WiP: Local and International Dimensions of the Sovietization of Georgia

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 15th talk of the Spring-Summer 2022 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

This WiP presentation will be offered in hybrid in-person and virtual format! For registration for the Zoom info please use the following link: https://iliauni-edu-ge.zoom.us/…/tZwrdeivpjkpH9YvCdSITu…

Local and International Dimensions of the Sovietization of Georgia
By Samuel Coggeshall, Columbia University

Date: 13 July 2022, 18:30 Tbilisi timne

In this research, which is a section of a chapter of the speaker’s dissertation project on Soviet and British/Allied state building projects in the former Russian Empire, Samuel explores some of the efforts of the Georgian Communist Party (KPG) to establish Soviet power in Georgia at the local level, and the international justifications used to legitimize these efforts. Though there is an established scholarship on the Soviet invasion of Georgia and its incorporation into the emerging Soviet Union, relatively little work has examined the ways in which this process took place at a local level. Moreover, existing scholarship has often viewed the Sovietization of Georgia in isolation from the international context that informed Soviet actions. The project follows the work of Party and government officials to establish local administrative rule and popular support in severely constrained conditions from the invasion of Georgia in February 1921 until the uprising of August 1924. Soviet and Party officials established local agitation points and reading halls, published and distributed literature at the local level, held drives and campaigns, and constantly surveyed local Party organizations on their status. The KPG’s local agitational, statistical, and organizational work was directly related to and justified by the Soviet reading of the international situation and by perceived international threats. Soviet fears of the return of the Mensheviks along with the return of British forces to support them were transposed to the countryside and local party organizations. Local power was constantly threatened by, and mobilized within, an international struggle. Anti-Soviet sentiment was blamed on external Menshevik agitators and perceived as a tactic of the Entente’s larger struggle with Soviet power. The research shows how a feedback loop was created between the perceived need to defend Georgian territory from an external threat, the KPG’s awareness of its lack of authority at the local level and lack of knowledge of local conditions, directives for knowledge production about local areas to address this deficiency, and the consolidation of territories and populations constituted and defined through this new knowledge as objects facing an international threat.

Sam Coggeshall is a Ph.D. Candidate in Modern European history at Columbia University. His research examines the history of the Soviet Union within its international and inter-imperial context, focusing on the interaction between the Soviet Union and the British Empire in the interwar period. He is writing a dissertation on how the Soviet and British local officials created new national spaces within former imperial regions during the Civil War period.His research sits at the intersection of cultural, intellectual, political, institutional, and diplomatic history, grounding international movements in local conditions and intellectual developments in material practices. Other research interests include the role of gender in the construction of imperial subjecthood, the history of avant-garde literary and artistic movements, Soviet cultural politics, and the political and cultural dynamics of Stalinism.

Although this presentation currently 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. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.
WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that normally 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.