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‘Attic Standard Zone’, Eurozone and Georgia: Historical Comparative Analysis

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Authors: Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani

If you cross the state borders freely, seeing all the cargos moving without delay, money standard and the name being identical everywhere, that means you are in Eurozone. The reality has its remote pattern, Athenian (Attic) case with Colchis (Western Georgia) being involved. If Colchis was in “Attic standard zone”, why to deny Eurozone to Georgia? Below Athenian and modern European cases are discussed.

“If anyone mints silver coins in the cities and does not use Athenian coins or weights or measures, but foreign coins, weights and measures, I shall punish him and fine him according to the previous decree which Klearchos proposed” (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis. Oxford. 1969. Printed to the University 1971, p. 113; Chr. Howgego. Ancient History from Coins. London and New York. 1995, p. 44).  This is what a secretary of the Athenian Council (Boule) had to add to the Bouleatic oath from the famous Athenian decree enforcing to use the Athenian coins, weights and measures within the Athenian Alliance. The Athenian officials in the cities were responsible to carry out the decree, and the local officials too (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, p. 113). The date of this decree is problematic, but still between 450 and 414 B.C. (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, pp. 114-115; C. G. Starr. Athenian Coinage. Oxford. 1970, p. 68 n. 15; Chr. Howgego. Ancient History from Coins, p. 44).The text was carved on stelai and set up at Athens and the other cities – members of the League. Seven fragments of this text have been already discovered in various places (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C. Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, p. 111; “Athenian coinage decree”. J. M. Jones. A Dictionary of Ancient Greek Coins. London. First Published in 1986). There are several attempts to interpret the decree. One thing is clear – this decree is imperialistic in tone, and if some of the cities within the Athenian “Empire” were still supposed to issue own money, only Attic weight coins had to be used. Electrum staters remained popular (A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions. To the End of the Fifth c. B.C.  Edited by R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, p. 113). Later this decree is parodied in the “Birds” of Aristophanes (C. M. Kraay. Coins of Ancient Athens. Newcastle upon Tyne. 1968, p. 5).

The decree seems to be very comfortable for trade and taxation – indeed, Athenians were scrupulous while collecting taxes within the League.

The whole story about the Greeks shaping Europe has been already told. Macedonia contributed much as a recruitment area, but earlier Athens had been thought to be a leader. It was merely a frustration – indeed, if the best city had to be stripped from a population, nothing would be created at all. While the Greeks still in this mistake, Athenians made a good deal – seizing the markets and imposing taxes.

Athenians cared much for the Black Sea areas; and Pericles even launched a special expedition (Plut. Pericl. 20). Then the numismatic visage of Colchis (Western Georgia) was changed as Athenian tetradrachms came in sight together with the Attic ceramics (G. Doundoua, T. Doundoua. Les Relations Économiques de la Colchide aux Époques Archaïque et Classique d’après le Matériel Numismatique. La Mer Noire. Zone de Contacts. Actes du VIIe Symposium de Vani. Paris. 1999, p. 111 №23; Очерки истории Грузии. т. I. ред. Г. А. Ме­ли­киш­ви­ли, О. Д. Лордкипанидзе. Тбилиси. 1989, p. 228). Moreover, Milesian, Aeginetan and Persian standards used for the autonomous coin issues of Phasis (modern Photi, Western Georgia) now disappear and Attic standard becomes unique.

 Dioscurias (Modern Sokhumi, Western Georgia) was a splendid Greek city dominated by a mercantile oligarchy, a foundation of Miletus, sometimes – being troubled by the natives from the hinterland. Then it seems to be completely assimilated. History of Dioscurias is full of tremendous events and clashes. And the clashes were back again in the summer of 1993 as the civil war broke out in Abkhazia. Still one missile was especially lucky as it buried itself deep in the earth and showed a coin-shaped white metal. The description is as follows: weight – 300.37 gr. d=70 mm. Head of Athena wearing a crested helmet (the fashion is that of “old-style” coinage)/Owl. Obviously Athenian weight, it was offered for sale to Simon Janashia State Museum of Georgia.

The greatest number of the marked weights found in the Agora are small roughly square lead plaques. Sometimes these official weights are marked with the same symbols as the coins – head of Athena/owl (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby. Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Part I. Weights and Measures by M. Lang. Princeton. New Jersey. 1964, p. 6). Large circular stamp with helmeted head of Athena appears on the lead weight of the Roman time (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, p. 31 pl. 9 LW (lead weight) 66).  Bronze weight too of some 69.9 gr. has an owl incised. This seems to be a coin weight, 1/6 of mina (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, p. 26 pl. 1 BW (Bronze weight) 5). Even countermarks for the weights represent double-bodied owl and helmeted head (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, p. 28 pl. 6 LW 26, p. 30, pl. 8 LW 46). The dry measure also has two stamps: the double-bodied owl and helmeted head of Athena (The Athenian Agora. v. X. Weights, Measures and Tokens by M. Lang and M. Crosby, pl. 14 DM (dry measure) 44, 45; pl. 18 DM 44, 45).

The Athenian coin mina, consisting of 100 drachms, weighted approximately 436.6 gr. There was also another mina, used for weighting market produce, equal to 138 coin drachms, or 602 gr. (“Mina”, “Attic weight standard”. J. M. Jones. A Dictionary of Ancient Greek Coins).  

So, the piece from Dioscurias should be considered as Athenian trade-weight – half mina.

What conclusions are we to draw from all this?

1) Dioscurias had to receive or was glad to receive the official Athenian weights as the city became a subject of the Alliance.

2) And Phasis should have accepted even a coin mina and Attic standard too while already in the Alliance. Was there any legislation in favour of democracy; what does a maintenance of “Archaic smile” on the Athenian (“Old Style” coinage) and Phasian coins mean? We shall never know.

3) One thing is clear – Attic standard was installed in Colchis between 450 and 414 B.C. And the effect was similar to the modern introduction of euro across much of the European Union.

From Ancient Period to Modern Europe

Creating a common economic space was a recurring ambition throughout European history. The above-discussed “Attic standard zone” was one of the pertinent examples from Ancient history. From modern period the best example perhaps is the European Union (EU) which from the late 1960s aimed at coordinating economic and fiscal policies. It also included the establishment of a common monetary policy as well as the introduction of a common currency. The principal arguments in favor of its adoption were economic stability and unencumbered cross-border trade.

In 1979 the European Monetary System (EMS) was launched. Later on during the European Council session in Maastricht, 1991, the Treaty on European Union, which contained various provisions necessary for successful implementation of the monetary union, was agreed upon (https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/euro/history-and-purpose-euro_en).

Then came the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) which aimed at step-by-step economic integration of a number of countries. EMU was designed to support sustainable economic growth and a high level of employment. This specifically comprised three main fields: 1. implementing a monetary policy that pursues the main objective of price stability; 2. avoiding possible negative spillover effects due to unsustainable government finance, preventing the emergence of macroeconomic imbalances within Member States, and coordinating to a certain degree the economic policies of the Member States; 3. ensuring the smooth operation of the single market (https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/economic-and-monetary-union/what-economic-and-monetary-union-emu_en).

It was not however until 1999 that a common currency – the euro – appeared with 11 countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain – fixing their exchange rates and creating a new currency with monetary policy passed to the European Central Bank.

For the first three years euro did not exist as it essentially was an “invisible” currency. It was used mainly for accounting purposes. In 2002, however, first euro coins and banknotes were introduced in 12 EU countries thus ushering in, arguably, the biggest cash changeover in history. Nowadays, the euro is in circulation in 19 EU member states. There are a number of advantages attached to the use of the euro: low costs of financial transactions, easy travel, increased economic and political role of Europe on the international arena (https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/euro/which-countries-use-euro_en).

Parallel to the creation of the unified economic space ran the establishment institutionalized freedom of movement within most of the European states. The treaty came to be known as the Schengen Agreement signed on June 14, 1985, which led most of the European countries towards the abolishment of their national borders. The concept for free movement between the European countries is very old and it can be found through the Middle Ages (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/eu-countries/).

As was the case with the “Attic standard zone” modern Georgia aspires to become an economic part of Europe, its monetary system, unified currency – euro. Major steps have been made to this end since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The current EU-Georgia close relationship is based on the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. More importantly, the latter involves a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which came into force in mid-2016 and along with closer political ties aims to achieve deeper economic integration between Tbilisi and the EU (https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/georgia/).

Simultaneously with Georgia’s slow and steady economic integration into the EU economy, the country has also started to enjoy the benefits of institutionalized free movement of citizens across much of the European continent.

Thus there is a long history of Georgian economic and territorial integration into the European models of unified economic spaces. The above examples of the “Attic standard zone” as well as the modern European Union prove this point.

Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today

Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua is the Director of the Institute of Georgian History, Faculty of Humanities, at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University.

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Eastern Europe

Ukraine war’s first anniversary and beyond

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photo source: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

The first anniversary of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine falls on February 24. The Russian strategy of attrition war has not yet produced the desired political outcome but has been a success nonetheless, writes Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer M.K. Bhadrakumar.

The delusional “westernist” notions of the Moscow elite that Russia can be a dialogue partner of the West have dissipated thoroughly, with ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stunning disclosure recently that the West’s negotiations with Russia regarding the Minsk Agreement were an “attempt to give Ukraine time” and that Kiev had used it “to become stronger.”

Thus, the accession to Russia four ex-Ukrainian regions — Donetsk and Lugansk [Donbass], Zaporozhye, Kherson oblasts – accounting for around one-fifth of Ukrainian territory, is a fait accompli now, and Kiev’s recognition of it is a pre-requisite for any future peace talks.

The Kremlin has put necessary mechanisms in place to galvanise the defence industry and the economy to meet the needs of the military operations in Ukraine. From a long-term perspective, one historic outcome of the conflict is going to be Russia’s emergence as an unassailable military power that draws comparison with the Soviet Red Army, which the West will never again dare to confront. This is yet to sink in.

Under the plan approved by Putin, the Moscow and the Leningrad military districts will be created, three motorised rifle divisions will be formed in the Kherson and the Zaporozhye oblasts (that have been annexed in September) and an army corps will be built in the northwestern region of Karelia bordering Finland.

The internal western assessment is that the war is going badly for Ukraine. Spiegel reported last week that Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) “informed security politicians of the Bundestag in a secret meeting this week that the Ukrainian army is currently losing a three-digit number of soldiers every day in battles.”

The Biden Administration is hoping to buy time till spring to revamp the pulverised Ukrainian military and equip it with advanced weaponry. The old stocks of Soviet-era weaponry have been exhausted and future supplies to Ukraine will have to be from hardware in service with NATO countries. That is easier said than done, and western defence industry will need time to restart production.

All the bravado that ‘Kiev is preparing for an offensive to drive the Russians out of Ukraine’ has vanished.

The big picture, therefore, as the war enters the second year is that the West is working feverishly on plans, with the Biden Administration leading from the rear, to deliver heavy armour to the Ukrainian military by spring, including German Leopard tanks. If that happens, Russia is sure to retaliate with strikes on supply routes and warehouses in western Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev, the outspoken former Russian president who is close to Putin and serves as deputy chairman of the powerful security council, explicitly warned, “Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends.”

There is the ‘X’ factor — US domestic politics as it approaches the 2024 election year. The Republicans are insisting on an auditing of the tens of billions of dollars spent on Ukraine — $110 billion in military aid alone — making the Biden Administration accountable.

The CIA chief William Burns paid an unpublicised visit to Kiev, reportedly to transmit the message that US arms supplies beyond July may become problematic.

International Affairs

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China Still Ambivalent About the Middle Corridor

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Image Source: Mbkv717/Flickr

Despite the oft-touted momentum behind the Eurasian Middle Corridor circumventing Russia, China still appears not to be fully behind the project beset by geopolitical challenges and infrastructure hurdles.

Overlapping Interests

Russia’s war on Ukraine has been a game-changer for Eurasian connectivity. The route through north Eurasia running from China to Europe that served as a major conduit between the two is now less attractive as a result of the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow. China-EU shipments along the Northern Corridor have decreased by 40 percent according to data from October 2022. This new reality serves as a major incentive for finding alternative routes.

It is rare in geopolitics that so many states in such a short timeframe would agree on advancing a certain project. The Middle Corridor, connecting China and Europe via Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Black Sea, is a good example of a vision where different countries from across Eurasia have accelerated the work not only on promoting the idea, but also laying the ground for its expansion.

In the months following the invasion of Ukraine, the EU has re-invigorated its policies toward the wider Black Sea region and has actively engaged Central Asia through high-level visits, pledging economic and political support. No longer willing to trade with China through Russia, Brussels is now pushing for the expansion of the Middle Corridor.

Small nations along the Corridor, too, have upped their diplomatic game. Leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Central Asian states have grasped the emerging opportunity and begun inter-state cooperation through bilateral visits and the signing of memorandums on the minimization of tariffs and border crossing hurdles.

The effects of such cooperation are already evident. Indeed, emerging connectivity opportunities push the governments to reconsider their previous position on long-stalled projects such as the Anaklia deep sea port in the case of Georgia or the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, which the cooperating states pledged to begin work on in 2023.

Then, there is Turkey. Seeing an opening in the region, Ankara has increased its outreach to Central Asia already following Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in 2020. Effectively the initiator of the Middle Corridor idea back in 2000s, Turkey is now arguably one of the critical players driving the concept. A series of “block train” transports were initiated in recent years, traversing the corridor. In February 2021, a train reached China from Turkey’s eastern provinces after nearly twenty days of transit. In April 2022, another train was dispatched via the same route. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Kazakh colleague Kassym-Jomart Tokayev commended during their summit in Ankara in 2022 “the growth of cargo transit via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad and the East-West Middle Corridor.” Moreover, the two sides “stressed the importance of strengthening coordination between the relevant institutions for the effective and sustainable use of the Middle Corridor.”

Yet, one critical player– China – is largely missing. Beijing has rarely commented on the Middle Corridor and Chinese analysts write exceptionally little on the issue. Most importantly, Beijing has invested very little in the actual development of the corridor.

Significant Constraints

China’s reticence so far can be explained by pure pragmatism. Of course, there is a major imperative for Beijing to find alternative routes as transit through Russia becomes problematic. In that regard, the Caspian Sea and the South Caucasus indeed constitute geographically the shortest link to Europe.

Yet, the route is not an easy one – it is multimodal, i.e. consists of both sea lines and land routes and crosses multiple countries which have made little effort to synchronize their transit capabilities and develop infrastructure before 2022.

Currently, there is close to no joint tariff coordination, effective inter-governmental dialogue and adequate infrastructure to process the throughput which has been shipped through Russia. For instance, lack of infrastructure in the Caspian Sea prevents convenient transit from Central Asian ports to Azerbaijan. Similar troubles beset the Georgian side of the Black Sea, especially as there is no deep sea port. The construction of the Anaklia port was postponed due to political infighting in the country with new construction plans only recently announced. In 2022, the Middle Corridor could only absorb 3-5 percent of the China-EU trade, which limits Beijing’s interest in the route.

Finally, geopolitical factors, such as instability in the South Caucasus, have contributed to making the Middle Corridor not as attractive for China as it might seem on the first sight. Russian influence is a primary factor. Despite Russia’s current weakness and incrementally growing dependence on China, the latter will have to carefully measure how Moscow will be responding to the development of a route which circumvents it from the south, in the region where Moscow has four military bases.

Kremlin could potentially rupture the connection both politically and through the use of more radical measures if deemed necessary. Much will depend on how Moscow fares in Ukraine. Perhaps a victory might even embolden it to prevent the corridor from materializing. But even if defeated or bogged down in a protracted war, Russia’s behavior will remain unpredictable, keeping China at unease.

From the South Caucasus, the Middle Corridor continues to either the Black Sea or Turkey. The former is currently a war theater, with chances for peaceful implementation of the corridor quite limited. This leaves China with Turkey.

Ankara and Beijing have promoted inherently competing visions of Eurasian connectivity. There were even hints that Turkish and Chinese influence clashed in Azerbaijan, which limited China’s engagement in the expansion of the Middle Corridor. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the situation seems to have changed and Turkey and China have opened more active talks on cooperation along the corridor. For instance, China-Turkey Communication Forum was held in September 2022, focusing, among other things, on synergizing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the Turkey’s Middle Corridor. Yet, the pace of cooperation remains slow with little practical steps taken so far.

Looking Ahead

China might eventually grow interested in the re-invigorated Middle Corridor as a part of a hedging strategy. As was the case with silk roads in ancient and medieval times, trade corridors rarely remain static. They constantly adjust to emerging opportunities and evade potential geopolitical dangers. In the same vein, China’s massive BRI is far from stationary, but constantly evolving and adjusting to varying circumstances instead.

Although the South Caucasus and the Caspian Sea have not featured high in the BRI documents published by Beijing, the region can rise to rank higher among Chinese interests amid a new emerging geopolitical reality. This is especially the case if Russia grows even more sidelined in Eurasian geopolitics and Beijing realizes that betting on Russia long-term is a dead-end.

Author’s note: first published in chinaobservers

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Eastern Europe

A turning moment in Ukraine Crisis

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Germany’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine is a major moment in the Ukraine Crisis. It will have a far-reaching impact and may turn it into World War III. It is a tradition of the US to gang up to counter its adversaries. Iraq war, Libyan attacks, Syrian aggression, and the Occupation of Afghanistan, all were the result of allied forces, the US has the skills to make allies in addition to NATO and achieve its political objectives.

The US lobbies against its adversaries, and use all dirty tricks including media to malign its adversaries. They mislead the public and level the ground for the next stage – armed intervention. Looking at US interventions in any part of the world, you may conclude a similar approach.

Ukraine is also no exception. The US was preparing grounds for this crisis for a long and dragged Russia into it. Including Ukraine in NATO, was a red line for Russia, but, deliberately, this path was chosen to spoil global peace.

After failing all negotiations, Russia was left with no option except launch a special military operation on the same line as the 2014 Crimea operation. It was just a limited operation and should have been over after securing Russian borders only.

Unfortunately, the US had different intentions and trapped Russia in Ukraine and a full-scale war started. It was purely American war against Russia, but, as usual, America ganged up with NATO and also sought assistance and support from friendly countries.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the move on Wednesday, bowing to intensifying international pressure – led by the United States, Poland, and a bloc of other European nations, which called on Berlin to step up its military support and commit to sending their sought-after vehicles. The influx of Western tanks into the conflict has the potential to change the shape of the war. The shipments are a breakthrough in the West’s military support for Kyiv, signaling a bullish view around the world about Ukraine’s ability to reclaim occupied territory. Crucially, they may allow Ukraine to take the fighting to Moscow’s forces and re-capture more occupied land, rather than focusing primarily on beating back Russian attacks.

The US has increased its defense budget and military aid to Ukraine. It is aimed to attack Russia, not limited to liberating Ukraine only. It will prolong the war and let Russia bleed for longer.

Participation of Europe in conflict may worsen the situation and may harm Europe more. Although there are public rallies, protests, and agitations in major cities in Europe to end the Ukraine war or at least oppose Europe’s active participation. Some were chanting slogans to leave NATO. It seems the public understands the consequences but the rulers are blindly following US policies. It might create a rift between the public and rulers.

Blunders made by rulers, but, the price is being paid by the public, in the form of inflation, hikes in the price of fuel, energy, food, etc., are a common phenomenon all over Europe. The danger of spreading the war is at high risk.

Imagine, if Russia also seeks assistance from its allies and gangs up to conform to NATO aggression, it will be certainly a Word War III. Today, the World is obviously polarized and blocks are emerging rapidly.

It also can turn into nuclear war too. The 8 declared nuclear states have enough piles of nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world completely. It is scaring scenario.

But despite knowing the consequences, no one is taking any initiative to end the war and seek political solutions to the crisis. The US is not interested in the peaceful resolution of the disputes and Europe is blindly following America.

It is urged that the UN may intervene proactively and initiate a dialogue to reach an acceptable solution for all stakeholders. Unbiased, non-partisan nations may come forward to initiate peace dialogues. All peace-loving countries and individuals may act proactively and struggle to end the Ukraine crisis. Satisfying all concerned parties may achieve sustainable peace and avert any big disaster.

Humankind is the most precious thing in this universe and must be respected. Value human lives, save human lives, and without any discrimination protects human lives across the board all over the globe.

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