Boys are playing in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Politics of Memory In Independent Georgia

Key Trends In Recent History

The politics of memory is primarily concerned with statehood and national integration; its ultimate aim is the formation of collective identity. Collective identity, through which an individual associates themself with this or that group or union, is based on collective memory (Halbwachs, Maurice, 1950). In turn, collective memory, especially in the context of nation-states, is largely a product of intentional policy. Such policy might entail the production of cultural signifiers (heroes and martyrs, glorious ancestors, and praiseworthy descendants) and of practices of their recollection and ritualized celebration (naming of cultural and educational institutions, streets and even cities after them), and the erection of their monuments and memorials. It might also entail the observation of national holidays, the commemoration of anniversaries, collective mourning and celebration, and historical and fictional narratives, which Pierre Nora calls “sites of memory” (les lieux de mémoire) (Nora, Pierre, 1986). “Site” denotes here not a geographical or spatial unit, but a crystallization of memory and its objectification. Such sites, whether they are symbols, figures, narratives and rites of celebration, make up “cultural memory”, which expresses the shared values of a collective (Assmann, Jan 1999, p. 21-22). The unification of such ideals and values into a single whole, as well as their transformation into collective memory, is achieved, first and foremost, through cultural and educational policy (Assmann, Aleida, 1993, p. 8-11).

The politics of memory become especially important in times of great transformation,when political systems change, or new nations and states are formed. In such periods, there appears a need to dismantle and replace existing forms of cultural memory.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked a global-historical transformation, and as a result, the Soviet system unraveled, and new nation-states emerged. This was the context in which an independent Georgian state took over from the Georgian SSR and developed its national identity based on new forms of cultural memory. It is important to note here that in this process of redefinition, the Soviet legacy of cultural memory was a barrier that had to be overcome and transcended. In fact, many components of the memory politics of independent Georgia can be seen as a recasting of tendencies already present during the Soviet period.

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Heinrich Boell Foundation South Caucasus
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Table of contents

Collective Memory And Its Politics 4
From The Soviet Empire To Independence 5
National Liberation And The Revision Of Memory 7
Independence As A “site Of Memory” 9
Territorial Integrity – A New Symbol Of The Politics Of Memory 11
The Dark 1990s And The Rise Of The Georgian Orthodox Church 13
The Rose Revolution And “earliest Europeans” 15
Georgian Dream And “nine Years Of Bloodshed” 18
Recent And Distant Past From The Lens Of Memory Politics 20
References 2