Reviews

This publication is a product of a French-Georgian scientific cooperation programme involving various institutions ― the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), the INaLCO (National Institute for Oriental Studies and Civilisations), the New Sorbonne University (Paris III), and the Georgian Academy of Sciences ― which took the form of two international workshops, the first in Paris (October 15, 1998, organised by Bernard Hourcade and Irène Natchkebia: “Tbilisi as a Door to Persia in the Nineteenth Century”), and the second in Tbilisi (April 20-21, 2001, organised by Grigol Beradzé, Irène Natchkebia and Guiorgui Sanikidzé: “Georgia between Iran and Europe”). Only thirteen contributions are gathered in these joint proceedings, but they encompass various aspects of Georgian-Persian relations, in the political as well as in the economic, social and cultural fields. The first part of the book is devoted to mediaeval and modern period contacts, starting from Queen Thamar’s bold if not aggressive foreign policy intended to consolidate Georgian regional influence (by Thamar Gabalchvili). The article by Michail Svanidzé is devoted to the situation created by early Ottoman-Safavid wars and by the partition of Armenia and Georgia between these two emerging regional powers, based on French diplomatic archives of the sixteenth century. Hirotake Maeda deals with the role of Caucasian ghulams (military slaves) in Safavid Iran through an analysis of the patronage network of élite households during and after the reign of Shah ‘Abbas I. Two other texts (by Nana Gelachvili and Marina Alexidzé) deal with cultural relations and influences during the same period of time. The discussion thread of the second part of the book is defined by its title: “Georgia at the Crossroads of Empires.” Irène Naktchebia recalls the French interest in the region on the eve of the Russian annexation, especially during the Napoleonic wars, when there was an attempt to build a French-Persian alliance against the Tsar, but also against England with a project of expedition towards India. Her analysis is based on a study of various French writers reports and of the Finkenstein treaty negotiations. Irina Kochoridze’s paper deals with Qajar artistic influence while Grigol Beradzé presents a forgotten episode of Stanley’s travel to Persia via Tbilisi, which is interesting to compare to the view of two Persian travellers of the same period described by Nougzar Ter Oganov. The emergence of ‘industrial’ sericulture and silkworm-breeding developed by Russian administration is the subject of David Goudiachvili’s paper. Florence Hellot-Bellier analyses the migration trends of the Christian population of northern Persia to Tbilisi, after the Russian conquest, while Gueorgui Sanikidze and Thierry Zarcone propose contributions on the Muslim populations and intellectuals of Georgia. The concluding article by Charles Urjewicz is devoted to the amkar (guild) rebellion of 1865 in Tbilisi against the increase of taxes, considered by the author an identity crisis emblematic of a traditional society compelled to choose between East and West. As often in conference proceedings, the reader is offered an impressionistic treatment of the main topic. One would have wished at least one contribution on the role of Armenians, who were then the demographic majority and the major protagonists in political, economical and intellectual life in Tbilisi/Tiflis, and a nation directly involved in relations between East and West, between the Caucasus and Ottoman Empire and Persia, among which they were divided. Thus, although one cannot deny the high quality of all the contributions as well as of the editorial work, this publication appears in some way as a tribute to a general trend of nationalising history.

Claire Mouradian, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-3.3.A-203