A preliminary draft of my master’s thesis


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Conflict in the Caspian: A Comparative Study of Ethnic Inclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan 

Abstract

In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states, and a common history. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. I employ both a comparative case study method for generalizability & regional context as well as a logit regression measuring this relationship through 150 cases of ethnic conflict. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion. The comparative case study supplemented by the EPR logit regression results support my hypothesis that there is a positive relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict.

 

Introduction

This research is an attempt to answer the question of why ethnic conflict occurs is some states and not others. In order to properly address the question, I’ve chosen a multi-method approach, including a logit regression as well as a comparative case study. I’ve chosen two Caspian states, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, rich with oil. The Caspian Sea region, or Central Asia rather, has become of growing importance, particularly since the dissolution of the USSR, but even more so perhaps, following the rise in Islamic fundamentalism. This has resulted in coordination between western and Caspian states like Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan in security measures in attempt to prevent instability.

More importantly for this research, instability has also taken the form of ethnic conflict, such as in the Caucasus, but also in CA states like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Kirgizstan. Out of the CA states, only Kazakhstan has oil abundance, and is thus vulnerable to the resource curse argument. That is Kazakhstan has averted any major conflict or crises altogether through a rentier system (Franke et al 2009). To counter this argument, and in order demonstrate that a lack of ethnic conflict (ethnic harmony) is not caused by oil wealth but rather by institutional accommodation I compare Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan.

In this research my aim is to demonstrate a relationship between the extent of political development, indicated by the degree of ethnic inclusion, and the extent of ethnic conflict, defined in the upcoming sections, exhibited in these two oil-rich post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim, Caspian & Turkic states. Beyond their security relevance, Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan serve as prime examples of states with variance in ethnic conflict and institutional development, despite the presence of oil in both states. I argue that more politically developed states are more likely to form institutions that protect, preserve and encourage ethnic inclusion. As a result, they exhibit less ethnic conflict. My independent variable is political development. The proxy for the extent of political development is the degree of ethnic exclusion or inclusion. My dependent variable is the degree of ethnic conflict or harmony. The research is organized into the following sections respectively: introduction of theory & key concepts therein; summary of shared histories of both cases, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan; review of data results from logit regression; and finally a conclusion.

Theory & Key Concepts

Before analyzing this relationship, it is important to define four major concepts in this research: Ethnicity, Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic Exclusion (discrimination) or Ethnic Inclusion.

Ethnicity is defined as “subjective experienced sense of commnality based on belief in a common ancestry and shared culture. Indicators of common ancestry and culture include common language, phenotypical features, and belonging to same faith (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).

Ethnic conflict is described as mass violence between two communities that each belongs to a distinct cultural group with common heritage and other subjective commonalities. In order to be classified as an ethnic conflict, armed organizations must seek to achieve “ethnonationalist aims, motivations & interests and recruit fighters and forge alliances on the basis of ethnic affiliations” (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009). Ethnic conflicts are distinct in their “armed organization, recruitment and alliance structures. In other words, ethnic conflicts are typically fought over ethnonational self-determination, ethnic balance of power in government, ethnoregional autonomy, ethnic and racial discrimination, and language and other cultural rights” (Sambanis 2009).

In many cases, antagonist ethnic groups will not be able to agree on new constitutional arrangements or a peaceful separation. These kind of ethnic disputes consequently become violent, some escalate into all-out inter-ethnic war. This is the situation in Angola, Kashmir, Shi Lanka, Bosnia, and Caucasus. Some scholars explain reasons of ethnic conflicts with collapse of the authoritarian rule. As an example, the main reason why ethnic conflicts have sprung up in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere, because the authoritarian rule has collapsed and made such conflicts possible. This is the conventional wisdom. This argument offers an inadequate explanation of the causes of ethnic conflicts. Scholars generally fail to explain why conflicts have broken out in some places, but not others, and why some ethnic conflicts are more violent than others (Ismayilov 2008). To elaborate further, ethnic conflicts can be defined as conflicts between ethnic groups within a multi-ethnic state, which have been going on some time, which may appear to be unsolvable to the parties caught up in them. An ethnic conflict is a dispute about important political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993). The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.

It is also important to define ethnic exclusion, or discrimination rather, so as to demonstrate how this exclusion is being gauged. Members of an ethnic group that are excluded from government or discriminated against are subject to intentional, targeted disenfranchisement. Discrimination entails limiting access to government positions to citizens who speak a certain language, exhibit phenotypical features or members of a particular faith. Discrimination can be informal too, that is – it can exist without legal enforcement, if a society actively prevents a particular ethnic group from mobilizing in that society (Tezcur & Gurses 2017). An example of ethnic exclusion or discrimination includes African-Americans until the civil rights movement. Some might argue that informal discrimination persists today (Wimmer, Cederman & Min 2009).

On the other hand, inclusion can be described as institutional accommodation, beyond nominal laws, intended to help raise social status and political representation levels of ethnic minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1995 & Affirmative Action are two examples of such accommodations in the US (Porter 2003).

Inclusion is a key concept in this article, particularly because I focus on Kazakhstan’s unique institutional infrastructure, the APK, which reduces the risk of ethnic conflict. The theoretical basis of my argument on the positive relationship between ethnic inclusion and ethnic conflict draws from Remmer’s model of Natural Cultural Autonomy. Remmer’s model suggests that ethnic inclusion does reduce the chances of ethnic conflict, but that this inclusion must go beyond mere laws. In other words, institutions and policies must be in practice that wholly address and accommodate the needs of ethnic minorities based on their experiences in given states (Porter 2003).

Ethnic conflicts occur in a multi-ethnic state, have been going on some time, and appear to be difficult to resolve. An ethnic conflict is a disagreement about political, economic, cultural, or territorial issues between two or more ethnic communities (Brown 1993).

The most distinct feature of ethnic conflict is the explicit targeting of a group on the basis of a shared culture (Weber 1978). It is a long lasting tension between two groups that wish to advance their interests (Ismayilov 2008). In non-ethnic conflict, members of the same ethnic group might be in conflict, whereas ethnic conflict is distinctly between two separate groups on the basis of their subjective cultural differences and the political implications therein. As the literature indicates, as with many abstract political concepts, there is little consensus on the definition of ethnicity. The use of ‘subjective’ is to indicate the ‘ambiguity’ of the definition. In Lebanon for example the political system is known as confessionalism, in which religion is deeply tied to ideology and ethnicity, thus making it difficult to really distinguish any ethnic group.

The literature is vast on ethnic conflict, but there is almost no focus on the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict (Fearon 2003). Instead most researchers focus on secessionist movements or insurgencies, but not on mere violent clashes, pogroms, and massacres. Furthermore, the literature suggests that most ethnic conflict is the result of collapsing authoritarian regimes, but this does not account for the occurrence of ethnic conflict in one region, and not the other (Ismayilov 2008).

The emergence of ethnic nationalism, such as in Azerbaijan, makes ethnic conflict much more likely. The rise of ethnic nationalism in one group can be seen as threatening by others. But even Kazakhstan, and most other post-soviet states exhibited high rates of nationalism for the sake of nation building. The mere disintegration of the authoritarian, cross-national empire of the USSR left a vacuum of power and the need for new states to emerge and address collective political needs. Not all states exhibited the same degree of nationalism. There is a distinction between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in this regard. Neither country is democratic by any means, but Kazakhstan has clear institutional differences in terms of ethnic minority inclusion. So what is this difference? A degree of political development, or institutionalized representation and inclusion has the potential to help mitigate ethnic tension by allowing for the establishment of an inclusive means of governance to address the needs of all ethnic groups in the state. This inclusiveness goes beyond just mere protection of minorities but accommodates and addresses grievances (Porter 2003). Now that we understand these important concepts and their definitions, of ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and the various sources of dispute, and expression of grievances, we can apply this reasoning to the two cases. I’ll begin first with Kazakhstan followed by an assessment of its ethnic harmony and the presence of robust institutions that enable it, followed by a section on ethnic exclusion, discrimination & ethnic conflict.

Shared Histories

The history of the Caspian is rather unique, rich with a prevalence of tribalism, nomadism, and clan relations. This was further enriched by the arrival of Islam, and the legacy of imperial dominance by Russia & Iran. The USSR would eventually encompass the entire region. It’s eventual collapse lead to the modern independent Kazakh & Azerbaijani republics. The purpose of this segment is to demonstrate how these historical similarities, while sharing some resemblance, do not ensure a shared degree of political stability and ethnic harmony.

The history of the Caspian region as populated with nomadic, tribal people with clan-based hierarchies greatly reflects in the political structures of the states therein. Nomadism has played a huge role in the histories of both Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan. In modern times, this is expressed through informal social institutions such as nepotism and patronage. That these societies embrace informality arguably induces corruption. Neither Kazakhstan nor Azerbaijan experienced autonomy until after the dissolution of the USSR. Before the USSR, Kazakhstan was mainly under the auspices of Russia, and Azerbaijan was ruled by Iran.

Traditionally, the influx of ideas, religions and cultures came along what is now called the Silk Route, connecting the east and west through trade networks and other forms of cultural interaction. Prior to the introduction of Islam by Arab warriors into the region in the 8th century, the Caspian region exhibited a diverse religious demography, including the mystical Shamanism, Tengrianism & Buddhism (Edelbay 2011).

USSR & Independence

Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan’s integration into the USSR only reinforced the tradition of authoritarianism and the centralization of power. They have carried on even into the post-soviet era (Tokaev 2004).

The disintegration of the USSR produced a vacuum of power. This vacuum was either to be filled by extremists or a continued legacy of authoritarianism. Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan, like most Caspian states, chose the latter. Similar security measures to the USSR were adopted, continuing the legacy of Soviet-inspired police-state. The only difference was that Moscow had essentially less control over the region it once easily swallowed up.

Azerbaijan & Kazakhstan also share linguistic roots. Both languages are Turkic in origin. This renders them an even more ideal comparison. Perhaps most importantly of all commonalities – both states are among the top twenty-five oil-exporters in the world.

Ethnic Inclusion & Harmony in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, this accommodation exists via the establishment and continued involvement and development of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan or APK.

Prominent ethnic groups include Uzbeks, Tatars, Uighurs, Chechens, Koreans, Turks, Azerbaijanis & Germans (Nyussupova 2011). It is important to note that the population of Russians is the second largest. Before independence, Kazakhstan’s own national ethnic group, the Kazakhs, comprised less than 40% of the total population. During this time Russian was more widely spoken. Following independence however, Kazakh was nationalized as the official language. Furthermore, quite recently, Kazakh’s became the official ethnic majority within their own national boundaries for the first time in their history (Karin 2002).

To highlight the significance of demography, the presence of Uzbeks in southern Kazakhstan provide insight into the assertion that modern Central Asia is an artificial creation traced back to the initial “cutting up” of the region by USSR leaders. It is likely that the environment and conditions created by these “partitions” created much of the imbalance and instability in the region today. Despite being Uzbek by ethnicity, Kazakh Uzbeks are loyal to the soil in which they have inhabited for centuries. That ethnic irredentism really highlights the role of the New Great Game in determining the overall demographic structure and dynamic of Kazakhstan, and Central Asia altogether (Oka 2009).

Relative to his Central Asian neighbors, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has witnessed under his rule a relatively stable and harmonious interethnic relationship in his country. This is most likely attributed to Kazakhstan’s overall moderate approach to policy, which sees a balancing of foreign, domestic, and minority interests, contrary to Ilham Aliyev’s cult-like rule in Azerbaijan.

Nazarbayev rules with more pragmatism. Kazakhstan has witnessed no significant episodes of violent deteriorations of society.

More importantly perhaps, is how Nazarbayev’s vision of stability and harmony expressed itself domestically. Through the establishment of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan in 1995, ethnic minorities are represented in this legislative body, which is intended to protect, preserve and celebrate their rights as well as the ethnic pluralism, which defines Kazakhstan. The APK (Assembly of People of Kazakhstan) consists of 384 representatives of all ethnic groups in the state (Jones 2010). The APK elects nine members to the Majlis; Kazakhstan’s lower-chamber of Parliament. Finally, all laws passed by the legislature must meet a certain criteria ensuring ethnic harmony, a significant check on executive power protecting ethnic minorities.

Kazakhstan has successfully employed national efforts to promote cultural tolerance and cohesiveness through its making of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan. National efforts to promote cultural/ethnic tolerance include: insuring each ethnic group has a voice within the government through policies, organizations, assemblies etc., granting all minorities equal rights and representation within the country, not using ethnicity as a tool for political mobilization but instead creating a “national identity” for everyone to be apart of equally (one that does not have to do with ethnic background at all but rather being a citizen of the said country), creating equal opportunities in the business realm for all ethnic groups, instilling strict laws against ethnic discrimination even down to ethnic slurs, as well as promoting peace through cultural events, parades, and the alike. The APK exemplifies directly national efforts in promoting cultural/ethnic tolerance and cohesiveness.

It has become evident that Kazakhstan’s politicians are aware of the need for inter-ethnic accord, in order to maintain political stability. Institutionally, Kazakhstan’s laws prevented the formation of political parties along ethnic lines; instead, in 1995 – by order of executive decree, President Nursultan Nazarbayev established the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan in March 1995, a legislative and presidential consultative body, largely touted by Kazakh officials as a representation of the nation’s progressive policies.

Ultimately though, the APK has served mainly as a means for controlling ethnic minorities and securing a national Kazakh identity. This was underscored by the APK’s name-change, which was meant to signify its purpose as a unifying project. In other words, while the mission is to encourage harmony between ethnicities; the more underlying purpose is the stabilization of society under a unifying Kazakh identity.

The main objectives of the APK include the preservation of inter-ethnic harmony and political stability, developing new mechanisms for fostering healthy relations between various ethnicities and nationalities within the state; to promote spiritual and cultural enrichment; development and equality. Despite its ambiguity, and its close ties to the executive branch, considering it was the APK, which proposed extending Nazarbayev’s term, the APK enjoys a level of autonomy and influence on legislative matters, but a new decree centralizing the aim of the APK around Kazakhstani identity might raise some eyebrows (Jones 2010). The APK’s overarching goal is to essentially supervise ethnic groups and their leaders so as to make sure inter-ethnic harmony preserves Kazakhstan’s stability. The APK has been generally used to portray Kazakhstan’s image as an inter-ethnic paradise.

The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan has generated many benefits for both Kazakh society as well as its political infrastructure. Since its creation over two decades ago, The APK has enabled minority ethnic groups the ability for representation, protection and preservation, a guarantee that does not exists not only in developing states, but in even some of the most developed states in the world experiencing minority and ethnic tensions today.

While many have criticized and simplified the APK has an extension of President Nazarbayev’s arm into political affairs, seeing as he is the official Chairman of the institution, these criticisms are premature and lack a clear objective understanding of the regional landscape and history. This isn’t to suggest that Kazakhstan is a democratic paradise, on the contrary. Kazakhstan exhibits significant shortcomings in press freedom, political opposition, and economic competition. Furthermore, its tremendous oil wealth, dubbed the resource curse, has often paralyzed the process of modernization. Still, the extent of ethnic inclusion, representation and national unity are unprecedentedly higher in Kazakhstan than any other Central Asian state (Oka 2004). As demonstrated in the research, ethnic conflict was rampant in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. A lack of representation and guaranteed protection for minorities, as well as a robust mechanism for preserving ethnic traditions, was accompanied by violent episodes between ethnic groups. In Azerbaijan, ethnic minorities are suppressed and institutions like the APK in Kazakhstan are absent. There are no constitutional provisions that protect minorities like Uzbeks, Tajiks, Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Kurds, Armenians, etc.

The mere fact that the APK has legislative authority, representation and leverage as well as the presence of explicit constitutional provisions that protect ethnic minorities both underscore the distinct degree of internal political development in Kazakhstan (Jones 2010) This cannot be easily dismissed as a product of its resource abundance relative to its neighbors, considering, even other post-Soviet states endowed with oil, like Azerbaijan, are substantially more discriminatory towards ethnic minorities. Oil itself has neither stifled nor promoted political development to coincide with economic development. Rather, it has existed as a mere backdrop feature, while ethnic minorities’ fates remain largely in the political landscape and culture of the host nation. That is why in Kazakhstan, cultural and religious tolerance together have resulted in a less contentious atmosphere, the necessary precondition for ethnic inclusion and institutional development in that regard.

The most important element of this research is the consideration of the regional implications as well as the theoretical implications. This research does not suggest that Kazakhstan is in any way an advanced democratic state, but rather, that it has made significant and commendable strides to protect its ethnic minorities which have in most other cases suffered tremendous discrimination, violence and destitution. Ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan contrarily, have access to social, political and economic capital to advance their ethnic groups in society, protecting their heritage’s past and future (Oka 2010).

Furthermore other research on the region vindicates these assertions as Kazakhstan has exhibited political stability and interethnic harmony since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This has not been the case for other Central Asian & Post-Soviet States, where ethnic conflict and exclusion are simultaneously prevalent. Even where there is abundant oil, or the lack there of – when there are ongoing wars, or the lack thereof – ethnic conflict exists wherever there is an absence of political institutions designed to accommodate and advance their needs.

Even in the US and in most European countries like Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark, there are various institutions and accommodations designed to integrate minorities into society and politics. The EPR data indicates that in situations where such accommodations are made, ethnic conflict is less likely to occur. Contrarily, the absence of institutional provisions meant to protect and integrate ethnic minorities beyond mere cultural tolerance will result in conflict.

Equally said is the need for more improvement for political development and minority protection in Kazakhstan, given that most provisions are often nominal, at the discretion of the Chairman & President, Nazarbayev. Furthermore, the low level of democracy in Kazakhstan renders even the most genuine of efforts to accommodate minority groups as politicized interests. The APK itself is limited in that it can likely be abolished or ignored at the discretion of Nazarbayev given the two branches clash (Tussupova 2010). As with most cases in Kazakhstan, the executive branch tends to overpower the others. Kazakhstan boasts of a many ethnic minorities, but it appears that granting the APK only 9 seats in parliament or the Majlis, is disproportionate to their population. Such improvements could further legitimize the APK as an institution of minority protection and ethnic harmony. Furthermore, Kazakhstan must work to integrate ethnic minorities into all facets of Kazakh society, include the economy. Limits on free press and political opposition also stifle the representative potential of the APK (Jones 2010).

Still it is worth noting that its mere existence is a stride towards democracy. As demonstrated, in places around the world where ethnic groups are excluded and underrepresented, there is higher chance that conflict might spur (Jones 2010).

Ethnic Exclusion & Conflict in Azerbaijan

In stark contrast, on the other side of the Caspian Sea, is the case of Azerbaijan. There are four major cases of ethnic conflict in Azerbaijan, including tensions with Armenians, Kurds, Lezgins & Talysh. The situation with Armenia is likely the worst, and involves a ‘secessionist’ movement in Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefor the NK conflict can be seen as a product of three ambitions, ethnic power balance in Azerbaijani politics as well as self-determination & territorial secession. The history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be traced to the dissolution of the USSR. The decentralization of power, and the vacuum of power left by the absence of an authoritarian central authority, led to the emergence of nationalist movements. In many cases, arbitrary boundaries and geographic heritages were even further confused. Following the establishment of post-soviet republics such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, conflict ensued between Azerbaijan and its Armenian population. Nagorno-Karabakh is 80% Armenian in population, but remains within the boundaries of Azerbaijan. An utter suppression and discrimination of Armenian culture, language and freedom is part of policy in Azerbaijan. Various pogroms and massacres of Armenians prompted a mass exodus to Armenia and NK from the Azerbaijani mainland. This mass exodus numbers up to 350,000 Armenians (Country Report 2015). Prior to the onset of the conflict, which began in the 80s, inter-ethnic tensions were brewing. A series of pogroms, such as the Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad or Maraga targeted Armenian minorities in Azerbaijan. In essence, “Armenophobia is institutionalized and engrained into Azerbaijani statehood & Karabakh is at the center of this “policy”.

Some of the approximately 20,000 to 30,000 citizens of Armenian descent living in the country reported discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of social services. Ethnic Armenians often concealed their ethnicity by legally changing the ethnic designation in their passports. There were no reports of violence against Armenians during the year. Some groups reported sporadic incidents of discrimination, restrictions on their ability to teach in their native languages, and harassment by local authorities. These groups included Talysh in the south, Lezgins in the north, and Meskhetians and Kurds (Country Reports on Human Rights 2015).

Destruction of cemeteries so as to erase Armenian history and heritage, the targeting of religious infrastructure, denying entry, linguistic suppression are all policy practices of the Azerbaijani state, which explicitly target and discriminate against Armenians.

The Lezgins exhibit a different condition. They are now considered the most vocal minority claiming discrimination in Azerbaijan (Fayos 2014). They make up the second-largest group in Azerbaijan. Lezgins often disguise themselves as Azeris to avoid losing job opportunities or discrimination in education. As a result, current official statistics in Azerbaijan have arbitrarily reduced the population.

In 1989, another ethnic minority, the Talysh gained the right to register as a distinct ethnic group. The accurate number of Talysh in Azerbaijan may be much higher than census results, which is due to the suppression of their identity, language and culture, “leading to internalized self-repression”. Azerbaijan lacks any robust, comprehensive legislation regarding ethnic minorities. The presidential decree of 1992 is insufficient in this sense. It lacks a “national framework for minority rights protection” and limits the focus to arts and crafts. Azerbaijan also lacks legislation to tackle anti-discriminations issues (Fayos 2014).

Institutionally level there is no specific body to deal with minority issues, unlike the APK in Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan does have the “Office of the Ombudsman”, which aims to compensate for this void. The focus of the state is less on minority inclusion and more on preventing secessionist movements. Such is symbolic of the paranoia, which dictates the Azerbaijani regime, compared to Kazakhstan’s harmonious and unifying approach.

There are few institutions as mentioned before which aim to support ethnic minorities in Azerbaijan, but none of them, neither the Forum of Religious Communities of Azerbaijan nor the Coordination Council of the Cultural Centers of National Minorities are involved in policy-making . They serve merely as consultative bodies and nominal entities. This is in sharp contrast to the APK in Kazakhstan, which not only protects and preserves ethnic minority culture – it grants them representation in the national legislature and the ability to propose laws.

Furthermore indicative of Azerbaijan’s ethnic exclusion is the fact that it has still not ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. The fact that Azerbaijan actively promotes the usage of the Azeri language underscores the need for some type of institutional protection for ethnic minority groups. Unlike Kazakhstan where the populace relatively respects laws and institutions, the “Law on State Language” in Azerbaijan, undermines any of the constitutional provisions, which guarantee minority ethnic groups linguistic rights. There is, however, a lack of national legislation for preserving and promoting the use of minority languages (Fayos 2014).

The downside of being accepted into greater Azerbaijani society is that minorities risk losing their languages. Indeed, while some minorities appear to be maintaining their level of linguistic other ethnic groups appear to be losing ground to linguistic assimilation; many members of the largest groups (e.g. the Talysh and the Lezgins) have expressed displeasure at this outcome, requesting greater government attention (Marquardt 2011).

Some researchers claim that Azerbaijani policy of appeasing minorities without giving them real rights is in fact comparable to Kazakhstan’s ‘multiculturalism’. I challenge this notion because in Kazakhstan ethnic minorities have legislative representatives that can actually vote on national policy (Marquardt 2011).

To the Azerbaijani state, ethnic identity is associated with the events in Nagorno-Karabakh; the Talysh state which was briefly declared in 1993 and the Lezgins independence movement, which began in the early 1990s. Likewise, these groups are seen as easily manipulated by outside forces that wish to harm Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. The Azeri government sees all ethnic identity movements as imperial schemes by Russia to instigate separatism, whether it is among the Legniz or the Armenians (Marquardt 2011).

Data

I use Ethnic Power Relations 3.0 to help demonstrate the relationship between ethnic exclusion and ethnic conflict. The dataset identifies 150 politically relevant ethnic groups and their access to state power between 1946-2010. The dataset includes 157 countries and 758 ethnic groups, and measures the degree of exclusion from government ranging from total representation to over discrimination.

Table 1 displays effects of changes in independent variables. By increasing the excluded population from 6% to 32% (Wimmer, Cederman, & Min 2009), it results in a 25% increase in the likelihood of ethnic conflict. Imperial rule between 1816 and independence increases the chance of armed conflict by 13% only. As a whole, the data demonstrates that changes in exclusion of ethnic groups produces the greatest increase in the risk of ethnic conflict.

The regression results in Table 2 & 3 (attached as PDFs due to size & clarity) indicate that variables such imperial past did not have an effect as statistically significant on ethnic conflict as the variable of ethnic exclusion. In other words, the USSR’s legacy of imperialism in the Caspian is not as statistically significant to overall ethnic conflict as one might expect. The same logic applies to oil. The data indicates that oil is nowhere near as significant as ethnic exclusion in its relationship to conflict.

Conclusion

The purpose of this research is to demonstrate that ethnic inclusion leads to ethnic harmony and less conflict. This is because institutional representation of ethnic minorities addresses their grievances. As exhibited in Kazakhstan, proper measures to address ethnic minority rights can mitigate the possibility of conflict altogether. In sharp contrast, Azerbaijan has restricted minority rights, which has coincided with inter-ethnic war with Armenia, pogroms targeting Armenians, desecration of cemeteries, linguistic discrimination, deportation of Kurds, and the suppression of Legniz & Talysh national movements. The presence of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan ensures harmony and representation between ethnic groups. Furthermore, it protects, promotes and encourages minority languages, enabling them to be taught in schools and used openly without discrimination. The APK in Kazakhstan serves as a model for other developing countries struggling with ethnic conflict. Better policies aimed at ethnic inclusion and accommodation will lead to more harmony. The research & data indicates that even powerful forces like the resource curse – that is, the abundance of oil, does not ensure a decrease in the risk of ethnic conflict.

Bibliography

Wimmer, Cederman, and Min. 2009. “Ethnic Politics & Armed Conflict. A Configurational Analysis of a New Global Dataset”. American Sociological Review. 74(2).

Sambanis, Nicholas. N.D. “What is an Ethnic War? Organization and Interests in Insurgencies.” Yale: Department of Political Science.

Fearon, James D., and David D. Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war.” American Political Science Review. 97:1-16.

Brown, Michael 1993. Ethnic Conflict and International Security.

Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. University of California Press.

Ismayilov, Gursel G. 2008. “Ethnic Conflicts and Their Causes.” Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 3.4: 50-63.

Porter, Kirsten. 2003. Macquarie Law Journal. The Realization of National Minority Rights. 51(3).

Jones, Nathan Paul. 2010. “Assembling a Civic Nation in Kazakhstan: the Nation-Building Role of the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan.” Caucasian Review of International Affairs 4.2. 159.

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Oka, Natsuko. 2004. “The ‘Triadic Nexus’ in Kazakhstan: A Comparative Study of Russians, Uighurs, and Koreans.” Slavic Studies. 51: 158.

Tussupova, Dinara. 2010. “Mass Media and Ethnic Relations in Kazakhstan.” Problems of Post-Communism 57.6. 32-45.

Karin, Erlan, and Andrei Chebotarev. 2002. “The Policy of Kazakhization in State and Government Institutions in Kazakhstan.”

Nyussupova, Gulnara, and Irina Rodionova. 2011. “Demographic situation and the level of human development of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Regional Aspects.” Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series 16: 78-87.

Tokaev, Kassymzhomart. 2004. “Kazakhstan: from renouncing nuclear weapons to building democracy.” American Foreign Policy Interests. 26.2: 93-98.

Edelbay, Saniya. 2012. “Traditional Kazakh Culture and Islam.” International Journal of Business and Social Science 3:11.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. 2015. “Azerbaijan.”
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Tezcür, Güneş Murat, and Mehmet Gurses. 2017. “Ethnic Exclusion and Mobilization: The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey.” Comparative Politics 49.2: 213-234.

Fayos. 2014. Minorities in the South Caucasus: New visibility amid old frustrations. European Parliament Policy Department. European Union.

Marquardt, Kyle L. 2011. “Framing language policy in post-Soviet Azerbaijan: political symbolism and interethnic harmony.” Central Asian Survey 30.2: 181-196.

Franke, Anja, Andrea Gawrich, & Gurban Alakbarov. 2009. “Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan as Post-Soviet Rentier States: Resource Incomes and Autocracy as a Double ‘Curse’ in Post-Soviet Regimes.” Europe-Asia Studies 61.1: 109-140.

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The List Goes On


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Political and religious labels are misleading. Depending on the context, these labels change in meaning. In one context, such as Maoist China or Spain during the Civil War, republican might be defined as communist, whereas in the United States, the modern Republican is essentially a neo-conservative. In France, Republicans are centrists and the other major alternative is the far left Socialist Party. Furthermore, labels are often used as a method of control, riddled with arbitrary conjecture & irrationalism. For example, take libertarianism. Ayn Rand is the fountainhead of the label. Despite being a so-called individualist doctrine, anti-statist, anti-communist, pro-anarchy essentially, Ayn Rand remained dependent on government welfare & died in debt. In this case, the ideology is not merely vague — it has no sense.

There are too many organizations that profit off preaching extreme & baseless political views instead of quality innovation. America is the world’s hub for entrepreneurs, open-markets & free-trade. There are however, many barriers to this system. ‘Republicans’ might suggest the problem is an over-reaching government. But usually when the US government is doing any over-reaching, the party in control is Republican. The hypocrisy is evident. Republicans are more correctly described as neo-conservatives. They are statists who use ideology to expand their political agendas domestically & abroad. Personally, I think the Republican party should be renamed the ‘Conservative Party’. Reason is because the Democratic Party is the actual successor of the Democratic-Republican Party which reflects the ideal of limited government more reasonably than the GOP. The classical-liberalism which is intended to serve as the foundation of the Republican Party is completely absent. What actually exists in the void is a religious zealotry, which combines state-expansionism w/ religious evangelism. I would classify the Bushes & Ronald Reagan in this category. If any of the two parties even remotely exhibit any aspects of classical liberalism it would be the Democrats. Generally speaking the Democrats are anti-war & pro-civil-liberties. Most civil rights movements find support from the Democratic Party, more so than the Republican Party.

Meanwhile Libertarians like Rand Paul & his father tout an ideal that doesn’t exist. Perhaps without realizing it, they too are pawns of the neo-conservative movement. The Pauls can’t decide whether they support Israel or not, but seeing as how libertarianism is without affirmation, so too is their loyalty. The inconsistencies in this ideological dogma are rampant. They merely work to further distract individuals from the motive of the ‘Republican’ Party, which is to expand the role of the state beyond democratic & egalitarian means at home and abroad. At home their agenda works to suppress minorities, African-Americans, Muslim & Arab-Americans, Hispanics, Women, Gays, Immigrants, Jews, & Atheists — to disenfranchise them from the social, economic and political scene of America.

The nepotism within capitalism is so rampant that it makes Republicans look completely ridiculous when they make claims about rags-to-riches, especially when few of them experienced this route but rather inherited their wealth or benefit off the nepotism of white privilege in America.

Furthermore the double-standard is apparent in that only conventional views are the big profiteers while conscious non-conformers are disenfranchised from the social, economic & political fabric of American society. White people, especially those who espouse neo-conservative attitude. Let me add that there is a generally accepted belief that atheists and the republican party are incompatible due to religious differences but in reality these two forces work hand in hand. You do not have to be a religious fanatic to be a neo-con. Christopher Hitchens & Bill Maher, two renowned atheists, RIP to the former, were avid neo-cons who supported the Bush Jr. campaign in Iraq. All of these labels are used to pin us against each other instead of addressing the actual issues. Most of these dudes hold profitable positions because they’ve conformed to the neo-con attitude–HIGHLY profitable in America.

Instead of relying on fanatical ideologies & religious social systems for sustenance, why not rely on yourselves and your individuality?

Furthermore, just like Bill Maher & Christopher Hitchens can use their ideology to profit, why can’t we non-conformers & anti-neo-cons? Watch TYT reluctance to call the recent murders of 3 Muslim-Americans a hate-crime, probably because it was committed by a White, American atheist (video below). The Young Turks network remains till this day non-vocal on the issue of the Armenian-Genocide, to the benefit of neo-cons & NATO & some Turkish agents.

While TYT & Uygur have made it clear that they are not associated with The Young Turks ideology which was likely responsible for the Armenian Genocide in 1915, which claimed not only the lives of Armenians but also Assyrians & Greeks, it has yet to recognize the crime as a genocide altogether. I believe only through continued assimilation of Turks & Armenians can this crime once and for all be recognized, justice served & dignity restored.

It isn’t surprising that the Armenian Genocide has yet to be treated as a Holocaust. In an article I once read, the recognition of past political crimes on a massive scale requires amnesty and thus raises the status of a given group to one of privilege; a benefit only some wish to enjoy. How many groups have been historically systematically oppressed, whose sufferings remain today, wholly unaddressed? African-Americans? Armenians? Arab-Christians? Chinese Democrats? Muslims? Palestinians? Africans? Immigrants?

The list goes on.

Democracy?


Marble statue of  the ancient greek philosopher Plato. Image shot 03/2009. Exact date unknown.

As a deist who recognizes the existence of an eternal Supreme deity, I take issue with the reality that much spirituality and religion is held hostage to the dogmas of compulsion, strict adherence & fanaticism. While not all religions espouse this, as an Arab-Armenian, I am forced to witness the consequences of religious fanaticism everyday.

The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ which was apparently intended to usher in democracy into the Middle East proved to produce negative results. In Egypt the fanaticism of the Muslim Brotherhood took hold. The majority in this case was not tolerant of social liberalism and therein caused a religious mess. A military coup followed resulting in the restoration of the non-democratic tradition of Middle Eastern political culture.

But to suggest that democracy is a perfect concept is not only irrational — it is by definition, un-American. In today’s world, the so-called global police of all democracies, isn’t even, by definition, a democracy. America is a federal republic. The founding fathers often held democracy in disdain because it allowed for the possibility of instability.

The idea that democracy is an end would suggest that it is universal, absolute & self-sufficient. But just as China’s shift from robust communism to mixed economics proved the inefficiency & inhumane nature of adherence to absolute communism, so to has the US, since FDR really, drifted further away from robust democratic-capitalism to leftist-inspired mixed economics. Never has the US, or any major western hegemony for that matter, exhibited a state of pure democracy, precisely because of the power and influence of religious fundamentalism on the political process and on society altogether.

Is Democracy just?

It is rationalism which manifested the philosophy of democracy, the idea that the majority should rule and that order would ensue. But choice is an enigma, as is human nature, and reducing humanity to statistics results in collective totalitarianism. Who is to say that the majority of human beings would choose what is right or moral? The assumption that numbers do the talking may work for basic creatures of animalistic instinct but the complexity of human nature requires that we consider the possibility that individual rights, self-reliance, experience & self-determination are often compromised by democracy and ensuing collective ideological movements.

Are there limits to how much democracy should be exhibited?

If the majority of a country consistently elects leaders who legislate unjust policies, doesn’t this suggest a flaw in relying strictly on majoritarian politics? Is majoritarian democracy the problem? Switzerland exhibits what is called proportional-representation; that way minority groups aren’t disenfranchised from the conversation of representation. In the US however it seems democracy has been a tool in rallying support for non-democratic policies, from tax breaks for the 1% to full-fledged arbitrary invasions of foreign countries.

What is holding America hostage is the elitist mentality of the 1%. But does democracy encourage this? The free market exists, but is it stifled by elitism & industrial monopoly?

There is an association between free markets and democracy, what we call here in the West, democratic-capitalism. How much do these values really ensure individual & collective rights?

Realistically I would argue that every nation will realize its need for mixed economics in order for survival. Empires which have relied on dogmatic-ideologies have eventually run themselves dry, from ancient pagan empires to modern twentieth-century totalitarianism.

So perhaps the problem in the international community is not the absence of democracy or republicanism but rather an absence of ‘moderate’ forces which do not threaten national sovereignty and do not enable colonialism.

The Democratic Index of 2012 compiled by the Economic Intelligence Unit lists the US 21st on the list. Israel, supposedly the Middle East’s only democracy, is not included. This isn’t to suggest that these countries are not democracies, but rather, that the level of democratic rights which are instituted are relatively low compared to the ideal of democratic representation.

Poverty and ego are the main causes of ideological fundamentalism. The solution to the Middle East is not democracy. It is the opposite. It is the end of foreign dogma in the region. Neither democracy, capitalism, communism or Islam are going to solve the socio-economic crises of the Middle East; and in reality, the push for democracy by the West during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ had neither democratic values nor the interests of the Middle Eastern people in mind, but rather, another pseudo-revolution aimed at distracting the world from the behind-the-scenes oil-for-weapons trades going on.

Measuring a country’s morality or integrity based on its level of democracy is one thing; but to suggest that a country IS NOT A DEMOCRACY, is foolish — because no country ever has or currently exhibits pure democracy. The idea that the majority is infallible is foolish and arrogant. Furthermore, the idea that West understands more than the East what constitutes an acceptable level of democracy is self-righteous and hypocritical, given statistical data from the Economic Intelligence Unit which suggests that democratic values are not upheld completely by any western hegemony.

That brings me to Israel. It was, on the contrary, included on the list of flawed democracies, with India, Brazil, Russia & Argentina beside it.

Israel claims to be “A” democracy. It couldn’t be further from the truth on two notes: firstly, that no country has ever exhibited absolute democracy; and secondly, in that it is a ethno-religious entity…by nature it cannot be egalitarian. Furthermore, Israel represents a minority in the Middle East. Still, it maintains close ties with dictatorial regimes in order to ensure its control over the media, because facts are on the side of the Arabs, which show that the Arab & Muslim world are completely disenfranchised from the conversation of justice and values of democracy. Israel is not infallible; it is not secular; it is not egalitarian; and it is essentially a product of classic gerrymandering. Israel, like the Republican Party in the US, is perpetually in a race against time, desperate for occupation, constantly propagating dogma & hypocrisy.

The self-righteous attitudes of Republicans, pro-Israelis & neo-conservatives only exposes their hypocrisy. They rely on forces of religious fundamentalism, usury & imperialism in order to protect themselves from criticism and being brought to justice.

Whether democracy is the moral or best form of government, I cannot say for sure. I will say however, that if by democracy we mean the assurance of human rights, I am not exactly sure how well the US fares in that regard; neither the US, nor any of its supposedly democratic allies.

I recently came across a comment by a pro-Israeli which read that Palestine was a roman creation. So too, was Israel. The idea that the Roman Empire & the Jewish Kingdom were never in agreement is at odds with history. Furthermore, was it not the pagan emperor Darius & the following Persian emperors who helped rebuild the Second Temple? The ties between Israel, imperialism & global empires goes back quite far. Today, instead of Rome we’ve got the UK & the US. Quite appropriate, given the greco-roman cultural foundations of both societies. Perhaps this is what Nietzsche was referring to when he mentioned the political order of the Judeo-Christian monopolization of monotheism & socio-economics. Before we deem critics of western society as atheists or fanatics, let us apply the same criticalness to ourselves. How moral are we, really, America?

Communism, fascism, democracy, republicanism, ultra-nationalism, theocracy all serve the agenda of Imperialism and work coercively against national sovereignty and human rights. An article recently published by Business Insider received insight on Middle East politics through the eyes of an Arab billionaire who requested that his identity remain anonymous to protect his name and family from danger. In the article, he made many interesting points, one of which caught my eye the most. The following is a quote from the article:

Israel doesn’t want peace because Russian immigrants have taken over its political system and moved it rightward.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/an-interview-with-an-arab-billionaire-2015-2#ixzz3RxpZsE00

This shows the close association between the state of Israel and imperialism. The vast immigration of Russian jews to the Middle East largely makes up the majority of Israel’s population. Imperialism & elitism have a longstanding tradition in Russian history. It was the Bolshevik communist revolution which brought the tradition to a sudden halt, thereby pinning Russia and the USSR against the West in a global conflict for the balance of power in a bi-polar stand-off called the Cold War, which lasted nearly half a century. Israel was largely the product of an agreement between various imperial forces. The Bolshevik revolution, like the Nazi movement, appeared to have been anti-semitic and violently hostile to Judaism on the surface; but in reality, both of these forces served as catalysts for the creation of Israel in 1948.

The point here is that Israel’s history and its policies are reflective of its practically absent democratic attributes. In the 21st century it is looking more and more like the apartheid regime which ruled South Africa from 1948 (the irony) till the end of the millennium.

The engine of industrialization and capitalism is often understood as freedom and individual innovation, but never as a product of government nepotism and imperial exploitation versus genuine free trade. Israel & Saudi Arabia are products of this reality. It is not the free-market culture but rather the culture of American Exceptionalism which has contributed to the successes of Zionism & global imperialism.

I would argue that free-markets and capitalism are completely different and in fact mutually antithetical. Capitalism is an attitude of supremacy, where as free markets are a philosophy of openness, self-reliance and innovation. Capitalism requires forced labor, slavery, ownership of natural resources, and enables oligarchy. Imperialism is an extension of capitalism, both of which are rooted deeply in white supremacy, orientalism and colonial exploitation.

The reveals the culpability of Israel and western neo-cons in the occupation of palestine and the propagation of nazi-esque white supremacy. It is this culture of racism which is responsible for the trans-atlantic slave system which practically built the United States. It is this culture of racism which enslaved South Africa, and continues to oppress Palestinians. It is this racism which ethnically cleansed the Armenians in a still unrecognized genocide by the Turkish government in the early twentieth century, paving the way for future genocides to be unheard of.

Syrian Jews More Tied To Biblical Ancestry Than Israelis?


Most Jews now living in the Arab world belong to communities dating back to Biblical times or originating as colonies of refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. In Syria, Jews of both origins, numbering altogether fewer than 3,000 in 1987, are found. After a mass-emigration in 1992, today fewer than 200 Jews live in Syria, mostly in the capital. Syrian Jews are Arabic-speaking and barely distinguishable from the Arabs around them. In Syria, as elsewhere, the degree to which Jews submit to the disciplines of their religion varies.


Business hurts.

inner strife


they try to use fear to intimidate you into believing them because they are so insecure. they will never change. they don’t want to change. they are incapable of being the best version of their self. instead they prefer ignorance. they prefer to be wasteful. they prefer to be angry, to be arrogant, and to prove points.

 

i just want to be successful. i’m over the bullshit. i know im an opinionated asshole. i know i don’t want some of you out there to succeed. it is a selfish desire. i want to succeed at this craft. i am better. i know i am. i am because i believe it in the depths of my heart. when i sit in my room, gazing at my screen, pondering life and all its mysteries, when i am at my dock lighting up when I am screaming, shouting, writing, laughing I am proving my right to be the greatest and the best and I will be damnit. I must be. It is not my doing. It is His.