Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Georgia and Russia

Processes of Disintegration from 1970 to 1987/1988

Prof. Dr. Bianka Pietrow-Ennker, Mariami Parsadanishvili


The project analyzes dimensions of integration in a transcultural context applied to the example of Georgian-Soviet relations. The focus of the research endeavour is placed on processes of disintegration with regard to Georgia as a Soviet Republic, which could be observed since the 1970s and whose causes and forms continue to impact the relationship between Georgia and the Russian Federation in the present era. Taking the current debate on the imperial character of the Soviet Union into consideration, the analysis is primarily based on the hypothesis that the break-up of the Soviet Union was caused by the disintegration (Lieven, Simon, Suny 2001) of the “imperial multi-ethnic state” (Halbach, Kappeler). At the same time the project addresses an issue, which until now remains under-researched:  whether and to what extent concepts of de-colonialization can be applied to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this context Georgia is regarded as a boundary and frontier area of an empire and as a space of cultural transfer and communication, in which the structures and norms of the expanding society lose stability and relevance (Osterhammel 1997, 2003).

Based on these considerations, the tense relations between Georgia and Russia are an innovative topic of research. Despite its direct political and economic dependence on the Soviet Union, Georgia was able to steadily maintain elements of an independent cultural identity at the periphery of the empire (Suny 1994), which did not conform to Soviet concepts and strategies of integration and technologies of power.

The project researches in depth the cultural forms, by which the conflicting spheres of Soviet integration strategies and Georgian resistance are symbolized. The processes of cultural demarcation can be analyzed in the following areas:

  • the role of the local and national elites and their activities as anti-imperial actors and carriers of the national consciousness with particular regard to the dissident movement (e.g. the Helsinki Group) and Georgian emigration;
  • the discourse on “what is foreign” and “what is ours” within these groups;
  • the research field of key texts on Georgian national literature as a forum of cultural resistance and cultural demarcation;
  • Georgian films as a platform of social and system critique. Here the originality and innovative character of the Gruzija film shall be analyzed as a historical source.

On the basis of the mentioned research foci, the development of a Georgian national self-perception shall be elaborated as a conglomerate of integration, demarcation and imagination (Anderson).

Contemporary Georgian foreign policy was and still is strongly influenced by the efforts at distancing itself from Moscow, which date back to the 1970s. After the break-up of the Soviet Union the relations between Georgia and Russia can be characterized in line with patterns of international asymmetry associated with the post-colonial era, in which Russia is demonstratively and determinedly striving for quasi-colonial control over Georgia in the sense of an “informal empire” (Osterhammel 2003). The project aims to provide an additional new focus on the current foreign policy dimension of the Georgian-Russian relationship.

The project is being financed by start-up funding from the Cluster of Excellence. The main task during this phase of the project is to further specify the outlined areas of research, the research questions, and objectives. During this six-month period we intend to identify essential sources and material, conduct talks with (external) colleagues and draw up a detailed work schedule.