What were the political and economic issues in the 3 South Caucasus republics that led to their secession from the Soviet Union?
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Over the course of its political, economic, and social evolution, the USSR has developed several major conflicts, which were destined to change the landscape of the relationships between the republics for good in the future. To be more specific, the region known as South Ossetia seceded from Russia in 1991–1992, which triggered a major political and military conflict in the region.
It would be wrong to claim that the secession of North Ossetia was entirely unexpected; quite on the contrary, the phenomenon was comparatively easy to track at the very first stages of the development of separatist moods in the specified area. Likewise, the key to understanding the nature of the conflict was comparatively easy to identify in the two remaining republics, i.e., in Abkhazia and Transnistria. The same concerns the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which also stemmed from the clash between the needs of the local people and the course which the Soviet government was taking at the time.
As far as the political reasons are concerned, the lack of emphasis on the nationalities policy, the lack of support in the military conflicts against the states’ opponents, and few possibilities for further development in the successor states must be named as the key reasons for the specified states to secede from the former USSR and to develop their own governmental system (Smith 17). However, apart from the obvious political issues, which the local people had with the USSR leadership system, there were a number of economic problems, which led to the secession. Specifically, the economic failure of Gorbachev’s policy should be mentioned (Smith 16). The Perestroika strategy was obviously a failure in the specified regions; more to the point, with the key economic and financial resources spent on the above-mentioned Perestroika, people faced the threat of poverty and economic desolation. Consequently, the necessity to secede emerged (Smith, 16).
Indeed, a more detailed look at the policies, which were utilized by the former USSR in order to address the needs of the residents of the specified areas, will show that neither people’s needs for national identification nor their need for a decent economic and political environment were satisfied. For instance, the infamous policy of suppressing the needs of the local people’s need for cultural, political, and economic independence must top the list for the economic reasons for the specified states to secede from Georgia and the USSR in order to establish their own state with the specific economic climate tailored to the needs of the local residents: “While muddling through in its handling of a multiplicity of complex and very different nationality problems, Moscow had reluctantly come round to recognizing that the success of the whole reform program now depended on a resolution to the nationalities question” (Smith 17).
Likewise, the issue concerning the problem of national identity and the suppression of the latter within the totalitarian regime of the USSR deserves to be brought up. Among the key reasons for the residents of the above-mentioned areas to rebel against the USSR and to build their own sovereign states concerns the search for their national identity and the lack of support from the USSR. Indeed, the measures that the latter adopted in order to address the political concerns could be defined as harmful to the national identity of a range of Georgian people; as a result, North Ossetia, Abkhazia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh republic emerged.
What characteristics of Soviet society continue to exist in all entities of the South Caucasus, including the disputed territories?
Despite the fact that the USSR ceased to exist quite a long time ago, some of it still persists in the realm of the present-day South Caucasus in general and the disputed regions in particular. It should be noted, though, that a range of historians view the specified region as the remnants of the USSR and do not consider it as a separate entity. According to de Waal, the current economic and political specifics of the regions do not allow for identifying them as sovereign states with their own unique culture and identity: “The South Caucasus is in many ways a constructed region. Some will say that it exists only in mind, in the memory of a Soviet-era generation and the vision of policy analysts who devise concepts such as the “Eastern Partnership” project” (de Waal 94).
Though the opinion specified above can be deemed as erroneous in its categoricalness, one must still admit that most of the regions of South Caucasus display a very strong resemblance to the traditional economic and political patterns of the USSR. More to the point, the culture of the local residents as defined by the standards approved by the USSR government as well, and the struggle for independence, which the regions in question started, did not lead to the immediate recognition of the national identity by the residents: “A common history of Russian rule has shaped everything from railway systems to schooling to table customs” (de Waal 94). In other words, when it comes to defining the common characteristics of the entities in the South Caucasus, the lack of national identity and the prevalence of the Soviet traditions should be named first.
The resemblance to the USSR, however, ends at the point where the economy and political strategies of the states in question start to shine through. Indeed, as de Waal explains, politically, the three republics in question “tend to look to Europe” (173) and are included in the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (de Waal, 173). Therefore, it can be assumed that the regions in question have mostly cultural ties with the former USSR. As a result, numerous ethnic conflicts emerge as some of the people inhabiting South Caucasus tend to retain the traditions foisted on them by the Soviet leaders, whereas others are trying to locate the roots of their national identity (Smith 36).
Explain the key issues in the conflict between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, including a brief history and emphasizing the current status of the conflict
The necessity to identify the political and economic strategies, which the local population is going to benefit from as opposed to those that the former USSR adopted to regulate the aforementioned regions, became quite obvious as Azerbaijan and Armenia attempted at locating their national identity. However, when it comes to defining the key issues in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, one must mention the fact that the latter has been the subject of a major dispute and the subsequent military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia (de Waal 329). Despite the fact that the two nations seem to share a range of common characteristics in terms of their culture, they, in fact, have been developing a tangible hostility to each other for quite a while, and the conflict over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh region is a graphic example of that. As de Waal explains, “The rivalry between the two is a recurring theme in the nineteenth-century literature” (de Waal 329. Therefore, the specified conflict should not be viewed as something entirely unexpected; on the contrary, it was quite logical that the long-lasting hostility, which the two nations have been displaying to each other for decades, finally found release in a continuous dispute over the area in question. The territorial conflict, however, soon escalated to the military confrontation, which, in its turn, was powerful enough to set off a chain reaction of a military conflict of international proportions, which would, later on, serve as one of the major factors for the Soviet Union destruction (de Waal 96).
According to the existing records, the conflict was spawned from the “local grievances” (de Waal 96) and was eventually fuelled to become a large-scale military confrontation. The conflict started as the Nagorno-Karabakh region attempted at seceding and declaring its sovereignty from Azerbaijan. Although the former already existed as an enclave and, therefore, could be considered sovereign territory, the state parliament defined the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia as the further step in facilitating the political and economic safety of the state. The given measure, however, was not welcomed by the ethnic Armenian residents of the enclave; the resulting military conflict devastated both opponents financially and economically.
As far as the current status of the problem is concerned, one must mention that the issue is no longer topical for the Azeri and Armenian citizens; more to the point, Nagorno-Karabakh has lost its status as the zone of a military conflict (Smith 37). According to the latest data, “By 1993, Armenian force of arms had effectively cut off Nagorno-Karabakh from the rest of Azerbaijan” (Smith 37). Hence, it can be suggested that the issue in question is no longer going to spur any conflicts related either to the territorial unity of the states involved or the national identity of the people living in the specified regions. However, one must admit that the confrontation may be started once again if the residents of the region feel that their materialistic interests are not taken into account by the state government bodies (Smith 37).
Discuss achievements and challenges of citizen peacebuilding initiatives in the Karabakh conflict
The conflicts that were started based on the culture clash and the search for national integrity are rather hard to address due to the tension that surrounds such confrontations. Being emotionally fueled, the conflicts such as the Karabakh one are extremely hard to quell, as neither of the participants is willing to listen to the logical reasoning of the peacemakers.
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However, claiming that the residents of the region have finally reconciled seems far too early. Though the endeavors of the peacemakers are definitely worth appreciation, the region is still open to a range of threats, including the pressure that comes from the Russian government. It is quite obvious that the Russian leaders do not approve of the current policies of the seceded states, as well as the South Caucasus region policies regarding collaboration with the West in general. As de Waal put it, “Russian strategists often regard Western interests in the Caucasus as dilettantism” (de Waal 96).
Consequently, there is currently an impressive tension between the members of the Karabakh conflict. To be more specific, the states that used to be opponents in the confrontation still keep their eye open in order to get ready for the possible provocation or a certain change in the political environment that will spark the conflict once again.
The project launched in 2011 and ended in 2013 is clear-cut evidence of the fact that the truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia in terms of the Karabakh territory is very shaky. The impression that their demands have not been met in the course of conflict resolution infuriates the population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and makes the process of peacemaking extremely complicated. Because of the unceasing provocations, the process of peacemaking is under a consistent threat of becoming convoluted. The recent report proves that, despite the numerous endeavors of the peacemaking organizations to convince the opponents to reconcile, some people still feel that they have been fooled into making the wrong step that will cost them their national identity:
The year 2010 saw the launch of the first phase of the long-term EPNK project, which ended in 2011. The project was implemented through the efforts of the Finnish NGO Crisis Management Initiative, the Swedish NGO the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, and the three UK organizations Conciliation Resources, International Alert, and LINKS. (International Alert 11)
As the evidence provided above shows, the process of peace settlement has not ended yet. Official sources also state that “The second phase of this project began in 2012 and continues with the participation of the same organizations” (International Alert 11), which means that much is yet to be done in order to help the seceded states to retain their financial and economic assets, at the same time facilitating the environment for their search for their national identity.
International Alert. Advancing the Prospects for Peace. London, UK: International Alert. 2013. Web.
Smith, Graham. The Nationalities Question in the Post-Soviet States. London, UK: Longman. 1995. Print.
De Waal, Thomas. The Caucasus: An Introduction. Oxford, YK: Oxford University Press. 2010. Amazon database. Web.