With a Pencil and a Whip: Oskar Schmerling and the Satirical Revolution of the South Caucasus

Dr. Naomi Caffee, Reed College

July 14, 2022 at 5:00-6:30 PM Tbilisi Time (9:00 AM EDT) 

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Born, in his own words, “with a pencil in one hand and a whip in the other,” Oskar Schmerling (1863-1938) was an influential artist from a prominent ethnic German family that had settled in the South Caucasus in the early nineteenth century. In his home city of Tbilisi, the region’s multi-ethnic, multilingual capital, he became a driving force behind the region’s post-1905 “satirical revolution,” publishing political caricatures and illustrations in the Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, and Russian-language press. With an iconic style that is recognized to this day, Schmerling’s work provided a powerful visual component to hotly debated issues such as language policy, religious institutions, education, Russian cultural and political hegemony, economic development, and more. In this presentation I will discuss my collaborative project with Tbilisi-based scholar Robert Denis, “Beyond Caricature: The Oskar Schmerling Digital Archive,” (schmerling.org), as well as our forthcoming co-authored articles and monograph about Schmerling’s role in the region’s diverse print culture of the early twentieth century.

Naomi Caffee is an Assistant Professor of Russian and Humanities at Reed College, and recipient of ARISC Research Fellowship. Her research focuses on Russophone and multilingual authors from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Siberia, and the Russian Far North, from the 19th century to the present. Funding for this fellowship is provided by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) through a grant to the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

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.