Caucasus Chronicles: Nation-Building and Diplomacy in Armenia, 1993–1994

Caucasus Chronicles: Nation-Building and Diplomacy in Armenia, 1993–1994

London: Gomidas Institute, 2002,
200 pp., map and photos,
ISBN 1-884630-05-7, hardback,
UK£19.50 / US$29.95
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"A compelling, first-hand account of a crucial period in the formation of independent Armenia.”
Atom Egoyan

Gripping.... Reads like a travel book, yet it is the testimony of the first Greek ambassador to newly independent Armenia. — Transitions Online, Central Europe Review, 25 February 2003

The work may come to be seen as one of the most valuable first-hand sources for historians of the period. — CNN's Avedis Hadjian in Central Europe Review, February 25, 2003

"Exile in Yerevan” is what the Greek press called the mission of Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos and his staff of three. For Chrysanthopoulos, however, his assignment as the first ambassador of Greece to newly independent Armenia was a golden opportunity to rebuild an alliance as old as history. This book is a lively account of that mission.

The new embassy was established on the fifth floor of the Hotel Hrazdan, adjacent to the presidential palace. The hotel was selected because it promised—though it could not always deliver—a steady supply of electricity.

Electricity was in short supply, as was food and heating fuel, in part because Armenia was blockaded by its neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan. As the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia, the European Union, and the United States vied for the upper hand in the Caucasus. A bloody war in Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh became the focal point of that power struggle. Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos, who also represented the Presidency of the European Union, tells the inside story.

He reveals for the first time that external forces were poised to invade Armenia during the failed coup d’état of October 1993 in Moscow.

Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos’s account conveys the adventurous—indeed perilous—aspects of life as an ambassador as well as the diplomatic and humanitarian relief work in which he was involved.

He discusses the development of European Union policy toward the region, and provides insights into the workings of the highest levels of the Armenian government and the thinking of the individuals running it.

The author finds time to appreciate the culture and monuments of Armenian civilization and pays particular attention to the history and living conditions of the Greek minority in the former Soviet republic.

Advance Praise:

"A vigorous, straightforward, and unillusioned account of the author’s time as a diplomat in Yerevan in the extraordinarily rough and tough years of 1993–94. Much of Chrysanthopoulos’s account concerns setting up the Greek diplomatic mission in those times of acute deprivation, bitter cold, and scarcity. There are hair-raising episodes: a desperate winter trip to southern Armenia, in which the ambassador’s party gets stuck in the snow, and a flight from Moscow to the snowbound Caucasus, in which the pilot landed blindly in shut-down Yerevan airport.

"Sometimes we get a glimpse of an undercurrent to important international events: we are left wondering if there was a plot against Armenia at the same time as Boris Yeltsin was battling against the hard-liners on a tank in Moscow. Chrysanthopoulos gives voice to a perfectly reasonable (and tantalizing) suspicion.

"The envoy from Athens is always friendly, but does not hide his dissatisfaction with some of the directions of Yerevan’s policy; the book is all the better for his constructive criticism. Its basically chronological structure means that it is easy to follow, and its open and unadorned style makes it consistently readable and interesting.” — Christopher Walker, author of Armenia: Survival of a Nation

"The author’s voice is friendly yet critical. Above all, Chrysanthopoulos speaks with candor. An important contribution to understanding a difficult and little-appreciated period in recent Armenian history.”
Gerard J. Libaridian, author of The Challenge of Statehood

"Chrysanthopoulos addresses the many challenges facing the young Armenian state—economic crisis, conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, social upheaval, and political instability. With a keen understanding of Armenia’s past, he places the relentless pace of current events in the context of the post-Soviet transition and regional history. Caucasus Chronicles,however, serves as much more than a historical account. Chrysanthopoulos captures the mood and temperament of the times. He also provides a rare glimpse into the nuts-and-bolts activities of a working diplomat.” — Mark Malkasian, author of "Gha-ra-bagh!”

"Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos renders vital aspects of Armenia’s domestic and foreign policy with the keen eye of a traveler-historian. A pleasure to read.” — Thanos Veremis, The Fletcher School of Diplomacy

About the Author:

Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos is a career diplomat who in 1993 became the first Greek ambassador to newly independent Armenia, where he also represented the Presidency of the European Union. He has served in Toronto, in Beijing, and in his country's missions to the European Union in Brussels and the United Nations in New York. Like his father and grandfather before him, he was consul-general of Greece in Istanbul. He has served as ambassador of his country to Poland and is currently ambassador of Greece to Canada

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