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Armenian News Network / Groong
March 13, 2003

by Razmig B. Shirinian


    The current post-Soviet bureaucracy in South Caucasian republics,
    and notably in ethnically diverse Azerbaijan and Georgia, has yet
    been unable to link ethnicity, territory, and political
    administration in the process of state-building and democratic
    development. Bureaucratic evolution from communism to liberalism
    has simply contributed to the establishment of a handy "electoral
    democracy" and lucrative economic liberalism for the elites.

			    *  *  *  *  *

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, particularistic
identities, reinforced differences, and fragmentation of societies
have been the dominant characteristics of the South Caucasian
republics of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan (or Trans-Caucasus). A
repudiation of universalistic and totalizing values (such as
federalism, egalitarianism, pluralism, and even the Western notions of
progress and rationality) is apparent among a variety of political and
intellectual trends that have emerged in recent years. Increasing
demand and spread of "electoral democracy," rising sensitivity of
domestic societies to external socioeconomic and political events,
expanding national sentiments, population pressures and the powerful
pull of ethnicity have certainly been among the contributing factors
to the recurring events that have and are reshaping the political
structure of the region. Notably, these change factors have been
conducive to authority challenges, and the transfer of political power
from traditional authoritarian states to smaller units or ethnic
groups and nationalities. Indeed, such developments have initiated
sharp departures from past practices in the affairs of former Soviet
states bringing new forms of tension into the region. Notably, the
challenges of democratic development have intensified despite an
apparently smooth communist to liberal bureaucratic transition.

Since 1991, - when all three republics of South Caucasus declared
their independence, - democracy has been a natural alternative to
authoritarian rule, and economic liberalization is pursued
indiscriminately and in a haphazard fashion. To be sure, the three
republics appear to be economically liberalized. However, the process
of economic liberalization has been abrupt, disorganized, and
violent. Political democratization, on the other hand, or the process
of electoral democracy has been sluggish, incomplete, and without any
institutional hold. A less strenuous and easier transition has been
that of bureaucracy from authoritarian to liberal. Ironically,
however, increasingly liberal bureaucracy seems to be at the core of
democratic deficiency since the early 1990s. In fact, what we have
witnessed in those South Caucasian states was a bureaucratic
transition from communism to nationalism; a process in which electoral
democracy has come in handy to consolidate power, and economic
liberalism has simply been lucrative for the elites.


A noticeable feature in the current post-Soviet political ideological
climate of South Caucasus has been the dominant presence of
nationalist, liberal, religious, and regional sentiments, as well as
increased interstate and intergroup antagonisms. Traditionally the
non-Russian areas were usually looked at by the western scholarship as
particular ethnic/national groups and as a distinct and separate
aspect of Soviet policy.  Such an approach has tended to neglect the
examination of the underlying social and political dynamics operating
within the republics and between different nationalities and
indigenous ethnic groups in a peripheral region such as South Caucasus
or Central Asia.

In retrospect, one might assert that the South Caucasian region,
certainly impacted by general Soviet nationality policy, has not been
shaped to any great extent by the twists and turns of that policy, but
rather by uniquely regional and indigenous sociopolitical, economic,
psychosocial, and demographic developments. These, in turn, have often
tended to pit native elites in fierce bureaucratic competition, ethnic
rivalry and inter-nationality clashes ever since the early 1920s when
all three republics lost their independence to the Soviet Union.

After sovietization in the early 1920s, the newly created autonomous
regions within these republics (e.g. Nagorno-Karabagh, Abkhazia,
Ossetia, and Nakhichevan) as well as the union republics themselves
were evidently formed on the basis of a nationality criterion and in
the name of protecting their rights. National minorities maintained
their cultural and political autonomy within the Soviet system
dominated by the Communist Party. Armenians and Azerbaijanis as large
minorities, for example, were organized into republics in return for
the loss of their political independence. They were assured
territorial status as well as cultural and linguistic rights. The
smaller minorities were organized into sub-republic units, or
Autonomous Oblasts within union republics, as was the case of
Nagorno-Karabagh in Azerbaijan. In fact, a fundamental institutional
policy carried out by the Soviet leadership was the establishment of
ethno-territorial administrative divisions extending from national
republics to national districts. The national-territorial formations
did not intend to carry out any egalitarian scheme nor did they
encourage any participatory or democratic politics. They simply
contributed to the relative calm and consolidation of ethnic identity
and institutionalized nationality in the Soviet federal system.
Moreover, ethnic enclaves, locked within the administrative apparatus
of the irresponsive bureaucracy of their respective republics, could
not enjoy their distinct rights. As such, nationality based autonomous
regions also created and intensified serious social and political
problems, especially in areas where minorities have a distinct
language and sufficient size and geographic concentration
(e.g. Southern Ossetia and Mountainous Karabagh). The nationality
question, henceforth, became the implicit part of all social,
economic, and political conflicts among the South Caucasian republics
since the early 1920s, and was raised quite explicitly after 1988 when
secession became a viable alternative.

Under the Gorbachev policy of perestroika and glasnost and
particularly after the total breakup of the Soviet Union, bureaucratic
competition and ethnic rivalry accelerated remarkably and led to
further consolidation of nationality and indigenous ethnic aspirations.
These rivalries and clashes led to growing discrimination and
deportation of local minorities, changed the demographic picture of
the area, and further impeded rule of law and democratic
development. Post-Soviet Moscow, on the other hand, gained a new
impetus and invited opportunities to maneuver its influence and
presence in the affairs of this peripheral region. Moscow still
maneuvers through these opportunities and explores the means to
utilize new political/bureaucratic and economic/military tools,
approaches, and concepts and to perpetuate new vertical ties between
Moscow and the three republics.

Inherent in the Soviet past the unresolved and resurfaced nationality
question in South Caucasus threatened the process of democratization
and impeded the normal political and economic development in the
region. South Caucasus remains a region of unresolved and "frozen
conflicts," far from being democratized.


The dominant political motif of the post-Cold War/post-Soviet South
Caucasus includes self-determination, disaggregation of former
societies, and creation of new independent states. Democratic
development has been severely impeded by the continuing regional
military tensions and clashes. To be sure, minority populations are
making strident demands for political rights and increased autonomy as
in the case of Ossetia within Georgia, or fighting for outright
independence such as the cases in Karabagh and Abkhazia. The turmoil
that has progressed in these areas has posed a direct and long-term
threat to regional stability and an acute dilemma for American,
European, as well as the region's policymakers. Western governments,
however, have been too hesitant in taking a direct interest and
involvement in the events of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The
United States policy of trivializing the crises in the region, in
turn, has contributed to an overtly tense relations among the regional
powers, particularly between Iran and Turkey, over the control and
security of the region.1 Both Iran and Turkey today are the two of the
most powerful countries in the Middle East and if there were to be a
military confrontation between those two it would come in the South
Caucasus, particularly in Armenia and Azerbaijan, where their
interests will most aggressively clash. Azerbaijan's oil, in
particular, is of vital interest to Iran and Turkey as they seek to
become strategic players in the region as well as in the landlocked
republics of Central Asia.

More important is the presence of Russian troops in the region. Not
surprisingly, their presence has been contested by several leaders in
the region who see them as a pretext to reassert Russian authority on
their territory. Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze, in particular,
has often and quite openly accused and denounced Russian involvement
in Georgian fighting on the Abkhazian side.  Ironically, by all
accounts the Georgian government in mid-September 1993 was also saved
by the intervention of Russia from the offensives of the Abkhaz
separatists and the rebels loyal to former president Zviad
Gamsakhurdia. In general, the position South Caucasian republics
occupy as transport routes between Asia and Europe as well as the
natural resources they contain underlie the aspirations of the
regional powers and undermine a normal process of state-building and
democratic development.

In considerable haste, both nationalist and liberal sentiments in
those three republics filled the ideological vacuum created in the
aftermath of the retreat of communism. In the autonomous regions
within the republics, on the other hand, not only was reversion to
nationalism and increased ethnic sentiments evident, but also the
resurfacing of strong antigovernmental sentiments accompanied by many
of the conflicts inherent in colonialism. Notably, demand for drastic
changes against irresponsiveness as well as against the exploitative
and oppressive measures of respective governments, and the right for
self-determination all became the familiar political motifs of the

Through most of the 20th Century, self-determination movements were
associated with anticolonialism and were nourished by evolving
interpretations of international law that accent democracy and
minority rights. The collapse of the Soviet Union has produced a new
and a different strain of the Cold War. Many of the Soviet successor
governments began to impose themselves on the indigenous peoples and
failed to represent and respond to the needs and demands of the
national and ethnic groups constituting their states. The post-Soviet
governments, in the name of state supremacy and control, have denied
minorities their right to a responsive and democratic government,
pushing them further to break away (Karabagh, Abkhazia, and Ossetia
are prime examples). Thus, struggles for self-determination initiated
in those areas are also struggles for independence and largely against
oppression. It is noteworthy that they are not simply struggles for
separation and disintegration of states since inherent in them is also
the drive for national unification; consider, for example, Karabagh
Armenians' demand for integration with the Republic of Armenia and the
Ossetian movement in Georgia for unification with Ossetians in the
north of the border.

In this context, culturally diverse societies that were forcefully
summed to form macro wholes have been disaggregated into smaller but
culturally more homogeneous and "pure" national units. Aggregation of
culturally and ethnically homogeneous units, or attempts in that
regard allude to patterns of integration hinged on forces of
nationalism with social, cultural, and territorial roots. For the
peoples of South Caucasus the establishment of their particularistic
national identity against dominant state powers remains the highest
priority, and the assertion of their identity is certainly pushed to
exceed the limits of pluralism established through state sovereignty.
The continuing persistence of nationalism and self-determination has
threatened the new sovereignties of those ethnically plural states,
and objections to state sovereignty continue to be made on the ground
of nationalism and self-determination. Thus, along with patterns of
fragmentation that are so evident in the current transformation of
South Caucasian politics, one might also point to movements in an
aggregative direction. Surely, the breakup and disaggregation of
traditional state units have transformed the image of regional
politics profoundly but, on the other hand, the existing national and
state-centered structure of the region is being preserved through
deep-seated continuities.

Inter-ethnic rivalries notwithstanding, the Caucasian republics have
also undertaken the difficult task of building their states
complicated by wartime conditions. For a second time in this century
they have gained their independence. However, as nations under stress,
their viability is still difficult to assess. Georgia, particularly,
is the most susceptible to disorder and is battered heavily by both
Abkhazian and Ossetian separatists. The southwestern region of the
country, Ajaria, is almost completely controlled by warlord Aslan
Abashidze. The Javakheti region in the south is also a constant
concern for the Georgian government since it seeks increased autonomy
and close association with the Armenian government.

The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan has centered on the movement
for self-determination of the Armenian people in mountainous Karabagh,
an autonomous region formed in early 1920s by the Bolshevik authorities.
Since 1988 the Karabagh problem has deepened into a full-scale war
between Armenian forces and the Azerbaijanian army, and has profoundly
influenced politics in both countries. Armenian victories in spring
1992 opened a corridor linking Armenia and Karabagh in the south
through the city of Lachin, and triggered unrest in Azerbaijan leading
to the ouster of the communists from power and the rise of the Popular
Front, largely a nationalist organization. The tide of war, however,
turned against Armenia in the fall of 1992, when Azeri forces
recaptured the Shahumian region in northern Karabagh. The non-communist
and hastily liberal government in Armenia (the All-Armenian National
Movement) which came to power in 1990, came under increased criticism
from opposition forces within the country. A loose coalition of
opposition parties for the most part of the 1990s accused the
government for not developing a viable military and economic policy,
for corruption, for continuing to seek a negotiated solution, and for
being too ready to compromise.

The 1993 spring offensive by the Karabagh Armenian forces resulted in
the recapture of most of Karabagh and, notably, the capture of much of
the Kelbajar region uniting Armenia and Karabagh in the north. These
significant territorial losses to Armenians stirred unrest within
Azerbaijan, and a colonel Surat Guseinov launched his rebellion
against the ruling Popular Front, bringing Azerbaijan's fragile
democracy to the brink of collapse. The June 1993 rebellion toppled
popularly elected nationalist President Abulfaz Elchibey and brought
back the former communist leader Haidar Aliev to power, diminishing
the chances of pluralism and democratic development in the country.
After witnessing long periods of fighting and the seesawed advantages
between the two sides, one might still wander whether increased
mediation efforts by the international community, through the United
Nations or the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, could
not have given these newly independent countries a chance to pursue
the process of state-building and democratic development under more
stable conditions. Ironically, the truce since 1994 has not advanced
nor has been conducive to the state-building process on both sides.
The conciliation efforts have been unproductive and the region as a
whole remains a war-zone, although a "frozen" one.


Among the South Caucasian republics Armenia was the first to
demonstrate radical nationalistic challenges against the Soviet system
and to initiate a drastic and historic departure from Soviet affairs.
As early as February 1988 demonstrations and massive popular rallies
(over one million people) both in Armenia and in Karabagh were
unprecedented in the sense that for 70 years during the Soviet era no
spontaneous popular movement of such magnitude has ever occurred.
However, radical challenges and movements were not followed by radical
changes as the movement leaders,2 after assuming power, became
increasingly reactionary and less reformist in their attempts to
articulate and devise a new national agenda. Surely, the national
agenda articulated by the new leadership included independence,
sovereignty, democratization, and liberalization but it fell short of
fundamental socio-political and economic changes, essential transition
schemes and developments, and short of widely expected unification of
the national entity as a whole.

The movement leaders in Armenia relied on nationalism, advocated
liberal ideology, overthrew communism, and took over the government.
However, and after declaration of independence in September 1991, the
leadership also relied on old bureaucratic, inept and corrupt
government structures (public services, judicial system, etc.) as a
ready-made and easy way of governing. Thus, Armenia could not move
away from an inefficient Soviet system of bureaucratic ministries.
Heavy reliance on old bureaucratic/administrative structures and state
machinery provided the available path to governing, but it also
stalled the democratic advances and neglected popular socio-political
and economic changes intended earlier. The new leadership as it
bureaucratized itself through the existing political, administrative,
social, and economic structures became increasingly reluctant to
devise policies of change and processes of restructuring.
Consequently, it also alienated itself from radically oriented popular
as well as broad-based intellectual support.

After gaining some initial legitimacy, the leadership in Armenia soon
assumed the pejorative characteristics of bureaucracy; namely, heavy
reliance on formalism, acute hierarchy, power play within itself, and
the forceful identification of its own interests with those of the
state. Consequently, harmony between the leadership and society at
large was not achieved even though continuous attempts were made to
interpret the interest and the world outlook of the leadership as the
interest and outlook of all. In fact, it is this uneasy (or enforced)
harmony that compelled many observers and politicians among the
opposition groups to see the present bureaucracy as the institutional
incarnation of political alienation deeply rooted in the Soviet
system. The practical egoism of the bureaucracy and the illusory
universality of its policies revealed the gulf that divides two major
policy orientations in Armenia. There is, on one hand, the
leadership's dominant concept of open and somewhat western oriented
national interests and, on the other, implicit yet widespread
opposition ideology associated with an inward looking and compacted
Armenian society "biologically conceived as an organism which must be
protected from degradation"3 and defended from the surrounding foreign
influences. Two polarized and diametrically opposed orientations
manifested in different ways have been involved in bitter struggle
and, so far, seem to be far from reaching a common ground.

Events in both Georgia and Azerbaijan unfolded differently where the
anti-Soviet movement was less radical in nature and could not mobilize
the masses as it did in Armenia. The process of change and challenges
against communism in Georgia, for example, was not organized around a
particular group or leadership until after the collapse of the
communist government. Politics in Georgia then revolved around former
President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, whose seven-party Round Table, a loose
anti-communist coalition of parties and activists, in October 1990 won
the first genuine multiparty legislative election in Soviet history,
and eventually caused the communist party to self-destruct. In
Azerbaijan, on the other hand, the nationalist movement of the Popular
Front also did not revolutionize nor did it mobilize the masses until
after the fall of communism. Unlike the popular fronts in the Baltic
republics, the Azerbaijani Popular Front "did not assert near-or
long-term claims for the separation of Azerbaijan from the Soviet
polity."4 As the initial change process in Armenia centered equally on
nationalism and on popular social, economic, and political demands,
both in Georgia and Azerbaijan it focused on enhanced political and
economic sovereignty and on a highly narrow ruling elite and its
control attempts on minorities and oppositions.

Revert to nationalism was certainly a consequence of an ideological
vacuum as much as it was a driving force in the struggle against
communism. However, it also provoked further inter-ethnic antagonisms,
increased anti-plural sentiments and tension between nationalism and
liberalism. These, in turn, hindered the leadership's ability to
manage the emerging and magnified crises in all social, political, and
economic domains. In the aftermath of perestroika and the breakdown of
Soviet central control, national and ethnic sentiments in South
Caucasian republics were transformed from being "a force for
liberation and democratization to one of ethnic hegemonism and
anti-pluralism."5 The region as a whole, thus, sank deeper into a
violent inter-ethnic conflict the resolution of which still remains
uncertain, despite its present calm.

In ethnically diverse Georgia and Azerbaijan the contour of conflict
expanded beyond the inter-ethnic rivalry to include different
oligarchic groups and socio-political strata of the society. As a
result, popularly elected leaders, Gamsakhurdia and Mutalibov in
Georgia and Azerbaijan respectively, fell often marking acute, violent
confrontations. Leadership in both countries was assumed by active
opposition groups (e.g. the Popular Front in Azerbaijan and the
National Council in Georgia) which, in turn and not surprisingly,
faced rebellious and separatist movements. Both countries remain
delicately volatile since, as William Maggs puts it, they are a
"patchwork of geographically compact groups of peoples with
irredentist claims and national ambitions."6


Max Weber conceptualized bureaucracy as an administrative apparatus
corresponding to rational-legal type of domination. Bureaucracy
conceived as an instrument for implementation of goals and provision
of services, rather than an instrument for gaining, maintaining, and
exercising power. As such, the role of bureaucracy is considered as a
central explanatory factor in understanding and explaining economic
growth and socio-political development (establishing rule of law,
constitutional rights, etc.). Broadly observed, the newly independent
South Caucasian societies have evoked a general assumption that,
distinct from most of the underdeveloped states, their new states
comprise a different set of socio-political and economic problems
encompassed in the notions of state building and institution
creation. The underlying need in their cases is administrative
practices preoccupied with services, infrastructure and development
that are deemed vital for institutionalization of social, political,
and economic life of the society. Moreover, the pressing need is for
an adaptive administration and service oriented bureaucracy suited for
developmental activities and capable of incorporating continuous and
profound changes and transformations. However, and as pointed out,
contrary to the emerging developmental needs, administrative practices
in the South Caucasian republics derived from preoccupation with power
and control, rendered little public service and institutionalization,
and contributed to the expansion of power either in the interest of
the bureaucracy itself or together with some other oligarchic groups
(e.g. mafia-type organizations).

Thus, one evident characteristic of South Caucasian administrations is
the absence of a developed bureaucracy in the Weberian sense; or the
existence of a relatively small ratio of adept and qualified officials
to population and tasks. The problem is both quantitative and
qualitative, in the proper sense of shortage in trained manpower. For
in spite of the growing need for an efficient and effective
administration to handle the emerging socio-political and economic
developmental needs, the South Caucasian societies remain in a state
of relative "organizational underdevelopment." They also remain in
continued inter-national and inter-ethnic conflicts which, in turn,
have not allowed for a proper (rational-legal) bureaucratic growth. It
is certainly misleading to view the early political movements that
opened up the way for independence, such as the ANM (All-Armenian
National Movement), or the APF (Azerbaijan's Popular Front), or the
ruling State Council in Georgia as being bureaucratic. Such
organizational arrangements, largely imported (both ANM and APF, one
might point out, have been poor imitations of movements initiated in
the Baltic states) and transplanted from above, and due to the fact
that they did not rest on a sound socio-economic infrastructure, had
little bureaucratic content in the precise sense. It is not surprising
to see that this low level of formal bureaucratization has also
revealed low degree of constructive impact of bureaucracy on society.7

For the most part, policy processes and the processes of change in
those new and developing countries need to be hinged on the exigent
and central concepts of state building, institutionalization and
development. This implies both quantitative and qualitative change,
including socio-political development as well as economic growth. The
processes of socio-political development and economic growth in South
Caucasus have direct bearing on the characteristics of the emerging
bureaucracy which, not unexpectedly, has increasingly been pejorative
in character preoccupying itself with control and power. As such,
public leaders like Shevardnadze of Georgia and Gamsakhurdia before
him, Mutalibov, Elchibey and Aliev of Azerbaijan, Ter Petrosian and
Kocharian of Armenia with their primary or personal constituencies,
largely trained as Soviet autocrats, have either been ousted from
power or faced strong opposition and popular discontent.  Notably, for
socio-political and economic development the much needed
decentralization, more independence and services, conducive
environment for innovation, diffusion of influence, and less
parochialism have been absent in the South Caucasian bureaucracy.

The compatibility between the economic aspect of the developmental
process and politico-administrative attributes has received a
considerable emphasis in the general literature on bureaucracy since
the mid-1960s. It has been largely argued that a great number of
prerequisites for economic liberalization and development depend on
governmental initiatives (such as the provision of services and other
aspects of infrastructure needed for economic growth), as well as on
direct governmental participation, such as entrepreneurship of the
bureaucracy. This last theme has also suggested that some
professionalization of the bureaucracy is needed for the success of
economic development. The achievement of national independence in the
three South Caucasian republics has manifested itself in an intended
process of change from the supremacy of Soviet administration and
bureaucracy to the supremacy of national politics with little or no
liberal administrative experience. Moreover, the hasty process of
bureaucratic change has also alluded to the current lack of
professionalization and lack of efficient organization and
administration, in turn a considerable obstacle to economic
liberalization and democratic development.

Since early 1990 experience in South Caucasus has suggested that
problems of an administrative, organizational, and political order
emanating from violence, irreconcilable political divisions, and
absence of appropriate schemes for economic infrastructure are among
the main obstacles to democratic growth.  Administrative deficiencies
have been as crippling to democracy as lack of capital to economic
growth. Although Azerbaijan continues to pump crude oil from its
Caspian fields and Armenia continues to maintain a bare minimum of
working infrastructure, both countries face ruinous economies as their
economic policies are primarily drawn upon the commercial dealings of
oligarchic elites and hardly drawn upon the popular needs. Georgia's
predicament, on the other hand, is worse than its neighboring
republics. The ludicrous and inept bureaucracy has created the
despotic and institutional corruption, which brought the Georgian
economy and its chance for democracy to the verge of total collapse
from the very beginning. Local warlords, such as Loti Kobalia who led
a band of soldiers loyal to late president Gamsakhurdia, and the
former cabinet of Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua which was forced to
resign in August 1993 gathered widespread scorn as a corrupt holdover
from the communist past. Even Eduard Shevardnadze, who was welcomed by
almost all Georgian political factions as well as by the populace, is
not immune nor can he dissociate himself from corruption. Notably,
Shevardnadze came to power in March 1992, "after a paramilitary group
known as the Mkhedrioni, or horsemen, ousted popularly elected Zviad
Gamsakhurdia. The 2,000-strong Mkhedrioni are known locally as
ex-convicts."8 In general, because of administrative deficiencies and
lack of socioeconomic and institutional infrastructure in South
Caucasian republics, most economic policies and democratic change fell
short of popular expectations and needs.

Notably, the significance and compatibility of bureaucracy with the
overall process of political change and development have been evident
even before the days of independence, and since the early days of
Mikhael Gorbachev's policy of perestroika and glasnost. Although
nationalization of bureaucracy has emerged as an underlying concern
and a major long-term challenge, it also and simply meant replacing or
filling the bureaucracy with nationals. It did not mean changing the
whole orientation of the bureaucracy from that of preserving
soviet-style control and order to one that attempts to be geared
towards processes of national integration and socio-economic
development. In the process of state-building and national
consolidation the endeavors of the national bureaucracy have thus
failed to assume 1) a more active participation in the economic life
and development of the emerging state and, 2) a service role in
promoting a political unity and a national identity.

Since the achievement of national independence the South Caucasian
states, like the rest of the Soviet successor states, have also been
engaged in the difficult process of relating the newly emerging
administrative and authoritative structures of government to the
political forces and parties within their societies. This implies a
difficult task of finding and promoting working relations between the
public bureaucracy and the large number of newly formed political
groups and parties. The process of finding working relations between
the public bureaucracy and the parties certainly leads to democratic
development depending, to a large extent, on the way in which such
tasks are faced and dealt with. However, the relationships between the
bureaucracy on the one hand and political groups, organizations, and
parties on the other, have developed in an unbalanced way. The
bureaucracy has acquired considerable advantage, influence and power
through the way in which it executed policies as well as through its
manner of defining them. Both military and former communist
bureaucracy in Azerbaijan, for example, after ousting popularly
elected president Elchibey from power and gaining control since June
of 1993, largely suppressed the Azerbaijan Popular Front, arrested
many party leaders and members, and used force to break up street
demonstrations organized by the opposition. The ruling elite in
Armenia since 1991, particularly under the leadership of the first
President Ter Petrosian, and in the name of popular mandate, has
forcefully implemented its policies, which have significantly
conflicted with the policies of many highly active opposition parties
in the country. The Mkhedrioni or the military bureaucracy in Georgia
has not developed any working relations with other groups, and the
opposition parties have been strictly controlled offering little or no
criticism of the government.

In the absence of working relations between the administrative
structures of the government and political parties, the bureaucracy,
in control of the administrative apparatus, also and ultimately gained
more influential voice in stating and directing the overall political
goals of society. Characteristically, it developed its own interests
and instituted new "power ministries" in close alliance with
oligarchic groups within the society. Once entrenched in different
organizations and oligarchic groups (notably mafia-style organizations),
the administrators in all three South Caucasian republics have
developed vested interests of their own in considerable conflict with
the interests of the society at large. In such circumstances, the
bureaucracy has acted as one of the major channels for political
conflict, corruption as well as interest aggregation. This, in turn,
contributed to the factors working against economic development, let
alone the crippling effects it had on rule of law and democratic

It seems ironic that bureaucratic evolution from communism to
nationalism in South Caucasus has not created the conducive
environment for the development of independent political roles,
activities, organizations, and attitudes. Particularly, other agencies
of government, e.g. legislatures, courts, interest groups, voluntary
organizations, etc., are either non-functioning or very weak due to
their very loose political role and character. Popularly elected
parliaments remain legislatively ineffective. In pejorative sense
thus, the administrative apparatus has remained dominantly
bureaucratic, which has given up little, if at all, of its powers and
privileges, or changed its orientation in favor of a more democratic
atmosphere. Generally speaking, communist to nationalist bureaucratic
transition in the three Caucasian republics has affected political
change and democracy in two adverse ways: first, by further
jeopardizing or hindering rather than promoting the democratic
development; and second, by further polarizing the populace from the
elite and hardly consolidating national integration.

In sum, the problems of state-building and democratic development are
magnified in South Caucasian republics, particularly in ethnically
segmented societies of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The primordial
challenge for all three republics lies in constructing a power sharing
system to involve ethnic groups, social and political organizations in
the state-building process and democratic development. For an
established rule of political behavior and institutionalized
democracy, free elections alone (fraudulent or otherwise) have proven
to be insufficient. The current post-Soviet bureaucracy in South
Caucasus has yet been unable to link ethnicity, territory, and
political administration in the process of state-building and
democratic development.

			    * * * * *


1. Not until much later after the collapse of the Soviet Union that
the U.S. increased its attention to the region and established three
Ambassador-level positions as part of implementing its geopolitical
and foreign policy interests: 1) Special Advisor to the President and
the Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Policy; 2) Ambassador
at large and Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New
Independent States; 3) Special Negotiator for Nagorno-Karabagh and New
Independent States Regional Conflicts.

2. These leaders are largely associated with All-Armenian National
Movement (ANM), a liberal democratic movement that ruled the country
until 1998. For the views and ideological orientations of these
leaders see Gerald J. Libaridian, ed., Armenia at the Crossroads:
Democracy and Nationhood in the Post-Soviet Era (Watertown, Mass:
Blue Crane Books, 1991).

3. Nora Dudwick, "Armenia: The Nation Awakens" in Ian Bremmer and Ray
Taras, eds., Nations and Politics in the Soviet Successor States
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 280.

4. Mark Saroyan, "The Karabakh Syndrome and Azerbaijani Politics,"
Problems of Communism, vol. XXXIX, No. 5 (September/October, 1990),
p. 23.

5. Stephen F. Jones, "Georgia: A Failed Democratic Transition," in
Bremmer and Taras, eds., op. cit., p. 288.

6. William Ward Maggs, "Armenia and Azerbaijan: Looking Toward the
Middle East," Current History, (January 1993), p. 7.

7. In the absence of essential infrastructural schemes and
developmental policies, economic liberalization and rapid
privatization could not benefit the populace at large. Even the
introduction and passage of new National Constitutions in mid-1995 for
all three republics could not reinforce rational legal type of

8. Colin Barraclough, "Georgia's Instability Unravels Economy," The
Christian Science Monitor (July 20, 1993).

Razmig B. Shirinian, is a Ph.D. in Political Science (International
Relations) from University of Southern California. He has Published a
book and a number of articles on contemporary political affairs both
in Armenian and English. He is a member of International Studies
Association (ISA) and a visiting lecturer of Political Science at
California State University campuses.

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