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New Publication: Insurgency-informed governance in the North Caucasus

This article analyses the dynamics of the insurgencies and the corresponding counter-insurgency measures in the North Caucasus over the past 25 years. By comparing three cases – Chechnya, Dagestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria – it identifies similarities and differences in the way insurgencies and counter-insurgency measures influence governance in the region.

The article analyses different dynamics and outcomes under similar framework conditions – a federal state with a centralised government trying to govern a region with a shared history of rebellions against central rule and with similar geographic, social, and cultural features facilitating resistance and insurgencies. It represents a promising approach to a better understanding of conditions and implications of insurgency-induced governance in post-Soviet Russia.

Click here to download the article.

New Publication: Georgia and Abkhazia Caught between Turkey and Russia

The new contribution by Andrea Weiss and Yana Zabanova (SWP) analyses Turkey's changing relations with Russia and the West in 2015–2016 and their impact on Georgia and Abkhazia.

The last strained relationships between Turkey and Russia have largely been discussed in terms of their implications for the Middle East, however, they have also affected Turkey and Russia's shared neighbourhood in the South Caucasus, including Georgia and its breakaway region of Abkhazia. The Turkish-Russian crisis called into question Abkhazia's strong ties with the large and active Turkish- Abkhaz diaspora, an important economic and societal actor in the de-facto state. In Georgia proper, the impact has been more ambivalent, with potential implications for the country's Euro-Atlantic integration processes.

Click here to download the article.

New Publication: Ethnos, Nation, Religion in the South Caucasus

Together with ISSICEU sister project CASCADE a special issue "Religion and society in the Caucasus: post-Soviet dynamics" was published in the journal "State, Religion and Church in Russia and Abroad", No. 2 (34), 2016. Prof. Agadjanian´s contribution to the issue deals with the interaction between religious, national, and ethnic identities in the South Caucasus. 

The paper focuses on the dominant paradigms in scholarship of identities that has undergone deep evolution towards post-modern washing-out of old solid concepts, such as ethnos, nations, and religion. It turns next to those objective and subjective developments in the emerging new societies of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which seem to contradict the fashionable academic episteme by recreating robust and powerful concepts of ethnos, nation, and religion. Finally, it suggests a more complex interpretation that would mitigate the above contradiction between dominant academic scholarship and the societal processes.

Click here to download the article (in Russian).

Upcoming Publication: Social Anthropology of Development and Stability at the Local Level

The ISSICEU team from the Kabardino-Balkarian State University prepared a first draft of the textbook "Social Anthropology of Development and Stability at the Local Level". The main focus of the textbook is the analysis of local conditions and their role in preventing from or contributing to the outburst of local conflicts in the Caucasus region. The textbook deals with the puzzle of why, despite the tense internal struggle for resources, power and influence, local conflicts remained non-violent and manageable.

The textbook will be of key interest to students of different disciplines, above all sociologists, political scientists, social geographers, economists, and jurists dealing with issues of stability and development at the local level.

The structure of the textbook comprises 12 interrelated themes. The textbook will be published in Russian to allow for a distribution to universities in the Caucasus. An English translation is considered.

The introduction and the table of contents can be downloaded here.

New Publicaton: APM Policy Brief on EU-Turkey Approach in the South Caucasus

This policy brief "Can We Envisage a Collaborative EU-Turkey Aprroach Supportive of Regionalism in the South Caucasus Today?" shifts the focus to Turkey's borderland with the South Caucasus. It looks at the issue of a possible cooperation between the EU and Turkey in their policy toward the South Caucasus and discusses the likelihood of accommodating Iran and Russia. The increasing tensions in the territorial conflicts and emerging intra-societal tensions call for a more focused policy toward the South Caucasus. The brief further elaborates possible forms of cooperative action in issues related to security, trade and energy, and people-to-people contacts.

Burcu Gülketin Punsmann (2016). "Can We Envisage A Collaborative EU-Turkey Approach Supportive of Regionalism in the South Caucasus Today?". APM Policy Brief, October 2016. [Click here to download the file].

ISSICEU and CASCADE Joint Event in Brussels


On October 18, 2016 the ISSICEU together with its sister project CASCADE (led by SIPRI) held a joint conference 'The European Union and the Caucasus: New Perspectives on an Evolving Relationship'. The conference marked the concluding policy event for the two projects and was designed to bring together leading policy makers and experts to discuss and reflect upon some of the main findings of the projects' research work. The particular focus for the meeting was two key issues at the heart of contemporary relations between the EU and the Caucasus: managing conflict and building peace in the region, and the question of migration. The event was organized in cooperation with Sweden's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and took place at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU.

In his keynote address H.E. Amb Mayr-Harting (Managing Director, Europe and Central Asia, EEAS) underlined the evolution of the EU's involvement with the region, such that today the EU understands the need of differentiation and building partnerships in different formats and through different tools. He also emphasized that the EU is not pressing any of its partners to choose between EU and other formats and countries (Russia) of cooperation. Amb Mayr-Harting highlighted the risks of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the region, and noted that the EU is assisting the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict by supporting the OSCE Minsk framework.

The panel discussion 'Shifting Challenges of Conflict Management in the Caucasus' explored the dynamics and drivers of conflict. The panel identified three drivers of conflict, including, the increasing disconnect and drifting apart of the societies affected by the conflict; instrumentalization of the conflict as a tool for power preservation by the political elites; Russian policy of selective revisionism: using the conflicts as tools to keep the affected countries in the state of controlled instability; the massive deterioration of international geopolitical context since 2014.

It has been noted that a set of processes have influenced the conflicts of the Caucasus and changed their nature. First, conflicts that were primarily local and driven by local grievances around inter-ethnic issues and struggle for resources in the immediate post-soviet period have been transformed into fundamentally inter-state conflicts. Second, conflicts themselves have become regionalized. Third, Russia's influence has evolved in all conflicts of the regions, to the extent that they have become an integral part of Moscow's foreign and security policy in the region. But, at the same time, the conflicts themselves have also reshaped the Russian state in the direction of a highly securitized institution. Fourth, the most dangerous tendency is integration of the Caucasus security dynamics into the security of other regions, particularly the Middle East and Black Sea regions.

The panel also considered the emerging influence of Iran in the South Caucasus. It was suggested that with the end of sanctions on Iran this year, the country's economic, political and social influence will begin to recover in the region. Economically, Iran is becoming more deeply engaged in the markets and regional infrastructure projects of the South Caucasus. Although, Iran does not play a major role in conflict resolution, Iran was in active consultation with the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments during the escalation of violence around Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016.

The panel 'The Issue of Migration in EU-Caucasus Relations' explored the changes and differences of remittances of labor migrant in Russia and their role in local economies. Speakers compared the difference of diaspora activities for South Caucasus communities based in Europe and Russia, and their influence on the local politics in Caucasus countries. The panel identified several new migration trends from Georgia, including, the feminization of migration, shifts in migration destinations (with Spain and Turkey emerging as new destinations supplanting Greece), notably for female migrants. The panel has also discussed the influence and advantages of the EU Mobility Partnership for Georgia, noting that while the format is one of the most optimal, the Georgian government is yet to take the full advantage of it.

Text provided by Ekaterina Klimenko, SIPRI

ISSICEU Final Meeting

ISSICEU Final Meeting in progress

On 13-14 October 2016, the ISSICEU research consortium gathered together for the last internal meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia. A two-day workshop aimed to further advance collaboration among the ISSICEU researchers at the final stage of the project.

The main focus of the ISSICEU meeting is the advancement of the edited volume, which will be in the center of the final project period. The edited volume covers two parts, namely intra- and inter-societal sources of (in)stability in the Caucasus and how crucial dynamics in some Caucasus entities impact on the stability of the region as a whole. During the meeting, the ISSICEU researchers summarised the key results of ISSICEU research from inter- and intra-societal as well as inter-state perspectives. The consortium partners presented the first drafts of their contributions and jointly discussed the conceptual frame of the book.

Upcoming Event: ISSICEU and CASCADE Joint Conference in Brussels

On 18 October 2016, a shared policy event of ISSICEU and its sister project CASCADE `The European Union and the Caucasus: New Perspectives on a Evolving Relationship` will be held in Brussels. The joint conference aims to bring together leading policy makers and experts to discuss such issues as managing conflict and building peace in the region, and the question of migration. The event will be organised in cooperation with Sweden's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will take place at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU.

The agenda of the event can be found here.

ISSICEU Final Meeting in Tbilisi

On 13-14 October 2016, the ISSICEU consortium partners will be gathering for the last internal meeting in Tbilisi. The focus of the meeting will be at the discussion of the edited volume, addressing the sources of (in)stability in the Caucasus and its impact on the stability in the region.

The event will take place on 13-14 October 2016 at Betsy's Hotel (32/34 Kote Makashvili St, Tbilisi).

The agenda of the event can be found here.

New Publications: Turkish Societal Actors in the Caucasus

The new issue of the Caucasus Analytical Digest No 86 from 25 July 2016 focuses on Turkish societal actors in the Caucasus, such as diasporas and non-governmental organisations and includes three contributions from the ISSICEU partners. The articles focus on Turkey's Azeri, Abkhaz and Georgian diasporas, analyzing their visibility in the respective "homelands," as well as their impact on Turkey's relationships with the latter.

Demirdirek and Gafarli draw attention to three different subsets of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Turkey, concentrating on the politicization of the more recent (post-1990) arrivals and emphasizing the Azerbaijani government's attempts to use this group to exercise influence within Turkey. By contrast, the historical Azerbaijani diaspora, despite (or perhaps because of) linguistic proximity between Azeris and Turks, does not play a prominent role in Turkey's relationship with the "homeland" and, due to its Shia faith, has been leaning closer towards Iran since 1979. This lack of engagement is very different from the position of Turkey's large and institutionalized Abkhaz diaspora, whose role as the nexus between the Turkish and Abkhaz societies is explored in Zabanova's contribution. Viewed as a valuable ally and resource by the Abkhaz authorities, the diaspora functions as the key driver behind economic and societal contacts to Abkhazia and advocates Abkhaz interests in Turkey. Some of its members have settled in Abkhazia permanently while others travel back and forth between the two locations. Finally, Weiss's article shows that in comparison to the Turkish-Abkhaz, members of the Georgian diaspora in Turkey, although active in Georgia, have been less visible in their respective homeland. Apart from institutionalized inter-state relations and a larger range of actors in Georgian–Turkish transboundary ties, the lower visibility can be attributed to the degree of the diaspora's assimilation into Turkish society and particularly to the fact that Georgia's majority population is Christian, whereas the diaspora is predominantly Muslim.

Text provided by Andrea Weiss and Yana Zabanova

Click here to download the articles.