SPRING 2017

15 March 2017
War, Business & Politics: Informal networks and formal Institutions in Armenia
Alexander Iskandaryan, PhD, Director of the Caucasus Institute

Hrant Mikaelian, MA, Research Associate of the Caucasus Institute
Sergey Minasyan, PhD, Deputy Director and Head of Political Studies Department, Caucasus Institute

The seminar presents the results of a study of formal and informal groups and mechanisms within Armenia’s political, economic and military elites, aiming to reveal trends in formal institution-building and the changing role of informality in Armenia’s power system since its independence from the USSR. The study relies on data from over 50 interviews with elite actors, backed up by archive materials, media stories, and expert opinions. A separate case study looks at the emergence and evolution of the Armenian army.

22 February 2017
Armenian Volunteer Fighters in the Nagorno- Karabakh Conflict: From One War to the Next
Taline Papazian, Dr. in Political Science, a fellow at the Institute of Armenian Studies, University of Southern California.

In April 2016 the ‘Four-Day War’ erupted in Karabakh and on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This short but brutal bout of hostilities was one more manifestation, if any were needed, of the unstable situation – ‘neither war nor peace’ – that has reigned in Karabakh since the cease-fire in 1994. This chapter is questioning the notion of volunteering against the backdrop of a twenty-five year old unresolved conflict. It does so through an exploration of representations and motivations of volunteers from Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh. The purpose of this seminar is to offer some insights on the features of that particular societal response (volunteering) in a situation of politically non-resolved and militarily never-ending conflict.

FALL 2016

22 November 2016
Why Simple and Clear Strategies Can Be Dangerous: The Case of US-Saudi Relations during Clinton’s Presidency
Alen Shadunts, Alumnus of AUA MPSIA, Alumnus of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

U.S.-Saudi relations have become a matter of numerous debates when the U.S. Senate passed the “9/11 bill”, and the so-called “28-page document” was declassified suggesting ties between former Saudi officials and the 9/11 hijackers. They provoked questions on how justified the position towards Saudi Arabia was during the period when terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda started their anti-American campaigns. This seminar aims to shed light on this issue by exploring the U.S. perception of Saudis during Clinton’s presidency.
Firstly, the paper presents a thematic analysis of statements made by key foreign policy decision-makers in Washington in order to illustrate the main features of the U.S. position. Then it juxtaposes these findings with the actual developments in the discussed period. As a result, it finds certain misconceptions in the U.S. government about Saudis. Finally, with the help of the Cognitive Schemata Theory the paper claims that these misperceptions are due to oversimplified categorizations and superficial historical analogies. What seemed to be a precise strategy was a misleading guideline for the U.S. government.
The upcoming seminar will also discuss how the findings of the paper can be applied to current events, such as “the Obama Doctrine” and the Syrian Crisis.

15 November 2016
The ‘Other’ Citizens: Armenians in Turkey between Isolation and (dis)Integration
Hratch Tchilingirian, Associate Faculty Member, University of Oxford

More than a century after the Armenian Genocide, anti-Armenian public rhetoric, misrepresentations, false rumors and assumptions are commonplace in print and broadcast media, among government officials, public figures and the general public. Indeed, being an Armenian in the post-Genocide Republic of Turkey has meant going through a continuous process of state imposed and societal minoritization in virtually all aspects of communal and individual life. On the micro-social level “religious-cultural differences” between Armenians and Turks have not been defining markers of minority-majority interaction in Turkey. However, in the post-Genocide period, state discrimination against the Armenian community—and generally the non-Muslim minorities—has been institutionalized and systematically used towards the detriment of the target community. The speaker will present these issues and the processes of state and societal ‘othering’ of the Armenians in Turkey, with a particular focus on the impact of such policies and public discourses on the current situation of the community.

08 November 2016
Perspectives on the Karabakh Conflict Transformation
Artak Ayunts, Program Manager, Eurasia Partnership Foundation

The seminar explores the current stalemate in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, and perspectives for conflict transformation. As the conflict has remained dormant for more than 20 years, the political systems of the countries engaged in the conflict have adjusted to the conflict situation. The existing status quo serves the interests of the authorities, hence, the ruling regimes do not have strong incentives to seek conflict resolution. In these conditions, conflict transformation approaches are considered a necessary means to deal with the conflict. Given that, political elites have little incentive to implement such transformation, civil society actors come increasingly to the fore. Only through multitrack initiatives supported by civil society actors, we argue, can conflict transformation practices advance and subsequently bring peace to the region.

01 November 2016
Remedial Sovereignty and the Karabakh Conflict
Amb. Rouben Shougarian, Lecturer, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

The need for a broader approach to the concept of sovereignty in the early 90s was conditioned by the transition from quite predictable bipolarity of the cold war years to the as yet nebulous notion of unipolarity. Secessionist movements, followed by the parade of newly emerged sovereignties, electrified the FSU and Eastern Europe. This was the time to rethink sovereignty. The golden middle between yielding sovereignty to the former republics of the Soviet Union, and then urging them to partly compromise it back was found. One can call it “remedial sovereignty” that helped to avoid major collisions and bloodshed. This important fact is often overlooked and underestimated by contemporary political science, while it seems to be the most significant contribution to the future of Eurasian security.

25 October 2016
Armenia’s “Stateness Issue” and Its Post-War Democratization
Sos Avetisyan, MPhil, University of Oxford

Armenia’s post-war democratization appears stagnated and recently has attained some elements of authoritarian consolidation. Despite significant opposition challenges, incumbent regimes have endured. Various explanations have been offered to explain this phenomenon, such as the ability of the regime to use its coercive apparatus to suppress the opposition, the inability of external dimensions to encourage democratization, and the patrimonial nature of the regime. Some authors have also argued that the regime has instrumentalised the protracted conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to remain in power. However, to date there has not been comprehensive inquiry employed in order to understand the complex relationship between protracted conflict and the regime’s endurance. The paper aims to fill this theoretical lacuna by introducing a novel concept — “elite protection pact” (the concept of “protection pact” is borrowed from Dan Slater), and argues that Armenia’s regime endurance can be better explained through understanding how the presidents were able to enforce unity among strategic elites in the face of popular mobilization. The thesis argues the experience and ‘legitimacy’ of association with the early Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been expressed in the formation and continuation of an “elite protection pact”, which enabled and formed a consolidated authoritarian rule to deflect pressures for change both from opposition groups and from popular movements.

18 October 2016
Institutions for Future Generations
Axel Gosseries, Professor, Louvain University, Belgium

If we care about the future, we need a good sense of what justice towards our descendants requires. But we also need to design our institutions to give some voice to the interests of future people. The seminar will explore various institutional practical strategies available to try and avoid problematic short-termism in decision-making, and to promote a more long-term approach to politics. The seminar will draw on material from a forthcoming book from Oxford University Press jointly authored with Inigo Gonzalez.

04 October 2016
Modernization of Cities in the Post-Soviet Space
Narek Mkrtchyan, Armenian History Instructor, AUA

The aim of this seminar is to provide a comprehensive explanation for the reasons behind governments’ decisions to relocate and build new capital cities. The process of capital building is not a mere phenomenon of urbanization; rather it is a process of “text inventing” for nation-building projects. To emphasize identical implications behind city constructions, the seminar will discuss urbanization practices of Soviet Yerevan and Post-Soviet Astana. However, to verify the validity and generalizability of the proposed argument, the article will also briefly provide historical analysis of relocation of capitals from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and from Istanbul to Ankara. Capital reconstruction in Soviet Armenia in the 1920s might be characterized as a process that met the requirements and was somewhat typical of “torn countries” or countries that aimed to create a new identity. The central conceptual premise of the presentation is theoretical concepts of a “torn country” and the redefinition of civilizational identity. The American political scientist Samuel Huntington in his work “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” coins the terms “civilizational identity” and “torn country”. Samuel Huntington’s concept of a “torn country” as an essential, analytical tool made it possible to bring up the recent example of capital relocation in Kazakhstan by comparing it with other cases from different periods of history in an attempt to show the role of the city in the process of re/definition of the identity of a country in modern times. Thus, one of the reasons that capitals have been relocated and new capitals have been built throughout history is because there has been a need to initiate processes of identity transformation in the long run.