Figuring out the South Caucasus: Societies and Environment

The collection of papers presented to the reader by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, is not entirely ordinary. It is not in the sense that it presents papers written by young scholars whose original research was conducted not within the frameworks of a South Caucasus regional programme that has been carried out by the Foundation since 2003.

The Heinrich Boell Foundation’s regional Scholarship Programme for the South Caucasus has two major objectives:

  • It hopes to encourage young researchers to take on interdisciplinary, individual research projects and to contribute to the renewal of the social sciences in the region through the use of innovative research methods.
  • It seeks to construct a cross-border network of young, highly qualified specialists that can serve as a framework in which cross-border projects in the fields of socio-political education and social science research can be carried out.

Age is a defining factor for the programme and the results it produces. The scholars of the Foundation are aged between 22 and 35, and the median age is 27. This way, this collection lets us see a plethora of diversity of research interests of the new generation of researchers from the South Caucasus. Not aimed at elucidating all the major research questions in the majority of social sciences, the papers reflect on the data of the empirical research, that view relations of the individual and the society in the context of modern analysis.

This volume contains a collection of papers presenting the individual research of young social scientists from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The projects were carried out in 2006, within the framework of the scholarship programme run by the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

The authors have taken interdisciplinary approaches to subjects that are of fundamental importance for the understanding of social and political processes in the societies of the South Caucasus, but which are hardly touched  upon in public debate, or even fall into the realm of taboo to some extent. And yet anyone who attempts tp foster social modernization and democratization in this region has to take a critical look at these very themes at some point. Therefore, of particular relevance is the work of the scholars engaged in researching issues of social and political transformations. The authors of the papers ask themselves foundational questions of sociology: “What is happening?” and “What stands behind of what is happening?” Only a research conducted in a qualified and trustworthy manner can access the roots of the changes of the consciousness of society.

The articles in the first section of the book – “Researching ethnicity and migration” – deal with historical and sociological points of changing ethnic, national and religious construction of identity in the societies of South Caucasus that took place during the 20th century. They discuss an investigate the conditions of ethnic minorities (Ingilos in Azerbaijan, and Armenians in Georgia), as well as function and the principle of the action of migratory processes in the Post-Soviet communities in light if work-related migration from Georgia and repatriation to Armenia.

The second section – “Anthropology” – deals with various forms of urban environment, mechanisms of internalizing rural space by urban refugees and construction of urban history after the catastrophic earthquake in Armenia.

The papers in the third section – “Gender Research” – touch upon the characteristics of gender disclosure, as well as the tabooed issues of selective abortions in Azerbaijan.

The paper in the forth section – “Researching elites” – is devoted primarily to the questions of how regional elites were formed on the example of Gurjaani district (in Eastern Georgia) during 1990-2003. The author researches informal mechanisms for the realization of power and for regulating access to power. These informal procedures are often more effective, compared to officially declared and legalized forms of power. Besides, informal networks and communication play a significant role there. The reader can witness the issues, which are often masked by formal democratic facades.

The editors hope that this third volume will provide interesting information not just to a specialized public, but to anyone interested in the political and social developments in the South Caucasus or involved in civil society initiatives. We also hope that this publication will create doorways to the international scientific “community” for these young scientists and, by doing so, encourage the process of opening up South Caucasian societies to the international exchange of ideas and opinions.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all experts in and outside the South Caucasus who are guiding and supporting our scholarship programme with their scientific expertise and personal commitment.

Nino Lejava
Scholarship Programme Coordinator
South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation

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