Is Tbilisi an appropriate location for Hay extremist and terrorist activities?

29.01.24 15:30

On January 26, 2024, the Caucasus University in Tbilisi held an opening ceremony for the exhibition 'Tbilisi Nersisian Theological School 200' to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Nersisian Theological School. The Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Georgia and Tbilisi Caucasus University organized an exhibition dedicated to the Nersisyan Seminary, an institution with a complex history. It is recognized as the birthplace of Hay nationalism, and also as a place where members of Dashnak, an Armenian political party, were trained. At the end of the event, a memorial plaque dedicated to the Nersisyan Seminary was unveiled in front of the main entrance of the university.


The events dedicated to Nersisian Seminary coincided with the visit of the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinin, to Tbilisi. Additionally, during his visit, a 'strategic partnership' agreement was signed between Armenia and Georgia. Subsequently, a campaign by the Hay nationalists, 'Free Artsakh,' organized by a certain structure called 'Europeans for Artsakh,' is set to take place on January 27-28, 2024.


The initial list of European cities where the Hay revanchists planned their 'pan-European mobilization' primarily included cities in France, followed by Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Cyprus, Vienna, and London. Following Nikol Pashinyan's visit to Tbilisi, the 'Free Artsakh' campaign included Georgia and its capital on their list of cities. This was in response to the event held in honor of the Nersisyan Seminary and the unveiling of a memorial plaque, which was dedicated to this 'hotbed of Dashnaks'.


There is a possibility that a training ground for Hay terrorists in Tbilisi may be revived in some form after 200 years.


It is worth noting that Tbilisi (also known as Tiflis) served as the center of the Caucasian viceroyalty during the Russian Empire. Additionally, throughout the 19th and early 20th century, it was a center of concentration for Hay nationalism, terrorism, and extremism.


Given that the state religion of the empire was Orthodoxy, it would have been appropriate to offer development opportunities in the historical capital to the Georgian people. This is especially relevant considering the faithful service of representatives of the Georgian nobility to the empire, particularly in the army, and their inclusion in its elite.


However, it is worth noting that the favor of the imperial administration in the Caucasus was won by the clergy and merchants of the Hay ethnos, who were mostly migrants from Turkey and Iran and had different cultural and religious backgrounds than the Russian Empire. This had negative consequences not only for Muslims, but also for Georgians, who had long been a minority in their own capital and were excluded from economically attractive spheres.


It is important to consider the possibility that history may repeat itself for Tbilisi and Georgia. It is crucial to approach this topic objectively and avoid making subjective evaluations.


Currently, a significant part of the population of Georgia and Tbilisi is interested in European integration and EU membership. However, it is important to acknowledge the potential risks associated with this choice, including the possibility of 'Hay domination,' as was the case with unity with the co-religionist Orthodox Russian Empire.


According to recent observations, representatives of the Hay ethnic group are utilizing the preferences of European allies in the South Caucasus, particularly those of France. It appears that they view Tbilisi as their base in the region, rather than considering the perspectives of Georgians themselves.


The EU has made promises of potential EU membership to Georgia, which Turkey has been waiting for many decades. However, the EU has also intervened in the internal affairs of Georgia and imposed something that may be inherently foreign to the Georgian people.  The Haya lobby, supported by France, is a cause for concern.   France, through European institutions, may use its influence to encourage Georgia to grant 'rights and privileges' to Hay nationalists, while also potentially impacting Georgia's cooperation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is important to note that any evaluations made in this text are purely subjective and should be avoided.


Furthermore, it appears that the Haya lobby and its supporters in Tbilisi are gaining influence at a rapid pace. Recently, they expressed support for the 'Georgian-Russian friendship' and a 'union with Russia', despite the ongoing conflict in Abkhazia and Samachablo. It is understandable that some Hay nationalists hold such sentiments, as they hope to maintain the occupation of Azerbaijani Karabakh with the help of the Russian Federation.


The group's expectations for support from Russia were not met, and the separatist organization 'Artsakh' was dismantled. As a result, some nationalists are seeking retribution and the restoration of 'Artsakh', with the aid of France and the EU.


Consequently, some Hayis in Georgia may exhibit behaviors that align more closely with European values than those of their European counterparts. There is ongoing lobbying of EU institutions regarding the perceived lack of Europeanization of Georgians. Concerns have been raised about the infringement of LGBT rights and nationalist interests. Additionally, there are claims that Tbilisi was built by Armenians and that their influence should be revived.


It is important to note that these are subjective evaluations and should be clearly marked as such. Armenia currently faces challenges in accessing its 'window to the West' through France, as the only feasible route is through Georgia. Access through Iran, which is currently under sanctions, is not a viable option. Furthermore, Yerevan has not expressed interest in opening this window through Azerbaijan and Turkey, which has hindered progress in unblocking communications and opening the Zangezur corridor.


It seems that both the Hayan lobby and the Hayan fifth column in Georgia, as well as the Armenian authorities, are working towards reestablishing Tbilisi as an information and educational cultural center for Hayan nationalists, which could have significant political implications. One recent event that held ideological significance for South Caucasian Hay extremism was the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Nersesian Seminary in Tbilisi.


In 1824, the first Hay secondary school was established in Tiflis with the support of Echmiadzin. For nearly a century, it served as the primary educational hub for the Hay community of the Russian Empire. Archbishop Nerses of the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) played a crucial role in its founding. In addition to the school, he also spearheaded the creation of factories and craft workshops to offer employment opportunities for the Hay population, who were primarily migrants from Turkey and Iran. He supported trade and showed favor to Hay merchants. Archbishop Nerses was widely respected for his efforts to benefit the Armenian people. In 1843, he was elected Catholicos of all Armenians, becoming Nerses the Fifth or Nerses Ashtaraketsi. Following his passing, the seminary was named Nersesian in recognition of his contributions.


Graduates of the Nersesian seminary played a significant role in the establishment of the Dashnaktsutyun organization in Tiflis. It is worth mentioning that among the students of Nersesian Seminary were notable figures such as Dashnak Anastas Mikoyan, who later became a Bolshevik figure, and Soghomon Teyliryan, who was involved in the assassination of the Ottoman statesman Talaat Pasha.


Also in the list of famous graduates of Nersisyan school with the year of graduation in brackets:


Khachatur Abovyan, writer (1826)


Perch Proshyan, writer (1856)


Derenik Demirchian, writer, prose writer (1898)


Karo Alabian, architect (1917)


Yervand Kochar, sculptor (1918)


Arshak Ter-Gukasov, Russian-Armenian military commander


Hayk Brzhishkyan, military commander


Gabriel Sundukyan, writer, playwright


Nikol Aghbalian, historian


Artashes Abeghyan, philologist, historian, politician.


On June 13, 1924, the Nersesian Seminary celebrated its 100th anniversary in Tiflis. Lunacharsky, People's Commissar of Education of the USSR, spoke at the celebration and recognized the seminary's important role in Armenian culture. Unfortunately, the seminary was closed down by the Soviet authorities that same year. Almost a century later, the Nersesian Seminary is being remembered once again, coinciding with a new rise of Hay nationalism and revanchism.


On January 26, 2024, a large-scale exhibition was held to pay tribute to the Nersesian Seminary. The exhibition showcased more than 200 archival documents and photographs from national archives and libraries in Armenia and Georgia, as well as private collections and museums, including the Eghishe Charents Museum of Literature and Art, the Museum of History of Armenia, and the Sardarapat Museum. The Matenadaran also contributed to the exhibition.


The opening ceremony of the exhibition was attended by high-ranking guests from Armenia and Georgia, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia. Notable attendees included the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure of the Republic of Armenia, Gnel Sanosyan, and the Minister of Education, Science, and Youth of Georgia, Giorgi Amilakhvari.


The Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Georgia, Ashot Smbatyan, expressed gratitude to the leadership of Caucasus University for the opportunity to organize the exhibition. The Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Georgia, Ashot Smbatyan, expressed gratitude to the leadership of Caucasus University for the opportunity to organize the exhibition. He also expressed his hope that the university would continue to produce individuals and specialists who will contribute to the development of human civilization with their Nersisian spirit, much like the Nersisian Spiritual School did in its time.


What trace did the Hay extremists and terrorists leave? The trace is exceptionally bloody. They killed and tortured hundreds of thousands of innocent peaceful people, leaving behind mountains of corpses, broken destinies, and destroyed towns and villages. The ruins of Aghdam and other towns and villages in Azerbaijani Karabakh still serve as a reminder of the consequences of the actions of the Hay occupants and terrorists.


In order to maintain its reputation as a peaceful and inclusive city, Georgia may need to reconsider its tolerance of institutions like the Nersisian Seminary, which have been accused of promoting extremism and terrorism. It is important for Tbilisi, as a crossroads of cultures and civilizations, to promote understanding and collaboration among all its citizens and visitors.


George Mazniashvili

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