As the reality of the Vladimir Putin’s Crimean land grab sinks in, the most alarming aspect of it all is not the ease with which Russian troops seized the peninsula, but the way the Kremlin mobilized Russian public opinion behind its agenda.
When empires collapse, disputes over new borders – both political and cultural – are inevitable. Such disputes are especially acrimonious, and often turn violent, when the territory in dispute involves what the eminent French historian Pierre Nora called lieux de memoire – “places of memory” that are revered by citizens of a nation.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan could emerge as a winner in the international crisis over Crimea, if the West pushes away from Russia as a natural-gas supplier, Azerbaijani analysts say. Diplomatic sensitivities, namely a desire in Baku not to rile Russia, means that any Azerbaijani effort to capitalize on the crisis will take place behind the scenes.
A classic conflict is building in Georgia that pits matters of general interest against private gain, revolving around what many archeologists contend is the world’s oldest gold mine. Scientists and others want to preserve the area for further excavation and study. But the company that holds the mining rights to the site is more interested in seeing its investment pay off.
Back when it was called Stalinabad, former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin reportedly took a personal interest in the greening of his namesake city, now known as Dushanbe. A massive tree-planting initiative accordingly created a green canopy to shade the capital from Tajikistan’s scorching summers.
As elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Armenian women can expect to receive an array of toasts, flowers and little gifts on March 8, International Women’s Day. But there is one thing Armenian women won’t enjoy, or get anytime soon – a law covering domestic violence.
Most of the American bandwidth for developments in the former Soviet Union is being taken up these days by events in Ukraine. But in late February, something very interesting happened in Washington that had to do with Georgia.
The Russian-Ukrainian crisis over Crimea is forcing Turkey into a delicate balancing act: Ankara feels a need to be seen as a protector of the peninsula’s Tatar minority, yet it does not want to vex Russia’s paramount leader Vladimir Putin in a way that complicates Turkish-Russian economic arrangements.
The Russia-Ukraine crisis is putting the South Caucasus country of Georgia on a faster track toward closer ties with the European Union; less clear are the implications of the Crimean standoff for Georgia’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.