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In this Conversations on Groong episode, we’ll be talking with historian Pietro A. Shakarian on the life and times of Soviet Armenian statesman Anastas Mikoyan. If you are interested in Armenia’s Soviet past and its continued impact on the country today, then this is an episode not to be missed!
This episode was recorded on Thursday, November 12, 2020.
Born in Sanahin, Armenia in 1895, Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan was the most prominent Soviet state figure of Armenian origin. A survivor, Mikoyan managed to weather every Soviet leader from Lenin to Brezhnev. He was once the #2 man in Moscow after Nikita Khrushchev, and his legacy is complex. Today on Groong, we will explore this extraordinary historical figure.
Mikoyan, with Soviet Armenian leaders Yakov Zarobyan and Anton Kochinyan in Sanahin, Alaverdi, Lori, Armenia. Courtesy of the Russian State Archive, Moscow (f. 5446, op. 120, d. 1723, l. 21).
To help us unpack the historical legacy of Mikoyan, Pietro Shakarian joins us today from Cleveland. Pietro is a historian and a Ph.D. candidate in Russian History at the Ohio State University. His dissertation focuses on Mikoyan’s reforms in de-Stalinization and the nationality sphere in the Khrushchev-era USSR. His analyses on Russia, Armenia, and the post-Soviet space have appeared in The Nation, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Russian International Affairs Council, Russia Direct, and Hetq. He has also worked with the Gomidas Institute in London on the republication of 19th century accounts of the Russian Caucasus and Armenia.
Who was Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan?
● How did he rise to power, his journey from his birthplace of Sanahin, in northern Armenia to the corridors of power in the Kremlin.
● Few Soviet leaders were able to transcend the major political shifts that occurred within the USSR throughout its history. However, Mikoyan managed to survive from Ilyich Lenin to Ilyich Brezhnev, “without heart attack and paralysis” as the phrase goes. How did he manage to weather the storm of Stalinism and beyond?
Mikoyan and the internal/external politics of the USSR
● There is a lot of controversy surrounding Mikoyan, especially regarding his role in Stalin’s Terror. Along with Georgy Malenkov and Mikhail Litvin, he was tasked by Stalin to purge the Soviet Armenian leadership in September 1937. What was Mikoyan’s exact role in this episode?
● What role did Mikoyan play in the process of de-Stalinization in the USSR generally, and in Soviet Armenia specifically?
● How did Mikoyan contribute to the development of the Soviet nationality policy during the era of the Khrushchev Thaw?
● Mikoyan was a very prominent figure in Soviet foreign policy, from China and Hungary to the US and Cuba. Can you tell us a little about some of the characteristics that made him a successful diplomat?
Soviet or Armenian?
● Was Mikoyan a Soviet, an Armenian, or a Soviet Armenian leader?
● What role did Mikoyan play in Soviet Armenian affairs? Did he advocate, or lobby, on behalf of Yerevan in Moscow? What does the documentary record say about his involvement?
● What was Mikoyan’s position toward the issue of Artsakh - Nagorno-Karabakh?
● Finally, what is Mikoyan’s legacy in retrospect? Should we look upon this major figure as a hero or a villain?
That concludes this week’s Conversation On Groong on Armenia’s debate on Armenia’s IT Industry. We’ll continue following this discussion and keep you abreast on the topic as it progresses.
We hope this Conversation has helped your understanding of some of the issues involved. We look forward to your feedback, including your suggestions for Conversation topics in the future. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. I’m Hovik Manucharyan, and on behalf of everyone in this episode, I wish you a good week. Thank you for listening and talk to you next week.
Anastas Mikoyan, Soviet Armenia, Artsakh-Karabakh, Great Terror, Joseph Stalin, Lavrentii Beria, Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Thaw, de-Stalinization, Yerevan, Lori, Sanahin, Alaverdi, Syunik (Zangezur), Meghri, Lake Sevan, Arpa-Sevan canal, Caucasus, Yeghishe Charents, Aleksandr Myasnikyan, Grigory Arutinov, Suren Tovmasyan, Yakov Zarobyan, Anton Kochinyan, Stepan Shahumyan, Armenian Bolsheviks, Russian Revolution, Russian Civil War, Baku Commune, Cuban Missile Crisis