The emergence and development of the national question in Georgia, 1801-1921

Parsons, James William Robert (1987) The emergence and development of the national question in Georgia, 1801-1921. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The period of Georgian history covered by this study, 1801-1921, was one of rapid change, a period in which Georgia was reunited after 400 years of division, regained its independence and then lost it again. It was a period too in which Georgians' emotional attachment to the nation and consciousness of their corporate identity greatly increased. This dissertation examines the various factors that played a part in this development and seeks to explain why, despite the spread of national awareness among all classes and a widespread and manifest concern for national renaissance, that a popular nationalist movement never emerged. It looks first at Georgia's historical development, the emergence in the 11th-13th centuries of a centralised state, Georgians' relations with neighbouring peoples, and the events leading up to the country's incorporation into the Russian Empire in 1801, before going on in chapters two and three to examine the socio-economic factors underlying the acceleration of the country's national integration in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is argued that although the raw material of Georgian nationhood - a common and distinctive language, shared history and cultural traits, and occupation of a recognisable territory - existed long before the 19th century, that it was only with the breakdown of feudal relations, the development of trade, the spread of commodity relations, the expansion of the communications network and the growing interdependence of town and country in the 19th century, that Georgians overcame the divisions inflicted on the country by foreign invasions and the ambitions of rival principalities. The incorporation of Georgia into the Russian Empire also brought the Georgian intelligentsia into contact with Russian and European thought and led in the 1860s and 1870s to the emergence of a new generation of Georgians who identified the nation and its future not with the monarchy or nobility, but with the people. Convinced that education was the key to national cultural revival, the Georgian radical intelligentsia began a campaign for national enlightenment, the aim of which was to heighten the people's awareness of their national identity and provide the cultural basis for national revival. For reasons which the fourth chapter seeks to explain, this new generation rejected separatism and sought to realise its goals within a democratic Russia, liberated from the autocracy. Chapter five looks at the emergence of the Social-Democrats as a mass party in Transcaucasia and the reasons for the persistent failure of the overtly nationalist parties to make any impact on their support in the working class and peasantry. It examines too the gradual shift in the position of the Georgian Social-Democrats on the national question and their acceptance by the beginning of the first world war that the key to its successful resolution was the establishment of autonomous national units or cantons expressly for the administration of cultural affairs. By separating control of cultural concerns in this way from the state administration, it was hoped to prevent attempts to assimilate minority nationalities by the more powerful national groups like the Russians. With the national question thus settled, so it was believed, the proletariats of the various nationalities could then focus their undivided attention on the class struggle. In the final two chapters, the dissertation seeks to explain an apparent paradox: how after 50 years of proclaiming the importance of the union with revolutionary Russia, the Georgians came to declare independence; and why the Georgian Social-Democrats, for so long the advocates of devolving nationality affairs from the state, should ultimately have found themselves compelled to stress the primacy of national unity and the national idea.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Russian history, East European studies, Slavic studies
Date of Award: 1987
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1987-76644
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 13:59
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 13:59

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