The present collection of papers is part of the research project “Non-Recognised States in Former Socialist Countries: A Comparative and Multilayer Approach” and of the 21st Century Centre of Excellence Programme. The main goal of the present publication is the comparison of the respective positions of scholars from Transdnestria, Georgia, Southern Ossetia, Higher Qarabagh, as well as those of the Japanese specialist of Armenia, Yoshimura Takayuki. Besides, according to its Editor Matsuzato Kimitaka, it aims at becoming “a step forward towards the peaceful coexistence of former conflicting parts (p. 6).” The idea itself of such a summarisation and analysis of the historiography of non-recognised states, of a “historiographical dialogue” between the representatives of different if not mutually contradictory trends of history-writing, shows constructive not only from a purely scientific viewpoint, but also from a range of more practical perspectives.
The book begins with an article by Nikolai Babilunga, “Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublika: priznannaia istoriografiia nepriznannogo gosudarstva [The Transdnestrian Moldovan Republic: The Accepted Historiography of a Non-Recognised State],” 12-36. According to the author, when Kishinev adopted an overall orientation towards the “Rumanisation” of the history of Moldova and the identification of Moldovans as “Bessarabian Rumanians,” the historians of the left bank of the Dnestr River did not recognised this conception and refused to adopt the teaching programmes and textbooks that were supposed to convey it toward masses. After the proclamation of the Transdnestrian Moldovan Republic on September 2, 1990, a new signification was given to its historiography from the origins to the present. Beginning ex nihilo, the new historical school rapidly distinguished itself by its dynamism, expressed notably by the organisation of innumerable conferences and publication projects. This activism is properly linked by the author with the current revival of the Orthodox Church in the area, contrasted with the paucity of exchanges with the historians of Kishinev, and explained by the willingness of the new state to acquire an ideological instrument for legitimising the boundaries of an emerging state.
The Qarabagh Armenian “monologue”—there is no participation by Azerbaijani scholars in the volume—is represented first by an article by Vagram Balaian on “The Historiography of Artsakh (the Republic of Higher Qarabakh) [Istoriografiia Artsakha (Nagorno-Karabakhskaia Respublika)],” 37-51, in which the author has tried to distinguish several historical layers. Beginning his study with the mention of ancient testimonies on the “proto-Armenian” political entities, he questionably asserts that “the historical homeland of Indo-Europeans was situated between the Iranian Plateau, Eastern Anatolia, Northern Mesopotamia, and the Kura River where are located the ancient Armenian provinces of Artsakh and Utik (p. 37).” As to the period between the sixteenth century onwards and the Russian conquest in 1813 after the Gulistan Treaty, a period during which present-day Armenia became the arena of the military rivalry between the Ottoman and Safavid empires, the authors dates the arrival of “the first Turk” to the region of the mid-eighteenth century, with the migration and conquest by Panakh, one of the founders of the Khanate of Qarabagh. The “Iranian yoke” being replaced by a Russian one, the next period on which the author casts light is that of the “liberation struggle” between 1917 and July 1921, the date of the reunion of Higher Qarabakh to the future Azerbaijani SSR. This romantic narrative is closed by a general assertion that the Qarabagh theme became a major taboo in Soviet Armenia—an affirmation contradicted by the rich bibliography of Soviet Armenian historical works provided as an annex to the present article. Contrasting with this tone, and with the position of a majority of the authors of the present volume as well, the laconic article by Yoshimura Takayuki (“Some Arguments about the History of Higher Qarabakh [Nekotorye argumenty k Nagorno-Karabakhskoi istorii],” 52-60) deals more precisely with the question of the way Qarabakh became a constituent part of Azerbaijan. The author focuses on the decision taken on July 4-5, 1921 by the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russia.
A range of issues linked with the current situation in Southern Ossetia is dealt with in the respective, very different from each other contributions by Kosta Dzugaev and Temo Dzhodzhua. The former, in a paper entitled “Southern Ossetia: Past and Present [Iuzhnaia Ossetia: istoriia i sovremennost’],” 61-83, aims at providing his readership a precise idea of the ethno-genesis of Southern Ossetians “as a component of a united Ossetian people (p. 61).” Basing his argument on a rather narrow documental basis made of modern anthologies and syntheses—interestingly, the properly said academic literature is rarely mentioned in the present article, whilst the present author would have benefited from the reading of G. F. Chursin, Osetiny, etnograficheskii ocherk [The Ossetians, an Ethnographical Study], Tbilisi, 1925, the results of the first Soviet expedition in Southern Ossetia—, the author devotes a paragraph on the period “from the Scythian tribes to the Mongols,” before dealing with the modern relations between Ossetians and Georgians, and stressing the historical reasons of the overall orientations of Ossetians towards Moscow since the establishment of the Russian dominance in the Caucasus. Providing a new sharp contrast, the paper by Temo Dzhodzhua (“The historiography of the Tskhinvali Region (Southern Ossetia) [Istoriografiia Tskhinval’skogo regiona (Iuzhnaia Ossetiia)],” 84-112) represents a genuinely academic approach: Relying on a wide basis of archaeological, narrative, documental and scientific sources, the author depicts a global picture of the history of this region from the origins to 2005. His coherent and always well-documented narrative tackles the most significant issues of this history, including the Alan question, the struggle for the control of the region between the Abkhaz tsars and the archbishops of Kakheti, multiple ethnic processes, etc. Besides, contrary to other contributors to the same volume, the author refrains from calling his opponents “distorters of history,” of from putting in discussion their professional abilities.
About the volume as a whole, no doubt every author’s approach to the subject of the emerging national historiographies of non-recognised states reflects indeed his position and the expectation of his milieu as well as the qualitative level of his personal involvement in research. However, in his introduction the editor suggests that the observation that history does not influence the regulation of conflicts “does not reach the ears” of the politicians and intelligentsias of the former USSR (9). On the contrary the articles collected by Matsuzato Kimitaka clearly demonstrate that research in the field of regional and local history cannot and must not be ignored by those involved in political decision making.