Armenians and Abkhaz Ethnic Democracy – Current Trends, Future Prospects, by Richard Berge

This text is an unpublished dissertation written at School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College of London, summer 2010 regarding the political situation of the Armenian community in Abkhazia.

“The Armenians in Abkhazia have only three members of parliament and no church” these are the words of Diana Kerselyan, ethnic Armenian and member of the Sukhumi City Council. The aim of this dissertation is to ascertain why the Armenians, which by most measures are the second largest ethnic group in Abkhazia, are less involved in political processes and institutions in the territory than their numbers should suggest, as well as try to determine which factors hinder or facilitate their participation in Abkhazian politics. This work will look at current political reality in Abkhazia regarding the Armenians chiefly through the framework of Abkhazia as an ethnic democracy, and will rely on empirical data from field work, as well other relevant theories of democracy and political participation to provide an answer. This work will be divided in three parts. The first part will discuss the theoretical framework of ethnic democracy, and determine how it can be relevantly applied to the situation in Abkhazia. The second part will look at the present day situation of the Armenian minority as situated within Abkhaz ethnic democracy, with specific reference to specific factors that affect their ability to play a role in Abkhazian society, be these legal, organisational, socio-economic factors etc. An attempt will also be made to determine to which degree the lack of Armenian participation in Abkhazian politics can be put down causes related directly or indirectly to the structure and practice of ethnic democracy.  In the third part, the perspectives for the Armenian minority in Abkhazia in the future will be looked at, including which paths could be chosen, both by the Armenian community itself and the de facto authorities in Abkhazia, in order to increase Armenian participation in Abkhazian politics in the future, should this be a desirable goal.

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Richard Berge holds a BA in Politics and Georgian language from the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, and a MA in Politics, Security and Integration from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College of London, where he completed his dissertation on the political situation of the Hamshen Armenian community in Abkhazia. He has worked for the Norwegian Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2009 and the European Centre for Minority Issues in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2010, focusing on human rights, freedom of information and minority rights in both countries. He currently works as an independent Caucasus expert. He is originally from Norway.

Further links:

Abkhazia's Armenians, multilingualism is the future, by Giorgio Comai - Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso
- Video: Armenian Community in Abkhazia, by Diana Kerselyan - From the documentary film - Abkhazia: Paradise in limbo




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