The Armenian Studies Program is continuing to foster discussion around the history and current events of the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. On Wednesday, a University post-doctorate fellow held a lecture called “Drawing Borders, or Creating Conflicts in the Caucasus?” at the International Institute.
The ASP and Center for Russian and East European Studies hosted University lecturer Arsène Saparov to present his research on the region. More than two dozen people attended the lecture.
Armenia is a mountainous nation of three million located between Western Asia and Eastern Europe. The country was divided between the Russian and Ottoman empires in the 19th century and was persecuted by the Ottomans during War World I. Before the Soviet Union conquered Armenia in 1920, 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were systematically exterminated by the Turks during the Armenian Genocide. In recent decades, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, Armenia has undergone economic growth.
Saparov focused on the ethnic conflicts within the Caucasus. The Bolsheviks — the leading, leftist party in Russia after the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917 — redefined the borders in Armenia in the early 20th century. The meddling is often blamed for creating ethnic strife in the European nation. Saparov delved into the Bolsheviks’ mindset and intentions while creating borders.
In his lecture, he also analyzed the Caucasus Mountains region from a broader perspective, spanning across centuries of history.
“You need to look at the bigger picture to see how small events fit into the bigger picture,” Saparov said.
Saparov argued that the Soviets’ actions are not as sinister as commonly understood.
“If you zoom in at the close conditions you start realizing that this is actually the result of a number of decisions taken by people trying to solve immediate problems – it’s not a long term predetermined process,” Saparov said.
Kathryn Babayan, director of the Armenian Studies Program, said she hopes events such as these serve to generate public interest in Armenia.
“One of the things that we try to do is to create an intellectual community that reaches out beyond just those who are studying Armenian history or literature but actually reaches to a global faculty as well as undergraduates,” Babayan said.
Rackham student Vahe Sahakyan, a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies, said he was impressed with Saparov’s angle.
“This was a unique approach that Arsène takes because it looks at the whole region, not into a specific country,” Sahakyan said.
Engineering junior Antonina Malyarenko attended the lecture with a mission to gain more knowledge on the Caucasus.
“Every day in class we have to talk about current events and a lot of these particular things are still going on – like the conflicts and stuff – so I’d personally like to learn more so I can have more of a background to talk about in class.”