Will Armenia give up its ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious ideology?
In accordance with prominent multicultural scholars, multiculturalism represents ethnic and cultural diversity where people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds or traditions interact freely and engage in social activities leading to a strong social bond. However, it doesn't mean that those people have to lose their cultural values, beliefs and norms for the sake of interacting or living with other people in a social system.
In other words, the concept of multiculturalism may be characterized as phenomena that encourage multi-ethnicity or religious groups to learn to live together in peaceful coexistence by preserving their ethnic or religious identity or values, Ramzi Teymurov, an ambassador of Azerbaijan to South Korea, writes in the article Multicultural South Caucasus is only concept for everlasting peace for The Korea Times. This is partly missing in the South Caucasus ― a region almost the size of the Korean Peninsula that accommodates more than 50 different ethnic groups and a relatively significant number of religious groups.
Multiculturalism as a political phenomenon became popular in the past 50 years, when Pierre Trudeau, then prime minister of Canada, initiated an official policy of multiculturalism in 1970. However, this argument is missing a crucial reality; multiculturalism's 1970 appearance in Canada doesn't mean it did not exist as a concept earlier. Recent academic research proves that the concept even if not the terminology of multiculturalism existed in the Eastern states as a regular lifestyle that people didn't even feel the need to address those values from academic or political perspectives.
For example, in Azerbaijan, as President Ilham Aliyev mentioned, multiculturalism is a way of life! President Aliyev made it clear that, in former times, there were no such terms as multiculturalism, even though it has always been the way of life in Azerbaijan. He mentioned that the representatives of all faiths living in Azerbaijan feel comfortable, and highlighted the ethnic and religious diversity of Azerbaijan as a great asset for the country. The records of Azerbaijan on multiculturalism from a historical background point of view are very well documented and approved by several academic research and articles. Azerbaijan is proud of its multicultural society and doesn't hesitate to promote and encourage multiculturalism in the international arena by hosting international conferences and forums dedicated to multiculturalism and launching the Year of Multiculturalism in 2016.
On the other hand, Georgia supports the advancement of civic national identity for the country and conducts multicultural policies. Georgia persuades the policies of promoting tolerance and respect among ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious groups, protects and promotes cultural diversity and establishes the necessary preconditions for representatives of different ethnic and linguistic groups to participate in formal and informal state settings.
However, the above-mentioned positive tendencies related to multicultural values do not exist with specific limits in Armenia ― the third country of the South Caucasus, in terms of population. According to its Constitution, although Armenia is a secular state, some scholars, including Armenian researchers, argue that the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) has enormous presence and activities in the country over the years, and AAC is strongly interconnected with internal and external politics of Armenia.
According to Armenian researchers, AAC influences politics, which seems necessary for preserving its status as a national church. The said critic also claims that AAC is also promoting the importance of membership of the said church, which is interpreted as the "only way to be a true Armenian." On the other hand, Armenia's ethnic idealization has prevailed in this state characterized by a single ethnic group.
Unfortunately, the so-called historical mythology of the "Great Armenia" that contains territorial claims against all of its neighboring countries, and so-called "genocide" claims against Turkey, and the strong influence of Armenian diaspora over internal politics in Armenia remain as the main causes that promote and encourage ultra-nationalistic and ultra-religious ideology and policies for many years. From my own experience, I can tell that it is not difficult to meet a young Armenian with hateful feelings against Turkey or Azerbaijan, or ultra-nationalistic feelings against Georgia, in the Western states, although he or she may belong to the second or third generation of Armenians living in those countries. From this point of view, it is not difficult to predict the characterization of the young generation of Armenians living in Armenia.
By saying so, I don't argue that there is no Armenian hatred among the Azerbaijani people or the young generation. Over 30 years of occupation of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territories, atrocities and vandalism acts against people and the historical heritage harmed the people.
But at the same time, the existence of thousands of ethnic Armenians in the territories of Azerbaijan, despite the tragedies as mentioned above, preserving the Armenian Church in the center of the capital city of Azerbaijan, and overall multicultural motives of Azerbaijani society presents prospects for minimizing those hatred feelings and promoting and encouraging the importance of peaceful coexistence.
As President Ilham Aliyev publicly stated, Azerbaijani and Armenian people live together in peace in Russia, Georgia and other parts of the world; why can't we live together again as our ancestors did?
I also firmly believe that as South Caucasians ― Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Armenians and many other ethnicities ― we still have a chance to live together in peace and harmony by conducting the state policies that support multicultural values and reject the calls for radicalism, ultra-nationalism and religious fundamentalism.
Therefore, I strongly recommend the new-generation politics of Armenia to carefully analyze the South Caucasus' geopolitics and realities, and to realize that living in that region with a belief in mythology or an ultra-nationalistic or ultra-religious mindset is not and will not be a successful strategy.
They might consider changing the existing state policy and social order that have not brought any economic or political advantages to Armenia since its independence, and to start adopting the policies that support multicultural values, which will not only be beneficial for Armenia but for overall political stability and economic prosperity in the South Caucasus. It is never late to learn from the mistakes and build a new and bright future for the next generations.