Territorial Autonomy as Conflict Management Strategy in Georgia, 2003 to present

By Dr. Edward C. Holland, University of Arkansas and ARISC Fellow  

Date: July 26, 2021 at 5:00-6:30 PM Tbilisi Time (9:00 AM EDT)  

This project investigates territorial autonomy as a conflict management strategy used to limit separatism in post-Soviet Georgia. As a constituent unit of the Soviet federal state during the communist period, Georgia included three autonomous regions at the level below the union republic: Abkhazia, Ajara, and South Ossetia (the first two were autonomous republics, and South Ossetia was an autonomous oblast). Georgia experienced conflict during and after the transition from communism—in Abkhazia and South Ossetia—that was animated by opposition in the autonomous regions to the nationalizing policies of the central state and dominant titular nationalities. Following Cornell (2002), autonomy was a source of conflict because the institutional legacies of the communist states made separatism feasible in these territorially compact regions. At the same time, Georgia was home to an autonomy (Ajara) with administrative status and longevity comparable to the regions in conflict yet where no such violence occurred. This project is interested in the region of Ajara and its function within Georgia today in light of the country’s experience with secessionism, conflict, and the de facto loss of territory. This study investigates why Georgia, as a state with restive autonomies, nonetheless maintains autonomy arrangements for other parts of its territory.

Edward C. Holland is an Assistant Professor of Geography in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas. He received his PhD in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder in December 2012. After completing his degree, he was a Title VIII Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. From 2013 to 2016, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and Visiting Assistant Professor of International Studies at Miami University. Fellowships while at the University of Arkansas include a U.S. Fulbright scholar award to Kalmyk State University (spring 2017) and the Cambridge Faculty Fellowship to Wolfson College (AY 2019-2020). Dr. Holland is a recipient of the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC) Junior Research Fellowship. This fellowship is supported with a grant from the US Department of Education.

This talk is organized as a part of ARISC Online Event Series that showcase the work of ARISC fellows. ARISC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran. This talk is free and open to the public.