Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 18-24 July: The Black Wave

To a different extent, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan feel European.
Being European doesn't just mean to hope in membership in the EU, or in integration in the EU economic and social sphere, but share the processes that run across Europe.
Today painful awareness, time of sorrow, sense of powerlessness are spreading among those shocked Europeans who had been feeling uneasy for ages. All those who were concerned, hearing the propaganda of hate, seeing a model of social and cultural under-development replacing principles of enlightenment, humanity, trust in progress.

After the collapse of the big hopes of the previous century, petty glocalization and fears took the lead in many peoples' identities, turning them back to a mean conservatism whose main aim is to push back societies to what they had been eras ago, if ever.
A black wave floods Europe, bringing back a failed model.
What happened in Norway could have happened in Hungary, in Russia, or wherever the dreadful neo-con/neo-nazi movements are rooting (are rooted, indeed). Actually, what is surprising is that happened in Norway, not that it happened. For ages all the symptoms were ignored if not encouraged for short term political gains, in many countries.
It's high time to take a big breath and step back, for right wing, nationalist movements.

Does all this affect South Caucasus. Is the black wave touching its shores?
Somehow, yes. Independence has so far been coupled by an aggressive nationalism, often labelled by observers as a reaction to the Soviet period.
Well, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reaction should be exhausted and a more proactive and pragmatical approach to the re-organization of societies should be in progress. Nationalism so far led to the inability to start up virtuous spirals of state building and resulted in compromised territorial integrity, fragmentation of the corpus of citizens and limits in sovereignty, in regional isolation and poor performances in foreign policy at regional level.

It's the mechanism that antagonizes persons in Europe: rejection of differences, fears, search for an escaping goat.
In 2012 parliamentary elections will be held in Armenia and in Georgia. In 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia. A couple of years to reverse this self-destructive trend and submit to electors a brave new proposal.
Will anybody be so brave to draw a parallel, to declare the countries sick and in need to be cured of patriotisms that lead to mutual exclusions and to hate, extremism, amnesia of a common past? Will anybody voice their concern about a path that is leading nowhere?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 11-17 July: Красота спасет мир. Or may be not.

Summer, sun, holidays.
Everybody wants to enjoy warmth&light, after a long winter, before another long one.
Youngsters pack their backpacks and check on websites or on the Holy Book, the Lonely Planet, wild, enjoyable, affordable places.

Since the Holy Book of backpackers released an edition on Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the South Caucasus faced an increased number of budget travellers.
Many of them go hiking on the mountains, from Kazbegi to Aragats, spend some days in the characteristics Tbilisi downtown, mix with locals in Yerevan pubs and clubs, visit old Baku.
And then again into the wild, via marshrutka uphill, downhill, to monasteries, ruins, rivers, villages, thermal springs.

Tourists are fascinated by hospitality, variety (three countries, three alphabets, three languages, three religions...), the outstanding nature (and here again variety: from exotic flowers and palms to 5000 metres picks), unrecognized states... some of them, looking for an "adventurous" holiday, do their best to reach Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia.
You meet them in restaurants, questioning each other if with the Karabakh visa in the passport there will be problems upon entering Azerbaijan, or whether it would be better to pass via Iran to Nakhchivan and then...
There's one of the few places where all these political issues are just intriguing, and where the South Caucasus is nothing but a wonderful, united region, worthy to be travelled all over, up and down: a traveller's mind.

Summer festivals in cities, like the Golden Apricot International Festival in Yerevan, remind of the culture and of the art, both traditional and post-soviet, and of the existence of an intelligentija which doesn't enjoy the visibility it most probably deserves. Opened by a jazz concert in the sqaure in front of Moskva cinema, the Festival ends today, after having guested stars and intellectuals.

In this period of the year, in the bloom of tourist season, a refreshing breath of normality blows through the region.
Not that you need tourists for that, but somehow their presence reduces the perception of isolation. The diasporas come back, depopulated houses have their windows opened again.
It's the nice feeling that indeed, quoting the much inflated Dostojevskij's words, beauty will save the world.
Or may be not.

Monday, July 4, 2011


@ Yerevan
International Conference 15 Years of Achievements:
Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Iran and the Caucasus,

BRILL Academic Publishers