Category Archives: History

Timothy Blauvelt and Jeremy Smith (Eds.) – Georgia after Stalin: Nationalism and Soviet Power

This book explores events in Georgia in the years following Stalin’s death in March 1953, especially the demonstrations of March 1956 and their brutal suppression, in order to illuminate the tensions in Georgia between veneration of the memory of Stalin, a Georgian, together with the associated respect for the Soviet system that he had created, and growing nationalism. The book considers how not just Stalin but also his wider circle of Georgians were at the heart of the Soviet system, outlines how greatly Stalin was revered in Georgia, and charts the rise of Khrushchev and his denunciation of Stalin. It goes on to examine the different strands of the rising Georgian nationalist movements, discusses the repressive measures taken against demonstrators, and concludes by showing how the repressions transformed a situation where Georgian nationalism, the honouring of Stalin’s memory and the Soviet system were all aligned together into a situation where an increasingly assertive nationalist movement was firmly at odds with the Soviet Union.

Blauvelt, T. K., & Smith, J. (2015). Georgia after Stalin: Nationalism and Soviet Power. Routledge.

Available at Amazon.com

Antony Eastmond – Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia

Medieval Georgia, in the Caucasus, produced a wealth of monuments to its rulers, of which little is known outside the former Soviet Union. This book is the first of its kind to examine the development of royal imagery in Georgia between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. Positioned between the Christian and Islamic worlds, Georgia provides an excellent case study for the investigation of issues regarding the relationship between art and power and the transmission of ideas between East and West. Byzantine, Persian, Armenian, Turkic, and local traditions are shown to have influenced the image of power promoted by the Georgian rulers, and Eastmond bases his study on fine examples ranging from high-relief stone carvings to sophisticated wall-painting cycles.

Initially, the book traces the production and interpretation of royal imagery over five centuries, from the revival of the Georgian monarchy in the ninth century to its culmination in the reign of Queen Tamar (1184–1213) on the eve of the Mongolian invasions. Eastmond highlights the ways in which the details and settings of each image of a ruler were very carefully designed to impress different audiences, allowing for the coexistence of contradictory portrayals.

Specifically, the book concentrates on the five surviving images of Queen Tamar. These portraits provide untapped evidence of the ways in which artistic traditions were transformed by the need to legitimize the accession of a woman to power. Eastmond also challenges the typically held view that the role of patronage in the functioning and development of royal imagery was centrally controlled. He proposes instead that it was manipulated by members of the court to promote both local and royal interests.

Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia introduces a rarely seen body of important works and provides a model of interpretation that can be applied to the study of royal art elsewhere in the Byzantine and Western medieval worlds. It is the first detailed English-language study of this material.

Eastmond, A. (2010). Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia. Penn State Press.

See on books.google.com, Review (Lynn Jones, The Medieval Review)

Stephen Rapp – The Sasanian World Through Georgian Eyes: Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian Literature

Georgian literary sources for Late Antiquity are commonly held to be later productions devoid of historical value. As a result, scholarship outside the Republic of Georgia has privileged Graeco-Roman and even Armenian narratives. However, when investigated within the dual contexts of a regional literary canon and the active participation of Caucasia’s diverse peoples in the Iranian Commonwealth, early Georgian texts emerge as a rich repository of late antique attitudes and outlooks. Georgian hagiographical and historiographical compositions open a unique window onto a northern part of the Sasanian world that, while sharing striking affinities with the Iranian heartland, was home to vibrant, cosmopolitan cultures that developed along their own trajectories.

In these sources, precise and accurate information about the core of the Sasanian Empire-and before it, Parthia and Achaemenid Persia-is sparse; yet the thorough structuring of wider Caucasian society along Iranian and especially hybrid Iranic lines is altogether evident. Scrutiny of these texts reveals, inter alia, that the Old Georgian language is saturated with words drawn from Parthian and Middle Persian, a trait shared with Classical Armenian; that Caucasian society, like its Iranian counterpart, was dominated by powerful aristocratic houses, many of whose origins can be traced to Iran itself; and that the conception of kingship in the eastern Georgian realm of K’art’li (Iberia), even centuries after the royal family’s Christianisation in the 320s and 330s, was closely aligned with Arsacid and especially Sasanian models.

There is also a literary dimension to the Irano-Caucasian nexus, aspects of which this volume exposes for the first time. The oldest surviving specimens of Georgian historiography exhibit intriguing parallels to the lost Sasanian Xwaday-namag, The Book of Kings, one of the precursors to Ferdowsi’s Shahnama. As tangible products of the dense cross-cultural web drawing the region together, early Georgian narratives sharpen our understanding of the diversity of the Iranian Commonwealth and demonstrate the persistence of Iranian and Iranic modes well into the medieval epoch.

Rapp Jr, S. H. (2014). The Sasanian World Through Georgian Eyes: Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian Literature. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

See on books.google.com; Stephen H. Rapp Jr., e-Sasanika; Review (Adam McCollum, sehepunkte)

David Braund – Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562

This is the first full history of ancient Georgia ever to be written outside Georgia itself. It is also an introduction to the substantial archaeological work that has been carried out in Georgia in recent decades. The principal purpose of the book is to open up ancient Georgia for the world of scholarship at large. It is not only the history of a neglected region, but also a sustained attempt to inform topics and issues that are more familiar to historians of antiquity: the myths of the periphery, particularly of Medea and the Golden Fleece; the Caucasus mountains and their passes; Greek colonization; the Persian, Athenian, and Seleucid empires; Pompey’s conquest of Mithridates’ empire; the development of the Roman frontier in the eastern Black Sea region; Roman diplomacy in Iberia; the Christianization of Iberia; and Sassanian ambitions in Transcaucasia and Byzantine warfare there. The author has lived in Georgia for substantial periods during the last decade: he has made extensive use of scholarship in Georgian and Russian, and has first-hand knowledge of most of the sites which he discusses.

Braund, D. (1994). Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562. Clarendon Press.

Available at Amazon.com; Review (Everett L. Wheeler, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

Peter Nasmyth – Georgia: In the Mountains of Poetry

This is the first comprehensive cultural and historical introduction to modern Georgia. It covers the country region by region, taking the form of a literary journey through the transition from Soviet Georgia to the modern independent nation state.

Georgia’s recorded history goes back nearly 3,000 years. The Georgians converted to Christianity in 330 and their Bagratuni monarchy endured for over 1,000 years. The Soviets ruled the region from 1921 but their vigorous repression did little to eradicate the strong Georgian sense of nationhood and under Gorbachev, Georgian independence became inevitable. Nasmyth’s lively and topical survey charts the nation’s remarkable cultural and historical journey to statehood.

Having travelled extensively in the country over a period of five years, Peter Nasmyth is exceptionally qualified to write on Georgia. His authoritative, dynamic and perceptive book is based on hundreds of interviews with modern Georgians, from country priests to black marketeers. Georgia will be essential reading for anyone interested in this fascinating region as well as for students and researchers requiring an insight into life after the collapse of the old Soviet order in the richest and most dramatic of the former republics.

Nasmyth, P. (2006). Georgia: In the Mountains of Poetry. London: Routledge, 3rd revised edition.

Available at Amazon.com