Virtual WiP: Making a Special Edition on the Transcaucasian Federation

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 15th session of the 2020 Spring Series of the Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series, now celebrating its 10th year!

This week’s talk is presented in cooperation with the new MA Program in Georgian History at Ilia State University, and will be simultaneously live-cast on the Iliauni FB page.

Given the continuing COVID19 situation, we will once again hold the Works-in-Progress session virtually.

Meeting ID: 899 6349 5364
Password: 893337

“Making a Special Edition on the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic”

By Adrian Brisku, Charles University, Prague, and Ilia State University, Tbilisi

Date: July 15, 2020, at 18:30

During the brief period between 22 April and 26 May 1918, the leading Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian political forces of the early twentieth century, having established the shared federative structures of the Transcaucasian Commissariat and the Seim in the preceding months, declared an independent Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic (TDFR). Emerging as it did from the ruins of an imploding Tsarist empire and the still glowing embers of the First World War, and facing the imminent threat of invasion from the Ottoman army and the power ambitions of incipient Soviet Russia, the TDFR seemed both to the actors at the time and to later scholars of the region to be unique, contingent, and certainly unrepeatable. And while the TDFR appeared to these historical actors, as well as to later historians and scholars of the region, as a unique political phenomenon that resulted from happenstance, how the TDFR emerged, what the political discourses were that sustained or contested it, and what the positions of the main political actors and interested parties/states towards it were have not been studied systematically. In this light, this special issue offers to readers interested in the region a comprehensive and multi-perspective historical account on the TDFR. It does so via a few guiding questions: what was the TDFR, who created it and how, and who among the relevant political powers actually wanted the TDFR?

The special issue of the journal Caucasus Survey argues that in addition to the emphasis in existing literature on the uniqueness and contingent nature of the TDFR that all of the sides/parties/powers (the local actors and the Great Powers) for their own reasons and motivations and at various times wanted the TDFR and/or its federative and confederative framework because a larger and politically unified region was seen as more viable (geo)politically, developmentally and ideologically than its constituent parts.

This talk will address the challenges of creating a special edition, as well as the main points and arguments that the edition attempted to get across to the reader.

Adrian Brisku is an intellectual and comparative historian working as Assistant Professor on the Caucasus at Charles University and an Associated Professor in Comparative History at Ilia State University in Tbilisi. Brisku has published several impact-factor and peer-reviewed articles on European identity, political economy, reform and empire in the nineteenth-century Ottoman and Russian contexts as well as the modern Balkans and South Caucasus ones, with particular focus on Albania and Georgia. He is the author of two monographs: Bittersweet Europe: Albanian and Georgian Discourses on Europe, 1878-2008 (New York: London, Berghahn Books, 2013) and Political Reform in the Ottoman and Russian Empires: A Comparative Approach (London: Bloomsbury Academics, 2017).

Although this presentation will take place in virtual format, in observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule to which the series generally adheres, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well.

WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.