Analysis‎ > ‎20.09.2011‎ > ‎


Gagik Harutyunyan

Geopolitical shifts at the beginning of the 20th century (World War I, revolution of 1917, collapse of the Russian and Ottoman Empires) turned out to be ordeal for Armenia – the Genocide and loss of the Western Armenia. Convulsions at the end of the 20th century caused by the defeat of the USSR in the Cold War, has also affected Armenian society; we suffered heavy losses in terms of economics, social and demographic situation and especially science and technologies. But at the same time, alongside with the losses Armenia managed to realize its national goals due to the civilizational resources and potential accumulated in the Second Republic. Armenia won the Artsakh war and managed to form the Third Republic and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. We will try to present schematically the stages of establishment of the new Armenian statehood and to reveal some regularities of that process.

It is known that de jure the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic achieved independence in 1991. But this stage of our history, in the context of establishment of a “non-Soviet” society and new forms of the Armenian statehood – RA and NKR – should be traced back from the February 20th, 1988, when the regional Soviet of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomic Region took a decision to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia and in Yerevan a mass rally took place in support of this initiative. Since those days the Soviet power in Armenia had declined.

Retrospective analysis of those events, which took place in the context of “perestroika” and collapse of the USSR, has come to prove that under the existing difficult situation the actions of the Armenian society and its elite, generally, were adequate. Under the elite here we should understand not only the members of “Karabakh Committee” in Yerevan and “Krunk” in Stepanakert and their closest associates. They of course played an important role in what happened and after that became the core of the government of both republics. Over that period all the segments of the people were mobilized. Under such conditions the notion of “elite” should be interpreted wider than it is accepted in the special literature.

And if we try to present the staging posts our society had passed in that period, it can be presented as the following conditional scheme:

  1. Establishment of the national socio-political movement, dismantling of the Soviet system, factual and judicial seceding of Armenia from the USSR (1988-1991).
  2. Organization of the armed resistance to the Azerbaijani aggression: at first spontaneous and then in the form of voluntary detachments and regular army. This process was finished by the victory over Azerbaijan and conclusion of the armistice in Bishkek (1989-1994).
  3. The process of establishment of the nation state in the format of two Armenian republics – the RA and NKR (19901 – currently).

The victory in the Artsakh conflict very often is attributed to the acknowledgment of their righteousness of cause, patriotism, courage and enthusiasm of the people. Of course no victory was possible without those factors. But those qualities were formed by other objective circumstances either. Let us try to single out the main which played an important role on that stage of our history.

  • Armenia, unlike other republics of the region, has a historical experience of the national and state management and self-organization. Even in the period when state attributes were lost, national elite preserved its manageability if not over the entire national community but at least over its main segments in one form or another (clerical and religious structures, autonomous princely lands, Armenian communities abroad or separate groups of the figures) in sense of national values and aspirations.
  • In the First and Second Republics political elite of new types were formed. Despite the ideological antagonism between the political figures of the First and the Second Republics they in general had made a lot for the preservation and development of the national ideas. After the fall of the First Republic Garegin Ter-Harutyunyan, Drastamat Kanayan and others continued their activity in the Disapora and their merit in preservation of the Armeniancy is great. In the Armenian SSR new plaid of the political figures was formed (Al. Myasnikyan, Y. Zarobyan and others) who managed to preserve in the Armenian society the national ideas directed particularly to the recognition of the Genocide and loss of the Western Armenia, reunion with Artsakh, Nakhijevan and Javakhq with the Armenian SSR. A high level of the political culture was also a characteristic of the NKAR where the representatives of the partisan and executive elite (R. Kocharyan, S. Sargsyan and others) headed the movement for joining the Armenian SSR.
  • The Armenian society managed to efficiently use the 70 years period of being a part of the USSR. At the end of the 1980s it surpassed all its regional neigbours in the spheres of education, science and engineering as well as in the industrial development. In Armenia a number of academic schools and directions were created which were headed by the world-known scientists (I. Orbeli, V. Hambardzumyan, A. Alikhnayan, S. Mergelyan and others). The availability of the “critical mass of the intellectuals” that had a high social status had a good impact on the spiritual and ideological condition of the society and it was rather natural that the representatives of that segment prevailed in “Karabakh Committee” (I. Muradyan, V. Manukyan, L. Ter-Petrosyan, R. Kazaryan, A. Manucharyan and others).
  • Despite the ideological restrictions the Second Republic was a kind of “free cultural zone” of the USSR where many great writers (A. Isahakyan, P. Sevak), artists (M. Saryan, G. Khanjyan) and composers (T. Mansuryan, A. Babajanyan) worked and this had a positive effect on the climate in the society. It is not a mere chance that in the voluntary detachments there were many representatives of the creative intelligentsia.
  • The Armenian society has always piety towards the military art. In the days of the Great Patriotic War a considerable number the Armenian officers appeared, among which the commanders of the highest ranks (H. Baghramyan, I. Isakov, A. Babajanyan, S. Khudyakov) were. More than 100 soldiers and officers got a star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. This had a great impact on the psychological mood of the Armenian society. Besides a centuries-old traditions and habits of non-regular armed resistance has preserved among the people and it manifested itself during the Artsakh conflict. The combination of the operative military art of the career officers (N. Ter-Grigoryan, G. Dalibaldyan, Kh. Ivanyan, S. Ohanyan and others) with the tactical skills of the commanders of the voluntary detachments (S. Babayan, L. Azgaltyan, A. Ghulyan and others) allowed defeating well equipped enemy.

But after winning the war and earning sovereignty, Armenia faced new challenges when it appeared outside the imperial space and one of those challenges was the devaluation of the so desired sovereignty,

According to the European historiography, nation states as a main form of the political organization of the society appeared in the 17th century after the end of the Thirty Years War and conclusion of the “Westphalian Peace” in 1648 which marked the beginning of the era of international relations based on the “nation state”. It is important to mention that this treaty had also marked other crucial circumstance – after it Holy Roman Empire, which tended to be the center of Europe, lost any opportunity to interfere into the affairs of other states. So with some reservations we may assert that the “Westphalian Peace” and formation of a new legal notion of “nation state” has initiated the fall of the local European “one-polar system” of the that era and formation of “multi-polar European world order”.

In post-Westphalian period nation states underwent transformation on various criteria. But at all times appearance of a big center in Europe, which tended to establish political supremacy, reduced the role of other states. This happened in times when Napoleon ruled and during the Cold War when the Socialist states bloc and countries of the “free world” delegated most of their authority correspondingly to Moscow and Washington. But alongside the fall of the two-polar system not only the Socialist states bloc collapsed but also all the illusions that “really sovereign” states would be formed had been ruined. Under the one-polar system new reality has emerged: the former socialist countries rushed towards the European Union and NATO and the only really sovereign country – Yugoslavia, was divided into small and not very self-sufficient states.

One way or the other all the republics of the former Soviet Union and countries of “people’s democracy” has acquired the attributes of sovereignty but the true political status of some of them does not defer much from the one they had before: the difference is that the center of control has been relocated from Moscow to Washington. Some of those countries are called in the analytical literature “proxy”, i.e. “held on trust” or the countries “with external control”. Here B. Disraeli’s statement that “Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent” can be brought.

Going back to the post-Cold War times it should be mentioned that in that period of crystallization of one-polar system (return to the “pre-Westphalian Peace” era) many publications about inevitable end of the state appeared; among them Martin van Creveld’s The Rise and Decline of the State can be mentioned. The concept was based on the idea that the increasing role of the transnational companies (TNC) and non-governmental organizations inevitably reduces the sovereignty of the states which under such conditions tend to turn some of their functions to other structures.

In this light let us bring some facts about TNC which are considered to be those to blame for the end of the state. It is believed that the first was the Order of the Knights Templars which undertook transnational banking in 1135. Today, according to the UN data, more than 65 thousand TNC exist in which 74 million people are involved. It is characteristic that 52 of 100 biggest economies are TNC and only 48 are states. The GDP of some of the TNC (Royal Dutch Shell, BP) is bigger that the GDP of Sweden, Argentina and etc. It is remarkable that 500 biggest TNC are from the US.

But the advocates of the “end” of the state have serious opponents. And it is not only the world culture elite which believe that devaluation of the sovereignty will bring to the cultural degeneration of nations. Today among the advocates of the nation states are philosophers, big political scientists, experts of authoritative “think tanks”. They believe that sovereign states, despite the transformations, will remain the main subjects of international relations and the most efficient instrument of control. According to the American military analysts the main challenge for the nation states is the activity of terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaida (a kind of radical Muslim “state substitute” version which declared jihad to other rather conventional state – “world Zionism”). This can be opposed only in case if nation state is preserved and developed.

The 2009 crisis gave weighty arguments to the adherents of the state when it turned out that it is impossible to overcome system convulsions without the interference of the state. Crisis obliged them to reconsider the dogmas of ultra-liberal economy, the elements of which are the TNC, from more critical stance. Understanding of the causes of the crisis brought to the changes particularly in European economic policy, some elements of which president Obama tries to adopt in the US.

But the formation of the multi-polar world order consolidated the stances of the nation state. This multi-polar world order in fact reminds “post-Westphalian” period. Multi-polarity implies the presence of several centers of power and correspondingly implementation of the multi-vector policy which is possible only under a strong state organization. The state organization makes even great demands when there are serious problems in the security sphere. All these circumstances are characteristic of Armenia either:

  • It is in the state of military and political confrontation with Azerbaijan because of the problems connected with the political status of the NKR. This confrontation is in fact going on in the mode of the “trench war”.
  • Due to the processes connected particularly with the international recognition of the Genocide, it has unsettled relations, which often turn into a confrontation, with the ally of Azerbaijan Turkey. This country carries out communicational blockade of Armenia, i.e. the relations with this country can be characterized as “neither war not peace”.
  • The aforementioned factors imply implementation of multi-vector policy, which is not very convenient from the point of view of diplomacy, with both strategic partner Russia (CSTO) and West (US, NATO, EU).

Another problem which cannot be solved without effective state is the domestic challenges. Twice – in October 1999, after the shooting of the political leaders in parliament and after the attempt of the radical opposition to implement “colour revolution” in March 2008 – Armenia appeared in difficult situation. There is no doubt that the settlement of those crises would have been impossible but for the eager measures of the state structures.

But the task of strengthening of the Armenian statehood is topical not only in the light of the external and domestic threats. Consolidation of the Diaspora in the context of national interests, even in case when the net-centric system of organization is the optimal, also implies the availability of the ideological center which must be and can be only a strong Armenian state (at least because there is no other alternative yet).

The aforementioned factors simply compel Armenia to have a strong state with maximum mobilized resources and highest possible level of sovereignty. This is the simple logic of our national security.

1Multiparty elections of the Supreme Soviet of the Arm. SSR, which had a real authority, and formation of the government took place back in 1990, i.e. before the secession from the USSR in 1991.

Source: Noravank Foundation, 20 September 2011