THE CAUCASUS IN THE POST-COLD WAR ERA: FROM THE SOVIET REPUBLICS TO A CRUCIAL BUFFER ZONE
Markos Troulis, Ph.D., Post-Doc Researcher, University of Macedonia (Thessaloniki, Greece)
The Caucasus has attracted the interest of the neighboring powers in the post-Cold War era due to its geopolitical and geo-economic significance, as well as these powers’ deep-rooted affiliations with the peoples of the Caucasus. The current paper focuses on Russia’s and Turkey’s historical objectives in the region, how these objectives were met during the last 25 years and the debate behind the use of historical narratives as instruments of soft power.
Both Moscow and Ankara felt the need for legitimizing their presence in the Southern Caucasus, where three new independent states were established after the Cold War. On the one hand, already since 1994, Moscow has been regarding the ex-Soviet republics as its “near abroad” protected by its “nuclear umbrella.” On the other hand, Turkey has never stopped to be a presence in the region under the cloak of soft power means. These means are based on the exploitation of Turkish or Islamic identity and the resulting relationships, being vigorously cultivated both by Ankara itself and various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—such as Fethullah Gülen’s Organization, which has been active until recently. The purpose of this kind of ideological construct is to strengthen Islamic and Turkish influence in the countries that are involved in the search for a new post-Soviet identity, free from the protectorate of Moscow.
The correlation and blending of hard and soft power are analyzed; a number of findings are made at different levels in the context of long-term historical narratives and the desire of the participants to assert their respective geopolitical roles. The efforts of Russia and Turkey resulted in “ideological battle” around the issue of historical ties of each of the countries with the newly created states.
For this reason, the core of the research is aimed at examining Russia’s and Turkey’s grand strategies with regard to the Southern Caucasus, as well as whether and how they are influenced by historical narratives. Accordingly, we are trying to examine how the rhetoric of both countries is transformed into one of the components of their power or, in other words, how it is included in the set of their strategic instruments. To this end, the author applies the multi-level theoretical analysis to the situation in the region and tries to clarify the relevant typology of historical narratives and strategic objectives of the two countries.
Keywords: the Caucasus, Russia, Turkey, international relations theory, geopolitics, geo-economics, strategic studies, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia.