HISTORICAL TRAJECTORY OF THE RIGHT OF NATIONS TO SELFDETERMINATION – 2016-4

From the Peace of Westphalia to Nagorno-Karabakh Problem

Summary

Tigran R. Yepremyan

Key words – Self-determination of nations, territorial integrity, sovereignty, Hugo Grotius, Peace of Westphalia, Peace of Utrecht, French Revolution, League of Nations, United Nations, Helsinki Final Act, Europe, Artsakh.

The paper aims to present the historical trace and the development of the idea of national sovereignty and the right of nations to self-determination from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) to Helsinki Final Act (1975). It tends to evaluate Grotius’ place in the context of the European enlightenment and the history of the formulation of the right of nations to self-determination. According to these approaches nations are constructed with common beliefs and organizational structures. Therefore, nations, i.e. the organized political communities, have the right to political self-determination. The Peace of Westphalia symbolized the transformation of the European-world order based on the hierarchical structures of medieval Christendom to the horizontal system of sovereign territorial states. The rising sense of national individualism was promoted by the Renaissance and Reformation. Meanwhile, the start of the secularization and its adjacent idea of self-determination entailed the principle of peaceful coexistence among legally equal members of international society, which found its fundamental expression in the Helsinki Final Act. Thus, socio-philosophical as well as geo-strategic incentives of the European nation building process are taken into consideration. In the time of the French Revolution new patterns of loyalty and national cohesion were created and new paradigms of identity formation emerged.

The paper offers a new interpretation of the historical trace and the logic of development of the idea of political self-determination and a comparative analysis of its enforcement history. Then, in the aforementioned context, it analyzes the case of self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh), a successful European de facto state in the Eastern-most Europe. Therefore, one of the highly articulated features in the discourse of the Armenian leadership about Nagorno-Karabakh’s belonging to the European family and to the European international community is the notion that “Europe starts in Nagorno Karabakh.”

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