Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed, the three conflicts in the South Caucasus over the territories of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh remain depressingly unresolved.
Two generational tendencies have been at work over this time: the passing of an older Soviet-era generation who lived in one state, for whom ethnic differences were unimportant and for whom Russian was a common language; and the emergence of a younger generation, which is more worldly and less encumbered by the baggage of conflict, but is also heavily influenced by the nationalist narratives of its society and lacks a common language with the other side.
I would argue that the negative tendencies outweigh the positives. In the Karabakh dispute, a national Azerbaijani narrative is taking shape in a new, wealthy, self-confident nation that is less inclined to make compromises with the Armenians. At the same time, Armenians present the de-facto secession of Nagorno Karabakh as a fact that has only to be ratified by history on the lines of Kosovo and South Sudan. Few points of convergence there.
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Thomas de Waal is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.
Challenging the Language of Estrangement in the Caucasus