Reviews of Visions of Ararat. Writings on Armenia - zmna dzvel kartulshi - Rewriting Caucasian History. The Medieval Armenian Adaptation of the Georgian Chronicles. The Original Georgian Texts and the Armenian Adaptation

Reviews of CHRISTOPHER J. WALKER: Visions of Ararat. Writings on Armenia, IVANE IMNAISHVILI, VAKHT’ANG IMNAISHVILI: zmna dzvel kartulshi, ROBERT W. THOMSON: Rewriting Caucasian History. The Medieval Armenian Adaptation of the Georgian Chronicles. The Original Georgian Texts and the Armenian Adaptation. Translated with Introduction and Commentary by Robert W. Thomson, in BSOAS

The book is an attractive collection of excerpts  from, and comments on, writings pertaining to Armenian history, culture and politics by  a range of historical British observers, including such illustrious figures as Edward  Gibbon, Lord Byron (who wrote a grammar of Armenian), and Gladstone. The compiler is the author of  Armenia: The Survival of a Nation.

The behaviour of various UK  governments at critical moments means that this country incontrovertibly bears  a large share of the guilt for what happened to the Armenians in the Turkish vilayets from 1895 to  1915. And, as one has come to expect from Walker, there is both enlightenment  here and much to ponder, especially for today's shapers of policy towards the Caucasus. The following words are from the Earl of Argyll: 'Let us recollect that every human life among the thousands which have been sacrificed in Armenia -- which we could have saved by any exertion on our part -- and which we have not saved because of the doctrine I have traced, has been nothing less than a human sacrifice on our part to our fetish god of the "Balance  of Power" in Europe or in Asia' (75-76). With 'Nagorno-Karabagh, Abkhazia, Chechenia' read for 'Armenia', or with 'Preservation of Territorial Integrity'  (sc. of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia respectively) read for 'Balance of Power', these words are as apposite now as when they were penned a century ago. Poet William Watson is said (p.78) to have lost the Poet Laureateship to Alfred Austin because his views on the Armenian question ('Abdul the Damned on his infernal throne') were at variance with those of HMG and the  Foreign Office, where preference was predictably given to attitudes inherited from Wellington and Palmerston (the failure of the latter to act could be argued to have led to the Russian conquest of the whole North Caucasus and the subsequent exile of the bulk of the North West Caucasian peoples). Watson believed in the primacy of morality in international affairs -- only time will tell whether the newly proclaimed importance to be assigned to humanitarian issues in foreign relations will triumph over the more recently enshrined excuses for inaction, 'territorial integrity' and 'market forces'.

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