CCISC lunch time research seminar Competition of Victims: Memory Wars and Emerging State Ideologies in Post-Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan

Tuesday, 20 March, 12.30-1.30pm

Accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing during post-Soviet conflicts in the South Caucasus region of the former USSR have not received significant scholarly attention to date, despite their ongoing significance for the development of official ideologies and national identities in the South Caucasus countries. The paper focuses on the recent history of ultra-nationalism and ethnic violence in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and its consequences for the local populations. It gives equal attention to the two cases of post-Soviet ethnic cleansing, both of which relate to well-known incidents during the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, namely the Sumgait pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan and the Khojaly mass killings of Azerbaijanis in Nagorny Karabakh itself. Because the events in Sumgait and Khojaly continue to play a significant role in the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, this research should be of interest both to scholars seeking to understand the long-term political consequences of ethnic cleansing, and to policy-makers seeking to find a solution to this and other similar ethnic conflicts. The term ‘Memory wars’, coined by Russian scholar Victor Shnirelman, refers to the process of politicization of local history and the making of a tool out of it by local elites.


Nona Shahnazarian is a social anthropologist who is a Senior Research Fellow at The Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences, Yerevan, Armenia. She is also affiliated with the Center for Independent Social Research, St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2017, she was a Visiting Carnegie Fellow at the University of Stanford. She has published extensively on the issues of gender, war, migration, memory and Diaspora in the Caucasus, including a monograph in Russian In the Tight Embrace of Tradition: War and Patriarchy (2011).