33700000 Post Soviet Georgian Nationalism Social Memory Cultural Trauma
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Post-Soviet Georgian Nationalism in the Context of Social Memory and Collective Trauma Theories
September 5, 2008
Introduction The dissertation is a moderate attempt to envisage the phenomenon of nationalism in post-soviet Georgia from the perspective of social memory concept and the theory of cultural trauma. The main research question can be formulated in following way: how are the basic elements of historical narrative reflected in modern collective memory of Georgians? This a priori necessitates a brief overview and characterisation of traditional Georgian historical narrative. Preliminary analysis suggests that contemporary Georgian national narratives revolve around two main categories: (a) traumatic events evolving around the concepts like pain, loss, acts of injustice, and etc. and (b) pro-western (anti-Russian) orientation as a cultural paradigm. The first category can be better understood in the light of the theory of cultural trauma. Moreover, the latter is also applicable to the contemporary political discourse that reinterprets recent past the same way; hence it might be named as a cross-generational, constant model in Georgia’s collective memory. The study of contemporary nationalism in Georgia is still a relatively virgin field of academic enquiry. Prior to the 1990’s the main attention and interest to Georgian context from outside world was largely of linguistic, literal and historical character (including several historical studies I heavily rely on throughout my discussion). After the declaration of independence and the entrance in the community of sovereign states (United Nations), part of the international scholarship became preoccupied mainly with regional studies in the prism of international relations (security and economic issues)1, especially on the background of interethnic tensions and armed conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions (Cornell 2001: chapter 4, esp. 163-174). The South Caucasus region (comprised by new sovereign republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), together with North Caucasus, became the “second Balkans” where the question of conflictual ethnic and national identities, collective memories and historical narratives is yet to be studied. Despite the growing number of informative academic literature, the systematic, monographic works on Georgian collective identity and its social dynamics as well as its morphology are scarce. Hence, this thesis represents a moderate effort to approach the question of post-soviet Georgian national identity from barely applied theoretical perspective which goes beyond the observable traits of troubled inter-ethnic interaction (the process) and drastic political and economic changes of recent past. However, the shift in socio-political realm of the society does not explain by itself more fundamental questions regarding the possible underlying reasons that triggered the
deterioration of inter-communal relationships in South Caucasus and, specifically in our case, Georgia. Moreover, I generally base my discussion on Brubaker’s negation (1998: 285-288) of the traditional misconception ─ “repressed” paradigm in the discussion of nationalisms ─ which in this case would erroneously surmise federal, multinational state system of USSR as the political organism reducing, conserving and only delaying previously existing nationalisms with its supranational discourse and political structure. However, my central scope is rather different than reiterating the critique of mentioned myth: to provide this problematic research question with different, not necessarily substitute theoretical vision of socio-cultural developments. In this way, the main spirit of study is to diversify concepts and approaches in the study of modern Georgian collective perceptions and to go further than seeing institutional rearrangements as a universal answer. Interesting is to reveal the character of contemporary Georgian society’s national identity and collective memory in the process of transformation and mediation and to locate them in the realm of collective memory concept. The main part of discussion on Georgians’ social perception regarding collective memory and national history concentrates on post-soviet period. The notion of “Georgians” henceforth will be deliberately reduced to the understanding of politically and culturally dominant ethnic group of fractured and unconsolidated political community - Georgian state. Concentration on the dominant group as a main social unit (social group) for study in no way presupposes the analytical indifference to other ethnic minorities residing in Georgia. Moreover, as we shall see later, development and the very discourse of ethnic Georgians’ collective identity and historical memory is inextricably intertwined with the content of other ethnic communities’ national discourses. Highly variable level of legitimacy of national, state borders (and their contested character) in those discourses methodologically suggests not to be restricted by them throughout the analysis as cross-border identities and the question of inter-ethnic relations can not be disassociated from the main topic. The issue of collective narratives of ethnic minorities (residing in Georgia and having “historical homelands” as well as those groups that are perceived by any party to have no home) will be seen in the conceptual framework of “counter-narratives”. The study is meant to avoid a traditional mono-paradigmatic enquiry and tries to combine different theoretical approaches to the subject. As an umbrella theoretical perspective, I employ highly interdisciplinary heritage of nationalism studies. Specifically, I rely on the loose vision of so called “modernist approach” with its general theoretical understanding of nation-state and ethnic/national identity.
The key-words for this study are sociological notions as collective identity, social memory2, ethno-historical narrative and national discourse. They will be clarified and defined later, during the specific discussion on respective theoretical approaches.
Structure of the thesis The plan of the thesis starts out with an initial chapter covering most relevant existing literature in the field. Proceeding from this point, larger space will be devoted to the examination of Georgian historical narrative and national discourse. Identifying and outlining “narrative markers” of collective national perception of what makes up the past of the nation and its present aspiration, how the both interact and determine each other would hopefully lay a good ground for future studies on their vitality and underlying reasons. The main strategy shall imply identification of basic collective identity markers and the analysis of the transformation of social memory of Georgians in order to reveal the reasons for their appreciation, idealisation and collective memorialisation. It should be noted that the role of “history” is frequently named as the central phenomenon in emerging national movements in post-soviet South Caucasian space. However, paradoxically enough, the analytical category of social memory and respective theoretical approach is surprisingly overlooked and neglected. While following the instrumentalist vision of politics of memory which places dominant groups as the virtual authors or manipulators of basic social perceptions on national idea and its challenges, and although I will frequently address political discourse, there is no intention to concentrate fundamentally on major actors in process as it calls for a separate in-depth analysis. Instead, the paper is a mere try to see a general picture and enrich theoretical discussion with introspective notions of collective memory and its post-soviet dynamics for the first time. As it regards cultural trauma, it might reveal interesting aspects of general working of collective memory and, at the same time, could link the research question to more specific cases of trauma and its direct relation to dominant groups.
Theories of Social Memory and Cultural Trauma The rise and fall of totalitarian regimes and concomitant ideologies3 in the 20th century have given rise to different attempts to understand various social phenomena of contemporary industrial and post-industrial societies. Among them one of the central objects of interest is national identity and collective/social memory.
Basic terms and operative concepts The main interpretative tools and analytical notions of the thesis come from methodological and theoretical tradition of social constructionism. It is a set of various theories of sociology of knowledge and social epistemology, aspiring to analyze different aspects of collective life of humans and socio-cultural system, its functioning, dynamics and interrelation of its constituent elements, and etc. Its main objective is to reveal socially determined and constructed nature of collective life, practices and ideas, notions, values and cultural elements, those that are traditionally perceived of as a priori “given”, unquestioned and natural (Rousseau 2002: 236). In following chapters the notion of social memory will be viewed as an ever-changing category that emanates from symbolic interaction (not to be confused with the established micro-sociological perspective known as symbolic interactionism), stressing on the process of communication, actors, agents involved, process of interpretation, mediation and distribution of collectively appreciated public perceptions, distributed through symbolized and abstracted meanings. Hence, the basic understanding is that social constructions, be they identity or collective memory (described below), are never static - they are constantly in change, frequently negotiated, contested, - dynamic and ambiguous elements to observe, especially in case of a society undergoing fundamental and rapid reorganization of social and political life that (rather indirectly) generates redefinition of social constructs. Social identity is a central notion for the thesis. It can be defined as the cognitive phenomenon derived from one’s feelings and knowledge of self (internal dimension - selfidentification) referred to group membership, the one that is shared with others and also represents a mechanism for self-categorization (external dimension) (Jenkins 1996: 23, 83; Rosenberg 1979; Turner et al. 1987; Tajfel 1979: 94-109). It is a “social” aspect of personal self, individual perception which determines the notion of “us”─ internalized group membership.
Belonging (self-categorization) inevitably produces in-group and out-group dimensions in social perception, where the strength of (belonging to) the former leads member of one group to reveal and display in-group favouritism. It comes from basic psychological drive to attain positive image and esteem of the self (self-concept) (Tajfel & Turner 1986), typically via comparing one’s group with others’ and stressing positive bias toward a group one belongs to (positive distinction and comparison). Michael Ignatieff interestingly described (1999: 91-102) paradoxical process similar to this (which he called “the narcissism of minor difference”, borrowing from Freud) in context of inter-ethnic conflict - on the case of SerboCroation confrontation in Yugoslavia: each conflicting party, sharing a number of common traits and sociocultural elements, imagined and reiterated exaggerated differences used as a legitimatization of enmity discourse. As author remarked, “nationalism is the transformation of identity into narcissism. It is a language game that takes the facts of difference and turns them into a narrative justifying political self-determination” (ibid, 96). It is important here to define other several terms relevant for the discussion. I deal with a Georgian society - large social group representing (the core unit of a) political community (Georgia), consolidated by collectively perceived sameness and shared values. Hence, the notions of nation, national identity and ethno-historical narrative are central here. There are numerous accurately formulated, classical (sometimes mutually exclusive) definitions of a nation. Most of them seem to agree in seeing nation as an imagined collectivity sharing several basic elements such as territory, language and/or culture (Gellner 1983: 6-7; Anderson 1991: 6; Kymlicka 1995:11). This imagination is attainable through the transmission and distribution of common culture (process of homogenization), generating shared national identity (“identity” understood as a sense of belonging, self-identity, reciprocally recognised by members of collectivity in social interaction). The functionality of this type of identity takes us back to a concept of a nation, redefining it primarily as a “community of memory”, mnemonic community (Misztal 2003b:15-17). Performance and durability of such collectivity across time and space depends on the successfully agreed, distributed and consumed products of interpretation of past which is typically related, at the same time, to the vision of possible and desirable future. Hence, a memory seems to be a social glue for a nation, helping it in achieving certain degree of cohesion and stability by legitimizing its mere existence. National identity itself is a complex phenomenon with a number of social dimensions, among which collective mnemonic aspect is central for us. Specifically, the most important is to emphasize that national identity not only stresses the in-group similarities vis-à-vis the 6
other group (differentiation); it also needs a sense of “sharing [collective] fate” (a discourse) where a specific ethno-historical narrative plays a crucial role. As Bhabha (2000 : 19) notes, The nation, like the individual, is the culmination of a long past of endeavours, sacrifice, and devotion. Of all cults, that of the ancestors is the most legitimate, for the ancestors have made us what we are. A heroic past, great men, glory [...], this is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea. As a sociological and anthropological concept, narrative is understood as a textual, rhetorical resource, cultural tool for representing past realm with its events and actors and provide the structured and meaningful interpretation of it. As Lyotard demonstrated on the example of Cashinahua Indians of South America, the narrative is actively employed to identify the status, roles, rights, responsibilities and expected behaviour of self and other members of collectivity as well as the rules of interrelation among them (cited in Connor 1997:24). It represents a socio-cultural construct which is internalized by the members of a society and, by the same token, legitimizes existing (positively or naturally) perceived practice, social organization and the way of life, ─ primarily the statuses of individuals and sub-groups. As Alasdair MacIntyre once noted, human being is a storytelling animal, he/she inherently need a stories (narrative) to understand themselves and also attain a coherent picture of the world one inhabits (1981: 216). In general sense, the suggestion that what we all do is shaped and determined by the narratives and we define who we are by the fact of what we are part of is a narrative paradigm, which understands human being as homo narrans (Fisher 1999: 270-272). Sociological analysis of a narrative has a direct implication on the study of national/ethnic dimension of collective identity and memory. It gained its strength during the 20th century and is indebted from general spirit of deconstructionist paradigm of (methodological) postmodernism and poststructuralism; the latter, on its part, borrowing methodology from literal and linguistic studies and semiotics. Deconstructionist strategy (which could be seen as a methodological premise for postmodernist theory and philosophy dealing with the epistemology) approached existing social perceptions imprinted into sociocultural systems by deconstructing them and attacking (questioning) universalising, foundational meta-narratives, scrutinizing and demonstrating complex, deep-seated aspects of power-relations. Heuristic methodological approach of deconstructionism and the major inquiries by Foucault, Derrida and others into the realm of power relations, language games, 7
theories of knowledge and forms of representations provided the field with good instrumentarium for the study of nationalist social practices, including politics of memory and identity; it remains one of the central strategies in attempts to deconstruct discourses, their language as well as commemorative discourses of social practices that lie at the very basis of nationalism. Hence, it could be said that the deconstructionist approach would interpret nationalism as another manifestation of foundational, “identitarian” discourse (Walker 2001: 615-630). Initial steps in this direction in the realm of cultural analysis are present in seminal works of critical post-colonial studies (F. Fanon (1965), G. C. Spivak (1988) and others). Most influential works were made by E. Said (1978) and Bhabha (1994) who, by introducing the notion of internalisation in the context of post-coloniality, not only shed a theoretical light on post-colonial developments and nationalist movements since 1950’s-1960’s but also interestingly explored the universal binary of dominant and marginal discourses. The latter dichotomy is indeed important. Equally significant seems a historical aspect - post-colonial period of the 20th century which saw a relatively new wave of historical (historiographical) reproduction where a narrative provides a progressive discourse on national emancipation vis-à-vis the oppressive Other (here - colonizer), offering, at the same time, legitimacy for the idea of (the need for) homogenization (as a return to the natural state of affairs disrupted by a foreign rule and alien culture). The ever evolving tendency for homogeneity, ─ dream of any nation-sate, ─ naturally was on non-reconciliatory terms with ethno-linguistic heterogeneity of most of the emerging post-colonial states. I would argue that the theoretical perspective on the described trend of national emancipation and state-building should not be strictly historically isolated as the period central for this thesis, which could be conditionally baptized as a third wave of decolonization following the end of the Second World War and culminating by the dissolution of Soviet Union, shares certain similar trends with it. This especially concerns the “liberal dilemma” of nation-building and concomitant homogenization process (McLeod 2000: 104)
Social/Collective Memory The first major effort to engage with the collective/social dimension of memory was made by French sociologist and philosopher Maurice Halbwachs. He borrowed ( 1950) the notion of memory from individual psychological realm and transplanted it into sociological analysis where it represented strictly socio-cultural phenomenon - counterpart of 8
individual memory - shared and distributed among individuals of collectivity, but individuals were understood strictly as members of certain social group. Thus, social memory is mediated and socially/culturally transmissible across time and place (generations), though never static. It is an intangible socio-cultural heritage, although its manifestations and materializations are common practice in modern societies. This aspect - bodily practices, corporeal manifestations, ceremonies and rituals in the process of memorialisation and commemoration was aptly explored by Paul Connerton in his prominent work How Societies Remember (1989). Around the same period Pierre Nora (1989; 1996) stressed the topographical aspect of collective remembering and contributed enormously to the field of study. He, having concentrated on spatial aspect of remembrance and commemoration, at the same time emphasized the essential importance of differentiating the notions of history and memory.
Difference between history and memory. Why it matters? Nora specified the meaning of memory as individual experience and tradition, that is, what is witnessed and remembered by an individual, while history is just a version of past (1996: 4). Therefore, history is an indirect memory - mediated, stored, where past is a social construction mostly formed by present context, its needs and various factors. Social memory is distanced and consequently abstracted from the first-hand empirical knowledge (which might be even absent or questioned to be real). Thus, collective memory can be conditionally characterised as a memory having no direct and immediate contact to an event, - a fragment of past that usually cannot be observed and memorized in direct way but is still mediated and shaped by textual, visual and other forms (Wertsch 2002: 5). To rephrase Peter Novick (1999: 3,4), collective memory is disinterested or/and unable to understand the original context of historical event, it simplifies and explains things in less sophisticated and intellectual way. Narrative text here should be understood as not just the chronicle of events but the intrinsic impulse for moralising the content (White 1978: 12-13), and giving legitimacy to existing socio-political order. Although differentiation of collective memory and history is undoubtedly possible, one aspect of the interrelation between the two should be noted for future discussion, as it has a direct and crucial implication on national narrative and discourse. Traditional understanding is that history represents a “craft of historians”, the practise of scientific historical enquiry, an endeavour for critical, impersonal study of the past while collective memory is a personal (here person - individual who is inevitably a member and sharer of the heritage of collective 9
social knowledge and tradition) perception in which past is chaotic, not necessary linear or organized, that is, somewhat timeless (Halbwachs  1950: 78). Unlike memory, history is critical, self-conscious, in the hands of professionalised intellectual class - academic practitioners (Nora 1989, 8, 9). Indeed, collective memory is somehow ahistorical (Lyotard 1984: 21) and mythological, but so is national history in its purest. Hence, the central point of interest is not the ideal incompatibility of the two in terms of categories, but their interweaving similarity in the practice, in terms of social agency and cultural production: in order to understand the nature of historical narrative, one should take into account a generic character of memory industry operating on the level of nation (as a cultural or political community). The latter represents a specific form of modernised political project where urbanisation and the development of the culture of citizenship brings about the necessity to respond to the challenge of cultural uprootedness and social anomy with the production of collective, shared identity. In this very enterprise of homogenization the biggest part of professional historians and intellectuals are those who establish the national historical narrative and hence collective, public memory according to national discourse and identity (Potter 1962: 924-950; see also Berger et.al. 1999). As national historical narrative is influenced by collective (nationalist) aspirations and identity (and vice versa), ideal distinction between emotional, imaginative past/memory and intellectual, critical history seems to be blurred. The latter is frequently compromised by the discursive historicism of collective ideological aspirations, especially when the institutionalization (or major reformation) of national history is under way. The understanding of memory/collective history (past) is close to Smith’s (2003: 169) notion of ethnohistory. The very central model of a Golden Age (aptly described by same Smith (ibid. 190-217), predominant in most of the nationalist narrative templates which I shall discuss in the next chapter, is usually nothing but the product of academic work. Organized, written and distributed national histories with their structured narratives (instead of “free-floating” popular folk and oral accounts) reflect the basic national discourse in a given society and facilitate a social cohesion via elaborated and shared national identity.
Collective memory understood in the process of distribution, contestation... and selection The taxonomy of social dimension of memory is very rich. Most of them evolve around historical discourse sustained, promoted and mastered by dominant, hegemonic or sometimes marginalized social groups that claim to possess objective knowledge of the past. I shall try to
single out those that are important and operative for my future discussion. Specifically, I concentrate on the dichotomy of official memory and counter-memory. Official memory is the result of a discourse endorsed and promoted by existing dominant institutions and actors in a certain society/political community (Wright 1985: 5). It stands close to Anderson’s description (2006: 159) of official nationalism and relevant ideology: “emanating from the state, and serving the interests of the state first and foremost”. However, in terms of nationalism and nationalist discourse, naturally state apparatus is not the only dimension involved in its distribution and the term for this case, I would argue, should be understood in far more flexible way, including thus intellectual elite (established academic circles) of a society equally sharing and further promoting a discourse in public sphere. Counter-memory and respective counter-narrative, in contrast, bears a discourse which challenges official history and its interpretation, tries to reform and redefine its content or elements (Assman 1997: 12) which leads to eventual contestation and counter-reaction from master-narrative dominant in public sphere (Preston 1997: 63). The dichotomy between the two will be applied to the discussion of Georgian society in post-totalitarian period which brought about the disappearance of restricting official ideology and stagnant academic mono-methodology. As we deal with a case of specific social transformation, it seems plausible to outline the notion of mnemonic socialization - a central aspect of social remembering understood as an incessant course of negotiation and mediation (Zarubavel 1997, 87). It represents a process of “nurturing adolescent recruits” of social group (here - ethnic group or nation) with major ethno-historical narrative, explaining various aspects of social present, past and future through the agents like education system, family, public cultural groups, historical museums, mass-media and etc. Mnemonic socialization implies the process of selective remembering, that is, how certain event should be remembered (interpreted), and the tendency of “omitting” other facts. In this aspect, it resembles to Ernest Renan’s observation on the nation’s ability of selective forgetting and repression of “historical errors” for the sake of unity and successful nationbuilding ( 1990:11). Billig (1995: 38) introduced the notion of collective amnesia, which is sometimes strategically mediated, organized and politically orchestrated as in the cases of authoritative Marxist regimes. Hence, what we have here is an intrinsic incompatibility of (a) the positivist utopian ideal for disinterested historical enquiry and (b) paradigm of national mythologized narrative which serves as a basis of national discourse, explaining the collective’s destiny and other 11
aspects of social life. Consequently, it is not that history is just doomed to be subjectively, selectively constructed: every “blind” historiographic enterprise of “telling everything that happened” would undermine and neglect the sanctity of national discourse which fashions its homogeneity, density, superiority across time exclusively by its selective approach to past events. Certainly, I do not intend to discuss in depth the role of professional historians, historical narrative production and its relation to ethno-national discourse. I shall rather attempt to show this problem in the light of specific, Georgian post-soviet experience. From the theoretical point of view, in this case it would be enough to underpin the assumption of socio-political, institutional and ideological determinism of academic scholarship. The process of professionalization of historical science (18th and especially 19th centuries) went in parallel of industrialisation and the flourishing era of nation-states (White 1990:32). Academisation of historiography was generally important trend in the history of science but, ironically, it ultimately did not save historians from its traditional sociocultural function - representing a class of “cultural priests” producing national (popular) histories (Funkenstein 1993: 20), conversely, it did standardise this practice with more vigour and necessity. Here I would argue again that the hope of positivists that past could be studied without any prejudice from present circumstances and conjuncture was utopian; same “scrutinized” academic works done in Rankean spirit could not help but satiate excessive public interest by engaging with predominantly political history, producing thus, although with far better scientific methodology, a certain narrative for national discourse (Kramer & Maza 2006: 169). Collective (national) identity inevitably provides (influences) professional historians with “narrative vision”, irretrievably affecting one’s critical abilities (which could be called analytical sobriety), giving accents in order to ”know” (paradoxically, knowing here does not necessarily imply the conscious ideological loyalty, choice or calculation) how and which events, occurrences and artefacts of the past are to be interpreted (Halbwachs  1950: 44), are worthy of discussion and noting.
Examining determinist and instrumentalist vision on collective memory Theoretical edifices erected by Gellner (1983), Anderson (1983), Hobsbawm (1983) and others, as well as sociological study of collective memory initiated by Halbwachs, successfully abstracted from Emile Durkheim’s thesis (1925) that traditional, preindustrial societies are inclined and need to elaborate the sense of historical continuity and belonging in order to keep political community functional and working, securing in this way collective’s 12
stability (Misztal 2003a). Gellner (1983: 29-37) applied this thesis to modern nation-states, insisting that fundamental changes brought by industrialization were a catalyst for the need of newer forms of social bonding and cementing. As noted above, Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983) went even further with politics of memory, taking most instrumentalist approach. Authors tried to conceptualize the fabricated character of collective perceptions which guaranteed loyalty to the state - the practice of inventing such symbols as flags, national anthems, collective official rituals, uniforms and etc (1983: 1-8). This approach heavily relied on revised vision of Marxist theory of dominant ideology where apart from class; attention is paid to the means of media, education system and academia. This instrumentalist, functionalist approach is thought to be somewhat limited as it supposedly disregards the following question - why certain memories work while others do not? However, I would argue that the instrumentalist dealing with the past inherently denies the problematic character of this question owing to the truism that not all known and documented historical events (resource) would fit and follow the logic of nationalist discourse, - as the collective national discourse is always imaginative and mythological, national historical narrative is always selective and can tolerate empiricism only as far as it helps. More important for this case seems to avoid artificial reductionism and, as noted elsewhere, not to omit the class of “cultural practitioners” as in post-Soviet South Caucasus the principal axis of the development of collective identities went in contestation with each other, endorsed by the conflicting historical narratives where discourse on past (in)justice(s) and inflicted human and territorial losses, as we shall see, took central function of collective claim-making. That is what takes us to the concept of cultural trauma.
Cultural trauma theory This theoretical perspective might help to characterise historical narratives that played major role in shaping post-soviet collective identities and inter-ethnic relations with minorities and neighbouring ethno-national groups. The central element of the concept of cultural trauma is the act of commemoration, social cognitive re-experiencing of the past event and its value. This especially makes sense in case of tragedy, loss, which could develop into a collective, cultural trauma. Cultural trauma can be defined in most concise way as the signification of the fact (past or ongoing event); it is a place where past and the masses meet in practice. In other words, Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group 13
consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways (Alexander 2004: 1). Experiencing trauma directly affects the status quo of socio-cultural identity and collective memory, and the latter is continuously re-visited and re-constructed. The main essence of the theory is to study the relation between the original event and its meaning (trauma), accentuating primarily on value and epistemological nature of the latter rather than on its ontology; ontological aspect is present in and claimed by same discourse ethics of collective trauma narrative, while the meaning and interpretation, social perception of the object of memory is scrutinized, not the past event itself. Specifically, it falls within the realm of social memory studies, not historical research. It is not about establishing the truthfulness (or falsity) of a past event but rather revealing reasons that determine the nature of its construction in a given manner and that make it durable on the surface of certain discourse (Alexander 2004: 9). Methodological-scientific basis of cultural trauma theory comes from the tradition of psychoanalysis. The notion of trauma is borrowed from medicine and psychiatry, but reinterpreted in absolutely different, social dimension (Sztompka 2004:167). The original (individual) meaning of trauma is an effect of abrupt and painful event and traumatic response of the individual affected by it. An event produces unconscious emotional fears which leads one to repress the experience (which is a type of psychological defence), as it is too painful and traumatic to be fully acknowledged and accepted. However, the memory about certain event and experience is only repressed, not gone and entirely absent; moreover, it is sometimes back and reinterpreted (this concept was initially developed by Freud in his 1896 work "On the etiology of hysteria"). Classical (individual) psychoanalysis is more concerned with objective and true reconstruction of the past in its purest and most real ways. In social dimension the situation is radically dissimilar: the solution, if ever sought for, is never dependant on absolute objectivity and the key is not its full acknowledgment and extraction from unconscious into the conscious (Alaxander, ibid, 8). Alexander also rightly rejects rational, “naturalist” interpretation of trauma which is characteristic for enlightenment thinking, claiming that the trauma is socially mediated phenomenon, independent and not immanently ensuing from the object of interpretation as the event, cause of trauma, might be even non-present, sometimes anticipated before or even imagined, non-actual (loose social equivalent of individual false memory). Hence, there is an attempt to distance from the theory that claims the axiology of the event itself, which could be (ethically, morally) answered, overcome or challenged. Alexander borrows the term 14
‘imagined’ from Anderson’s theoretical framework (1983). However, as same Anderson noted (ibid, 6), “imagined” here shouldn’t be equated with “falsity”; deliberativeness appears to be problematic category to measure, especially as we deal with phenomenons that are not observable and examinable through laboratory experiments. However, with regard to trauma, it would be sufficient here to reiterate that it is the result of interpretation and representation of event, not the direct and natural result of pain. On the other hand, not all painful and drastic social crises are traumas in the sense of collective (social) memory (there will be an attempt to stress on such occurrences); “social crises must become cultural crises” (Alexander 2004: 10), only then they became a value-point of social remembering and interpretation. The process can be outlined in following manner:
The question of agency is important and plays crucial role as they broadcast meanings and representations. Societies, as broad as they are, never define trauma process, they only accept, fail to accept or reject it. As Thompson noted (1998: 21), what is interpreted, broadcasted and represented is always connected with the ongoing social reality and present, in a form of the need for moral/ethical and socio-political action modelled e.g. as a “responsibility to act”. There could be named a number of instruments of rhetorical and moral character that are usually stressed and collectivised; they vary from case to case: cost/consequence of the loss, degradation of certain values, negative effect of status quo (e.g. threat of assimilation), a need for specific action (reparation, policy, doing justice, grass-root political mobilization), and etc. In the realm of nationalism studies the trauma process (traumatisation; interpretation and representation of past event) and Weberian notion of “carrier groups” (1868: 468-517) and their “meaning making” in public sphere (Alexander 2003: 94) sheds more light on the issue of agency. In following chapter this aspect is reiterated on the example of academic society: class of literati and urban intelligentsia have always been one of the founders of national movements where collective discontent and the painful events from the past become the main tool to interpret and collectivise a new socio-cultural vision on past. This theoretical perspective is occasionally applied in the study of the development of nationalisms in SouthCaucasian societies (Suny 1993: 53, 54) as well as in soviet (Martin 2001: 15-20) and postsoviet politics (Beissinger 2002: 9-10); it promises interesting grounding for future studies. “Carrier groups” are identified in this case with cultural nationalists, public intellectuals 15
engaged in the process of trauma creation: they try to outline the nature of the pain and victimize own collectivity in a way that the perception (pain, feeling of injustice) is conveyed, distributed and shared by a large number of individuals. In this process the past events are regularly interpreted and reinterpreted. The last but not least element is defining “antagonist” - attributing and projecting the burden of responsibility of trauma to others (Alexander ibid: 12-15). The later stage implies the gradual “pacification” of collective mobilization of claims which enters the realm of official policy and cultural production and practice (Alexander 2004: 22-23, Smesler 2004: 52). As preliminary analysis suggests, recent historical narrative of Georgian nationalist discourse are based mostly on traumatic events with relevant perceived actors and their (as well as own) collective claims to legitimacy. The next chapter will try to elaborate more on this matter. .
Georgian historical narrative and nationalist discourse
Hereby is offered the analysis of post-soviet Georgian collective memory by describing a general template of ethno-historical narrative as well as an overview of post-independence political discourse and its transitional character. Central is the aspect of negotiation and reinterpretation which is especially important in the case of counter-memories of ethnic minorities that challenge dominating national idea with its contradictory narratives and make political discourse more disposed to legitimise itself with historical concepts. In reference to historical narrative, several fundamental “constants” shall be outlined in order to demonstrate how they have been readdressed and reformulated. The content of the chapter is organized in several subtopics discussing different aspects of perceived important events observed through the prism of process of signification. In some instances I shall briefly note the paradoxical cases so characteristic for collective memory – that memorizing inherently implies parallel forgetting, unconcern, negation or fundamental reinterpretation. I mostly rely on works about the history of Georgia by R.G. Suny (1983; 1988), S.F. Jones (1996) and other authors in an attempt to revisit Georgian nationalism studies from the perspective of cultural trauma and more general concept of traumatization. A big attention is devoted to the contemporary political discourse in Georgia reflected in statements, speeches and other sources.
Identifying oppressor in early Georgian national discourse Abolition of Georgian monarchy (Lang 1957: 247) by the end of 18th century and full annexation of the modern-day Georgian territories in the first half of following century is generally remembered as the loss of national independence. In the narrative of Soviet Georgian historiography these developments are offered as a mere manifestation of imperial Tsarist policy while the latter was implicitly juxtaposed to the ideal of social revolution and emancipation of masses (proletariat) from oppressing powers (Marxist-Leninist paradigm) (Dumbadze 1974). Despite differences, the nationalist discourse on the abolition of the Georgian monarchy is interpreted as an act of undermining Georgian sovereignty. After the declaration of Georgian independence in 19914 the annexation of Georgian domains on the verge of 18th-19th centuries was further articulated, in this case as a routine Russian political behaviour, in close connection with prior violations of bilateral agreements and following uprisings. Heavily stressed is also a failure of Russian forces in 1795 to provide necessary 17
military protection to Georgian ally when Tbilisi became a victim of intervention of Agha Mohammed Khan, Shah of Iran (Suny 1994 : 59). The event is usually presented as a first major example of unreliability of northern Christian neighbour. On the other hand, the role of Russia during Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878) in returning South-Eastern and Western territories that Georgians remembered as historically Georgian lands (Lang 1962: 203) never entered public discourse. Such a selective character of collective memory correlates with the logic of cultural trauma theory: Russia’s rigid representation as the villain was unlikely to be questioned, therefore her crucial role in regaining old Georgian territories during 1877-88 war (which makes her an ally) is apparently less stressed, if not forgotten (in popular realm of memory), as the moments like the mentioned case would ambiguate a traditional historical role (image) of Russia. The character of the latter was shaped and, with a strong accent on the concept of victimhood, was collectivised in social memory of Georgians through the public activities of the second half of 19th century (a period which some scholars with modernist approach (Anderson 1983; Gillis 1994) would mark as the time of birth of Georgian nationalism and (re-)emergence of Georgian national identity, a vision which I would generally share). This period saw the unprecedented activism of Georgians educated in secular and western fashion and full of progressive ideas that flourished in Russian educational centres by that time. One of the representatives of cohort of reformism and modernity was prominent publicist, social critic and lawyer Ilia Chavchavadze, who is considered as the founding father of modern Georgian nation (Wheatley 2005: 215). Chavchavadze and his like-minded companions, ─ cultural nationalists and social reformers, ─ promoted the development of public institutions and local education system (Rayfield 2000: 173-174), fostering at the same time the all-Georgian, national identity under the trinity formula “fatherland, language, faith” (Darchiashvili 2002: 127;) which would transgress different socio-economic classes of ethnic Georgians (King 2008: 148-149). However, eventually these circles failed to enter active political arena and consolidate its forces; they ultimately lost to the generation of 1890’s, – returnees from Russian and European centres inspired by radical social-democratic doctrines (Suny 1988: 147-164). While the mentioned failure could be explained by the feeble character of Georgian middle class (Suny 1988: 115), here important is another question: aspiration of 19th century nationalists for uniting Georgians as a nation with shared identity was accompanied by the recognition of main oppressors and groups that impeded nation’s ideals. They were fiercely confronted by traditionalist Georgian gentry, ─ military careerists working as state servants 18
in Russian bureaucracy and also by emerging generation of popular Marxists. Nevertheless, Russian hegemony was identified as a central victimizer of Georgians, while in some instances the severe competition with Armenian urban middle class was also reflected in their works, reinterpreted as cultural enmity (Suny 1983: 111-12; 132). In 1899 popular Georgian newspaper “Iveria” publishes Chavchavadze’s polemical essay “Scientists of Armenians and the Laments of the Stones” where he, although mostly in politically correct manner, fiercely criticized Armenian historical scholarship accusing them of attempting to falsify the artefacts and monuments of Georgian cultural heritage by presenting them as Armenians. The very first part starts with the victimization of Georgian nation and concludes with the call for defending national prestige against offenders (Jones 2005: 87). In his autobiographical Travelers' Diaries (1861) Chavchavadze (1861) highlighted the stagnation of Russian social life while at the same time let a native Georgian ordinary mountaineer speak about his feelings that rejected the Russian rule. Hence, it is apparent that at its very initial development modern Georgian nationalist movement employed the “traumatic” discourse and the image of victimizer concerned minorities too: apart from the dream for independence, expressed in contemporary literature which presents Russia as unreformed and disappointingly pseudo-European political space where Georgian nation is oppressed, Armenians are equally externalized while being identified as a main cultural contenders threatening traditional Georgian cultural heritage and historical past.
Soviet period The first half of the 20th century saw the dominance of popular right-wing branch of socialist ideology in South Caucasian societies. They were confronted by Russia-based revolutionary socialists who prevailed throughout the territory of former Tsarist Russia. This is important to note in order to emphasize the gap between Georgian national movement of late 19th century and the creation of first Georgian sovereign state: Chavchavadze’s ideal for the national self-rule was mostly dormant or at least out of political discourse until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 headed by Lenin. This shift dictated Georgian social-democrats (Mensheviks) to ally with their ideological counterparts of South Caucasus region and later follow individual route of nation-building and independence since 1918 (Lang 1962: 204208). In 1921 Georgia was occupied by Bolshevist Russia’s Red Army (Conquest 1968) and we shall see later how this even was reflected in social memory of Georgians.
The phase encompassing 70 years of Soviet rule should be overviewed in a few detail. Most importantly, Soviet system only reformed political organization of pre-existing Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921). After the uprisings and unsuccessful acts of defiance (most notable ─ 1924 uprising, (Suny 1988: 418) and the World War II the nature of Georgian nationalism seems ambivalent and needs further study. However, from the 9th of March, 1956 Tbilisi demonstrations, when Georgians protested against Khrushchev’s criticism of ethnic Georgian Stalin (as it was interpreted as an insult on whole nation (Minahan 1998: 120), one could speculate about Georgian nationalism’s “re-directed character” at that time – instead of long-forgotten independence as a reference point revolved around victimhood, the latter notion (paradigm) was dropped in favour of banal national pride embodied in the cult of Stalin. However, later collective ethno-national conservatism became more sensitive on the background of Russification trends in language policy of Soviet Kremlin: 1978 events, when Georgians opposed to the removal of the status of Georgian as official language from Georgian SSR constitution, became the first popular political resistance against the centre (Moscow) which achieved success (Grenoble 2003: 118-119). Hence, it could be said that the triumphal victory (although claiming many lives) in World War II and the successive strengthening of the cult of the leader (if not leaders, provided we also add the influential security chief of USSR L. Beria to the list) of Georgian origin could somehow quell the collective feeling of oppression and perception of national subjugation. However, since the beginning of “destalinization” process and incessant practice of revision of Soviet heroes, leaders and, generally, of the whole recent Soviet past (aptly observed by Wertsch 2002: 76-82) did not substantially delegitimise communist ideology at once but surely provided a more appropriate ground for national discontent in Georgia. Moreover, relative liberalization of public and intellectual life in post-authoritative totalitarian super-state produced further opportunities: Khrushchev’s policy of Korenizatsiya (“indigenization”, “nativisation”), which aimed at developing new generation of nomenclature (nomenklatura) and apt local elites, effectively ethno-territorialized political space of USSR (Goldenberg 1994: 41; Jones & Parsons 1996: 296). Subsequently, introduction of local languages in administration and educational system invigorated the development of intellectual elites concentrated in writers’ unions and universities (Strayer 1998: 72-73; Sakwa 1999: 144-145). They were engaged with reproduction of historical national narratives of localities that were later widely distributed and entered the realm of collective memories of minorities.
By the decline of Soviet Union these semi-institutionalized (partially penetrated in still highly centralized education system) national narratives became anti-Soviet counternarratives (although criticism of soviet rule varies from case to case and is selective), hence, “responsible” and the “oppressor” later was easily transformed and generalized to include Soviet rule. Furthermore, “counter” here implies not the exclusively bilateral “soviet vs. antisoviet” dichotomy; it rather followed inherited “Matrioshka”-style soviet federal system hierarchy of institutionalized nationalities, where conflictual memories, revolving around the notion and image of victim and oppressor, assigned same significations according to mentioned hierarchy in such a manner that e.g. self-victimizing Georgian ethnicity vis-à-vis Russian political dominance was at the same time an equal aggressor in the counter-memory of ethnic minorities in Georgia. While the cases related to the latter category will be addressed later, here it could be stated that national narratives of minorities, collectivised and entered in local political discourses, also relied on the concept of traumatization and oppression.
Period of transition Nationalist circles emerged during the perestroika and glansnost (Gorbachev’s liberal policy in economical and political life) based their demands for national independence on the existence of sovereign state ─ Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921). However, this was mainly a legal argument. Certainly it entered popular discourse and served as a legitimating element in Georgian public. Nevertheless, on the level of popular ideology and collective memory, Chavchavadze’s heritage seemed to dominate the space. One of the influential dissident organizations by the end of 1980’s was named after Chavchavadze (Wheatley 2005: 42). Moreover, the national Church of Georgia (Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church), which was repressed during (early) Soviet times and had close ties with nationalist dissident movement, canonized secularist Chavchavadze in 1987 (Szajkowski 1994: 44). The socialist government of 1918-1921 independent Georgia enjoyed quite ambivalent and moderate collective fascination, apparently outshined by far more appreciated anti-Bolshevik uprisings that followed the Russian occupation. It is also obvious that Anti-soviet resistance was in some way personified with the name of Kakutsa Cholokashivli, leader of Georgian guerrilla resistance of the 1920’s. Georgian nationalist circles of perestroika period were human rights activists as much as nationalists. Apart from the demand for political freedom, they were heavily concerned with group (national) rights, predominantly with basic political demands: protection of national 21
language and preservation of material cultural heritage (Jones 1993: 304). By the end of 1980’s these public figures became popular political leaders of Georgian society that led country to independence (“restoration of independence” based on the constitution of 1921) on 9th of April 1991 and Gamsakhurdia’s presidency. The choice of the date of 9 April was not random; it represents an example of politics of memory as that day was an anniversary of crackdown and violent dispersion of anti-soviet civil disobedience in 1989 in Tbilisi, resulting in 19 civilian deaths (Cornell 2001:161). Since then, the site of the tragedy is a place of annual commemoration, accompanied with silent march, bringing flowers, lighting candles and chanting. 9 April demonstration initially was a response to the separatist demand formulated in so called “Declaration of Likhni” of previous month, when Abkhazians (local political elite, intelligentsia and mobilized supporters) collectively addressed Moscow with the demand for separation of the region from Georgia (Beissinger 2002: 301). Already by that time the discourse of rising Abkhazian nationalism was constructed upon the collective countermemory with the main emphasis on “Georgianization” policy promoted by Beria, aiming at demographic and cultural assimilation of Abkhazians (Slider 1985: 58). Accordingly, it defined Georgian political centre (in alliance of mentioned ethnic Georgian leaders of Kremlin) as the main victimizer, oppressor and persisting threat to Abkhazian national identity. Inter-ethnic tensions was further aggravated by-then still dissident Gamsakhurdia’s exclusivist nationalist discourse which partially developed from his wider pan-Caucasian concept, implying messianic vision on Georgian nation (“spiritual mission” of the latter was to uphold its allegedly historical status of being a place of East-West cultural-spiritual synthesis). Moreover, his main theses (Gamsakhurdia 1991), interpreting the hypothesis of Humboldt and also Japhetic concept of Marr, presented Georgian nation as the part of the descendants of Caucasian race concentrated in contemporary times in the region of Caucasus (Smith 1998: 178-179). The racial-cultural entity was juxtaposed to Indo-European peoples, “newcomers”, suggesting the references to Armenians, Azeris and other ethnic groups. Gamsakhurdia did not relax his tone to ethnic minorities after he came in power (Barrington 2006: 256-258). As it regards to the annexation of 1921, it was rediscovered as collective trauma and the idea of being deprived of sovereignty was collectivised only by the dissolution of USSR. However, minorities in the interpretation of this event are represented not as co-sharers of this political tragedy but quite contrary – as the integral part of the force that inflicted it on 22
Georgian nation. Hence, they are equally externalized from the notion of Georgian nation. Unlike the annexation itself, the very paradigm concerning minorities living in Georgia was latently present and conserved throughout the Soviet period. In mutually exclusive narratives pre-soviet and soviet-time developments became the main resources for contestation. Scholars (Goldenberg 1994: 10; Nodia 1998: 20-23) rightfully observe that the ethno-territorial disputes of the 1990’s in Georgia in fact were preceded by academic contestation on historical past, with collective memory wars concerning both Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region. Contestation concerned historical figures, toponymy and most importantly, the concept of autochthonism and historical ownership of the territory (Toria 2006: 27-28). In Georgian ethno-historical discourse the most radical interpretation of Abkhazian history (presenting contemporary Abkhazians as non-indigenous population of Abkhazia) developed by P. Ingorokva enjoyed immense popularity (Smith 1998: 55). The contradiction is obvious also in case of Ossetians: for instance, their 1919 uprising in northern Georgia, supported by Russians, is traditionally seen by Georgians as Bolkshevik’s subversive activities and a prelude to 1921 Soviet intervention, giving the image of Ossetians as migrated people who became a reliable force of foreign aggressors. In official soviet historiography it was interpreted as a popular revolt against the oppressions and injustices of the Menshevik government of Tbilisi. The Ossetian national narrative sees the named events as an attempt to conduct genocide against Ossetian nation (Jones 1993: 290-295). Thus, the verge of the 1980-90’s saw the radical ethnicization of contending political discourses where the idea of national guilt of the other and historical (in)justice is the central element. This general paradigm of development in Georgia led not only to the ethnoterritorial disputes, but, on very basic level, to the very ambiguous and ambivalent perspective on the patria. Specifically, Georgian’s collective, popular identification highly miscorrelates the civic/state borders as the former rather runs along the ethno-demographic vision. Group solidarity, as well as the perception of traumatic events, is vastly defined by “historical wrongs” in retrospective and the most vivid expression of this is cross-border relations with “kin” groups outside of Georgian state. Same kind of affiliation and solidarities define which massive event is developed into traumatic one, which becomes the object of collective pain and burden. To be more specific, national narratives and collective memories apparently determine present perceptions on existing national threats and the latter, on its part, influence the process of identifying some
events and a vision on results of certain historical developments in traumatic (or, contrariwise, “amnesiac” – that is, inclination to disregard and ignore) way.
Remembering and forgetting; sharing or neglecting a collective pain Before proceeding with the discussion on ambiguous character of Georgian social memory, I think it is necessary to revisit the interrelation of social change and the processes of (its) interpretation. Naturally, contemporary Georgian national historical discourse should be considered in the light of post-communist transformation. Any kind of institutional, legal or cultural transformation, naturally, implies important social changes. Yet here I would like to reemphasize Sztompka’s reminder that trauma is only an indirect product of change; social life is nothing but an “incessant change” (2004:158), while “trauma” is a logical product of traumatisation, trauma process - giving meaning and interpreting only a part of given events. While fundamental technological and institutional transformation, the rapid change in socioeconomic life of a society usually begets important changes in socio-cultural sphere, their nature can never be predicted and defined in advance - collective meanings and the dynamics of their change stimulated by the process on the background of social disorientation is unpredictable and does not comply to any sociological paradigm of change. Social memory is always selective and the images of the past are frequently conjured up to the service of present needs and challenges. Georgian case is no exception. Hereby, I shall try to have a closer look at this kind of phenomenon on several other examples. De-facto shrinking of jurisdiction over South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia in the first half of 1990’s overshadowed collective interest towards territories that had been lost in previous centuries, when the disintegration of feudal Georgian state led to the final loss (Shaw & Shaw 1976: 181) of south-western territories (Tao-Klarjeti, contemporary Turkish regions of Ardahan, Artvin, Kars, Erzurum); those are perceived as a birthplace and geographic origin of Georgian statehood (Berdzenishvili et.al. 1962: 129). However, the interest never faded away entirely, especially as there is an ‘ethnic kin’ living on the “historical lands” of Georgia. Laz people, ethnic group populated in coastal zone of the mentioned Turkish area, are linguistically connected with one of the constituent groups of Georgian nation, namely Mingrelians (western Georgia) that share common Georgian national identity (Cornell 2001: 49). Consequently, both factors (territorial identification with the past and “ethnic brethren”) determine a vivid curiosity of Georgian public to this Turkish region, expressed in recent past with the intensification of intercultural ties, especially 24
through folk music festivals (“Information for the Press”, 2006) and academic/tourist expeditions aiming at visiting old Georgian architectural monuments. The history and contemporary life of Laz community was also depicted in highly-televised Georgian documentaries like “Gelino”, “Mystic Colchis” (Kalandia 2007) and others. A major tragic event stressed in Georgian historiography is also the mass exile of Georgians of Kakheti region (Eastern Georgia) to Iran by Shah Abbas about 400 years ago (Suny 1994 : 5051). Nowadays their descendents represent a semi-assimilated community concentrated in Western part of Isfahan province (Oberling 1963: 128-33). This homogenously shared fascination for “historical relatives of a nation” can be juxtaposed to a case which generates asymmetrically developed collective feelings, characterized by a high degree of ambivalence producing mutually exclusive attitudes and discourse. The issue of “Meskhetian Turks” is such a case. Meskhetian Turks represent a Muslim population (or second and third generation of that population) of Southwest Georgia banished to Central Asian republics by the order of Stalin in 1944. A part of these communities strive for re-immigration back to their initial habitat. The gross violation of human rights and the tragic events that followed their life in exile never developed into what has been previously defined as cultural trauma in the domain of Georgian public life. The question of their repatriation, although declared to be a responsibility of Georgian government with the support and supervision of Council of Europe (“Opinion No. 209”, 1999), is met with suspicion (“Burjanadze meets”, 2007). Fiercer was initial reaction in 1991, when President Gamsakhurdia, previously an avid supporter of their repatriation (Cornell 1994: 183), sternly opposed Meskhetians’ campaign for the return (Khazanov 1995: 208). Among the arguments of those that are resisting to the initiative are the allegations based on historical reasoning, namely a memory of pan-Turkish policy and, more commonly, speculation on their non-Georgian identity, presenting them as “others” (Szporluk 1994: 249; Khurbanov & Khurbanov 1995: 237). Efforts of different groups and individuals5 in Georgia to defend and lobby the interests of Muslim Meskhetian makes a typical case of (unsuccessful) attempt to collectivise immigrants’ trauma in Georgian society proper. The prevailing idea that while facing the loss of jurisdiction over certain regions any initiative that bears potential of further instability should be avoided prevented (Cornell 2001: 183) trauma process to homogenize public opinion, disabling agents in mediation to collectivise their tragedy. Collective trauma occurs when the concept of loss and injustice is shared by a number of people seeing themselves in similar condition or at least having an
equal feeling of being victimized and facing common obligation (Sztompka 2004:160). Instead, this instance makes massive rather than cultural trauma. Perhaps the recent documentary of Chagelishvili, ─ “Meskhetians” (2008) can be seen as a continuing attempt to enter the debate. The documentary offers tragic narrative partially told by same displaced Meskhetian respondents (predominantly residing in Central Asian countries), most of them still preserving some of the basic cultural traits (limited knowledge of Georgian language, poetry, recollections on original region of residence and etc.) and hesitantly or otherwise identifying themselves as Georgians. There are shown also the examples of a number of successful re-emigration in small numbers while stressing on the safe character of the initiative of repatriation. “Safety” here relates to the general, popular political (and collectivised) thesis (mentioned recently) of “state securitization” in postsocialist countries where there is a primacy of state security and territorial integrity over the rights of minority groups. It is determined by specific geopolitical situation or, more interestingly, by collective perceptions on it, social sentiments and perceived fears (Kymlicka 2002: 20). Consequently, there is a possibility to speculate that this might be an example when the perceived threats inherently dictates to the formation of specific collective attitude which would “forget”, ignore and disregard, even deny and reinterpret the traumatic discourse that, in similar other cases, are accepted and shared as a common cultural trauma. Analogous, although less radical case would be also a tragedy of mukhadzhirstvo – a case in the history of Abkhazians and other groups of Caucasus region – massive immigration of Muslim population after the establishment of Russian military dominance in 1964 in the region. It is commemorated but not reinterpreted for present realities as the post-Soviet secessionism inherently implies cultural and political orientation towards Russian space and this (hinting at the negative historical role of Russian in Abkhazian’s past) would explicitly come in contradiction to a contemporary political discourse and ideology. Contrarily, their ethno-linguistically close neighbours in southern Russia – Adighe people, together with Middle Eastern and European immigrants, have massively mobilized their efforts since 1990’s with the demand to recognize the event as an act of Genocide (Globe, 2005).
Complexities of transformation of contemporary Georgian political discourse on past The “disproportionalities” among the interpretations of the past and its selective nature is also interesting to view on the “high” level of politics of Georgia, where the initiatives to reshift collective perceptions are obvious. At the same time, as we shall see, the paradigm of
cultural trauma and victimhood, the notions of inflicted pain and historical injustices remains to be the central elements of public discourse on past and present. The main promoter of specific post-Shevardnadze national idea is the head of state, President Micheil Saakashvili. In fact, there is a two-fold tendency (of different and overlapping categories) can be observed here: (a) immense application of historical parallels, heavy historicism and persistence of cultural trauma in legitimization of present national goals and (b) challenge to the mono-ethnic exclusivist collective memory. Saakashvili tries to desacralize ethnicity and employ civic multiculturalist discourse6. However, sacral stays a vision on national history which plays one of the central roles in the process of legitimization of pro-European political discourse. This is interesting as much as the latter inherently implies the preservation of anti-Soviet/anti-Russian paradigm in the politics of memory. The reburial of the remains of Cholokashvili from French Leuville Cemetery of Georgian political immigrants to national pantheon in Tbilisi should be seen in this prism. The current government of Georgia, having decided to give a final rest to national hero in the homeland which he fled, organized a ceremony of burial unprecedented with its massive theatricalised character and official participation7, accompanied with anti-Soviet commemorative speeches8. Another vivid example of the politics of memory and the agency in the trauma process is the Museum of Soviet Occupation opened on the Day of Independence in 2006. The museum offers a rich archive of documents, photo and video material depicting the repressing decades of soviet politics with an opportunity to hear a public lecture on recent Georgian history (Kaylan 2007). It also provides a user-friendly web-site with a rich online database (http://archive.security.gov.ge/okupaciis.html): family members of repressed (imprisoned, exiled or killed, or all three) individuals have a possibility to look up for a specific information and also get a general picture of the process amid the dramatic visual records and documentaries. The mass consumption of opened archival data, addressing traumatic events of the Soviet years, fosters anti-Soviet (if not anti-Russian) popular memory and facilitates the political and mnemonic socialization of young Georgian internet-users. Naturally, art industry is also actively involved in the process of production of collective memory. In fact, it always was from the very foundation years of Georgian nationalist movement of 19th century. This reality is testified with the case of the popular act “the Jeans Generation” – an account based on a true story of a terrorist act in 1983 ─ dramatic criminal case of several politically motivated young Georgians who attempted to hijack airplane and escape abroad but ended up being assaulted by special forces that claimed a number of 27
civilian lives (Kvanchilashvili, 2008). The story became reinterpreted as the anti-communist saga where naive and free-spirited, desperate individuals became a victim and at the same time, unintentionally, victimizers in their doomed attempt to break away from oppressing political regime in a hope to reach the “free world” (the West). The same story is also provided on mentioned archive hosted on the site Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (“Plain highjackers”). Paradoxically, the anti-Russian discourse is still equated with the anti-soviet paradigm, it did not undergo any substantial redefinition. This discourse, specifically in this case of the 1921 annexation and its alleged lingering endeavour to repeat the act continued to be a central symbolic reference in political discourse during the 2008 Russian military intervention which followed the renewed armed conflict between separatist Ossetian and Tbilisi armed forces in South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region. Most of the presidential speeches commenting on ongoing crisis included the reference to Soviet annexation of 1921, making his point for international community with relatively internationally known cases of “soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 [...] soviet tanks moved into Prague in 1968 and into Budapest in 1956” or Stalin’s advance to Finland in 1939 (“President of Georgia met”, 2008) As for the namely Georgia-Ossetian relationships, there is a high probability that the recent developments will leave even fewer resources for reconciliation between contesting Georgian and Ossetian historical narratives and collective memories in the nearest future. A heavy artillery assault by official Tbilisi on separatist forces during the mentioned 2008 conflict and alleged mass casualties returned a concept of genocide back in the Ossetian political discourse with more vigour. While for my present purposes such a claim (“South Ossetia seeks”, 2008), as well as its refutation (Osborn & Whalen, 2008) does not need to be considered more than a part of information war, one could speculate that this interpretation (official Tbilisi’s will to exterminate the whole Ossetian nation) will remain in the domain of ethno-national Ossetian discourse and the concept of cultural trauma constructed on the alleged attempts of Genocide with be further collectivise in social memory of ethnic Ossetians. Much more promising seems Tbilisi’s undertakings in other cases, like ArmenianGeorgian relationships. During and after the conflict, as the “Bagramian battalion” of local Armenians fought on the side of secessionists in Abkhazia (Kukhianidze 1998: 115), pejorative image of Armenians were reinforced. Although this episode did not remain for long in official Georgia political discourse, it still firmly stays in the domain of popular memory of Georgians. Georgian-Armenian relations as well make the case of conflicting memories that also implies 28
territorial claims. Moreover, a dispute over Christian churches and cultural architectural monuments, a theme initially emerged as early as in 19th century, is still a common concern. Inter-ethnic contestation is reflected in contradictory historical narratives too. For instance, predominantly Armenian-populated southern Georgian region of Javakheti is considered as historical part of the nation in popular memories of both groups (Nodia 2002: 34). During the presidency of Shevardnadze local schools were supplied with textbooks from Armenia which supposedly strengthened popular Armenian counter-narrative. A new Georgian government came into power in 2003 obviously realized that, as Gellner puts it (2006 : 34), monopoly on education was no less important than the monopoly on legitimate violence. Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia has set an objective to homogenize the national curricula, and the policy also implies stimulating representatives of the minority group to acquire basic knowledge of official language (“Texbook “Tavtgavi”, 2008).
interestingly, although Georgian government is reluctant to institutionalize de facto dominance of minority language in the region, its official policy also addressed the problem of ethnocentric, exclusivist vision of Georgian history teaching which predisposes youth to acquire structured emotional (negative) images of other ethnic groups. Currently such “hidden language” of biases and stereotypes in school programs of history, geography and civic education are actively studied. For instance, the analysis (Sarjveladze et. al., 2006) of narratives of school textbooks of history circulating on 8th and 9th levels reveal two major categories of we and them, including in the latter Ossetians, Abkhazians, Armenians and others, to whom a lot of negative verbs and adjectives are applied (like resettled [in Georgia], strangers [pejorative synonym], primitive, traitors, and etc).
--The observation on post-communist developments and characteristics of Georgian social memory indicates the enrichment and diversification of cultural tools in more technological sense of the notion. Documentaries, reproducing the images on the screen with artistic narration and moral/ethnical memory work represent cultural novelty that has a potential to reinforce or redefine certain elements of collective memory of Georgians. As we have seen, museum is also transgress the limits of tourism industry and, in case of Soviet Occupation Museum, became another agent in trauma process. In overall, there is an impression that historians are losing their monopoly on the right to narrate national history while the historical narration itself is still certainly an undisputed, though not the unique source for social memory. 29
Conclusion Proceeding from the discussion, it could be stated that the Georgian collective memory is fundamentally shaped by the idea of independence and fight against Russian oppression, aggression or threat, ─ a discourse that entered Georgian historical narrative through literal works and publications since Chavchavadze’s generation and from its very initial period was based on the paradigm of victimhood. After the fall of USSR this discourse re-emerged and was strengthened by constructed vision on the loss of independence (1921), national resistance (especially 1924 upheaval headed by Cholokashvili), political repressions (by the agency like museums and archives) and ruthless, inhuman aggression (9th of April, 1989). It is also obvious that the pro-western discourse ─ a central paradigm of cultural and political orientation of Georgians ─ is reinforced with heavy application of historical parallels of the same kind that are embedded in the matrix of social memory. However, there is a possibility to view pro-western/pro-European discourse as a by-product of anti-soviet/antiRussian collective sentiment, the one which has not undergone substantial changes and has not bee revised. Moreover, it is being further fostered and collectivised by different agents, among them by the current Georgian government in the first place. The analysis of some of the points among listed constructed and narrated moments of victimisation in modern history of Georgia, especially 9 April tragedy suggests that the theory of cultural trauma seems applicable and promising conceptual framework and offers interesting opportunities for further studies of contemporary Georgian (an not only Georgian) nationalism. At this stage the main objective was to observe more general trends in nationalist discourse based on historical narratives and the main conclusion is that it seems to follow the paradigm of collective moral attribution of responsibility for oppression and “ungratefulness”. It is apparent that victimisation is a basic and most general narrative template and premise of Georgian nationalist discourse; the blame-work encompasses not only the “big Other” (Russia) but also various ethnic communities of Georgia. The latter aspect was discussed in brief, in the context of contestation. Consequently, a tendency similar to that of Georgian nationalist discourse on past was revealed in counter-narratives of ethnic minorities. Although this demands a further study and more in-depth analysis, the general character of nationalist discourses of Abkhazians and Ossetians equally revolve around the traumatic events (e.g. “Georgianization” or “genocide(s)”, respectively). Hence, Georgian historical narrative is frequently challenged by ethnic minority narratives and this makes academic works distinctively polemical, reinforcing radical
nationalist interpretations and providing political elites and general public with a specific discourse on collective traumas. This multiplicity of histories (read: memories) and mnemonic battles seem to remain a prevailing paradigm in troubled inter-ethnic relations. The character of representation of ethnic minorities in Georgian social memory is predominantly negative and, as we have seen, it might had been originated in milder forms during the 19th century intellectual activism, but was mainly shaped during the soviet times, on the background of ethno-territorial institutionalisation and the emergence of nationalcultural elites and academia. While addressing the question of contestation and mnemonic wars, I have also touched upon the aspect of forgetting in parallel with collective remembering is apparently a complex and frequent occurrence. The concept of collective amnesia seems to make sense in cases like Mukhadzirstwo or Meskhetian Turks when important social changes are neglected and disregarded. Although here the attempts are only episodic, there seems to be a number of future prospects and opportunities to also observe different actors in production of collective memory, not restricted to governments or hegemonic political elites. The question of agency is also interesting: in this respect, the future analysis of discourse and narratives mediated by TV-shows, news media, documentaries, printed editions, literature, internet-projects, museums, theatres and, certainly academia seems a promising strategy. An overview of the current trends in Georgia suggests that the present Georgian political elite attempts to deinstitutionalize and outcast exclusivist discourse and mono-ethnic trends from socio-political domain. Again, the model of cultural trauma is apparent in the realm of politics of memory as the latter is configured basically with anti-soviet/anti-Russian concept which is strengthened by banal and routine political practices of trauma work. On the other hand, it is interesting to observe how the same actors try to legitimize their objectives and interpret national goals (including those of foreign policy) with the heavy application of historicism and images of the past. It should be especially stressed that the application of the theory of cultural trauma in the study of Georgian nationalism ─ the latter itself a new field examined mostly in historical researches ─ is a first attempt and should be elaborated further, relating to more specific aspects of collective remembering. Already at the initial stage a necessity is felt for more indepth theoretical discussion on cases that are cautiously regarded as cultural trauma.While, for instance, social memory on 9th of April tragedy reveals basic characters that let me consider it as a classic case of cultural trauma, other instances (like Meskhetian’s deportation 31
or 1956 massacre in Tbilisi) rather make what Sztompka would call mass traumas and in such cases more cautious notion of victimhood was employed. At the meeting point of social memory theory and nationalism studies, one of the most problematic issues is still the search for reasons and factors that determine the successful application of certain memory and cultural elements while others do not work. In the introduction I restricted the discussion with the inherent selective logic of collective national pasts. Although the omnipresent selectivity would not provide a universal answer to the mentioned question, the present thesis rather tried to answer what works and how rather than why. In overall, the concept of social memory seems to fit the objective of studying collective perceptions of Georgians as the latter (be they perceived threats, national goals or injustices) are predominantly determined by collectivised historical vision on important past events. Differentiation of memory and history in the undertaking of studying this issue remains a crucial methodological precondition as it offers a critical tool when approaching the epistemological aspect of group identity, loyalties or inter-ethnic relations that are infiltrated by historical concepts and images. The endeavour of present government of Georgia to eradicate negative stereotypes at least in education system, as it undermines the civic project undertaken by present regime, raises the chances of overcoming ethnocentric discourse that, having reached its peak during the conflicts and civil confrontations, still lingers on in public life of Georgian society. However, it is obvious that the concept of trauma and loss is going to stay in a general template of collective memory and the question is ─ how is it going to be (re-)interpreted.
Notes: 1. See, among many others, e.g. Schwartz, D. V. (1994). Nationalism and history: the politics of nation building in post-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto, Centre for Russian and East European Studies; Goltz, T. (2006). Georgia diary: a chronicle of war and political chaos in the post-Soviet Caucasus. Armonk, N.Y.: Sharpe; Beissinger M.R. (1997) State-Building in the shadow of Empire-state: the soviet legacy in post-soviet politics. In Dawisha, K., & Parrott, B. (eds.), the end of empire?: the transformation of the USSR in comparative perspective (pp.
157-185). The international politics of Eurasia, v. 9. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E.
Sharpe; Fawn, R. (2003). Realignments in Russian foreign policy. London: Frank 32
Cass.; Rosen, R. (1992). The Georgian Republic. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Passport Books, and etc. 2. Throughout the discussion I use the terms social memory and collective memory in interchangeable manner. 3. Particularly Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and USSR. 4. See chronology of the main events in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia 2003. (2002). Regional surveys of the world. London: Europa, p. 171. 5. Late historian Guram Mamulia, writer and director of the Centre for Cultural Relations of Georgia Caucasian House, director and politician Giorgi Khaindrava and etc. 6. Saakashvili: "for those in Georgia who hate Armenians, I will be an Armenian; for those who hate Azeris, I will be an Azeri. People have said I am Ossetian. I will gladly be an Ossetian. I will be a Jew as well, and this will be a great honour for me. Still, I will remain one hundred per cent Georgian!" (“President Saakashvili opens”, 2007). 7. See photo-gallery, http://www.daily.ge/index.asp, accessed 11.08.2008 8. Personal observations. Transcripts of speeches are not available.
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