On Oct 1, Catalonia is holding a referendum that may give birth to a new economically and politically strong state in Europe.
In this context, experts and mass media will certainly try to draw parallels with other regions, first of all, the Caucasus. But they will hardly succeed as Catalonia’s independence will hardly affect the fates of the states that achieved independence as long ago as the 1990s.
Of course, it is good that the asocial principle of territorial integrity has been disputed by a nation living in the very heart of Europe. Until recently, the global political system has been convinced that this principle is viable but now it will have to admit that secession of one state from another is a natural process – for there can’t be a static condition in life, can there?
In any case, this is good for nations like Abkhazia and South Ossetia as until know the general opinion has been that a state cannot fall apart on its own but only if broken by some external force and nobody has so far asked the question that sounds quite natural in this context: “But were the states that had allegedly been broken by ‘third forces’ actually states in both social and cultural terms?”
This is the only parallel between Catalonia and the Caucasian republics.
The problem is that the Caucasians and Yugoslavian conflicts broke out at the time when the world stopped regarding legitimate any violence applied for the sake of some ideology. This does not mean that the world has become more humane, simply, it no longer wants arms to be decisive in ethnic conflicts.
That tendency appeared mostly in Europe. But Georgia is not Spain. Once the Georgians became independent, they started burning houses and killing “strangers” for the sake of their national ideology. The other side did the same. The latter won the war but they turned out to be the losers as the world tends to blame “separatists” and to justify those who forced them to be such.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not Catalonia. If on Oct 1, the Catalans vote for independence, their life will not change. They will live the way they have lived so far - with open borders and roads, operating companies and millions of tourists visiting them every year. In contrast, the Caucasian conflicts are stories where people killed each other and burned each other’s houses.
Those conflicts do not fit into the aesthetics of the modern world as their causes are long in the past. There is no human justice, no value in them. And the most important thing is that those nations live in a region that has no big value for the world. So, nobody cares any longer.
The key problem of those nations is that even though they want the world to recognize them or at least to treat them better, they have so far done nothing to adopt its new values.
The values they used in the 1990s referred to the times of colonial wars. Self-determination and freedom were something from the history of the mid-20th century. And they still use a language the modern world does not understand.
The new thing about the modern world today is not that it has become more humane or absolutely intolerant to violence but that it wants more stability. This is why it does its best not to let conflicts – should they happen – wreck the lives of the people involved. Cyprus is a vivid example of this approach: the sides there are moving not so much towards settlement as towards the recovery of normal life.
In contrast, the concept of the Caucasian conflicts insists that their destructive consequences are irreversible. As a result, the nations those conflicts involve are doing nothing to restore their lives and their former contacts. And this is the key factor that makes them look not loyal in the eyes of the external world.
Anton Krivenyuk, specially for EADaily