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Conflicting Narratives: History and Politics in the Caucasus – ASCN 2015


Für den Inhalt der Angaben zeichnet die Projektleitung verantwortlich.


Dieses von der Gebert Rüf Stiftung geförderte Projekt wird von folgenden weiteren Projektpartnern mitgetragen: Interfakultäres Institut für Ost- und Ostmitteleuropa IIOOE der Universität Freiburg

Project data

  • Project no: GRS-012/15 
  • Amount of funding: CHF 15'000 
  • Approved: 23.01.2015 
  • Duration: 02.2015 - 03.2016 
  • Area of activity:  ASCN, 2009 - 2018

Project management

Project description

The conference will be held from 9 - 10 December 2015 in Zürich, organized by Prof. Dr. Jeronim Perovi from the University of Zurich and will deal with the topic described below.

Historical narratives have played, and continue to play, an important role in the political development and national consolidation of the states and ethnic territories of the Caucasus region. The political elites, together with historians, are the driving force in writing history. History serves as basis for national mobilization and means to create a consensus on a national past. In most cases, national narratives have been established as opposed to the supranational Soviet and imperial histories. In conflict situations, history serves as a powerful force to legitimize specific claims – over territory, resources and peoples. History is often being used as a tool of political competition rather than critical analysis.

History is highly politicized especially in countries facing deep political or even territorial di-visions; in these countries, national narratives often develop around political claims rather than representing a reflection of the past in its own right. In Georgia, we see a tendency to use historical narratives as part of a political and propagandistic fight against Russia. In Azerbaijan, there is a prominent trend of putting the nation into the context of ancient civilization and using this as an argument in the country’s struggle against Armenia over Karabagh. In Armenia, too, history is often used as a political instrument, especially when dealing with Azerbaijan over the Karabagh question. A strong “anti-colonial” focus on history can be observed within the secessionist territories of the South Caucasus (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Karabagh), or in some of the autonomous republics in the Russian part of the Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, etc.). In Russia, the most important political player in the Caucasus region, the historical discourse has been fluctuating between nostalgia for the empire and attempts to critically reconsider the Soviet Communist past.

This conference seeks ways beyond the politics of history towards the development of historical research. In order to understand the Caucasian conflicts, we also need to understand the underlying historical myths and conflicting narratives. This conference thus aims to identify and analyze those conflicting issues of the past, which complicate relations within and between the individual states and ethnic territories, and seeks new approaches based on new archival sources. The questions put forward are: Which are the conflicting issues? How do notions of the past manifest themselves in the public discourses? To what extent do historical myths impact the political development? In which way does politics influence historical narratives and historiography? Which are possible ways out of this predicament? Is a new interpretation of the history of the Caucasus possible?

What is special about the project?

By bringing together historians and specialists from the Caucasus, Russia, Europe, the United States, and Switzerland, this conference represents a pioneering endeavor to approach these questions in a comprehensive manner and put them into new perspective. This conference builds on the ASCN-workshop «Developing History Research in Georgia – What are the Needs?» which Dr. Jeronim Perovic conducted together with Denis Dafflon on 26 April 2010 in Tbilisi, Georgia.


The conference was successfully conducted at the University of Zurich, December 9-11. The conference included 30 active participants from the three South Caucasus states, Russia, Europe, the United States, and Switzerland (see the conference program attached below). The organizers have invited about half of the participants directly, the others via a Call for Papers. The Call was directed at senior as well as younger researchers from all over the world, but especially encouraged PhD students and Postdocs from the Caucasus region to apply. Among the 80 applications received by May 31, 2015, the organizers selected 16, of which half originate from the Caucasus region (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Dagestan). As such the conference advanced not only the topic of conflicting narratives but also contributed to the promoting and networking of younger scholars from the region.


Persons involved in the project

Tamara Brunner, Projektkoordinatorin, Universität Freiburg
Dr. Jeronim Perovic, Department of History, University of Zurich, Karl Schmid-Strasse 4, 8006 Zurich, Tel. +41 (0)44 634 25 46

Last update to this project presentation  12.05.2020