Vincenc Kopeček is an Affiliate Professor of Political Geography on the Division of Human Geography, College of Ostrava, Czechia, the place he additionally serves as a head of a analysis unit, the Centre for Political and Cultural Geography. In his analysis he focuses on ethnic minorities, de facto states, and casual politics within the South Caucasus. He has printed in Europe-Asia StudiesProblems of Post-Communism, and Caucasus Survey, and he’s additionally a co-editor (with Tomáš Hoch) of De Facto States in Eurasia (Routledge 2020).

The place do you see probably the most thrilling analysis/debates occurring in your area?

Just lately, I’ve been specializing in two principal analysis fields – de facto states (or unrecognized states, when you favor) and ethnic minorities – significantly within the South Caucasus. Nevertheless, as this interview is usually about de facto states, I’ll concentrate on this explicit analysis area. There was one leitmotif current at virtually each convention, seminar, or workshop on de facto states I’ve attended in the previous few years: the shortage of cross-regional comparative research. I hope that the rising variety of students who’ve lately entered this analysis area and who come from completely different tutorial backgrounds will change this, and within the coming years we may have a chance to learn attention-grabbing and helpful cross-regional comparisons on chosen elements of de facto statehood.

Nevertheless, with the intention to allow such comparisons, it appears inevitable to reconceptualize how we perceive de facto states. And this reconceptualization ought to transcend the competitors between the slim and broad definitions of a de facto state. On this case, reconceptualization means a concentrate on the ideas which might allow us to match de facto states with different comparable entities with out blurring the idea of de facto states as such, or in Sartorian phrases, with out conceptual stretching. On this regard, I discover very inspiring the idea of small dependent jurisdictions, which was launched by Giorgio Comai in his 2018 article in Ethnopolitics. Particularly, this idea allows us to innovatively take a look at relations between de facto states and their patrons. Very often, de facto states are seen as puppets of their highly effective patrons, however this can be a very simplistic view. These relations are far more complicated than this and need to be investigated with none simplification and prejudice. I additionally suppose that the idea of leverages and linkages (as lately utilized by Laurence Broers and by John Beyer and Stefan Wolff for instance), or patronage (as lately utilized by Eiki Berg and Kristel Vits and by Marcin Kosienkowski for instance) is beneficial on this regard. And I hope that the edited quantity De Facto States in Eurasia (Routledge 2020),  which I co-edited with my colleague Tomáš Hoch, has constructively contributed to this dialogue by demonstrating that it’s interdependency reasonably than dependency which describes the relations between de facto states and their patrons – with out questioning the very fact that it’s the patron who’s the stronger one on this complicated relationship. We additionally demonstrated that de facto states have their very own inside logic and agenda, and that they’re polities of their very own.  

Apart from this, I might point out yet one more instance of analysis which I discover actually thrilling and modern. That is an anthropological perspective on de facto states as employed by Andrea Peinhopf, who lately efficiently defended her dissertation “Battle and Co-Existence: Battle, Displacement and the Altering Dynamics of Inter- and Intra-Ethnic Relations in Abkhazia” on the College School London. She spent months conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Abkhazia, and since I had a chance to speak with Andrea about her thrilling analysis, I’m actually trying ahead to seeing her dissertation be printed. One in every of Andrea’s articles has already been printed on-line in Nationalities Papers in 2020.

How has the way in which you perceive the world modified over time, and what (or who) prompted probably the most important shifts in your pondering?

I don’t suppose that the way in which I perceive the world has modified over time, as a result of I don’t suppose I’ve ever understood the world. With P. T. Jackson, I might place myself as a mind-world monist and phenomenalist and I additionally subscribe to the hermeneutic custom. So, I simply see myself as merely deciphering the world, or reasonably its segments, to be right. And I can also’t say that it was any tutorial or philosophical e-book sensu stricto which formed the way in which I see and interpret issues round me. However I’ve to say that my “default setting” was arrange by a couple of authors I first learn once I was a teen. Above all, it was Karel Čapek, a Czech author from the interwar interval. He’s identified to the broader public principally by his performs, such because the R.U.R. (the place the phrase robotic comes from), the White Plague, or by his science fiction novel the Battle with the Newts. Nevertheless, he additionally wrote numerous essays and brief philosophical texts through which he argued in favour of the relativity of issues. Above all Čapek’s works, I actually admire his Apocryphal Tales, the place he deconstructs after which reconstructs biblical, legendary, or historic tales and occasions from completely different and surprising angles. For instance, in a fictional dialogue between Pilatus and St. Joseph of Arimathea, Čapek appears to talk by way of Pilatus’ mouth arguing that he ardently believes that there’s a “fact on the market” and that we’re created with the intention to discover it – not as people, however as a humankind. That there’s a area for extra philosophies, extra religions, extra truths within the that means of statements referring to a selected second or scenario.

If I then come again to social science, there may be loads of area for various epistemologies, methodologies, and theories, that are contributing to our understanding or interpretation of the world, or as Čapek has it, the reality. On the identical time, nonetheless, I’m removed from stating that every thing is fact. I’m deeply involved by what is named the “post-truth world”, methods utilized by varied actors to undermine public belief in our political establishments. On this regard, I’ve to check with the work of one other Czech writer, Václav Havel. In his essay “Politics and Conscience”, he writes a few seemingly powerless human, who can change issues by insisting on his fact. Havel is much from claiming that there’s only one fact; he simply says that regardless of the plurality of fact, not all statements are truths, and that apart from extra truths, there are additionally lies.

What have been the central points on the core of the Nagorno-Karabakh battle for the reason that fall of the Soviet Union? What key components have contributed to the continuing hostilities within the area?

This can be a very complicated query, however I’ll attempt to be as concise as potential. Though the battle has at all times had a number of dimensions, together with conflicting historic legacies, ethnic resentments, and involvement of exterior actors, for each events, the standing of Nagorno-Karabakh has at all times been the central situation. For each events, Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh, has been perceived as a form of sacred land which should be protected at virtually any value. This has made the Nagorno-Karabakh battle probably the most tangled, protracted, and virtually insolvable conflicts within the present-day world.

Just lately, primarily after the Second Karabakh Battle, the difficulty of historic legacies has appeared to achieve in significance vis-á-vis the huge marketing campaign launched by the Azerbaijani facet through which it has offered virtually all Armenian websites in Nagorno-Karabakh as not belonging to the Armenian cultural heritage, however of Caucasian Albania, an historical state which existed within the Jap Transcaucasia and which Azerbaijanis typically see as one in all their predecessors. Nevertheless, the historical past of the Caucasus is a posh situation, and such historic shortcuts are removed from correct. Each side of the Nagorno-Karabakh battle sometimes (mis-)use historical past with the intention to reputable their claims on this area, and usually I’m removed from siding with one or the opposite. However I’ve to obviously say that though the Caucasian Albanian heritage is certainly a part of the historical past of Nagorno-Karabakh in addition to of Azerbaijan correct, the claims raised by the Azerbaijani authorities that, for instance, the Dadivank monastery, which is located in a type of districts of Artsakh that have been returned to Azerbaijan based on the ceasefire settlement of November 2020, is an Albanian monastery and thus additionally an Azerbaijani monastery, are shining examples of utterly unacceptable historic shortcuts which, if I make use of Václav Havel’s terminology, will be referred to by only one phrase: a lie.     

In regards to the components which have contributed to the continuing hostilities – I see an important of them as follows:

First, for the final quarter of century, Azerbaijan has massively invested into its military, and its political representatives have been stating very clearly that if peace talks fail, they’re decided to take Nagorno-Karabakh by way of drive. From this viewpoint, the escalation of hostilities was only a matter of time. Azerbaijan appears to have been prepared for the army resolution from 2015, if not earlier, and they didn’t miss any alternative, any inside instability in Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh, to check the readiness of the Armenian facet. The April struggle of 2016 is simply probably the most seen instance.

Second, it appears that evidently Azerbaijani authorities had some expectations that the brand new Pashinyan administration in Yerevan could be a greater accomplice for negotiations than the earlier Sargsyan and Kocharyan administrations had been. However this was a miscalculation. On the one hand, Pashinyan is a liberal politician implementing anti-corruption and democratic reforms, alternatively, he proved to be a staunch Armenian nationalist and explicitly instructed the media that Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Armenia. Inevitably, such a press release was utterly unacceptable for Azerbaijan, and likewise surprising, as a result of each Kocharyan and Sargsyan, who have been initially from Nagorno-Karabakh, have been pragmatic politicians who prevented any sturdy and provocative statements concerning the standing of Nagorno-Karabakh. I imagine that the Azerbaijani facet was ready to see if Pashinyan could be extra inclined in the direction of some concessions and once they concluded that he was not, their readiness to go to struggle grew additional.

Third is the assertive Turkish coverage. I imagine that Azerbaijan wouldn’t have began the offensive with out Turkish help, with out having obtained Turkish drones, and almost definitely with out Turkish specialists on the bottom and with out Syrian mercenaries within the first line taking part in the function of cannon fodder.

Does the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic match the definition of a de facto state? How does Nagorno-Karabakh match into your wider work on de facto states?

Sure, it does. It has been for many years a really clear instance of a de facto state, fulfilling all standards of the slim definition. Even the Second Karabakh Battle from October and November 2020 didn’t change this. Nagorno-Karabakh, or the Republic of Artsakh, as is the official identify of this entity, misplaced most of its pre-war territory, however nonetheless controls a lot of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Area together with its capital Stepanakert. The ability of native authorities was apparently lowered, and it’s the Russian forces on the bottom and the Armenian authorities in Yerevan who gained extra energy and affect in Artsakh; however this solely made Artsakh extra just like different post-Soviet circumstances of de facto states, corresponding to South Ossetia as the perfect instance. Earlier than the Second Karabakh Battle, the Artsakh Republic was a comparatively self-confident actor interdependent with the Armenian Republic, now its potential to behave as a self-confident actor with its personal political agenda has been considerably diminished.

Nagorno-Karabakh was the primary de facto state I started to review. It was the subject of my Grasp thesis, and since that point I’ve at all times carefully adopted developments within the Republic of Artsakh particularly, in addition to within the Nagorno-Karabakh battle generally. From an instructional viewpoint, the Republic of Artsakh has been a laboratory for analysis on democratization in de facto states and on the event of political establishments.

How does Nagorno-Karabakh evaluate to and work together with different post-Soviet de facto states and different regional actors?

I’ve partially addressed this in my reply to the earlier query. Earlier than the Second Karabakh Battle the Republic of Artsakh was comparable with Abkhazia and these two entities perceived themselves as the perfect pupils within the class of post-Soviet de facto states. Moreover, in my interviews with Karabakhi representatives they typically careworn that they don’t seem to be as depending on Russia as Abkhazia, Transnistria, and South Ossetia are, and lots of of them perceived Russia’s function within the battle very critically. Nevertheless, the scenario has modified now.

Apparently, Nagorno-Karabakh’s relations with different post-Soviet de facto states have at all times been comparatively restricted. In contrast to Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh didn’t have interaction within the recreation of “de facto diplomacy” and didn’t open its representations or “embassies” in different de facto states. Its political representatives have been as a substitute centered on states with important Armenian diaspora, corresponding to France, the USA, Russia, Italy, and Lebanon and have been fairly profitable in gaining recognitions from sub-state actors, corresponding to a couple of US states, the Basque Autonomy, and a number of other French and Italian cities, which grew to become sister cities of a number of Artsakhi cities. After all, it’s relations with Armenia which have at all times had a prime precedence, and I analyzed them intimately in a single chapter of De Facto States in Eurasia.

What’s the function of civil society within the Nagorno-Karabakh area? That are the first inside actors at work?

When you ask this query, you will have almost definitely come throughout my co-authored article from Europe-Asia Studies (2016). We have been involved in track-II-diplomacy (i.e. relations between civil society organizations – CSOs), and its impression on  belief constructing between the 2 sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh battle and battle transformation generally. We had a singular alternative to conduct fieldwork amongst Artsakhi CSOs, and earlier than the beginning of the analysis we supposed that there should be some cooperation between the 2 sides of the battle on the track-II-diplomacy stage. And certainly, we realized there have been some contacts between Artskakhi and Armenian CSOs on one facet, and the Azerbaijani on the opposite, which have been realized by a couple of courageous individuals, however on the identical time we realized that there have been numerous obstacles hindering the battle transformation. First, it appears that evidently Azerbaijani activists concerned on this restricted dialogue have been harassed by Azerbaijani authorities. However as a result of we weren’t in a position to conduct the analysis in Azerbaijan, we can not affirm this utilizing our personal information. Second, as a result of the Artsakhi activists realized that their makes an attempt at track-II-diplomacy have been futile, they quickly turned to a different situation which they then noticed as extra essential: help for inside democratization. And third, it turned out that the speculation of battle transformation, and the mannequin of track-II-diplomacy particularly, have been primarily based on deceptive assumptions for which there’s not enough proof within the noticed actuality. These assumptions have been that CSOs from varied fields actively take part in battle transformation and track-II-diplomacy; nonetheless, what we noticed on the bottom was a distinct actuality. Apart from a handful of devoted pacifists and liberals, there have been a majority of CSOs and particular person civil society leaders which both didn’t have interaction in battle transformation and track-II-diplomacy, or who have been hindering it by their actions – consciously or unconsciously. Due to this fact, as a substitute of the widespread notion of civil society as a rational actor which makes a constructive contribution to the transformation of the battle, we provided a reasonably completely different idea of civil society—as a set of distinct and sometimes divergent pursuits which can’t solely assist to rework the battle, however which can additionally oppose its peaceable resolution.

Nevertheless, regardless of our scepticism in the direction of a constructive function of native CSOs in battle transformation, I’ve to say that there are a variety of great and courageous individuals in Artsakh, who regardless of their clear and uncompromising stances on the standing of Nagorno-Karabakh (that are utterly comprehensible however which on the identical time inevitably restrict their capacities in battle transformation) have interaction within the democratization course of as civil society leaders or journalists, and a few of them ultimately engaged in politics. It was at all times nice to speak to those individuals, even when we disagreed about many issues; so, if I’ll, I might categorical my thanks and help not less than to a few of them: Karen Ohandjanyan, Saro Saryan, Masis Mayilyan, Hayk Khanumyan, Naira Hayrumyan, and Gegham Baghdasaryan. And I might additionally point out the Stepanakert Press Membership and their month-to-month Analyticon, which has at all times belonged among the many finest analytical media in the entire South Caucasus.

What are your predictions for the way forward for Nagorno-Karabakh? Are there some other circumstances within the post-Soviet sphere that can be utilized as a degree of comparability?

I’m not good in predictions, so there’s a good likelihood that occasions might unfold in a totally completely different manner than I predict. Not less than I hope so, as a result of the prediction I’ll make after the next deliberation is kind of pessimistic. Within the second query of this interview, you requested me about my understanding of the world and my reply introduced us to Karel Čapek and his plurality of truths. And I believe this can be a good place to begin for students concerned in peace and battle analysis. We aren’t right here to guage the place the reality is, even when our informants typically count on this and even attempt to persuade us about their fact. Within the case of Karabakh, I’ve associates on each side. I’ve an Azerbaijani good friend who needed to flee from Fizuli when he was a baby and spent most of his life in refugee camps in Azerbaijan. And I’ve an Armenian good friend who needed to flee from Baku after which once more from his beloved second dwelling, Shushi. However I’m certain that these two would positively perceive and respect one another regardless of their reverse views of the battle if solely that they had an opportunity to fulfill and speak. Nevertheless, proper now I don’t see many probabilities that the Armenian/Karabakhi and Azerbaijani civil societies would have interaction in some constructive dialogue, the one path to constructive peace. Politicians and militaries can solely impose some momentary resolution to the battle, however until there’s a peace between civil societies, there is no such thing as a peace on the bottom, only a truce.

After 15 years researching de facto states, I’ve witnessed too many particular person tragedies, and I’ve heard too many unhappy tales stuffed with struggling, loss of life, distrust, and anger. However I’ve continuously additionally heard one thing completely different, principally from the mouths of aged ladies who’ve misplaced their husbands, brothers, sons, and grandsons in varied wars: “Chto by nebylo voiny” – “In order that there is no such thing as a struggle”. Sadly, within the case of Nagorno-Karabakh – I’m fairly sceptical. The Armenian facet is looking for revenge, and the Azerbaijani facet for disbanding the stays of the Nagorno-Karabakh de facto statehood. I can’t even see any exterior actor systematically taking part in a constructive function within the battle (the current joint US-Georgian diplomatic exercise in regards to the change of Armenian prisoners of struggle for maps of landmine fields is likely one of the few constructive exceptions). I’m afraid {that a} new struggle will come; I don’t know when precisely, however it can.        

What’s an important recommendation you would give to younger students?

I nonetheless think about myself a younger scholar, but when there are some even youthful students who wish to hear some “pearls of knowledge” from their barely older colleague, I’ll inform you this: When you resolve to do area work, at all times respect your gatekeepers and informants. It’s nice to gather new information, however your security and the protection of your native contacts have an absolute precedence. And yet one more factor. Once I was conducting area analysis in varied locations within the South Caucasus, I at all times had a sense that I used to be simply taking one thing from the communities with out repaying them. I used to be the one who printed articles and books, who earned some tutorial credit score, however I didn’t really feel that my analysis was additionally for the advantage of the communities. It’s troublesome to interact in community-based participatory analysis when researching conflicts, however I used to be ready to do that when researching ethnic minorities in Georgia the place it was a pleasure for me to help the area people in Pankisi with their growth agenda. When you see a chance to reconnect tutorial pursuits with neighborhood growth, think about taking it. It would make your analysis extra significant and maybe additionally your life happier.            

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