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Borders and Belonging: Nation-Building in Georgia's Armenian and Azerbaijani Ethno-Regions, 2004–2012
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9923-0775
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, scholars researching ethnic politics have approached the South Caucasus as a testing ground for theories of separatism and conflict. But the 2003 Rose Revolution brought a new generation of politicians to power in Georgia. President Mikheil Saakashvili distanced himself from the ethnic nationalism of the past, which had poisoned relations between Georgians and their Armenian and Azerbaijani compatriots. The incoming authorities instead sought to foster an inclusive nationalism, wherein belonging hinged on speaking the state language and all Georgian-speakers, regardless of origin, were to be equals.

This thesis investigates this nation-building project and its influence on the integration of Georgia's Armenian and Azerbaijani borderlands. I first examine the mode through which these peripheries were incorporated into post-Soviet Georgia. Since Armenians controlled "their own" domain to a greater extent than the Azerbaijanis, I infer that the former were absorbed along integralist and the latter along colonial lines. Moving to the time-period after the Rose Revolution, I next explore if Georgian officials and Georgian adolescents were tolerant towards Georgian-speaking minorities. With the help of elite interviews and a socio-linguistic experiment (n = 792), I reveal that officials and adolescents were open to integrated Armenians and Azerbaijanis alike. I then proceed to inspect the centre's nationalising agencies and their efforts to incentivise minorities to interact with Georgians, and to use the state language during these contacts. Last but not least, I turn to the reactions this nation-building project elicited in the borderlands. On the basis of interviews with local elites and a socio-linguistic experiment involving Armenian and Azerbaijani adolescents (n = 434; n = 483), I discovered sharp differences: Armenians reacted with defiance and Azerbaijanis with compliance.

These findings augment our knowledge of ethno-linguistic stereotypes in the Caucasus. They also demonstrate that inclusive nation-building projects can inspire minorities to integrate – despite adverse circumstances – but hint at one condition conducive to this end. Armenians perceived the state language as a battering ram against "their own" domain, while Azerbaijanis saw it as a tool to escape their isolation. This within-country comparison suggests that similar nation-building projects can trigger different reactions in integralist and colonial borderlands.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Government, Uppsala University , 2016. , 255 p.
Keyword [en]
Ethnic conflicts, nation-building, borderlands, minorities, integration, language politics, matched-guise experiments, South Caucasus, Georgia
National Category
Political Science International Migration and Ethnic Relations Specific Languages Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-300112ISBN: 978-91-506-2586-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-300112DiVA: diva2:950931
Public defence
2016-10-07, Zootissalen, EBC, Villavägen 9, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)

Supported by grants from Sixten Gemzéus stiftelse, Studentkårens nordiska resestipendium, The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT), Byzantinska resestipendiet, Sederholms för utrikes resor, Borbos Erik Hanssons stiftelse, Forskraftstiftelsen Theodor Adelswärds minne, Skytteanska stiftelsens resestipendium, and Rektors resebidrag från Wallenbergsstiftelsen.

Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-08-02 Last updated: 2017-01-24Bibliographically approved

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