Causes and Instigators of Armenophobia, E.Ya. Drabkina

“Due to the weakness of Russian trading capital, Russia created an agency for itself in the form of the Armenian trading bourgeoisie. The Russian industrialist appeared on the Georgian stage as an Armenian merchant, and the economic policy of Russia was personified by the Armenian bourgeoisie.

As a result, a kind of “Armenian fetishism” emerged in Georgia, which consisted of real economic relations being refracted as national relations between Georgians and Armenians.

Russia was perceived as a political force, and the results of its economic influence were seen as the fruits of the activities of Armenian capitalists. The colonial contradiction was refracted as local and national.”

These provisions can be fully applied to the entire Transcaucasia. The Armenian bourgeoisie everywhere acted as the bearer of capitalist principles. Therefore, all anti-capitalist classes in the Transcaucasia burned with hatred for it: Georgian landlords who, despite all “assistance,” lost their economic independence and sold their estates to Armenian bourgeois; peasants suffocating in the nets of Armenian usurers; and Azerbaijani feudal lords. Anti-Armenian sentiments often penetrated the proletariat environment, coloring its class instinct in nationalistic tones.

The same Armenophobia, but for different reasons, became the banner of bourgeois groups of the emerging Georgian and Azerbaijani bourgeoisie, which was oppressed by the victorious Armenian competition. In Georgia, the tone of this anti-Armenian chauvinism was set by landlords, in Azerbaijan – by the bourgeoisie.

The programs of political parties in the Transcaucasia reflected this complex intertwining of national and class motives. For example, groups representing the interests of the Georgian nobility and subsequently forming the National Democratic Party were quite loyal to the tsarist regime, but at the same time, they wanted autonomy for Georgia.

Territorial-national autonomy would have untied the hands of Georgian landlords, giving them the opportunity to deal with Armenian capital, expel Armenians from Georgia, take away the noble estates bought by them, etc. The decline of the feudal system in Georgia seemed to them a direct result of Armenian villainy, so they were monarchists, serfdom supporters, and Armenophobes.

National-territorial autonomy was also beneficial for the Georgian bourgeoisie, which signed up under this slogan. “It wanted,” says Shahnazarov, “- to oust non-Georgian capital from Georgia, spread its wings widely, and gain autonomy for Georgia with closed markets, customs duties, and other exclusive laws aimed against competitors, non-Georgian capitalists.”

However, the Georgian bourgeoisie, despite the fact that the interests of its urban wing had already come into conflict with Russian capital, did not demand complete separation from Russia.

The development of the Georgian bourgeoisie was hindered not by the connection with Russia itself, but by the fact that Russia supported Armenian capitalists and Georgian landlords.

Therefore, it wanted to fence itself off with national-territorial autonomy in order to rid itself of the unwanted aspects of Russian policy, while retaining all the advantages of its connection with Russia. Only small petty-bourgeois groups (social-federalists) sought the full independence of Georgia.

Azerbaijani property classes almost until the revolution did not have formalized political parties, and their public views can be traced only through periodical press and separate performances in urban dumas and other institutions.

Although there were distinct Pan-Turkist sentiments in the Azerbaijani bourgeoisie, as well as widespread ideas of Pan-Islamism among the feudal class and clergy, neither of them made the issue of national liberation the program of their struggle.

The creation of a Turkic or all-Muslim state was only a subject for soul-saving conversations, and the real, immediate goal was the same – the defeat of the Armenian bourgeoisie.

The Armenian comprador bourgeoisie was less inclined to separate from Russia than any other class in the Caucasus. Its ideals were mainly reduced to “liberation,” i.e., essentially, the annexation of Turkish Armenia to Russia.

This demand was readily supported and often even incited by Russian imperialism. Of course, there were various political shades within the Armenian bourgeoisie, but even the most “left” of the bourgeois parties – “Dashnaktsutyun” – defended the program, ensuring the Armenian merchants the preservation of their intermediary and usurious roles, in forms more acceptable to the working masses.

The best measure of the political and national aspirations of the “Dashnaktsutyun” party may be the fact that the Armenian Dashnak government concluded an alliance treaty with Denikin.”

E.Ya. Drabkina, National and Colonial Question in Tsarist Russia, Moscow, 1930.

Translation by Vigen Avetisyan

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