Armenia’s “Vilayet” Policy


Conflicts International Affairs David Davidian

Of course, there is no political party in Armenia with the name Vilayet. The term entered the Turkish vocabulary from the Arabic wilayet, “denoting a province or region or district without any specific administrative connotation; the Ottomans used it to denote a specific administrative division.”

David Davidian

The moniker is rather appropriate in describing Armenian government policies that surfaced after Armenian capitulations that ended the Second Karabakh War on November 10, 2020. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signing the armistice was a shock to Armenians who listened to nightly media recaps of the fighting where Armenian forces were winning. One hint that something was wrong was the government’s use of the word “opposing side” rather than “enemy,” “invaders,” or “attackers,” as if the war were a soccer match.

The current Armenian government came to power with the universal, crusading theme of eliminating corruption. Yet it was unable, or unwilling, to return much of the funds claimed to have been stolen by members of previous government officials and oligarchs. Pashinyan is a disciple of Armenia’s first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s (LTP’s) policies and ideology.  LTP’s party, the Armenian National Movement, spearheaded establishing an oligarchic infrastructure in Armenia. It should be no wonder that the larger political parties registered in Armenia served the whims of oligarchs, none having any strategic vision for the country or representing the interests of the larger society. Armenia’s first wave of oligarchs emptied Armenia’s Soviet-era factories, institutes, and plants. These oligarchs sold off these assets by the ton to Iran and other buyers, with no effort to determine their strategic worth or utilize the talents of their highly-trained former employees.

LTP’s vision was based on the concept of Armenia not being a threat to its neighbors, whittled down to a population of petty merchants and storeowners. The contested Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh would be recognized as an integral part of Azerbaijan, although with unsecured autonomy.

Since declaring its independence following Soviet rule, Armenia and its policies have been oligarch-centric, lacking a “Pan-Armenian Grand Strategy.”  Numerous Western NGOs and projects or policies, both with questionable sources of funding, have been carried out within government ministries with a noted lack of transparency.  A popular refrain amongst inside observers refers to such infiltration as “Soros-istic,” attributed to the globalist George Soros.  Since the independence of Armenia, an anti-patriotic current was prevalent in society. Ancient and modern Armenian icons took a backseat to mafia-like TV heroes. A normal appearance of flags and few if any new national symbols were replaced by conspicuous consumption, and personal success was defined by amassing capital and having government connections to ensure this success. It is no wonder matters of national security are not found in daily discourse and that national political strategems are personality contests, rather than policy-based.

From April of 2018 to the present, Pashinyan’s government gutted ministries and replaced almost all positions with his cronies. Competence was a secondary job requirement. Within two and a half years, five National Security chiefs were replaced, and at least as many high-ranking military figures were dismissed or reassigned. None of this speaks well of meritocracy or continuity of policy and is transactional in process.

Azerbaijan’s attack on Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) in September 2020 resulted in the loss of Armenian sovereignty over those lands. Armenians casualties number about four thousand, mainly young men. Russia brokered the end of general hostilities and an Armenian capitulation. Armenians remain on a significantly reduced NK land area protected by a thousand Russian peacekeepers.

Although the war was fought in NK and outlying regions by volunteers from Armenia, the consensus among many military experts was that Armenians were unprepared for the Second Karabakh War. Competing, non-mutually exclusive hypotheses for the basis of this war include:

Hypothesis 1: Azerbaijan’s massive buildup in state-of-the-art military armament and training was unleashed on the Armenians of NK since Azerbaijan was fed up with decades of fruitless negotiations and the embarrassing losses in the July 2020 Four Day War. The hypothesis is that Turkey convinced Azerbaijan that the latter could capture these lands with Turkey’s active support and the import of Islamic Jihadists. Given that Caspian gas to Europe would be turned on by year’s end, the autumn of 2020 was an opportune time for an Azerbaijani offense.

Hypothesis 2: Pashinyan’s political outlook was that NK was always part of Azerbaijan. If borders remained closed and transportation routes remained blocked, Armenian oligarchs could not contract with Turks and Azerbaijanis for products and services. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan have stated that Armenians must release the sovereignty of NK as a prerequisite for opening borders. Without losing a war, Armenian society would never concede to a unilateral Armenian surrender of NK. No significant infrastructure was damaged in Armenia or Azerbaijan. The latter could only be by design. The hypothesis is that this war was planned. Pashinyan never stepped down from power after the capitulation. Since coming to power, Pashinyan and supporters worked against Russian interests in Armenia. A Turkish presence in the Caucasus serves Western designs. In addition, Armenia’s skeptical population (sample) views Biden’s recognition of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians as some quid pro quo associated with this hypothesis as part a regional peace plan since the American Presidential statement contained no punitive demands made of Turkey.

Since early 2021, Pashinyan’s “My Step” faction in Parliament has periodically made statements affirming the opening of Armenia’s borders, agreements and treaties with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Pashinyan’s supporters have ridiculed patriotic aspects of Armenian culture with impunity. As with LTP’s policies, Pashinyan has yet to articulate how his policies serve any Armenian Grand Strategy.

Given the massive disproportions in size, population, greed, patriotism, and vision among the Armenian and Turkish/Azerbaijani governments, Turkish soft power will reduce Armenia’s sovereignty to that of an Ottoman Turkish vilayet on account of the policies of the current Armenian government.

Yerevan, Armenia

Note: Some reference links are not available in English. Google translate is suggested to read them in English. 

Author: David Davidian (Lecturer at the American University of Armenia. He has spent over a decade in technical intelligence analysis at major high technology firms. He resides in Yerevan, Armenia).

(The views expressed in this article belong  only to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy or views of World Geostrategic Insights). 



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