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  • Россия–Грузия после империи: сборник статей by М. Лекке, Е. Чхаидзе
  • Daniele Artoni (bio)
Россия–Грузия после империи: сборник статей / Сост. М. Лекке, Е. Чхаидзе. Москва: Новое литературное обозрение, 2018. 416 с. ISBN: 978-5-4448-0787-3.

The volume Russia–Georgia After Empire is a collection of essays representing a variety of academic fields that aims at providing a clearer representation of the problematic transformations in the relationship between Russia and Georgia, with a particular focus on literary and cultural products and the history of ideas.

Despite the composite nature of the publication, the volume is heterogeneous but consistent. The contributions are divided into four sections. Section 1 "Literature, Language, Knowledge" addresses the Georgian-Russian literary relations and the shift in their knowledge system during the Soviet and post-Soviet era (Mirja Lecke), and the role played by non-Russian accents and their cultural connotations in the Russian discourse of the same period (Gasan Gusejnov).

One of the volume's editors, Lecke analyzes the Russo-Georgian relationship from the point of view of the relation between knowledge and power, by concentrating on the dichotomy center–periphery, the cult of classics, translations, and literary criticism, and how those vectors of knowledge have changed in the post-Soviet era. A final part of Lecke's essay on the status of Russian studies in independent Georgia sheds light on the political reasons beyond the success of postcolonial studies in national discourses. It would be interesting to analyze to what extent changes in language policies and the status of Russian studies have affected the use of the Russian language in contemporary Georgia.1 Gusejnov's sociolinguistic research challenges the myth of the standard Russian language and the ideological burden carried by non-Russian accent. In particular, he analyzes the socio-political connotations performed by the Georgian accent in jokes.

Section 2 "Instead of Friendship" focusses on how literature has dealt with the post-Soviet wars, in particular by analysing new trends in both Russian and Georgian literatures (Elena Chkhaidze), reflecting upon the historical value of literature in war contexts (Zaza Abzianidze), [End Page 330] and examining the perception of Zaza Burchuladze's writings among Moscow's dissident intelligentsia (Dirk Uffelmann).

The article by the second editor, Chkhaidze, serves as introduction to the whole section. The author adapts Said's model of orientalism to the case of Transcaucasia and Russia, rendering it as the dichotomy between North and South.2 Although the status of Russia as a Western-like entity in this classification is debatable, Chkhaidze claims that the stereotypes about Russia and the Southern Caucasus are in line with those regarding a global North and a global South, respectively.3 She reconstructs the mutual perception in the literary production, and how the continuum between the poles friends–enemies is affected by the geopolitical situation in different epochs. In particular, with reference to Georgia, during the Soviet time the idea of Russia as a colonizer was disguised in allegories, whereas Georgia was referred to as a flourishing region. The situation radically deteriorated after the wars in Abkhazia and Ossetia, as war, refugees, and troubled identities became central themes in literature. Abzianidze's contribution demonstrates how literature in the post-Soviet context of military confrontations gained credit as an alternative history, especially when addressing unconventional values in such chaotic circumstances. The last chapter in this section, written by Uffelmann, is a superb and meticulous study on the reception of Burchuladze in Russia. Using the New Economic Criticism approach, Uffelmann demonstrates how the fortune of the author is connected to the interest of Muscovite dissident intelligentsia in contemporary Georgian cultural production.

Section 3, "Empire's Legacy," is dedicated to postcolonial and post-imperial readings of Georgian and Russian literary works, like the literary representation of toasting in the poetry of Grigol Orbeliani (Harsha Ram), the presence of hybridity and mimicry in Chabua Amirejibi's novel Data Tutsashkhia (Bela Tsipuria), the influence of anti-imperial Georgian historiography in the historical novels of Mikhei Javakhishvili and Otar Chiladze (Donald Rayfield), the role of Russian culture in the post-Soviet Caucasus as outlined in Andrey Bitov's and Pyotr Vail's travelogues (Joanna Kula), and the orientalist views of Georgia in Polish travelogues (Monika Bednarczuk).

Ram's chapter was first published as an article in English in Ab Imperio.4 [End Page 331...


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pp. 330-335
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