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Printed Media and the Process of Shaping of the Georgian National Identity according to the Newspaper “Iveria ” (January-March 1878 )

The national community, currently referred to as Georgian and the ethnic roots of which date back to the far past, has had a long history of its development. A number of particular stages can be identified within this history. The 19th century has been distinguished among them. This was the epoch of the birth of the modern Georgian nation. The idea, that, in the establishment of the Georgian nation, the totally particular role of Ilia Chavchavadze, as a writer and a public figure, has been widely recognized in scholarly circles. However, this a priori correct standpoint has not always been reinforced with the argumentation meeting the needs of contemporary scholarship. The goal of the paper is to fill up this drawback, specifically, by means of demonstrating of the significant a certain aspect of Ilia’s activities, viz. the newspaper "Iveria”, for the sake of the consolidation of the Georgian nation, to make up a firm empirical foundation, and, on the other hand, by means of considering of the historical experience, to demonstrate a probable development of a nation in the contemporary globalized world.

The theoretical foundation of the goal in question has been provided by social constructionism, as one of the principal directions of sociological theorizing today, within which humans have been viewed as more or less conscious agents, involved in the creation of a shared social reality. Recent years saw particular concern to this direction. The tendency, according to which all principal human categories (gender, race, class, ethnic or national communities, generations) should be viewed as socially construed phenomena, has been becoming more and more salient.

The principal tenet of constructionism is that creatures permanently come out of the control of creators, and, thus, they are conceived as objectively existing categories. With respect to this, nations are no exceptions. They are considered to be volitional creatures of their members like other phenomena as results of human activities. The existence can come into being by even just giving them names. They can emerge as an essence as if somewhat distinct from what they have originated from. This leads to the recognition that nations are phenomena, existing independently of eternal and human volition.   With respect to nations, nationalism, national identity, constructionism has been widely applied by B.Anderson in his book Imagined Communities. Its subject-matter has been that nations are artifacts of cultural processes.

The concept ’Imagined communities,’ introduced by B. Anderson, turned into a milestone of the debates at the end of the 20th century. It became a principal metaphor in study of nationalism from the standpoint of social science. B. Anderson asserts that, for a nation, the involvement in the imagination process is necessary. By means of this, humans identify themselves with those, they have never seen in their real lives. This is possible only in modern times, after the emergence of new communications means. For instance, the emergence of printed media can associate people distanced in time and space.  B. Anderson describes how a population become readers of one and the same newspapers, novels, etc., and how thus a deep horizontal commonwealth has been created.. He considers nations primarily as linguistic communities.

B. Anderson’s opinion had very many followers; it unarguably greatly influenced the development of scholarship; however, it attracted a number of critics. We  also question some of aspects of constructionism and, with respect to the emergence of a nation or to the history of its development, support the ethno-symbolic paradigm. The essence of this approach, the most principal representative of which is a British scholar Anthony Smith, is as follows: it is true that nations are essentially modern phenomena, however they are not products of only modernity. Although nations are created in modern times, as a result of the selection and reinterpretation of existing ethnic symbols and memories, they have deep ethnic roots. Nation-making is in no way a voluntary process governed by political elites; it occurs in the confines of the regularities established by a certain culture. Nations, first of all, is a form of culture, specifically, this is a unity with a public culture.

Despite of the fact that we do not completely agree with Anderson’s conception, we think that the provision about the great role of printed media for the intensification of the process of the national consolidation has been rather reliable, and, therefore, we apply it to the Georgian reality, viz. to the newspaper "Iveria”, published and edited by Ilia Chavchavadze, to the media, by means of which, the process of the transformation of the Georgian community into a society was under way for almost three decades.

Our paper provides detailed analysis of ten issues (from January 5, 1878 until March 10, 1878) of the newspaper "Iveria”, and, basing on the collected data, reconstructs the profile of its readers, that is, of the Georgian national community. The consideration of the already well known sources within a distinct theoretical framework has yielded in the detection of many new historical facts, having been either obscured or not visible at all.


The present research is a part of the project, implemented with the support of the Grant received from the LEPL Foundation for Georgian Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences (Rustaveli Foundation).

Category: Abstracts | Added by: margalita (09.11.2009)
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