Region: the Missed Opportunities

By Karen OHANJANYAN
Coordinator of the Nagorno Karabakh Committee
“Helsinki Initiative-92”
Stepanakert

The South Caucasus with its rich hydrocarbon resources and minerals, as well as its unique communications location, during the recent two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union has become  not only an area of confrontation of interests of the global and regional powers for spheres of influence, but also a striking example of disintegration processes against the background of the intensive globalization of the humanity.

The uneven development of all component parts of the South Caucasus, be it recognized (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) or not recognized  (Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh) by the international community, is the major regional challenge  today, which is able to become a detonator of instability and the threat of resumption of military actions in the region, while the conflicts remain unsettled there. So it is quite apparent that the perspectives of the development of the South Caucasus should be considered in the context of the dynamic inter-relation of all its territorial-ethnic component parts and the parameters of the human dimension.

The rich hydrocarbon reserves of the Caspian basin, adjacent to the territorial seabed  of Azerbaijan and coinciding with the program of the European Union and other Western countries to diversify and secure the transportation routes of  gas and oil to the European markets completely change the importance of the whole South Caucasus in the agenda of the global politics. At the same time the available huge resources and unique communications possibilities turn the region into a hostage of the international agenda and ambitions of the regional states. So the price of the progress in the South Caucasus is directly tied up to challenges, coming out both from the global and regional powers, and from the situation that the internal conflicts have not been solved so far.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the South Caucasian countries have got a unique opportunity to rise above the national interests and turn into a dynamical part of the development of the global community. But, alas, the Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts have become not only the irreplaceable loss of dozens of thousands of  human lives and fates, but also  slowed down the development of the whole region for decades. And now, the absence of solutions for the conflicts on the territory of the South Caucasus, even in the conditions of the selected recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia, is a serious obstacle on the way to the democratization of the whole region. For the ruling elites of the recognized and not recognized states of the South Caucasus, the limitation freedoms is a form of prolongation of their regimes, the way of existence of the authoritarian structures of governance, mainly quite resembling each other. As a result, the overwhelming majority of the population in the South Caucasus are lacking the possibility for a serious participation in governing their states. They are also deprived of the possibility  to fairly distribute  the  wealth, created thanks to incredible revenues of the states, which are in fact distributed among a small group of oligarchs and ruling elites. So, on the whole South Caucasian space we can see the same picture: the total poverty of the peoples against the backdrop of the prosperity of the state “elites.” Even in the comparably richest country, Azerbaijan, there is almost no  difference in the living standards  its population with the populations of the neighboring states.

The absence of democracy or its imitation brings any control over the activity of the authorities to nought. That is why there is a total disappointment of masses, and disbelief in the better future. Even more, the energy of dissatisfaction of the masses, which grows up to mass protest manifestations in any other region and ends with revolutions and change of elites (as in the Middle East countries), practically does not work in the case of the South Caucasus. The elites blame the masses,  claiming that they are playing into hands of the external enemies (in the Georgian case it is Russia, in the Armenian case – it is Azerbaijan). The same can be said about the non-recognized states, where any struggle for restoration of real democracies is accompanied with the blames addressed by the authorities to the protesters: your actions are in favor of the people’s enemies, who can start the war at any moment and destroy the self-proclaimed independence… as a result the masses prefer not to become nominal phenomena for  descendants and history of their countries.

In addition, the elites in all South Caucasian countries have created very effective repression structures, capable to totally cut every sprout of grievances that might lead to change the authoritarian regimes. There is also a remarkable notion that sometimes the so called “elites” display a  striking solidarity in preserving status quos in their own countries, being zealous toward the positive changes in the democratic components of the neighboring countries, able to become  a contagious example.

As a result the elites and populations on the whole space of the South Caucasus are hostages of the processes, initiated by themselves,  and they bear the immediate responsibility for preserving status quos in social relations. The countries with the absence of serious democratic transformations justify their status and behavior by the available unresolved ethno-territorial conflicts. Very often the lack a serious development in the socio-economical sphere is explained by the existence of the unsettled conflict. Certainly, from the demagogical point of view, such a qualification is a solemn truth. But those people, who keep such an ideology, are afraid of taking the responsibility for changing the situation, the hostages of which they have become mindfully themselves.

Certainly, in the history of the contemporary South Caucasus there is an example of a bold change of the situation in the societies in the region of Georgia. Serious democratic transformations in Georgia after the victory of the Rose Revolution inspired the Georgian authorities, and the leaders of that country thought that they were able to solve the conflicts on its territory in a cardinal manner. Later on the regretful August events have led not only to the final loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Georgia, but also to the collapse of democratic processes and the offensive on the Saakashvili regime. The repressions against the democratic opposition are justified by the available external threat from Russia, and the democratic opposition is qualified by the authorities as the fifth column. Thus the example of the present-day Georgia also shows that in case of the democratic state the ruling elite and the population become hostages of circumstances…

Unfortunately, the international community, seeing the lack of a real progress in all dimensions of the democratic process in the whole South Caucasus, keeps supporting the governments of the countries, which are guilty for the current state of affairs, naively supposing that supporting  the regimes may lead to changes in the situations with democracy in these countries… However,  I am sure that the international organizations in this case should demonstrate coordinated actions to  enforce  the South Caucasian elites really changing the situation in their countries and providing the basic freedoms…  It is just in case of such an attitude that the societies of the South Caucasian states are able to use the unique chance of turning the region into a prosperous area with the rule of law for every citizen and harmonic self-expression of individuals.

 

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