Shireen T. Hunter: The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus

Readers are introduced to the following comprehensive textbook edited by Dr. Shireen T. Hunter pertaining to the Southern Caucasus:

The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus: Prospects for Regional Cooperation and Conflict Resolution

 

Publisher: Lexington Books

Series: Contemporary Central Asia: Societies, Politics, and Cultures

Hardcover: 304 pages

Release Date: September 22, 2017

ISBN-10: 1498564968

ISBN-13: 978-1498564960

Order textbook through Amazon.com or Lexington Books

The above volume features an impressive array of scholars and experts: Bulent Aras, Richard Giragosian, Mohammad Homayounvash, Shireen T. Hunter (also editor of the textbook), Richard Kauzlarich, Eldar Mamedov, Sergey Markedonov, Mohaiddin Mesbahi, Nona Mikhelidze, Ghia Nodia.

This textbook, which is essentially a collection of examinations of the three South Caucasian states’ economic, social and political evolution since their independence in 1991, is remarkable in its depth and breadth of examination of the geopolitical processes in the Southern Caucasus.

Shireen T. Hunter is a research professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. History , Culture and Politics of Iran and the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Culture and Politics of Sh’iism, Islam and Politics, Muslim Communities in Europe and Russia, Theory of International Relations, Foreign Policy Analysis, Religion and International Affairs. For a comprehensive overview of Dr. Hunter’s expertise and publications see her profile at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service …

The textbook assesses the successes and failures of the Southern Caucasian states in their economic, social and political domains, especially their attempts at construction wholly new national identities and value systems in the endeavor at replacing Soviet-era cultural constructs. Readers are also encouraged (as a preamble to reading the book) to read the following report submitted by Dr. Shireen Hunter in a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, held at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service on October 28, 2016:

Shahram Akbarzadeh (Deakin University) provides the following assessment of Dr. Hunter’s text:

Shireen T. Hunter has brought together a truly international team of experts to examine the complex geopolitics of the South Caucasus. The breadth and depth of analysis of key questions such as state-building, democracy, and the US–Russian rivalry present the reader with a rich and textured account of the region. This volume is a tour de force on the interplay of global and regional dynamics that have made the geopolitics of the South Caucasus a continuing source of challenges and opportunities.”

Map of Iran in 1805 before the invasions of Czarist Russia. Note the Caucasus, north of Iran and along the eastern Caspian littoral, which was Iranian territory. Note that the above map is one of many archival and cartographic sources demonstrating that there has been no “Greater Azerbaijan”  allegedly “divided” between Qajar Iran and Tsarist Russia. Russia invaded Iran and forced her to cede the Caucasus.  Iran also lost important eastern territories such as Herat, which broke away with British support (Source: CAIS).

The textbook clearly expostulates the complex interaction of domestic factors with international pressures and how these have impacted upon the new states. There is an exhaustive examination of regional forces neighboring the Southern Caucasus as well as international geopolitical forces (political, economic, etc.), especially with respect how the (often) divergent aims of these players (regional and international) are affecting the development trajectory of these states. The textbook also provides a comprehensive analysis for how the Southern Caucasian states can engage in resolving conflicts and to engage in constructive cooperation.

Greetings across the Araxes: Iranian Azeris greet the citizens of the ROA or Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) in 1990. Interestingly many Western news reports at the time noted how many of the ROA were demanding re-unification with Iran, an ancient state with strong cultural and historical influences in the southern Caucasus.

Ronald Grigor (Suny, University of Michigan):

Shireen T. Hunter, herself an expert in Caucasian and Central Asian affairs, has gathered an exceptional team of specialists on the local histories, recent experiences, and geopolitics affecting the three South Caucasian republics—Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Geography may be destiny, but surviving and thriving in an area contested for centuries by Iran, Russia, and Turkey requires both diplomatic and political skills as well as good luck. In essays written with deep local knowledge and exceptional clarity, leading specialists guide the reader through the intricacies and complexities of the region. If you want to understand the past, present, and future of the South Caucasian peoples, this is the book with which to begin.”

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) one of the ideological founders of the former Soviet Union. Trotsky who was finally deported from Russia in 1929, was highly critical of Joseph Stalin’s falsification of history to suit political purposes, a process which he characterized as “Stalin’s School of Falsification”. One of the results of “Stalin’s History School” was the rewriting of Iran’s cultural, linguistic and historical legacy in the Caucasus. As noted by Dr. Nazrin Mehdiyova (herself originating from the Republic of Azerbaijan) has noted thatAs a result [of Soviet manipulation of history], the myth [of a Greater Azerbaijan] became deeply ingrained in the population [of the Republic of Azerbaijan] …” (Mehdiyova, 2003, p.280; “Azerbaijan and its foreign policy dilemma”, Asian Affairs, 34, pages 271-285). To be clear: history books were actually falsified and re-written by the Soviet Union in large part to (literally) erase the legacy of Iranian history, culture and the Persian language in the Caucasus. The Soviets also invented terms such as “Persian chauvinism” and “pan-Iranism” and used these against any scholars daring to question the Soviet Union’s manufacturing of history. Unfortunately, despite Trotsky’s warnings, Soviet-era propaganda narratives are being promoted by various Western venues at present.  Trotsky paid a high price for questioning Stalin’s methods: he was finally brutally murdered by Stalin’s Soviet agents in Mexico on August 20, 1940.

John Evans (former US ambassador to Armenia):

This study puts today’s volatile South Caucasus in its proper historical and geopolitical context. Readers new to the subject will become conversant with the main issues; old hands will find much to ponder and discuss. Shireen T. Hunter’s own unique perspective is especially valuable.”

Remains of an “Atash-kade” (Zoroastrian fire-temple) undergoing repairs in Georgia. The cultural ties between Iran and the Caucasus  stretch back for thousands of years (Picture courtesy of Dr. David Khoupenia with caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

Finally readers are also encouraged to read the following selection of recent articles by Dr. Shireen T. Hunter:

Giusto Traina: Carrhes-Anatomie d’une Défaite (Carrhae-Anatomy of a Defeat)

Italian historian and professor Dr. Giusto Traina has written a seminal academic textbook entitled:

Carrhes-Anatomie d’une Défaite: Quand L’Orient humilia Rome (Carrhae-Anatomy of a Defeat: When the Orient humiliates Rome)

This book was published September 15th 2011 by Les Belles Lettres (first published 2010); the Preface of the book by Giovanni Brizzi.

For more regarding the textbook and means of obtaining this, consult the Les Belles lettres website here …

Dr. Giusto Traina is a professor of Roman history at Sorbonne University in Paris. Dr. Traina is also a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France. His academic profile also includes authorship of  numerous books and articles.

Dr. Giusto Traina brings to life one of the most important battles in the military history of antiquity, one which marks the beginning of incessant warfare between Rome and Iran. In an alert and exciting narrative, Dr. Traina describes how Rome was blocked by the Parthian army whose competence, power and above all its ability in resisting the formidable military machine of Rome had been greatly underestimated.

In was in the Plains of Carrhae (modern Harran) on June 9, 53 BC, where an all-cavalry Parthian force barred the fifty thousand Roman army led by General Marcus Licinius Crassus to conquer the rival empire of the Parthians. Overwhelmed by the arrows of the Parthians, the Romans were reduced to military impotence: more than half of the legionaries were killed, with many others  captured and deported. The Romans were also subjected to the dishonor of having the Parthians seize their military insignia and place these in their Mithraic temples. It would take many years for Rome to erase the consequences of this defeat.

Parthian Horse archers engage the Roman legions of Marcus Lucinius Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BCE. Unlike the Achamenid-Greek wars where Achaemenid arrows were unable to penetrate Hellenic shields and armor, Parthian archery was now able to penetrate the armor and shields of their Roman opponents (Picture Source: Antony Karasulas & Angus McBride).

General Marcus Licinius Crassus, the same man who eighteen years earlier had defeated Spartacus and his six thousand rebellious slaves and gladiators, was to make his final mark with his death at Parthian hands at Carrhae.

Reconstruction by Peter Wilcox and the late historical artist, Angus McBride of Parthian armored knights as they would have appeared in 54 BCE (Picture Source: Osprey Publishing).

Carrhae halted Rome’s seemingly unstoppable conquest of the Classical world. Rome had learned that the Parthian Spada (army) of Persia was more than capable of blocking the Romans from expanding eastwards to India and China.

Javier Sánchez Gracia: Roma y Persia Frente a Frente (Rome and Persia Face to Face)

Dr. Javier Sánchez Gracia has written the first ever book in Spanish on the conflicts between Rome and Persia:

Imperios de las Arenas: Roma y Persia Frente a Frente (Empires at the sand: Rome and Persia Face to Face). Readers can obtain a copy by visiting this link here …

Dr. Gracia has a degree in Classical Philology from the University of Zaragoza (Spain) and is a doctor of Sciences of Antiquity from the same university. He has participated in several congresses of Classical Philology in Spain and published scientific papers and articles. His research topics are the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus; the history of pre-Islamic Persia, and the image of Persia among classical Greco-Roman authors. In this endeavor, Dr. Gracia has also recently co-authored an article with Kaveh Farrokh in the Persian Heritage Journal entitled:

Farrokh, K., & Gracia, J.S. (2017). The “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm and the portrayal of the “Other”. Persian Heritage, 85, pp.12-14.

Dr. Javier Sánchez Gracia of the University of Zaragoza (seated) during the book signing of his recent text “Imperios de las Arenas: Roma y Persia Frente a Frente” (Empires at the sand: Rome and Persia Face to Face). The book signing above occurred during the “Feria del Libro de Zaragoza” book fair in Zaragoza, Spain on April 23, 2017. Standing next to Dr. Gracia is his friend and colleague Dr. Manuel Ferrando, also an accomplished historian from the University of Zaragoza, Spain.

Dr. Gracia’s book consists of the following chapters:

  • The Seleucid Empire
  • The Roman Republican Army
  • The Parthian Empire
  • Mithridates
  • The Battle of Carrhae
  • Marcus Antonius
  • The Parthians: from Carrhae to the Sassanian uprising
  • The Sassanian Empire: Rome vs Ctesiphon

Although Gracia’s textbook has a military focus, the rest of the subjects in his work also provide detailed analyses on the political and religious life of both empires. We are provided with exhaustive notes on the religion and the politics of the Parthians and Sassanians, even as the book focuses on an academic military analysis of the Romano-Persian conflicts, with particular attention paid to the structure of the armies of the ancient superpower rivals.

The book has done an excellent work in avoiding the pitfalls of (all too familiar) stereotyping and value judgements. This has resulted in Dr. Gracia’s objective analysis of each empire. Interestingly, Dr. Gracia also works to point out the contradictions, errors and falsehoods created by Greco-Roman authors. For this reason, Gracia has not just relied on classic scholarship (e.g. Polybius, Plutarchus, Tacitus, Ammianus…) but also on archaeology and modern historians.

Gracia’s central chapter is the battle of Carrhae, because it is a turning point for Roman expansionism and, with the defeat of Crassus, the political “propaganda” against Persia takes strength.

Parthian Horse archers engage the Roman legions of Marcus Lucinius Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BCE. Unlike the Achamenid-Greek wars where Achaemenid arrows were unable to penetrate Hellenic shields and armor, Parthian archery was now able to penetrate the armor and shields of their Roman opponents (Picture Source: Antony Karasulas & Angus McBride).

After examining the fall of the Parthians and the rise of the Sassanians, the book dedicates its last two chapters to Sassanian Persia. In one of these chapters, the history, politics and economy of Sassanian Persia, the primary “enemy” of Rome, is examined in academic detail. Gracia’s final chapter focuses on the struggles between the Romans and Sassanians, until the death of Julian “The apostate” in his failed invasion of Persia in 363 CE.

Emperor Julian is killed during his failed invasion of Sassanian Persia in June 26, 363 CE. Above is a recreation of Sassanian Persia’s elite cavalry, the Savaran, as they would have appeared during Julian’s failed invasion. Note the heavily armored Sassanian elite guardsman (Pushtighban) whose lance has pierced a Roman infantryman. Further right is a Savaran officer whose sword is drawn in what is now known as the “Italian grip” but Sassanian in origin. To the far right can be seen a Zoroastrian or Mithraist Magus brandishing a Sassanian era symbol. Also of interest are the armored elephants in the background. Armored elephants were especially prized as their cabs afforded very high elevation over the battlefield, which was ideal for Sassanian archery (Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).

In summary, Gracia’s book is the first Spanish language academic textbook on the military history of the Romans and Partho-Sassanians. As with a new generation of Western historians, Gracia avoids classical prejudices and clichés to arrive at a balanced and objective standard of scholarship. This sets a new approach in the study of the history of the ancient world beyond Rome: the realm of pre-Islamic Persia.

Arab-Iranian Rivalry in the Persian Gulf: Territorial Disputes and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

I.B. Tauris published the following book by Dr. Farzad Cyrus Sharifi-Yazdi in 2014:

Arab-Iranian Rivalry in the Persian Gulf: Territorial Disputes and the Balance of Power in the Middle East (Library of International Relations). I.B. Tauris.

Arab-Iranian Rivalry

The overview of the text as provided in the Amazon page is as follows:

Iranian ambitions in the Persian Gulf and rivalries with Arab neighbours are subject to intense – and heated – speculation, controversy and debate. Here, Farzad Cyrus Sharifi scrutinizes the rival Arab-Iranian claims to Bahrain, the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and the Abu Musa and Tunbs islands in the years after World War II and before the Iranian revolution. Through investigation of previously unexamined primary materials and interviews with leading players, this book sheds new light on the evolution and dynamics of hegemonic and nationalistic Arab-Iranian rivalries and how these rivalries began to find symbolic expression through territorial disputes. Sharifi illustrates that these ongoing disputes – and the deep-seated tensions still prevalent in Arab-Iranian relations – are largely rooted in how they were constructed in the post-World War II period, making this book vital reading for researchers of the politics, history, international relations and diplomacy of the Middle East.”

Below are documents posted by the محکستان– [Mahakestan] website providing documentation of Arab leaders acknowledging Iran’s historical claims to the three Islands of the Persian Gulf (dated to 1850). These documents/pages are posted below (click on each to Enlarge):

1-PG-Islands-1850 2-PG-Islands-1850 3-PG-Islands-1850

[Click on each Page above to Enlarge] Statements made by Arabian Sheikhs of the Persian Gulf attesting to Iran’s historical claims to the three Persian Gulf Islands (Source:  محکستان– [Mahakestan]).

map-of-persian-gulf-published-by-saudi-arabia-1952Saudi Arabian Map of 1952 displaying the correct name for the Persian Gulf.

Below is a document (originally appeared in the Iraqi Al_Jewar website) forwarded to Kavehfarrokh.com which shows that the late pan-Arabist, Jamal Abdul Nasser (1918-1970), referred to the Persian Gulf by its correct name on August 30, 1951:

Telegram-Nasser-PGNote by written  by the late President of Egypt, Jamal Abdul Nasser (1918-1970) – this was transmitted by Egypt’s Cable and Wireless Company Limited on August 30, 1951.

Evangelos Venetis: Greeks in Modern Iran

Dr. Evangelos Venetis is the author of a seminal book entitled “Greeks in Modern Iran: Discovering the Past of a Prosperous Community (1837-2010)” in published in Athens, Greece in 2014 (this project was also supported by the collaboration of Elli Antoniades; publication supported by the Kefalidis family):

Venetis-Greeks in Iran

Greeks in Modern Iran: Discovering the Past of a Prosperous Community (1837-2010) (translated from Greek to English by Michael Mericas [(Νικόλαος Μερίκας)]), Athens, Greece: Poreia, 2014, ISBN:978-960-7043-89-4. To order this text, contact Dr. Evangelos directly: 28, Petropoulaki st., 10445, Athens, Greece, Email: e.venetis@yahoo.com.

The above text was first published in Greek in 2011:

Evangelos Venetis, Greeks in Modern Iran (Athens: Poreia Publications, 2011), Graeco- Iranica Series 1, 290 pp. 2 maps, 57 illustrations, index, ISBN: 978-960-7498-85- 1

The book is an historical monograph in the field of modern Greek-Iranian studies published by the Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies (SHIS) in the Graeco-Iranica Monograph Series. It aims at informing the scientific and wide readership about the past, present and future of the Greek Diaspora in Iran in the last two centuries.

Greco-Iranians-Kermanshah

The Moschalis family in Kermanshah, 1910 (Source: Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

The first part of the book narrates the history of the Greeks who entered Qajar Iran in the early 19th century and established their community in northern Iran.

3-Greco-Iranians-Rasht

The Misailidis family in Rasht (Northern Iran, 1913-1915) (Source: Misailidis family collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Long-Time-Between-Drinks

On a humorous note: A long time between drinks! A 1902 cartoon entitled “491 BC-1902 CE” in Puck magazine (v. 52, no. 1348, 1902, December 31) depicting “Persia” (at left) toasting “Greece” (at right) from a punch bowl labeled “Renewal of Diplomatic Relations” (Source: US Library of Congress). Contrary to Eurocentric or Nordicist popular narratives in news media, entertainment and scholarship, the relationship between the Greco-Roman and Iranian realms has been multifaceted and constructive since ancient times. The two civilizations have often engaged in strong exchanges in the arts, learning, architecture, theology, culture and commerce for millennia.

4-Greco-Iranians-Rezaieh

Photo taken in 1935 of the Papadopoulos and Paraskevopoulos families in Rezaieh in northwest Iran’s West Azarbaijan province (Source: Elli Antoniades; published by Evangelos Venetis). Note that these Iranian-Greeks have adopted the favorite Iranian Samovar pastime of drinking tea (tea kettle atop metallic vase with tap for pouring hot water) along with the small glass teacups and accompanying saucers. The Samovar (Russian: self-boiler) is also highly popular in the Caucasus, Turkey, Ukraine and of course Russia (where the “Samovar” originates).

In the second part, the analysis focuses on the history of the Greek community of Tehran in the Pahlavi era and the period of the Islamic Republic, highlighting also the interaction between Greeks from all over the world and Iranians inside Iran in various fields such as economy, politics and culture.

5-Greco-Iranians-1943

The campaign regiment of Iranian-Greeks prior to their departure to Egypt, 1943 (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis). Like much of Europe, Greece had fallen to brutal Nazi occupation in 1941 during the Second World War. These Iranian-Greeks were joining British and allied forces in North Africa to fight the Nazis. 

5a-Greco-Iranians-Vasilios Antoniades

Vasilios Antoniades (1910-1943) who was the only casualty of the Iranian-Greek regiment from Iran in Egypt (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Given that the contemporary research and study of Hellenic-Iranian studies worldwide stop in the seventh century AD., contemporary Hellenic-Iranian relations remain a terra incognita.

6-Greco-Iranians-Greek School on Tehran

The first official Greek school in Tehran in 1945 (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

7-Greco-Iranians-Greek women tailor shop in saadi st Tehran

The first Greek women’s taylor shop in Tehran’s Saadi street. This was established by Eleni Salonikidis (Source: Violetta Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

As a result Dr. Venetis’ monograph is a general introduction to a long period, covering a wide range of topics and aiming to act as the framework for the development of the study and research of contemporary Hellenic-Iranian studies worldwide.

Fereydoun Farrokh and Greek Foregin Minsiter in Athens 1962

Fereydoun Farrokh (at left), the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Greece meeting with Evangelos Averoff (at right) the Greek Foreign Minister) in 1962 (Source: Archives of Kavehfarrokh.com; published by Evangelos Venetis). The Minister is entrusting a cheque on behalf of the Greek government to Farrokh to send to Iran to provide financial assistance for Iranian earthquake victims at the time.

9-Greco-Iranians-Embassy 1976 Tehran

The Greek Foreign Minster Demetrios Bitsios (sitting second from left) in the Greek community of Tehran with the president of the community Elli Antoniades, the Greek Ambassador Panayotis Economou (third from the left) and members of the diplomatic retinue of the Minster, 1976 (Source: Elli Antoniades; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Dr. Evangelos Venetis studied history at the University of Ioannina, where he received also his master’s degree in medieval history entitled: The Zoroastrian priesthood and their influence in diplomatic relations Byzantium and Persia. (Second International Award of Iranology, Tehran, 12.16.2002).

10-Greco-Iranians-Tehran 1999

Konstantinos Stefanopoulos (at left), the president of the Hellenic Republic being received by Ionnis Grammatikopoulos (at right), president of the Greek-Iranian community in Tehran in 1999 (Source: Ionnis Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

In 2006 Dr. Evangelos Venetis successfully completed his doctoral dissertation in the field of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh. During the period 2006-2010 he was a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Arabic, Persian and Turkish, in the School of Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.

11-Greco-Iranians-Bishop in Tehran 2001

His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos officiating in the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation in Tehran in 2001 (Source: Ionnis Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

In addition to his “Greeks in Modern Iran” Dr. Evangelos Venetis has also authored five other academic books thus far:

  • The Iskandarnama (Book of Alexander): An analysis of an anonymous Persian prose romance (Saarbrücken, 2013)
  • The Shahnama Tradition, Storytelling in Contemporary Iran (Saarbrücken, 2012)
  • The Persian Book of Kings. Storytelling in Modern Iran (Lambert Publications, Saarbrügen, 2011);
  • Grammar of modern Persian for Greek Speakers (Tehran, 2007)
  • Bibliographica Sasanica (Costa Mesa, California, 2009)

12-Greco-Iranians-Greek Church in Tehran 2009

The Greek Church of Annunciation of Tehran in 2001 (Source: The Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

An accomplished world-class academic, Dr. Evangelos Venetis has also authored a large number of articles on medieval and modern Islamic world in Greek and international journals. He is the founder and director of the Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies.