Q1/ You are an award winning FT journalist, the author of Inside Putin’s Russia and co-chairman of Pushkin House, can you tell us how you came to be interested in Russia and the Southern Caucasus?
I studied Russian at school, first travelled there in the early 1990s and lived and worked there for the Financial Times during 1998-2004. I wrote a book on the period (Inside Putin’s Russia, Granta/OUP). It was always fascinating to travel to the Caucasus, the Mediterranean of the region. I loved the people, the culture, the climate, the food; and was deeply touched by the post-Soviet tensions through which they have lived.
Q2/ Can you tell us briefly about Nagorno-Karabakh – where is it located / some background on the regions conflict?
Nagorno-Karabakh is a Armenian dominated zone that in Soviet times came under the jurisdiction of what is now Azerbaijan. Conflict broke out in 1988 and it broke away, but a military stand-off and periodic clashes remain today. The politics play out not just between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also Turkey and Russia. I hope to explore the issues in much more detail at the Mosaic Room discussion on March 19th.
Q3/ Why is now a particularly important time to be discussing Nagorno-Karabakh?
It is one of a number of “frozen conflicts” – now increasingly heating up – along Russia’s southern and western borders that are a product of the late- and post-Soviet era: the others are Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. Russian influence is important, and their peoples and economies are isolated by isolation and lack of international recognition or trade. Topically but sadly, it appears as though parts of eastern Ukraine may end up in a similar situation.
Q4/ What are you working on right now – any news on upcoming books or events you can share with us?
Professionally, I am developing a series of products for the Financial Times that pick the most important news and analysis from the FT and across the web, and distribute it in whichever ways people want – by email, the web, social media, video and so on. In my spare time, I chair Pushkin House, an independent Russian cultural centre in London. We have just unveiled a very strong short list for the Pushkin House Russian book prize of non fiction books in English about the Russian-speaking world as part of our mandate to encourage intelligence discussion of the region: http://www.pushkinhouse.org/new-page/.
Andrew Jack will chair a discussion between Marina Nagai, Dr Hratch Tchilingirian and Dennis Sammut on the issues facing Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday 19 March, 7pm at The Mosaic Rooms. FREE, RSVP HERE.