November 14, 1990
The advent of Mikhail S. Gorbachev to power and the apparent implementation of his professed policies of glasnost, perestroika, and democratization presents the investigator with a whole new set of problems regarding research on the Soviet Union.
During the early Soviet period, and continuing in some quarters until this day, an attempt was made to understand Soviet behavior by the techniques of document analysis developed in the seminars of the late 19th century German universities. The technique of document analysis is well known and has been used to good avail by scholars all over the world in studying the history of various countries and of international relations. Fundamental to the technique is the presumption that written information is more dependable than oral information, that "authenticated" documents are more dependable than non-authenticated documents, that official documents are more dependable than unofficial documents, that archival documents are more dependable than published documents, that multiple documents are more dependable than individual documents, and that multi- archival documentation is more dependable than single archival documentation.
The authentication of a document, or a chronicle, for example, still does not ensure that its contents accurately reflect the truth. By way of illustration, we can observe the story in the Russian Primary Chronicle (The Tale of Bygone Years) -- a document which has, for all practical purposes, been authenticated -- concerning the alleged "call" of Rurik. According to the chronicler, the "call" was made in the following way:
They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Russes: these particular Varangians were known as Russes, just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans, Angles, and Goths, for they were thus named. The Chuds, the Slavs and the Krivichians then said to the people of Rus, "Our whole land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us!"
Thus while the document is authenticated, there is still the question of the veracity of the report. Did the Slavs literally invite the Scandinavians to come and rule over them? I do not intend to answer that question here, but rather I present it as one of literally thousands of problems that we have in dealing with the content of written materials. Is the report true because it is written in a verifiable document? The general feeling among Russian scholars, of course, is that since the chronicler was under the protection of the Rurikeds, he undoubtedly put the best light on the origin of the dynasty he served. Accordingly, both internal and external criticism is necessary when dealing with written materials if we are to test the veracity of their contents.
The authentication of chronicles, and of the historical content of chronicles, has been traditionally accomplished by verifying the material by other chronicles, written materials, or in some cases through archeology. It is in this way -- cross verification -- that historical truth, or what we take to be historical truth, has been determined. As new information emerges, old histories are rewritten and old theories modified.
This analysis leaves aside, for the moment, the problem of outright forgeries and misrepresentations, what we today might call disinformation, such as the Donation of Constantine and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Such misrepresentations, particularly in the present time, are exacerbated by clever propaganda, the proliferation of the written media, and the difficulty of tracing sources.
One might have thought that as we moved towards modern times the process of discovering truth would become more simple. After all, in today's world we are flooded with documentation. Unfortunately, conventional written records, the sources of so-called "primary materials" traditionally exploited by historians, have in recent times become less dependable as a source of accurate information.
The heyday of dependable documentation in the West was the 19th century, when bureaucratized governments kept copious records in their archives. As an example, when an ambassador was sent overseas to represent his country, he was given a set of "instructions," that is a careful and sufficient enunciation of policy, usually secret, to follow in dealing with the foreign power. The effectiveness of the instructions depended on their being a true and coherent expression of the policy of the government which sent the ambassador so that they could serve as a dependable guide to his conduct. If the instructions were faulty, the work of the agent was injured; so extreme care was usually warranted to make them accurate and expressive.
There was also an exchange of correspondence, although the process was slow and difficult, wherein the ambassador would send home confidential information which in turn was used by his government to update his instructions. The instructions, and the consequent correspondence, were of necessity frank, explicit, and, as I said, usually secret. Any change in the instructions, accordingly, needed to have those same qualities of accuracy, frankness, coherence, and confidentiality as the original instructions. Historians, consequently, felt confident that if they were able to gain access to such documentation in governmental archives, they could discover the truth about past policies and events. Archival research -- particularly multi-archival research-- served us well up to the beginnings of World War II.
The advent of modern technologies of communication -- the telegraph, the radio, and the telephone -- and of transportation -- the train, the automobile, and the aeroplane -- changed the necessity, or at least the technique, of frank and cogent interchange between countries and their agents. One has only to observe the American Secretary of State making his numerous travels abroad to personally negotiate for us to see that the traditional modes of communication have fallen by the wayside. In today's world, makers of policy are often the executors of policy; and the record of the development of policy, or its very enunciation, may not be contained in the written record, or at least not in conventional records.
Furthermore, the use of the telephone -- either open or encoded -- has exacerbated the problem of documentation. So much important governmental and other business today is transacted over the telephone, that some of the most important business of the day lacks a "paper trail." We need but look to the case of President Richard M. Nixon and the "Watergate tapes" to drive home this point. Were it not for the fact that White House conversations and phone calls were audio taped, there would have been no chance of successfully prosecuting the Watergate "plumbers" or of pressuring President Nixon to resign. There were no incriminating documents, only incriminating tapes.
Because of this change in the conduct of business, government, and foreign policy, society has come to depend more and more on sources other than archival documentation. To know what "really" happened, we have come to depend more and more on personal notes, diaries, and memoirs -- both published and unpublished -- of the chief actors. Indeed, this necessity to quiz the individuals involved, either directly or indirectly, has led us to a heavy dependency on personal accounts to determine the intricacies of policy and policy making.
The memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev and Anastas Mikoyan, for example, have given us our conventional "truth" regarding the Soviet side of the Cuban missile crisis. Materials produced by the actors, as we can readily surmise, contain broad possibilities for being orchestrated by unscrupulous, self-serving individuals. The story they tell may be only the story they want us to believe. What is needed is an independent way to test such information.
Dealing with the Soviet Union presents not only the above problems but also its own, unique set of problems. The primitive available technology at the beginning of the Soviet regime in one sense made their archival material more dependable than that in the more advanced West. If the early Soviet party, state and police archives could be acquired unadulterated, we would have an excellent chance of determining the facts of early Soviet history.
Unfortunately, the Soviet archives -- for the Soviet period -- are generally open to few individuals. This state of affairs led many Western scholars to make use of what they considered the "next best sources," officially published documentation. E. H. Carr, for example, made ample use of official Soviet publications in his multi-volume history of the Russian revolution and the USSR. Mr. Carr used the highest standards of Western scholarship and analysis in his work, yet we now know that his history was fatally flawed because his sources, published official documents, gave a view of the Soviet Union far removed from the reality.
That reality was not discovered in primary documentation until the capture of the Smolensk party archives during World War II. From these captured archives, what we may more readily assume is a true picture of a region of the USSR, Smolensk, emerged. Merle Fainsod's study gave us our first unadulterated view of "how Russia is ruled." What investigators saw in these captured documents was at variance with what was seen by looking at published documents. Western scholars had been deceived because their techniques developed for Western standards did not suffice, unaltered, for the Soviet Union.
Because some scholars early on were suspicious of the dependability of officially published Soviet documents, they turned to published and unpublished papers, diaries, memoirs, and histories written by the participants and observers. These varied in the extremes from the Short History of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) to Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution and biography of Stalin. Studying the extremes, many scholars presumed that the truth lay somewhere in between, a psychological and not a historical conclusion. Indeed white may be white and black may be black, and grey not the ultimate truth.
Whether or not the truth is the median, we should observe that these partisans set the agenda; the points at issue, the things to be discussed, and the value system involved were all determined by them. Stalin and Trotsky, and all those in between, were Bolsheviks, anti-Bolsheviks, Trotskyites, anti-Trotskyites, Social Democrats, Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, Left Socialist Revolutionaries, Monarchists, Trudovniks, Greens, and the like. They were all captives of the culture from which they emerged and, consequently, defined the issues according to their preoccupations. While we must depend on such sources for our current studies, we must look to the day when Western scholars will investigate Soviet history according to our own frame of interest, values, and reference. As an example, we might be more ready to see that Stalin might indeed have been a good Leninist, or at least that Stalin's reign, 1925-1953, defines the Soviet period and that 28 years of Stalinism out of 36 years of Soviet power is the norm and not the aberration, Khrushchev's claim to the contrary notwithstanding.
Other scholars, despairing of the use of blatantly partisan sources, depended for their work more heavily on the reports of Western reporters and observers. These sources, as we have come to see, are frequently partisan and biased in their own right. Some reporters such as John Reed revealed their partisanship early on, while others, such as Walter Duranty who served as the New York Times' reporter in Moscow for fourteen years, were seduced in a more personal way into biased reporting as Stalinist apologists.1 This seduction need not be as blatant as that used with Duranty -- sex, drugs, money, luxury, and prominence -- but rather as simple as protecting one's professional or academic prestige and status. What scholar who is blessed with "insider" knowledge which he can publish widely will confess later on that his sources misled him and that he was wrong? It would be to the self interest of such a person to keep the myth alive.
A simple example of such seduction was when many distinguished scholars in the West had their reputations enhanced by delivering to a credulous public the "insider information" that Yuri Andropov -- who had just been chosen General Secretary of the CPSU -- loved jazz, preferred Scotch, spoke English, and had a touch of Jewish blood. The intelligence increased their prestige as those with "good contacts" who could get at hidden facts and information. It is now realized, of course, that none of the above was true, but few of the distinguished scholars now talk much about it.
In any case, Duranty, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1932, produced through his false reports the mind-set towards the Soviet Union which was carried by a whole generation of American intellectuals and scholars, the view that reports of excesses were either highly exaggerated or falsehoods delivered by dunderheaded anti-communists.
Another school of thought for analyzing Soviet behavior, used primarily by contemporary political scientists, is that of seeing the source of Soviet conduct as reaction to events in the West. Lenin would have been a reformer if the West did not engage in intervention, Stalin would not have purged if the West did not continue to threaten the Soviet state, Stalin stayed in Eastern Europe after World War II only to protect his own borders, post-World War II Soviet armaments buildup was only to achieve parity with the United States, and that Soviet expansion beyond Europe was merely a reaction to America's world-wide influence.
Such arguments, if they were not so prevalent in important intellectual circles, would hardly be worth answering. As Ivan the Terrible replied to the offer of a crown from the Holy Roman Emperor, "We are masters in our own house from aforetime and have power of our own-self (that is, an autocrat, samoderzhavets)." Postulating Soviet policy as a reaction to the West only reveals a Western arrogance and self-centeredness which, to say the least, is as demeaning of the Soviets as it is protective of their policies and misleading to the West.
The vast majority of respected investigators of Soviet behavior, however, have used a system which, while based on Soviet sources, deals with them in a methodologically unique way. This system is based on techniques developed by the former German communist, Borkenau. It can be generally described as follows. Do not believe the facade of communist propaganda, take nothing inside the Soviet Union or which comes from the Soviet Union at face value. Seek clues about Soviet reality in the interpretation of material in national and local communist press and in announcements of appointments, dismissals, and demise of officials. Make detailed comparisons of the speeches and writings of leading communists in the same country and in different countries, seeking nuances on doctrinal issues which will reveal policies which determine action. Do the same with official publications and broadcasts. Interpret current developments in the light of old issues and controversies. Pay particular attention to the struggles for personal power, tracing the backgrounds and careers of party bosses and the groupings, rises and falls of their followers. Watch for relative positions on Lenin's tomb during major holiday parades. Be wary of disinformation and false clues which are planted to deceive the unwary. The Borkenau system has been productive of a great deal of knowledge and has allowed some degree of prediction of Soviet behavior.
More recently, Anatoliy Golitsyn, a Soviet defector of high status, has suggested that the Soviet Union is capable of disinformation on such a massive scale that even the Borkenau system is no longer viable.2 In a book first published in 1984, and of necessity written before then, Golitsyn argues that the leadership of the whole Communist bloc came to an agreement in 1958 in which it established a long range program, a master plan, which it would realize through a large scale deception of the West, a monumental scam.
Golitsyn maintains that the goals of the master plan were to provide a more profound political stabilization of individual communist regimes by developing wider mass support, the rectification of economic weakness of the bloc by increased international trade and the acquisition of credits and high technology from the West, the creation of a substructure for an eventual world federation of communist states, political isolation of the US from its allies, developing influence among socialists in Western Europe and Japan, the dissolution of NATO, and an alignment between the Soviet Union and a neutral, preferably socialist, Western Europe; concerted action with nationalist leaders in the Third World to eliminate Western influence as a preliminary to absorbing them in a communist federation, shifting the balance of power in favor of the Communist world, and the ideological disarmament of the West to create favorable conditions for convergence of East and West on communist terms.3
Golitsyn predicts that the Soviet regime will be stabilized by the creation of spurious, controlled opposition movements and the use of those movements to neutralize genuine internal and external opposition, and that it will encourage communist parties to establish united fronts with socialist parties throughout the world thus increasing Soviet influence in parliaments and trade unions.4
Some of the techniques, according to Golitsyn, will be dissension within the bloc, unity of action behind disunity of words, a show of weakness before meeting with Western leaders or before major initiatives or negotiations, and the heavy use of disinformation.5 This disinformation will emanate from official Communist sources, unofficial Communist sources, and "secret" communist sources, much of it retrospective. It is to be delivered through Western newspapermen, scholars, officials, and the Soviet intelligentsia.
It is interesting to note, in this regard, that most of what we believe to be happening in the Soviet Union still comes from Soviet sources, which are delivered directly to the West and are not always available internally, glasnost notwithstanding. Boris Yeltsin's book, Against the Grain,6 was published in the West in English, apparently to establish his bono fides as a dissident candidate just before he was elected president of the RSFSR. It has not been released in the USSR in any language whatsoever.
The final phase of the master plan, according to Golitsyn, is a disinformation and deception campaign of such magnitude that it would be "beyond the imagination of Marx, or the practical reach of Lenin, and unthinkable to Stalin. Among such previously unthinkable stratagems are the introduction of false liberalization in Eastern Europe and, probably, the Soviet Union, and the exhibition of spurious independence on the part of the regimes in Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland."7
Golitsyn predicted the "breakup" of the communist bloc in Eastern Europe as a technique to be used by the Soviet government to entice Europe to move more towards socialism and to align itself eventually with the USSR against the United States.8 The Third World would then join communist Russia and socialist Western Europe against the US and its allies. Then there would be a joint drive by the Soviet bloc and a socialist Europe to push the US out of Europe and into nuclear disarmament. A powerful world federation of communist states would emerge and the US would be induced to "converge" on communist terms.9
Such a plan would not only exceed the imagination of Marx, or the practical reach of Lenin, and be unthinkable to Stalin, but also defies credulity altogether. Still, despite its incredulity, it must be admitted that at least a year before Gorbachev came to power Golitsyn predicted in writing the breakup of the communist bloc and dissension within the Soviet Union. Since apparent change has come to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union at a pace unimaginable only a few years ago -- unimaginable except, we must add, to Anatoliy Golitsyn -- perhaps it is worth the attempt to test the Golitsyn hypothesis in the light of what is currently happening in Europe and the USSR.
We should be aware, Golitsyn warns, that much of the information that is being served up in the Soviet Union and even in Eastern Europe is being prepared by the same cooks who fed the West lies in pre-glasnost and pre-perestroika times; hence the title of his book, New Lies for Old. Why should we, asks Golitsyn, believe that the same people who lied to us in the past are now telling us the truth? Is it not possible that glasnost is nothing more that a cover for a new set of lies, lies that the West wants to believe, the lies that Communism is dead and the USSR is mellowing? This information, which the Soviets themselves distribute, must be information that the Soviets want distributed. Is it not possible that perestroika is that limited restructuring described by Gorbachev in his book, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World,10 and not the stampede to capitalism which American pundits think they are witnessing?
Let us try two scenarios to fit the Golitsyn hypothesis, one for Europe and one for inside the Soviet Union. If we observe Eastern Europe between the World Wars, we see that democracy was shaky at best and that military dictatorships were more the norm. Capitalism was weak and ineffective, with the exception of the area of former East Germany and of Czechoslovakia, and the population was chiefly agrarian and impoverished. When Eastern Europe was enveloped into the communist bloc, it was despoiled by the USSR and encouraged to go heavily into debt to the West. Many economists believe that much of the borrowings were not invested in infrastructure, but rather passed through in cash and goods to the USSR. Eastern Europe is now heavily in debt and still impoverished. The Soviets, while maintaining a secret communist and police infrastructure11 and control of the local bureaucracies, have allowed the states to become "independent."
The West, seeking to preserve the "gains" of democracy and free enterprise, invests heavily in building a capital base in Eastern Europe. Once a sufficient capital base has been established, there are rigged strikes and demonstrations because of "social inequity" and a maldistribution of wealth, the fragile democratic regimes are toppled and "socialist" regimes, friendly to the Soviet Union are established. The wheel makes its full turn and there is a new Soviet bloc, but now one fully capitalized, out of debt, and with a large base of public support. The bloc joins the international communist federation and is on friendly terms with what is by now a demilitarized, socialist Western Europe which becomes aligned with the new bloc and the Third World against the West.
Internal to the Soviet Union, the scenario might go like this. A few of the Soviet union republics want real independence, the Soviet elite wants "liberalization" but not total fragmentation, the Soviet elite encourages other safe union republics to demand independence; with so many republics demanding independence, those which are serious get lost in the crowd; the government then draws up terms for a federation; the federation gives most powers to the federal government and leaves local republics with a vacuous freedom with heavy economic responsibilities; the new Soviet Federation now becomes a suitable structure for the attachment of the repentant East European states, and the first goal is reached.
How then does all this relate to Nagorno-Karabag and the Armenian situation? First, I must say, there is little question that if historical possession and national self-determination are proper determinants of political structure, Karabag has every right to be united with Armenia. Nagorno- Karabag, known to Armenians as Artsakh, is an ancient Armenian province which maintained its Armenian character, despite invasions and emigration, up until Soviet times and even until this day. The complicated history has been well reconstructed by Libaridian, Walker, and Rost.12
When the West first became aware of the Nagorno-Karabag issue, only a few Western scholars were familiar with the history of the area and the whole question of the Armenian character of Karabag was raised. Since then, even the most cursory research has revealed that the story told early on by the Armenians was in all essential detail correct: Nagorno-Karabag was traditionally Armenian, it was 94% Armenian at the advent of Soviet power, it is still 74% Armenian, it was attached to Armenia temporarily at the advent of Soviet power, it was separated and attached to Azerbaijan while still being contiguous with Armenia, a corridor was then introduced to physically separate Armenia and Karabag, that Armenians in Karabag were persecuted by the Azerbaijanis and denied their civil and human rights, that the Armenians of Karabag petitioned the Soviet government over an extensive period of time for amelioration of their condition, and that they finally held demonstrations in favor of union with Armenia. The Armenians in Armenia responded in kind, and the Azeris began to massacre Armenians in Azerbaijan. The only remaining question is who attached Karabag to Azerbaijan and why. (The relevant passages from Rost regarding the events are affixed to this paper as Appendix A; and the list of Libaridian documents attached as Appendix B.)
While Stalin has most frequently been blamed for attaching Karabag to Azerbaijan, supposedly contrary to Lenin's wishes, Garbis Armen presents evidence to suggest that it was Lenin himself, eager to see Ataturk's emerging realm joined to the emerging Soviet state, who sided with Stalin, Narimanov, Orjonikidze and the majority of the Central Committee against the Armenians. Lenin's policy lead to the Treaty of Kars (September-October 1921) by which Ataturk's Turkey is given Kars, Ardahan, and Surmalu; Georgia is given Akhalkalak and Akhaltsikhe; and Azerbaijan is given Nakhichevan -- all historic Armenian territories.13
As I will argue below, the activities in Armenia in specific and in the USSR in general regarding Karabagh reveal an inconsistency that implies that the issue is being manipulated. The question of Karabag, therefore, is not just a question of frustrated national and human rights, or even an ethnic feud, but rather an issue which is involved in the over-arching plan of Gorbachev and the Soviet elite.
In a paper which I read at the University of Pennsylvania two years ago, I argued that these contradictions revealed a power struggle going on at the higher echelons of the Soviet elite. I still believe that a power struggle may be going on at the very top in the Soviet Union, with the possibility that the twists and turns of policy in Armenia reflect in part the machinations of those engaged in the struggle. But a power struggle does not preclude a master plan. Stalin in the industrialization debate, for example, used the Right Opposition against the Left Opposition and then adopted the policy of the Left, a position which he must have held right along. Nor does the thesis of a power struggle imply, of itself, a struggle between good and evil, reformers and conservatives, Stalinists and anti-Stalinists. It is readily apparent that a power struggle between two factions of the Mafia over control of prostitution in Chicago does not imply that one faction is good and the other bad, but rather involves like people struggling for predominance, power and control of wealth over those of a similar character. Consequently, a power struggle at the top is not in variance with the thesis that there is an overall plan of the Soviet power elite which involves the manipulation of Armenia and the Armenians.
If the Golitsyn thesis is to be seen as more than wild speculation as it applies to internal Soviet affairs, then we must find a structural instrument that is more or less capable of implementing it. There is no evidence to indicate that the KGB, or its agents and proxies in the former satellite states, have in any way been diminished. There are some one-half million full-time KGB agents in the USSR and perhaps innumerable part-time agents. Most of these agents are Russian by nationality, which implies that their first allegiance is to their own people. In fact some observers believe the KGB to be a citadel of Great Russian nationalism. It is certainly possible that the KGB is capable of maintaining a secret position and of implementing secret plans. It was certainly active in Armenia, as reported by Edmond Azadian, during the recent elections to the Armenian Supreme Soviet.14
It is also plausible that the communist party, although decimated by resignations, remains the single most powerful hierarchy in the USSR. These resignations, although numerous we are told, most probably do not exceed in number the quantity who were expelled periodically by Stalin in his purges and his exchanges of party cards. The resignations, from one point of view, can be construed as self-purges. A leaner more dependable party may remain in place. Furthermore, the party's use of agitators, those who carry the party line verbally to party cells, allows direct communication which is undetectable by outsiders.
Finally, there seems to be a high coincidence between visits by various leaders, domestic and foreign, to Gorbachev and the implementation or occurrence of radical change, leaving open the possibility that the highest instructions come directly from Gorbachev himself.
For example, just after a telephone call from Gorbachev to new Polish party leader Rakowski on August 22, 1989, the Polish United Workers' Party announced that it would enter into a "partnerlike cooperation" with Solidarity, thus allowing the formation of a Solidarity government with Mazowiecki as prime minister. It is also well known, that at this writing, there is a struggle going on between Mazowiecki and Walesa, the former undisputed head of Solidarity, who himself has visited Moscow.
Furthermore, it is also well known that Gorbachev visited East Berlin and spoke with Erich Honecker on October 6, 1989, only twelve days before Honecker resigned, beginning the process of East Germany's demise.15
Also, Levon Der Bedrosian, former Karabagh Committee Leader, and recently elected president of the Armenian parliament, received congratulations from Gorbachev, who a year before had given orders for his arrest. It was reported that Der Bedrosian flew to Moscow on August 8, 1990, "to meet with Gorbachev on the 9th or 10th." While later reports announced that Der Bedrosian had met with Nikolai Ryzhkov, Soviet premier, and other leaders, and still later reports that he had met with Gorbachev, it was only two weeks later, on August 23, 1990, that Armenia declared independence.16
But since this view of the grand plan is incredulous on the face of it, is there some evidence to suggest that the interpretation is plausible? We have already established the possibility and an instrument, now we must find a technique and further reasons. Vladimir Solovyov and Elena Klepikova have written a book, published in 1983, called Yuri Andropov: A Secret Passage into the Kremlin,17 in which they argue that Yuri Andropov, long-time head of the KGB, had a plan to turn the USSR into a police state. The authors aver that even under Stalin, with all the secret police activity, that the KGB and its predecessors were under the control of the party. After each of the great purges, as is well known, the head of the secret police who had directed the purges was himself liquidated.
The authors claim that Lavrenty Beria, the last head of the secret police under Stalin, had aspirations to the supreme leadership. It took a combination of party power under Nikita Khrushchev and military power under Marshal Gregory Zhukov to neutralize Beria and exterminate him. Andropov knowing full well the fate of his predecessors, apparently decided that if the party could control the police through infiltration, then the police might turn the tables and control the party using the same techniques.
Inter alia, the authors further claim that Andropov engaged in social experimentation in Hungary, where he was Soviet ambassador during the revolution, in Czechoslovakia during the Prague spring, and in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. His instruments in Transcaucasia were KGB general Geidar Aliyev and MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) general Eduard Shevardnadze, whom he transferred to top party power in Azerbaijan and Georgia respectively. It is also alleged that two other Andropov proteges were placed in critical positions, Grigori Romanov in Leningrad and Mikhail Gorbachev in various posts, being groomed on a fast track for the top position.
While Andropov was successful in replacing the Azerbaijani and Georgian leadership with his own men, KGB and MVD generals, he failed -- for reasons not explained by Solovyov and Klepikova -- to topple Garen Demirjian, first secretary of the Armenian party. It is interesting to note that Gorbachev on many public occasions and in many important places reproached Demirjian, a minor figure at best in the Soviet scheme of things, and called for his dismissal. These public attacks and Demirjian's final fall implies that Gorbachev was finally able to do what his mentor, Andropov, had tried and failed to do.
The Romanovs, as the Romans and Ottomans before them, used the technique of divide and conquer to perpetuate their power. Ethnic differences have often been used by unscrupulous rulers to arouse animosities and to set one group against another. The "race riots" between Armenians and Azeri Tartars in 1904-05, for example, were instigated by the Russian government to deflect the masses from strikes to achieve social and economic gain; so that while most of Russia was engulfed in the revolution of 1905, the Caucasus was only rife with ethnic killings.18
If the thesis of Andropov's attempt to experiment with the smaller, out-of-the-way republics to gain insight as to how to deal with the larger republics is correct, then the Karabag conflict might have been a government inspired ruse to allow the imposition of martial law in one or more of the Transcaucasian republics to test certain theories of Social manipulation.
Bill Keller, Moscow correspondent for the New York Times, filed a story from Baku which appeared in the February 19, 1990, issue of the newspaper. Keller reported that there was a general consensus in Baku that Moscow staged-managed the ethnic unrest and tacitly organized pogroms against the Armenians in order to justify the dispatch of troops and the imposition of emergency rule in Baku which had been declared on January 20.
Keller offers the following arguments, gleaned from interviews, which are paraphrased here.
In a paper which I read at The University of Pennsylvania in October 1988, I drew attention to anomalies between what was reported to be happening in Armenia during the great demonstra- tions of February 1988 and what the evidence seemed to show.
Before the demonstrations began in Karabagh in mid-February 1988, Abel Aghanbegyan, an Armenian who was once thought to be Gorbachev's chief economic advisor, announced at a private gathering in London that Gorbachev intended to attach Karabagh culturally and economically to Armenia and, in due time, would change the political boundary.
In March 1988, Zori Balayan, a writer for the pro-glasnost Soviet weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta, and apparently a man who was well-connected at the highest levels of Soviet officialdom, announced the same program at a luncheon in New York which I attended. Gorbachev would have made his pro-Armenian decision, if these men can be believed, sometime before December 1987 and perhaps much earlier.
So why the demonstrations? What was the rush? Who organized them? If Gorbachev's position was know to Aghanbegyan and Balayan, it must also have been known in the higher leadership in Armenia. Nevertheless, the demonstrations took place. It should be remembered in this context that the Karabagh Committee, made up of highly respected Armenian scholars and intellectuals who eventually took leadership of the movement, was only formed four days after the demonstrations began. It seems clear that either the Armenian leadership or Gorbachev and/or the KGB must have wanted them.
Armenians who had recently immigrated to America, and apparently who were well- connected to the since eliminated old guard, spread the word in the Armenian community that Gorbachev wanted the demonstrations in order to have an excuse to attach Karabagh to Armenia. That argument is at best naive, and in all probability these people were, willingly or unwillingly, spreading disinformation, disinformation which someone wanted spread. But who? Garen Demirjian or Mikhail Gorbachev?
Decisions of the magnitude of redrawing political boundaries, because of their possible volatile nature, would be made in secret at the highest levels of Soviet officialdom and certainly not in the streets of Yerevan. No Soviet leader could afford to give the appearance of giving in under public pressure, particularly since doing so would unleash a plethora of demands from other national groups. So, if Gorbachev wanted the demonstrations, then he certainly did not want them in order to give Karabag back to the Armenians; if Demirjian wanted them, it was clearly against Gorbachev and perestroika; if the KGB wanted them, it was probably for a long-range game of social experimentation.
To say that the great demonstrations were the work of Gorbachev, Demirjian, or the KGB, does not mean that the Armenians were unwilling tools, but rather only unwitting tools. The concern and impetus was there, it only need to be organized and released.
The Soviet leadership reacted to the demonstrations by surrounding Yerevan with troops and moving them into Stepanakert, the capital of Karabagh. This show of force was accompanied by an act of conciliation. Official and unofficial leaders of Armenia were invited to the Kremlin to find a formula to defuse an explosive situation. The meeting took place on Friday, February 26, 1988.
Two of those leaders were the aforementioned Zori Balayan and also Silva Gabudikian, a renown Armenian writer. Gorbachev asked these leaders to use their influence to disperse the crowds in Yerevan to give him a one-month breathing space in order to find a solution. What followed was perhaps one of the biggest public relations campaigns in the recent history of Armenia, involving many high official from Moscow and Yerevan appealing to the people for quiet and a calming of passions. The campaign worked, and the people of Yerevan settled in to wait.
What was not expected was the pogrom (massacre) that broke out -- just a few days after the meeting with Gorbachev -- in Sumgait, Azerbaijan, far away from the presence of Soviet troops in Yerevan but in plain sight of the local Azeri police. Azeri gangs roamed the streets and broke into apartments at will for three days, murdering Armenians with impunity. Official figures put the number killed at 32, but witnesses claim that hundreds more were massacred. These blatant massacres were unprecedented under peace-time Soviet rule and are reminiscent of the Baku riots of 1904-05.
According to an interview with Silva Gabudikian published by the Italian newspaper La Republica on March 6, Gorbachev had pointed out during their meeting that some 500,000 Armenians lived in Azerbaijan. Gabudikian herself called them "lambs on the altar of sacrifice . . ."20 Was Gorbachev hinting that they were in effect his hostages, or was he merely expressing a realistic expectation of events to follow? Was it only coincidental that the pogrom broke out in Sumgait only three days later? Or was Gabudikian engaging in selective memory about what Gorbachev said? She further stated, "Unfortunately, I must say that I see nothing but provocations around us, conceived to further someone's plans -- whose, I do not know. National interests are being exploited to create an explosive situation . . . .21
We can see that Gorbachev used the Armenian pogroms to establish something close to a military dictatorship in Azerbaijan, and we also know that he did something of the kind in Tadzhikstan after the massacre of Armenian refugees.22
But why would Gorbachev be so intent in gaining control of Armenia, the smallest and least populous of the Soviet republics? If the thesis of Andropov's attempt to experiment with the smaller, out-of-the-way republics to gain insight as to how to deal with the larger republics is correct, then Gorbachev may want control of Armenia in order to carry out the experiments which Andropov schemed and plotted but could not realized before his death. This thesis would account for Gorbachev's intense, extended, and public denunciations of Demirjian as being anti-perestroika and the hounding of Demirjian out of office.
What then are the experiments which could be performed in Armenia?
First, an economic experiment. We should be aware that of all the Soviet republics, Armenia has the largest and most far-flung diaspora made up of people still interested in the homeland, and one that has substantial wealth and a significant degree of influence all over the world. If Gorbachev is interested in enticing Western capital and technology to the USSR, what better way to start than by enticing it to a republic which has recently declared its independence?
Such investment has already begun. The earthquake of December 7, 1988, in Armenia opened its door to foreign economic aid. Many countries, including the United States -- witness President Bush sending his son to Armenia at Christmas in 1988, Mrs. Bush arranging for injured Armenian children to come to the US for medical attention in 1989, and the large group which was brought here in 1990 -- may want to be involved in long-range rebuilding of Armenia. A team of State Department experts have drawn up contingency plans for reconstruction work in Armenia. A congressional delegation, which included Congressman Bonior from Michigan, has made a tour of investigation. The Israelis, in the summer of 1989, took 60 injured Armenian children to Israel for advanced medical treatment. All these signs point to a continued interest.
The Armenians of America and others, beginning in the summer of 1989, signed a series of agreements with the government of Armenia to build plants for the manufacturing of building supplies, for a toy factory, for retail outlets, and the like. Further contracts of a similar nature seem to be in the offing. The Armenian church diocese has agreed to rebuild the town of Stepanavan and other Armenian philanthropic groups are getting involved in various projects. All this, of course, has to be done with at least the tacit approval of the Soviet and US governments. In fact, the US State Department, through its Agency for International Development, has contracted in September 1990 for a ten-million-dollar relief effort through private voluntary organizations (PVOs), which include the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Relief Society, and the Armenian Missionary Association of America, as well as well-established American philanthropic organizations.
Second, the structural experiment. If the master plan not only includes the revitalization of the USSR through imported capital and technology, but also through the confederation of the Soviet State, what better place to test it than in Armenia, for which total independence is unrealistic. Armenia is small, has few natural resources, no seaport, no independent railway system, and a small population of only 3.75 million surrounded by numerious enemies. Even though Armenia was pushed into a declaration of independence by Gorbachev, of necessity it will eventually opt for the Soviet confederation, which is how Gorbachev wants to restructure the new USSR according to the master plan.
What then should be US policy? First, of course, we do not know if Golitsyn's thesis is correct, if there really is a master plan. Even if there were, there is the "law of unintended consequences." The Soviet elite might plan one thing and get another. If the standard of living were raised in Armenia, and indeed in the whole of the Soviet Union, the thesis of the "mellowing of the regime" might indeed come into effect. We know from history that people of means, a middle class, wants power in the government. Could the USSR be either a police state or a military dictatorship and accomplish the duel objective of improving the standard of living and denying their citizens the right to participate in the government?
The cases of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore might be instructive here. These states certainly built great capital bases under thinly disguised dictatorships, but now the people are demanding, and getting, more democratic governments. It is highly improbable that the Soviet Union can circumvent the laws of historical progression. Marxist-Leninist theory has not predicted most of the great changes taking place in the world, and any master plan based on that theory is certainly liable to fail.
If we can see the problems of realizing the master plan, then certainly Gorbachev and the Soviet elite must see them too. Why would they take big risks with the possibility of things going awry? In matter of fact, they would have no other choice. If they did not try to introduce controlled change, then what appears to be going on -- the breakup of the system -- would in all probability have taken place, although certainly at a slower pace, anyway. It would be the act of desperate men.
US policy, accordingly, should be based on a healthy skepticism of Soviet intentions, but should work towards privatization in the USSR and federation for its republics. In the long run, that could only lead to the type of change in the USSR which is to our best interest; but in the short run, we should be careful not to overinvest in a regime which seeks aid to prop up the old system or to save a government which threatens us with chaos if it is fail. If Gorbachev, as the West understands him, is not firmly in power, then it is useless for the US to spend billions of dollars to try and support him. If he is, then we justifiably proceed slowly.
* * *
Yelena, Bonner, "The truth is needed," Armenian Life Weekly, Issue 40, Vol V, July 13, 1990, Page 17, 28-29
Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Soviet Nationalities Survey Special Issue: Armenian Tremors- Geological and Political, United States Department of State, No 16, Mar 31, 1989
Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Soviet Nationalities Survey Special Issue: Crisis in the Caucasus, United States Department of State, No 15, Aug 22, 1988
Gerard J. Libaridian, editor, The Karabagh File, The Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation, Inc, Cambridge, MA, March 1988
Yuri Rost, Armenian Tragedy, St. Martins Press, NY, 1990
Christopher J. Walker, Armenia: The Survival of a Nation, revised second edition, St. Martins Press, NY, 1990
* * *
1 S. J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist, Oxford University Press, 1990.
2 Anatoliy Golitsyn, New Lies for Old: The Communist Strategy of Deception and Disinformation, London, The Bodley Head, 1984. Golitsyn's thesis is that many of the major developments in the Eastern bloc have been engineered by communist parties working in collusion to delude the West. The fact that Golitsyn is one of the most important Soviet defectors to reach the West makes his views, as strange as they may sound, worthy of being considered.
3 Golitsyn, p. 90.
4 Golitsyn, p. 91.
5 Golitsyn, p. 93.
6 Boris Yeltsin, Against the Grain: An Autobiography, New York, Summit Books, 1990.
7 Golitsyn, pp. 328-329.
8 Golitsyn, p. 337.
9 Golitsyn, p. 337; see also Andrei D. Sakharov, Progress, Coexistence & Intellectual Freedom, New York, W.W. Norton and Company, 1968.
10 Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, New York, Harper & Row, 1987.
11 Joshua Hammer and Theresa Waldrop, "Mole Hunt in Cologne: Is the East German Stasi still doing business?", Newsweek, October 22, 1990, p. 46.
12 Gerard J. Libaridian, ed., The Karabagh File, Cambridge, MA, Zoryan Institute, 1988; Christopher J. Walker, Armenia: The Survival of a Nation, 2nd edition, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1990; and Yuri Rost, Armenian Tragedy: An Eye-Witness Account of Human Conflict and Natural Disaster in Armenia and Azerbaijan, with a forward by Andrei Sakharov, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1990. Rost's pro-Armenian account of Nagorno-Karabagh's attachment to Azerbaijan, seems to be the most revealing to date. See Appendix A.
13 Garbis Armen, "The Loss of Armenian Territories 1920-1923: Confidential Letter to Lenin Confirms the Political Motives Behind the Most 'Intolerable' Treaty in History," Armenian Life Weekly, March 28, 1990, pp. 22-23.
14 A conversation with Edmond Azadian, who had been in Armenia during the elections, on Thursday, October 11, 1990.
15 Foreign Affairs: Chronology, 1978-1989, New York, Council on Foreign Relations, Inc, 1990, pp. 377, 379.
16 "Armenian independence proclamation is seen imminent: Levon Der Bedrosian, Karabagh Committee Leader, elected President of Parliament: Moscow talks with Gorbachev seek to defuse tension over deadline," Armenian Reporter, New York, August 9, 1990, pp. 1, 14. "Military Crackdown in Armenia Averted by 11th-hour Meeting," California Courier, Glendale, CA, August 16, 1990, pp. 1-2. "Declaration on the Independence of Armenia," Armenian Mirror-Spectator, Watertown, MA, September 1, 1990, pp. 1, 16.
17 Vladimir Solovyov and Elena Klepikova, Yuri Andropov: A Secret Passage into the Kremlin, New York, Collier Macmillan, 1983.
18 Christopher Walker, "Background to Violence," Ararat, Vol. XXXI No. 3, Summer 1990, pp. 45- 50.
19 It is often the case in the USSR, that the second secretary of a regional organization is a Slav and a member of the KGB. It appears that the surname Polyanichko is Ukrainian, but in any case certainly not Azeri.
20 This interview appeared in the Sunday, March 6, 1988, edition of the Italian newspaper La Republica. Excerpts were reprinted in translation in the March 19, 1988, issue of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. This quote is taken from the M-S translation as found on p. 10.
21 Armenian Mirror-Spectator , March 19, 1988, p. 10.
22 "Unrest Topples Embattled Tadzhik Govt," Armenian Reporter, February 22, p. 17. The story was written from a report which appeared in Izvestia.
Return to Selected Writings.