The Institute of International Relations of Nanjing University, China

PHD researcher of  international relations

21 years have passed since the American academic Samuel Huntington raised a question about possible clashes between civilizations. Till now this question is on the table of researchers and world politics. He argued that the fundamental source of conflict would be cultural and the clash of civilizations would be dominant global politics. With the end of the Cold War international politics becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations. A civilization is thus the highest grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species. Civilizations differ from each other by history, language, culture tradition, and most important, religion. Civilization identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization. The most important conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another.

In this article review I will try to make some comments and counter-arguments on the specific disputes which were named by Huntington as religious conflicts.
Civilization may involve a large number of people, as with China, or Armenians who after the First World War are spread throughout the world, but they keep their native language, traditions, self-identi¬fication. Civilizations may include several nation states, for instance Slavic civilization which includes different states like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Serbia, etc.

Huntington argues that civilization may include sub civilizations. Western civilizations have two major variants, European and North American, and Islam has its Arab, Turkic and Malay subdivisions. The question then arises as to where goes the Iranian civilization then, which leads Shia Muslims?
Arabs and Turks are not in the same civilization, because they have different language, different traditions and different self-identi¬fication. They shared together long run history, as Ottoman Turks occupied territories which were populated by Arabs, but it can’t unite these nations because Arabs called this period as national catastrophe. The wars between Turks (Ottoman Empire and Safavid Empire) Iranians during 16-18-th centuries can be observed as the clash of civilizations. The clashes between Iranian and Turkish civilization started earlier than the 16th century and were mentioned in the Iranian national legend "Shah name”. We can sum up that Iranians, Arabs; Turks can’t be in the same civilization, because main differences are language, genealogy, traditions and self-identification. They have even religious differences as Sunni Turks, Shia Iranians and Vahabi Arabs differ from each other the same way as orthodox Russians from catholic Germans. Speaking about

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Huntington argued that this conflict is a religious conflict between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis.
Huntington argues that Russian volunteers who struggled against Muslim Bosniaks, did it because of religious principles, Turkey helped to Republic of Azerbaijan against Armenians, because they are Muslims. Huntington mentioned, that after the collapse of Soviet Union political considerations in Russia gave way to religious ones…And Azerbaijan accused the "Russian government of turning 180 degrees” toward support for Christian Armenia. From my point of view in 1990-ths religious solidarity was not possible in Post Soviet Union’s Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, because this countries more than 70 years lived in SU where the religious was banded and it was not so popular in this countries. Many Armenians who even didn’t see Armenia came from USA, France, Russia, Lebanon and fought in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), because they have Armenian national identity and they believe to the possibility to reestablish Great Armenia. Finally Russian volunteers fought for Serbians, because they thought they were defending the part of their nation. Turkey helped to rebels from Xinjiang province because Turks have the same genealogy and language with Uyghur people.

The Nagorno-Karabakh war started when Nagorno Karabagh Republic was formed on September 2, 1991 by the former Nagorno Karabagh Autonomous District and the adjacent region of Shahumyan. That day the joint session of councils of Nagorno Karabagh Autonomous District and Shahumyan Region with the participation of deputies of councils of all levels accepted a declaration of proclaiming the formation of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR). Legislative norms of the USSR and the right of nations to self-determination fixed in basic international documents became the legal basis of this act. The government of Azerbaijan SSR continued national cleansings in its territory and attacked NKR .

It is important to mention that in Baku and Sumgait Azerbaijanis attacked only Armenians, The question then arises, if Nagorno-Karabagh conflict was religious as it was mentioned by Huntington, why Azerbaijani forces attacked only Armenians and they didn’t use any power against Christian Russians or Christian Ukrainians? Many Russians and Ukrainians were fighting for Armenians or for Azerbaijanis, but they were struggling not for religion, but for money, because after the collapse of Soviet Union many military officers of Red Army lost their jobs, so they act as mercenary soldiers in this conflict. Chechens and Afghans were fighting against Armenians for money as well.

During the Nagorno-Karabakh war Turkey has been Baku’s main military ally, supplying Azerbaijan with finance and military equipments and Nagorno- Karabagh Republic got help from Armenia and from Armenian Diaspora. So I can sum up that Huntington’s arguments that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was religious were not the fact. The problem was that Armenians in NKR due to international low chose the way of self determination and in its way to freedom has been involved in war because of territorial disputes with Republic of Azerbaijan. Huntington mentioned that after the collapse of Soviet Union newly formed Russian Federation changed its policy and started to help Armenians because of Christianity, but the main problem is that government of Azerbaijan not once announced that if they won the war with Armenians, they would unite with Turkey and together they would create Pan-Turkists State which would include Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, the north provinces of Iran, Xinjiang province of China and the eastern regions of Russia. Russian government understood this geopolitical threat and signed military cooperation agreement with Armenia. When Turkey had concentrated troops near the border with Armenia, commander of the CIS Joint Armed Forces Yevgeny Shaposhnikov made a statement about the probability of the beginning of the "third world war" that prevented a possible Turkish aggression. It gave chance to Armenia to concentrate all forces in the eastern front and won the war. Azerbaijani Pan-Turkist’s rhetoric’s and territorial ambitions were disappointing for the Islamic Republic of Iran as well. Iranian government improved its relations with Christian Armenia. They didn’t participate in the blockade of Armenia, giving chance to Armenia transport and receive military and economic goods by the territory of Iran. If we take into account that in the beginnings of 1990-th the territory of Georgia was not stabile and dangerous for transportation of goods, because of weakness of central authority, Iranian territory stood as a corridor of life for Armenia and NKR. It is important to mention, that the Armenian community in Iran played a constructive role in the improvement of bilateral cooperation between Armenia and Iran. Armenian churches in Iran and Azerbaijan and Muslim’s mosque in the heart of the capital of the Armenia is the main fact, another fact that NKR-Azerbaijan conflict is not religious. Armenia has good relations with Muslim countries. After the 1915 genocide Armenian communities were formed in Muslim countries Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Jordan and etc. Armenian communities in these Muslim states are involved in the public and political life of these countries. Armenians in these communities have deputies, ministries, for instance, Nubar Nubarian who was the prime minster of Egypt. On the other hand Republic of Azerbaijan has good relations with Christian countries and strategic relations with the same Russia.

The above mentioned arguments can put light on some conflicts that Huntington argues as religion conflicts, but in fact there are not. For instance Nagorno Karabagh conflict, was not religious it is continues straggle of Karabaghi people for independence, so it must be jugged in the framework of the self- determination. The involvement of Armenian-volunteer’s from Armenia and Armenian Diaspora and Russian-volunteer’s involvement in Bosnian-Serbian conflict were not because of religious solidarity, but because of national solidarity.

In the chapter of The Confucian-Islamic connection Huntington argues, that Confucian-Islamic connection can challenge Western interests, values and power. I think that nowadays we mostly see high rank political cooperation between western states and Islamic states. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, AUE are the main allies of USA in the Muslim world. In the Muslim puzzle only Iran and Syria still confront with Western powers. China as the main power of the Confucian civilization has strong political and economic ties with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and with other Muslim states. China is also concerned about the stability and security of the Middle Eastern Muslim states, because possible instability in Middle East will be a reason for formation of terrorist and separatist groups in the Middle East which may have an influence on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. China is interested in the stability of the Middle East mainly populated by Muslims, so as to get the Middle Eastern energy sources without a risk. Imported gas and oil from the Muslim states still are the main sources for Chinese economy. It is worth to mention the idea of Hans J. Morgenthau that the goals that might be pursued by nations in their foreign policy can run the whole gamut of objectives any nation has ever pursued or might be possibly pursue.
3940 reads | 19.02.2014

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