What describes a nation, or more importantly who describes a nation? Nations like to tell about heroic, victorious events of their history, it is pleasant; they are proud of their famous compatriots. Moreover, they are flattered to be highly estimated by foreign prominent people for two and a half thousand years and sometimes that words have been even overestimated. But the first-hand sources confirm, consequently, they are real. Accordingly, it is needed to understand why they expressed glorious opinions about Armenians as the authors include famous thinkers of different nations and world greats.
There are many scientific hypotheses known in the history of science, which have been rationally explained for many, even hundreds of years. Great thinkers often come to intuitive conclusions that are incomprehensible to most of their contemporaries, they are even being criticized for their ideas. For decades, I kept viewing an approach by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656–1708), a great French thinker and member of Paris Academy who noted; “Armenian nation is the best nation in the world; they are moral, polite, full of chastity and decency.”
At first sight, one may take this kind of statement as unreasonable and exaggerated. Armenians are patriotic, proud, but they are very critical to themselves; even a nationalist Armenian will not express such ideas. At the same time, another French thinker, historian, famous geographer Jacques Élisée Reclus (1830–1905) claims: The Armenian villager can be attributed to what Turnefor said; “Armenians are the best people in the world without much exaggeration”, which, in its turn, means that there are still serious grounds for such opinions.
More than a hundred years after Tournefort, the great English poet Lord George Gordon Byron wrote. “The virtues of Armenians are their own, and the shortcomings are taken from others”. In short, Armenians are decent and perfect and the like.
At first glance, it seems that such opinions require a lot of different knowledge on many nations, which will let us come to a certain conclusion through comparison. In other words, it was necessary to study a certain set of knowledge, which was still quite narrow at the times of the mentioned authors. Accordingly, the conclusions had to have a different starting point.
From our point of view, that starting point could have been based on several notorious historical facts, in particular:
1) Testimonies of ancient Greek and Roman historians about the Armenian people and Armenia,
2) Although several dozen peoples lived in the Armenian Highlands and Mesopotamia in ancient times, but few survived, including the Armenian people,
3) Starting from the ancient Roman and Persian periods and throughout the Middle Ages, Armenia was the scene of savage invasions (Arabs, Mongols, Seljuks, Ottomans, etc.), but Armenians continued to keep their existence in the Armenian Highlands,
4) the last mentioned outstanding peace-loving characteristic of the Armenian people, which was manifested both during the powerful Armenian kingdoms and after the loss of statehood
5) Existence of Armenian colonies in many countries, including European ones, where Armenians, have both preserved their national identity, and, at the same time, having been integrated in the new national environment, have contributed to the prosperity of those countries,
6) The process of preserving and continuously developing the Armenian language, the theological, philosophical, scientific, literary heritage created in Armenian, and the publishing heritage, too,
7) Existence of unique Armenian culture, civilization, and also contribution of Armenians to world civilization.
These basic ideas, of course, are not exhaustive; there are and there will possible be other ideas, too. It is necessary to understand the main thing: who is the Armenian, what are his peculiarities and what it was that ensured his existence for millennia?
I will emphasize the following description of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a great German thinker about Armenians: “Hardworking and intelligent people”, “they have a special origin”, “all the nations accept Armenians with open arms”, they have “excellent mettle”, “it is impossible for us to talk about their preliminary formation”.
Till today, modern historiography, linguistics, and ethnography are not “able” to fully present the “preliminary formation” of the Armenian nation, but there are certain assumptions. But first, let us consider the “special origins” of the Armenian people. One thing is certain; the origin, development and formation of the Armenian people are hidden in the thick fog of thousands of years. At all events, according to the modern genetic research, scientists confirm that Armenians have lived in their highlands for more than 7-8 thousand years. The Armenian language and culture also testify to the mentioned facts. It is clear that the perfection of the language, the elaboration, the rich vocabulary, the ability to express thoughts, ideas, knowledge, human emotions could not be created even for centuries, it has, surely, taken millennia. Differently, the development of the language also has required a rich culture, the development of which also took millennia. Language and culture, complementing and enriching each other, as well as creatively assimilating and synthesizing the best values and traditions of neighboring languages and cultures, have become, one may say, a dominant language and culture of regional significance. Thanks to that, the Armenian people have survived in the Armenian Highlands for millennia.
When talking about the special origin of the Armenian people, one can’t help drawing attention to the Armenian Highlands. Generally, living in the mountains is viewed to be one of the best ways of protections from outside attacks, but limiting yourself to it does not yet give answers to many questions. The inhabitants of the mountainous regions have to constantly struggle and adapt to the harsh climatic conditions, and in order to achieve the result they need the joint efforts of the people, which, in its turn, forces them to develop special and stricter forms of coexistence as compared with the conditions in the valleys. On the contrary, mountains devote people certain advantages, such as working tools, raw materials for housing (obsidian, copper, tin, iron, various non-metallic building materials, and the like), easier means of self-protection, and all the rest. And finally, the mountains give people spiritual charge, spirituality, and also form a uniqueway of thinkingand a way of life which corresponds to it. The “One for all, all for one” thinking is typical, first of all, to the mountaineers. The evidence of the last mentioned is not only the way of life, behavior and manners of Armenians, but also of all mountain peoples.
There is not any coincidence that the civilizations formed in Mesopotamia, more specifically in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, have constantly been changed, and the Armenian civilization having been formed in the Armenian Highlands has kept maintaining its existence and developing steadily.
The mountaineer, whether he wants it or not, must be honest, decedent, hospitable, hardworking and inquisitive, physically and mentally healthy, conservative, apologist of public and individual order, initiative and courageous, and so on and so forth. Just as he receives guests with open arms, so he will be received with open arms, too. The mountaineer is in need of accepting guests just because he is isolated from the world and needs to be informed about what is going on in the world around him. This is how the “excellent mettle”, mentioned by Kant, has been formed. It is obvious that the bearer of all this is first of all the villager, to whom Reclu rightly attributes Turnefor’s words about Armenians.
The “open-arms” feature is also hardened in the cold. Armenians have also been involved in trade for centuries, which comes to say that they have not cheated in doing business, no matter how much they pursued personal interests, on the contrary, they have been able to attract customers, including members of royal families, great princes and feudal lords, nobles, local big merchants, and also to prove their honesty, kindness, without which they would have never been “welcomed with open arms”. Armenian merchants often also acted as royal translators, diplomats, achieved high positions in some countries, and became foreign ministers.
It is obvious that during the long contacts the Armenian merchants have not been engaged only in trade, but, simultaneously, have introduced Armenian culture, art, crafts to foreigners, participated in various events of the given country and the like. With their involvement, the Armenians have built churches, schools, established printing houses in the colonies, and came up with charitable initiatives. They have even had a special costume-suit worthy of the time and it is not accidental that Rousseau wore the clothes of an Armenian merchant to avoid political persecution. And, of course, the establishment of that country was well aware of all that.
Another characteristic Armenians have, is their peace-loving nature. Turnefor writes that Armenians “consider themselves to be happy when not dealing with weapons, “in contrast with other nations, they take up arms only to defend themselves against any attacks.” Another thing that is worth mentioning is the assurance of the Russian historian Sergei Glinka (1775 / 6-1847). “I am not writing praise, and how far are all stories(about Armenians) from praise? Armenians were not carried away by violent outbursts of conquest by the moral features of their national spirit as all that have been transitory.
Defending the homeland, preserving their own independence, withstanding external violence attempts-these are the main goals for them to get armed. Here is why Mihr, one of their pagan Gods, was a spiritual fire that preserved and would not harm the nature and man”. Let’s apply to J. Byron again. “It is difficult to find a chronology of a nation that is free from vicious crimes than that of the Armenians, whose virtues are the product of peace and whose vices are the result of repression”. An English politician, statesman William Ewart Gladstone (1805-1898) is also needed to be mentioned as a known person having written about Armenians; According to him, “Armenians are one of the oldest peoples of the Christian civilization and one of the most peaceful, entrepreneurial and sensible one in the world”, he also mentions that diligence, striving for peace, common sense are the main reasons why slavery was not formed in Armenia as a society.
We may continue the series of glorifying Armenians may be continued remembering the German orientalist V. Belkin member of the French Academy, Russian military historian Viktor Abaza (1831-1898) and others. Just let me mention that the biggest proof of the Armenians’ love of/ towards peace is their history, full of episodes of their struggle for independence and liberation, also known in the East for its arrogance, pages about great generals, war heroes and, finally, the best evidence is the epic poem “Sasna Tsrer”. An example of peace-loving feature of the Armenian people is the King Artashes I of the mighty empire of Greater Armenia, who marked the borders of the Armenian kingdom not through force of arms, but through the presence of an Armenian-speaking population. Generally, peace-loving is conditioned with diligence and the ability to acquire wealth on one’s own. For thousands years having lived in the strict conditions of the highlands, Armenians have learned to earn their own living, to work hard, to know the laws of nature, and also to realize that by robbing someone else’s property, you impoverish yourself. Having always been constant victim of the surrounding robbers, Armenians have forever realized that robbery is not the right way to live well. Robbery, theft, taking someone else’s property always causes resistance and as a result of robbery one should be ready not only to gain, but also to lose; one loses his children, his peace of mind, and often becomes a victim of robbery. There have existed many powerful empires, which have disappeared with their peoples before the eyes of Armenians. Every war, even a victorious one, gives birth to a new war and, predominantly, the winner becomes the loser. This is how the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Roman and Parthian empires disappeared from the face of the earth.
Since the ancient times, plunder has been an important part of the way of life of the peoples having in the European continent, but having adopted the ancient Greek philosophical rationalism, the Europeans did manage to greatly promote education, science, technology, develop the arts, and inherit the cruel, malevolent and arrogant path concentrating on urgent political and economic interests and due to that, they succeeded in ensuring a prosperous life for the “golden billion” of their citizens and subjects.
The thinkers of the European Enlightenment, who advocated the ideas of human rights, freedom, equality, “fraternity” proclaimed by the French Revolution, in fact did not have worthy followers and did not guarantee the embodiment of the idea of ”fraternity”. It was all this that led archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann Johann Ludwig Heinrich Julius Schliemann (1822-90) to come to the conclusion according to which “the tragedy of Europe is that its civilization is stood on the Greek rather than the Armenian culture”.
Today, the West is reaping the fruits of its sins; international terrorism and international migration. They are just germs and still Europe has a lot to pay for the atrocities, looting, wars, and damage to hundreds of peoples.
Above we mentioned about the Armenian colonies, which have a history of thousands of years, and not only multilingual literature, references-studies exist but also significant traces of material culture have been preserved. Some Armenian colonies have been created by the migration of Armenians, when for various reasons the Armenians were forced to leave their homeland, others by the forced resettlement or deportation of savage states. The forcible deportation had several goals: first, to evict the Armenian territories in order to appropriate them once and for all, on the other hand, to make those territories unattractive or unsuitable for the enemy neighboring countries. Our immediate neighbors, Byzantium, Persia, Rech Pospolita, Transylvania, Russia, India, have forcibly or peacefully populated villages, towns, and regions with Armenians. By deporting, sometimes taking advantage of, providing land, economic privileges, national educational, cultural, religious freedoms, granting internal autonomy, Armenians settled their uninhabited or occupied territories, using their commercial and craft potential for their own security and development. What was the reason for this kind of friendly attitude towards Armenians? The answer is obvious. Armenians are hardworking, progressive and, also, peace-loving/peaceful.
On this subject, I would love to remind a part from the history of the Crimea. When Russian Empress Catherine II (1762-96) instructed Prince Potemkin to seize the Crimea, he took the following step: invited the Greeks and Christian Armenians, granted tax and property privileges to his country. The caravans of Christian Armenians and Greeks moved to Christian Russia, as a result of which the short-lived worker collapsed economically and lost his resistance on the eve of the Russian invasion.
Byzantium once weakened the Armenian kingdoms, evicted Armenians, paved the way for the Turkish troops to the depths of the country, to Constantinople and perished, so the Turks did not shy/keep away from any means, even resorting to genocide and statelessness, depriving themselves of a viable Christian element.
The West will also greatly contribute to this, as soon as it gets rid of Britain’s “We have no fixed allies, we have no eternal enemies. Only our interests are immutable and eternal”(Henry Temple, Lord Palmerson, 1848) destructive philosophy. It is necessary to have “permanent friends”, which can be achieved only through mutually beneficial cooperation.
Although, at first sight, the words of praise from many famous foreigners about the Armenian people may seem to have been exaggerated, they are really justified. However, this does not still mean that Armenians are the “best” people of the world, at least because there are many “good” nations, who have greatly contributed to the development of human civilization. For centuries, Armenians, having been under the brutal rule of foreigners, have taken many of their flaws and now they have left the national-moral image of their ancestors out having lost many values. Accordingly, I am sending a message to Armenians not only to be proud of the glory and praise of the past, but also to make efforts to restore the special majesty and virtue of the Armenian nation, and to get rid of foreign flaws. Only with that self-purification and exaltation you will be able to consider yourself a virtuous people, which is more important than the praise of others.
Lithuania: pensioners get ready for death
Main attention of the Lithuanian media has been focused on migrant crises and security issues for several weeks. This problem has become also a good reason to once again draw the attention of the population to the need of increasing defense capabilities. This problem has become a good excuse for further increasing of the armed forces funding, new purchases in the defense sector. Talks, meetings, visits as usually ended with the promises to support the country on condition of increasing military spending by Lithuania itself. And Lithuanian agree without hesitation. Although it would be worth thinking.
Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė told a press conference the day before that this would raise defence spending from 2.03% in 2021 to 2.05% in 2022, Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT) reported on its website on 11 October. She added that Lithuanian political parties support the gradual increase of defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030.
These numbers are not only in the files. These are million of euros! Only this year the national defence spending is about EUR 1.017 billion or 2.02% of GDP. Next year the planned amount is EUR1.176 billion.
It should be noted that the recipients of this money will be the Ministry of Defenсe, and not the The State Border Guard Service at the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, which would be logical in this situation.
The more so, not only the State Border Guard Service urgently needs more funding.
The situation for pensioners in Lithuania is more difficult than ever. The pension they receive is not enough, ”says Grasilda Makarevičienė, President of the Lithuanian Association of Elderly Persons.
According to Grasilda Makarevičienė, there are different retirees. There are pensioners who worked in the government, they receive good pensions, but it is very difficult for an ordinary pensioner to survive. Moreover, now, during this period of the pandemia, medicines are very expensive. And prices went up significantly. Even potato, which is the main product of pensioners, have risen in price, ”G. Makarevičienė told LNK. She mentioned the absence of sufficient number of clinics in small towns and villages.
G. Makarevičienė noted that pensioners are already angry and they are on the brink of despair. She bitterly noted that when elderly people paid taxes and bought medicines, only from 70 to 100 euros remain for food. It should be said that every third person gets pension in Lithuania. It is awful, but about 30% of the elderly in the country live in poverty.
Do the authorities wait for Covid-19 to kill a large number of elderly people and thus, there would be no need to take measures and pay more pensioners?
Shifting Geography of the South Caucasus
One year since the end of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war allows us to wrap up major changes in and around the South Caucasus. Most of the changes discussed in the scholarly works so far focused on the role of Turkey and Russia. The shifting geography of the South Caucasus, however, has been disregarded.
In many ways, the war accelerated the pre-existing trends, but also initiated new developments. The first and foremost change concerns geography. The South Caucasus has been historically dominated by neighboring states. Whether it is the Sasanian and Byzantine empires in late antiquity or later Ottoman and Persian states, the region was exclusively subject to one or two powers. The idea is that the region was mostly closed to the outside, non-regional influence. The trend continued in 19th-20th centuries when the South Caucasus was exclusively dominated by Russian power. The end of the Soviet Union changed this geopolitical reality when several powers were able to penetrate the region. Yet the pace of the change was relatively slow – Russia was still able to minimize the extent to which the neighboring or non-regional countries were able to act in the South Caucasus: Turkey, Iran, US, EU, and to a certain extent, China have been influencing the region to a limited degree.
But the second Nagorno-Karabakh war accelerated this process. The South Caucasus’ borders are increasingly shifting. No single power or even a duo of countries can dominate the region. It reflects geopolitical changes in the world where the emerging multi-polar world ushers in a different set of rules. Exclusive geopolitical control is no longer viable and the 2020 war showed exactly this.
There is also yet another dimension of the unfolding geographic change. 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 powers around it. In a way, this re-emergence of close contacts between the South Caucasus and the Middle East is a return to normalcy which was disrupted in the early 19th century by Russian annexation of the South Caucasus. Indeed, in pure geographic terms the region is better connected to Turkey and Iran than to Russia, with which it shares the impassable Caucasus Mountain range.
This also means that the role of the South Caucasus in the thinking of Iran and Turkey, and by extension Russia, has grown. Considered if not as a complete backwater region in the calculus of large powers, the South Caucasus has nevertheless experienced a lack of attention. This was especially true for Iran, which now struggles to retain its weakening position in the region.
It is true that Iran was never a dominant power in the South Caucasus. Unlike Russia or Turkey, the traditional power brokers, it has not had a true ally. Tehran was certainly part of the calculus for states in the region, but it was not feared, like Ankara or Moscow. And yet, the South Caucasus represents an area of key influence for Iran, based on millennia of close political and cultural contacts various Persian empires had with the South Caucasus.
The 2020 war changed Iran’s calculus in the region as the Islamic Republic’s interests were largely unheeded. Iran has now to adjust to the changed geopolitical landscape and it can be even argued that the recent escalation it had with Azerbaijan over the detained trucks, drills, and alleged Israeli influence, was an effort to wedge itself back into the geopolitics of the South Caucasus.
Yet there is little Iran can realistically do to boost its position in the region. The South Caucasus will certainly feature higher in Tehran’s foreign policy agenda than before. But Tehran does not have an ally in the region, nor does it have financial means to strengthen its soft power. Iran can support Armenia in its efforts to balance the triumphant Azerbaijan.
The lifting of US-imposed sanctions could augment Iran’s projection of financial and diplomatic power in the South Caucasus. Still, a more realistic approach for Tehran would be to build closer cooperation with Russia. Both loath growing Turkish influence and the Islamic Republic does not object to growing Russian influence as much as it does resent the West’s and Turkey’s presence. Surely, interests with Russia do not align always, but for Tehran, Moscow is a traditional power in the South Caucasus which is about maintaining a status quo. Turkey, on the other hand, disrupts it seeking greater influence.
There has been a certain retrenchment of the Western influence in the South Caucasus. While it does not signify a definitive decline in West’s fortunes, it is nevertheless important for Washington and Brussels to formulate a more robust approach toward the region. Decreasing the tensions with the Turkey could be one of the steps. Increasing economic engagement with the region would be another. Delay could be damaging. Georgia, which serves as a door for the West to the Caspian basin and on to Central Asia, could be the biggest loser if Washington shifts its foreign policy away from the region. An alternative could be a Russian model of peacebuilding and regional order where Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan will face a lack of foreign policy options if the West’s unwillingness to commit to the region continues to grow. Author’s note: first published in caucasuswatch
Russia: The Neighbor From Hell
From Belarus to Ukraine to Georgia, an arc of instability has emerged, offering opportunities for malign activities by foreign powers. This has proved too tempting for Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which openly pursues an activist foreign policy seeking gains for the Kremlin at whatever cost to its neighbors. For the West, it is time to consider the wider Black Sea region as a whole and to develop a strategy.
The migrant crisis unfolding on the Belarusian-Polish border is the most pressing and serious emergency. For some months, the Belarus dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his security services have been funneling thousands of Middle Eastern migrants toward the EU border. Officially, Russia has distanced itself from the crisis, with President Vladimir Putin on November 13 denying claims he had helped to orchestrate a crisis.
Russia is often disbelieved by neighbors with unhappy experiences of its statecraft. In this case, too, there are reasons to doubt Putin’s words. Firstly, the Belarus migrant drama bears an uncanny resemblance to the events of 2016, when the Kremlin unleashed a sudden wave of developing world migrants across Finland’s and Norway’s Arctic borders. Secondly, few believe Lukashenka’s regime on its own is sufficiently organized to orchestrate events of complexity spanning two continents.
Russia’s rapid dispatch of advanced combat aircraft and paratroopers (two of whom died in the exercise) to the Belarus-Poland border and Putin’s contemptuous dismissal of Germany’s Chancellor and the EU’s senior head of government Angela Merkel (she was told to call Lukashenka herself) were open signals of approval for the Belarusian position. Only when Lukashenka mused that he might cut off gas supplies to Europe was he publicly slapped down by Russia. It was also notable that Russia and Belarus recently agreed on further steps in their on-again-off-again Union state.
To the south, in eastern Ukraine, the clouds are also gathering. Fighting is worsening with Russia’s separatists in Donbas, and ceasefire violations are spiking. US briefings now suggest around 100,000 military personnel and large amounts of armored equipment are located within reach of the border; military movements are being organized at night. Not only does this follow the deployment of large Russian formations for exercises in the Spring, but it also matches a threatening drumbeat of anti-Ukrainian rhetoric from Russian leaders including Putin, who have questioned the country’s right to an independent existence. The Kremlin has increased funding for the Donbas and pledged humanitarian support to the rebel-controlled regions thus facilitating trade between Russia and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The bottom line is that Russia is putting Ukraine back on the agenda and — as some predicted — forcing the Biden administration to take notice, despite its desire to park Russia and focus on China. Putin and his aides remain determined to build a near-exclusive sphere of influence in its neighborhood and Ukraine is the crown jewel in its geopolitical thinking. If Russia is finally seeking a settlement to its seven-year-long forever war, that would require agreement from Ukraine to effectively hand control of eastern regions to Russia and its local agents, plus a commitment to stop the country from joining Western military and economic institutions. There is no sign that Ukraine will agree to such constraints on its sovereignty.
Further south in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the West’s only partner in the region, is suffering a continuing crisis following the municipal elections in October and the former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s stealthy return to the country. He is now in prison on a hunger strike. Russia lurks here too. It might not be orchestrating the crisis, as in Belarus, but it does benefit. Russian media has been actively addressing the events in Georgia and playing on recurrent tensions between the country and its Western partners, especially the European Union (EU). As always, chaos — sometimes resulting from direct Russian interference, and sometimes not — makes it harder for candidate countries to meet the membership terms of Western clubs while emboldening those European countries sympathetic to Russia and skeptical of expansion. This makes it harder for organizations like the EU to engage Georgia.
Russia’s grand strategic aim is to maintain its power in neighboring states. That means keeping the West at bay, and political instability serves that purpose. Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia are distant, but the Kremlin is always present. In some cases, it resorts to military pressure to gain momentum, in other cases it sits and waits, but the pattern signals a clever use of opportunities as they arise, exploiting the space given by a West signaling decreasing willingness to engage in the wider Black Sea region.
Seen from the long-term perspective, the 1990s and 2000s were a period of a slow but steady decline of Russian influence in what then constituted the former Soviet Union. From the Kremlin’s point of view, the present period is much more productive, with concrete gains and the reversal of the West’s military and economic expansion. For Putin and his ministers, it seems likely that the US considers defending Ukraine, Georgia, and even involvement in the Belarus-Poland border crisis costlier than the potential benefits of having these countries within America’s geopolitical perimeter.
The ground is now prepared to seek a reversal of the West’s geopolitical gains and cast aside the wishes of the people of Ukraine and Georgia. The push against aspiring liberal democracies is now gathering pace, timed to coincide with a wider geopolitical shift, namely the recalibration of US foreign policy to east Asia.
Author’s note: first published in cepa
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