Georgia on My Mind

Georgia the non-country. Georgia the aggressor. Georgia the abuser of Armenia’s (and evidently others too). But according to the government-line-parroting Western media and the spirit of its coverage of the last three weeks of Georgian upheaval, we’re supposed to feel sorry for this “country” and the egotistical whelp that took its presidency through a polite, U.S. supported coup. About par for the course as international politics go.

Why non-country? There are three identifiable regions from Soviet times– Abkhazia, Ajaria, and Ossetia– peopled by non-“Georgians”. Add to that the Mtzkhetians (or Meskhetan “Turks”) and the Armenia’s in Georgian-occupied Javakhk and the significant numbers of Azeri Turks in the Eastern part of the “country”. It should be getting ever clearer that this assemblage was not meant to be. And this is an improvement over ancient times. According to my “History of the Caucasus” course notes, (Dr. Robert Hewsen, University of Pennsylvania, Spring 1982), Strabo, the ancient Greek geographer, mentions that a Greek colony located in what is today called Georgia, had 300 translators! Later, the Arabs referred to the Caucasus as the Mount of Tongues. Even Azerbaijan is far from ethno-nationally homogeneous. It has at least three non-Turkic nationalities that I can think of right away. Neither of these two countries as currently constituted should exist, it’s just begging for trouble.

Why the aggressor? Well, it ought to be obvious, since that much the media has gotten right. The Georgian army charged into Ossetia under cover of the Olympics’ glare. Let’s not forget that just a few weeks before that, Georgian authorities had been instigating trouble among the Armenia’s of Javkhk with mass arrests. Also, when the whelp Mikheil Saakashvili first ascended to the presidency of the “country”, one of his first steps was to banish the (admittedly far from nice guy) “boss” of Ajaria to assert control over the region. He’s stated repeatedly his goal of “restoring” the “breakaway regions”–Abkhazia and Ossetia–to Georgian subjugation. That certainly indicates longstanding aggressive intent.

Why the abuser? As far back as the immediate post-Genocide period, the Georgians were busy skimming relief supplies destined for our survivors. Nice! They did the same after the 1988 earthquake. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, they’ve been making life difficult for Armenia’s living in Georgia in many ways– language and history instruction, employment issues, etc.– similar to what some of our Middle Eastern communities have experienced at times. Armenian churches have been, and are at risk of being, confiscated by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Speaking plainly, I think most Armenia’s were silently cheering at Georgia’s drubbing. But the news is not all good. There are the obvious supply-line issues. Much of Armenia’s energy and trade transits through that non-country. You’ve all read about the shortages of fuel in Armenia resulting from the conflict. This also creates pressure on Armenia’s government to secure the opening of the Turkish border– a disaster, as I’ve noted before. Noises are already being made in this regard. How else to explain the repairs commencing on the Coomayree (Gyumri)- (G)Kars rail line, closed since 1993?

Russian actions will also temper the bravado of the Turks to our East. Observers have already noted the panic in Baku. This could lead to Aliyev the Younger’s making concessions to Moscow, particularly on the energy transport front, leading to the Russia’s tilting in favor of the Azeris regarding Artzakh, hardly a desirable result for us.

Conversely, there’s also a legalistic ray of hope that can be seen for Artzakh’s independence receiving (partial) international recognition. The U.S.-led West recognized Kosovo’s independence and now Russia, as it insinuated when that happened, has recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. The politics of the two mutually spite-inspired “recognitions” differ, both from one another and from Artzakh. Yet, both cases are grounded in the principle of self-determination beating out the ridiculous, status quo worshipping, standard of the “inviolability of borders”.

But more important than these immediate and medium term consequences are the ramifications of a resurgent, IMPERIAL sounding, Russia. Trite as it might seem after you’ve read and heard it countless times in the media, Russia, high on its oil-gas based economic resurgence, wants to consolidate political benefits as well. From the perspective of a once (and probably future) leading world power, this is not surprising. For Armenia, with Turks on either side, this kind of Russian rise can spell trouble. It can easy limit wiggle room between the U.S. and Russia (while simultaneously restoring to Turkey some of the wiggle room it enjoyed during the Cold War). Already there are hints that Russia is pressuring Armenia to choose sides.

Finally, on the intrigue- and conspiracy-mongering fronts, I have to wonder: How much of this was anticipated and played into Serzh Sarkissian’s kissing-up-to-Turkey ploy?

Once again, I’m reminded of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”, %u218cause we sure are. As to action, one thing is clear, the role of the Diaspora becomes ever more important to Armenia’s future. Armenia’s leaders should become better cognizant of this and we should drive the message home during our interactions with our compatriots living on the Eastern fragment of our Homeland. We should also ratchet up our political participation in our host countries to develop our leverage.

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