South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus

Empires and legacies

Date: 1 September 2017, 09:00–12:00

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 397



History of the Caucasus and South-Eastern Europe is significantly marked by the existence within the imperial spaces. Beginning from the 18th century societies of the both regions became parts of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires. This fact determined range of religious, cultural, ethnic, demographic, social and economic processes and led to the formation of political as well as intellectual discourses. After collapse of the empires, societies of the both regions had to meet the post-imperial challenges, which were similar in many ways.

During the period under empires, in the South-Eastern Europe as well as in the Caucasus intellectual elites emerged; they created national discourse by establishing standards of national languages, marking out borders between “us” and “others”, forming the image of shared past. General discourse was shaped which defined nations and enabled peoples incorporated in the empires to identify themselves in national terms. Beyond similar processes, substantial differences in the above-mentioned developments could be found.

Imperial legacy had considerable implications in the 20th century – beginning from the post-WWI period to post-socialist transformations: developments in the societies of both regions were characterized by the different kind of continuities and discontinuities; new independent states were emerging and disappearing; political borders were redefining constantly; identities were constructed and re-constructed; and conflicts and tensions between ethnic and religious groups became the inseparable part of the life in the regions under discussion.The panel focuses on intellectual discourses, memory and identity construction processes in the late Empires in the wide context of political, social and cultural developments. Special emphasis on comparative perspective will highlight similarities and differences between societies of the regions.

Topics of the panel include but are not limited to:

- “Inventing nations”: within/against empire;

- Identity narratives: “we” and “others”;

- South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: between Europe and Asia;

- South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus in the global context: perspective from inside and outside;

- Empires after Empires: Imperial legacies and post-imperial developments.


Nino Chikovani (Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University)


Balasz Trencsenyi (Central European University Budapest)


Alexei Miller (Central European University Budapest)


Adrian Brisku (Ilia State University Tbilisi / Charles University Prague)

Nino Chikovani (Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University)

Stephen Jones (Mount Holyoke College South Hadley)

Ketevan Kakitelashvili (Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University)



Adrian Brisku: The rise of nationalism and political loyalty to empire: Late 19th and early 20th century Albanian and Georgian discourses

This paper offers a comparative account on parallels and contrasts between Georgian and Albanian nationalist discourses and political loyalties to the respective Russian and Ottoman empires from the late nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. It explores how for the majority of the politically and intellectually active Ottoman Albanians and Tsarist Georgians the strengthening of the nationalist sentiment articulated as demands for cultural, economic and political autonomy never amounted to the goal of severing political loyalties to their respective imperial centres. Being culturally and politically and slowly but surely also economically integrated, they would only do so when in fact these empires – in their roles as actors of the European inter-state order – failed (Ottoman) or imploded from within (Russian).

Nino Chikovani: ‘Deak and Kossuth’ from the Georgian perspective

The paper analyzes the article of the Georgian intellectual Niko Nikoladze (1843-1928) “Deak and Kossuth” (1894). Nikoladze discusses two ways of the national liberation movement in Hungary in order to develop strategies of dealing with the existence within imperial space, which would be relevant for Georgia. The fact that Nikoladze considers developments in Habsburg Empire applicable for Georgia under Romanov rule provokes towards the study of intellectual processes in Georgia in comparative, trans-imperial perspective. Justification of this perspective is the main aim of the paper.

The Georgian intellectual discourse of the late 19th-early 20th centuries was formed in the Russian imperial framework. However, Russian imperial political and intellectual boundaries did not represent the sole context, which influenced the ideas of the founding fathers of Georgian national project. They were well aware of the ongoing processes in other imperial spaces and tried to comprehend their experience.

The essay of Niko Nikoladze “Deak and Kossuth”, together with the writings of Ilia Chavchavadze (articles on European developments), Akaki Tsereteli (the poem inspired by Garibaldi’s struggle for independence), Vazha-Pshavela (“Cosmopolitanism and Patriotism”), could help with the proper contextualization of the intellectual processes in Georgian, taking into consideration local, imperial as well as global frameworks.

Stephen Jones: Georgian Social democracy and the national question

The Georgian social democrats were active participants in the vital debates in European socialist circles on the relationship between socialism and nationalism. The contributions of Georgian leaders such as Noe Jordania and Akaki Chkhenkeli reflected the particular situation in the Caucasian regions of the Russian Empire, but were also strongly influenced by the debates among social democrats in the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. To what degree did these debates impact the solutions undertaken by the socialist leaders of the Georgian Democratic Republic between 1918-21? What sort of comparisons can we make in the nationality policies of the Weimar, Austrian (First Republic) and Georgian Democratic republics - in what ways did they confront the changed demographic and political situations in the post-imperial conditions after WW1?

Ketevan Kakitelashvili: Contextualizing the Georgian Jewish identity: Within the Russian Empire or beyond?

Main question of the study is whether identity model of the Georgian-speaking Jewry of the late 19th-early 20th century could be contextualized within the Russian imperial framework or within the Central and Western European context. The paper discusses Jewish identity perspectives which emerged in the Georgian intellectual discourse in the 1860s onward, with the special focus on the Jewish intellectuals’ conceptions of the 1910s, searching for the similarities/differences within or outside Russian Empire.

From the 1870s-1880s, Georgian intellectuals discussed identity issues of the Georgian-speaking Jewry stressing necessity of its integration into the Georgian social/national space. The term Georgian Jews was gradually established; Georgian Jewry was regarded as the closest other considering shared history, language and culture; religion was perceived as the only dividing factor. From the 1900s, a new term – Israeli (Israelite) – appeared indicating religious dimension of Jewish identity. In the 1910s, Jewish intellectuals developed two contradictory identity conceptions. The first one claimed for separate national belonging of the Georgian Jewry but emphasized strong attachment to the Georgian culture/nation. The second one considered Georgian Israelis as a part of the Georgian nation being Jews by religion only (Georgians of Mosaic Law). The latter was established among the Georgian intellectual circles as well as in the political framework of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921).

The paper argues that: 1) Georgian Jewry was defined rather within the specific, local Georgian intellectual, cultural, national context than in wider imperial framework; 2) Identity models of the Georgian Jewry are not homogenous to be simply contextualized. The first conception of the Georgian Jewry might be compared with the emerging at the same period of time concept of the Russian Jewry, holding both national identities at once. The second conception of the Georgian Israelis, however, hardly fits within the Russian imperial paradigm and reveals similarities with the identity construction of the Central and Western European Jewish communities.

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