CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 6th talk of the Fall 2019 Works-in-Progress Series!
“Cocooned in the Caucasus: Dreams of French Silk at Russia’s Edge, 1820s-1830s”
By Stephen Riegg, Texas A&M University
Date: November 6, 2019, at 18:30 pm
Venue: CRRC Georgia, 1 Liziko Kavtaradze st., 0179 Tbilisi, Georgia
If, in the twilight of the 1800s, oil arose as the coveted “black gold” of the Caucasus, then at the beginning of the century silk held a strong contention to the stature of “white gold.” A Tiflis-based silk company founded in the 1820s by the Frenchman Edouard Castellaz was a bright, yet ephemeral, representation of silk’s economic importance to tsarist officials, local residents, and Russian and Western European investors. This presentation traces the evolution of the Russian approach toward Castellaz’s business in order to elucidate a telling episode of privately driven, state-backed commercial experimentation in the South Caucasus. Castellaz’s pledge to produce exquisite silk in Georgia that rivaled the best sorts from Italy drew the attention of Romanov royals, statesmen, and aristocrats. This dream’s rise and fall can point us toward the array of tools wielded, and occasionally fumbled, by the actors seeking to expand the region’s economy.
Stephen B. Riegg is Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Russia’s Entangled Embrace: The Tsarist Empire and the Armenians, 1801-1914, which will appear from Cornell University Press in July 2020.
W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at 5 Chkhikvadze Str. 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. The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.