Lithuanian expert: South Caucasus politics is still a difficult puzzle to Lithuania
Lzinios.lt interview with political commenter Imantas Melianas.
Recent revolutionary events in Armenia gained many praises from the West. In Lithuania too hopeful voices could be heard that this country would turn to a path of changes and could escape from Russian influence. However, according to political commenter Imantas Melianas, who has been researching Caucasus for many years, we often assess situation in South Caucasus not based on facts, but through myths, which often come from Kremlin.
-Why it is so hard to formulate this position?
-Because we often do not understand what happens in the region. Even the recent so called Armenian revolution – many politicians, diplomats and commenters cannot understand it very well. As in the past, we assess region’s countries by following stereotypes that some regimes are good and some are bad.
-Nikolas Pashinian and his supporters are congratulated with victory and some imagine that it was an inevitable triumph of democracy. But who actually won, who lost and how will Armenia change?
-It is too early to talk about real changes. I would not even call that event a revolution, it was more like a pseudo-maidan. Something was happening in Armenia for some time, but in the end nothing happened. How was it different from Ukraine’s ‘Dignity revolution’ or Sakartvelo’s ‘Rose revolution’? In those countries revolutions brought cardinal changes in politics and completely changed international orientation. Of course, the main change was that Sakartvelo and Ukraine turned their backs to Russia and moved towards the West.
Nothing like that happened in Armenia. All informational space, defense and economy of Armenia are still ‘synced’ to Russia. Many Armenians, especially those living in the West, sincerely want their country to be in European family of countries, but it would mean inevitable goodbye to Russia. Why it does not happen? Because Armenia is locked to Russia with a chain called Karabakh.
-Karabakh conflict is not the only one such conflict. Why it chained Armenians to Russia?
-In the eve of USSR collapse, so-called Karaganov doctrine was formulated in Russia, following which ethnic conflicts were caused in independence-seeking republics, in territories where Russians or other national minorities lived. With Moscow’s blessing, still unsolved conflicts rose in Transnistria and Sakartvelo, but the first experiment was carried out on Armenians.
Everything started in the seventies of the last century, when the issue of recognition of so called Armenian genocide was raised. By the way, the first country which suddenly started ‘caring’ very much about it was Uruguay, which later gladly recognized ‘statehood’ of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Meanwhile in Armenia genocide issue became a cult, worshiped if not from kindergarten then from first grade. Armenians were nurtured in an atmosphere of hatred to everything Turkic, mass publishing of pseudo-historic literature started praising idea that at least a third of Turkey’s territory is Armenian ethnic land. Territorial pretenses were also encouraged towards Sakartvelo and Azerbaijan.
During the collapse of Soviet Union, process started in Armenia that we could not even imagine happening in, for example, Vilnius. Planes from Beirut, carrying military equipment, weapons and Armenian ASALA fighters, landed in Yerevan. Soviet army and KGB calmly observed it, and that shows that Krakabk project, if not conceived in Moscow, that for sure carried out with her blessing.
Crimean and Donbas aggression are events of the same chain, and new conflict points are waiting for their turn in Narva, Daugavpils and even in Klaipeda. The parade is led by Vladislav Surkov, who in the environment of Vladimir Putin almost became a shadow minister ‘on issues of disintegrating neighbor countries’. I do not think that recent Armenian events could have been handled without him.
-In Lithuania, Karabakh conflict is often perceived as different than the ones in Abkhazia or Donbas.
-Strangely, many people in Lithuania, who are not pro-Russian and sincerely worry about Ukraine and Crimea, somehow completely differently assess what happened in Karabakh. They often ignore the fact that conflict had the same attributes as the others, but ‘everything is not like that’ in Karabakh, Moscow ‘has nothing to do with it’ and conflict rose because of hot blooded Caucasians’ inability to control themselves. Allegedly for hundreds of years they have been fighting among themselves and we should better not intervene. Sadly, such approach is wide spread not only among common people, but also on the professional level, as showed by several years old scandal of a conversation between Lithuanian diplomats.
-Would approach to Karabakh change after Pashinian won in Yerevan? Would Armenia want to regulate the conflict?
-I think that this could not happen now or in the near future. For several decades Armenian nation has been raised with a paradigm that neighbors are hostile to them and in their debt for ever, and it has stuck very deep in their heads. Not even those Armenians, who dream about Western future of their country, had overstep it.
Russian democrats openly declare that Russia must withdraw from occupied territories. During the whole month of unrests in Armenia, nothing similar was said about occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Even without raiding Karabakh issue, it is impossible to talk about Armenia’s escape from Russian influence, because these issues are directly and inseparably tied.
Even those Armenian intellectuals, who think their country has to withdraw from occupied territories, do not dare to talk about it openly. They cannot talk about turning away from Russia either – there were no such talks during so called revolution too. On the contrary, Pashinian and his supporters, after coming to power, thanked Russia for ‘understanding’ attitude to events in Armenia.
Really wishing to believe in democratic revolution, many commenters ignored facts showing that the only change in Armenia was that Karabakh clan had to give up its position to Yerevan clan.
Kremlin’s role in the ‘revolution’ very possible. This way caught in euphoria Armenian society was cheated by creating an illusion of people’s revolution and many observers in the West believed it too. However nothing is changing and Kremlin only wins from the fact that Armenians ‘released the steam’ in a controlled process.
It is possible that the new Armenian government, in which only personalities changed, not the quality, would receive support from fooled Western politicians, possibly even on the Krabakh issue. Of course, no one would propose formally incorporating Karabakh to Armenia, but for the merits of ‘anti-corruption revolution’