South-Caucasus: an artificial and unnecessary construct

Wikipedia defines South Caucasus (also referred to as Transcaucasia or Transcaucasus) as the southern portion of the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia, extending from the Greater Caucasus to the Turkish and Iranian borders, between the Black and Caspian Seas. All of Armenia is in Transcaucasia; the majority of Georgia and Azerbaijan, including the exclave of Naxçivan, fall within this area.
Reading a rather boring article on Hetq today about the future of Armenia, I couldn’t help but single out this really interesting paragraph:

Many people speak today about how the South Caucasus is an artificially created region, where the member countries have differing (and sometimes opposing) interests and wishes. Will it unite in the wake of other countries’ entry into the region, or the region’s desire to be part of broader international bodies? Or will it break down as a result of centrifugal forces?

As someone heavily involved in regional media projects over the past 4-5 years I know just how artificial and sometimes challenging it is to try and put the three countries + the bulk of unrecognized countries of this region into one bowl and make sense of it.
We know from history, that the territories described as South Caucasus have been unified as a single political entity twice – during the Russian Civil War (Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic) from 9 April 1918 to 26 May 1918, and under the Soviet rule (Transcaucasian SFSR) from 12 March 1922 to 5 December 1936 (Wikipedia). But as everything artificial, it has twice fallen apart, and I don’t see why and how they could be united again.
Thinking of why this region has come to being a region at all I can only conclude, that as a meeting point between 3 main powers since the 17th century: Russia, Turkey, Iran, this region has acquired a common identity of being a battleground. Today even this reality has changed (although today the region is a battleground of many more interests, including those of Russia, US, UK, Turkey, Iran, British Petrolium, Islam and Christianity…), and looking from a fresh new perspective I don’t see any reason, why these 3 recognized and at least as many unrecognized states should be tied together under the common name.
I hereby state, that we have nothing in common: geographically we are on different continents (Georgia – mostly Europe, Armenia – Asia, Azerbaijan – both Asia and Europe), different ethnicities, different languages, religions, identities, cultures and policies. The world however, continues to refer to us as a common region, perhaps looking at the common history of the people living here, although that history does more to pull us apart, then bring together.
And so we are all stuck together, in this endless marriage of hate and the common label “Faces of Caucasian Nationality”(лица Кавказкой национальности) made by our “big friends” or rather “big enemies” – the Russians.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. I would direct your readers to much less theoretical article in the latest issue of Hetq which I found quite depressing. It deals with the plight of Iraqi-Armenians now living in Armenia. THEY WANT TO RETURN!!!!!!!!
    Amazing but true!!!!I urge all to read and comment on the plight of these folk who would rather face the vilence in Iraq than reside in Armenia.
    I can only believe the difficulties these people mention while living in Armenia. What I can’t understand is why such attempts at repatriation are doomed to failure. When the most despondent and luckless segments of the diaspora find Armenia to be too much to bear, then SOMETHING IS TOTALLY WRONG.
    If memory serves me right, hundreds of Jews return to Israel yearly and are provided the necessary services, both psychological and tangible, to make the transfer to a new and alien society that more bearable.
    Why can’t the ROA and the Diaspora organize something similar, or is this too much to ask for?????

  2. Chello – thanx for the comment, I will definitely address the issue.

  3. There’s an interesting article here:

    The South Caucasus countries and the ENP: Three different paths to Europe?
    Article published in 08/01/2007 Issue
    By Lili DI PUPPO in Tbilisi
    After their inclusion in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was initially rejected in a footnote in the European Commission document “Communication on the Wider Europe” of 2003, the three South Caucasus countries are finally part of a group of the EU’s neighbours, which are set to benefit from privileged relationships with the European Union (EU). While the three ENP Action Plans were released on the 14th of November 2006, what can Tbilisi, Baku and Yerevan now expect from the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)?
    It was the Rose Revolution of 2003 in Georgia that for the first time sent the potent signal to Brussels that the South Caucasus, this distant corner of Europe, was not as static and marred in stagnation as its “frozen conflicts” and slow reforms suggested at first glance.
    While launching an ambitious reform programme, the Georgian government immediately sent further signals to Brussels to underline Georgia’s European aspirations such as the EU flags hanging since 2003 from many official buildings in the capital Tbilisi.
    Although the three South Caucasus countries were included at the same time in the ENP to accentuate the regional approach favoured by the EU, they seem to be taking different paths. While the Action Plans are supposed to be tailor-made for each country, the EU traditionally favours a regional approach in its external relations. Due to a dispute concerning flights between Azerbaijan and the Northern part of Cyprus, not only Baku, but Tbilisi and Yerevan also had to suffer a delay in the negotiations over the Action Plans in the summer of 2005. The three Action Plans were finally signed on the same date.
    The Georgian government has expressed some doubts regarding this regional approach, as since the Rose Revolution Georgia has had its hopes set on being included in a Black Sea region, which would comprise Ukraine and Moldova, rather than in the rather “unstable” South Caucasus region.
    Indeed, the region hosts not only the “frozen conflicts” between Georgia and the secessionist territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict whose resolution is regarded as particularly tricky by regional observers. While for Brussels the regional approach seems effective with regards to the Nagorno Karabakh issue because it requires the cooperation of the two parties and has been designed as a priority in the EU-Armenia and EU-Azerbaijan Action Plans, it is perceived by Georgia as an obstacle on the road to a fast progression towards the EU.
    Until now, Georgia seemed the most inclined of the three South Caucasian countries to undergo a process of Europeanisation on the level of norms and values and to adopt European democratic standards. Armenia is being more conscious, while Azerbaijan’s European ambitions are clearly more limited. But what is the EU itself expecting from these three countries?
    For Brussels, Armenia seems to be the “better pupil” among the three South Caucasian states. Better than the others, Yerevan seems to understand and embrace the rather technical language of Brussels, which prioritizes trade and economic measures and the adoption of the acquis communautaire through changes in national legislation, rather than the political support expected by Georgia.
    Although Armenia has chosen a pro-Russian foreign policy course until now, it does not seem to have been perceived as a hindrance by Brussels until now. On the contrary, Armenia’s limited hopes regarding a future EU accession seems to better match the type of cooperation envisioned by the EU within the ENP framework, a policy that precisely wants to be perceived as not being an open door to future candidacies.
    The ENP is more an answer to security threats stemming from what is perceived as instable regions at the EU’s borders than an attempt to diffuse European democratic norms and standards in the region as was the case with enlargement.
    The visit of Azeri President Ilham Aliev in November 2006 to Brussels, where he was welcome with open arms, shows that the EU is ready to close an eye to democratic deficiencies and restricted freedoms in Azerbaijan due to the strategic importance of the country in terms of energy security and its strategic location as a direct neighbour of Iran.
    Brussels sees a powerful ally and a guarantee of future alternative energy supplies in Baku. Azerbaijan itself does not seem particularly inclined to a “Europeanisation” and has never shown an excessive interest in cultivating strong ties with the Union or to accept the conditions set by the EU in terms of democratic progress. Azerbaijan is conscious of its particular status as a country which can dictate its own conditions to the EU contrary to the two other South Caucasian countries.
    The paths of these three different countries will ultimately depend on what the EU expects from the ENP. The EU-Georgia Action Plan shows that the EU has been sensible to the demands of Tbilisi and is ready to offer some increased political support to Georgia in the area of conflict resolution, which it had refused until now.
    The inclusion of Georgia in a Black Sea dimension, which is a key initiative for Tbilisi, has also been acknowledged in the Action Plan. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the EU’s expectations will match those of the three South Caucasus capitals in comparison to those during enlargement. The answer will likely appear in five years, when the ENP Action Plans will be renegotiated on the basis of what the EU thinks these countries have achieved.
    © CAUCAZ.COM | Article published in 08/01/2007 Issue | By Lili DI PUPPO

  4. […] says that the South Caucasus is an artificial and unnecessary construct — that the three countries within in have little in common. Share […]

  5. I am from Azerbaijan, I had always hated Armenians since my childhood, But our mutual dislike of each other have made our small but beautiful countries puppets of the so-called great powers. Maybe we must reconsider our relations. Maybe the Nagorno Karabakh belongs to both of the countries. In reading the history of Baku, I have surprised when I realised that the city does not belong only us, but also to the Armenians. You are right that the very term ‘South Caucasus’ is artificial. But today, this artificiality is much more real than our differences. Whether like our hate, we share acommon fate. However very few in the South Caucasus region realizes that.

  6. Sabit you are working in OSI?

  7. Hey Sabit, no karabaghh does notbelong to “us”, it belongs to Armenians like the land that now belongs to Turkey is not theirs either, it also belongs to Armenians. You need to get on your donkeys and travel back to East where you all came from.

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