Interview with Dr. Andrew Andersen by Teimuraz Toumanishvilli | Georgia Caucasus Strategic Studies Institute

Interview with Dr. Andrew Andersen by Teimuraz Toumanishvilli | Georgia Caucasus Strategic Studies Institute


  • ISBN-10: 1495381455 / ISBN-13: 978-1495381454
Dr. Andersen is a historian, a publicist and a journalist. In 2014, Dr. Andersen published his book ABKHAZIA AND SOCHI: THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT 1918-1921. In his interview he told us many interesting, even fascinating facts about Caucasus region, its peoples and customs, and its importance in the future international conflicts.
… In theory, the region is of certain interest to both the West and the Kremlin. In fact, the West should be interested a bit more, as the South Caucasus is a sort of a land bridge between Europe and Asia bypassing Russia. Even in the distant past the Silk Road was partially running through this region during the period from the 4th century BC until the 1450s.
…there is no doubt that if “the third conquest of the South Caucasus” (the first one took place in 1801 – 1876 and the second one – in 1920-21) will, God forbid, happen, the Kremlin will get direct access to Iran and further – to the boiling Middle East. That conquest will also give Russia direct access to Turkey which at this point seems to be a relatively stable barrier to Russian expansionism, but the situation there is also quite complicated. Let us remember that it was as early as in 1919, when Earl George Curzon of Kedleston (British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from October 1919 to January 1924) expressed his strong belief that the importance of the South Caucasus to the Western world lay primarily in its geographical position that allowed the three new states of the region (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) to serve as a “palisade” against possible Russian expansion into the Middle East. That is why Curzon was actively lobbying in favour of maximal support of those new states up to direct military intervention in the South Caucasus. Those views on the South Caucasus were also shared Lord Alfred Milner (Secretary of State for War from April 1918 to January 1919) who strongly emphasized the importance of British occupation of the area even a year earlier – in 1918.


An Excerpt from an Interview



Q. Your latest book, Abkhazia and Sochi, is a historical analysis of events, which took place in 1918-1921 in Caucasus mountains area. The region is comparatively small, hardly visible on a world atlas. What attracts your attention to this place?
A. I should say that I was somehow attracted to the history of Eastern Europe and East Mediterranean from the early childhood. The history of those regions was quite dramatic and, at the same time, quite under-researched. At the same time it won’t be an exaggeration to say that more than once those nations used to serve as a shield that protected the core of European civilization form the incursions from the east that threatened to slow down its development.
Q. Tell us about recent conflicts in this region: what happened and how many victims of the violence?
A. After 1991 the region saw the Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as a few undeclared wars between Russian Federation and Georgia for the dominance over two Georgian provinces – Abkhazia and Samachablo -South Ossetia. 

Those wars resulted in hundreds thousands of killed, wounded and displaced civilians getting close to one million victims. Only in Abkhazia some 300 000 civilians (Georgians, Greeks, Estonians, Russians, Armenians, and Jews) were brutally murdered or expelled without the right of return.

Q. Regardless of moral and humanitarian considerations, who is more interested in
controlling this area? Russian rulers or the Western world?


A. In theory, the region is of certain interest to both the West and the Kremlin. In fact, the West should be interested a bit more providing that the South Caucasus is a sort of a land bridge between Europe and Asia bypassing Russia. Looking back into history one can see that the Silk Road was partially running through this region during the period from the 4th century BC until the 1450s.
Nowadays the Russian leaders are interested in “blowing up” that “bridge” so that the export flows of goods and hydrocarbons from Asia would keep going to Europe through Russia only. Of course, one cannot blow up that “bridge” physically, however it is quite possible to make it “impassable” – that is to destabilize it politically by applying to it a strategy of Lebanonization or even Somaliazation. To reach that goal, the Kremlinites are prepared to go as far as to invest huge sums of money into destructive political movements or to ignite inter-ethnic clashes and wars.
Q. Why conflicts in Caucasus did not trigger the same Western economic sanctions as the Ukrainian crisis?
A. The reasons behind the passiveness of the West are the same as those behind the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany at Munich in September 1938 or behind the betrayal of Poland attacked by the Nazis and the Soviets in September 1939. Actually even the Holocaust was for a while indirectly encouraged by the major democracies for the same reasons. All that was a result of sometimes exaggerated Western pragmatism that makes it reluctant to interfere in the conflicts that seem to present no direct threat to the West. At the same time the analysis of Western reaction to Soviet and post-Soviet aggressive policies often leads to the conclusion that for some unclear reasons the Kremlin is allowed to do many things that others are not allowed to do.
Q. At present the region is quiet. Why is that, and for how long?
A. Most likely the current relative quietness in the region indicates that the Kremlin has more or less successfully completed the minimum program by making the “South Caucasus bridge” if not “impassable” but at least unstable. Indeed, oil-rich Azerbaijan is stuck in clinch of unresolved Karabakh conflict; Armenia joined the Eurasian Economic Union and is completely tied to Russia both politically and financially; 
Ex-President of Georgia - Mikheil Saakashvili
Georgia is left more undefended and vulnerable for an invasion from the north (from Russia) after de-facto loss of her two strategically important provinces (and Samachablo -South Ossetia) in 1993-2008; plus, largely as a result of the Russian aggression of August 2008, the progressive government of Mikheil Saakashvili has been replaced by a puppet pro-Russian administration that is trying to slow down the process of Georgia’s integration into European and trans-Atlantic structures.
For how long is a good question. Less than hundred years ago Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin – the founder of the USSR – used to say that any tactical success of Russian international policy should be viewed as a “minimum payment” within a “collection process” at the end of which the Kremlin was to gain strategic success (e.g. full dominance of a certain region). Basing on the teachings of their Communist idol both the Soviet and post-Soviet rulers of Russia tended (and still tend) to enjoy the benefits of various international treaties and agreements as if that was a “minimum payment” but like all collectors they never give up the idea of claiming the whole “debt”. Indeed, from the perspective of the Kremlinites the whole world owes something to Russia. In the situation around the South Caucasus “the full payment” means either full incorporation of the three independent nations of the region into Russian political structures with their total de-sovereignization, or their full-scale Somaliazation. No doubt that as soon as the Russian leaders accumulate enough resources to achieve their maximum program the current quietness will come to an end.
Q. Are there economic ties between Caucasus countries and Russia?
A. Oh, there definitely are. Armenian, for example, is more integrated into Russian economy than any other country of the region. Trade with Russia and other CIS countries covers about one third of all Armenian international trade, while its trade exchange with the developed world is substantially less. In contrast to Armenia, Azerbaijan’s export to Russia in 1914 was only 6 per cent of its total export, whereas its import, from Russia exceeds 22 per cent of its total import.

As for Georgia, one can say that its trade with Russia remains rather insignificant even after pro-Russian politicians came to power in 2012.


Q. Are there economic ties of these countries with the developed world? What products or services these countries can offer to developed countries?
A. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that these countries’ economic relationship with the western world exists and tends to develop. E.g., Armenian exports to the developed world are limited to cast iron, raw non-ferrous metals, foodstuff and agricultural products including brandies, precious stones and wood.
Azerbaijan offers primarily hydrocarbons including crude oil and other mineral oil products (about 90 per cent of total exports), as well as – cotton and other agricultural products. It is due to the oil industry that the exports of Azerbaijan are currently ten times higher than the total exports of Armenia and Georgia combined.
From Georgia Western companies import mostly ferro alloys, un wrought gold, scrap ferrous metals, copper ore, fruit and nuts. Among the finished products exported by Georgia to the developed world one should mention nitrogen fertilizers, cement, mineral water, alcohol and wine.
As can be seen from the above, these days the three South Caucasian nations offer almost exclusively raw materials, their export of finished products is limited, and the export of technologies from the South Caucasus is not even in question. However, the situation can change quite quickly providing that those countries are able to carry out effective reforms and modernize their economies to keep pace with the countries of the West. Indeed, less than70 years ago such countries as Taiwan and South Korea were known at the international market mostly as rice exporters, whereas today they are exporting high-quality industrial goods and the highest technologies. I, personally, see no reasons to believe that none of the three nations squeezed between Russia, Iran and Turkey are unable to follow the above example. The impressive results achieved by Georgia between 2008 and 2012 (when it was run by the Saakashvili’s United National Movement) have all amply proven that it is capable of rapid and effective modernization even under extreme circumstances, such as total bankruptcy, corruption and partial Russian occupation.
Q. Is there any chance that this region may cause a serious conflict between Russia and the Western World?
A. By itself, this region is hardly capable of provoke a large-scale conflict between Russia and whoever else. Nevertheless, any success (economic or social one) achieved by any of the three nations of the South Caucasus, significantly irritates the Kremlin. Russia also keeps seeking and so far quite successfully, to prevent the integration of that region into Euro-Atlantic structures. Even the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, caused by an attempt by the Georgian government forces to restore law and order in one of the breakaway enclaves (the so called “South Ossetia”) – did not provoke a serious conflict between Russia and the West. It looks as if the leaders of the West are panic-ally afraid to “annoy” the rulers of Russia and ready to give her "carte blanche" to any action within the limits of former USSR, maybe excluding the Baltic states only.
Q. What total independence of these countries means to Russia economically and politically?
A. To Moscow full independence and stability of these countries means the end of her almost exclusive control over the transit routes of Central Asian hydrocarbons to Europe. Accordingly, that means the decrease of gigantic profits collected by Russia’s political and business elites. In order to keep their profits the Kremlinites are ready, with no hesitation, to destroy the whole countries and sacrifice hundreds of thousands of human lives.

Additionally, the buildup of sustainable economy and real democracy even in one country of the South Caucasus would challenge the political dominance of the current Kremlin inhabitants over Russia. Imagine what can happen if one day the masses of Russian citizens find out that a prosperous society based on the rule of law and freedom is built in the Caucasus? In the Caucasus that has been traditionally believed in Russia to be a hotbed of corruption, gangster-ism and laziness! Facing such a success to the south of their borders the Russian masses may also start craving for decent life and freedom. That is what the Russian leaders are afraid of most of all. And that explains why Georgia had to face an open Russian invasion just when it came close to becoming a developed modern society. When the invasion failed (at least partially and largely due to US and EU support of Georgia), Putin’s administration escalated its costly interference in Georgia’s domestic politics that resulted in the fall of the UNM (United National Movement) government.


Q. Is it safe now to travel to Georgia or any other country in the Caucasus region?
A. A few years ago in terms of tourist safety Georgia was as good as Canada or the Nordic (Scandinavian) countries. Between 2008 and 2012 the administration of Mikheil Saakashvili succeeded in creating highly effective Western-style police forces and managed to eradicate theft and violent crime almost completely. The last 3 years saw a slight increase of the crime level in Georgia but, generally speaking, the country is still quite safe to visit.
In Armenia and Azerbaijan, the situation is worse in the sense that while travelling in those two countries you should be aware and cautious in terms of where you go and what you do. While travelling in Azerbaijan and Armenia one should try keeping a low profile and refrain from displaying any valuables such as cameras, computers or expensive jewelry. It would also be better to avoid traveling at night or isolating yourself.
Those willing (for any reasons whatsoever) to visit the breakaway territories of Georgia (the self-proclaimed “republics” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) should be aware of the following facts:

1. Georgian police is unable to guarantee your safety in the separatist-controlled territories.

2. The level of crime-related violence in those territories is very high as there is no police in the Western sense of the word while those who call themselves police are corrupt and almost as dangerous as the gangsters.

3. Visiting the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is considered a serious offense in Georgia and may result in prosecution including imprisonment.

I also would not recommend you to visit to Karabakh unless you are prepared to become persona non grata to the government of Azerbaijan.


Q. What would be interesting in these countries for a Western tourist?
A. Well, Western tourists will find a lot of interesting things there. For example, Georgia and Armenia – are the two enclaves of the ancient Christian civilization and culture, once dominant in the entire Middle East. Until recently the majority of westerners knew nothing about their existence. However, Armenia and Georgia are the last two countries of North-East Mediterranean region that managed to survive numerous foreign invasions, ethnic cleansing and assimilation since Biblical times. Lydia, Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, Pariadriya, Sophene… who in the West has ever heard of those once prosperous countries? Nobody, except half a dozen professional historians because all those countries of the region located between the Caucasus and Greece have long been destroyed and their population related to the Georgians and Armenians was either annihilated or assimilated by the Turks, Kurds and Arabs but Armenia and Georgia are still there. I am quite sure that many western tourists would be excited to see numerous monuments of ancient Christian architecture – all churches, monasteries, castles and ruins of fortresses that are scattered all over Georgia and Armenia.
At the same time, those who like old Islamic architecture will enjoy visiting Azerbaijan – the country that is quite similar to Iran and the Arab countries of the Middle East, albeit its climate is more temperate.
All the three countries of the South Caucasus boast a wide variety of museums and galleries. The music lovers may find it interesting to introduce to South Caucasian music and singing. Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani musical traditions and styles are very different from each other but all of them are quite interesting.Local cuisine is pretty interesting as well, not to mention Georgian wine and Armenian brandy.For the fans of alpine skiing there are good and inexpensive ski resorts in the region, plus the list of outdoor activities available in all the three countries includes rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding and rafting. Georgian Black Sea coast has been famous for years among international divers, and in Batumi, a yacht club has been recently opened.

Q. Tell us about food and restaurants in Georgia: cuisine, locations, hospitality, etc.
A. Georgian cuisine is very interesting and original. It is distantly similar to Greek one. However, because Georgia existed for thousands years at the crossroads of many cultures and influences, its recipes also bear some oriental influence. But as the Georgians are predominantly a Christian nation, none of the types of meat is a taboo in their cuisine. Georgian meat dishes can contain pork, lamb, beef, etc. The list of specifically Georgian recipes the popularity of which has worldwide fame include but is not limited to Satsivi, Lobio, Khinkali, Ghomi, Kharcho soup, Chakhokhbili, Khachapuri (Georgian Pizza) and Churchkhela. Georgian Cuisine is also marked by the use of certain sauces and condiments that are very different from both the European and Asian ones in terms of their composition and preparation technologies.
Georgia produces pretty good wines including reds, whites, sparkling and desert ones, some decent brandies and grappa known in Georgia as chacha.

As for the restaurants, I would recommend the places called Kopala and Pilpili in Tbilisi, as well as the network restaurants Samiqitno and Shemoikhede Genatsvale (in Georgian that means “come in darling”) scattered all over Georgia. There is also a very good and interesting restaurant called “Пур-пур” in Tbilisi although its cuisine is not Georgian. As of today, the prices in Georgian restaurants are quite affordable, so I would say without exaggeration that in Georgia you can enjoy “first world class service for third world prices”.Georgia can boast also some quite decent hotels including small private ones that are clean, cozy and affordable.

Talking about the service in general I should admit that in today’s Georgia its standards are on the European level with some… pre-WWII touch (being born after the last World war I am basing my opinion on the stories I heard from my grandfather about the pre-Soviet Latvia and from my great-grandma about pre-1917 Russia). I should add to the above that today’s Georgian waiters/waitresses, taxi drivers and other service personnel tend to offer you a classy service but, at the same time, keep their dignity and are free of any forms of servility. They treat you respectfully and courteously while counting on the same respect on your part towards them.


Q. Tell us some interesting facts or your observation about Georgia or any other country of this region.
A. My major observation during the last visit to Georgia was close to cultural due to the fact that over the past 10 years that country has changed beyond recognition. During that trip I was asked a few times whether it was my first visit to Georgia, and – believe it or not – I was not sure what to answer. Well, in fact it was way not the first visit at all… I traveled in Georgia during both the Soviet and early post-Soviet periods. But what has modern Georgia in common with the Kremlin-dominated “Georgian SSR”? Literally nothing! Maybe just the language, natural environment and the stones of old churches and castles? All the rest was so different that I had a feeling as if my last visit to Georgia was the first.
It might make little sense to analyse my old impressions of the Soviet Georgia now. In short, I did not like it at all: dirt and mess in the streets, poor sanitation, almost universal laziness, indifference, ridiculous prejudices, the dominance of criminality combined with unmotivated aggression of young people … Looking at the precious pieces of old architecture, I found myself thinking: “Well… I know… I know that Georgia is a country of ancient culture, but where did all the legacy go?” I still remember one night I spent in the house of an old farmer in the Borjomi Gorge in 1978. He asked me how I liked Georgia and with Nordic directness I told him about my negative experiences. After having listened to me the farmer gave me an advice that I remember to this day. He said: “Young man! Never judge a nation by its scum!” Now please do not misunderstand me. I certainly met quite a few interesting and decent people during those past trips to Georgia but, alas, they were giving the impression of precious pearls lost in a pile of manure. That was my impression of the Soviet Georgia.
And my last trip to Georgia gave an impression as if I visited not just a completely different country, but … sort of another planet or one of the science fiction worlds in a parallel dimension. That is how new Georgia differed both from the sunk into oblivion “Georgian SSR” and from what I expected to see.
Q. How different is Russian influence in Caucasus countries?
A. At this point the strongest influence of the Kremlin is, definitely, in Armenia. Although both the Armenian people and quite a few Armenian politicians are looking with certain hopes at the West, there is a widespread fear that Armenia may cease to exist if it stops being a Russian protectorate. Among the reasons behind that fear one can mention the conflict with Azerbaijan over Karabakh and the strained relations with Turkey. In fact, Armenia and Azerbaijan are still at war with each other, and though at the moment this conflict is in the passive or “standby” phase it can turn into explosive escalation at any moment. The Armenian-Turkish relations are quite bad mainly due to the Turkish support of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict. However, they are also clouded by the conflicting attitude to the Armenian genocide by the Turks in the years 1915-1921 and brutal territorial conflicts of the past.
Armenian relations with Georgia are better than with Azerbaijan and Turkey but they are also quite chilly. Although the conflicts between Armenians and Georgians never degenerated into ethnic cleansing and mass murders (the Georgian capital Tbilisi is still the home to hundreds thousands of ethnic Armenians), there are still some territorial disputes between the two neighboring nations. From the early 90s Russian propaganda has been aimed at spoiling Armenian-Georgian relations but, luckily, with very limited success. However, the relative political isolation of Armenia still keeps it in the Russian sphere of influence.
In contrast to Armenia, Georgian elites as well as the majority of Georgian population were always pro-Western and never pro-Russian. That roots both in the centuries-old traditions and largely in the fact that during the collapse of the Soviet Union and during the decades that followed, Russia launched a series of aggressive wars against Georgia (some of them undeclared like the current Russia’s war against Ukraine). As a result of those wars, Georgia de facto lost control over her two provinces – Abkhazia and the so called South Ossetia, where the occupant installed authoritarian puppet regimes basing on tribalistic ideologies. Following the instructions from Moscow those regimes conducted ethnic cleansings and massacres of local Georgians just for being Georgians. Alas all those facts still remain largely unknown in the west but are well known in Georgia that had to take care of hundreds of thousands of civil refugees.
From the first days of independence the Georgian public has been counting on the admission of Georgia into NATO and the European Union. In fact it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that between August 1991 and August 2008, Georgia was one of the very few unconditionally pro-American nations in the world. Unlike many other countries, in Georgia the majority of local people were dreaming about seeing the US military bases and American soldiers in their cities and suburbs. Many Georgians still want it today, but not as fervently as before. NATO’s rejection of Georgia’s application for membership with the Alliance just before the Russian invasion in 2008 and the refusal to supply defensive weapons to Tbilisi at the beginning of it was perceived by the considerable part of the Georgian public as a “betrayal” on the part and caused frustration and resentment. Especially because all that events were taking place against the background of Georgia’s active involvement in US-let campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the way, in early 2008, Georgia had deployed 2,300 troops in Iraq, becoming the third largest contributor coalition forces in the Iraq War at the same time being the largest non-NATO and the largest per capita troop contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with over 1,560 elite personnel on the ground.
While the Georgian adminstration of Mikheil Saakashvili worked hard on pursuing reforms and integrating into the structures of Europe and NATO, Georgia was facing relentless anti-Western propaganda campaign on the part of Russian government-sponsored television channels and some local Georgian media also supported by the Kremlin or its agents. Georgian public was fed the myth about “the brotherly Russian people” who, according to the mouthpieces of Russian propaganda, was “very sympathetic with Georgia” but could not demonstrate that because of “the bad Georgian government”. Unfortunately, that propaganda had certain success not only due to the Kremlin’s money being generously poured into the pro-Russian media, but mainly because the Georgian government kept ignoring it and did not attempt to counter it at all. To some extent, it also benefited from the long-standing relationship between the intellectual and creative elites of Russia and Georgia marked by one-sided pro-Russian sympathies on behalf of a certain segment of Georgian intellectuals – mainly the “Soviet-bred” ones.
Another popular Georgian institution that has been supporting the propaganda efforts of the Kremlin since 1991 was Georgian Orthodox church. The Georgians are on the whole very religious, and therefore the influence of the church and its head (the Catholicos-Patriarch) in Georgian society is quite substantial. However, since the beginning of second quarter of the 20th century and up until now, the Georgian Orthodox (just like the Russian Orthodox church), has been infiltrated on all levels by the officers and informers of the Russian secret services. In consequence, this institution serves as a cover for the network of the agents of Russian influence dressed in priestly vestments. Those agents are successfully working with their flock spreading a myth about some hypothetical “common values” with so called “co-religious brethren” in Russia as opposed to “the degenerative West that renounced Christian values”
As a result of the combined efforts of the Kremlin-sponsored media and pro-Russian clergy at the background of military defeat in 2008, the Georgian autumn of 2012 saw the change of government from the pro-Western United National Movement (UNM) to the pro-Kremlin Georgian Dream Coalition. Ironically, that change occurred using the democratic instruments that had been introduced by the Saakashvili’s UNM government. Without abandoning pro-Western rhetoric the new administration has been trying hard to turn the unoccupied Georgia into a Russian protectorate. Nevertheless, Russia’s influence in Georgia is still far less than in neighboring Armenia.
In connection with the Russian influence in the area and beyond, I would like to mention here one interesting and, I would say, – sad fact of recent history. Initially, after the restorationof Georgia’s independence, the majority of the Georgian public had utmost sympathy for the State of Israel. Israel was respected and admired. Saakashvili’s government was trying to learn from the Israeli experience, and an idea of possible Georgian-Israeli alliance was quite popular among the Georgian people basing on the fact that both nations were sort of “alien bodies” in the predominantly Muslim Middle East. However, in the summer of 2008 many Georgians got an impression that their sympathy towards Israel was one-sided. The reason for that was that a strang thing happened during the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008: the Russian command “mysteriously” got possession of the secret codes for the Israeli-made Hermes-450 unmanned aerial vehicles that had been purchased by Georgian Ministry of Defence in Israel. Self-explanatory, I am not the one who performed an investigation of that incident and thus I have no idea how exactly could that information leak happen but according to both the Russian and Georgian media, it was the leadership of Israel who for some reasons shared the codes with the Russian command. In fact, I would be very suspicious in regards with any information spread by the Russians but, in any case, the expensive high-tech drones were lost, and both that event and its media coverage caused substantial shock and disappointment in Georgia as well as a partial change of attitude towards the State of Israel.
Getting back to the Russian influence in the South Caucasus I almost forgot to mention the oil-rich Azerbaijan which is much less influenced by Russia than the other two nations of the region. Since the summer of 1918 when Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence for the first time in history, that nation was consistent in trying to associate itself with Turkey with which the Azerbaijani people share a common religion and a common language (in fact, the Azerbaijani language – is a dialect of Turkish). The Turco-Azerbaijani alliance fell apart in 1920 when the first Azerbaijani republic was crushed by the Red Army but as soon as the nation restored her independence in 1990, the Turkish influence there became dominant again and remains so today.
Q. Is there any chance for Russia to stretch its influence beyond Caucasus in Middle East and Asia?
A. Well, there is no doubt that if “the third conquest of the South Caucasus” (the first one took place in 1801 – 1876 and the second one – in 1920-21) will, God forbid, happen, the Kremlin will get direct access to Iran and further – to the boiling Middle East. That conquest will also give Russia direct access to Turkey which at this point seems to be a relatively stable barrier to Russian expansionism, but the situation there is also quite complicated. Let us remember that it was as early as in 1919, when Earl George Curzon of Kedleston (British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from October 1919 to January 1924) expressed his strong belief that the importance of the South Caucasus to the Western world lay primarily in its geographical position that allowed the three new states of the region (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) to serve as a “palisade” against possible Russian expansion into the Middle East. That is why Curzon was actively lobbying in favor of maximal support of those new states up to direct military intervention in the South Caucasus. Those views on the South Caucasus were also shared Lord Alfred Milner (Secretary of State for War from April 1918 to January 1919) who strongly emphasized the importance of British occupation of the area even a year earlier – in 1918.
Of course, in the times of Curzon and Milner the Middle East was dominated by Britain and France, while nowadays the first fiddle is played by other players, but that can hardly diminish the role of the South Caucasian “palisade”.
One should admit that at least before the recent changes in the political situation in Georgia, the two countries – Azerbaijan and Georgia- formed a fairly stable “land bridge” connecting Europe with Central Asia bypassing Russia and bypassing Turkey, which, although a NATO member state, keeps playing her own geopolitical games. But unfortunately since the Kremlin-backed forces came to power in Georgia, that bridge became less stable and less reliable.
Q. What propaganda efforts does Russia undertake to justify its politics towards the Caucasus region?
A. Both methodology and techniques of Russian neo-imperial propaganda justifying the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy aimed at the destruction of the South Caucasian states, do not differ much from those used against the other Russia’s’ neighbors to the west and south-west including Baltic States, Ukraine and Moldova. The main ideological message is that all those areas are historically Russian and if they are not included directly into the Russian Federation, they should be protectorates that would remain in the sphere of Russian influence or, as they say in the Kremlin and in the Russian media, “remain part of the Russian World”.
The Kremlin’s propagandists have learned a lot from the propaganda arsenal of the Third Reich. The propaganda aces of Nazi Germany strongly believed in the importance of the creation of a “fifth column” inside the states that were planned to be invaded. In many cases, the German-speaking minorities were chosen to be used as fifth columns. But in some отчер cases, that role was delegated to other ethnic groups, which later were denoted by the KGB experts as “the battering ram peoples”. For example, in 1939, the Nazis quite successfully used ethnic Ukrainians as “the battering ram” during their invasion of the south-eastern Poland.
As of today, the Russian followers of the Nazis prefer to use the Russian-speaking communities as fifth columns in such countries as Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and Moldova. As for the South Caucasian states and especially if we are talking about Georgia, one should say that there the local ethnic Russians for a number of reasons turned out not to suit for this role. So in Georgia instead of the Russians the Kremlinite strategists successfully used such “ram-peoples” as the Apsua-Abkhazians and Ossetians. Since the late 80s to the present day, the Russian secret services have also been working hard to use Georgia’s Armenian communities as “the battering ram” for further dismemberment of the Georgian state. Especially that refers to the population of predominantly Armenian-speaking province of Javakheti. Fortunately, the majority of Georgian citizens of Armenian descent manage not to succumb to the provocations of their Russian “well-wishers”, largely thanks to the rational position of the leadership of Armenia. After all the nations that can boast an old political culture know that during the storm of fortresses the battering rams are often broken – simply because this tool is not designed for careful handling. And ultimately the fate of “the battering ram peoples” usually ends tragically for them as well.


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About Dr Andrew Anderson


Dr. Andrew Andersen was born in Russia in 1959 and grew up in Siberia and Latvia. At the age of 15 he became interested in the history of the Caucasus. Since then his research base has grown significantly, and he has had the opportunity to travel extensively in the area and conduct field research.
Andersen received his Master’s degree from Moscow State University in 1980, where he later taught. In 1984 he obtained his Ph.D. from Moscow State University. Andersen’s Ph.D. thesis analyzed the US role in the Vietnam War (1962-75) and its mass media coverage. At the beginning of the Perestroika, Andersen left the USSR and settled in Germany, where he coordinated a number of Eastern European seminars, courses and projects organized by Wirtschaftsakademie in Kiel (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany). In 1994, Andrew Andersen emigrated to Canada. Between 1994 and 2003, Andrew Andersen taught at Simon Frazer University and the University of Victoria while doing intensive research into the dynamics of the political situation and conflicts in the Caucasus and other areas of Asia. In 2003 he became a research fellow at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary (Canada).

Andrew Andersen has written a number of books and articles for national and international professional magazines on ethnic, territorial and ideological conflicts, as well as on other international security-related issues, with emphasis on the South Caucasus.
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