Twenty-five years after the Soviet collapse, citizens of Armenia, as well as observers and scholars are asking “Now What?” In an effort to better understand the past quarter century, and to look for ways forward, the University of Southern California (USC) Institute of Armenian Studies is presenting a two-city conference entitled, “The End of Transition: Shifting Focus a Quarter Century After the Soviet Collapse.”
To be held at USC on April 9 and April 10, the conference brings together notable names in media, government, academia and the arts to explore regionalisms of Armenia, demographic changes, transitions in social and economic policy, the development of formal and informal political and social institutions, bottom-up social change and civil society formation. In foreign and regional relations, speakers will look at the transition from the Soviet sphere to attempts at other alliances, and the evolution of Armenia’s bilateral relations with its immediate neighbors. The conference will continue in Yerevan, Armenia on May 23-24.
“Armenia, like all the Soviet successor states, has undergone its own unique transition process. The transition concept presupposed a fairly linear trajectory from authoritarianism to democratization, from the Soviet world to the European world, from a controlled economy to a free market. This was everyone’s assumption. Where else could a new country possibly go, we thought? Yet, we’ve all seen that Armenia’s path towards democracy and a market economy has been non-direct, non-linear, inconsistent, at best. This conference will unpack those assumptions and demonstrate what really happened,” explained Salpi Ghazarian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.
On the afternoon of Sunday, April 9, Professor Robert English of the USC School of International Relations will open the program with a conversation with Ambassador Jack Matlock, the last US envoy to the USSR. They will be followed by a talk by Amberin Zaman, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington DC. Until recently, she was the Turkey correspondent for the Economist. Ms. Zaman will describe the evolution of the Turkey-Russia-West triangle over this quarter century. Hans Gutbrod, a Georgia-based Caucasus analyst with a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics, will address civil society and attitudinal evolution since the Soviet collapse, in the three Caucasus republics. Dr. Gutbrod currently runs Transparify, an initiative to increase the transparency of policy research and advocacy. Another major figure in the study of countries in transition is Professor Daron Açemoglu, of MIT, whose book Why Nations Fail analyzes the role of institutional development in democratization and economic success. Finally, Khachig Tölölyan will talk about the Diaspora-Armenia relationship – how it evolved over these years and how the perceptions of that relationship changed the relationship itself. The Sunday afternoon program will last from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., with livestreaming beginning at 2:30 p.m.
On Monday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 18 scholars will present their research on the transition period. They will be divided among three panels – global and regional processes; governance & economic transitions; civil society and social change. Specific topics include how memory impacts relations with Turkey; the Karabagh conflict, how it evolved during and after the war years, and how war changes demographics; the diminishing importance of Armenia to US foreign policy; power, institutions and values; the demographics of transition; factors of democratic transition; transformation of informal economic institutions; good governance; comparative trust in the three republics of the Caucasus; migration patterns; the transition from egalitarian poverty to unequal wealth; and artistic transitions.
Speakers include Gregory Aftandilian of Northeastern University; Serouj Aprahamian of York University; Dr. Karena Avedissian, Fellow of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies; Dr. Laurence Broers of Chatham House; Dr. Khatchik Der Ghougassian from Argentina; Phil Gamaghelyan of George Mason University; Dr. Arman Grigoryan of LeHigh University; Garik Hayrapetyan of the United Nations Yerevan office; Eric Nazarian, filmmaker; Dr. Anna Ohanyan of Stonehill College; Emil Sanamyan, editor of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies FOCUS ON KARABAGH; Social anthropologist Nona Shahnazaryan; and Karine Torosyan, of the International School of Economics in Georgia.
The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Lunch will be served midday and refreshments will be available throughout both days.