and others.
One of the typical features of the Armenians is their strive for justice and law-abidance, which is observed in Armenia as well as in all the countries where there are Armenian communities. All the Armenian kingdoms considered the adherence to moral principles as a guarantee to ensure justice; they have stressed the importance of human dignity, and, in general, spiritual values and legality, which were considered supreme/uppermost values. Such an approach has been expressed in all the Armenian Lawcodes since the IV century. A concentrated expression of such ideas was presented by Gregory of Narek, who pleaded the God in his prayers to give a man a chance of conversion as he believed that the person’s sins first of all are not his guilt but misfortune. Such a possibility could be realized only in the conditions of a peaceful, just, law-abiding, spiritually healthy society. In the Armenian reality the role of legal consciousness therewith was also highlighted, without which it could be impossible to ensure an ordinary development of the society. That is why Nerses the Gracious appeals to all the classes of the society in his “Toukht Enthanrakan”, demanding them not to be guided only by the carnal, and not to forget the spirituality because of the carnal. Overall, “Toukht Enthanrakan” contains regulatory provisions on human rights and of limiting the powers of the authorities which are still consistent with modern concepts with their legal significance.
The “Lawcode”(Datastanagirq) of Mkhitar Gosh has acquired special significance in the Armenian reality, on the basis of which is the divine right of man, or by modern terminology, the natural rights. Since the 5th Century the constitutional approaches have been of great importance in Armenia. This is primarily manifested in Church Councils that have adopted mandatory rules regulating public, as well as legal relationship. These Church Councils, starting from the Council of Ashtishat (365 AD), were, in today’s terminology, a representative assembly, which was attended by the representatives of all social strata without exception. This approach has been maintained in subsequent centuries, and the rules of these congregations had universal and priority importance. From this perspective it can be asserted that these meetings are comparable with constituent meetings by their nature. It should be noted that a similar meeting was held by King Vachagan (5th century), where “Canonical Constitution” was adopted. In the absence of statehood such meetings were held by the Catholicoses. Overall, it can be concluded that the rules adopted in such Councils have ensured the supremacy of the rules of national consensus, thus they have been constitutional by nature.
It is not convenient to talk about the details here, but I want to mention two circumstances that show the special attitude of the Armenians to the Constitution. First, the work “Snare of Glory” by Sh. Shahamirian published in 1773, which was a unique draft constitution, intended for future independent Armenia. Only the title of the book is a complete constitutional concept and, taking into account the time of publication of this work, one can be really surprised by such a constitutional ideas and approaches.
The other phenomenon is that in the illiberal Ottoman Empire from 1840 to 1860 the “constitutional movement” was expanding, the purpose of which was to adopt a formal document for Armenians in Turkish Sultanate which would regulate the internal relations of the community. As a result of the movement in 1863, the Sultan government approved the “Armenian National Constitution,” which retains its significance up to now.
Such thinking is obviously an evidence of the formation of a new civilizational level.
I would not dare to make such a conclusion, if it were not for the point of view of an expert of the Armenian law, Professor Kohler, according to whom the Armenian nation gained civilized legal status, when he adopted highly developed religion. It is no exaggeration to say that the Armenian, as a carrier of its own civilization, could perform the role of the world in a strange world.
Without going into professional details, which is beyond our power and not our problem, I suggest to those who are interested in the history of law to get acquainted with the researches of Josef Karst, Joseph Kohler, etc.
Considering all these, I think that the foundation of the analytical center of “Constitutional Culture” in 2016 Yerevan should be highlighted. I am convinced that this international organization in the nearest future will generate ideas that will guide further development of civilization in various aspects.
As for the behavior of the Armenians in the Armenian communities, we can claim that they have never been distinguished by their illegal, unlawful behavior, otherwise the authorities of these countries will not grant them any privileges. Besides, the Armenians have always tried to harmonize their community life with the legislation of the host country, while remaining faithful to national values. This is evidenced by the “Lawcode of Polish Armenians”, “Astrakhan Lawcode”, etc., created on the bases of the legal principles of the Lawcode by Mkhitar Gosh and have been functioned with the permission of the authorities. The Armenian law-abidance is evidenced by the generosity emphasized in the poem “Tazit” by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin (see further).
Of course, it may be objected that in this case, how should it be explained that nowadays the number of inmates in American prisons has increased dramatically? Here I would like to refer to the words of the great English poet Lord Byron. “The virtues (of Armenians) have been those of peace, and their vices are those of compulsion.” In this case, the vices of the Armenians are forced to them and appear as soviet legacy. The Soviet Union was a country where any economic freedom, economic initiative was considered illegal, which led to the formation of the corresponding illegal behavior. I am sure that the rate of such crimes will drastically decrease after the change of the generation. And my hypothesis that the reason for such behavior is homo sovieticus – is motivated by the fact that this phenomenon is characteristic to the migrants from all the post-Soviet space.
I would like to mention one of the most important features of all Armenians – it’s a special attitude of the Armenians to the Armenian woman. The Armenian woman, who is a bit of oriental and European, has a unique place in the Armenian society with her generic image and has a special social status. I believe that the basis for this phenomenon is the loyalty to the Bible, in other words, the Armenians have been impulsively guided by biblical provision, according to which “the two shall become one flesh.” I should also bring the viewpoint of August von Haxthausen on the Armenian woman – …in family life, this people has a patriarchal way of life, which only sharply differs from other Asian peoples in one way – the difference in the social status of women, in invoking her for independence, equality and human dignity, which is expressed in the very way of the Armenian family, as well as in the personal characteristics of the Armenian women. Then he gives an explanation. It seems to von Haxthausen that the reason for this lies in the very mission of the Armenians, as people of high culture and spirituality that has become a mediating link and the center of the unification of Europe and Asia. I think there is no need to add anything to the said above. In fact, this definition is not the only one, the same view was expressed by the Austrian historian Amand Shvaykher Lirhenfeld and many others.
Finally, it should be infered that Armenizm as a phenomenon could be formed only in the Armenian Highlands, under the auspices of the holy Mount Ararat, a mountain that has been sacred for Armenians for thousands of years, which was later enshrined in the Bible. And another factor – today the science finds that one of the most important factors of European civilization progress is the wheat plant, the homeland of which is the Armenian Highlands, I mean that it is not accidental that Armenia has become the cradle of civilization and has assumed the role of civilizing. Armenizm exists and will exist as long as there is Armenian Highland and the people live there. No matter how good the Armenians feel themselves abroad they will be able to survive only if the Armenians continue to live in their homeland, from where they get their vital and spiritual food.
I must also mention the creative kind and nature of the Armenian. Every Armenian, regardless of educational, social, environment background and opportunities, is constantly in the incessant search for something new. And the Armenian is the carrier of both the rational and the spiritual, and always strives to achieve his objectives. He is not indifferent to the events happening in his surroundings, or in the world, he always reflects his attitude to everything. Of course, this does not mean that he is always right and meaningful, and that’s why he is always ready to listen to a view of a better qualified and educated one and evaluate it.
Finally, I want to mention the general characteristic for the Armenians, by the XVII century famous botanist, traveler Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, which was later repeated by Jacques Elisee Reclu and many others, according to which the Armenians are the best people in the world, they are virtuous, polite, imbued with discretion and decency.
The list of characteristics of the Armenians can be continued, but it should be left for the future. Here I would like to mention just a few of the hundred assessments and characterizations given to the Armenians in two-thousand-year-history.
One of the famous characteristics of the Armenian nation is given by the greatest thinker, philosopher I. Kant and he thinks that the unique commercial spirit is dominating in the Armenians: they are engaged in exchange, traveling from China to Cabo Corso (present-day Cape Coast) on the Gulf of Guinea. It shows the unique origin of this intelligent and hardworking people, people that passes through the entire Ancient world from the north-east to south-west and is warmly accepted among all these nations where he finds himself. It proves the superiority of their nature …
Another German ethnographer and traveler August von Haxthausen describes the Armenians as follows: all the studies indicate the fact that the Armenian people are marked by the will of God and are chosen to spread the Christianity and civilization in the East. The Armenians can be regarded as a leaver, as the main ingredient in the Asian dough, designed to revive the dead spiritual life in this region.
Many years ago, when I got to know Kant’s characterization of the “commercial spirit”, it had a very negative impression on me, so far as “merchant” prompts nothing good to many of us. Basically, we understand that word with negative meaning “hawker”, “trader”, ” usurer,” “miser”, as the European “bourgeois”, which has never been respectfully accepted in the European culture. However, much later, when I studied the Armenian culture more thoroughly and the history of development of the European economy, I began to understand that the genius philosopher from Konigsberg gave such a description that the Armenians can really be proud of and present themselves to the world with their contribution to the modern civilization.
When reading Kant`s writings, especially taking into consideration the limited communication possibilities in the 18th century, immediately a question arises – How could he have known that the Armenians are “intelligent and hard-working” and that “passing through the Ancient world they received a cordial reception among all the peoples”? What did he mean by saying “unique origin” and “superiority of the character”? The cordial reception among the peoples is probably certified by the fact that the big merchants were engaged not only in trade but also performed the role of mediator and interpreter in the relations between the ruling families and/or authorities of different countries, they even did official diplomatic assignments, became ambassadors to different countries and even ministers of foreign affairs. If we add to this all the significant contribution of the Armenians in commercial and economic, particularly in maritime relations between China, India, other Far Eastern and European countries, I think, the picture will become more complete.
As to the characteristics of the Armenians given by von Haxthausen, it should be noted that not only the existent researches had served as a starting point for him, such as Kant and others, but also his own experiences and researches. Overall, his view is not only consistent with the thoughts expressed by Kant, but he gives more far-reaching civilizational assessments.
Considering the fact that Kant had practically never been away from Konigsberg, it can be assumed that there was some idea about Armenia and the Armenians in Europe in the 18th century, which is justified by the von Haxthausen witness that there is certain information and research about the Armenians.
A question arises, what kind of information and research is meant? First, we can mention «Anglo-Saxon chronicle» of 807, where it is indicated on the first lines of the old English manuscript that the Brits came from Armenia and settled in the south of England. Valuable information is also contained in the German legends, where Armenia and Ararat are often mentioned, the leader of Germanic peoples called Armenios, as well as the assumption that the Bavarians and the Tirols have been originated from the Armenians (Enno Mayer, Zwischen Rhein und Arax. 900 jahredeutsch-armenische beziehungen, 1988). It is not difficult to assume that the works of famous Greek and Roman historians can be listed among these researches which were included in the framework of the interests of European thinkers since the Renaissance, and in many of them Armenia and the Armenians had serious assignation (I mean such great thinkers as Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, Strabo, Plutarch, Cicero, Seneca and many others).
In addition, all the Europeans were cooperating with the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in the Crusades, got directly acquainted with the Armenian culture, established economic and trade relations with the Armenians (especially Venice and Genoa republics). It was not accidental that the king of Cilicia, Leo VI Lusignan was given royal reception by the kings of Castile, Aragon and France. John I, the King of Castile, granted several cities to Leo VI. King Charles VI of France gave him the royal palace of Paris Saint-Owen. His tombstone is in the royal crypt at Saint-Denis. The Armenian participation in the Crusades was highly appreciated by Papal Bull (“Ecclesia Romana”) of Pope Francis Gregory XIII.
Here it is not impossible to note Francois Rabelais, who in his novel “The life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel” speaks with reverence about the Armenians. It is interesting to note that the name of Artaxias (Artashes) is written with the Armenian phonetics and the history of the King Artaxias II is described with deep knowledge. Further the luxurious reception in Rome of Tiridates, the King of Armenia as well as the efforts of the Roman Emperor Nero to make Tiridates the permanent friend to Rome are described.
Extensive information about Armenia and the Armenians was given by the European travelers in their traveling notes (Zhurden de Severac, Burkhardos Monte de Sion, William of Rubruck, Marco Polo, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, John Dardel, Johannes Schiltberger, Antonio de Gouveia and others).
In this context, I think it was important that the Armenians founded numerous publishing houses and were publishing books in Venice already in 1512 and further in many other European cities. This circumstance could not but attract the attention of the Europeans, if we consider that the book was a rare and exotic phenomenon at that period.
Important information was published about Armenia, Greater Armenia, Lesser Armenia and Tigran the Great in the French encyclopedia, in “Britannica” and in other universal encyclopedias published in Europe in the 18-19th centuries.
Apart from this, the prominent European thinkers began to discuss issues related to Armenia and the Armenians, the Armenian language and the works of the Armenian historians in their studies and gradually the Armenian Studies was formed (Matyuren La Kroz, Gottfried Leibniz, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Joachim Johann Shroyder, I. Kant, J. Herder, Antoine-Jean Saint-Martin, A. Von Haksthauzen, Leopold von Ranke, Heinrich Petermann, Marie Brosset, Edward Dulaurie, Victor Langlois, Frederick Muller, Auguste Carrier and others).
Taking into account all the above mentioned, it is not difficult to guess why Armenia was in the limelight of the European science and culture.
Armenians, wherever they live – in Europe or the Far East, South America, the Middle East, North America or Iran, regardless of cultural and religious environment, had rapidly integrated and become law-abiding and exemplary subjects and citizens of these countries, were distinguished by their hard work, contributed to the development of science, the arts and crafts of that countries and to the economic progress.
Such a viewpoint may seem an exaggeration, but when learning about the Armenian activities in various countries, it is not difficult to ascertain the accuracy of such evaluation. On the other hand, it is surprising that this viewpoint is expressed by the Europeans, because in the framework of the ideology of Eurocentrism at that period, only the Europeans are capable of civilizational, cultural, economic intervention. Despite this factor, when the Europeans think that the Armenians may have a serious mission in terms of civilization, this means that there are serious grounds for it.
I do not know what specific basics are meant by von Haxthausen and others for their conclusions, but many of such facts are known from history. It is a well-known fact that in the 18th century, for several centuries, the Armenians, who migrated from Armenia, had established large communities in some European regions (Italy, Byzantium, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Transylvania, Russia, etc.), where they had received many privileges from the government, built churches, schools, founded printing houses, participated in cultural life, had many popular scientific, religious, cultural, political and economic figures. Unlike the European countries, where Armenians settled willingly, escaping from the Tatar-Mongol and later the Seljuk Turks unbearable domination, the Persian ruler Shah Abbas forcibly resettled several hundred thousand Armenians in Persia, granting them with great benefits. Here they built the city of New Julfa, boosting the rapid development of trade, economy and culture. Favorable attitude was displayed towards the Armenians in Russia. Thus, Peter I the Great granted privileges to the Armenian merchants. With the edict of November 10 (21) in 1724 he announced his patronage to the Armenian people: “Keep the honest Armenian people with special mercy… We ordered not only to protect their merchants, but also to grant with some privileges for great interests and benefits and will be kind to them in the most merciful way.” The same attitude was treated by Catherine II, who with decree of 1768 expressed her support and patronage to the Armenian people. In particular, by granting privileges to the Armenians, allowed them to build Grigoriupol and New Nakhchivan cities.
The poem “Tazit” by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin can be considered the illustration of the political role of the Armenians in Russia. The famous phrase of the poem: “You are a coward, a slave, you are Armenian”, which, taken out of the context of the poem, has become “a great proof” of different interpretations and speculations, and Armenophobia. Whereas reading the poem, it becomes apparent that Pushkin, in this case by saying “Armenian” with the mouth of highlander meant only the evince of magnanimity, a person with high moral qualities. But that is not of interest to us. We should answer to the question – why the great poet, as opposition to human cruelty, ferocity of satisfying the vile passions, has mentioned the Armenians. How is this explained? Hardly accidentally, Pushkin would mention particularly the Armenians without any reason. Pushkin was very well aware of and had close ties with a number of Armenian politicians (David Abamelik, the Lazaryans, Grigor Zakaryan and many others). Moreover, Pushkin has witnessed how the Karabakh brigade returned from the battle, bringing eight Turkish flags with them. Therefore, Pushkin could not describe the Armenians as a coward or a slave. But it is not enough to commemorate/mention the Armenians.
To understand why Pushkin has done so, it is necessary to refer to the role of the Armenian element in the North Caucasus and Caucasus, in general, in the beginning of the XIX century and during the second half of the 18th century. In this regard, we consider it important to mention a question concerning Crimea. The point is that after the destruction of Ani, many Armenians migrated to Europe (Hungary, Transylvania, Poland, etc.), particularly to the Crimea, where densely settled Armenians had a major impact on economic, cultural and political life. When in 1768-1774 after the Russian-Turkish war, the Russian Empire, in the face of Russian Empress Catherine II and Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin, decided to unite the Crimea to Russia, deported Armenians from the Crimea in 1778 (as well as other Christian nations). In 1780, the Armenians established the famous New Nakhchivan residence with the sponsorship of the government. To understand this Russian policy, we should apply to another Russian writer V. Pikul, who in his historical novel “Favorite”, in the letter of Potemkin addressed to the commander A. Suvorov, who had Armenian descent states about letting the Hellenes make the wine and hunt mugil, they are commercial people, resourceful, believe me they won`t get lost. But in the new areas … let the Armenians develop new handicrafts, such as … weave silk and cotton fabrics, make leather morocco leather, make various needlework, in which the Armenian women are so skilled. It is no coincidence that Potemkin highlighted particularly the spiritual development of the people in the letter and ordered to bring priests from Armenia.
With this deportation the Russian Empire undermined the economic and military capabilities of Crimean Khanate and created conditions for uniting the Crimea to Russia, and besides, strengthened its position in the North Caucasus. The Russians realized that it was impossible to establish order in this immense territory only by military force, it was necessary, if we use the current terminology, economic, cultural, political intervention. And to solve the very problem they wisely used the Armenians and other Christian nations, encouraging them by various privileges to continue to live in that region. And the Armenians settling in the region began to deal with economy, trade, agriculture (particularly horticulture), crafts and many other occupations. It is obvious that by settling there they developed their own culture, established schools, cultural centers, built church and residential buildings. The economy began to develop gradually in the Caucasus as a result of the Armenians` various creative activities, which had a beneficial effect on the development of public relations. And, most importantly, other nations were also involved in these processes, gradually acquiring the appropriate civilizational level. The same happened in the Crimea, after joining the Russian Empire, where the Armenians were given many privileges, which contributed to the settlement of the migrants from Western Armenia in Crimea. As you can see, the Russian policy towards the Armenians greatly facilitated the final appropriation of the North Caucasus.
I think here the unique character of the Armenians is manifested, which was successfully used by the Russian Empire to solve their own internal problems.
Obviously, the Armenians had gratefully received the favorable treatment of their host country/people, and at the same time it is also obvious that such attitude to the Armenians is explained not, as it is said, for their beautiful eyes but for the sake of far-reaching political and civilizational reasons and state interests.
Every nation and a state have a problem of being presented to the world, especially the newly independent state. Today, the world is not aware of a few thousand-years-history of the Armenian people, the place of Armenia on the map, though the word “Armenia” is mentioned on all the ancient maps of the world. It is known only by the Armenians and by narrow specialized, scientific small community. Despite millennial cultural heritage and their contribution to global civilization, today the Armenians are only known to the world as the remnants of a collapsed superpower. Meanwhile, they have the task to develop, but it is necessary to appear to the world not only with a dignity, their culture, historical heritage, but first of all with present cultural, economic, scientific achievements, with their Armenizm.
When I heard the words of Pope Francis on Armenizm, I tried to understand what it means. After long ponderings, of course, on amateur level, I found out that I still do not know what are the elements that formed it, what mixture does lead to Armenizm. But overall, I think we can draw the conclusion that Armenizm is meant to serve to civilization, to develop a civilization, to fight for civilization. Especially given the fact that many great thinkers have expressed such an opinion (August von Haxthausen, V. Abaza, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, N. Marr, F. Makler, A. Kraft-Bonnar, P. Charanis, E. Mezhelaytis and others). Perhaps, I will mention only the words of A. Mayer: There is a country that Armenians can demand … due to the fact that they are a force. Armenians are the force of civilization since IV or V century.
My knowledge is this much. It is obvious that the aforementioned about the Armenians is only the small part of the reality, which has various layers of exploration and discovery, but that’s not the problem. Of course, the Armenians will be grateful to all the scientists and researchers who will help to clarify and supplement the Armenian history, the Armenian identity and Armenizm, all this is necessary for the states interested in the progress of civilization. The great Russian scientist N. Marr, back in the beginning of the XX century, writes in this regard that the Armenians were the first to understand the international interests and the history of space already in the Middle Ages. The Russians should be the first to get interested in the history of the Armenian people, as responsible for the present fate. The Armenian nation is still the only race capable of sublime Christian culture and civilization, a tribe that owns the future of the region.
The same thing, in fact, is claimed by the European and American Armenologists.
How can we explain such a favorable attitude of the great humanist Francis towards Armenia and the Armenian people? I think there is no secret here. Such an attitude stems from the concern over the future of mankind, when the Christian values are gradually replaced by the growing mercantilism, when the moral values are turned into the product, when spirituality is replaced by the material, when the material is idolized, when the human being is transformed into a robot. Therefore, the Pope can not remain indifferent to all those communities, including the Armenians and Armenia, which is already two millennia appropriates Christ’s teaching, and this doctrine has become a state subject for a thousand seven hundred years and it remains faithful to Christian values and continues to contribute to the progress of civilization.
Let me finish with the principle of the Lithuanian poet E.Mezhelaytis that Armenia is the rock of civilization.
Iran’s Position on Karabakh War: Tehran Competes for the Hearts of Azerbaijanis
This article focuses on the Iranian official position on the latest escalations of Artsakh (Karabakh) war which started in the morning of September 27, 2020. The main military operations were happening in the bordering areas of Iran and even several artillery bombs, rockets and unnamed aerial vehicles occurred in the territory of Iran. Actually, after the independence of the South Caucasus states, Tehran created good relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia. In general, Iran was not interested in a non-stable situation in its northern borders, where regional war was going on between Artsakh, backed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, which was supplying Azerbaijan with modern weapons and jihadists from the Middle East. This time, Iran decided to choose a side.
Actually, Iran had only two options, it could stay neutral or take the Azerbaijani side. Iran chose the second option. Here I will bring several facts. During the war, in northern provinces of Iran-Eastern Azerbaijan, Western Azerbaijan, Zanjan and Ardabil, where the majority of the population are identifying themselves as Iranian Azeris, anti-Armenian demonstrations where organized. Protestors were demanding from the Iranian government to close Iranian-Armenian border for weapons, which were being supplied from Russia through Caspian Sea and mainland routs to Armenia. As a result, Iran prohibited to transfer any kind of weapons to Armenia and spokesperson of Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mentioned that Iran was implementing its decision, and announcements, that Armenia was still getting its weapons through the territory of Iran, did not coincide with the reality. On October 6, Advisor of the Supreme leader of Iran, Ali Akbar Velayati announced, that Armenians occupied Azerbaijani lands and they must return them. For making his statement much more acceptable and understandable for most of Iranians, he noted that Iran’s position in Palestine and Artsakh is the same, that they are standing with Azerbaijani side as they are standing with Palestinians. Moreover,Ayatollah Khamenei stated “the main solution to the problem is a return of all occupied lands of Azerbaijan by Armenia and this must be done and international borders must be respected.” It is also true, that he spoke about physical security of Armenians in “occupied lands”, he also noted, that terrorists, which were being used by [Azerbaijani] side, would be killed, if they tried to cross Iranian borders. Azerbaijani side “thanked Ayatollah Khamenei for backing its stance on Karabakh conflict”.
In turn, deputy minister of Iranian Foreign Affairs, Abbas Araghchi, who also visited Baku, Yerevan, Moscow and Ankara for discussing Artsakhi war, announced that Iran closed its borders for transferring weapons to Armenia, he condemned Artsakhi side for shelling Azerbaijani Barda city and did not mention about heavy bombardments of Stepanakert, Shushi, Martakert and Martuni by Azerbaijan. He also stated that for 27 years Iran had always condemned the “occupation” of Azerbaijani lands.
Reasons of Iranian choice
As it was mentioned, Iran backed Azerbaijan. Even Azerbaijani president Aliyev announced, that Iran supplied weapons to Azerbaijan. There were 3 main reasons, which could explain the Iranian decision.
- Iran and Azerbaijan develop their relations in economic and transportation spheres, for instance in the context of International North South Transport Corridor(INSTC) Tehran and Baku have agreed to invest US$500 million each for linking Azerbaijani railways with Iranian. It will provide an opportunity to connect their railways with Russians as well. Thus, these two states by the help of their cooperation will get an opportunity to play important role in INSTC, which lays from Indian Mumbai to Russian Saint Petersburg.
- There are more than 15 million ethnic Azeris in Iran, and this time their lobby played very decisive role and Iran took Baku’s side in a demonstrative way, without even bothering to give any diplomatic covering to it. There were also some Iranian politicians and scholars, who were speaking about keeping status quo, which was in place after 1994 ceasefire. They were arguing that, if Artsakhi Armenians lose the war, Turkish influence would grow in South Caucasus, which is bordering with Northern Iran, but this position did not receive enough attention from Iranian government.
- In 1979 Iran proclaimed it as an Islamic Republic of Iran. For a long time, this country struggles for leadership in Shia Muslims world. For this reason, it could not take the Armenian side, when religious leaders from Qom, Mashhad and Najaf were pressing Iranian government to help Shia Azerbaijan against Christian Armenia. Khamenei’s representatives in Eastern Azerbaijan, Western Azerbaijan, Zanjan and Ardabil announced about their support to Baku, arguing that Azerbaijan was also a member of Shia community.
In sum, Iran took the Azerbaijani side taking into consideration its growing cooperation with this country in economic and transportation spheres, same religion and to meet the demands of ethnic Azeris in its northern provinces. Tehran also tried to keep the opportunity for the future in its competition with Turkey for Azerbaijanis hearts. Throughout last years, Iranians succeeded in creating a network in Armenia, through their “soft power” diplomacy. They were working with the Armenian society through social networks, media and tried to convince, that Iran supported Armenia in Artsakhi crisis before, during and after the war, even after aforementioned statements, concrete steps of the Iranian and Azerbaijani decision makers. Of course, there are also several Armenian independent specialists, who are not involved in this network, but they also think in the same way. Anyway, these kind of presentations of Iranian policy on Artsakhi conflict, made baseless expectations from Iran in Armenian society and I do believe, that during war this kind of “advices” hindered Armenian decision makers in their calculations.
The following question is going to Ayatollah Khamenei and Araghchi: How Armenians in Artsakh can “occupy” their homes and lands, if they live there for thousands of years? It is the same, if someone tries to argue, that Iranians occupied Esfahan or Tabriz. Even the statement about physical security of Armenians, which was made by Khamenei does not correspondent with Araghchi’s statement, as the last one failed to speak about human rights of Artsakhi people, when he was arguing it for Azerbaijani people.This is making another reason for not letting Iran to stand a side in peace talks, which it is offering not the first time and only relay on Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe’s Minsk group format, where Russia, France and US are the main players.
It is also worth mentioning, that Artsakhi conflict maybe the only case in the world, when interests of long-time adversaries-Iran and Israel coincided. Both of them supplied Azerbaijan with weapons and supported it politically.
It will be quite interesting to follow what will possibly happen to Iran in the future, when jihadists with their families create enclave in territories which Azerbaijan took from Artsakh. Will they be used against Iran in the future? Actually, in Syria, they were struggling against Iranian ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and Iranian troops in Syria.
Turkish troops will stay in Azerbaijan, Ankara will get in the ground military base, as they helped Azerbaijan and now it is time to get its benefits from the efforts used. For this reason, the following question arises:
Is it really correspondent with Iranian geopolitical interests to have NATO troops, in the face of Turkey next to its Northern provinces, where people mostly speakTurkish language and sympathize Turkey and see it as a “big brother”? Did Tehran make right choice when it fully supported Azerbaijani side during the war? Future will bring answers to these questions. But the answer can be also, that maybe Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran have created road map for further cooperation having religious, economic interconnectedness as a main base and their cooperation in Artsakhi conflict was part of it.
Thorny path towards peace and reconciliation in Karabakh
On January 11 the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a deal to develop cross-border transportation routes and boost economic growth to benefit the South Caucasus and the Wider Region. This meeting took place two months after the Moscow-brokered armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended a 44-day war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
This ethno-territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has drawn dividing lines between Armenia and Azerbaijan for almost 30 years. Some estimates put the number of deaths on both sides at 30,000 after the First Karabakh war before a ceasefire was reached in May 1994. As a result of this war, one fifth of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan was occupied and the entire Azerbaijani population of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) and seven adjacent districts (Lachin, Kalbajar, Agdam, Fizuly, Jabrail, Gubatli and Zangilan) was forcibly expelled by the Armenian armed forces. Incidentally, due to sporadic frontline skirmishes and clashes, both military personnel and civilians have been killed along the Line of Contact, devoid of any peacekeeping force, since 1994.
Over the years, Armenia and the separatist regime that emerged in the occupied Azerbaijani territories refused any final status short of independence for Nagorno-Karabakh and tried to preserve this status quo and achieve international security guarantees on the non-resumption of hostilities while avoiding the withdrawal of its armed forces from the occupied territories and preventing the safe return of expelled Azerbaijani inhabitants to their permanent places of residence. However, such a policy, in its turn, polarized the region and reduced to naught any meaningful regional cooperation between the three South Caucasus states.
The Second Karabakh war, which took place from September 27 to November 9, 2020, and the subsequent Russia-brokered peace deal on November 10, significantly changed the facts on the ground and created a new political reality that replaced the “no war, no peace” situation that had been hanging over the region for almost 30 years. As a result of this war, more than 6,000 soldiers died on both sides in fighting.
This war came to an end because of a clear victory for Azerbaijan, which has restored its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Owing to the humiliating defeat of Armenia,the myth of the invincibility of the Armenian armed forces has been shattered and the Prime Minister of this country has been under continuous pressure from the opposition to step down.
Thus, after the Second Karabakh war, the pendulum has swung from devastating war towards actual peace. The question, is, however, whether the conflicting parties will be able to achieve lasting peace in the coming years: How can a relationship that has been completely destroyed owing to this protracted armed conflict and previous wars be restored?
The fate of all inhabitants of both the highlands and lowlands of Karabakh, irrespective of their ethnic origin, is crucial in this context. Security arrangements for the Armenian minority residing in this area are currently organized through the deployment of 1,960 Russian peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the implementation of the trilateral statement signed by the heads of state of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Russian Federation on November 10 (hereafter, the trilateral statement). At the same time, the return of the former Azerbaijani inhabitants to their permanent places of residence previously occupied by the Armenian armed forces is envisaged by the trilateral statement and the UNHCR has been assigned to oversee this task.
It is paramount that Azerbaijan has to demonstrate a policy of “strategic patience” in the coming years to entice the Armenians of Karabakh region into closer incorporation through attractive political, economic, social, and other development.
On the other hand, Armenia has to concentrate on its own internationally recognized sovereign territory. Today, it is important that this country changes its external minority policy and withdraws its territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a next step, both Armenia and Azerbaijan can recognize the territorial integrity of one other.
Such rapprochement can lead to the opening of the borders between Armenia and Turkey and Armenia and Azerbaijan, which would increase economic opportunities for landlocked Armenia. It can thereby contribute to regional stability, development, and trans-regional cooperation among the three South Caucasian states. At the same time, it would create an enabling environment that could be more conducive for future dialogue and interactions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
We must face the fact that a stable equilibrium between these two nations has never previously been achieved. However, despite ups and downs, there was peaceful coexistence between the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities in Karabakh as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan’s respective minorities in Azerbaijan and Armenia. This protracted conflict has, however, led Armenians and Azerbaijanis to live in parallel realities for almost 30 years.
In light of the recent past, we cannot soon reconcile our different narratives. It is a long process; however, reconciliation is not only an outcome, it is also a process. Although the gestation period might be long, the process of reconciliation itself can be extremely rewarding.
In fact, the Armenian and Azerbaijani inhabitants of Karabakh have lived together in this region in the past. However, for almost 30 years this was impossible. Will and determination should be put to good use in order to arrive at such a peaceful coexistence once again.
Dawn of great power competition in South Caucasus
The pace of geopolitical change in the South Caucasus is staggering, with the recent Karabakh war only underlining several major geopolitical trends in the region.
The first noticeable trend being the undercutting of democratic ideals and achievements of the region’s states. Take Armenia, its young democracy had high hopes following the 2018 revolution, but now it will be more even more dependent on Russia.
It is not a matter of whether a democratic model is better or not, the matter lies in the incompatibility of an aspiring democracy with a powerful nondemocracy such as Russia.
The Armenian leadership will now have to make extensive concessions to Moscow to shore up its military, backtracking on its democratic values. Building a fair political system cannot go hand in hand with the Russian political model.
The war also put an end to any hopes of Armenia implementing a multivector foreign policy, an already highly scrutinized issue. Mistakes were made continuously along the way, the biggest being an overreliance on Russia.
In the buildup to 2020, Armenia’s multiaxial foreign policy efforts gradually deteriorated, with the 2016 fighting showing the limits. Armenian politicians attempted to develop ties with other regional powers in the aftermath, but Russian influence had already begun to incrementally increase.
Tipping the scales in a no longer balanced alliance culminated in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan thanks to Yerevan’s maneuvering. More crucially, the war has obliterated Yerevan’s multiaxial policy efforts for years to come.
Now, Armenia’s dependence on Russia would be even more pronounced with no viable geopolitical alternatives.
With no more foreign policy diversification, the three South Caucasus states are divided by larger regional powers, further fracturing the region.
The return of Turkey and the growth of the Russian military could resurrect the great power competition, in which a nation’s military power, infrastructure projects and economic might are directly translated into their geopolitical influence over the region, ultimately deterring long-term conflict resolution.
The Western stance
The Karabakh war highlighted a regression in Western peacekeeping standards. The Western approach to conflict resolution based on equality rather than geopolitical interests has been trumped by the Russian alternative.
Moscow is not looking to resolve the conflict (it never does in territorial conflicts); instead, it is seeking to prolong it under its close watch in a bid to increase its influence.
Looking at the situation from the Russian perspective, it is clear the country will continue to influence Armenia and Azerbaijan, only now to a far greater extent than before.
The West’s inability to accommodate fluid geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus also raises questions about its commitment to resolving the issues at hand. The second Karabakh war was in a way a by-product of the West’s declining engagement in the region over the past several years.
The West can no longer treat the South Caucasus as a monolithic entity, and a diversified foreign policy should be applied in line with realities on the ground.
Policies should reflect each individual state, and the West should, perhaps, be more geopolitical in its approach.
Turkey’s recent suggestion to create a six-nation pact bringing together the South Caucasus states, Russia, Turkey and Iran, shows the regression of Western influence in the region. But the geopolitical vacuum is never empty for long, and Turkey and Russia approach.
Georgia could act as the last bastion of dominant Western influence, but even there, the West should be cautious. The country is on the cusp of Europe, making it susceptible to foreign influence.
Bordered by Russia and Turkey, two powers often discerning of Europe, Georgia also feels the pressure to adapt to the changing circumstances on the ground.
The lack of Western resolve in the region and the Black Sea could propel Tbilisi if not toward a total reconsideration of its foreign policy, toward diversifying its foreign ties – one could call a “rebalancing.”
The war also solidified that the Caspian basin and South Caucasus are inextricably linked to the greater Middle East.
Russia and Turkey are basing their strategies in the region on developments in the Middle East and the Black Sea region. Not since the end of the Soviet Union has the South Caucasus been such a critical point for the West, especially the incoming Biden administration.
But time is critical and any further delay in active U.S. policy could spell disaster for Georgia, which serves as a door to the Caspian and on to Central Asia.
The West has been in regression in the region for quite some time now; the Karabakh war only brought it to the light, and it must be proactive if things are to change.
Much will depend on the U.S. and its new administration, but the West will have to come to an understanding with Turkey, even if it be limited, to salvage its deteriorating position in the region.
After all, the South Caucasus has always been the only theater where Turkish and Western interests have always coincided. Considering its limited presence in the region, the West could consider backing Turkey.
Not only would it serve as a reconciliatory gesture pleasing Ankara, but it would also limit Russia’s movement in the region. With the ink about to dry on who will influence the region, the West must immediately adapt its approach if it wishes to have any input in the rapidly changing geopolitics of the South Caucasus.
Author’s note: first published in dailysabah
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