Transcaucasian Boundaries

Transcaucasian Boundaries

Transcaucasian Boundaries

Transcaucasian Boundaries

Synopsis

Transcaucasian boundaries" provides the first insights into the geopolitical dynamics in this ethnically diverse and turbulent region of the former Soviet Union. The interplay between the former controlling powers of Iran, Turkey and Russia is examined, and the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabagh, Ossetia and Abkhazia are subject to expert analysis. The roles of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are considered in detail, their relative weakness having held back the transition towards democratic free-market entities of pluralist composition. Questions of minority rights, territorial settlement and the inviolability of state borders are central to an understanding of this part of the world; these issues are manifest all too violently when combined with the nationalist forces prevalent throughout Transcaucasia. All students of geopolitics and ethnic issues will find this volume a worthwhile contribution to understanding the complex geopolitical problems of a richly diverse and fascinating region.

Excerpt

Nicholas awde

The Caucasus is perhaps best described as a mosaic of peoples ancient and modern intertwined across a complex, often inaccessible geography that has made it a crossroads linking not only east and west but equally north and south. Part of the Silk Route, the region has long been the object of imperialistic ambition, and there are few empires of Europe and Asia that have not included a slice of the Caucasus within their marches. the Caucasian map of today owes as much to the upheavals and invasions of Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire as it does to eighty years of Soviet rule and the pipeline lobby. the fact that the area today is considered internationally to hold a significance far greater than its size and population at first glance would merit, is therefore unsurprising.

Even from its first inklings, the idea of a conference to examine the geopolitical and territorial problems of the Caucasus was going to have a natural bias towards looking at the historical record. At the very least, such an examination promised to provide useful initial principles for understanding the present and future situation in a vastly complex field, rarely subjected to effective exploration. a conviction of the importance of such a historical process for an understanding of the whole Caucasian question- whose importance might have been intuited, but whose manifestations are still sometimes uncertainly grasped-was therefore intrinsic to the original planning for the conference on Transcaucasian boundaries. At the same time, it is always worth bearing in mind that “history may be of limited relevance to explaining the contemporary post-Soviet situation”, as Fred Halliday points out in his chapter.

For many in the West, the Caucasus long conjured up images that reflected Russia's own nostalgic view of the area-their “Jewel in the Crown”. But gone now is the land that inspired Tolstoy, Pushkin and Mayakovsky, and which provided idyllic holidays by the Black Sea for millions of Russians; now the associations are rather of mafia “hotbeds”, ethnic strife, ethnic cleansing, border clashes, the war in Chechnya. the Caucasus of today, as Margot Light in her chapter wryly observes, is said to be “the most militarized area in the world”. Central to continuing instability in the region is the proliferation of ethnic nationalism. in a patchwork of more than 50 peoples-indigenous or otherwise-numbering from under 300 to

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