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.

Oka, Natsuko. 2009. “Ethnicity and Elections Under Authoritarianism: The Case of Kazakhstan.”

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.”
United States Department of State. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor.

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.

If I Were President – 2016 and Beyond


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There are many avenues that need to be walked in order to improve the US domestically.

The US is still a global leader, but socio-economically it lags in development, compared to its allies in Europe and its emerging competitors in the East. The progressive wave which swept Europe in the 90s and early 2000s seems to have missed the US. Obama’s legacy remains barely left of center, despite significant strides and accomplishments. Furthermore, China’s emergence as an industrial power and Russia’s assertiveness in the 21st century are signs of a need for the US to improve its position politically.

So what should be on the agenda for the US domestically?

  1. Immigration Reform – This must be done comprehensively without leaving any behind and also planning for the future. Grant amnesty, permanent status to those currently living in the US, with discretion for amnesty based on level of hardship endured. Grant federal aid to all immigrants in US. Normalize their status. Establish better relations economically and politically with neighbors, particularly those from which immigrants flee. Tackle source of problem. Tightening borders not only won’t solve problem – it is a mere rhetorical campaign tactic to entice those with little education on the matter.
  2. Minority Rights – African & Latino-Americans, but also Arab and Asian-Americans have suffered disproportionately in the spheres of economics and political representation. Social, economic and political measures are necessary to elevate not just the plight but the status of minorities in the US to that of equal-standing with other social groups to balance out the playing field and ensure a robust democracy and free market for all – not just some.
  3. Military & Prison Reform – We spend too much money on our military. We execute and incarcerate more people than any country in the world. That includes China, the most populous nation on the planet. How could this be? Surely, the US’ history of racism has nothing to do with it…considering the majority of prisoners in the US are either African or Latino. We need to spend less on our military, jail less of our minorities, and de-institutionalize racism. This requires active government initiative in the realms of education and economic opportunity.
  4. Health & Climate – we need a conscious revolution in our expectations of quality and formation of national identity and culture. The US must advocate for cleaner diets and environments for its people. Furthermore, the US must learn to compromise the tradition of robust-industrialization with regards to its negative impact on the environment. Thoroughly embedded universal healthcare must be made accessible to all Americans.

And what about in the realm of foreign politics?

Disengagement – the US must return to its pre-WWI foreign policy of having almost no foreign policy. The US was isolationist, largely uninvolved in the world prior to the world wars. Interventionism in the post-cold war period has reached new heights, and caused greater setbacks for the US and the world altogether. More military disengagement, including of covert operations, would result in a more secure US. The US cannot expect to have its borders secure while it practically disregards the borders and national sovereignty of other nations.

  1. Disengage Saudi Arabia until religious tolerance reform; distribute wealth
  2. Reconcile with Iran, Syria – South America
  3. Disengage Israel – less partial support
  4. Disengage from other spheres of influence (respect Chinese, Russian spheres)
  5. Recognize the Armenian Genocide (and all other disregarded mass-genocides of the 20th century and beyond; in Africa and Asia)
  6. Pressure Turkey to contain itself

Instead of disrupting the balance of power, the US should seek to play a more even hand. It could thus focus less on entertaining the greed of its elite through foreign escapades, and more on distributing resources more justly, effectively and fruitfully.

Who is the best candidate?

Overall Bernie Sanders is the best candidate because he benefits all those who are struggling, from economic equality, gender & minority rights, prison-reform & foreign disengagement – all of these fall within his scope. And all of these have hurt the US. As for foreign policy, he won’t do much. But that’s better than doing a lot – which is what his competitors and his predecessors have done – full military engagement or support for various forces. Bernie isn’t going to save America or the world. Particularly in the Middle East, his policies could prove naive – how would he manage Israeli aggression? Furthermore, in light of the double-standard against Palestinians, can their self-determination be secured in the face of a relentless, expansionist Israeli state?

What would happen in a Trump or Clinton presidency? How different are they, how similar?

We would clash with all our “enemies” more directly: Iran, North Korea, ISIS, Venezuela, Hamas, Hezbollah & Syria. Obama’s legacy of reconciliation would be undermined, where as a Bernie Sanders presidency would be more in tune.

If we focus on policy instead of rhetoric, we’ll see that both Trump and Clinton are hawkish. They are both angry about the deal with Iran. Both are unrelentingly pro-Israeli.

America is at a cross-roads. Sure, we are always choosing between two sides, but this election, more than ever, is more polarized than ever. Considering the US’ immense influence over global affairs, blue or red tie in the White House often means the difference between inflated gas prices and high terror alerts.

Is Bernie that much different from Trump and Clinton?

Aside from the slogans, ideologies and rhetoric – how different are these guys? In domestic politics, greatly. In foreign politics…not so much. In fact foreign politics has almost taken a backseat to the economic crisis in the US. The sad thing is that the two are so-connected.

Who do you trust most to deal with these realities?

Take your pick. Bet you can’t guess mine! (Even though I can’t vote…which goes back to the need for immigration reform). Catch my drift?

The Capitalist Lie


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Capitalism is portrayed as a mechanism for increased accessibility, opportunity and dignity.

It is offered essentially as the corner-stone of English culture – the Protestant work ethic, the idea of private property, and so forth.

But is capitalism really a mechanism for competition or is it like communism, another tool of the elite to secure their exclusive control of the economy?

Such exercise of power is tremendous.

Anglo-Saxon capitalism can be thus pinned as the equivalent of Russian bolshevism, or stalinism. The promise is always equality; the reality is often not.

Is there an alternative?

I believe the world is struggling today against the imperial nature of capitalism in the same fashion that it has historically struggled against other ideological waves of global imbalance.

It is only when sovereignty and culture are respected, that balance ensues.

So what interrupts this order? When did this happen?

Whenever a social group takes it upon itself to be the harbinger of justice, and expresses that actively by violating the self-determination of another social-group – this is when order is interrupted.

Capitalism is used inter-changeably with freedom and free markets, but in reality, religion, culture and government have all played a huge hand in institutionalized disenfranchisement of certain social groups via discrimination.

The problem isn’t that America needs to be more capitalistic but rather that it needs to acknowledge the cultural dilemma it is facing – America is no longer an Anglo-Saxon nation and will be, by definition, a majority-minority country by 2050.

America should be more focused on fully embodying democracy at home, where it is advertised but not fully practiced despite demands from the people, and less focused on exporting it to places in the world where it is not welcome, at least not by force.

Much of what has happened historically, and in today’s world even, has been a reaction towards American imperial overreach. We will face the same consequence as the USSR or the Holy Roman Empire or will America learn to contain its own ambition, for the sake of national and global security?

 

 

 

Chomsky on Orwell, Propaganda & Neoconservatism


Authoritarianism and anarchism are two sides of the same coin. Anarcho-capitalism and insurgent anarchists are one in the same; furthermore they rely on state sponsorship; and they are tied financially.

I wouldn’t doubt a dubious relationship between the GOP, AIPAC, Tea Party, Israel, Multi-National Corporations and pseudo-Islamic, fanatical, and violent terrorist networks like ISIS and al Qaeda.

Colonialism, capitalism, neoconservatism, totalitarianism, fascism, and authoritarianism, communism = tools of imperial domination = discourage individual innovation, socio-economic justice on national and global levels.

Mixed economics > capitalism, communism, fascism, etc.

 

President Bashar al-Assad on 60 Minutes


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http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf

I’ve always believed this. The relationship between the United States of America and #Syria, & the broader Middle East, is evolving.

America doesn’t really know Syria. It has always played the political game from a quieter angle, relative to let’s say for example, #Egypt under the rule of leaders like Naser & Sadat.

Still, for the most part, Syria has been traditionally vilified by the US & its allies.

The reality is that there are many commonalities between Syria & America, as farfetched as that may seem. The media has successfully tainted this relationship and the image of Syria, and the #Arab world at large, over the years.

But Syria is the only Arab country with a deeply engrained culture of secularism, a value enjoyed and upheld by the US.

The paradoxes in US politics is what makes everything so troubling and difficult to understand.

America is, as #Assad said in his latest interview with #CBS’s Charlie Rose, the greatest country. It wouldn’t be wise for any leader or country to not seek cooperation with it.

Let us realize however that if indeed the US is a “democracy champion human rights”, it is a flawed one indeed.

African-Americans earned the right to vote only 40-50 years ago. What kind of universal crown jewel of democracy are we?

But as the Middle East endures another era of tumult and “revolution”, so to has America experienced a change.

Day by day, it becomes increasingly apparent that there is a rift within the American population. The people are divided. The politicians are pinned against one another.

So it becomes that much more difficult to understand where America really stands. The reality is America is NOT #homogenous. The people have differences. We are diverse. As we struggle for our national identity, and to perhaps establish a new one, age-old reactionaries who serve as the dynasties of American families exploit time and resources in order to perpetuate injustice at home and abroad.

As we struggle to establish rights for all men and women in America, our politicians are stripping, exploiting and ignoring the rights of other nations and peoples abroad.

There is however, an initiative in the #West, in the US, to make change. I do believe the #Democrats and Barrack #Obama are among the leaders of that potential change, both in the traditions of #American domestic and foreign #policy.

What stands against us, however, is an equally if not more powerful and determined force fueled by fanatical ideology and corporate interest, the likes of the #Koch brothers; the #Bush family; the #Republican Party; #AIPAC; prison-industrial complex; #NRA; #racism; KKK; #Zionism; #Corporatism; Oligarchy.

Analyzing Political Undertones in Pop Culture Through Art


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There is generally speaking a list of artistic works that, despite their aesthetic greatness, are either historically misrepresentative & inaccurate or merely biased in context and coverage.

Some do justice, some don’t. Perception all depends on which angle you look at the subject. I wish for justice for all, but we must recognize, expose & bring to justice those distinct forces which cause & instigate violent political crime.

Munich, Waltz with Bashir, & Exodus, viewed as biased & racist. Black & Arab culture, disenfranchised, used, exploited, hung & dried.

A more accurate depiction of reality in the Middle East in Palestinian film Paradise Now.

Another, more realistic representation of the ME in a scene from Syriana, which features George Clooney & Matt Damon.

How Hollywood & all of western media distorts reality through film & other mediums of mass mainstream expression.

This rather, light film depicts the similarities, and differences, between the Arab & Israeli people. But recognition of Israel implies two things: treachery to the Arab cause; abandoning the human rights of the Palestinian nation.

Is it unfair for the international community to suggest that the Jews are fine without a state called Israel? The difference between the need for an Armenian state, for example, versus a Jewish one, is that the former is completely ethnic-based while the latter is a hybrid of religion, culture and language. This makes it difficult to place importance on the need for a Jewish state while ignoring Palestinian self-determination.

Individuals like Helen Thomas get blacklisted for making comments such as those in the video below:

If there is a moral arc of the universe, it bends in favor of the Westerner & the lighter-skinned.

On US and Arab ‘Coalition’ Attack ISIS in Syria


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It is either imperialism carving its route, or correctional measures to counter Bush’s imperialism. If Saudi & Qatar are among the sponsors of ISIS, how does this make sense? Israel is quietly involved, as usual. Some would argue Assad is more convenient for Israel, Saudi and other Arab governments – others would argue otherwise, that Assad is the anti-imperialist, anti-destabilizing force. A third perspective is that all the alternatives are culpable in tyranny, marginalizing the moderate voices of the Middle East, voices that would echo the common human qualities of freedom, dignity and fulfillment. Alliances are forged and broken within minutes in politics – what is constant is motive; which is the security of ‘arbitrary’ power. Who stands on the side of justice, and not just on vague, pretentiously ambitious political concepts?