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The Caucasus Dialogue – 2021. Day 1: The symbolic policy of the Caucasus

The first day of the Caucasus Dialogue, which is taking place in the Chechen Republic, was dedicated to the problems of preservation of historical memory and the symbolic policy in the Caucasus. The symbolic policy, in the context of modern international relations, involves public activities associated with production of different ways of interpretation of social realities and fighting for their dominance, which often results in misrepresentation of historical events and their importance.

"Those pursuing the symbolic policy today often lack conventional wisdom, experience of the Caucasus in maintaining a balance of interests in a polyethnic region and rejection of actions targeting destruction of the established historical memory space", believes Oleg Matveyev, Professor at the Department of Russian History of Kuban State University. Supyan Magomadov, Director of the Institute of Humanitarian Studies at the Chechen Academy of Sciences, told about the role of the state in preservation of the historical memory.

Director of the Department of Political Sciences at Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University Oganes Sarkisyan shared his point of view that the symbolic policy had not been clearly articulated in Armenia, where the government would have been the main actor. Moreover, it was absent because there was no policy of nation construction.

According to Rizvan Guseynov, Director of the Center of History of the Caucasus, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Law and Human Rights at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, a goal was set in the 1980s by certain circles outside of the Caucasus region: to assign to each nation in the Caucasus such narratives that "at least in the nearest hundred years they would not be able to overcome the conflict or post-conflict problem".

Georgy Gobronidze, Professor at the School of Law, Diplomacy and Social Sciences of Georgian American University, told about processes of historical memory preservation in Georgia:

"We can see today that the new memory is being constructed in Georgia instead of the one, which existed for 70 years during the Soviet Union. However, the ideology while bashing the other one, is trying to create a life space for itself. And that ideology has mostly been constructed by political elites. The political elites are trying to create such symbols or fight them, when they are lacking a stable foundation. This was characteristic of many post-Soviet countries."

A discussion about the Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle taking into account events in the Caucasus became a separate part of the agenda. Mustafa Tanryverdiyev, Professor at the Department of Contemporary History of Istanbul University, analyzed importance of the region in Russian-Turkish relations:
"Based on its physical, geopolitical, historical and demographic characteristics, the Caucasus is a special place for research. Turkey, Iran and Russia have competed for the Caucasus. During its long history, the Caucasus survived many difficult times, which left proud memories. That region was very important for both, Russia and Turkey, with its very long historical memory. Russia and Turkey are great neighbors, and I hope that their relations will continue to be friendly."