Book review: Edge of empires. A history of Georgia

Central Asian Survey
B. George Hewitt

Edge of empires. A history of Georgia, by Donald Rayfield, London, Reaktion, 2012, 479 pp.,
£35.00 (hbk), ISBN 978-1-78023-030-6

In criticizing Ronald Suny (1989), Donald Rayfield offered his own template for structuring a history of Georgia. He thought it should begin (1990, 353)

with the connections of the Georgians with ancient Anatolia, the presumed Indo-Europeans and Semites of the upper Euphrates, as well as the autochthonous Caucasians, and then went on to deal with the Kartvelian peoples (the Svans, Laz, Mingrelians and Georgians), moving into recorded history to discuss the effects of Greeks, Iranians, Mongols, Turks, and Russians on Georgia's genetic stock, language, culture, sense of identity, finally examining the relationship of the nation to the state, its own and its oppressors’ and protectors’, concluding with an examination of the very disturbing resurgence of Georgian nationalism, even chauvinism, and some relevant predictions.

Rayfield judged Suny's monograph deficient in its over-concentration on Russo-Georgian relations and concluded (1990, 354): ‘A book still needs to be written on the unfinished making of the Georgian nation; Suny's work gives us some leads and some material, but will be remembered only as a precursor.’ Deploying his considerable linguistic skills, Rayfield consulted multilingual sources in seeking to realize his own prescription. The result rebalances Suny's contribution, for 305 pages are required to reach 1885, leaving only 95 pages to cover the remaining period (up to the pre-parliamentary election 2012). Thus, the present, basically chronological account, unencumbered with theoretical distractions, is a welcome attempt to present a more fulsome picture, as it guides readers through the often-gory minutiae of the interaction between the Kartvelians and their various would-be or actual hegemons across the centuries. Access to previously closed archives enabled augmentation of the story.

The full text in PDF can be downloaded by clicking here 70 KB)

See also: Review of Donald Rayfield, 'Edge of Empires. A History of Georgia' & Corrigenda to Stephen Jones’ 'Georgia. A Political History Since Independence'




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