Roundtable Discussion Focuses on Crisis in the Caucasus

November 6, 2020

The Institute for International Communication, in cooperation with the Center for Global Business Stewardship at St. John’s University, hosted an academic-civic discussion roundtable, “The Crisis in the Caucasus,” on October 21.

The conversation specifically addressed the ongoing, month-old war in the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) and the humanitarian crisis unraveling from those atrocities. Open to the public, the virtual roundtable, moderated by Isabel Arustamyan, a second-year law student at St. John’s School of Law, drew from the expertise of three invited panelists.

Artyom Tonoyan, Ph.D., Research Associate at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, provided a thorough historical overview of the current context and the plight of the Artsakh Armenians since the 1920s Soviet government’s decision to include the republic, with its more than 90 percent ethnic Armenian inhabitants, as part of a newly formed republic of Azerbaijan. He emphasized that the details of that decision were still unclear to historians, though speculations abound.

Answering a question on the religious component of the current war, the second panelist, Mark L. Movsesian, Esq., Frederick A. Whitney Professor and Codirector, Center for Law and Religion, St. John’s School of Law, stressed that while religion has played a role historically (the Armenian church is one of the oldest in the world, adopting Christianity in 301 A.D., several years before Rome’s conversion, while Azerbaijani are predominantly Muslim), and that there are attempts to present the current war from a religious perspective, there is much more at stake. Specifically, he emphasized the political element in the current war stemming from deep-rooted antagonisms, declining oil-based economy, and the threat of terrorist mercenaries employed by Azerbaijan as confirmed by the international media and the intelligence services of several governments (including France, Russia, and the US).

Following up to the earlier points, Siobhan Nash-Marshall, Ph.D., Mary T. Clark Chair of Christian Philosophy, Manhattanville College, addressed the patterns of continuity from the Armenian Genocide of 1915 up until this war. As a philosopher and genocide scholar, Dr. Nash-Marshall emphasized the parallels between the present war and events of the early 20th century in the same region.

She touched on grand imperial designs of the last century that seem to motivate the current attack on the Armenian population in Artsakh, while expressing hope that an average person learning about the tragedy in Armenia will be moved to join the humanitarian call to end the atrocities and resolve matters peacefully.

The event drew strong participation from the St. John’s community and general public and concluded with an engaging question-and-answer session.