Saturday, June 2, 2018

Four Centenaries of Statehood in the Caucasus Challenge Their Current Residents

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 1 – In the past ten days, the peoples of the Caucasus have been marking with varying degrees of intensity the centenaries of the establishment of independent states  following the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917 – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Mountaineer Republic of the North Caucasus.

            For the first three, these anniversary provide both a source of pride and a comparison with the current situation to the past (,, and; for the fourth, it is a chance  to consider both past and future (

            Because each of these republics was very different from the situation that obtains now, because they did not last long before being suppressed and supplanted by the Red Army, and because the Soviet government did what it could to blacken their reputations, these anniversaries also have been occasions for the continuation of national rebirth.

            In none of them has that process been entirely easy, but it is critically important not only because an honest assessment of the past is a requirement for building a better future but also because it is now common ground that those former Soviet states which had a past to recover and build on generally have done far better than those lacking such a past.

            Because Armenia is currently going through its own political turmoil, the May 28th centenary of the republic attracted less attention than might otherwise have been the case. But the attention it did gain stressed both the threats Armenia was able to counter in 1918 and the ways in which some of those very same threats continue (

            The commemoration of the anniversary of the formation of the Republic of Azerbaijan was the most complicated. On the one hand, there was enormous pride both in government circles and in the population that Azerbaijan in 1918 was the first secular republic in the Muslim world, thus setting the country on a course it resumed in 1991.

            On the other hand, demonstrators appeared calling for the restoration of the democratic principles which informed Azerbaijan in the first republic, principles they very much feel are being violated now.  Not surprisingly, the authorities arrested many of those involved ( and

            In Georgia, the anniversary passed with less controversy but with a quiet pride. Numerous Georgians and Georgian historians told journalists that the first republic more than anything else defined Georgia’s identity and continues to guide its policies despite everything that has changed in the world.

                And in the North Caucasus, where the Mountaineer Republic was suppressed and has not been restored, the centenary passed almost unnoticed. The officials of the non-Russian republics have little interest in talking about regional regimes; and the population has little knowledge of the time when the non-Russian “mountaineers” cooperated against Moscow.

                But it is entirely possible that if the Putin regime suppresses the non-Russian republics as it seems on course to do, the experience of the Mountaineer Republic will become more relevant – and a greater threat to Moscow’s control of the region than any of the constituent non-Russian republics currently is.   

No comments:

Post a Comment