The Caucasian Region: Old Tensions and New Geopolitical Design
On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program Visiting Fellow Sergey Markedonov gave a presentation entitled “The Caucasian Region: Old Tensions and New Geopolitical Design,” outlining the political changes that have occurred in the Caucasus region, specifically Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Chechnya, following the August war of 2008. Andrew Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program, moderated the event.
Markedonov argued that the new geopolitical design of the Caucasian region, while accelerated by the 2008 August war, is actually a continuation of the increased political dynamics and internationalization that began in the late 1990s. Markedonov stated that opposition groups in the North Caucasus are increasingly united around Islamic ideology, which crosses ethnic borders, but argued that a “new nationalism” has also recently gained support. This nationalism is no longer anti-state, but rather seeks to improve the political-legal status of ethnic minorities within the existing system.
In his presentation, Markedonov also discussed the new roles of Russia, Turkey, and Iran in the Caucasus. Turkey has recently moved towards a normalization of relations with Armenia, and Iran’s interests in the region are split between political pragmatism and ideological purism. Russia has played a conflicting role in the region, supporting the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia while continuing to struggle with internal instability in the North Caucasus. Markedonov asserted that the primary cause of increased violence in the North Caucasus is the absence of a coordinated strategy at the national level in Russia, and argued the need for a soft power approach utilizing mass media, education, and civil society to stabilize the region.